Monthly Archives: May 2011

Did Bin Laden Borrow His Porn Stash From Manuel Noriega? (Updated)

After the US captured Noriega, it planted porn, cocaine and "voodoo" materials in his home

After the US captured Noriega, it claimed to have found porn, cocaine and "voodoo" materials in his home

Apparently it wasn’t enough that Osama Bin Laden had spawned a movement of mass murdering fanatics who killed thousands of innocent people around the world, most of whom were Muslim. Now US “officials” speaking “on the condition of anonymity” are claiming that Bin Laden was a porn hound who kept an “extensive” stash of adult films in his home.

The US media has gone wild over the story: Lawrence O’Donnell led with it last night on MSNBC; Reuters reported on it; and the NY Post blared out the headline, “Osama Gone Wild.” At the Daily Beast, Asra Nomani published a long think piece explaining how Bin Laden’s supposed porn addiction “reveals the Muslim world’s dirty secret.”

The revelations about our latest national folk devil’s perversions made me wonder if Bin Laden borrowed his porn stash from the jailed former Panamanian strongman and bygone boogeyman Manuel Noriega.

Back in 1989, after Noriega was captured by US forces in Panama, the press was given exclusive access to the dictator’s inner sanctum. Time Magazine reported at the time:

But other evidence suggested that the dictator was losing control of himself: U.S. troops searching his various hideouts found, along with pictures of Adolf Hitler, collections of pornography and sophisticated weapons and more than 50 kilos of cocaine. In one Noriega guesthouse, searchers found a bucket of blood and entrails, which they said may have been used for occult rites to protect him. Was the accused drug trafficker deteriorating into a megalomaniac drug user?

As Michael Parenti later noted, the Hitler picture came from a Time-Life photo history of World War II, the only “voodoo” implements found were San Blas Indian carvings, and the cocaine was actually tortilla flour. The “evidence” appeared to have been planted by the US to destroy whatever was left of Noriega’s reputation. “But,” Parenti wrote, “these belated corrections received scant coverage.”

Is it beyond the US to rehash the same tactics it deployed against Noriega, a former CIA asset, to discredit Bin Laden in the eyes of the world? Of course not, especially given Bin Laden’s assiduously cultivated image of piety. The charge not only looks extremely shabby, it adds an air of silliness to an affair the US has otherwise presented as deadly serious. Bin Laden was the spiritual leader of a movement that murdered thousands of innocent people across the globe. That fact alone should be enough to discredit him.

Update: Grace D. reminds me of the following “discoveries” by US forces in the compound of Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam (as reported by AP): “In addition to finding a lot of liquor, electronics, Cuban cigars and porn — U.S. soldiers say they found pictures of President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara Bush.”

Update #2: Bin Laden had weed! I wonder if he was posting #weedcommandments on Twitter.

Update #3: In 1992, Turkish police told the press they found a stash of caviar in the home of communist militant leader Dursun Karatas. They also claimed to have found “a stereo, large screen television with remote control, computer, fax, video, carpets, luxury items…”

On Israeli Memorial Day, Suicide, Fratricide And Accidents Remain Top Causes Of Soldier Deaths

Despite declaring an "all-out war" on suicide, the Israeli army saw the rate rise in 2010

Despite declaring an "all-out war" on suicide, the Israeli army saw the epidemic rise in 2010

On Israel’s Memorial Day observances for “fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks,” the Defense Ministry’s commemoration unit claimed that 183 Israelis “were killed in the line of duty or in terror attacks since last year’s Remembrance Day,” according to YNet. The number appears to represent a wild exaggeration that is inconsistent with past statistics documenting the number of Israeli soldiers killed annually in combat operations versus those who died by suicide or in accidents. In recent years, suicide has been either the leading cause or among the leading causes of deaths in the Israeli army.

While I was having lunch in Tel Aviv last summer with my friend Ruth Hiller, a founder of the Israeli anti-militarization group New Profile, she told me that around 50 percent of Israelis buried in military cemeteries had died through suicide, accidents or fratricide. I asked my roommate at the time, Yossi David, a left-wing Israeli blogger who had served in occupied Hebron, if Hiller’s figures were accurate. “All I know is that there were two suicides a month in my unit during training,” David said. “It happened all the time.”

