January 08, 2015

The Lighter Side of the Slaughter at Charlie Hebdo

There's not much funny about the massacre of twelve people in Paris yesterday. But it is genuinely funny, as well as completely predictable, that Marine Le Pen hopes to ride to power on their deaths.

Le Pen is the leader of France's far-right National Front, and came in third in the first round of the 2012 French presidential elections. She clearly plans to run for president again in 2017, and said today that "Islamists have declared war on France" and that "I want to offer the French a referendum on the death penalty."

What makes that funny is that the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo despised Le Pen. Here's part of a recent interview with Jean Cabut, aka Cabu, who was murdered at age 76:

What made an impression on you in 2014?

Jihad and the progress of the National Front. Moreover, they meet in the extreme, it is hatred that connects them. For jihad, the scapegoat is the West, for the National Front, it is the Arabs: it is a common front, an inverted front. How to stop this?

Will you get to draw about this?

Yes, soon. I often do covers on Marine Le Pen... the National Front wants to restore the death penalty...This is very dangerous. We should use stupidity against itself, but how?

• • •

This is that section of the Cabu interview in French, please tell me if I translated anything incorrectly:

Qu’est-ce qui vous a marqué dans cette année 2014?

Le jihad et la progression du Front national. D’ailleurs, ils se rejoignent dans les extrêmes, c’est la haine qui les tient. Pour le jihad, le bouc émissaire, ce sont les Occidentaux, pour le Front National, ce sont les Arabes : c’est un front commun, un front renversé. Comment arrêter cela ?

Vous arrivez à dessiner sur ce sujet?

Oui, j’y arrive. Je fais souvent des couvertures sur Marine Le Pen car le Front national fait peur. C’est un parti attrape-tout. On dirait qu’il y a une fatalité. On entend l’opinion publique : on a tout essayé, il n’y a que cela qu’on n’a pas essayé. Même s’il n’en parle jamais, le Front national veut rétablir la peine de mort, le service militaire. C’est très dangereux. Il faudrait retourner la bêtise contre elle-même, mais comment ?

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 05:23 PM | Comments (7)

January 06, 2015

Report: Top Israeli Politician Naftali Bennett Played Key Role in 1996 Massacre That Motivated Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to Attack U.S. on 9/11


Naftali Bennett is Israel's Minister of the Economy and leader of the ultra-right wing religious party Jewish Home. He's also a leading candidate to be Israel's next Defense Minister, and as the New Yorker describes it, his ambition to one day become Prime Minister is "as plump and glaring as a harvest moon."

Now the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth is reporting that Bennett bears significant responsibility for Israel's 1996 massacre of 106 civilians taking shelter at a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Bennett – then an officer in an IDF commando unit – had contempt for his superiors' purported timidity in Israel's Operation Grapes of Wrath, and ignored orders in order to move more aggressively into Lebanon. His unit was then attacked by Hezbollah, and when Bennett called for help, the IDF responded with the shelling of the UN compound.

Members of the artillery battery itself said "no one spoke about it as if it were a mistake. We did our job...A few 'arabushim' [slur for Arabs] die, there is no harm in that." An Amnesty International investigation found that "the IDF intentionally attacked the UN compound, although the motives for doing so remain unclear." Human Rights Watch reported that Israel had an "appalling willingness to conduct military operations in which civilians would bear the brunt of the suffering" and that its "claims that it had no knowledge that hundreds of civilians were sheltered at the Qana base are simply not credible." And the UN found "it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors." (The U.S. was infuriated that Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then-Secretary General of the UN, published the UN investigation. Subsequently the UN Security Council voted 14-1 to appoint Boutros-Ghali to a second term; the one no vote was a veto from the U.S.)

But the Qana massacre got barely any attention from Americans, and to whatever degree anyone noticed it, they quickly forgot it had ever happened.

• • •

Not everyone forgot, however.

In Osama bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war upon the U.S., he specifically cited Qana as part of his motivation:

It should not be hidden from you that the people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance...The horrifying pictures of the massacre of Qana, in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory.

Bin Laden cited Qana at least four more times: in a July, 1996 interview with Robert Fisk; a November, 1996 interview with a London newspaper; a 1999 interview with al Jazeera; and an October, 2001 online interview. He specifically said his goal was to make Americans "taste what we tasted."

In addition, Mohammed Atta signed a will at the beginning of Operation Grapes of Wrath. In Lawrence Wright's book The Looming Tower, he writes that "According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack he was offering his life in response."

Coincidentally, Naftali Bennett spent many years in living in the U.S. between his military service and the beginning of his Israeli political career. In 2000 he moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to work as as a software engineer and so his wife could work as a pastry chef making creme brûlée. Bennett apparently was living in New York on September 11, 2001.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 10:51 AM | Comments (5)