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Security Issues on the Texas-Mexico Border?

(Photo: Belén Fernández)

This article originally appeared at Upside Down World.

In the Texas border town of McAllen last month, a Border Patrol Agent—we’ll call him S.—recounted to me his experience during a recent excursion to a different stretch of the Texas-Mexico frontier near El Paso, northwest of McAllen.

According to S., he and other officials were visiting a particular section of the international boundary when an evacuation order was given and attack helicopters were called in. (“We don’t have that equipment in McAllen,” S. remarked.) It was eventually determined that there was in fact no emergency and that a goatherd on the Mexican side of the border was simply in possession of a stick that resembled a weapon.

As for other effective government responses to threats emanating from Mexico, S. acknowledged that the U.S.-Mexico border fence—construction of which began in 2006 and which reportedly cost up to $21 million per mile in California—has stanched neither drug trafficking nor illegal immigration. He did, however, optimistically reckon that the intermittent gaps in the fence encouraged traffickers and immigrants to concentrate their movements in these specific areas, where they could then theoretically be more easily apprehended.



Calling all ultimate missionaries to Israel

Trial of "Hamas terrorists" in IDF military court, one of many exotic activities awaiting the ultimate missionary

I first learned of an intriguing excursion known as “The Ultimate Mission to Israel” in 2009 while perusing an article on the website of the Jerusalem Post.

The article, which outlined Israel’s sudden concern for the fate of UNIFIL despite its repeated targeting of UN personnel and institutions in Lebanon, cited Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as warning that—in the event of a significant gain by Hezbollah in the upcoming Lebanese elections—Israel would no longer “feel the restraints it did in 2006 about attacking Lebanese infrastructure”.

Barak refrained from explaining how the 2006 destruction of much of Lebanon, including apartment complexes, milk factories, bridges, children in the backs of pickup trucks, and approximately 1200 other people qualified as infrastructural restraint. I was distracted from pondering the issue myself by a large advertisement featuring soaring warplanes in the bottom right-hand corner of my computer screen.

Clicking on the planes, I arrived at an invitation to “explore Israel’s struggle for survival” via the weeklong Ultimate Mission to Israel, which focused on closer-to-home infrastructural threats to the Jewish state. The itinerary included such activities as:

  1. briefings by Mossad officials.
  2. an inside tour of the IAF targeted killings unit.
  3. attendance at a military trial of “Hamas terrorists”.
  4. a “live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory”.
  5. a barbecue.


Dershowitz’s continuum of civilianality turns five

Preliminary calculations suggest a breakdown of the civilian composition of this particular south Lebanese apartment complex as follows: 30 percent more-civilian civilians, 20 percent less-civilian civilians, 15 percent decidedly un-civilian civilians, and 35 percent undecided. (Photo: Amelia Opalinska)

Five years ago, Israel waged a 34-day war on Lebanon that resulted in the elimination of approximately 1200 persons in the targeted country, most of them civilians, as well as 43 Israeli civilians.

In a July 2006 opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, Harvard Law School’s resident piranha Alan Dershowitz placed the term “collective punishment” in quotation marks and announced the need for a “continuum of civilianality” to determine just how civilian Arab civilians were.

Two-year-olds, for example, are established as falling on the “more innocent” side of the continuum, while Dershowitz explains that “[t]here is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism.”

Voting and other forms of support for “a terrorist group” are of course presumably facilitated when said group is an official political party represented in the Lebanese government. Dershowitz’s categorization of “civilian” as an “increasingly meaningless word” meanwhile does not prevent him from employing the words “terrorism” and “terrorists” no less than 12 times in his brief piece.

Why Dershowitz bothers making distinctions between various levels of civilianality becomes even less clear with his announcement that

Hezbollah and Hamas militants… are difficult to distinguish from those ‘civilians’ who recruit, finance, harbor and facilitate their terrorism. Nor can women and children always be counted as civilians, as some organizations do. Terrorists increasingly use women and teenagers to play important roles in their attacks.

The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims.”


Iran continues conquest of Latin America

Yesterday in Washington, D.C, I encountered a Bolivian immigrant named David who had just returned from a trip to La Paz in order to verify that Evo Morales was not in the process of expropriating his house in his absence and who informed me that other world leaders were taking advantage of Morales’ minimal education level to fill in the gaps with their own ideologies. It turned out that the list of usual culprits had been expanded to consist not only of the presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador but that of Iran, as well, whose first ambassador to Bolivia met with Morales this week.

