Monday, 14 September 2009

Israel Matzav: More from Helena Cobban on Marc Garlasco

More from Helena Cobban on Marc Garlasco

Helena Cobban, a member of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa advisory committee, has more to say about Nazi memorabilia collector Human Rights Watch's chief 'military analyst' (and I put that term in scare quotes because I question his credentials, as Cobban herself did earlier) Marc Garlasco. Cobban still hasn't seriously considered the possibility that Garlasco's Nazi fetish shows that he is incapable of carrying out an unbiased inquiry of Israel's actions, but she's becoming increasingly annoyed with HRW's circling the wagons.

It is complete garbage highly misleading for Garlasco to suggest that his obsessively pursuit of the "hobby" of collecting-- and lovingly displaying with almost pornographic attention to detail-- various swastika-adorned military memorabilia from the Nazi era in any way makes him a better investigator of current military events.

He claims that, "I've never hidden my hobby." But when I spoke with Iain Levine, who's the head of all HRW's programs and thus Garlasco's supervisor's supervisor, he said he had no inkling that Garlasco had such a hobby "until Tuesday morning."

Garlasco writes,

    I deeply regret causing pain and offense with a handful of juvenile and tasteless postings I made on two websites that study Second World War artifacts (including American, British, German, Japanese and Russian items).

The websites in question are titled German Combat Awards and Wehrmacht-awards. From a quick scan through them they don't, actually, seem to cover many non-German items at all.

Also, one of those allegedly "juvenile" postings was presumably this one, made in 2005: "The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!” Garlasco was 34 or 35 years old at the time. He'd been working for HRW for two years by then. It was only four years ago.

Hard to make a claim of "youthful indiscretion", based on such facts. ... I would like to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with Garlasco, in person. I asked Levine if I could have access to him. Hasn't happened yet.

I'd like to make a few last points here:

1. I do not claim to know what Garlasco's attitude is toward the Nazi-era military memorabilia that he so obsessively collects. He clearly seems to have a collector's zeal, or obsession, and to spend a lot of time pursuing this hobby. 7,734 posts on Wehrmacht Awards since March 2004, and compiling a 450-page guide to one small sub-branch of Nazi-era badges are not the signs of a casual collector. The comment shown above, made on Wehrmacht Awards in 2005, indicates some open-ness, at the very least, to the idea that one could entertain and express fondness for specifically SS memorabilia.

Also, using 'Flak88' seems like a signal of possible pro-Hitler proclivities to others in that part of the collecting world, who would be quite aware that '88' is their insiders' code for Heil Hitler.

To my mind, this does not prove that Garlasco's a "Nazi sympathizer", or an anti-Semite. But his participation on these sites-- including interactions there with people who clearly do seem to be Nazi sympathizers-- is extremely disturbing in itself.

Marc Garlasco, an anti-Semite? I would say that fair-minded people might consider that conclusion. Will Helena Cobban? Will Human Rights Watch consider the possibility that Garlasco, together with the previous incidents involving Whitson and Stork so taints their work in this region that they ought to bow out or at least start over again with new personnel who don't come to the job with preconceived notions of right and wrong?

Israel Matzav: More from Helena Cobban on Marc Garlasco

Israel Matzav: Goldstone report to be used in onslaught against Israel

Goldstone report to be used in onslaught against Israel

One of the things I discussed in my panel at today's JBlogger convention is the potential use to be made of the Goldstone report to be released this week. I followed Foreign Ministry representative Ashley Perry, who said that political bloggers have to focus on Iran. This week, the anti-Israel world is going to attempt to distract attention from Iran through the release of the Goldstone Commission report on Operation Cast Lead. Judith Apter Klinghoffer explains how they intend to use that report.

