Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thomas Friedman's Disingenous letters from Istanbul

Thomas Friedman is an Op/Ed columnist for the New York Times. He writes on a variety of subjects, including the Muslim world. In a recent article “Letter From Istanbul,” he wrote about the much visited city in Turkey. In his June 15 column, he wrote, “I like the people, the culture, the food and, most of all, the idea of modern Turkey — the idea of a country at the hinge of Europe and the Middle East that manages to be at once modern, secular, Muslim, democratic, and has good relations with the Arabs, Israel and the West.”

Yes, a Turkey that has looked westward, often discarding and ridiculing its rich past since the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire, should appear endearing to anyone who is insensitive and, worse still, hostile to Turkey’s Islamic heritage. Not to be forgotten in this context is the opposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid, the last of the Muslim Caliphs to rule this once great empire, to the very idea of Zionism. When the Zionists offered to give him 150 million pounds of gold to buy up and then turn over the Ottoman debt to the Sultan's government in return for an Imperial Charter for the Colonization of Palestine by the Jewish people, the Sultan told them, “If you offer me gold of the world adding it to your 150 man, I won’t agree to give you the land. I have served Islam and the people of Muhammad (S) for more than 30 years, and I won’t cloud the Islamic history, the history of my fathers and grand fathers – Ottoman Sultans and caliphs.”

It is no secret that the Sultan’s uncompromising opposition to the Zionists and Freemasons, who by the early 20th century, have taken effective control of the Young Turks and the Committee of Unity and Progress, paved the path for his overthrow and the ultimate abolishment of the Ottoman Caliphate. They insisted on his agreement to form a national Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. But in spite of their obstinacy he strongly refused them. [For details, see this writer’s article: The Case of Jerusalem - The Holy City Between Zionist Claims and Justification of Apartheid, Palestine Media Center (2005).]

This part of the Ottoman history, although unfamiliar to many students of history, is not unknown to most Zionists, including Friedman. What happened to Turkey over the next hundred years since the fall of the Ottomans is actually a matter of celebration for them. Not only the modern and secular Turkey was able to disrobe its Ottoman heritage, ban Islamic dresses in public places, pass laws that were hostile to its Muslim population, and distance itself from its co-religionist neighbors to the south and the east, it became one of the most ardent supporters of the Jewish state. The way things turned around, the Sultan probably would have been better off relenting to the Zionists!

As a pro-Israeli Zionist, the cause of Israel has always been central to Friedman’s writings. In his praise or censure of a country or culture, he has a simple litmus test: is it for or against Israel? Thus, it is not difficult to understand his rather cynical comment “it is quite shocking to come back today and find Turkey’s Islamist government seemingly focused not on joining the European Union but the Arab League — no, scratch that, on joining the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran resistance front against Israel.” Tom is fully aware of his exaggerated claims and concerns, and thus admits swiftly that Turkey’s eastward tend in recent days owes in part to the failure of the European Union (E.U.) to embrace the Muslim country.

Nearly five years and a half ago, in an article -- “What’s next for Turkey: the Marathon?” -- I pointed out Christian overtone of the E.U., “The decision by the European commission shows that Europe is still not ready for pluralism and is worried about inclusion of a Muslim majority country. They can preach about the wisdom behind secularism, but religion still matters. So, the Turkish constitution can be the most secular on earth, and upheld doggedly by its military to the extent of even unseating its elected government, but is no guarantee for admission into the E.U. Pure and simple!” (Media Monitors Network, January 5, 2005)

Such clear cut E.U. hypocrisy, visible to any keen observer of modern Europe, was conveniently ignored by western pundits like Friedman. Now after all these years, Friedman admits that the E.U.’s rejection of Turkey was a hugely bad move, which has been a key factor prompting Turkey to move closer to Iran and the Arab world. He wrote, “After a decade of telling the Turks that if they wanted E.U. membership they had to reform their laws, economy, minority rights and civilian-military relations — which the Erdogan government systematically did — the E.U. leadership has now said to Turkey: ‘Oh, you mean nobody told you? We’re a Christian club. No Muslims allowed.’”

