Daily Archives: November 16, 2011

Putin: we have lost Russia’s trust

Putin: we have lost Russia’s trust

Russian prime minister admits power is too centralised and few people trust his system of government.


Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin surprised academics and journalists at a dinner by agreeing with their criticisms. Photograph: MIsha Japaridze/EPA

Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, admitted that his government had lost of the trust of its people and pledged to introduce what he called “direct democracy” to refresh it, when he is returned for a third presidential term next March.

Challenged during a meeting with foreign academics and journalists to admit that power in Russia was too centralised, that 80% of President Dmitry Medvedev’s decrees were ignored or not fully implemented by the regions, and that no one trusted the power structure he had created, Putin astonished everyone by agreeing. He said: “I tell you, I agree. I don’t object to anything you have said.”

He said when he first became president 11 years ago the country was in so much chaos it was on the verge of civil war. He established a system of “manual control” over the regions, abolishing elections and appointing governors himself.

Speaking to a meeting of the Valdai Club, Putin said it was time to devolve certain powers and taxation back to the regions: “I have every intention to do that, but we have to act carefully. We have certain ideas about how to expand direct democracy, but it would be premature to announce them now. The British say it took 400 years for a lawn to be made, but we have not got that time.”

Putin was speaking after a survey conducted by the Kremlin about the unpopularity of regional governors was leaked to Gazeta.ru. It showed that a large number of governors, many of whom were heading Putin’s United Russia party’s regional lists – had poll ratings below 20%.

In Moscow, St Petersberg and Kaliningrad, voters were deserting the party that has nominated Mr Putin as their presidential candidate.

While this is not expected to change the fact that United Russia will get the majority in the forthcoming parliamentary elections in December – because United Russia is a party of bureaucrats and is infamous for strongarming teachers, students and millions of public sector workers to vote for them – it is a clear indication to Mr Putin that he has to act.

He is not expected to return to reintroduce elections for governors, but two commissions are currently looking at ideas on how to devolve more power and money to the governors, and devising measures to make them more accountable locally.

In a two-and-half-hour session with academics in the bizarre setting of the restaurant of Moscow’s richest equestrian club, New Century, Putin spoke as if his own election as president was a foregone conclusion.

He bemoaned the resignation of his “great friend” Silvio Berlusconi, who he called one of the “last of the Great Mohicans of European leaders”. Putin said: “[Berlusconi] is a very open person, which is rare in European politics. Gerhard Schröder [the former German chancellor] told me that Silvio was a very good person, but not much of a politician. But when Schröder himself resigned and Silvio went on and on, I remembered what he said, where he is and where you are.”

Putin criticised the US for its plans to place missile defence units on Russia’s borders and said no one was listening to Russia’s concerns that missile defence would make the balance of strategic nuclear forces unstable. He also repeated his criticisms of the intervention in Libya, and called on the Syrian opposition to meet President Bashar al-Assad. All three positions will complicate attempts by the US administration to keep their policy of resetting relations with Russia on track.

Putin scorned criticism that March’s presidential election would be a fix after his decision to swap places with Medvedev. He said Gordon Brown had taken over from Tony Blair without any election and no one had said that had deprived the British people of a vote.

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Hollywood actors to visit Israel on a trip co-sponsored by AIPAC


