Olmert 'may quit' over bribery scandal

English (US)  May 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


Some sources say Olmert could be replaced
by foreign minister Livni

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, is likely to step down, or at least have his duties as prime minister suspended as bribery allegations against him are probed.

[More:]

Walid al-Umari, Al Jazeera's Palestine bureau chief reporting from Ramallah, said some Israeli political sources believe Olmert will step down.

Al-Umari said Israeli police have evidence linking Olmert to bribery. But Israel has imposed a ban on the release of any information about the charges against the prime miniser, and the ongoing investigation.

The police are expected to partially lift this ban by Sunday, he said.

Al-Umari said Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, may assume the post of prime minister until the investigation is completed.

"The [foreign] minister will replace him and can keep the job for 100 days. After that the president of Israel nominates people to form a new government by preparng for elections," said al-Umari.

House arrest

Early elections could be held possibly in November to choose a new prime minister.

Police have interrogated Shula Zaken, a director in Olmert's office, for the fourth time. She is currently under house arrest, al-Umari said.

"It seems that Olmert is in a very embarrassing situation. Stepping down is now a matter of time," he added.

The Israeli media have not reported about the latest developments in the case, but The New York Post newspaper has carried a story on the alleged bribery scandal, al-Umari said.

Some sources believe that Olmert is being targeted by a right-wing religious group which used to back him when he was with the Likud party as a right-wing activist.

This group, they say, is believed to be pursuing the case in view of possible progress in negotiations with the Palestinians, al-Umari said.

Source: AJ Jazeera

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    Brother against brother: Abbas's US/Zionist Israeli-backed "security forces" kill Jenin man

    English (US)  May 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


    Palestinian security forces have intensified patrols and security checks in the village of Qabatya [AFP]

    A Palestinian civilian has been killed after Palestinan president Mahmoud Abbas's security forces clashed with armed men for the first time since the launch of a US-backed security drive in the northern West Bank.

    Mo'men Fawwaz Kmeil, 20, was shot on Tuesday as he tried to escape a standoff between Palestinian forces and local armed men in a cafe in the town of Qabatya near Jenin, residents said.

    [More:]


    Palestinian forces said in a statement that the man was killed when an "outlawed group" opened fire on the security men.

    The killing came after hundreds of Palestinian national security troops and presidential guards were deployed in the West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday.

    Force deployed

    The deployment is part of an operation backed by Washington to show the Palestinian Authority (PA) can curb the activities of Palestinian armed groups - a key Israeli condition for Palestinian statehood.

    It is the second-biggest Palestinian security campaign in a major West Bank city following a similar mission in Nablus late last year.

    The campaign, which is being carried out in co-ordination with Israel, saw about 600 men deployed in the city.

    Another 150 men already in Jenin have also taken part in the campaign.

    The force have entered Jenin's refugee camp and other areas that have been off-limits to Palestinian forces.

    Commanders of the force say they are determined to impose law and order and confiscate illegal weapons.

    Powerful clans such as the Kmeils have long-ruled Qabatya
    and the incident could create tension between the groups and the new force.

    The Jenin campaign will cover 50 villages and is supposed to last three months.

    Source: Agencies

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      From frying pan into the fire: Freed Guantanamo men face trial in Afghanistan

      English (US)  May 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


      The five Afghan detainees have been taken to
      Pul-i-Charkhe prison on the outskirts of Kabul

      Five Afghan detainees who were released from Guantanamo Bay last week have been sent to jail upon their arrival in Afghanistan.

      They had been detained at Guantanamo Bay with the Al Jazeera cameraman, Sami al-Hajj. Al-Hajj and the Afghan detainees were on the same plane after they were released from the US military prison.

      The detainees, who have been taken to the Pul-i-Charkhe prison on the outskirts of Kabul, the Afghan capital, will now face Afghan courts.

      This procedure to take them to prison and try them in Afghan courts is ... to prevent these detainees from seeking compensation for their illegal arrest -- Lal Gul, a human-rights activist, says of this new development

      [More:]


      Detainees from Guantanamo Bay and any other US prison facility are usually transferred to Afghan custody once they are released.

      A relative of Hajji Ruhollah, one of the men released, is now seeking legal assistance to find out when Ruhollah will be free.

      Speaking to Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr in Kabul, the relative said: "If the US decides to release them then they are innocent, and if there is no evidence against them, he should be released without trial."

      US evidence

      Prisoners who have been released from Guantanamo and returned to Afghanistan have been charged under Afghan law with crimes ranging from treason to destruction of government property.

      The Afghan supreme court, which overseas all the cases, says that the evidence is prepared by the US authorities.

      Some defendants have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years.

      Lal Gul, a human-rights activist, says this treatment is a new development.

      "This procedure to take them to prison and try them in Afghan courts is ... to prevent these detainees from seeking compensation for their illegal arrest," he said.

      "In the past, when they were released they were given apology letters and sent home."

      'Unfair' trial

      Both Afghan and US human-rights groups say these trials are unfair and based merely on allegations by American officials.

      They also say that the ongoing trials have no prosecution witnesses and no defence lawyers present when a client is interrogated.

      Abdul Rasheed Rashid, a member of the Afghan supreme court, dismissed claims that the court proceedings are unlawful.

      "Judges [are] aware of the procedure ... situation is ready for legal trial and if the detainee doesn't want a lawyer it is up to him," he told Al Jazeera.

      Al Jazeera

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        Zionist Israeli blockade forces Gazans to burn chickens alive

        English (US)  May 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

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          British Jews: We are not celebrating Israel's anniversay

          English (US)  May 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

          This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday April 30 2008 on p. 33 of the Letters & reply section. It was last updated at 12:44 on April 30 2008.

          In May, Jewish organisations will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. This is understandable in the context of centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, we are Jews who will not be celebrating. Surely it is now time to acknowledge the narrative of the other, the price paid by another people for European anti-semitism and Hitler's genocidal policies. As Edward Said emphasised, what the Holocaust is to the Jews, the Naqba is to the Palestinians.

          [More:]

          In April 1948, the same month as the infamous massacre at Deir Yassin and the mortar attack on Palestinian civilians in Haifa's market square, Plan Dalet was put into operation. This authorised the destruction of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of the indigenous population outside the borders of the state. We will not be celebrating.

          In July 1948, 70,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in Lydda and Ramleh in the heat of the summer with no food or water. Hundreds died. It was known as the Death March. We will not be celebrating.

          In all, 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Some 400 villages were wiped off the map. That did not end the ethnic cleansing. Thousands of Palestinians (Israeli citizens) were expelled from the Galilee in 1956. Many thousands more when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Under international law and sanctioned by UN resolution 194, refugees from war have a right to return or compensation. Israel has never accepted that right. We will not be celebrating.

          We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land. We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing, that violates international law, that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations.

          We will celebrate when Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East.