In 1989, the Israeli army’s personnel department put the rate of suicides at 35 a year. By 2003, during the height of the Second Intifada, 43 Israeli soldiers died by suicide, making it the leading cause of death in the army. By 2010, suicide was on the rise again. During the first seven months of the year, 19 soldiers had killed themselves, a ten percent spike from the previous year. That number exceeded the number of deaths that occurred that year in combat operations.

In 2008, an Israeli border policeman committed suicide in front of French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy. A young soldier shot himself last year after learning that his friend had committed suicide moments before. The phenomenon continues to plague the Israeli army despite Brigadier General Avi Zamir’s pledge in 2005 to “wage an all-out war on suicide by soldiers.”

The suicide rate has been particularly high among Ethiopian members of the Israeli army. By 1997, six years after an airlift brought the second wave of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, Ethiopian soldiers accounted for 10 percent of army suicides — but comprised only four tenths of a percent of the army. Racism was a key factor in the epidemic. One soldier’s suicide note read: “Every morning when I get to the base, six soldiers are waiting for me who clap their hands and yell, `The kushi [black] is here.'”

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s last major combat operation, the army suffered its largest loss of life in an accidental incident of fratricide, when a tank shell killed three members of the Golani Brigade. This year, several Israeli troops died at the Gaza border when their comrades accidentally rained mortars down on their position.

40 Israeli prison guard cadets died weeks before in the Carmel Wildfire when their bus was trapped in the flames. The cadets presumably comprised the majority of the 70 “soldiers and civilians” whom the Israeli Army spokesman claimed (via Twitter) were “killed in operational duty and terror attacks since last Memorial Day.”

As Nakba Day Approaches, Israeli Troops “Conquer” Simulated Arab Village

63 years ago today, before the Arab armies had entered Palestine, and before Israel had declared its independence, Zionist militias were engaged in the conquest and ethnic cleansing of dozens of villages, from Abu al-Fadl near present-day Ramle to Akbara, which was 2 kilometers south of Safed. This week, as Palestinians plan to observe the formal anniversary of their dispossession on May 15, or “Nabka Day,” the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Speier reported that Israeli soldiers from the 202 paratrooper battalion “put their skills into action by conquering a simulation Arab village.”

“Each platoon needs to likhbush [conquer] an area in the village, and we get to likhbush an area called Yassin, south Yassin,” said company commander Matan Pelen. After the exercise was completed, Pelen commented, “This area is now ours, it’s under our control.”

Whether or not the Israeli army is training to literally seize a village and expel its residents, the reliance by modern day Israelis on a colonial vocabulary exposes the state’s essential mission. When Israelis refer to the occupation of the West Bank, they use the term “kibush,” or the conquest, underscoring the permanence of the settlement project across the 1949 Armistice Line and its connection to the military campaign of ethnic cleansing that enabled the Jewish state to emerge in 1948.

The early Zionists labeled their campaign to Judaize the marketplace by boycotting Arab businesses and terrorizing Jews who employed or patronized Arabs, “Kibush Ha’avodah,” or the conquest of labor.

The Zionist internalization of anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews as rootless cosmopolitans (or excessively contemplative Luftmenschen) prompted the “Kibush Ha’adamah,” the conquest of the land, and “Likhbush et Ha’adamah ba’Raglyim,” a phrase that means to conquer the land by foot. Besides expelling as many Palestinian Arabs as possible, these efforts were intended to encourage the New Jews to purge their diaspora contaminations through agricultural pursuits, physical labor and perpetual building.

Conquest is inscribed in the logic of Zionism. While Israeli political and military leaders resist any initiative to constrain the state’s expansionist impulses, Palestinian villages quietly disappear from the landscape. Just as the “kibush” remains continuous, so does the Nakba.

Last week, on May 6, Israeli authorities ordered 50 Palestinian families to leave Jerusalem. A day later, Israeli forces expelled 110 Palestinians from Khirbet Umm Nir, a small village south of the occupied city of Hebron. The village was destroyed for the third time in two months.

Top Republicans to welcome Netanyahu, who called 9-11 attacks “very good,” said anti-US terror helps Israel

Bin Laden's death is bad news for Bibi, who called the 9-11 attacks "very good."

Bin Laden's death is bad news for Bibi, who called the 9-11 attacks "very good."

In three weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Washington to address Congress at the invitation of Republican Majority Speaker John Boehner. The appearance was designed to undermine President Barack Obama, with Netanyahu, the ardent Republican from suburban Philadelphia, hectoring the Palestinians and the Iranian regime while pledging an eternal war against terror. Before a uniformly supportive Congress, the cocksure Netanyahu had hoped to present a stark contrast to Obama, the unpopular ditherer mired in bad economic news and a messy military stalemate in Libya.

