This is this year’s World Press Photo of the Year for 2012, taken by Paul Hansen of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. It’s a photo taken on November 20th of the funeral of two Palestinian children in Gaza City. The children are brothers: two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and his older brother Muhammad. They were killed in an Israeli missile strike, which hit their house. Their father’s body is also being carried further back in the picture.
This is a very tough photo and I had a small debate over whether or not to post it on here. Not because of controversy related to Israel vs. Palestine in contemporary politics, but because this is a picture of two very small, dead children and the grief that surrounds their death. It is a heartrending and personal moment, and often on here I choose not to post images that are graphic or of dead bodies, out of respect to both my readers’ preferences and to the subjects of the photos. I decided to post this one for a few reasons. It won the award, making it now a very public photo which many will see and discuss. Primarily, though, I chose to post it because I think everything about this picture is important and that it’s supposed to be seen because we are not often enough treated to a visual understanding of life as a Palestinian under occupation in Gaza or the West Bank. It matters that this photo exists for us to see and think about and it matters that we see suffering of this nature. If you are displeased that I’ve shown this photo (for reasons not including some incensed assumption that by showing you Palestinian children killed by Israeli missiles that I must support Hamas or hate anyone who is Jewish, because neither is true or makes sense), I’m sorry for showing you something you did not want to see. It was genuinely because I think it’s important that you see it.
It is untrue, absurd, and painful for anyone to argue that those who formulate a criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitic or, if Jewish, self-hating. Such charges seek to demonize the person who is articulating a critical point of view and so disqualify the viewpoint in advance. It is a silencing tactic: this person is unspeakable, and whatever they speak is to be dismissed in advance or twisted in such a way that it negates the validity of the act of speech. The charge refuses to consider the view, debate its validity, consider its forms of evidence, and derive a sound conclusion on the basis of listening to reason. The charge is not only an attack on persons who hold views that some find objectionable, but it is an attack on reasonable exchange, on the very possibility of listening and speaking in a context where one might actually consider what another has to say.
Judith Butler responding to an attack published in the Jerusalem Post on her award of the Adorno Prize; more here.
The commonality in all three of these episodes is self-evident: the perversion of the justice system and rule of law as nothing more than a weapon to legitimize even the most destructive state actions, while severely punishing those who oppose them. The US and its loyal thinktank scholars have long demanded that other states maintain an “independent judiciary” as one of the key ingredients for living under the rule of law. But these latest episodes demonstrate, yet again, that the judiciary in the US, along with the one in its prime Middle East client state, is anything but “independent”: its primary function is to shield government actors from accountability.
The US military has continuously imposed pitifully light “punishments” on its soldiers even for the most heinous atrocities. The wanton slaughter of two dozen civilians in Haditha, Iraq and the severe and even lethal torture of Afghan detainees generated, at worst, shockingly short jail time for the killers and, usually, little more than letters of reprimand.
Contrast this tepid, reluctant wrist-slapping for the brutal crimes of occupying soldiers with what a UN investigation found was the US government’s “cruel and inhuman treatment” of Bradley Manning before he was convicted of anything. Manning has been imprisoned for more than two years now without having been found guilty of any crimes – already longer than any of the perpetrators of these fatal abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces life in prison at the age of 23 for the alleged “crime” of disclosing to the world overwhelming evidence of corruption, deceit and illegality on the part of the world’s most powerful factions: disclosures that helped thwart the Obama administration’s efforts to keep US troops in Iraq, and which, as even WikiLeaks’ harshest critics acknowledge, played some substantial role in helping to spark the Arab spring.
Notably, the first disclosure for which Manning was allegedly responsible – the videotape of an Apache helicopter gunning down unarmed Reuters journalists and then the rescuers who came to help the wounded, including two young children – resulted in zero accountability: the US military exonerated everyone involved. Instead, it is Manning, the person accused of exposing these crimes, who is punished as the real criminal.