          Seymour Alexander
          Ruth Appleton
          Steve Arloff
          Rica Bird
          Jo Bird
          Cllr Jonathan Bloch
          Ilse Boas
          Prof. Haim Bresheeth
          Tanya Bronstein
          Sheila Colman
          Ruth Clark
          Sylvia Cohen
          Judith Cravitz
          Mike Cushman
          Angela Dale
          Ivor Dembina
          Dr. Linda Edmondson
          Nancy Elan
          Liz Elkind
          Pia Feig
          Colin Fine
          Deborah Fink
          Sylvia Finzi
          Brian Fisher MBE
          Frank Fisher
          Bella Freud
          Catherine Fried
          Uri Fruchtmann
          Stephen Fry
          David Garfinkel
          Carolyn Gelenter
          Claire Glasman
          Tony Greenstein
          Heinz Grunewald
          Michael Halpern
          Abe Hayeem
          Rosamine Hayeem
          Anna Hellman
          Amy Hordes
          Joan Horrocks
          Deborah Hyams
          Selma James
          Riva Joffe
          Yael Oren Kahn
          Michael Kalmanovitz
          Paul Kaufman
          Prof. Adah Kay
          Yehudit Keshet
          Prof. Eleonore Kofman
          Rene Krayer
          Stevie Krayer
          Berry Kreel
          Leah Levane
          Les Levidow
          Peter Levin
          Louis Levy
          Ros Levy
          Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky
          Catherine Lyons
          Deborah Maccoby
          Daniel Machover
          Prof. Emeritus Moshe Machover
          Miriam Margolyes OBE
          Mike Marqusee
          Laura Miller
          Simon Natas
          Hilda Meers
          Martine Miel
          Laura Miller
          Arthur Neslen
          Diana Neslen
          Orna Neumann
          Harold Pinter
          Roland Rance
          Frances Rivkin
          Sheila Robin
          Dr. Brian Robinson
          Neil Rogall
          Prof. Steven Rose
          Mike Rosen
          Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead
          Leon Rosselson
          Michael Sackin
          Sabby Sagall
          Ian Saville
          Alexei Sayle
          Anna Schuman
          Sidney Schuman
          Monika Schwartz
          Amanda Sebestyen
          Sam Semoff
          Linda Shampan
          Sybil Shine
          Prof. Frances Stewart
          Inbar Tamari
          Ruth Tenne
          Martin Toch
          Tirza Waisel
          Stanley Walinets
          Martin White
          Ruth Williams
          Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
          Devra Wiseman
          Gerry Wolff
          Sherry Yanowitz
          http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/30/israelandthepalestinians

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            The 60-Year-Old Secret That Israel Must Face

            English (US)  May 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

            Johann Hari, The Independent

            When you hit your 60th birthday, most of you will wonder if you have become everything you dreamed of in your youth. In a few weeks, the state of Israel is going to do that.

            It will look in the mirror and think ? I have a sore back, rickety knees and a gun at my waist, but I'm still standing. Yet somewhere, it will know it is suppressing an old secret it has to face. I would love to be able to crash the birthday party with words of reassurance. Israel has given us great novelists like Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, great film-makers like Joseph Cedar, great scientific research into Alzheimer's, and great dissident journalists like Amira Hass, Tom Segev and Gideon Levy to expose her own crimes.

            But I can't do it. Whenever I try to mouth these words, a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit. Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become a poison.

            [More:]

            Standing near one of these long, stinking brown-and-yellow rivers of waste recently, the local chief medical officer, Dr. Bassam Said Nadi, explained to me: "Recently there were very heavy rains, and the shit started to flow into the reservoir that provides water for this whole area. I knew that if we didn't act, people would die. We had to alert everyone not to drink the water for over a week, and distribute bottles. We were lucky it was spotted. Next time..." He shook his head in fear. This is no freak: a 2004 report by Friends of the Earth found that only six percent of Israeli settlements adequately treat their sewage.

            Meanwhile, in order to punish the population of Gaza for voting "the wrong way", the Israeli Army is not allowing past the checkpoints any replacements for the pipes and cement needed to keep the sewage system working. The result? Vast stagnant pools of waste are being held within fragile dykes across the strip, and rotting. Last March, one of them burst, drowning a nine-month-old baby and his elderly grandmother in a tsunami of human waste. The Center on Housing Rights warns that one heavy rainfall could send 1.5m cubic meters of feces flowing all over Gaza, causing "a humanitarian and environmental disaster of epic proportions".

            So how did it come to this? How did a Jewish state founded 60 years ago with a promise to be "a light unto the nations" end up flinging its filth at a cowering Palestinian population?

            The beginnings of an answer lie in the secret Israel has known, and suppressed, all these years. Even now, can we describe what happened 60 years ago honestly and unhysterically? The Jews who arrived in Palestine throughout the 20th century did not come because they were cruel people who wanted to snuffle out Arabs to persecute. No: they came because they were running for their lives from a genocidal European anti-Semitism that was soon to slaughter six million of their sisters and their sons.

            They convinced themselves that Palestine was "a land without people for a people without land". I desperately wish this dream had been true. You can see traces of what might have been in Tel Aviv, a city that really was built on empty sand dunes. But most of Palestine was not empty. It was already inhabited by people who loved the land, and saw it as theirs. They were completely innocent of the long, hellish crimes against the Jews. When it became clear these Palestinians would not welcome becoming a minority in somebody else's country, darker plans were drawn up. Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote in 1937: "The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war."

            So, for when the moment arrived, he helped draw up Plan Dalit. It was, as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe puts it, "a detailed description of the methods to be used to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; and laying siege to and bombarding population centers". In 1948, before the Arab armies invaded, this began to be implemented: some 800,000 people were ethnically cleansed, and Israel was built on the ruins. The people who ask angrily why the Palestinians keep longing for their old land should imagine an English version of this story. How would we react if the 30 million stateless, persecuted Kurds in the world sent armies and settlers into this country to seize everything in England below Leeds, and swiftly established a free Kurdistan from which we were expelled? Wouldn't we long forever for our children to return to Cornwall and Devon and London? Would it take us only 40 years to compromise and offer to settle for just 22 percent of what we had?

            If we are not going to be endlessly banging our heads against history, the Middle East needs to excavate 1948, and seek a solution. Any peace deal -- even one where Israel dismantled the wall and agreed to return to the 1967 borders -- tends to crumple on this issue. The Israelis say: If we let all three million come back, we will be outnumbered by Palestinians even within the 1967 borders, so Israel would be voted out of existence. But the Palestinians reply: If we don't have an acknowledgement of the Naqba (catastrophe), and our right under international law to the land our grandfathers fled, how can we move on?

            It seemed like an intractable problem until, two years ago, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted the first study of the Palestinian Diaspora's desires. They found that only 10 percent -- around 300,000 people -- want to return to Israel proper. Israel can accept that many (and compensate the rest) without even enduring much pain. But there has always been a strain of Israeli society that preferred violently setting its own borders, on its own terms, to talk and compromise. This weekend, the elected Hamas government offered a six-month truce that could have led to talks. The Israeli government responded within hours by blowing up a senior Hamas leader and killing a 14-year-old girl.

            Perhaps Hamas' proposals are a con; perhaps all the Arab states are lying too when they offer Israel full recognition in exchange for a roll-back to the 1967 borders; but isn't it a good idea to find out? Israel, as it gazes at her grey hairs and discreetly ignores the smell of her own stale shit pumped across Palestine, needs to ask what kind of country she wants to be in the next 60 years.

            http://mazinx.wordpress.com/2008/04/30/the-60-year-old-secret-that-israel-must-face/

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              Back Door Diplomacy Trumps Bush Administration: The Carter Coup

              English (US)  May 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

              By William James Martin

              Former President Jimmy Carter independent Middle East diplomacy is nothing less than a coup of the American foreign policy of the Bush administration.

              He has now met twice with the representatives of Hamas including its head, Khalid Meshaal and has had one-on-one meetings with the heads of state of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and with King Abdullah of Jordan. The Prime Minister of Israel, Edmund Olmert has refuse to meet with him.

