November 22, 2012

Words Are Weapons of Mass Destruction

This is a must read argument by David Keyes, Executive Director of Advancing Human Rights and co-founder of

Keyes was called a "pioneer in online activism" by The New York Times and contributes to Newsweek/The Daily Beast. He has written for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, Reuters, The Huffington Post and many other leading publications, has appeared on MSNBC, PBS and Bloomberg TV, and has spoken on human rights in the US Congress. He created the First Annual Saudi Women's Grand Prix. He graduated from UCLA in Middle Eastern Studies and completed a Masters in Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University. He speaks Arabic and Hebrew.

Here is Keyes in a short video from 2011, discussing the rights of women in Saudi Arabia.

Keyes's article appeared in Foreign Policy, regarding Hamas, whose leaders commonly call the death of all Jews and all Americans. In other words, for genocide. As the world blinks and looks the other way.

How comforting for a Jew or Israeli, threatened with extermination, to understand that only others are seen as victims of hatred and aggression.

Keyes says:
Instead of welcoming independent thought, Hamas has filled Gaza’s airwaves, summer camps, and schools with the most incendiary rhetoric imaginable. Children are taught a mix of unremitting hatred and wild conspiracy. Perhaps most troubling is glorification of death. Hamas leaders like Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh proudly declare that “death for the sake of Allah is our most supreme desire.” The deputy speaker of the Hamas parliament, Ahmad Bahr, explicates a hadith by saying, “When a man is having sex with his wife, he should be praying for a son who would wage jihad for the sake of Allah.” Of Americans and Israelis, he adds, “They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah.” How can children in Gaza love life over death when their leaders teach the opposite?
Democracy in Gaza cannot succeed under such conditions. Language is both a reflection of society and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hamas’ rhetorical war on liberalism, dissent, sanity, and compromise is strangling any hope of civil society and democratic transition in Gaza. It’s hard to arrest every dissident, but make an example of a few and threaten the rest, and you’ve achieved the same goal. Tolerance does not occur in a vacuum. It is cultivated in families, schools, media, and the language of everyday life. Stifle free speech and mindless policy has a way of making it to the top.
Some are tempted to draw equivalency between incitement in Gaza and incitement in Israel. It goes without saying that there is a degree of hate-speech in every society.
For those that only seem able to see things by way of comparison:
More important than the clear quantitative difference between the extreme rhetoric that sometimes occurs in Israel and the government-sponsored hate-speech in Gaza is the space allowed to confront such extremism. In open societies such as America and Israel, radicalized speech is countered by a vibrant free press in which political leaders are routinely castigated and held accountable for their words. Closed societies like Gaza do not allow for dissent to challenge authority, and therefore hate-speech reigns supreme.
Perhaps the message Keyes tries to deliver will be heard and understood in the larger context of this struggle, not only when it comes to the war of words, but analysis of the actions that follow and the manner in which the actors treat both others and their own.

Talk about a little media bias

Came across this video clip at Honest Reporting of a BBC interview of Gil Hoffman, the chief political correspondent and analyst for The Jerusalem Post, concerning Operation Pillar of Defense. To me the anti-Israel bias is evident, and becomes most pronounced as the seconds pass. Watch and decide for yourself.

The sheer logic adopted by the questioner is perplexing. Jeffrey Goldberg asks if such a person, that obsesses over proportional body counts, believes there is a moral difference between attempted murder and successfully completed murder. He states further:
[T]he Israeli body count isn’t low because Hamas is trying to minimize Israeli casualties. Quite the opposite: Hamas’s intention is to kill as many Israelis as possible. Without vigilance, and luck, and without active attempts by the Israeli Air Force to destroy rocket launchers before they can be used, the Israeli body count would be much higher. The U.S. judges the threat from al Qaeda based on the group’s intentions and plans, not merely on the number of Americans it has killed over the past 10 years. This is the correct approach to dealing with such a threat.
When the "objective" media uses its pedestal in a biased manner, it contributes to the dysfunction and ignorance that exists among us. This video is a drip in what is no longer a bucket, but a barrel, and which is in jeopardy of turning into a tank of bias.

And don't even get me started about Pallywood.

Addendum: Honest Reporting has compiled The Media War Hall of Shame. It is worth a perusal.

November 14, 2012

Human Rights and Abuse at the UN

Last September, Sudan withdrew its candidacy to join the Human Rights Council (HRC) that already included systematic abusers of human rights like China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania, where up to 800,000 people in a nation of 3.5 million live as chattel. Perhaps the withdrawal occurred as a consequence of the indictment of its presidentOmar Al-Bashir, by the International Criminal Court for genocide, war crimes and and crimes against humanity.

Then again, no worries, Mr. President! By a vote of 176 of 193 member states, Sudan was just elected to the 54-member Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC is the main UN body for addressing matters related to “promoting respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.” This includes making resolutions, recommendations and drafting conventions.

Al-Bashir's regime will now, among other things, help to select members of the Commission on the Status of Women, the executive board of UN Women, and UNICEF. Since ECOSOC accredits and oversees human rights groups at the UN, Sudan will also help decide which groups may participate at the HRC. The Committee on NGOs, comprised of 19 ECOSOC states, has often led to the rejection or expulsion of human rights groups that dare criticize repressive member states.

