30 April 2009
The Guardian's Ireland correspondent writes the following piece. Rory Carroll obviously couldn't bring himself to do it:
Man shot in Bolivia linked to racist gang
"It is now understood that Dwyer's associates were members of a group responsible for racist murders and attacks on indigenous Bolivians.
Dwyer's family are seeking an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death. It appears that Dwyer was drawn to the group after becoming a Facebook "friend" of gang leader Rozsa Flores, who was openly antisemitic and is believed to have been backed by right-wing elements in the wealthy city of Santa Cruz. (See: Bolivia terror plot: The UJC connection)
Bolivia was once a haven for members of the Croatian Ustashe fascist government. They fled to South America after the second world war, fearing retribution for siding with the Nazis and committing war crimes. Their passage to countries such as Bolivia was organised by Croatian clergy operating out of the Vatican.
Rozsa Flores was of Hungarian-Bolivian background, and at the start of the conflict in former Yugoslavia he sided with the right-wing Catholic Croatian militia who were responsible for some of the worst atrocities at the start of the civil war. He led an armed group which attracted foreign right-wing elements and used the nickname "Franco" in honour of Spain's right-wing dictator.
Dwyer would not be the first Irishman to find himself mixed up with right-wing extremists with links to Croatian militias. During the civil wars of the 1990s, at least one Irish national from the prosperous Killiney area of south Dublin lost his legs after fighting with the ultra-right HOS Croatian militia in Bosnia.
Rozsa Flores, 49, had been a left-wing journalist but turned neo-Nazi and joined Croatian forces when the civil war broke out in former Yugoslavia. He was a suspect in the murder of British photographer Paul Jenks and of a Swiss journalist who are both believed to have uncovered information about atrocities committed by Rozsa Flores and his militia.
He was part of the notorious "Zenga" unit of the Croatian militia, which is blamed for ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia in 1991. Since then, he had continued to recruit and organise right-wing extremists. His antisemitism is believed to have led him to convert to Islam, despite being homosexual. (See Borev blog: "The Role of the Gay Muslim Nazi Will Be Played By Tom Hanks")
It is thought that Dwyer fell in with the gang after meeting eastern European supporters of Rozsa Flores working as security staff in Ireland. (See: MICHAEL DWYER’S SECURITY CONTACTS)
Dwyer, although described by friends as a pleasant young man, had a self-confessed obsession with guns and martial arts."
Elöd Tóasó, Hungarian/Romanian would-be assassin, posing with a sniper rifle last December at the Hotel Buganvillas, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where they stayed for 2 months, cost: $100-$250 per day...
"Elöd Tóasó, the 29-year-old Hungarian-Romanian apprehended in an antiterror operation on April 16 in Santa Cruz, was the "communications link" of the international mercenary terror cell dismantled by the police, and was tasked with spying and telephone tapping.
In reality, far from being a "young adventurer" in search of a daily living, as described with paternal innocence by the Hungarian ambassador in La Paz, Matyas Józsa, Tóasó received military training in Bucharest, along with the Irishman, Michael Dwyer, who was killed in a hotel in Santa Cruz in a firefight with Bolivian police two weeks ago.
Tóasó, who appears in a photo published by the independent Cochabamba newspaper Opinión holding a sniper rifle with a high-precision telescopic sight, became a mercenary under the influence of Michael Dwyer and also that of the Hungaro-Croatian Bolivian Eduardo Rózsa Flores, leader of the mercenary cell.
The picture was taken in the middle of last December in the Hotel Buganvillas, one of the most exclusive in Santa Cruz, where the armed group stayed for more than two months at cost to a third party, currently unknown, whom Rózsa Flores described in an interview in Budapest last September as "the Bolivian financiers" and providers of the weapons.
According to the management of the five-star hotel, the terrorist group booked in the Buganvillas under false identities. "
18 April 2009
By Morgan Strong
April 12, 2009
The founding narrative of the modern State of Israel was born from the words of Moses in the Old Testament, that God granted the land of Israel to the Jewish people and that it was to be theirs for all time.
Then, there was the story of the Diaspora – that after Jewish uprisings against the Romans in the First and Second centuries A.D., the Jews were exiled from the land of Israel and dispersed throughout the Western world. They often were isolated from European populations, suffered persecution, and ultimately were marked for extermination in the Nazi Holocaust.
Finally after centuries of praying for a return to Israel, the Jews achieved this goal by defeating the Arab armies in Palestine and establishing Israel in 1948. This narrative – spanning more than three millennia – is the singular, elemental and sustaining claim of the State of Israel as a Jewish nation.