I found their plan carefully explained in the August issue of the premier French foreign policy outlet, Le Monde Diplomatique in an article entitled Can we enforce international law? The author, Willy Jackson, reports that he expects the Goldstone report to bring about a campaign of economic retaliation against Israel under the cover of grassroots enforcement of international law. He writes:

This month the UN will publish the findings of its inquiry into Israel’s possible war crimes in Gaza in 2008-9. These are unlikely to lead to legal proceedings, so there are calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions to force Israel to comply with international law

The findings were not yet made public, but the wolves can already smell the blood. They are not even pretending that the finding can go either way. They believe their ongoing anti Israeli campaign to boycott Israeli goods is about to get major shot in the arm:

The boycott, within this non-violent resistance strategy, calls on consumers not to buy products made in Israel (whether by local or foreign companies) or in Israeli sett laments in the occupied Palestinian territories. Lists of goods (fruit, vegetables, fruit juice, cut flowers, tinned fruit, biscuits, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics) and their barcodes have been published, especially in Europe. Other tactics include publicity campaigns, petitioning of store managers to withdraw blacklisted products, awareness campaigns directed at central purchasing agencies, and disruption operations in supermarkets.

But the campaign means to go beyond mere goods, explains Jackson. Total isolation of Israel and Israelis is on the agenda.

The boycott of Israeli goods is the aspect of the BDS campaign that has received most coverage, but other attempts have been made to isolate and bring pressure to bear on Israel. There have also been cultural (7), academic, diplomatic and sporting boycotts.

The more one reads(see below), the more it is clear that we are dealing with the globalized replacement of the old Arab boycott which began in 1945, before the creation of Israel and like the old Arab boycott, it is designed to isolate Israel, and has already had its successes. The organizers are set to use the report to achieve additional ones. Here are some examples:

The divestment element of the campaign, aimed at companies doing business in the Middle East, is beginning to take effect. A campaign to force the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia to withdraw from Israel, with the slogans “Dexia, get out of Israel!” and “Israel Colonises, Dexia Finances”, led 14 Belgian municipalities to leave the bank, which was financing Israeli settlaments in the occupied territories through its Israeli subsidiary.

The French power and transport group Alstom has also been targeted and was excluded from Sweden’s AP7 national pension fund portfolio in early 2009. The fund’s decision followed the example of the Dutch financial institution ASN Bank, which took action against another French firm, Veolia Tr ansport, in 2006. Participating in the construction of a tramway in Jerusalem has deprived these multinationals of a number of contracts: in France, the Greater Bordeaux urban community canceled Veolia’s contract for waste management, worth $53.3m; in the UK, Sandwell borough council excluded Veolia from the bidding for a waste collection and recycling contract worth $1bn; and in Sweden, Stockholm council canceled its contract for operating the city’s metro system, worth $2.5bn.

Some companies have not wasted time in conforming to the demands of “socially responsible” investment. The Dutch firm Heineken’s subsidiary Tempo Drinks has relocated part of its operations from the West Bank to inside Israeli territory; the Swedish electromechanical security systems firm Assa Abloy has resolved to move one of its factories out of the West Bank.

Read the whole thing.

Alstom and Veolia have also been targeted in a French court case. Alstom was also targeted by the Saudis for entering into its contract to build the Jerusalem trolley line.

When I came on aliya (immigrated to Israel) in the early '90's Tempo Drinks was a client of ours and had just acquired a license to manufacture and distribute Heineken (and Pepsi) in Israel. It was a family company owned by the Bornstein family and much of the family was religious. How times have changed.

Israel Matzav: Goldstone report to be used in onslaught against Israel

Israel Matzav: Al-Qaeda: 9/11 conspiracy theories 'ridiculous'

Israel Matzav: Al-Qaeda: 9/11 conspiracy theories 'ridiculous'

Love of the Land: The Goldstone Show-Trial

The Goldstone Show-Trial

Melanie Phillips
The Spectator
11 September 09

In the wake of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza at the turn of this year, the UN’s satirically named ‘Human Rights Council’ set up what purported to be an objective, fact-finding commission of inquiry under Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and a judge of the South African Constitutional Court.

The degree of objectivity on this Commission can be gauged from the mandate it was given by the , UNHRC, which announced it was dispatching

an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully cooperate with the mission.