Twenty-one high-profile Hollywood actors, producers and film and television industry leaders are taking part in a delegation to Israel organized by The Creative Coalition (TCC), a New York-based arts and education non-profit, in conjunction with the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is affiliated with AIPAC, the US’ most powerful pro-Israel lobby group. In a press release dated 13 November, TCC announced that the delegates will travel “through Israel to meet with Israeli and Palestinian policy leaders, members of the arts, culture and business communities, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” The delegates include Emmy Award-winner Patricia Arquette (“Medium,” Holes); Emmy Award-winner Alfre Woodard (“Memphis Beat,” “Desperate Housewives,” Miss Evers’ Boys); Rachael Leigh Cook (“Perception,” She’s All That); Emmy Award-winner Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos,” The Matrix); Tichina Arnold (“Happily Divorced,” “Raising Hope,” “Martin,” “Everybody Hates Chris”); Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects, Born on the Fourth of July); and Giancarlo Esposito (“Once Upon a Time,” “Breaking Bad”), among many others. The trip, which began on 13 November, is to last one week and meetings are scheduled with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The delegation, according to TCC’s press release, will focus on “arts, culture and policy.” Nowhere in the press release does it say which of the Palestinian “policy leaders” the delegates will meet, nor does it imply that the delegation itself will cross into the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip where, away from the neo-liberalist, sanitized bubble of Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas’ Ramallah, Palestinians face daily disposession, home demolition, land confiscation, imprisonment, torture and death by Israeli soldiers. Naturally, if AIPAC — a highly-influential, extreme-right pro-Israeli policy propaganda organization — is leading the trip, the delegation will most likely be subjected to a barrage of anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) messages as Israel’s hasbara machine kicks into high gear. AIEF and AIPAC working with Israeli government to assault BDS AIEF, created as a supporting “educational wing” of AIPAC, helps finance public relations campaigns about the US-Israel relationship in public and private sectors, including on college campuses, and organizes and bankrolls trips to Israel by US political figures. A recent trip by 80 US Congressmembers in August was backed and organized by AIEF/AIPAC. On that August delegation, the members of Congress met with Netanyahu and Peres, and also with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Michael Grimm, a Republican congressman from New York, told the New York Times after he returned: “It’s my responsibility to be able to advocate on pro-Israel issues … Coming here and being able to feel it and touch it to fully understand how daily life is for an Israeli is important.” These types of delegations — especially those headlines under an innocuous pretense of a “focus on arts, culture and policy” — are precisely timed to combat the growing, global BDS movements. The organizations behind these trips are not only heavily-funded, but are directly targeting the academic and cultural boycott initiatives that are succeeding in marginalizing and isolating Israel the more that the Israeli government shoves apartheid policies down the throats of occupied and beseiged Palestinians. Recently, the US-based Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) — a group of US entertainment industry leaders — was formed with the explicit intent to crush the BDS movement as it pertains to the cultural boycott against Israel. In an October article, the Jerusalem Post reported that:

Creative Community For Peace (CCFP) pledges to use a wide range of measures to bolster the resolve of artists who sign contracts to perform in or travel to Israel and then face calls from various “boycott groups” to cancel their trips, according one of its founders, Steve Schnur. Schnur is a worldwide executive of music and marketing for Electronic Arts and president of Artwerk Music Group, and is responsible for licensing music for some of the most popular computer video games. “We felt that if we could create a place where artists can get information from other artists and from people they know who understand what Israel is really about – the freedom, the democracy and equal rights – and not rely on the disinformation they’re given about ‘apartheid’ Israel, then maybe we could change things,” Schnur said in a phone call this week from Los Angeles. “Our aim isn’t to applaud the fact that artists have come to Israel, but to enable others to continue to go there.” The boycott issue has always been present with regard to international artists and Israel, but in the past few years, pro-Palestinian organizations abroad have stepped up efforts to bombard scheduled acts with e-mails, letters and Facebook campaigns urging them to cancel.

Earlier this month, as The Electronic Intifada reported, a coalition of artists — Artists Against Apartheid — called for a comprehensive boycott against CCFP, which they categorized as a “complicit propaganda institution seeking to normalize Israeli apartheid and strongarm entertainers into its service.” CCFP is also closely linked to StandWithUs (SWU), a US-based pro-Israel and anti-boycott organization devoted to expanding Israeli propaganda on US college campuses and crushing Palestine solidarity activism in local communities. As The Electronic Intifada reported, SWU has tight ties with the Israeli government to combat BDS. Indeed, the boycott movement is gaining momentum and popularity, and more and more artists and performers are continuing to refuse to perform in Israel. PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, says that in the last few years, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless, the Pixies and many other artists have cancelled their performances in Israel over its human rights record. BDS holds Israel accountable By meeting with Israeli officials and lobby organizations who advocate for ethnic cleansing, apartheid, occupation, economic subjugation, settler-colonialism and repression of civil and human rights — and a client Palestinian leadership who acquiesce to and collude with their Israeli occupiers — this delegation of the entertainment industry’s elite will be used to further the Israeli propaganda war under a cynical, false banner of “advocating” arts and culture. As much money and effort that Israeli lobby groups are pouring into these propaganda ventures to battle the expanding BDS movement, it is a clear indication that they’re feeling the heat. With groups such as CCFP, AIEF, the Jewish Federations of North America and their public relations wing, the Jewish Community Relations Council, pouring millions of dollars into desperate attempts to stifle and censor Palestinian voices and the BDS movement, the BDS activism community will continue to hold Israel and its enablers accountable, from Tel Aviv to Hollywood. 


