October 5th, 2008

Chris Keeley


Israel criticized indirectly for refusing review of atomic program

  • Story Highlights
  • Iran leads attack on Israel at International Atomic Energy Agency conference
  • Israel is widely considered to have nuclear arms, but has "no tell" policy
  • On Saturday, delegations vote 82-0 to establish Mideast nuclear weapons free zone
  • U.S., European Union block effort to submit resolution more directly critical of Israel

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- A U.N. nuclear conference of 145 nations indirectly criticized Israel on Saturday for refusing to put its atomic program under international purview.

But the Jewish state managed to evade being targeted by Islamic countries pushing for a vote to link it to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

Iran, Israel's most outspoken foe, spearheaded the verbal attack on the Jewish state, as it has done at past general conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israel is widely considered to have nuclear arms, but has a "no tell" policy on the issue.

Chief Iranian delegate Ali Ashgar Soltanieh said Israel's nuclear capabilities represent a "serious and continued threat to the security of neighboring and other states."

He took the United States and other Western backers of Israel to task for their "shameful silence" on what he said was the menace posed by Israel's atomic arsenal.

The meeting voted for a resolution urging all nations to open their nuclear activities to outside inspection and work toward the establishment of a Mideast nuclear weapons free zone. With Israel the only country in the region considered to have atomic arms, passage of the resolution constituted indirect criticism of the Jewish state.

The resolution called on all nations in the Middle East "not to develop, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons," and urged nuclear weapons states to "refrain from any action" hindering the establishment of a Mideast zone free of nuclear weapons.

But U.S. and the European Union managed to block an effort by Muslim nations and their supporters to submit a resolution more directly critical of Israel and its "nuclear capabilities."

Although last year's meeting followed a similar pattern, the votes for and against the two motions reflected shifting dynamics on the issues.

On Saturday, delegations had so far voted 82-0 for establishing the Mideast nuclear weapons free zone, with Israel, Syria and the U.S. among those abstaining. Last year it was 53 in favor, the U.S. and Israel against, and 47 abstentions.

Part of the shift reflected Israel's success in pushing for the resolution to include language that was indirectly critical of Iran and Syria -- two nations under IAEA review for possibly hiding undeclared nuclear activities.

The fact that the second motion more directly critical of Israel was only narrowly defeated indicated support for the Islamic nations was growing, particularly among developing countries. Of those present at the meeting, 46 nations voted against the motion, 43 voted for it, and seven abstained.

The issue of establishing a Mideast nuclear weapons free zone has been on the IAEA conference agenda for 16 years, though the vote Saturday was only the third on the topic.

The meeting usually tries for consensus, and the balloting reflected increased politicization over the Middle East dispute and, more recently, concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Muslim nations consider Israel the region's main nuclear threat. The United States and its allies see Iran's defiance of the U.N. Security Council in its development of technology that could be used to make the bomb as the greatest menace to Middle East peace. Iran says it wants to perfect the technology -- uranium enrichment -- not to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads but for fuel to generate power.

Iran was not formally on the agenda of the six-day meeting, which was scheduled to end later Saturday. But concerns about its nuclear defiance figured prominently in comments from a substantial number of Western delegations -- something Soltanieh was critical of.

"Iran is not the issue of this conference," he told The Associated Press, adding that "Israel is the only case" in the context of a proliferation danger in the Mideast.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Chris Keeley


Sarah’s Pompom Palaver


I had hoped I was finally done with acting as an interpreter for politicians whose relationship with the English language was tumultuous.

There’s W.’s gummy grammar, of course, like the classic, “Is our children learning?” And covering the first Bush White House required doing simultaneous translation for a president who never met a personal pronoun he liked or a wacky non sequitur he could resist.

Poppy Bush drew comparisons to Warren G. Harding, whose prose reminded H. L. Mencken of “a string of wet sponges. ... It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.” When Harding died, E. E. Cummings lamented, “The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead.”

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Chris Keeley

Robert Fisk: "When it comes to Palestine and Israel, the US simply doesn't get it" (INDEPENDENT)

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is a reflection by Robert Fisk on the black hole in the American mind and soul which has sucked the country into the void.