              [More:]

              Carter has called the Israeli/American policy of starvation a “crime”, he has observed that 30 to 40 Palestinians have been killed for every Israeli killed, as fact never spoken by an American politician or statesman, and rarely by any of the US news media. He said, “any side that kills innocent people is guilty of terrorism." That means that Israel is as guilty of terrorism as the Palestinians, and by implication, 30 to 40 times more guilty, a very radical notion for an American statesman, and completely unprecedented, but certainly true of the past month during which time, 120 Palestinians residents of Gaza were killed by the Israeli army within the space of two days.

              Carter said, the Palestinians in Gaza were being “starved to death, receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa.”

              “Its an atrocity what is being perpetuated as punishment on the people of Gaza. It’s a crime … I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on.”

              Cater is now watching a society being abused and starved for their participation in a plebiscite because the result were unwelcome to both Israel and the United States. Carter, who monitored the election in which Hamas gained the majority of seats, declared it to be completely fair, the fairest election in the Arab world, in fact, must have been as dismayed as anyone to see people punished for expressing their preference in a democratic election.

              But the pattern was familiar. Carter had also monitored the election in Palestine in 1996 in which Arafat defeated a field of almost a dozen other candidates only to see the Bush administration ostracize Arafat, effectively assassinating him politically, and acquiesce to Sharon’s determination to place him under house arrest.

              Even more important, he has initiated diplomacy which directly conflicts with and counters the American government’s policy, under George Bush, of isolating and ostracizing whatever political party the US and Israel consider to be their enemy, whether Iran or Hamas.

              This is in some ways no less than a coup and an attempt to displace the entire Bush approach to its conduct for foreign policy and replace it with an approach that has been shown to have worked.

              Not that anyone should feel sorry for that. It has been amply demonstrated that the Bush/Neocon approach to foreign policy has been a colossal failure leaving in its wake millions of dead and displaced, starvation and suffering in the territories, and failure to reach any of Bush’s stated objectives – like a Palestinian state by 2005 as the end product of the Roadmap, like establishing a placid democratic government in Iraq that contributed to American and Israeli security, and democratizing the entire Middle East. Instead, Bush has brought us endless war and conflict of which hardly anyone knows how to slow its momentum.

              A radical change in American Middle East policy occurred in 1981 when Ronald Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter as president. A Middle East policy which checked Israel’s expansions in Lebanon and colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem was
              replaced by a passive policy and by a president with no knowledge of or interest in the Middle East. Reagan reposed, and some in his administration winked, as Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon, in 1982,which resulted in 20,000 Lebanese dead, Israel’s shelling West Beirut all summer long, the occupying an Arab capital, and the orchestrating of the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps where possibly as many as 2000 defenseless refugees were massacred. I short time, Islamic terrorists bombed the American embassy in Beirut killing 63 American, mostly CIA and American diplomats, and then the Marine barrack killing 241 American soldiers.

              In October of 2004, in a taped message to the American people, Osama bin Laden said, “While I was looking at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust one in a similar manner by destroying towers in the United States so that it would feel some of what we felt and to be deterred from killing our children and women....” Bin Laden, of course, was referring to the summer long shelling of West Beirut during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

              Carter watched painfully, no doubt, as his activist diplomacy was replaced, by the Reagan team, with a policy of effectively, if not intentionally, giving Israel free reign. And during the Bush administration, Carter has complained of Bush’s inactivity and of the fact that there has been no negotiation, between Israel and the Palestinians, for the first seven years of the Bush tenure. Eventually the Annapolis conference was convened between the Israelis and Fatah under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, but with no presidential leadership, negotiations are taking place only nominally with Israel continuing its settlement expansions and destruction or confiscation of Palestinian resources.

              The attack on the WTC and the Pentagon on 9/11 was good news for Israel, as former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently observed, as Ariel Sharon convinced Bush that both the US and Israel were fighting the same battle, that terrorism was the common enemy, and that Israel’s enemies were America’s enemies.

              The subsequent Bush years evolved into an American foreign policy indistinguishable from Israel’s, and American resources, capital and personnel were placed at the disposal of Israel strategists. The aim and focus of the planners in the Pentagon and the White House became blurred as they were some of the same people who, just a few years earlier, as members of the American Enterprise Institute and other think tanks financed by Israel and charged with providing policy analysis for Israel instituted plans which were identical to those provided previously to the government of Israel. Those plans included the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq which had been a long standing objective of Israel strategists. The Saddam Hussein government of Iraq had long been deemed to have been a regional threat to Israel, but it was not a threat to the United States, though Bush convinced the American people otherwise and also that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

              The Bush policies have been shown to be bankrupt, and Carter is replacing them with an approach that has been shown to have worked.

              William James Martin teaches in the Department of Mathematics at the University of New Orleans. He can be reached at: wmartin@math.uno.edu

              Counterpunch

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                "He Didn't Seem Suicidal": Salamat, Riad Hamad

                English (US)  May 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                By Greg Moses

                The thing about courthouse reporting is the stories come packaged for delivery. For a thirty-dollar check and a five-minute wait, the clerk at the federal courthouse will hand you a document whose news value comes pre-certified by affiants with impeccable credentials, signed off by a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

                “That’s sixty pages,” she says, not meaning to remind you of the audio thud that television producers delivered yesterday when they dropped this report in front of the camera from two feet above the desk.

                Walking back out the silent stone building, past the metal detector, wishing the courteous guardian a nice afternoon, I wonder that times have changed so many of these heavyweight buildings into inner sanctums. Thank goodness that I could explain myself briefly.

                [More:]

                Standing later in the May shade across from the Texas capitol, sipping a short cup of coffee, I am nothing but depressed, having stopped off at the pizza joint for a stuffed slice and preview of the thudding federal litany that served in late February to warrant the search of the South Austin home of Riad Hamad. It is a summary of the last chapter of his life.

                “We had a very unpleasant visit from the FBI and IRS agents yesterday morning and they walked out with more than 40 boxes of tax returns, forms, documents, books, flags, cds etc.,” wrote Riad Hamad in a Feb. 29 email that was quickly forwarded across the internet. “The special agent said that they have a probable cause for money laundering, wire fraud, bank fraud..etc and I think that all of it stems from more than 35 years of watching me.”

                Indeed, the 60-page package, unsealed last week by the federal court in Austin, contains an affidavit which swears that Riad Hamad’s home had been under surveillance enough to be able to report license plate numbers from his car and those driven by his closest companions in life.

                There is a fourteen page inventory of the stuff that was taken from Riad Hamad’s house on Feb. 27. Miscellaneous bills seized from the dashboard of a BMW. Notepad with notes seized from a briefcase in a Ford Explorer. Tax return info found in a canvas bag. Deposit slips. Paycheck stubs. Spreadsheets of addresses, names, phone numbers. Articles of Incorporation for the Arab-American Cultural Society. Miscellaneous medical records.

                From the top stereo shelf of the kitchen the feds seized CD Roms. From the second shelf they took cassette and camcorder tapes. From the dresser in the master bedroom they grabbed various letters. From the kitchen table some W-2 forms. From luggage in the master bedroom they removed the airline luggage tags.

                They took the Dell Optiplex, the HP Pavillion, the Gateway laptop, and both Compaq Presarios, along with two generic thumb drives, one Kingston 2GB media card, and two floppy disks.