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Israel’s Useful Idiots–Congressmen with ‘Judeo-Christian Spirit’ Tour Heartland

Israel National News

On November 9, five US Congressmen ventured into otherwise uncharted territory, at least by the standards of traditional diplomatic delegations to Israel. A strong affinity to Israel and genuine frustration with repeated fatal failures of “peace processes” drove these American leaders to take a fresh look at Israel’s heartland. The tour is a manifestation of the “Judeo Christian” teamwork that has been growing deeper in recent years, as pioneering Jews in Judea and Samaria and Christian Zionist leaders in the US and elsewhere learn to trust each other. In the face of genocidal Muslim fanaticism, leaders of the nations that have the Bible in common are seeking common political ground as well. The historic visit began with a bus tour led by Mayor Ron Nachman along the Trans-Samaria highway, where the delegates learned about Israel’s narrow waistline, security needs and strategic provisions. At the Ariel and Barkan Industrial Parks Mayor Nachman discussed co-existence, the 4,000 Arabs employed at the factories and the indiscriminate boycotts imposed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and European Union on products from the factories. Mayor Nachman also showed the group the layout of the Ariel Bloc of communities, and the short distance from the Tel Aviv Coastal Plain. The Congressmen learned about Judeo-Christian teamwork and at Israel’s primary outdoor training facility, the Ariel National Leadership Development Center. From there the group proceeded to the Ariel Regional Center for the Performing Arts, where they enjoyed a private performance by Ariel’s young singers and internationally renowned dancers. Before travelling north, the visit to Ariel culminated with the inaugural Samaria Summit luncheon, where municipal leaders, industrialists, business-people and professional athletes from across Samaria and the Jordan Valley gathered to discuss issues of relevance. Lior Shachory, CEO of the Ariel based Incentive Technology Incubator presented some of the R&D at the award winning center, whereas Eldad Halachmi, VP at Ariel University Center, made reference to U.S. State Department boycotts of R&D funding for academic research due to Ariel’s location beyond the green line. The Samaria Summit was the first time that a Congressional delegation engaged face to face with the geo-political realities in one of the most media-covered regions in the world. Rep. Randy Forbes (R -VA-4th) addressed the Summit by stating his unwavering support for Israel’s peace and security. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5th) discussed Israel’s inherent value and the commitment of the Congressional Republican Israel Caucus and the Israel Allies Caucus which he co-chairs. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX-1st), who is known for his instrumental role in arranging for Prime Minister to deliver his acclaimed speech to both houses of Congress in May, 2011, explained how Israel cannot sacrifice its own security by relinquishing land to those who are committed to its destruction. They were joined by Congressman John Fleming (R-LA-4th) and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH-4th), who shared the sentiments of their colleagues. The travels through Samaria included a stop at Joseph’s Tomb Lookout Point, where David Ha’Ivri of the Samaria Regional Council Liaison Office explained the discrepancies between popular rhetoric concerning the status of Arabs living in Shechem and the PA’s insistence on preventing refugees under their jurisdiction from improving their quality of life. Ha’Ivri introduced the delegates to Rav Eliezer Melamed, Rabbi of Har Beracha. The congressmen were pleasantly surprised to discover that Rav Melamed recently published an article which encourages Israelis to be welcoming rather than suspicious of Christians who choose to support Israel. The group then proceeded to the vineyards in the community of Har Beracha, where they met with the Director of the Samaria Regional Authority, Gershon Mesika. Tommy Waller and the Christian volunteers from across the US who accompany him in the fields of Samaria greeted the group with some of their original music. Following a visit to the site of the Tabernacle in Shilo, the delegation had dinner at the Psagot Winery. Yesha Council Director Naftali Bennet challenged the Congressmen to change the anti-Israel rhetoric prevalent in the media by describing the realities that they encountered, and to help their colleagues and constituents understand that the Iranian nuclear program is not merely a threat to Israel but a threat to the free world. The 2011 Congressional Initiative was arranged by Heather Johnston, who identified the need for America’s leading Congressmen to become familiar with Judea and Samaria and develop ties with Members of Knesset. 

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