But a new book by Israeli scholar Shlomo Sand challenges this narrative, claiming that – beyond the religious question of whether God really spoke to Moses – the Roman-era Diaspora did not happen at all or at least not as commonly understood.
In When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, Dr. Sand, an expert on European history at the University of Tel Aviv, says the Diaspora was largely a myth – that the Jews were never exiled en masse from the Holy Land and that many European Jewish populations converted to the faith centuries later.
Thus, Sand argues, many of today’s Israelis who emigrated from Europe after World War II have little or no genealogical connection to the land. According to Sand’s historical analysis, they are descendents of European converts, principally from the Kingdom of the Khazars in eastern Russia, who embraced Judaism in the Eighth Century, A.D.
The descendants of the Khazars then were driven from their native lands by invasion and conquest and – through migration – created the Jewish populations of Eastern Europe, Sands writes. Similarly, he argues that the Jews of Spain came from the conversion of Berber tribes from northern Africa that later migrated into Europe.
The Zionist Narrative
Sand, himself a European Jew born in 1946 to Holocaust survivors in Austria, argues that until little more than a century ago, Jews thought of themselves as Jews because they shared a common religion, not because they possessed a direct lineage to the ancient tribes of Israel.
However, at the turn of the 20th Century, Sand asserts, Zionist Jews began assembling a national history to justify creation of a Jewish state by inventing the idea that Jews existed as a people separate from their religion and that they had primogeniture over the territory that had become known as Palestine.
The Zionists also invented the idea that Jews living in exile were obligated to return to the Promised Land, a concept that had been foreign to Judaism, Sand states.
Like almost everything in the Middle East, this new scholarship is fraught with powerful religious, historical and political implications. If Sand’s thesis is correct, it would suggest that many of the Palestinian Arabs have a far more substantial claim to the lands of Israel than do many European Jews who arrived there asserting a God-given claim.
Indeed, Sand theorizes that many Jews, who remained in Judea after Roman legions crushed the last uprising in 136 A.D., eventually converted to Christianity or Islam, meaning that the Palestinians who have been crowded into Gaza or concentrated in the West Bank might be direct descendants of Jews from the Roman era.
Despite the political implications of Sand’s book, it has not faced what might be expected: a withering assault from right-wing Israelis. The criticism has focused mostly on Sand’s credentials as an expert on European history, not ancient Middle Eastern history, a point that Sand readily acknowledges.
One critic, Israel Bartal, dean of humanities at the Hebrew University, attacked Sand’s credentials and called Sand’s thesis “baseless,” but disagreed mostly over Sand’s assertion that the Diaspora story was created as an intentional myth by Zionists seeking to fabricate a direct genealogical connection between many of the world’s Jews and Israel.
“Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions,” Bartal wrote in the newspaper Haaretz. “Important groups in the Jewish national movement expressed reservations regarding this myth or denied it completely. …
"The kind of political intervention Sand is talking about, namely, a deliberate program designed to make Israelis forget the true biological origins of the Jews of Poland and Russia or a directive for the promotion of the story of the Jews' exile from their homeland is pure fantasy."
In other words, Bartal, like some other critics, is not so much disputing Sand’s historical claims about the Diaspora or the origins of Eastern European Jews, as he is contesting Sand’s notion that Zionists concocted a false history for a cynical political purpose.
But there can be no doubt that the story of the Diaspora has played a key role in the founding of Israel and that the appeal of this powerful narrative has helped the Jewish state generate sympathy around the world, especially in the United States.
"After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom," reads the preamble to the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
Reality from Mythology
In January 2009, as the Israeli army bombarded Palestinians in Gaza in retaliation for rockets fired into southern Israel, the world got an ugly glimpse of what can result when historical myths are allowed to drive wedges between people who otherwise might have a great deal in common.
After the conflict ended – with some 1,400 Palestinians dead, including many children and other non-combatants – the Israeli government investigated alleged war crimes by its army and heard testimony from Israeli troops that extremist Rabbis had proclaimed the invasion a holy war.
The troops said the Rabbis brought them booklets and articles declaring: “We are the Jewish people. We came to this land by a miracle. God brought us back to this land, and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.”
In his book – and in an interview with Haaretz about his book – Sand challenged this core myth. In the interview, he said:
"I started looking in research studies about the exile from the land - a constitutive event in Jewish history, almost like the Holocaust. But to my astonishment I discovered that it has no literature. The reason is that no one exiled the people of the country.
“The Romans did not exile peoples and they could not have done so even if they had wanted to. They did not have trains and trucks to deport entire populations. That kind of logistics did not exist until the 20th Century. From this, in effect, the whole book was born: in the realization that Judaic society was not dispersed and was not exiled."
