Thursday, April 28, 2011

Publishing Propaganda, Ignoring Facts:
The NY Daily News puts the Lies in Editorialize

The following piece was co-written by myself and the outstanding journalist/blogger Alex Kane and was originally published on Mondoweiss under the headline: "Zuckerman rag prints bald-faced lies on upcoming flotilla to Gaza."

I have added some more of my own observations on the New York Daily News editorial below.


Zuckerman rag prints bald-faced lies on upcoming flotilla to Gaza
by Alex Kane and Nima Shirazi

It comes as no surprise that a newspaper owned by Mort Zuckerman, an ardent Zionist, would be anti-Palestinian and that it would strongly oppose efforts to break the Israeli naval blockade by sending a flotilla of ships to Gaza. But a recent editorial printed by the Zuckerman-owned New York Daily News is a particularly egregious example of U.S. media's aversion to the facts on Israel/Palestine. The bald-faced lies--which follow recent Israeli pronouncements about the "terrorists" organizing the upcoming international flotilla to break the Israeli blockade--printed would be laughable only if it wasn't going to be read by thousands of people.

The editorial states:

Sponsors of the flotilla are happily playing with fire, as they did a year ago in sailing into the blockade under the guise of delivering medicines and the like to Gaza. In fact, some of those ships carried suicidal fighters instead of useful goods. Nine of the brigands died when Israeli commandos were forced to board and came under assault.
To claim that those aboard the Mavi Marmara were the aggressors is to completely invert reality. The attack was conducted in international waters after Israel cut off all communications from the ships and surrounded the flotilla with over 20 naval vessels and warships, along with multiple helicopters. In addition to the 45 highly-trained and heavily-armed commandos who rappelled onto the largest ship, the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, murdering 9 civilians and wounding about 60 more, about 650 other Israeli troops, including surveillance and support troops alongside those who actually boarded the ships, took part in the illegal assault on the flotilla.

And then there's these howlers:
No one of any credibility disputes that Israel's blockade is legal under international law. In coordination with Egypt, Israel barred sea-going shipments into Gaza in 2009 after years of Palestinian mortar and rocket attacks on Jewish soil.

As a board of inquiry put it:

"Israel imposed the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip for military-security reasons, which mainly concerned the need to prevent weapons, terrorists and money" from entering.

The UN has recognized the blockade's legitimacy under international law. Now, it must prevent this perilous propaganda ploy.
First of all, the naval blockade has been in place since 2007, along with the land and air blockade--not 2009 as the editorial claims. The "board of inquiry" the Daily News refers to is the Turkel Commission, the name for the Israeli investigation into the flotilla events--hardly a neutral source of facts about the blockade of Gaza.

And finally, it appears that Zuckerman's newspaper likes to make up facts. The UN has not "recognized the blockade's legitimacy under international law." In fact, various UN reports have labeled the blockade illegal. The UN fact-finding mission on the 2008-09 Gaza conflict, known as the Goldstone report, stated that the blockade was a form of collective punishment and that it was therefore in "violation of the provisions of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." The UN report on the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara also clearly states that the blockade is illegal. In 2009, the Associated Press reported that "U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay has accused Israel of violating the rules of war with its blockade stopping people and goods from moving in and out of the Gaza Strip."


Alex Kane, a freelance journalist based in New York City, blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the United States at Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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In addition to the points made above, the Daily News editorial is littered with deliberate falsehoods, absurd implications, and libelous accusations. Even the most cursory research reveals the shameful ignorance and heavy propaganda of the authors and their despicable intent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ayn Rand vs. the Right-Wing Idiots Who Love Her

The right-wing's obsession and idolization of Ayn Rand is curious. It's also ridiculous considering that many of her own beliefs directly contradict many of what her most ardent followers themselves profess.

Ayn Rand was a self-avowed, proud, and unequivocal atheist. She saw religion as immature and ignorant philosophy, developed by ancients lacking in sophisticated awareness and insufficient respect for reason.

Rand herself believed, "Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought." In the right's beloved Atlas Shrugged, Rand wrote, "If devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking...the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind." During a March 1964 interview with Playboy, Rand stated, "Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason." Four years later, in March 1968, Rand wrote a piece entitled "Introduction to The Fountainhead," in which she stated that "religion has pre-empted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man's reach."

The most important of the three theological virtues in Christianity, as articulated in 1 Corinthians 13:13, is charity. In her 1964 Playboy interview, Rand made clear her feelings about charity, saying, "My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue." It would be a gross understatement to think that Jesus, St. Augustine, or Thomas Aquinas might disagree with her on this.

Unless Rand hadn't been clear already, a letter she wrote entitled "Thought Control" condemned "religion" not only as an ideology that "holds sex as such to be evil" and "that is the source and cause of anti-obscenity censorship," which she abhorred, but primarily as one that "opposes man’s enjoyment of his life on earth."

Leonard Peikoff - the world's leading Randian Objectivist, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute, and heir to the Rand estate - has this to say about religion:

Every argument for God and every attribute ascribed to Him rests on a false metaphysical premise. None can survive for a moment on a correct metaphysics...

Existence exists, and only existence exists. Existence is a primary: it is uncreated, indestructible, eternal. So if you are to postulate something beyond existence - some supernatural realm - you must do it by openly denying reason, dispensing with definitions, proofs, arguments, and saying flatly, “To Hell with argument, I have faith.” That, of course, is a willful rejection of reason.

Objectivism advocates reason as man’s sole means of knowledge, and therefore, for the reasons I have already given, it is atheist. It denies any supernatural dimension presented as a contradiction of nature, of existence. This applies not only to God, but also to every variant of the supernatural ever advocated or to be advocated. In other words, we accept reality, and that’s all.
Furthermore, regarding the Religious Right's contention that "scientific evidence" will soon prove the existence of god, Peikoff had this to say about the subject in an essay called "Maybe You’re Wrong," written 30 years ago:
It has often been noted that a proof of God would be fatal to religion: a God susceptible of proof would have to be finite and limited; He would be one entity among others within the universe, not a mystic omnipotence transcending science and reality. What nourishes the spirit of religion is not proof, but faith, i.e., the undercutting of man’s mind.
Considering its supposed populist nature, the Tea Party's enthusiasm for Rand is also strange insofar as she strongly believed that ordinary people were "savages," "refuse," "inanimate objects," and "imitations of living beings," as opposed to her beloved rich people, who she saw as "really alive." As her heroic pirate Ragnar Danneskjöld says of Robin Hood in Atlas Shrugged, "He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich – or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich." Is this the kind of person the right-wing believes should be idolized and emulated? Do they believe, as does Rand, that "money is the root of all good" (Atlas Shrugged) and that "every ugly, brutal aspect of injustice toward racial or religious minorities is being practiced toward businessmen" ("America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business," Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)?  Apparently.

Is the right-wing aware that Ayn Rand was staunchly and unapologetically pro-choice when it came to abortion rights?

In The Voice of Reason, Rand wrote, "Abortion is a moral right - which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?"

Rand, who often wrote that "a human being's life begins at birth," was appalled by those who opposed a woman's right to choose, writing in an 1981 essay, "I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion." She elaborated:
Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos...I would say that it is an issue of self-esteem and that their fear is metaphysical. Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today’s intellectual field, they call themselves "pro-life." By what right does anyone claim the power to dispose of the lives of others and to dictate their personal choices? ("The Age of Mediocrity," The Objectivist Forum, June 1981)
The "pro-life" claim that "an embryo has a 'right to life,'" was deemed "vicious nonsense" by Rand, who wrote that "by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives." In her letter entitled, "A Last Survey," she explained her position:
The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.
According to an analysis by the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, "a pregnant woman, like every other individual, has the right to determine her own destiny and the destiny of her body, to choose what constitutes her own best interest and private happiness and to work for its achievement, so long as she respects the same rights in others."

The report, entitled "Abortion: An Absolute Right," affirms: "These rights, and all rights, are absolute by their nature. It cannot be proper to negotiate moral principles. It cannot be proper to allow a man only a portion of the freedom he requires by his nature." Continuing, it finds that "the function of the law is to protect rights--not to dictate moral issues which involve no violation of rights," and concludes that "the Supreme Court should affirm abortion as a right that cannot be invaded or compromised."

Oh yeah, Rand was also a raging hypocrite when it came to government largesse and collectivism.  In 1972, she wrote, "Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull."  As Alternet's Josh Holland explained earlier this year, Rand - who he aptly dubs a "schlock novelist" - wrote books containing "wide-ranging parables of 'parasites,' 'looters' and 'moochers' using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes' labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor (her husband was Frank O'Connor)."