                From master closet (hers) they took passports. From master closet (his) they took 80 video tapes. From the master bedroom nightstand they took a sheet of paper with handwriting. And from the family room they took something called “Volkswagon of America.”

                From the master bedroom desk they took medical bills (’98 forward) and house purchase documents. From the trash can outside the house they pulled a postal service package sent from Stone Ridge, NY to Riad Hamad.

                And David Rovics, if you’re out there listening, they took your CD, too, from a file cabinet in the office. That’s some of the stuff listed up to page 8 of 14, but that’s enough, don’t you think, to get the picture. They came to Riad Hamad’s house, and they cleaned him out.

                Well, maybe we should also mention (from page 11 of 14) that on the piano they found a book entitled, “War on Freedom.”

                They don’t say what they found in the safety deposit box when that was searched, too.

                The federal agent who asked for the search warrant works for the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and he sets forth a case of probable cause involving “an illegal fraud scheme through the use of non-profit organizations, false documents submitted via U.S. Postal Service, false documents transmitted via wire communications, the failure to file federal income tax returns for the years 1999 through 2003 and 2005, and tax evasion for the years 1999 through 2006.”

                There is absolutely no probable cause that Riad Hamad had anything to do with terrorism. Some sizable cash payments were allegedly delivered via ATM to the occupied Palestinian Territories. But according to Google, the man named in the affidavit as the one who received those payments appears to be a well-known nonviolent activist. In fact, the affidavit says very little about where Riad Hamad spent his money.

                “Hamad sends large amounts of money to the Middle East and/or to charities that forwarded these funds to the Middle East. The disposition of these funds is unknown at this time.”

                At the website for the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, is a list that has not been referenced in the affidavit or by any press reports about the affidavit. There Riad Hamad offers some accounting of his donations and spending. According to my calculations, based upon the materials that he posted online, Riad Hamad publicly declared donations in the amount of $491,751.05 and expenses in the amount of $331,897.00 for the period starting Jan. 1, 2002 and ending Jan. 31, 2008.

                Beginning in 2005, however, there are large gaps in the online numbers, some of them apparently due to inadvertent sloppiness. For example, Riad Hamad posted a document that purports to show donations from 2005, but actually shows donations from 2006. Therefore, he posted the 2006 numbers twice, probably without realizing that he had overwritten his previous file.

                “Most small nonprofits have terrible record-keeping,” writes an Austin attorney who helped Riad Hamad find a lawyer after the Feb. 27 raid. On that count, Riad Hamad appears guilty as the rest.

                Federal agents hinted that Riad Hamad may have been a tax protester, too.

                “Hamad also filed a document titled ‘Redirect TAX Money AWAY from Israel’ with the IRS,” says the affidavit. “Your affiant believes that this form is used by ‘anti-tax’ groups as a way for them to justify not filing federal income tax returns or not paying income tax to the IRS.” Riad Hamad sent in the form twice, during 2002 and 2007. He also declared zero withholding from his paychecks. And when he filed for an extension in 2005, “Hamad listed his tax liability, Total 2005 payments, Balance due, and Amount you are paying as being $0.00 for all of the line items.”

                So far, we have a story of a big-hearted man with a temper for justice who worked fast but loose in the cause of Palestinian children’s welfare. This is the man that everyone says they know well. It is the man that I talked to once by telephone when he was helping the incarcerated Palestinian families at the T. Don Hutto prison in Texas.

                As a boy growing up in Beirut, Riad Hamad would look from his widow over tented communities. This is how he remembered it for me:

                "What are those tents, Daddy?"

                "Those are the Palestinians, Riad. They are waiting to return home."
                Could that boy grow up to be capable of killing himself at the age of 55 in despair over what things had come to? Could he put duct tape over his own eyes, bind his own feet and hands, and drown himself in Austin’s Lady Bird Lake?

                “He didn’t seem suicidal,” says one Austin attorney who met with Riad Hamad. And in an email to me on March 1, Riad Hamad dashed off the phrase, “will fight like hell.”

                But when Riad Hamad called his friend Paul Larudee via cell phone on the evening of April 14, he spoke in a hushed voice. And when Larudee shared news that a donation had arrived at the new California address of the PCWF, Riad Hamad said, “Well, it doesn’t matter.” He would be dead by April 15. Was it the ultimate tax protest?

                Beyond this point the affidavit veers into pathetic allegations about the background details of Riad Hamad’s home finances. Checks written via credit card accounts. Student loans from several colleges. Stock accounts. I can understand why Riad Hamad would not want to face these public humiliations.

                By chance on the bus home I am reading Derrida’s discussion about the role that pity plays in Rousseau’s account of human morality. Isn’t pity a good word for what young Riad Hamad must have felt as he peered out his window upon the Palestinian refugee camps of the 1950s? Isn’t pity a good word for what motivates so many people, as Paul Larudee explains, who actually travel to Palestine and experience the pain of dispossession up close? And isn’t pity what I right now feel for the kind of pain that must have consumed the last days of Riad Hamad’s life?

                Riad Hamad never could reconcile himself to a world where so many people could know so much about the Palestinian children, and care less.

                Salamat, Riad Hamad. They are selling your suicide note down at the federal courthouse today.

                Salamat, Riad Hamad. Would you have us buy it?

                Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. He is a contributor to Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, to be published by AK Press in June 2008. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net

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                  Zionist Israel kills man, injures six

                  English (US)  May 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                  GAZA - aN Unarmed 41-year-old Palestinian man was killed and his wife and brother were injured when an Israeli tank shell struck their house in the town of Khuza'a, near the city of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, witnesses said.

                  The Israeli forces withdrew at 10am local time after an eight-hour incursion.

                  Eyewitnesses said that Husam Najjar was killed when shrapnel from the shell penetrated his stomach.

                  Najjar's nephew, 24-year-old Muhammad Samir Najjar, was critically injured earlier on Sunday by Israeli forces who opened fire at the family house in Khuza'a. Palestinian medical sources said Muhammad was shot twice in the head and doctors were operating on him in an attempt to save his life.

                  [More:]

                  Eyewitnesses also said that invading Israeli bulldozers destroyed large swaths of agricultural land.

                  Earlier, three Palestinian fighters were wounded when an Israeli plane fired on a group of activists attempting to block the Israeli incursion in Khuza'a.

                  Witnesses said that and Israeli reconnaissance plane fired at least two missiles at a group of Palestinian fighters affiliated to Hamas.

                  The military wing of the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, said that their fighters fired two mortar shells at the invading Israeli forces and exchanged fire with them.

                  Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades said their fighters launched 10 mortar shells at the Israeli forces. They also said that they detonated a landmine before fighting with the Israeli soldiers.

                  For its part, the National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, claimed responsibility for firing three mortar shells at Israeli military base at Abu Mtaibiq, east of Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

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                    Israeli peace activists send 60,000 USD in medical supplies to beseiged Gaza

                    English (US)  May 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                    BETHLEHEM - Israeli peace activists will transfer $60,000 worth of medicines and medical supplies they have collected into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the activists said.

                    Israeli Coalition Against the Gaza Siege raised money from around the world and bought the supplies from Palestinian companies in the West Bank city of Nablus. After much bureaucratic wrangling, the groups secured the agreement of the Israeli military to allow the much-needed supplies into Gaza. The Tel-Aviv based Physicians for Human Rights obtained the permits, and the Israeli Peace Bloc, Gush Shalom, will accompany the shipment to the Gaza border.

                    [More:]

                    On the Gazan side, the Palestinian-International Coalition Against the Gaza Siege will receive the shipment.