I believe if it were not for Turkey’s criticism of Israel in recent months, beginning with Prime Minister Erdogan’s lambasting Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, over the Israeli military’s brutal tactics in the Gaza campaign and the IDF’s cold-blooded murderous orgy of Turkish activists in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and dissenting vote against the Iran-sanction in the UN Security Council, we probably would not have seen Friedman’s remarks in the New York Times. He now bemoans Turkey’s south and eastward drift to patch up relationship with the Muslim world. However, as usual, he belittles Israel’s savagery or its accountability to souring relationship with the secular Turkey, and instead blames the latter for, what he calls, “loudly bashing Israel over its occupation and praising Hamas.” He is troubled by the fact that Mr. Erdogan has decried Israelis as killers. To him, the killers can only be the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah, and not the Zionists, even though they have been committing worse crimes since the establishment of the Jewish state.

Such reactions from one of the most vociferous supporters of the rogue state of Israel should not surprise anyone.

In his second part of the ‘Letter from Istanbul’ (June 18), Friedman is upset about Prime Minister Erdogan’s accusations that the Israelis are behind the PKK terrorism inside Turkey. If he is serious to unearth the truth, Tom would learn that Israel has been financing the Kurdish separatist groups, not only inside Turkey but also inside Iraq, for many years. It is all part of a very calculated strategy on the part of the rogue state to better position itself as the only trusted friend of the USA in the region, let alone to weaken those Muslim majority countries with internal strife.

It was all part of this scheme of doing things which led to the 9/11 when, as many credible analysts have shown, the Israeli leaders did not share intelligence information with their American counterparts. They knew the plan and the planners, and yet to extract maximum gains out of evolving situation in the aftermath of 9/11 chose not to share such critical information with the USA.

Friedman believes that the ruling party (AKP) is getting unpopular inside Turkey. His observations belie ground realities inside Turkey. Under Erdogan’s leadership, the Turkish nation has been able to clearly see what has been so obvious to many outside observers in that it need not run the extra miles on Marathon to prove its case for joining the E.U. It is better off today than ever before in its Republican history. Turkey is now a vibrant, competitive democracy with an economy that would rank as the sixth largest in Europe. It has become the center of its economic space, stretching from southern Russia, all through the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and down through Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Middle East. In 1980, Turkey’s total exports were worth $3 billion. In 2008, they were $132 billion. There are now 250 industrial zones throughout Anatolia. Turkey’s cell phone users have gone from virtually none in the 1990s to 64 million in 2008. If that is not an economic success story, what is?

While Friedman is all agog to find faults with the Turkish Prime Minister today, he should know that like most Turkish leaders of the past, Mr. Erdogan was not unfriendly to Israel either when he began his official duty as the prime minister. He encouraged closer ties with Israel, and even took a planeload of businessmen to Tel Aviv in 2005. The first sign of unease probably can be attributed to the reign of Ehud Olmert, then Israel’s prime minister. Mr. Erdogan was mediating talks between Israel and Syria when Israel began without warning the bombing of Gaza. This was seen by many analysts as a sign of Israeli arrogance that cares less about its benefactors just as it did a few months ago with vice president Biden’s visit to Israel. The flotilla attack was another such scheme by the Israeli policy makers to test America’s unwavering allegiance to the pariah state and breed tension and uneasy relationship between the USA and Turkey. As the UN debate later revealed, the Obama administration was not willing to chastise Israel for her heinous crimes. No punitive measures will be taken against Israel! To president Obama and secretary Clinton, Israel is once again more important than Turkey, a NATO partner.

In my 2005 article on Turkey, I asked, “Wouldn’t it be better for them [the Turks] to look south and eastward and reclaim their leadership position as they once held?” I am glad to report that from its bitter experience on failed membership in the E.U. and American and Israeli insensitivity towards Turkish lives, Turkey is learning its lessons fast. It has learned that its true identity cannot be an imported, fake and imposed one by its enemies. Just as 70 years of Soviet communism could not wipe out Russian Orthodox Christianity, the Kemalist experiment with hardcore secularism minus Islam is rejected by the vast majority of Turks. The modern Turkey is comfortable with its Islamic heritage that values human rights, dignity, progress and pluralism.

