Thursday, March 22, 2012

87 - An Article by Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Sunday, 13 June 2010
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

This past week was a sad week in American journalism. Against mounting pressure and criticism, Helen Thomas, the dean of the White House press corps, decided to resign. She was one of the bravest, no-nonsense, journalists of our time. For the past fifty years dating from the Kennedy era she has been dutifully performing her duty by asking tough questions that few journalists dared to ask the White House. Her career demise came with a simple politically incorrect answer to a sly question from a Jewish rabbi -- David Nesenoff of Long Island, New York, who was at the White House for a Jewish heritage celebration on May 27. He asked the Hearst Newspapers Op/Ed columnist Ms. Thomas, “Any comments on Israel?” Her response that Israeli Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany, Poland and America – where they came from to occupy Palestine triggered a wave of denunciations that a narrowly worded apology did little to quell.

As expected at the forefront of such criticism against the 89-year old Ms. Thomas this time are guys like Ari Fleischer (GW Bush’s first press secretary) with dual nationality of Israel and the USA. In 2002, Thomas asked Fleischer: “Does the president think that the Palestinians have a right to resist 35 years of brutal military occupation and suppression?” Four years later, she told Tony Snow, Fleischer’s successor, that the United States “could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon” by Israel, but instead had “gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.” Snow tartly thanked her for “the Hezbollah view.”

Through her grilling questions, Thomas had earned respect from many within the anti-war community but befriended none within the White House. One may recall her questioning of President George W. Bush in 2006 after he finally ended a long boycott of Thomas questions. “Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis,” she began. “Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.” It was a gutsy criticism of the most powerful man on earth!

Remember the post-9/11 era of embedded journalism when every American journalist of name and fame seemed more like a brain-dead reporter parroting the Washington position than being objective? Very few dared to challenge the official explanation about the justification of Bush’s crusade against the Muslim world a.k.a. Global War on Terror, e.g., finding the so-called WMDs. Helen Thomas was an exception to that sad saga of American journalism in the 21st century. She proved bold, courageous and refreshing in a profession that had ceased to remain honest, truthful and objective, away from the damning influence and interest of the powerful lobbies and big corporations.

Thomas advised Bush not to “keep threatening war every day.” She berated Bush at a press conference in July 2007, “Two million Iraqis have fled their country as refugees. Two million more are displaced. Thousands and thousands are dead. Don’t you understand, you brought the al-Qaeda into Iraq?” She challenged President Obama three weeks ago: “When are you going to get out of Afghanistan?” “Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘If we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.’” Then there was her questioning of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “What’s the difference between your foreign policy and Bush’s?” “We go in to kill and maim and send drones -- is that Christianity?”

As a keen and objective analyst of world affairs, and with roots in the Middle East, Thomas knew very well that Israel has been the cause for ‘99 percent of all this (Middle-East centric) terrorism.’ Unlike most others in her profession working in the USA who are sadly mortgaged to the Israel lobby, she was not willing to duck or hide such unkind and ugly assessment of the rogue state. She likened Palestinian protesters resisting the “tyrannical occupation” by Israel to “those who resisted the Nazi occupation.” During White House press briefings, she asked such tough questions like: “Why are we killing people in Iraq? Men, women, and children are being killed there. . . . It’s outrageous.”

Obviously, Ms. Thomas’s pointed questions were embarrassing to the war party. She earned enmity not only from those merchants of war but also from many Jewish and Christian-Zionist colleagues whose allegiance remained more to the Zionist state than the USA. They despised her criticism of Israel and wanted her to die or disappear. Not surprisingly, her harsh remarks about Israel on May 27 were videotaped and later posted in Nesenoff’s website by the rabbi’s son. Over the next few days, the pro-Israel lobby, politicians and journalists savaged Thomas over her candid statement repudiating Israel. They called her anti-Semite, a Jew-hater, offering the ‘official Hamas and Hizbullah position,’ and so on and so forth. Robert Gibbs denounce her remarks, and the White House Correspondents’ Association announced that it was considering whether to revoke her privileged seat in the front row of the White house briefing room. That meeting will no longer be necessary. She resigned.

Helen Thomas stood out for truth and honesty in journalism away from the overwhelming dehumanizing influence of the Israel-firsters in Washington. In a pro-Israel, Zionist dominated media world, expressing views that are perceived to be hostile to the interest of the pariah state of Israel can be journalistically suicidal. It was, thus, not a question of why but when that final curtain would be drawn on Helen Thomas’s glorious journalist career. And that’s what happened last week in Washington.