                    Gaza's medical sector has suffered greatly from 10 months of the Israeli-imposed blockade.

                    “On a time when the Government of Israel excels in brutal cruelty against the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza, we present a humanist alternative of peace-seeking Israelis setting out to break the suffocating siege imposed on a million and half inhabitants of the Gaza Strip” say the Gush Shalom activists.

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                      Sami al-Hajj hits out at US captors

                      English (US)  May 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                      Sami al-hajj was taken to hospital
                      immediately after arriving in Sudan

                      Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj has hit out at the US treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison where he was held for nearly six and a half years.

                      Saying that "rats are treated with more humanity", al-Hajj said inmates' "human dignity was violated".

                      Al-Hajj, who arrived in Sudan early on Friday, was carried off the US air force jet on a stretcher and immediately taken to hospital.

                      Later, he had an emotional reunion with his wife and son.

                      His brother, Asim al-Hajj, said he did not recognise the cameraman because he looked like a man in his 80s.

                      [More:]


                      Still, al-Hajj said: "I was lucky because God allowed that I be released."

                      But his attention soon turned to the 275 inmates he left behind in the US military prison.

                      'Dignity violated'

                      "I'm very happy to be in Sudan, but I'm very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad and they get worse by the day," he said from his hospital bed.

                      "Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values.

                      "In Guantanamo ... rats are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than 50 countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges.

                      "And they will not give them the rights that they give animals," he said.

                      Al-Hajj complained that "for more than seven years, [inmates] did not get a chance to be brought before a civil court to defend their just case".

                      Free man

                      The US embassy in Khartoum issued a brief statement confirming that a "detainee transfer" to Sudan had taken place and saying it appreciated Sudan's co-operation.

                      Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, visited al-Hajj in hospital.

                      A senior US defence official in Washington speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that al-Hajj was "not being released [but] being transferred to the Sudanese government".

                      But Sudan's justice minister told Al Jazeera that al-Hajj was a free man and would not be arrested or face any charges.

                      Two other Sudanese inmates at Guantanamo, Amir Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali, were freed along with al-Hajj.

                      The two said they were blindfolded, handcuffed and chained to their seats during the flight home.

                      The Reprieve organisation that represents some Guantanamo inmates said Moroccan detainee Said Boujaadia was also released and flown home on the same aircraft as the three Sudanese.

                      According to a US defence department statement, five detainees were "transferred" to Afghanistan as well. It said that all those detainees, nine in total, had been "determined to be eligible for transfer following a comprehensive series of review proccesses".

                      Al-Hajj was the only journalist from a major international news organisation held at Guantanamo and many of his supporters saw his detention as punishment for the network's broadcasts.

                      Seized in 2001

                      He was seized by Pakistani intelligence officers while travelling near the Afghan border in December 2001.

                      Despite holding a legitimate visa to work for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel in Afghanistan, he was handed to the US military in January 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

                      Al-Hajj, who is originally from Sudan, was held as an "enemy combatant" without ever facing trial or charges.

                      Al-Hajj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the US did not make public its full allegations against him.

                      But in a hearing that determined that he was an enemy combatant, US officials alleged that in the 1990s, al-Hajj was an executive assistant at a Qatar-based beverage company that provided support to Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya.

                      The US claimed he also travelled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to carry money on behalf of his employer to the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now defunct charity that US authorities say funded armed groups.

                      The US also clamed he met Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, allegedly a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden who was arrested in Germany in 1998 and extradited to the United States.

                      His lawyers have always denied the allegations.

                      'Element of racism'

                      Al-Hajj had been on hunger strike since January 7, 2007.

                      David Remes, a lawyer for 17 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, told Al Jazeera that the treatment al-Hajj received "was more horrific than most" and that there was "an element of racism" in the way he was treated.

                      He said he had been in contact with the lawyer representing al-Hajj and it appeared the cameraman had been "psychologically damaged".

                      "The Europeans would never receive this treatment," Remes said.

                      About 275 detainees remain at Guantanamo and the lawyer said European detainees had all been returned to their country, leaving nationalities such as Yemenis - who now constitute one third of the inmate population.

                      Remes said al-Hajj had been released because the Bush administration "wants to flush as many men out of Guantanamo as quickly as possible … as Guantanamo has become such an international badge of shame".

                      "Once the Supreme Court said the men could have lawyers the pressure increased [on the US] and condemnation isolated the US administration. Guantanamo was a PR disaster," he said.

                      "Unfortunately Americans appreciate violations of rights but they have no sympathy for men held at Guantanamo as the [Bush] administration has done such a good job in portraying them as the worst of the worst and as evil doers.

                      "I've met many prisoners, gotten to appreciate their suffering ... we know them as humans not as worst of worst, we've met their families.

                      "I've been to Guantanamo and the human dimension of Guantanamo is a story yet to be told," Remes said.

                      Al Jazeera concerns

                      Al Jazeera had been campaigning for al-Hajj's release since his capture nearly six and a half years ago.

                      Wadah Khanfar, the network's director-general who was in Khartoum to welcome al-Hajj, said "we are overwhelmed with joy".

                      But he criticised the US military for urging al-Hajj to spy on his employers.

                      "We are concerned about the way the Americans dealt with Sami, and we are concerned about the way they could deal with others as well," he said.

                      "Sami will continue with Al Jazeera, he will continue as a professional person who has done great jobs during his work with Al Jazeera.

                      "We congratulate his family and all those who knew Sami and loved Sami and worked for this moment."

                      Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                        100,000 Palestinians to march to Zionist border

                        English (US)  May 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                        By Khaled Abu Toameh

                        More than 100,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are expected to march toward the border with Israel on May 14 in the context of the Palestinian Authority's plan to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel, PA officials told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

                        The PA leadership has, meanwhile, announced that it would boycott any world leader who arrived in Israel to participate in the anniversary celebrations.

                        [More:]

                        The officials said the boycott would be a temporary action, adding that the Palestinians would not receive the guests in the Palestinian territories during their visits to Israel.

                        The PA ambassador to Beirut, Zaki Abbas, has been working in the past few weeks to recruit refugees from various refugee camps throughout Lebanon for the march.

                        Fatah's top representative in Lebanon, Sultan Abu Aynain, has also been instrumental in organizing the event, the Post has learned.

                        The two have been coordinating their efforts with PA Deputy Minister for Prisoners Affairs, Ziad Abu Ein, who has drawn up a plan calling on Palestinian refugees to "invade" Israel by land, air and sea in protest against Israel's anniversary celebrations.

                        The plan states that the Palestinians have decided to implement United Nations Resolution 194 regarding the Palestinian refugees.

                        Article 11 of the resolution, which was passed in December 1948, says that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest predictable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return."

                        Entitled "The Initiative of Return and Coexistence," the plan urges all Israelis to "welcome the Palestinians who will be returning to live together with them in the land of peace."

                        A committee established by the organizers to prepare for the event met at the Al-Bireh Municipality offices this week to discuss ways of rallying support. Abu Ein told participants that more than 100,000 refugees from Lebanon were expected to take part in the march toward Israel's northern border.

                        He added that refugees from the West Bank and Gaza Strip would also participate in the events by staging marches toward Israeli checkpoints and border crossings.

                        At the meeting in Al-Bireh, the organizers strongly condemned world leaders and dignitaries who were planning to participate in the Israeli celebrations. "This is the day when the Palestinians were uprooted from their lands," they added. "It would have been better if these leaders visited the refugee camps which are the victims of Israel's so-called independence."