The True Descendants
Asked if he was saying that the true descendants of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah are the Palestinians, Sand responded:
"No population remains pure over a period of thousands of years. But the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendents.
“The first Zionists, up until the Arab Revolt [1936-1939], knew that there had been no exiling, and that the Palestinians were descended from the inhabitants of the land. They knew that farmers don't leave until they are expelled.
“Even Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of the State of Israel, wrote in 1929 that, 'the vast majority of the peasant farmers do not have their origins in the Arab conquerors, but rather, before then, in the Jewish farmers who were numerous and a majority in the building of the land.'"
Sand argues further that the Jewish people never existed as a “nation race” but were rather an ethnic mix of disparate peoples who adopted the Jewish religion over a great period of time. Sand dismisses the Zionist argument that the Jews were an isolated and seminal ethnic group that was targeted for dispersal by the Romans.
Although ruthless in putting down challenges to their rule, the Romans allowed subjects in their occupied territories a great many freedoms, including freedom to practice religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.
Thousands of Jews served in the Roman legions, and there was a sizable Jewish community in Rome itself. Three Jewish descendants of Herod the Great, the Jewish Emperor of Jerusalem, served in the Roman Senate.
Jewish dietary laws were respected under Roman law, as well as the right not to work on the Sabbath. Jewish slaves – 1,000 carried to Italy by Emperor Titus after crushing the first Jewish rebellion in 70 A.D. – were bought and set free by Jewish families already long settled into Roman society.
After the final Jewish rebellion, the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-136 A.D., historians say the Romans placed restrictions on Jews entering Jerusalem, which caused other areas, such as Galilee in northern Palestine, to become centers of Jewish learning. But there is little or no evidence of a mass forced relocation.
Sand says the Diaspora was originally a Christian myth that depicted the event as divine punishment imposed on the Jews for having rejected the Christian gospel.
There has been no serious rebuttal to Sand’s book, which has been a bestseller in Israel and Europe – and which is expected to be released in the United States within the year. But there were earlier genetic studies attempting to demonstrate an unbroken line of descent among Ashkenazi Jews in Europe from the Hebrew tribes of Israel.
In a genetic study published by the United States National Academy of Sciences, the Y chromosomes of Ashkenazi, Roman, North African, Kurdish, Near Eastern, Yemenite, and Ethiopian Jews were compared with 16 non-Jewish groups from similar geographic locations. It found that despite long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level.
Although the study also demonstrated that 20 percent of the Ashkenazim carry Eastern European gene markers consistent with the Khazars, the results seemed to show that the Ashkenazim were descended from a common Mid-Eastern population and suggested that most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora.
However, a monumental genetic study entitled, “The Journey of Man,” undertaken in 2002 by Dr. Spencer Wells, a geneticist from Stanford University, demonstrated that virtually all Europeans males carry the same genetic markers found within the male population of the Middle East on the Y chromosomes.
That is simply because the migration of human beings began in Africa and coursed its way through the Middle East and onward, stretching over many thousands of years. In short, we are all pretty much the same.
Despite the lack of conclusive scientific or historical evidence, the Diaspora narrative proved to be a compelling story, much like the Biblical rendition of the Exodus from Egypt, which historians and archeologists also have questioned in recent years.
It is certainly true that all nations use myths and legend for sustenance; some tales are based on fact, others are convenient self-serving contrivances.
However, when myth and legend argue for excess, when they demand a racial, ethnic or religious purity to the exclusion of others – so that some prophecy can be fulfilled or some national goal achieved – reason and justice can give way to extremism and cruelty.
The motive for creating the state of Israel was to provide respite for the Jews of Europe after World War II, but that worthy cause has now been contorted into an obsessive delusion about an Israeli right to mistreat and persecute Palestinians.
When right-wing Israeli Rabbis speak of driving non-Jews out of the land that God supposedly gave to the Israelites and their descendants, these Rabbis may be speaking with full faith, but faith is by definition an unshakable belief in something that taken by itself cannot be proven.
This faith – or delusion – also is drawing in the rest of the world. The bloody war in Iraq is an appendage to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as is the dangerous rise of Islamic fundamentalism across the region.
There is also now the irony that modern Israel was established by Jews of European origin, many of whom may be ethnically unconnected to Palestine.
Another cruel aspect of this irony is that the descendants of the ancient Israelites may include many Palestinians, who are genetically indistinct from the Sephardic Jews who were, like the Palestinians, original and indigenous inhabitants of this ancient land.