So this 'objective' inquiry had been told before it was even established that the guilty party in Gaza was Israel, designated by the UN as the ‘occupying power’; that it was guilty of ‘aggression’ and ‘violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law’; and that the Palestinians of Gaza were the victims of this Israeli aggression.

Israel, of course, no longer occupies Gaza. Nor was it guilty of aggression: it was instead defending itself against the aggression of Hamas who had fired some 6000 rockets at Israeli citizens. Nor did it commit any violations of international law and human rights: it was Hamas who did so repeatedly -- not just against Israel but also the Arab inhabitants of Gaza who were used as human shields and mass hostages – and then made false accusations against Israel of committing such violations, falsehoods promulgated as true by the UN.

But the aggression and human rights violations committed by Hamas – the cause of the conflict – weren’t even to be considered by this objective, fact-finding Commission. Having been set up on the premise that Israel was guilty, it was directed to gather evidence to support the conclusion that had already been reached. As the Queen in Alice might have said, ‘verdict first, evidence afterwards’. Unless Goldstone has torn up the terms of his mandate, his Commission will possess all the objectivity of the show-trials of Stalin.

Publication of this kangaroo court’s report is imminent. There are even suggestions swirling today that it is to be published tomorrow – on the Jewish sabbath, when neither Israel nor the Jewish world can properly respond. That would be entirely in keeping with the malevolent racism and cynicism of this entire operation.

(Full Article)

Love of the Land: The Goldstone Show-Trial

Love of the Land: The Warlord in His Castle

The Warlord in His Castle

Michael J. Totten
08 September 09

"This country is like a cake. On the top it is cream. Underneath it is fire." – Hezbollah spokesman

"We don't want the great Syrian prison." – Kamal Jumblatt

The Middle East is a rough part of the world, especially for its ethnic and religious minorities. In the late 1980s, Saddam Hussein's Arab Nationalist Baath Party regime waged a war of extermination against ethnic Kurds in the north. Iran's Bahai community has been mercilessly persecuted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his fellow Khomeinists for decades. The vast majority of Jews living in Arab countries were expelled to Israel, and many in the Arab world still hope to expunge them from the region entirely by destroying the country they fled to as refugees. Egypt's Coptic Christians are second class citizens, and many Christian women in Iraq feel compelled by Islamist extremists to wear Islamic headscarves on their heads even though the state doesn't require it. Libya's Moammar Qaddafi represses the indigenous ethnic Berber minority, and the Shias of Saudi Arabia live under the boot heel of fanatical Sunni Wahhabis.

I could go on, but you get the drift.

The Druze minority communities in Lebanon, Israel, and Syria have worked out a survival formula that works better than most. They're weathervanes. They calculate. They, more than other Arabs, side with the strong horse.

In Syria, the Druze support the Baathist regime of Bashar Assad. Israeli Druze are fiercely loyal to the state and fight harder than most against the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah in elite IDF units. Many Palestinians consider them traitors.

It's trickier for Lebanon's Druze. Politics there are vastly more complicated – as complicated as politics in Iraq, if not even more so. The country is, in many ways, a microcosm of Middle East politics generally. You can usually tell which faction in Lebanon has the upper hand both locally and regionally because the Druze tend to belong to that faction. But what happens when the region is stuck in stalemate and deadlock?

Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt recently abandoned the anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah "March 14" coalition and declared himself politically neutral. Most seem to believe he did so because he thought Syrian power was on the rise again in Lebanon and didn't want to stay on the wrong side of the boss. A few say he fears a looming internal war between Sunnis and Shias and wants to step back and out of the way. He himself says compromise with Hezbollah, though it isn't desirable, is necessary because the Lebanese state is too weak to disarm a proxy militia backed by the powerful regimes in Syria and Iran. He believes, correctly, that Lebanon can't effectively take a hard line while the international community invites the rogue regimes in from the cold.

(Full article)

Love of the Land: The Warlord in His Castle

Love of the Land: An Introductory Guide To A Very Big Mistake: Analyzing the U.S. Decision to Negotiate with Iran’s Regime

An Introductory Guide To A Very Big Mistake: Analyzing the U.S. Decision to Negotiate with Iran’s Regime

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
13 September 09

Forgive me for a bit of repetition but what has just happened is so important that it deserves the closest attention and clearest analysis. A more comprehensive explanation is here. This article presents these themes in a brief, straightforward manner.