                        The plan calls on the refugees to return to Israel with suitcases and tents so that they can settle down in their former villages. The refuges are requested to carry UN flags upon their return and to be equipped with their UNRWA-issued ID cards.

                        The plan asks Arab countries hosting the refugees to facilitate their return by opening their borders. The plan specifically refers to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

                        Palestinian refugees living in the US, EU, Canada and Latin America have been requested to use their foreign passports to fly to Ben- Gurion Airport, while dozens of ships carrying refugees will converge on Israeli ports.

                        http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1209626990196&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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                          Zionist Israel exonerates itself of responsbility for murdering Gaza mother, 4 children; blames the victims instead

                          English (US)  May 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                          The Israeli army has blamed Palestinian fighters for the deaths of a Gaza mother and her four young children following an Israeli air raid in Beit Hanoun last week.

                          The military's report contradicts one by B'Tselem, an independent Israeli human rights group, which found that the family was killed by a strike from an Israeli missile.

                          The army said on Friday that its investigation of the killing of Meissar Abu Megteg and her children found that secondary blasts from ammunition backpacks carried by the fighters were to blame.

                          But B'Tselem maintains there is "no evidence" of any secondary explosion.

                          [More:]


                          David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said the "real time sequence and the claims by the Israeli army have not been subjected to independent expert analysis".

                          Inquiry criticised

                          Chater said: "Their interpretation is based solely on the video footage and is at odds with field researchers from B'Tselem who gathered evidence on the ground immediately after the strike. They say it is not enough to launch an internal inquiry alone."

                          The Israeli military said that the air force twice fired missiles at Palestinian fighters "carrying backpacks loaded with ammunition" near the home.

                          "One gunman was targeted and hit from the air. As a result a strong secondary explosion occurred," a spokesman said in a statement.

                          "The second gunman was targeted and hit as well, causing an even bigger explosion ... Both explosions were significantly stronger than those caused by the IDF attacks against them."

                          A 17-year-old Palestinian student was also killed in the same incident, according to hospital officials.

                          The army also released video footage of what it said were four fighters operating close to the family's home.

                          Contradictory claims

                          Ibrahim Abu Meatak, a close relative, dismissed the Israeli military's findings as a lie.

                          "We knew they were not going to treat us fairly. Other families have been eliminated before and they didn't take responsibility," he told the Reuters news agency.

                          B'tselem had called for a criminal investigation into the killings, saying the army appeared to have violated international law by firing close to the family's home.

                          The group said their investigation found the family were killed by a missile fired at a Palestinian fighter who was a metre from their home.

                          The shockwave from the blast tore off an iron gate that flew into the families home, killing them while they ate breakfast, according to a letter sent to Israeli military officials by the group.

                          Olmert 'sorry'

                          The Israeli military said the operation in Beit Hanoun was launched to "ensure that rocket crews, snipers and tunnel diggers are kept away from the border".

                          Israel says the fighters endangered the family's lives by operating near their home.

                          However, Hamas and the family's neighbours denied that Palestinian fighters were operating near the home during the Israeli attacks.

                          The killing of Abu Megteg and her four children - whose ages ranged from one-to-five years-old - dealt a blow to Egyptian efforts to broker a Gaza truce between Hamas and Israel.

                          Hamas deplored the deaths as a "war crime" and reportedly fired rockets into Israel following the killings.

                          Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said he was "deeply sorry" about the deaths but blamed Hamas for operating among civilians, totally disregarding the Zionist state's constant firing of missiles, tanks, rockets and other deadly force on the people of Gaza.

                          Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                            Sinkable Israel: A racist, belligerent, arrogant and colonila pariah

                            English (US)  May 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                            While on the surface it appears invincible, Israel lies exposed in its behaviour as a racist, belligerent, arrogant and colonial pariah, writes Ayman El-Amir*

                            Next week Israel will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its declaration of independence in the presence of an enviable number of dignitaries and heads of state. One week later, on 15 May, the Palestinians will commiserate their Nakba -- the day they were driven from their homeland by Jewish paramilitary settlers who established the state of Israel.

                            While Israel will be showered with words of admiration and congratulation, principally by those countries that helped create it, the Palestinians will be huddled together in exile or under military occupation, encircled by the Israeli wall of shame that was probably inspired by the Nazi wall that enclosed the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw in 1940. The only statements making reference to them will be the empty rhetoric of Arab officials calling for peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state, and probably maligning Hamas. Victors will continue writing history, at least as long as they remain powerful.

                            [More:]

                            At 60, Israel appears solid, focussed, constantly expanding and basking in the adulation of its powerful supporters and the resignation of its intimidated neighbours. By contrast, the Palestinians, evicted from their homeland, appear weak, divided, starved, vulnerable and spurned by most Arab leaders. Israel, a warrior state armed to the teeth with conventional and nuclear weapons, represents a success for the great powers in more ways than one. Their most important achievement was offloading the centuries old "Jewish question" on the Arabs. Ever since, Israel has proved a belligerent state bent on aggression and expansion, which was also useful to the powers that nurtured it. However, Israel's atrocities against the Palestinians and other Arabs, and its extensive settlement under occupation of their land, makes it appear more like a giant on stilts than a peace-loving nation that lives by the norms of international law.

                            In spite of the glow of success, two historical factors are corroding the underpinnings of Israel as a state. First, Israel was founded on the 17th century doctrine of settler colonialism -- the New World migration model of which the United States is the unique surviving example. As European settlers arrived in droves to the New World that Christopher Columbus discovered in 1492, the land was ethnically cleansed of its indigenous population, especially North American Indians. Hundreds of tribes and ethnic communities were systematically devastated or driven west of the Mississippi river to make room for European colonists. In 1778, even before becoming the nation, new Americans signed a treaty with the Indian Delawares -- the first of what would become a body of more than 380 treaties that never held in the face of the desire to expand. Under those treaties, the nascent US gained more than one billion acres of Indian land in North America, mostly by force, coercion and outright war, with some bought for as little as 10 cents an acre. Consciously or otherwise, this was the model adopted by the Zionist movement to seize Palestine under the fallacy of "a land without a people for a people without a land", with the support of the British via the Balfour Declaration. This shared model of ethnic cleansing and land expropriation is the strongest bond between Israel and the US.

                            During its so-called "war of liberation", Israel committed 70 massacres and atrocities against the Palestinian people as part of a methodical campaign of ethnic cleansing. It terrorised and expelled 85 per cent of the population from 747 Palestinian towns and villages. Most of these were either obliterated to prevent the return of Palestinian inhabitants or given to immigrant Jewish settlers. At the time, this created a population of 900,000 refugees who were "temporarily" relocated to neighbouring Arab countries. Palestinian refugees are now estimated at 4.5 million, half of them in host Arab countries. According to Salman Abu Setta, general coordinator of the Right of Return Congress, 80 per cent of the Jewish population of Israel live in about 10 per cent of the historic land of Palestine under the British mandate. Most of the territories extending from Beersheba in the south to the northern swathe of the Upper Galilee are scarcely populated. The density of the Palestinian population in Gaza is 6,000 individuals per one square kilometre -- a total of 1.5 million Palestinians heaped upon each other under inhuman blockade conditions. Israel rejects the Palestinians' right of return even to these vacant areas, justified by what amounts to a racist policy of maintaining the "Jewish" nature of the state -- another echo of Nazi Germany under Hitler.