Helen Thomas will be deeply missed by millions of her admirers who have learned to expect that she would never betray their public trust. With her pointed interrogations and politically incorrect and candid remarks, she showed the best in journalism and earned their respect and admiration. Now that Helen Thomas is gone, there is more need than ever before for others in the White House press briefing room to fulfill that noble role and share her courage and opinion. Every one standing on that podium should be regarded with skepticism and must face tough interrogations, and not soft-balls, so that nothing but the truth comes out. As Thomas famously remarked last year of the White House, “What the hell do they think we are, puppets? . . . They are our public servants. We pay them.”

Will the next Helen Thomas emerge in the White House press briefing room?
Dr. Habib Siddiqui is a peace and human rights activist, and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bangladesh Expatriate Council, USA. He writes from Pennsylvania.

Bangladesh Conducts Census of Illegal Burmese Citizens in Bangladesh

Narinjara News
Teknaf : Bangladesh Rifles is currently compiling a list of illegal Burmese citizens who are living in the country's eastern border township, in order to determine how many are in the area, said a local source.

The source said that the Bangladesh Rifles Battalion 42 from Teknaf is currently compiling the list of illegal Burmese citizens who are living in Teknaf Township, opposite Burma's western border town Maungdaw.

According to a BDR source, the border authorities pushed 2,022 Burmese citizens, mostly Rohingya, back into Burma from January to May of this year. However, Burmese citizens continued crossing the border into Bangladesh illegally in spite of BDR's efforts to arrest and repatriate them.

Lieutenant Colonel Mozammel Hossain, Commanding Officer of BDR Battalion 42, told this correspondent recently that Burmese citizens from Arakan State have been illegally crossing the Bangladesh border during the last few years, adding that BDR had begun preparing a list of illegal immigrants in Teknaf last week.

He also said that Burmese who are living illegally in Teknaf and the surrounding areas are engaged in gangs, rioting, and grabbing land as strong-men. The list of names of Burmese living in the area without documentation will be sent to BDR headquarters for further instructions.

Bangladesh authorities believe that many Burmese, mostly Rohingyas, are living illegally in Bangladesh in Chittagong, Bandarban, and Cox's Bazar Districts. They had crossed into Bangladesh through the border with Arakan during the last 20 years.

According to a refugee repatriation committee in Cox's Bazar, a total of 28,000 out of 250,667 Burmese citizens have been waiting to return to their homeland at Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps in Ukiah and Teknaf in Cox's Bazar since 1992.

Resume water supply at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre

Address: 433A, Jalan 5/46, Gasing Indah, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Telephone: +6 03 7784 3525 Fax: +6 03 7784 3526
Email: suaram@suaram. net Web:

Press Statement: 14 June 2010

Resume water supply at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre

SUARAM has been informed that detainees at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre have been on a hunger strike since evening of Saturday, 12 June, as a protest against the lack of water supply in the detention centre. The hunger strike started when immigration officers denied the detainees drinking water when asked by the detainees. There has been no water supply at the detention centre for the past 5 days.

According to our source, there are an estimated 1,500 detainees at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre. The estimated 500 Burmese asylum seekers in the detention centre will continue the hunger strike until they are given access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

SUARAM has previously expressed our deep concern with regards to the deplorable conditions of Immigration Detention Centres. This is not the first time that we have received complaints that water supply to detention centres is irregular and inadequate. Denying the detainees access to drinking water is an outrageous violation of a basic human right. Even persons in detention have fundamental right to adequate standard of living, which includes adequate and constant supply of water for consumption and maintenance of personal hygiene, as enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Detainees at immigration detention centres often fall ill due to the poor conditions that often cause malnourishment and poor immune system amongst detainees. The non-supply of water, coupled with the deplorable conditions of the detention centres could potentially cause the increase the risk of illnesses amongst the individuals.

SUARAM demands that the Government immediately restores water supply to Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre and to ensure that water supply to all detention centres are regular, adequate and clean. The Government must ensure that conditions in all detention centres comply with minimum international standards for places of detention.

SUARAM urges the Immigration Department to immediately provide the asylum seekers access to UNHCR and to allow the UNHCR to process their asylum claims. Upon verification of their asylum claims, the Government must immediately release the asylum seekers in to UNHCR’s official care.

Released by,
Temme Lee
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

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