Robert Fisk: When it comes to Palestine and Israel, the US simply doesn't get it

Biden and Palin hid like rabbits from the centre of the Middle East earthquake

Independent, Saturday, 4 October 2008




Palestinians ceased to exist in the United States on Thursday night. Both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin managed to avoid the use of that poisonous word. "Palestine" and "Palestinians" – that most cancerous, slippery, dangerous concept – simply did not exist in the vice-presidential debate. The phrase "Israeli occupation" was mercifully left unused. Neither the words "Jewish colony" nor "Jewish settlement" – not even that cowardly old get-out clause of American journalism, "Jewish neighbourhood" – got a look-in. Nope.


Those bold contenders of the US vice-presidency, so keen to prove their mettle when it comes to "defence", hid like rabbits from the epicentre of the Middle East earthquake: the existence of a Palestinian people. Sure, there was talk of a "two-state" solution, but it would have mystified anyone who didn't understand the region.


There was even a Biden jibe at George Bush for pressing on with "elections" – again, the adjective "Palestinian" went missing – that produced a Hamas victory. But Hamas appeared to exist in never-never land, a vast landscape that gradually encompassed all the vast and black deserts that stretch, in the imagination of US politicians, from the Mediterranean to Pakistan.

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Chris Keeley

Palin pittbull

Pitbull Palin Mauls McCain

SARAH PALIN’S post-Couric/Fey comeback at last week’s vice presidential debate was a turning point in the campaign. But if she “won,” as her indulgent partisans and press claque would have it, the loser was not Joe Biden. It was her running mate. With a month to go, the 2008 election is now an Obama-Palin race — about “the future,” as Palin kept saying Thursday night — and the only person who doesn’t seem to know it is Mr. Past, poor old John McCain.

To understand the meaning of Palin’s “victory,” it must be seen in the context of two ominous developments that directly preceded it. Just hours before the debate began, the McCain campaign pulled out of Michigan. That state is ground zero for the collapsed Main Street economy and for so-called Reagan Democrats, those white working-class voters who keep being told by the right that Barack Obama is a Muslim who hung with bomb-throwing radicals during his childhood in the late 1960s.

McCain surrendered Michigan despite having outspent his opponent on television advertising and despite Obama’s twin local handicaps, an unpopular Democratic governor and a felonious, now former, black Democratic Detroit mayor. If McCain can’t make it there, can he make it anywhere in the Rust Belt?

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Chris Keeley

cut kill dig drill

Cut, Kill, Dig, Drill

Jonathan Raban

Sarah Palin has put a new face and voice to the long-standing, powerful, but inchoate movement in US political life that one might see as a mutant variety of Poujadism, inflected with a modern American accent. There are echoes of the Poujadist agenda of 1950s France in its contempt for metropolitan elites, fuelling the resentment of the provinces towards the capital and the countryside towards the city, in its xenophobic strain of nationalism, sturdy, paysan resistance to taxation, hostility to big business, and conviction that politicians are out to exploit the common man. In 1980, Ronald Reagan profitably tapped the movement with his promises of states’ rights, low taxes and a shrunken government in Washington; the ‘Reagan Democrats’ who crossed party lines to vote for him are still the most targeted demographic in the country. In 1992, Ross ‘Clean out the Barn’ Perot and his United We Stand America followers looked for a while as if they were going to up-end the two-party system, with Perot leading George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the midsummer polls. In 1996, Pat Buchanan (‘The peasants are coming with pitchforks’) appealed to the same bloc of voters with a programme that was militantly Christian, white, nativist, provincial, protectionist and anti-Washington. In 2000, Karl Rove cleverly enrolled this quasi-Poujadist faction in his grand alliance of libertarians, born-agains and corporate interests. It’s worth remembering that in 2004 every American city with a population of more than 500,000 voted for Kerry, and that the election was won for Bush in the outer suburbs, exurbia and the countryside – peasants with pitchforks territory. For an organisation so wedded to its big-city corporate clients, the Republican Party has been hugely successful in mopping up the votes of low-income, lightly educated rural and exurban residents.

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