The opening of Iranian diplomatic offices in South America has been of special concern in recent years to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department, prompting them to produce such things as “secret reports” about Iranian acquisition of regional uranium and to alert Jewish travelers to their potential kidnapping at the Caracas airport as part of a joint Hezbollah-Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps scheme to transport hostages to Lebanon via the weekly Caracas-Tehran flight on IranAir. (Despite the seeming logistical simplicity of the scheme, it is apparently more difficult to carry out than, for example, assassinations of Hamas leaders in their Dubai hotels.)


In search of a Palestinian partner for Mark Regev

Following yesterday’s fatal attack on 4 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, responsibility for which was claimed by the military wing of Hamas, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev informed Al Jazeera that this episode was evidence of how all Israelis are now considered equally valid targets—with no mention of course that Israelis not located on illegal settlements have in recent years generally been targeted by Hamas only following Israeli breakage of ceasefires, and that such targeting during the Gaza War of 2008-09 resulted in the deaths of 3 Israeli civilians compared to over 1200 Palestinian civilians. The latter figure did not prevent Regev from claiming at the time that Israel had “made every possible effort to target enemy combatants only”.

As for whether Regev’s audition for the position of Israeli government spokesman had consisted of reciting such things as “The guinea pig initiated violence against the boa constrictor” and “The armadillo attacked the wheel of the car” with a straight face, further evidence in support of this possibility was found in his response to the Gaza flotilla massacre of May 31, 2010, in which IDF commandos who boarded humanitarian aid boats in international waters and murdered 9 activists were determined to have been on the receiving end of violence.


“They looked in my hair and under my tongue”

IDF duties also include checking for gum in the mouths of international journalists.

Yesterday I posted excerpts from the first part of the Turkish daily Taraf’s two-part interview with 27-year-old journalist Ayşe Sarıoğlu, recounting her experience during last week’s attack on the Mavi Marmara. Following is my (rough) translation of excerpts from the second part of the interview, which starts with the boat’s forced docking at Ashdod port and recounts the imprisonment of the passengers on board.

Highlights include a question from a prison official interrogating Sarıoğlu as to whether she would consider herself prone to suicidal thoughts, as though this might explain why someone would join a humanitarian aid mission to Gaza.

[Taraf’s questions are in bold; Sarıoğlu’s responses follow]

» When you all arrived to Ashdod port, how were you taken off the boat?

I was one of the first people off the boat, as I was sitting in front… Two young girls escorted me, one on each side… They told me they were 18 years old and were doing their compulsory military service. They searched my entire body. They looked in my mouth; I had gum. They checked inside and outside my undergarments; with their hands and a metal detector they looked everywhere. Then they told me to take off my T-shirt. Of course, the Israeli press had also arrived and were taking pictures of me… Then [the soldiers] took me to a changing room to take off my pants… [There] they searched me with a [metal] detector. I took off my socks. They looked between my toes. They looked at the soles of my feet. After that it was time for my interrogation.


Turkish prime minister violates Israeli patent on terrorist terminology

Qana, 1996: Lebanese child beheaded after attacking IDF.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon spent yesterday endeavoring to convince the world that the massacre by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos of humanitarian aid activists on board the Turkish Mavi Marmara—part of the Freedom Flotilla en route to Gaza—was in fact justifiable due to ties between ship passengers and global jihad, Al Qaeda, and Hamas. It was not clear why the latter two phenomena were not sufficiently covered by the first; Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev meanwhile confirmed terrorist links on the part of the Turkish NGO IHH, one of the pillars of the movement to break the siege, and added that the international activists were not actually interested in delivering aid to Gaza but rather in accruing “headlines for their cause” via a confrontation with the Israeli military.

A Turkish friend of mine suggested to me that the terrorism charges may stem from the fact that IHH project coordinator Bahattin Yıldız, who perished last month in a plane crash while scouting out land to build an IHH orphanage in Afghanistan, had previously visited that nation for other purposes such as fighting the Soviet occupation. If alleged terrorist links are indeed the result of such a thought process, the Israelis might discover additional links by applying the same logic to past U.S. support for Afghan mujahideen and considering their own critical role in the formation and rise to power of Hamas.