Turkey is finding its footing in its own backyard, a troubled region that has been in turmoil for years, in part as a result of American policy making and the Israeli factor. Turkey is no longer comfortable with its puppet role in the world scene. It has become forthright honest about things it likes and dislikes. Thus, it is not shy of telling Israel that she has been committing heinous crimes against the Palestinians living in Gaza. Nor is Turkey shy of saying that the UNSC voting sanctioning further harsh measures against Iran suggest that the USA has not gone beyond its cold-war mentality. This new vigor may come as a surprise, and even irritation, to the likes of Freidman, but not to most Turks who are tired of clearing up the mess left in the region by the USA and her regional partner in crime - Israel.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The resignation of Helen Thomas – People’s Journalist

This past week was a sad week in American journalism. In the face of mounting pressure and criticism, Helen Thomas, the dean of the White House press corps, decided to resign. She was one of the bravest, no-nonsense, journalists of our time. For the past fifty years dating from the Kennedy era she has been dutifully performing her duty by asking tough questions that few journalists dared to ask the White House. Her career demise came with a simple politically incorrect answer to a sly question from a Jewish rabbi -- David Nesenoff of Long Island, New York, who was at the White House for a Jewish heritage celebration on May 27. He asked the Hearst Newspapers Op/Ed columnist Ms. Thomas, “Any comments on Israel?” Her response that Israeli Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany, Poland and America – where they came from to occupy Palestine triggered a wave of denunciations that a narrowly worded apology did little to quell.
As expected at the forefront of such criticism against the 89-year old Ms. Thomas this time are guys like Ari Fleischer (GW Bush’s first press secretary) with dual nationality of Israel and the USA. In 2002, Thomas asked Fleischer: “Does the president think that the Palestinians have a right to resist 35 years of brutal military occupation and suppression?” Four years later, she told Tony Snow, Fleischer’s successor, that the United States “could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon” by Israel, but instead had “gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.” Snow tartly thanked her for “the Hezbollah view.”
Through her grilling questions, Thomas had earned respect from many within the anti-war community but befriended none within the White House. One may recall her questioning of President George W. Bush in 2006 after he finally ended a long boycott of Thomas questions. “Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis,” she began. “Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.” It was a gutsy criticism of the most powerful man on earth!
Remember the post-9/11 era of embedded journalism when every American journalist of name and fame seemed more like a brain-dead reporter parroting the Washington position than being objective? Very few dared to challenge the official explanation about the justification of Bush’s crusade against the Muslim world a.k.a. Global War on Terror, e.g., finding the so-called WMDs. Helen Thomas was an exception to that sad saga of American journalism in the 21st century. She proved bold, courageous and refreshing in a profession that had ceased to remain honest, truthful and objective, away from the damning influence and interest of the powerful lobbies and big corporations.
Thomas advised Bush not to “keep threatening war every day.” She berated Bush at a press conference in July 2007, “Two million Iraqis have fled their country as refugees. Two million more are displaced. Thousands and thousands are dead. Don’t you understand, you brought the al-Qaeda into Iraq?” She challenged President Obama three weeks ago: “When are you going to get out of Afghanistan?” “Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘If we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.’” Then there was her questioning of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “What’s the difference between your foreign policy and Bush’s?” “We go in to kill and maim and send drones -- is that Christianity?”
As a keen and objective analyst of world affairs, and with roots in the Middle East, Thomas knew very well that Israel has been the cause for ‘99 percent of all this (Middle-East centric) terrorism.’ Unlike most others in her profession working in the USA who are sadly mortgaged to the Israel lobby, she was not willing to duck or hide such unkind and ugly assessment of the rogue state. She likened Palestinian protesters resisting the “tyrannical occupation” by Israel to “those who resisted the Nazi occupation.” During White House press briefings, she asked such tough questions like: “Why are we killing people in Iraq? Men, women, and children are being killed there. . . . It’s outrageous.”
Obviously, Ms. Thomas’s pointed questions were embarrassing to the war party. She earned enmity not only from those merchants of war but also from many Jewish and Christian-Zionist colleagues whose allegiance remained more to the Zionist state than the USA. They despised her criticism of Israel and wanted her to die or disappear. Not surprisingly, her harsh remarks about Israel on May 27 were videotaped and later posted in Nesenoff’s RabbiLIVE.com website by the rabbi’s son. Over the next few days, the pro-Israel lobby, politicians and journalists savaged Thomas over her candid statement repudiating Israel. They called her anti-Semite, a Jew-hater, offering the ‘official Hamas and Hizbullah position,’ and so on and so forth. Robert Gibbs denounce her remarks, and the White House Correspondents’ Association announced that it was considering whether to revoke her privileged seat in the front row of the White house briefing room. That meeting will no longer be necessary. She resigned.
Helen Thomas stood out for truth and honesty in journalism away from the overwhelming dehumanizing influence of the Israel-firsters in Washington. In a pro-Israel, Zionist dominated media world, expressing views that are perceived to be hostile to the interest of the pariah state of Israel can be journalistically suicidal. It was, thus, not a question of why but when that final curtain would be drawn on Helen Thomas’s glorious journalist career. And that’s what happened last week in Washington.
Helen Thomas will be deeply missed by millions of her admirers who have learned to expect that she would never betray their public trust. With her pointed interrogations and politically incorrect and candid remarks, she showed the best in journalism and earned their respect and admiration. Now that Helen Thomas is gone, there is more need than ever before for others in the White House press briefing room to fulfill that noble role and share her courage and opinion. Every one standing on that podium should be regarded with skepticism and must face tough interrogations, and not soft-balls, so that nothing but the truth comes out. As Thomas famously remarked last year of the White House, “What the hell do they think we are, puppets? . . . They are our public servants. We pay them.”