Yasir Arafat told me quite often that the Israelis are really cousins of the Palestinians. He may have been wrong; they are more likely brothers and sisters.
Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern history, and was an advisor to CBS News “60 Minutes” on the Middle East.
17 April 2009
This is Amir's letter as published by the Independent:
"Robert Fisk writes: "Anyone who has read the history of Zionism will be aware that its aim was to dispossess the Arabs and take over Palestine." ("How can you trust the cowardly BBC?", 16 April).
It appears that Fisk is not very familiar with the history of Zionism. In November of 1947, the Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan, while the Arabs vehemently rejected it. They refused to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine, regardless of its size. They started a war to prevent by force the implementation of the UN plan. Had they accepted the UN plan, their state would have been 61 years old today and thousands of lives would have been spared on both sides.
To speak of the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank, without acknowledging that it was constructed in response to a flood of suicide bombings, that killed hundreds of innocent civilians, is obscene.
Dr Jacob Amir"
This is my reply Letter to the Editor:
One wonders why the Independent chose to publish Dr Jacob Amir's disingenuously misleading claims that "the Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan", in view of the mountains of evidence which prove that the real reason behind the decision was a ploy to gain international recognition and support. The Zionists had no intention of settling for what was offered. The myriad of declarations the Zionist leaderships made in private, and exposed by historians long ago, show that their true intentions were, as Jeremy Bowen said, "to push out the frontier". This also shows the inherent pro-Israeli bias in the BBC Trust's attempt to rewrite history.
According to Benny Morris, "large sections of Israel’s society — including...Ben-Gurion — were opposed to or extremely unhappy with partition and from early on viewed the 1948 war as an ideal opportunity to expand the new state’s borders beyond the UN earmarked partition boundaries and at the expense of the Palestinians." Benny Morris, in “Tikkun”, March/April 1998.
In a letter Ben-Gurion sent to his son in 1937, he wrote: "No Zionist can forgo the smallest portion of the Land Of Israel. [A] Jewish state in part [of Palestine] is not an end, but a beginning ..... Our possession is important not only for itself ... through this we increase our power, and every increase in power facilitates getting hold of the country in its entirety. Establishing a [small] state .... will serve as a very potent lever in our historical effort to redeem the whole country." (Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 138)
One day after the UN vote to partition Palestine, Menachem Begin, the commander of the Irgun terrorists and Israel's future Prime Minister between 1977-1983, proclaimed:
"The Partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized .... Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever." (Prof. Avi Shlaim, Iron Wall, p. 25)
The historical record is so overwhelming, it comes as a major disappointment to see the Independent publishing such a letter containing these discredited myths.
According to McClatchy Newspapers, the "pirates had asked the Americans to let them go if they released the captain, but the Americans would not agree to the conditions...Earlier in the day, Maersk reported the Navy had told the company Captain Phillips had been sighted earlier in the day, indicating he was not being restrained by his captors."
The Washington Post gives us the low down on this incredibly dangerous operation: "The U.S. military operation ended a tense, five-day standoff in which four pirates armed with pistols and AK-47s ultimately faced off with a small American armada in the Indian Ocean off Somalia's coast. Somali pirates who had pulled off the first seizure of an American crewman in recent memory were soon staring at the hulls of the USS Halyburton, a guided-missile frigate equipped with helicopters, and the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship with missile launchers, attack planes and a crew of 1,000, which had joined the Bainbridge. "
Those dastardly Somali "pirates were spotted pointing an AK-47 into the back of Captain Phillips." Given that their hostage had tried to escape, one would presume they would be pointing their guns at him, even if they were empty. I mean they weren't going to tell their hostage or the US Navy, they had run out of ammo now were they?
"The operation was a victory for the world's most powerful military", said NBC. Yep, the Shermans were desperate for a military victory -any one would do it appears! I mean, let's face it, the only wars they've won since 1945 (and they've been involved in more than any other country in the world), are Grenada and Panama... those other imperial superpowers in the Carribbean...
The WaPo gives us a tiny hint of the background on the Somali pirates, one sentence to be precise: "Fishermen complaining of widespread illegal fishing in their waters began by seizing trawlers as an act of defiance but soon found they had stumbled onto a lucrative business."
Johan Hari has a much fuller background in the Independent:
"In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."
This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence"
No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas."
Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won't act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.
The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail – but who is the robber?"
02 April 2009
This from Reuters:
""Avigdor Lieberman was questioned under caution by police today for seven-and-a-half hours on suspicion of carrying out the following: bribery, money laundering and breach of trust," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld."