Archive for  July 2009

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Iraqi police dig in after deadly Iran camp clashes – Yahoo News

Thu Jul 30, 8:27 am ET

BAQUBA, Iraq (AFP) – Iraqi police said on Thursday they have set up a police station in a camp housing Iran’s main exiled opposition People’s Mujahedeen group after two days of deadly fighting there.

More than 200 police officers and 800 Iraqi soldiers are now inside Camp Ashraf, which was stormed by security forces on Tuesday, said Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim al-Karawi of the provincial police.

“The situation so far is calm, and there have been no clashes today (Thursday). We have set up the police station,” he said.

Two policemen were killed and hundreds of people were wounded after Iraqi soldiers stormed the camp on Tuesday, Iraqi security officials said.

People’s Mujahedeen spokesman Shahriar Kia said eight residents were killed and nearly 400 wounded in the clashes, although there was no independent confirmation of the figures.

The security forces have denied killing members of the People’s Mujahedeen. The Iraqi police say that in addition to the two dead officers another 120 were wounded, 60 of whom were still receiving medical treatment.

Iraqi soldiers are not allowing journalists to enter the camp, meaning it is not possible to independently confirm tolls of the dead and wounded.

The storming of the camp coincided with a visit to Iraq by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, but the top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said the US military had no advance warning of the raid.

Maryam Rajavi, the head of the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran which includes the Mujahedeen, condemned the raid and accused Baghdad of doing Tehran’s bidding.

The People’s Mujahedeen was founded in 1965 in opposition to the shah and has subsequently fought to oust the clerical regime which took power in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The group set up Camp Ashraf in the province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad in the 1980s — when former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was at war with the Islamic republic — as a base to operate against the Tehran government.

ei: Internet users paid to spread Israeli propaganda

Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 22 July 2009

The passionate support for Israel expressed on talkback and comment sections of websites, internet chat forums, blogs, Twitter and Facebook may not be all that it seems.

Israel’s foreign ministry is reported to be establishing a special undercover team of paid workers whose job it will be to surf the internet 24 hours a day spreading positive news about Israel.

Internet-savvy Israeli youngsters, mainly recent graduates and demobilized soldiers with language skills, are being recruited to pose as ordinary surfers while they provide the government’s line on the Middle East conflict.

“To all intents and purposes the internet is a theater in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must be active in that theatre, otherwise we will lose,” said Ilan Shturman, who is responsible for the project.

The existence of an “internet warfare team” came to light when it was included in this year’s foreign ministry budget. About $150,000 has been set aside for the first stage of development, with increased funding expected next year.

The team will fall under the authority of a large department already dealing with what Israelis term “hasbara,” officially translated as “public explanation” but more usually meaning propaganda. That includes not only government public relations work but more secretive dealings the ministry has with a battery of private organizations and initiatives that promote Israel’s image in print, on TV and online.

In an interview this month with the Calcalist, an Israeli business newspaper, Shturman, the deputy director of the ministry’s hasbara department, admitted his team would be working undercover.

“Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the hasbara department of the Israeli foreign ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis,” he said. “They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the foreign ministry developed.”

Rona Kuperboim, a columnist for Ynet, Israel’s most popular news website, denounced the initiative, saying it indicated that Israel had become a “thought-police state.”

She added that “good PR cannot make the reality in the occupied territories prettier. Children are being killed, homes are being bombed, and families are starved.”

Her column was greeted by several talkbackers asking how they could apply for a job with the foreign ministry’s team.

The project is a formalization of public relations practices the ministry developed specifically for Israel’s assault on Gaza in December and January.

“During Operation Cast Lead we appealed to Jewish communities abroad and with their help we recruited a few thousand volunteers, who were joined by Israeli volunteers,” Shturman said.

“We gave them background material and hasbara material, and we sent them to represent the Israeli point of view on news websites and in polls on the internet.”

The Israeli army also had one of the most popular sites on the video-sharing site YouTube and regularly uploaded clips, although it was criticized by human rights groups for misleading viewers about what was shown in its footage.

Shturman said that during the war the ministry had concentrated its activities on European websites where audiences were more hostile to Israeli policy. High on its list of target sites for the new project would be BBC Online and Arabic websites, he added.

Elon Gilad, who heads the internet team, told Calcalist that many people had contacted the ministry offering their services during the Gaza attack. “People just asked for information, and afterwards we saw that the information was distributed all over the internet.”

He suggested that there had been widespread government cooperation, with the ministry of absorption handing over contact details for hundreds of recent immigrants to Israel, who wrote pro-Israel material for websites in their native languages.

The new team is expected to increase the ministry’s close coordination with a private advocacy group, giyus.org (Give Israel Your United Support). About 50,000 activists are reported to have downloaded a program called Megaphone that sends an alert to their computers when an article critical of Israel is published. They are then supposed to bombard the site with comments supporting Israel.

Nasser Rego of Ilam, a group based in Nazareth that monitors the Israeli media, said Arab organizations in Israel were among those regularly targeted by hasbara groups for “character assassination.” He was concerned the new team would try to make such work appear more professional and convincing.

“If these people are misrepresenting who they are, we can guess they won’t worry too much about misrepresenting the groups and individuals they write about. Their aim, it’s clear, will be to discredit those who stand for human rights and justice for the Palestinians.”

When this reporter called the foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, a spokesman, denied the existence of the internet team, though he admitted officials were stepping up exploitation of new media.

He declined to say which comments by Shturman or Gilad had been misrepresented by the Hebrew-language media, and said the ministry would not be taking any action over the reports.

Israel has developed an increasingly sophisticated approach to new media since it launched a “Brand Israel” campaign in 2005.

Market research persuaded officials that Israel should play up good news about business success, and scientific and medical breakthroughs involving Israelis.

Shturman said his staff would seek to use websites to improve “Israel’s image as a developed state that contributes to the quality of the environment and to humanity.”

David Saranga, head of public relations at Israel’s consulate-general in New York, which has been leading the push for more upbeat messages about Israel, argued last week that Israel was at a disadvantage against pro-Palestinian advocacy.

“Unlike the Muslim world, which has hundreds of millions of supporters who have adopted the Palestinian narrative in order to slam Israel, the Jewish world numbers only 13 million,” he wrote in Ynet.

Israel has become particularly concerned that support is ebbing among the younger generations in Europe and the United States.

In 2007 it emerged that the foreign ministry was behind a photo-shoot published in Maxim, a popular US men’s magazine, in which female Israeli soldiers posed in swimsuits.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

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WE hear a lot of noise about IRI involvement in internal politics of South America, but the reality is something different.
The noise is to cover for what is happening behind the closed doors and out of the spot-lights of the main stream media. Israel is arming the south American dictators the same way they did support the Apartheid regime of South Africa and many other dictators in north Africa.

The dirty hand in south America seems to be of the Israeli defence forces selling arms to un-democratic and corrupt regimes in the region and not the IRI.

Israeli ‘Kfir’ warplane crashes in Colombia – Haaretz – Israel News


An Israeli warplane that crashed in Colombia on Monday.

An Israeli warplane purchased by the Colombian Army crashed on Monday near the city of Cartagena. The Israeli pilots operating the machine were unharmed in the incident, but the plane itself was destroyed.

The pilots were employed by Israel Aerospace Industries, dispatched to Colombia as part of a deal with the South American country’s air force.

As part of the deal, Israel gave Colombia a number of advanced Kfir war planes at a value of $150 million.

Israel Aerospace Industries said in a statement that the plane was flying a refresher flight, and that the aircraft didn’t come to a stop on the landing strip, landing outside it.

The director of the Israel Aerospace Industries announced that an investigation into the incident had already begun and that a probe panel had been appointed.

The Kfir, developed in Israel, is a modification of the French Mirage, which was first manufactured in Israel after the French imposed an embargo on Israel in 1967. At first, the aircraft were named Nesher, but after the engine was upgraded to an American one, it was decided to change the aircraft’s name to Kfir.

The aircraft was retired from Israeli military use in the 80s.

Yes Men join the campaign to win justice for Bhopal victims | News | The First Post

Yes Men join the campaign for justice for Bhopal victims

Bhopal

The performance activists have brought their theatrical hoaxes to bear against Dow Chemical, the company that bought Union Carbide

FIRST POSTED JULY 17, 2009

A package arrived on the doorstep of Dow Chemical’s offices in Slough, last Tuesday, but staff, warned that it was coming, had already evacuated the building. Though it was nothing more than bottled water, unlike Evian, Vittel or any other mineral brand, this hadn’t come from some alpine spring. It was a macabre prank by a group of political activists.