1. President Barack Obama produced the theme of U.S. engagement with Iran and proposed a world free of all nuclear weapons as a goal.

2. The United States had tried to engage with Iran but that country refused. Nominally this can be attributed to being busy with stealing an election and repressing the opposition but it would have happened any way.

3. Iran is now governed by its most radical government since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini twenty years ago. Extremist and adventurist, anti-American and antisemitic, this is a government bent on getting nuclear weapons (at least as leverage, not necessarily to use), destroying U.S. influence in the region, and wiping Israel off the map.

4. Seeing that engagement wasn’t working, the U.S. government made a plan to bring together key countries and raise the level of sanctions in late September.

5. Seeking to stall such measures in order to consolidate the regime, which is relatively weak given domestic opposition, the Tehran regime at the last minute sent an insulting note to the United States trying to change the subject. Rather than focus on the nuclear weapons’ drive, they called for changing the UN to empower non-Western states (an old regime theme) and rid the world of all nuclear weapons. In other words: Iran will be the champion of the Third World in getting rid of great power vetoes at the UN and keep on developing nuclear weapons until the United States gets rid of all those it has.

6. Remarkably, Obama accepted the Iranian offer.

7. Since the U.S. proposal was for unconditional negotiations this means that it cannot ask Iran to do anything—reduce sponsorship of terrorism, decrease internal repression, slow its nuclear program—as long as the talks are going on.

8. Apparently, the United States is not going to pursue the plan for increasing sanctions while the talks go on.

9. The U.S. government is also not setting a deadline for progress.

10. This means: By sending a five-page insulting letter the Iranian government has derailed the sanctions’ project and will gain in prestige without any cost.

11. In addition, the Iranian regime suffers no cost for stealing the election, repressing the opposition, and appointing a wanted terrorist as defense minister. One might expect international outrage and isolation of Iran on those points alone. Here, too, the regime has won a total victory.

12. The cover story is: The U.S. government offered to engage so it must keep its word. Supposedly, various factors will be impressed by this effort and be more willing to support sanctions after talks fail.

13. Yet it is never explained who these parties are? France, Germany, Britain, and other European states are ready to support sanctions increases now. Russia and China oppose raising sanctions now and will continue to do so. Even American domestic opinion doesn’t need this: if Obama, who is wildly popular on the left and seems to own much of the media, wants to raise sanctions what significant forces would oppose it?

14. In short, engagement has no purpose in terms of gathering support for sanctions.

15. What is really going on?

--The Administration simply wants an excuse for doing nothing.

--It really believes talks with Iran might lead somewhere, though some high officials, notably Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, say they won’t work.

--Seeing that the sanctions effort cannot get unanimous support, it does not want a messy fight with Russia and China or the appearance of failure.

16. The policy can be defended by saying that talking doesn’t hurt.

17. But of course it does. Not only has Iran reversed the direction of events, sabotaged the sanctions, and escape any censure over the regime’s policies, it gains time to build nuclear weapons. Presumably, talks will eat up at least six months after which additional time would be needed to increase sanctions. By then, too, the Chinese project to double Iran’s capability to produce its own refined oil products—one of the main things sanctions would deny the country—will be completed.

18. If the United States had turned down the Iranian offer, the West Europeans would have done so also.

19. It is impossible to see how this decision does the United States any good and it does America, Europe, and the Middle East a great deal of harm.

20. Will the Obama Administration itself derive political benefits at home? Short-term, perhaps but not significant. But what about when crises take place or its policies are perceived as failures as Iran not only gets nuclear weapons but uses them to extend its influence; intimidate Western and regional opponents; and subvert neighbors?

Conclusion: This is the most important foreign policy decision made so far by the Obama Administration. It is a very bad one. Even in the context of its overall policy, it would have done far better to continue with the raised sanctions.

--By letting its own strategy be derailed it looks ineffective.