In 2004, the US Ambassador walked out of ECOSOC after Sudan was elected. The Obama Administration has since claimed to be "working overtime to keep the worst offenders off UN bodies," and would:
"assert a common-sense principle across the UN: if a member state is under Security Council sanction for weapons proliferation or massive human-rights abuses, it should be barred, plain and simple, from leadership roles.... [W]e are fighting, quite simply, to ensure that member states’ actions at the UN match up to the UN’s."
So what has been heard from the US, not to mention the European Union, UN chief Ban Ki-moon, or human rights commissioner Navi Pillay? According to Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, not much of a whimper.  
"On the same day we hear that Sudan is killing babies and burning homes in Darfur -- precisely the kind of dire situation ECOSOC should be urgently addressing -- the UN has now made vital human rights protection less likely than ever. ... It's inexplicable that 176 of 193 UN member states voted to support the blood-soaked regime of Omar Al-Bashir...."
"By granting the seal of international legitimacy to a mass murderer, the UN human rights system has today diminished its own credibility, and cast a shadow upon the reputation of the organization as a whole. ... Why have world leaders lost their moral voice? Those who failed to prevent it must at least now speak out for the victims of Darfur, and for basic decency and morality.”
Until the UN is able to reign in this tendency to allow abusers to pervert the institution both to shield themselves from scrutiny and permit them to point fingers at others, it will never become the bastion of human rights where the individual can hope for protection, despite what portends in the UN Charter, "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women," that the abusers claim allegiance to, then flaunt with virtual impunity.

November 7, 2012

Can you open your mind? (with Update)

I read at another blog an open message to those on the losing side, an attempt to come together, that ended as such:
So what I am asking of my Republican and conservative friends, family, and readers is this:  IF, in four years, America is not a socialist hellhole, if in four years there have been no moves to limit freedom of religion or Second Amendment rights, if in four years the divorce rate is the same or lower, if in four years Iran does not have a nuclear weapon and Israel is in the same or a better security situation than today and has not been abandoned by this administration...

will you open your mind to the possibility that the above mentioned entities, the Fox Channels, the Allan Wests, the Barry Rubins and Dinesh D'souzas, have all been misleading you?  Will you open your mind to the possibility that these people are simply incorrect, when their predictions don't come true?
Having an open mind is not a one way street. Being misled is not exclusive to one side.

However well intentioned, the premise that only one side must open its mind to the possibility of being misled, or that its leaders may be incorrect, is a shaky one. An open-minded person, as I see it, would also acknowledge that the dire predictions of Democrats about Romney, often seen at such partisan blogs, would likely not have come true either.

If Romney had won, would those who imply only others are incorrect or misled be open enough to give the same they ask for? Those inside echo chambers may believe they are tolerant and open-minded, but they too often seem hardly different in behavior than the opponents they criticize. They are so attuned to the echoes that, I suggest, they are the more easily manipulated and misled as a result. 
A recent Pew poll found that MSNBC was more biased than Fox. It featured 71 percent negative coverage of Mitt Romney whereas Fox coverage of Obama was only 46 percent unfavorable. Positive Romney stories on MSNBC reached all the way to a soaring three percent!

Indeed, Chris Matthews, in an egregious example,  last night said, "I’m so glad we had that storm last week."

There are tons of examples to show it's not just a one-sided affair when it come to dire predictions, fear-mongering and demonization.

In the next four years, it is impossible to know what will happen. Unlike many of those who ask others to be open-minded, Obama does not come off to all as possessing the prowess he wants us to believe. So have these followers been misled? The lead-up and aftermath of Benghazi is nothing to brag about, and may involve instances of negligence and pre-election deception, such as illustrated here and here. Adopting an international approach that seems as interested in protecting defamation of religion as freedom of expression does not necessarily serve our fundamental interests or values, and it is not a close-minded or a dire prediction to believe this will make things more dangerous over time, here and abroad.

As to the election overall, assuming the Democratic candidate is not black in 2016, will he/she start with 95% of the black vote as a built in advantage, not to mention the high turnout? How much of a difference did this one aspect make in 2008 and 2012? In real terms. Ironically, things have become worse for blacks (see here, here, and here), who are subjected to a trickle down economic approach by the Administration. There are many issues and anomalies concerning the election, and I have a suspicion that all will be covered, more than is necessary, and new diversions will arise.

To me, no one should be proud of what just ended, a spectacle awash with money and deception that illustrates the crumbling of democracy and polarization of the polity. Bottom line, however, is that the status quo remains in effect. We are set for another round of seeing if Obama can govern as well as he runs for office. So far he seems much better at the latter, and I don't think I am misled any more than those that tout him in an overly altruistic manner.

UPDATE: Of course, Chris Matthews rightly apologized for saying he was glad for Sandy. The road is littered with apologies by Mr. Matthews, but what else could he do? The point remains that his first utterance was not unique, and tended to show that he and MSNBC have at least as much bias as Fox. Some are just unable to discern this obvious fact.