Full of toxic quantities of nickel, chromium, lead and mercury, the water was bottled in Bhopal, the Indian city which, on 3 December 1984, suffered the worst industrial gas leak in history. There, with safety precautions neglected, water leaked into a tank containing a highly-toxic chemical called methyl isocyanate, and gas started billowing out of the Union Carbide pesticide factory.

Union Carbide refused even to reveal the chemical content of the lethal gas cocktail

Within 72 hours, as locals suffocated, vomited and went blind, some 8,000 people had died from exposure to the gas, a figure that has gradually grown to over 20,000 dead.

Now, 25 years on, both survivors and residents born after the disaster are still plagued by severe recurring ailments, from nervous disorders to pulmonary fibrosis and weakened immune systems. It is thought that the factory’s toxic waste was leaching into the surrounding water supply for as long as ten years before the catastrophe occurred. Even today, high volumes of mercury have even been detected in the breast milk of mothers who live nearby.

For years, as Sathyu Sarangi, a leading activist from the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal highlights, Union Carbide refused even to reveal the exact chemical content in this lethal gas cocktail. At first, the company, which said that the accident was the result of sabotage by a disgruntled worker at the plant, had claimed it contained “nothing more potent than tear gas”.

Dow Chemical, a Michigan-based multinational which employs some 46,000 people, bought Union Carbide, including its factory in Bhopal, for $10.3bn in stock and debt in 2001. Dow, which refuses to accept responsibility for the disaster, says the matter of compensation has been settled with the Indian government, and have offered locals no further renumeration.

This stubborn corporate defiance prompted Greenpeace to join forces with Bhopal activists in 2003, for a stunt in which they unloaded 250kg of toxic Bhopal waste into seven safely-contained barrels which they dumped outside Dow’s European headquarters in the Netherlands.

That prank must have been the inspiration to the Yes Men, the people responsible for sending the highly-contaminated water with the macabre label to Dow’s offices in Slough last week.

The Yes Men are a group of political activists led by author Jacques Servin and university professor Igor Vamos, with numerous assistants and aliases. They made their name through various ‘identity correction’ stunts – impersonating the representatives of big business to promote their anti-globalisation, environmental and social justice messages.

Next month, their film The Yes Men Fix the World, is to be released in the UK. It will replay some of their greatest hits, such as the satirical website that they created in 2000, GWBush.com, which sought to highlight the hypocrisies inherent in Bush’s real website during his presidential campaign. The exasperated President responded: “there ought to be limits to freedom”.

On another occasion, at a conference in Canada, Yes Men posed as officials from oil giant Exxonmobil and told a hall full of oil executives that Vivoleum – a product which would use decomposing bodies to make fuel – could save the energy industry. The hoax executives persuaded their audience to light commemorative candles before they were rumbled and bundled out by the security guards.

The group frequently targets the World Trade Organisation, with stunts such as pretending to advocate slavery in Africa or using recycled industrial waste from developed countries to feed starving Third World populations.

Local Bhopal people who lost their sight after the Union Carbide gas leak
Blind Bhopal victims

The group also admitted its part in distributing a fake but uncannily realistic looking edition of the New York Times last November, with the front-page headlines ‘Iraq War Ends’ and ‘Nation Sets Its Sights On Building A Sane Economy’.

The Yes Men have capitalised on the realisation that stunts, hoaxes, gimmicks and jokes like these are increasingly the tactics that can gain widespread attention for a cause, and are probably now more effective than getting chained to a lamppost or going on hunger-strike.

They exploit the fact that performance protest is popular because it’s non-violent, theatrical, photogenic, funny – and perhaps most importantly – memorable. So it divides the good guys very neatly from the bad guys, for both the media and the chattering public.

Moreover, the perpetrators find that their stunts can make a big impact. In 2004 on the 20th anniversary of Bhopal, one of the Yes Men appeared on BBC World, and watched by no fewer than 300 million people, impersonated a Dow spokesman.

Under the pseudonym Jude Finisterra, he pledged to sell off $12bn of company assets to fund medical aid for the victims of the tragedy, clean up the site and research hazardous chemicals.

Although the hoax was quickly discovered and Dow issued a press release denying the statement, they paid the price, literally. Within 23 minutes their share value plummeted by $2bn.