                            Immigration to Israel has become a matter of economic opportunity, not the claimed pseudo-religious Zionist ideology of "return to the Promised Land". The population of Israel is 5.2 million out of a world Jewry population of 13 million, with about five million living in the US. Immigration to Israel is declining; the fertility rate among the Jewish population is 0.5 per cent, far below the population replacement value, while the Palestinian fertility rate is nearly three per cent. Israeli politicians regard this as a bomb ready to explode. Israeli concerns have prompted rising calls to declare Israel an exclusively Jewish state where only Jews are eligible for citizenship. The rest -- that is, the Palestinians who have lived on that land since the time of the Canaanites -- are regarded as a nuisance to be evicted when circumstances are favourable.

                            Israel's main problem, however, is that unlike the American Indians or indigenous populations in other colonised lands, the Palestinians refuse to disappear or melt away. Despite the brutal occupation, genocide, mass detentions, numberless checkpoints, the economic blockade, daily humiliation and starvation, and the powerful support afforded to Israel by the US administration, Palestinians refuse to be amassed together in a reservation under the title of a Palestinian state. Palestinian elders keep the keys to their original houses, the deeds to their property, and teach their children about the horrors they had to endure at the hands of those they once embraced as neighbours in the historic land of Palestine.

                            Sixty years after its "independence", Israel has lost its moral compass. Aggression, occupation and expansion have become its most vaunted practices. Hence it has no sense of security. It seeks regional recognition and cooperation but enforces a system of apartheid against the Palestinians. It forces a stop at Yad Vashim on the schedule of every visiting dignitary but kills Palestinian men, women and children, bulldozes their houses and orchards, confiscates their land, pumps out their water, arrests and detains thousands of them indefinitely, violates every human dignity under the sun, and denies the nation it subsumed its legitimate rights. Israel is not planning on any just and lasting settlement with the Palestinians. Like its master, the US, it only believes in the force of arms -- the ability to subjugate by destruction. That is what the Nazis did to the Jews and other minorities in Europe; and that is what the Jews of Israel are doing to the Palestinians. What Israel and the Western alliance call "acts of terrorism" by fundamentalists are the same acts they cheered as heroic by the resistance to Nazi occupation in Europe.

                            When the White Star Line launched the Titanic ocean liner on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in February 1912, it was widely promoted as a passenger ship "designed to be unsinkable". It was equipped with the most sophisticated available technology and the best crew of the time. While en route to New York the Titanic hit an iceberg on 14 February and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic, to the shock of the world and the maritime industry. How long can Israel afford to behave as the unsinkable ship of the Middle East?

                            * The writer is former Al-Ahram correspondent in Washington, DC. He also served as director of United Nations Radio and Television in New York.

                            Al Ahram

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                              What's next, Abbas?

                              English (US)  May 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                              Spurned in Washington, can President Abbas defer any longer the imperative of re-establishing Palestinian national unity, asks Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah


                              A NEW ISRAELI OUTRAGE: The battered bodies of four Palestinian children killed by Israeli fire lay at a morgue in Beit Lahia, Gaza. The four children, aged one to five, and their mother were killed during Israeli military operations

                              The obvious failure of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's latest visit to Washington has been reverberating through Palestinian society, with many intellectuals and pundits advising Abbas to "quit" or at least stop acting at the US administration's beck and call. Some critics have even called for dismantling the PA and abandoning the two-state solution strategy in favour of the one-state solution of a democratic state for all its citizens.

                              All the promises and pledges the Bush administration has made to us have evaporated. The US is only indulging in an open-ended process of deception for the purpose of giving Israel the time it needs to build more settlements and make the task of creating a viable Palestinian state unrealistic and unachievable. -- Fatah official Hatem Abdul-Qader

                              Abbas trusted the Americans too much and for too long. He should have explored alternatives to this futile process. "He should extend his hand to Hamas and re- establish Palestinian national unity, irrespective of American and Israeli reactions. He should stop this futile process under whose rubric Israel is liquidating the Palestinian cause...After all, if we stand united, the whole world, including the Americans, will respect us. The ball is in our court, and no one else's. -- Hamas official Hani al Masri

                              [More:]

                              Abbas, in a frank and daring admission, told reporters following his meeting with President Bush at the White House last week that he failed to obtain a commitment from the US administration to pressure Israel into halting its wave of Jewish-only settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The intensive settlement expansion drive brazenly defies US-led peace efforts, including the Quartet-backed roadmap and last year's Annapolis conference.

                              For their part, the Israelis deny that they are reneging on commitments or pledges. Israeli leaders argue that they are only meeting housing needs related to "natural growth" within existing settlements. They also cite a private "understanding" contained in a letter sent by President Bush to former prime minister Ariel Sharon whereby Israel was given a green light to continue expanding settlements irrespective of peace talks with the Palestinians.

                              The Bush administration has been reticent to acknowledge this supposed "understanding". However, its enduring refusal to rebuke Israel for its continued colonisation of Palestinian land underscores the extent of US-Israeli connivance against Palestinian interests and exposes the duplicity of US political calculations with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

                              Palestinian sources close to PA-Israeli talks last week reported that Israeli negotiators on many occasions confronted their Palestinian counterparts with a series of written "pledges" and "letters" from the Bush administration assuring Israel that major Jewish settlements, at least, would be annexed into Israel in the context of a final-status deal with the Palestinians. Hence, according to Israeli negotiators, there was no justification for "vociferous" Palestinian protest every time Israel decided to build additional settler units in the West Bank.

                              Reportedly, Abbas was also especially upset by President Bush's refusal to pledge that any contemplated Palestinian "state" would be created on 100 per cent of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967. The implications of Bush's refusal are as clear as they are painful for the Palestinian leadership; namely that the Palestinians should stop dreaming of a full and total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

                              According to sources within Abbas's immediate circle, the PA leader has come to feel "betrayed" and "deceived" by the Bush administration. "We thought there was only one game in town, and that was the roadmap," one PA official told Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity. "But it turned out that the Bush administration had been giving Israel all sorts of assurances and pledges behind our back, which violate and nullify the essence of the roadmap."

                              Asked what he thought the PA would do next, the frustrated official said: "I would lie to you if I told you I knew the answer."

                              The Weekly asked senior Fatah official Hatem Abdul-Qader for his view as to what the PA should do in light of US refusals to pressure Israel to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank. "I think it is time for all of us, including President Abbas, to realise that it is probably too late for the creation of a Palestinian state," he said. "All peace talks with Israel seem to have been a gigantic fiasco -- a total failure and big lie."

                              Like many PA and Fatah officials, Abdul- Qader believes that Abbas is facing a real dilemma in having to choose between appeasing the US by compromising the Palestinian cause, or rebuilding Palestinian national unity with Hamas, which would upset Israel and the US and which might lead to the reinstitution of US-led sanctions on the PA. "It is clear that talks with Israel have reached a dead end. It is also clear that Israel is using the national rift between Fatah and Hamas to impose its conditions on us," Abdul-Qader said.

                              "All the promises and pledges the Bush administration has made to us have evaporated," Abdul-Qader continues. "The US is only indulging in an open-ended process of deception for the purpose of giving Israel the time it needs to build more settlements and make the task of creating a viable Palestinian state unrealistic and unachievable."

                              Asked what he would advise Abbas to do in light of receding prospects of reaching a breakthrough before the end of 2008, Abdul-Qader said he would advise the PA president to "pay attention to our internal situation and stop bidding on fruitless talks with Israel. Abbas should be courageous enough to tell the Americans that he won't sacrifice paramount Palestinian national interests for the sake of American and Israeli interests."

