Rarely does the Listening Post dedicate a whole show to the story of a single journalist. But when that story speaks so eloquently of how world history is being written, or erased, we decided it was something we just could not ignore.
In December 2009, Yemen’s air force claimed it had killed 30 suspected al-Qaeda operatives during an airstrike on a training camp in the southern Abyan province.
This version of events was circulated around the world but when Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye managed to get to the scene, the remains of the missiles he found were clearly marked ‘Made in the USA’. And among the dead were 14 women and 21 children.
Shaye’s subsequent report incriminated the US in a military operation in which they had been so keen to deny any involvement. Yemen dismissed the report and the US refused to comment – and Shaye became a marked man. He was accused of being an al-Qaeda operative and has been behind bars ever since.
Last month, the Yemeni government pardoned Shaye and was about to release him. But it took just one phone call from the US president urging them to reconsider, and the government backtracked.
Shaye remains locked up.
In this week’s Listening Post, we take an in-depth look at the case of Abdulelah Shaye: what it reveals about the politics and the dangers of reporting the so-called war on terror – and what the world stands to lose when the work of independent journalists is put on the line.
When the team here at the Listening Post has watched as much serious news as it can possibly take – we switch to The Onion – the US-based satirical website for some light relief. Every news channel loves a political panel discussion and the Onion has its own. On the table for discussion this week, a revolutionary thought: Could The Use Of Flying Death Robots Be Hurting America’s Reputation Worldwide? Watch our
Obama is the “the first Jewish President”. That’s the title of New York magazine’s lead article, written by John Heilemann and quoting a major Obama fundraiser.
Listening to Obama speak at the United Nations on Wednesday many would nod in agreement, not less in Palestine and the Arab world.
The US president has embraced the rejectionist Israeli position on the question of international recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
But that’s not a Jewish position. It’s a radical Zionist position. Many Jews, including US and Israeli Jews, do not embrace such extremist views.
But the fact that Obama surpassed his predecessor George W Bush, the most radical supporter of Israel among all US Presidents, has left everyone in Israel dumbstruck. The latest Zionist US president sounded like Israel’s own founding fathers.
Never have they heard a US president read straight from the papers of the Israeli government.
Propaganda passes for history
The cover story makes this conclusion by quoting one of Obama’s fundraisers [Credit: New York Magazine]
You would think after six decades of dispossession, four decades of occupation and two decades of peace processes that President Obama would recognise a political and moral discrepancy that needs fixing.
That he would underline, not undermine, his own words uttered in Cairo a year and a half ago about the need for Israel to stop its illegal settlements in Palestine.
That he would underline, not undermine his own projection – read promise – from the same podium last September of a Palestinian state within a year, meaning this week.
That he would underline, not undermine, his own rhetoric about freedom in the Arab region.
Or that he would underline, not undermine, his own opening emphasis about a peace based on withdrawal, not more of the same logic of war.
Alas, President Obama undermined his entire “change we can believe in” slogan.
His narrative is inspired by the worst of Israel’s official propaganda. Indeed, much of it is cut and pasted from their playbook.
He spoke of historical “facts” that have long been repudiated by Israeli historians, and of truths that are nothing more than one sided interpretations of a political situation.
Obama claimed that the Arabs launched wars against Israel. But, in actual fact, Israel is the aggressor, launching or instigating wars in: 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2008. Only the 1973 war was launched by Arabs, but only to recuperate occupied territories after the US and Israel rejected Anwar Sadat’s peace overtures.
He underlined the work of Israelis in forging a successful state in their “historic homeland”. But most of the world, and certainly the Arab world, saw Israel’s inception as a colonial project with theological pretexts.
Serbia also believes that Kosovo is the birth place of its nation; should they be allowed to forge a successful state of their own, an exclusively Serbian state in that territory?
Should each and every occupied people search from accommodation with their occupiers without interference from the international community? Is that how African and Middle Eastern nations gained their independence from European colonial powers?
Should a whole people go on living under occupation until their occupier is satisfied with the conditions for surrender?
It’s politics, stupid
Every other commentator in town would like to remind you not to expect much action from a US president on Israel during an election year.
As Heilemann illustrates in his article, Obama’s career was built on his relationships with generous Jewish contributors in Chicago.
Indeed, the guy who brought the most money to the Democratic party over the last several decades became Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel. Today, he’s the mayor of Chicago.
But it’s not only about money. It’s also about crucial support in Congress over urgent domestic issues that could make or break the Obama presidency. And the Israeli lobby, AIPAC, can make the president’s life miserable over the course of the next year.
Now, I understand all of that. But what I don’t understand is why it is accepted as a fait accompli! As the nature of politics! Take it or leave it!
If this is the case, then let’s at least call a spade a spade; and out the US administration(s) for being what so many seem to say it is: Not Jewish or Zionist, rather hypocritical.
It speaks of justice but pursues unfair policies; speaks of repression, but promotes its own interests at any cost. It preaches freedom but supports occupation; speaks of human rights but insists on entrusting the wolf, and only the wolf, with the hen house.
The joke is on everyone
Why should the Palestinians be held victims to US politics while being held hostage to Israeli politics for the last six decades. Why should most Israelis continue to live in a garrison state incapable of normalising relations with their neighbors?
Why should Americans watch as their politicians are held hostage to a foreign power and its influential supporters?
The pro-Israeli Jewish lobby, J Street, commented on the alarming pandering to Israel not only among Democrats but also Republicans, saying: “There’s no limit, it seems, to how far American politicians will go these days in pandering on Israel for political gain.”
While there has been strategic logic for the US support for Israel in the past, Washington’s current pandering makes little sense.
Washington has long used its influence with Israel as strategic leverage to reign in Arab leaders. Only Washington can restrain Israel in war and wring concessions in diplomacy, Arab leaders once reckoned.
But the dictators who either exploited Palestine to garner popular support at home, or bartered it in return for Western favours, belong to the past.
Today’s Arabs are bitter and angry at US-Israeli complicity in Palestine and they won’t be as easily bounded or bribed as their fallen dictatorships.