When West Bank settlers shoot at unarmed Palestinians while Israeli soldiers look on without intervening, that’s a story—especially when one of the Palestinians suffers a head wound. So it’s natural that this weekend’s conflict near the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibliya has been covered widely—in 972, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Haaretz, the Daily Dish, and elsewhere. Still, it’s important to appreciate how unsurprising this story really is, and how unexceptional its fundamentals are.
Up to 12 Pakistani active-duty and retired officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency knew that Usama Bin Laden was in Abbottabad and were in regular contact with him. The Pakistani chief of staff is denying the report.
Dow Chemicals hired Stratfor to spy on activists in Agra who continue to protest over the Bhopal environmental disaster that blinded many workers and destroyed their health. I.e., Stratfor was not just doing analysis but was involved in private intelligence operations against civil society groups that had a right to protest.
Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton, a former State Department official involved in counter-terrorism, lamented that in the old days the US would simply have assassinated Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez and Bolivian leftist leader Evo Morales. The internal emails also suggest that Stratfor had placed a female asset in Venezuela, who was having sex with an officer and pumping him for information. The officer was said also to be “working with Israel.” Chavez is known for his criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.
The fifth revelation is that often Stratfor analysts did not know what they were talking about and had an extreme rightwing bias. For instance, this memo on the revolution in Egypt attempts to argue that the officer corps was behind the revolution against Hosni Mubarak and that the masses were insufficiently mobilized to account for it. It is alleged that only 750,000 people came out in Tahrir Square, a small number for a country of 82 million. But in fact that was only in Tahrir. People demonstrated elsewhere in Cairo. And they were in the streets in Alexandria, Suez, Asyut and other cities. Even small towns saw burnings of police stations and HQs of the National Democratic Party. This memo makes a grassroots revolution that shook Egypt from Alexandria to Aswan into an officers’ putsch. While the officers tacked with the wind and did end up siding with the demonstrators against Mubarak, they were clearly playing political catch-up. It was revolutionary groups like April 6 that made the revolution in the cities, and the Muslim Brotherhood in the rural areas. The memo is frankly obtuse and if this is what Booz Allen was paying $20,000 a year for, they should demand their money back.
From Israel’s ‘national suicide’ by Mark LeVine
Simply put, the threat of a Palestinian “demographic bomb”, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has called it, is little more than a contrivance to justify the further exclusion of Palestinians from full citizenship rights within Israel.
But accurate or not, the average Jewish Israeli is likely not spending much time parsing the logic or statistical foundations of the High Court’s decision - because they understand the deeper meaning of the argument underlying the decision’s title: to extend full human rights to Palestinians will lead inevitably to the “national” - that is, political - suicide of Israel as a Jewish state.
Because to recognise that Jews and Palestinians can become one in the most intimate way possible - through love, sex and children - is to open Israeli Jews to the possibility that there is nothing essential that separates them from Palestinians, that as human beings with deep roots in this land, Palestinians have the same human rights as Israeli (or diaspora) Jews.
Israeli soldiers drag away a Palestinian farmer from his own territory after he tried to prevent bulldozers from starting work on his farm land which is due to be levelled in order to build a section of the illegal Israeli separation barrier and expand the nearby Israeli settlement of Atarot, also illegal under international law, December 4, 2011. (Getty Images)
“For the people of Gaza, locked in a virtual prison behind the wall of Israel’s illegal blockade, it means another set of injustices. It means that children go to sleep hungry, many chronically malnourished. It means that fathers and mothers, unable to work in a decimated economy, have no means to support their families. It means that university students with scholarships to study abroad must watch the opportunity of a lifetime slip away because they are not allowed to travel.
In my view, the abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), coupled with its denial of the rights of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair-minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance.
Where governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For me this means declaring an intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s policies, by joining the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.
My conviction is born in the idea that all people deserve basic human rights. This is not an attack on the people of Israel. This is, however, a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.
Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa’s Sun City resort until apartheid fell and white people and black people enjoyed equal rights. And we are right to refuse to play in Israel until the day comes – and it surely will come – when the wall of occupation falls and Palestinians live alongside Israelis in the peace, freedom, justice and dignity that they all deserve.”