Will the next Helen Thomas emerge in the White House press briefing room?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Flotilla Attack Proves Israel is a Pariah State

There is something absolutely rotten and hideous about the Government of Israel (GOI) and its supporters. On May 30 Israeli forces boarded an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles in the sea at 2 a.m. The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was in the international water carrying only food, medicines and materials to build pre-fabricated homes for the blockaded people of Gaza when it was raided by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which can be best termed as the pirates of the Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli action was an act of piracy by any account. Lest we forget under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process. Israel has violated the Article. In other words, the Israeli killers are no different, actually worse, than the Somali pirates. They cannot attack a ship and then claim self-defense if the people on board resist the unlawful use of violence. As rightly noted by Patrick Buchanan, the nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of six books including the recent bestseller, The Death of the West, what the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat.

And yet, the criminal government of Netanyahu and its many Jewish and Christian Zionist supporters are claiming that the Israeli murderous actions were all justified and in self-defense. In an editorial the Jerusalem Post reiterated that it was the ‘premeditated refusal’ of those aboard the ship to cave into IDF demand that triggered the violence. On June 3, an Israeli supporter from Michigan wrote in the USA Today that the Israelis brought ‘paintball guns.’ Any American kid playing in the woods or neighborhood parks would tell you that paintball guns don’t kill people, while the Israeli action in the ship killed nine unarmed passengers and injured scores of others. The weapons used by the IDF were no paintball guns.

For years, Israel and her cheerleaders have been saying that the Gaza blockade was solely to prevent the arming of the Hamas, which has been ruling Gaza for the last three years. Forgotten in this preposterous claim is the fact that there has been a partial blockade of Gaza since at least 2005 before Hamas came to power. With Hamas in power, GOI’s stranglehold over the Palestinians living inside the Gaza Strip of the Occupied Palestinian Territories has simply tightened. As repeatedly condemned by all human rights groups, including the UNRWA and the Red Cross, Israel’s blockade of Gaza is simply criminal and unparallel in today’s world putting its savage practices at par with those of the hated SPDC regime of Myanmar in its inhuman treatment of the Rohingya Muslims. Under the name of denying Hamas legitimacy, Israel has imposed a blockade that is one of the worst the world has ever seen in the post-World War II era. Even the Palestinian fishermen are denied their freedom to catch fish in the open sea.