With the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, a hit personally authorized by Obama, the tables have turned. Netanyahu rushed to complement the American president, and he will inevitably be compelled to praise him again and again when he arrives in Washington. This is one reason why Akiva Eldar wrote that Bin Laden’s killing was “bad news for Bibi.”

But even before he had announced his upcoming trip to Washington, Netanyahu offered evidence that he would prefer for Bin Laden to be alive and kicking. In the immediate wake of 9-11, the New York Times’ James Bennett asked Netanyahu what the attacks would mean for Israel’s relations with the United States. “It’s very good,” Bibi replied before quickly correcting himself. ”Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” Netanyahu said the attack would ”strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.”

Before an audience at Bar Ilan University in 2008, Netanyahu restated his belief that 9-11 was, as he said, “very good.” “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq,” Netanyahu said during a conference about re-dividing Jerusalem in the event of a peace treaty with the Palestinians.

Bibi’s logic was clear: as long as Americans could be duped into believing Israel was fighting its battle, the United States would support Israeli expansionism and intransigence. Bin Laden was useful indeed.

With Bin Laden gone, Netanyahu will likely try to sell Americans on new folk devils, from Hamas in Gaza to the nuclearized “new Hitler” in Iran. But these evildoers have expressed little, if any, interest in attacking the United States. And judging from Netanyahu’s past statements, he does not view this fact as “very good.”

Popular Struggle Leader and Political Prisoner Bassem Tamimi: “It is our destiny to resist.”

This interview was originally published at Electronic Intifada:

When I met Bassem Tamimi at his home in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh this January, his eyes were bloodshot and sunken, signs of the innumerable sleepless nights he had spent waiting for Israeli soldiers to take him to prison. As soon as two children were seized from the village in the middle of the night and subjected to harsh interrogations that yielded an unbelievable array of “confessions,” the 44-year-old Tamimi’s arrest became inevitable. On 25 March, the army finally came, dragging him away to Ofer military prison, a Guantanamo-like West Bank facility where he had previously been held for a 12-month term for the vaguely defined crime of “incitement.” His trial before a military court that convicts more than 99 percent of Palestinians brought before it is scheduled to begin on 8 May.

Like nearly all of his neighbors, Tamimi has spent extended time in Israeli detention facilities and endured brutal treatment there. In 1993, he was arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El. Tamimi was severely tortured for weeks by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to extract a confession from him. Tamimi said that during the torture he was dropped from a high ceiling onto a concrete floor and woke up a week later in an Israeli hospital. In the end, he was cleared of all charges.

With his wife, Nariman, and his brother, Naji, Tamimi has been at the center of Nabi Saleh’s popular resistance against the occupation since its inception in 2009. The village’s unarmed struggle has brought hundreds of Israelis and international activists to participate each Friday in boisterous and theatrical demonstrations that invariably encounter harsh Israeli violence, including the use of live ammunition against children. While other villages involved in the popular struggle have seen their ranks winnowed out by a harsh regime of repression and imprisonment, Nabi Saleh’s protests continue unabated, irking the army and frustrating the settlers of Halamish, who intend to expand their illegal colony further onto Nabi Saleh’s land.

Tamimi and I spoke amid the din of a stream of visitors parading in and out of his living room, from international activists living in the village to local children to a group of adolescent boys from the nearby town of Qurawa, who told me they came to spend time with Tamimi and his family “because this is what the Palestinian struggle is about.” Tamimi is a high school teacher in Ramallah and his professorial nature is immediately apparent. As soon as I arrived at his front door for what I thought would be a casual visit, he sat me down for an hour-long lesson on the history, attitudes and strategy that inform the brand of popular struggle he and his neighbors had devised during weekly meetings at the village cultural center.

Our discussion stretched from the origins of Nabi Saleh’s resistance in 1967 to the Oslo Accords, when the village was sectioned into two administrative areas (Areas B and C), leaving all residents of the Israeli-controlled portion (Area C) vulnerable to home demolition and arbitrary arrests. Tamimi insisted to me that Nabi Saleh’s residents are not only campaigning to halt the expropriation of their land, they seek to spread the unarmed revolt across all of occupied Palestine. “The reason the army wants to break our model [of resistance] is because we are offering the basis for the third intifada,” Tamimi said.

A full transcript follows:

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