So, do these beliefs mesh with what the Right thinks it knows about Ayn Rand and her adolescent pseudo-meritocratic ideology? Perhaps a better question would be, are those who champion a 'World According to Rand' reformation aware of any of her actual writing or beliefs...or have they just been told about them from loud-mouthed, right-wing ideologues who want them to think that they would be one of the brilliant elites benefiting from Rand's ideal capitalist society, instead of what they actually are: the common, working "savage" who Rand loathed more than anything?



In 1961, Gore Vidal wrote a perfectly scathing assessment of Randian philosophy in Esquire:
She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the 'welfare' state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts. For them, she has an enticing prescription: altruism is the root of all evil, self-interest is the only good, and if you're dumb or incompetent that's your lookout.
He adds:
Ayn Rand's 'philosophy' is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society. Moral values are in flux. The muddy depths are being stirred by new monsters and witches from the deep. Trolls walk the American night. Caesars are stirring in the Forum. There are storm warnings ahead.
Such prophesy wasn't heeded half a century ago and the dark clouds are still gathering.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Call Bob Dylan Won't Heed:
BDS, Bullies, and Blowing Wind

A recent letter by the Israeli peace and justice group "Boycott From Within" (BfW) implores legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan to heed the Palestinian call for BDS and therefore not perform in Israel. The letter follows reports of Dylan's 2011 summer tour, during which he will perform at Ramat Gan Stadium on June 20th.

The BfW letter hits all the right notes and speaks truth. It asks Dylan "not to perform in Israel until it respects Palestinian human rights," explaining that "a performance in Israel, today, is a vote of support for its policies of oppression." The letter speaks of ethnic cleansing, land theft, martial law, air strikes, and massacres. It beseeches the folk legend, who has "been part of a civil rights movement," to stand with the oppressed against the aggressor. BfW writes that "BDS is a powerful and united civil initiative in the face of a brutal military occupation and apartheid. It's a nonviolent alternative to a waning armed struggle and it has reaped many successes and instilled much hope, in the past six years."

A Ha'aretz article proudly notes that the Dylan concert will be held "where Leonard Cohen and Elton John recently performed," and is being promoted by "Marcel Avraham, the promoter who organized the Leonard Cohen and Elton John concerts - as well as the upcoming Justin Bieber concert that will be held over Passover."

So, will Bob Dylan - the man who wrote "Masters of War" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in 1963 - heed the call? Of course not. Although Dylan would appear to be the perfect political ally, his human and civil rights bona fides have faded over time - to the point of non-existence.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Israel’s War on Palestinian Memory

Today's Los Angeles Times has a piece entitled "Israel and Palestinians have conflicting visions for village's future," which describes recent efforts to build "212 luxury apartments, a hotel and retail shops" over the remnants of Lifta, the "last intact pre-1948 Palestinian town in Israel," which has been abandoned since 1948. The story, written by Edmund Sanders, speaks of the Nakba in historical terms (and even uses the word Nakba), not as some debatable or disputed occurrence. He writes of "mass displacement," confiscated land, and the "hundreds of similar Palestinian communities [that] were razed after residents fled during Israel's 1948 war for independence."

Sanders doesn't beat around the bush:

"During the creation of Israel and the subsequent attack by neighboring Arab nations, 700,000 Palestinians became refugees when they fled the fighting or were chased from their homes by Jewish militias that prevented them from returning. Some Israelis say Palestinians left voluntarily and therefore gave up rights to their land.

"Today those towns exist only as dots on Palestinian maps and in the stories of aging refugees. Though many mosques were preserved, most of the homes, shops and roads were torn down to build Jewish cities. Other villages were turned into forests and parks, which explains why hikers sometimes stumble upon what appear to be abandoned mosques in the middle of nowhere."
He writes of Palestinian fears that "much of the last surviving evidence that Palestinians once occupied much of what is now Israel." He writes of the Israeli government seizing legal titles to Palestinians homes "under an absentee landownership law passed in the 1950s." He writes of the terror campaigns of the "Jewish militias Haganah and the Stern Gang." He references Ilan Pappe.

Even more amazing, perhaps, is his distillation of what he terms "one of the most intractable issues in Mideast peace talks," namely, "whether Palestinians should have the right to return to ancestral homes inside Israel and what this would mean for Israel's survival as a Jewish state."

Just that one sentence lays bare how offensive Zionism actually is, how dismissive of the indigenous population it is, how ethnosupremacist it is, and how clearly unjust it is.