The unemployment rate in Gaza, forced by the GOI as part of the collective punishment, is near 50 percent. According to Eyad al-Saraj, the founder of the International Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, “The World Bank has stated that 90% of water in Gaza is not suitable for human consumption, 80% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, and 70% depend on charity for food supplies. Chronic malnutrition affects 15% of Gaza’s children.”

A major goal of the Israeli blockade of Gaza is to break the morale of the Palestinian people and force them to give up their legitimate struggle to live as a free nation much like any other nation on earth. What it has achieved instead is to reveal the immoral and criminal side of the Apartheid state. What the Israelis are doing is an act of war against unarmed civilians, which in itself is a violation of international laws.

Tired of western complacency approving Israel’s criminal actions, for months the human rights activists around the world have been trying to break the Israeli blockade. The Freedom Flotilla was the last such attempt to draw attention to Israel’s inhuman blockade that had barred essential humanitarian aids, life-saving drugs and foods, to reach Gaza to relieve the sufferings of its people. By killing nine unarmed activists in the dead of the night, Israel has again proven that she is a pariah state whose means and methods remain savage and criminal to the core.

Israel’s murderous activity has soured her relationship with Turkey. Last Thursday tens of thousands of mourners hailed activists killed by the Israelis as martyrs. People chanted slogans of “Damn Israel.” President Abdullah Gul said that “Turkey will never forget this attack.” Prime Minister Mr. Erdogan said, “The bloody massacre of Israel, brought against the ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza is a massacre deserving of any kind of curse and condemnation. This is openly an attack against international law, against the heart of humanity, against world peace, I say against the heart of humanity, for, on those ships were people from all nations, all religions. People alone and they only were bringing humanitarian aid to those under blockade, embargo, to the people in Gaza. The ships, before they left openly declared to the entire world their cargo, their intention, their mission. As witness to this openly humanitarian aid from the world and our country 60 journalists have entered the ships as well. In international waters, in open sea, this armed attack against 600 people and 6 ships which were carrying aid to oppressed people, poor people, to starved people, to people whose homes were destroyed - this was openly an attack against the basic philosophy of the United Nations.”

The UN has called for an international probe of the killings. The US, controlled by the pro-Israeli Jewish Lobby, has not joined these calls. With each passing day, the Obama administration seems without a moral compass. It is more willing to accept Israel’s explanations that her criminal actions were provoked by the Freedom Flotilla than accept the fact that Israel’s actions were a clear violation of international law.

There is no doubt that every good deed from the Prophetic declaration of monotheism in a world of idolatry to the call of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s for civil rights and plurality, let alone the freedom marches, was a provocation to those in power. It requires a moral compass to distinguish between a noble provocation that is aimed at uplifting human values and a flawed one that is criminal, immoral and hypocritical.

If the sane voices of people like Pat Buchanan and Uri Avnery are deemed too revolutionary for the Obama administration to listen to, how about those from the Ha’aretz? In a recent editorial, the Israeli newspaper stated, “When a regular well-armed, well-trained army goes to war against a ‘Freedom Flotilla’ of civilian vessels laden with civilians, food and medication, the outcome is foretold – and it doesn’t matter whether the confrontation achieved its goals and prevented the flotilla from reaching Gaza… There is no way to convince Israel’s citizens and its friends around the world that Israel regrets the confrontation and its results, and is learning from its errors...”

American silence to condemn Israel’s criminal actions against a NATO ally Turkey is hypocritical and inexcusable. As the hyper power of our time, the USA has a moral obligation to get out of her self-imposed slavish attitude to the criminals of Zion. She cannot afford to appear either condoning or be silent on such gross Israeli violations of international laws. Israel, a serial abuser and violator of human rights and international laws, cannot be allowed to behave like a Mafia Don that has no accountability for its horrendous crimes. When her crimes are worse than those of the Somali pirates, she must at least be treated the same way those pirates are treated. We ought to ask, as journalist Yvonne Ridley has done: if a group of Somali pirates had forced their way onto half a dozen humanitarian aid ships from the USA, killing a dozen or so people and injuring scores more what would have been our reaction?