--By accepting an insulting proposal obviously meant to change the agenda it will be perceived as being humiliated.

--By ignoring the recent behavior of the Iranian regime it will invite more of the same.

--By letting Russia and China veto a U.S. policy it seems to have abandoned American leadership in the world, or at least of the West.

--By allowing the Iranian regime to stall for time it has apparently moved a long way toward acceding to Iran’s having nuclear weapons, and not just the weapons but weapons in the hands of the country’s most extreme faction.

A big price will be paid in future for this mistake.

[I wonder if the NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, or other major news outlets will publish anything presenting the above points. The NY Time has already informed us that only "conservatives" and "human rights' activists" will oppose it, thus in a sense ruling out any serious criticism beforehand--since the first group is deemed evil and the second well-meaning but naive.]

Related: Iran Outmaneuvers U.S. Govt., Dialogue of the Deaf: Obama's Sanctions

Love of the Land: An Introductory Guide To A Very Big Mistake: Analyzing the U.S. Decision to Negotiate with Iran’s Regime

Love of the Land: HRW's Iron Cross Up

HRW's Iron Cross Up

Media Backspin/Honest Reporting
13 September 09

Human Rights Watch's Garlasco situation is taking a turn towards the absurd. Now,Harry's Place exposes what appears to be HRW sock puppetry on blogs critical of their colleague:

I would like to know if staffers at Human Rights Watch created a fake ‘activist’ with a Middle Eastern sounding name to forward its statements, to support arguments made by HRW officials, and to smear critics. I can’t tell you any more than this: but I think that someone at Human Rights Watch ought to investigate.

Were Human Rights Watch to be found to have engaged in such immoral and unethical behaviour, it would call into question their suitability as a monitor of global human rights abuses. The type of sockpuppetry that I suspect may have taken place at Human Rights Watch amounts to the propagation of a fiction.

Not everyone associated with HRW is amused with Garlasco's Nazi memorabilia collection, which Garlasco defends. Collecting World War 2 medals and uniforms isn't illegal, but Helena Cobban is notanbly rankled. The journalist, who is associated with HRW, writes:

But to have him doing work on human rights in the daytime, while carrying on with this intensively pursued hobby in the evening? That is bizarre, and disturbing.

Even more so when you realize that a lot of the work he has done has involved dealing with Israeli officials and citizens, and analyzing the IDF's operations . . . .

Now, as y'all no doubt know, I'm on the Middle East advisory committee of Human Rights Watch. And I've been very disturbed indeed by the attacks the young, aggressively rightwing Israeli organization NGO Monitor has launched against the work HRW has done on the IDF's combat behavior.

But right now, I'm looking at this page on NGO Monitor's website, and agreeing with much of what they have there on this topic.

At the CST blog, Mark Gardner best articulates why Garlasco's hobby remains problematic for HRW:

But, if Garlasco wants to immunise his daughter (and all our children) from Nazism, then fetishising Nazi medals for public consumption is a stupid way of going about it. You do not fight Nazism by helping to promote the marketplace for Nazi medals and trinkets and accoutrements. You do not fight Nazism by presenting its soldiers as brave, handsome, fresh faced youths – and you most certainly do not fight Nazism by normalising the wearing of Nazi-themed sweatshirts as Marc Garlasco does in this picture:


Does he wear this sweatshirt in front of his daughters? Does he wish more people would walk about wearing such items? Does he – or his HRW colleagues – think that it is appropriate for a man with his role to do so? Does he wear it when he meets Israeli Army officials?

Worst of all, however, is not Garlasco’s behaviour in all of this. Worst of all, is the reaction of Human Rights Watch. None of the concerns that I have outlined above seem to matter to HRW. Their defence is all embracing, and their condemnation of his critics lacks the remotest empathy with why Jews, or any other people, might express concern at Garlasco’s behaviour in view of his role as one their leading (anti) Israel experts.

Instead of engaging with the issues, HRW resort to the public equivalent of giving Jews the finger.

Read Gardner's

Love of the Land: HRW's Iron Cross Up
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