                              Abdul-Qader adds that in order for Abbas to be able to say "No" to the US and Israel, Hamas "will have to make the first step by accepting the Yemeni initiative". Fatah could facilitate this by refraining from "making impossible preconditions for national reconciliation".

                              Earlier this week, Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip called on Abbas to "draw the correct conclusion" from the "rebuff" he received in Washington. "We call on President Mahmoud Abbas to stop seeking water from the American mirage. We urge him to immediately embark on tangible steps to re-establish national unity. It is only with national unity that we can restore our rights and safeguard the vital interests of our people."

                              Abbas has not said what he will do next apart from continuing in talks with Israel. Hani Al-Masri, a prominent political analyst in Ramallah, told the Weekly that Abbas's dilemma "stems mainly from the fact that he lacks a plan-B." Abbas "trusted the Americans too much and for too long. He should have explored alternatives to this futile process."

                              "He should extend his hand to Hamas and re- establish Palestinian national unity, irrespective of American and Israeli reactions. He should stop this futile process under whose rubric Israel is liquidating the Palestinian cause," Al-Masri added.

                              Al-Masri acknowledges that if Abbas were to cut from the so-called "peace process", the US and Israel would employ all kinds of sanctions, including starving the Palestinian population, to get him back in line. "But in the long run, [the US] will accept the fait accompli. After all, if we stand united, the whole world, including the Americans, will respect us. The ball is in our court, and no one else's."

                              Al Ahram

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                                Sami al-Hajj freed from Guantanamo

                                English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                Sami al-Hajj is expected to be greeted by his family
                                at the airport in Khartoum

                                Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj has been released from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay and is being flown to Sudan, according to sources.

                                Al-Hajj's family is expected to greet him when he lands in the capital Khartoum late on Thursday.

                                Once he arrives, al-Hajj will undergo a series of medical checks.

                                Al-Hajj was seized by Pakistani intelligence officers while travelling near the Afghan border in December 2001.

                                [More:]

                                Despite holding a legitimate visa to work for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel in Afghanistan, he was handed to the US military in January 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

                                Al-Hajj, who is originally from Sudan, was held as an "enemy combatant" without ever facing a trial or charges.

                                He has been on hunger strike since January 7, 2007.

                                Al-Hajj's wife, Asma Ismailov, spoke to Al Jazeera before she travelled to Sudan.

                                "Now I can think differently, now I can plan my life differently, everything will be fine, God willing," she said.

                                Force fed

                                Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer from the Reprieve organisation has worked on al-Hajj's case since August 2005 and has visited him 10 times in Guantanamo Bay, the last time just three weeks ago.

                                "Al-Hajj is remarkably thin, he has been on hunger strike and forcibly fed through his nose while being strapped down, twice a day, for 16 months," he said.

                                "He looks like an ill man, he has problems with his kidneys, liver, blood in his urine and there are concerns that he may have cancer."

                                Katznelson said that the cameraman's release was probably motivated by political concerns.

                                "I think this is part of a larger picture between the United States and Sudan, that they are trying to bring those countries closer together," he said.

                                "Sudan, one of the primary demands they made to the United States, is if you want to normalise relations with us you have to give something back, and one of the things is the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay."

                                'Telling the truth'

                                Martin Mubanga, a former Guantanamo detainee, told Al Jazeera that al-Hajj had refused to be broken by his experience in Guantanamo Bay.

                                "When I saw him in the last years [of my captivity] he became stronger as he took a stance against the American authorities," he said.

                                "Basically he was a man of resolve, he refused to be broken because at the end of the day he was telling the truth, he was not a member of al-Qaeda."

                                Mubanga said that al-Hajj would not believe he was free until he was back on the ground with his son.

                                "Only then will it probably begin to sink in that he is free, on the plane he'll probably still be thinking he is in a dream, that it is not really happening."

                                Al Jazeera has been campaigning for al-Hajj's release since his capture more than six years ago.

                                Al Jazeera concerns

                                Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera's director-general who is in Khartoum to welcome al-Hajj, criticised the US military for urging him to spy on the operations at the channel.

                                "We are concerned about the way the Americans dealt with Sami, and we are concerned about the way they could deal with others as well," he said.

                                "Sami will continue with Al Jazeera, he will continue as a professional person who has done great jobs during his work with Al Jazeera.

                                "We congratulate his family and all those who knew Sami and loved Sami and worked for this moment."

                                Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

                                586 words posted in American Empire, Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                  Qumsiyeh: Why We Do Not Celebrate Israel

                                  English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                  By Mazin Qumsiyeh

                                  Between December 1947 and December 1950, over 530 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed. Half of the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by underground Zionist forces even before Israel was unilaterally declared a state. Palestinians call these events of the late 1940s the Nakba (Catastrophe).

                                  The Palestinian refugees are the largest remaining refugee population in the world. Seven million of the ten million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people. They are prevented from returning to their homes and lands even though International law and UN resolutions demand it.

                                  [More:]

                                  The Israeli “Knesset” adopted a set of laws that are contrary to International law that ensured no refugees are allowed to return (as customarily happens at the end of a war) and that their land is confiscated for use by Jews only (“absentee property” laws). The removal of 75-80% of non-Jews from what became Israel by 1950 was a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating and maintaining a Zionist-defined Jewish state. What the nascent state did subsequently was expand its borders and continue to appropriate native Palestinian lands, expel many of them and discriminate against those who remained at all odds.

                                  Israel has no constitution but promulgated a set of basic laws that govern it essentially “for the benefit of the Jewish people”. These laws recognize members of a particular religion (including converts) as nationals of the state regardless of where they live or their current citizenship. In Israeli law, all Jews are part of Am Yisrael (the people of Israel). To get papers of citizenship all they have to do is show up in the state and claim their automatic citizenship.

                                  Israel is unique among the nations in not being a country of its citizens but of “Jewish people everywhere”. No other country defines itself as a country for members of a particular religion (including converts) regardless of where they live. No other country has supranational entities that have authority superseding state authority and native rights. For example, the Jewish National Fund is not a state agency but it has on its own website the amazing statement that “The Jewish National Fund is the custodian of the land of Israel on behalf of its owners, Jewish people everywhere.” 91% of the land (most taken from the 530 Palestinian towns and villages depopulated between 1947-1949) is not privately owned but turned over from the custodian of “absentee property” to the JNF for lease by Jews.

                                  Israeli law considers one fourth of the remaining Palestinians (300,000 of the 1.3 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) as “present absentees”. This means that their land and/or homes were confiscated from them and turned to the Jewish Agency/JNF. By international law they are considered internally displaced people (refugees).

                                  Israel maintains an illegal occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza for 40 years. This includes: 133 illegal Israeli settlements, 562 military checkpoints, 610 flying checkpoints, Israeli-only roads and settlements built on Palestinian lands, denial of residency rights, 11,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and, just in the past 7 years alone, 35,000 more Palestinians were made homeless by home demolitions and land confiscations. The Gaza Strip was turned into a large concentration camp were 1.5 million Palestinians (most refugees) are held in a desert strip with what the UN Human Rights commissioner declared as “catastrophic” conditions.

                                  Israel is funded to the tune of $5 billion (3 billion in direct aid, 2 billion other) from our (US) taxes and shielded from International law and basic human rights conventions by our government (e.g. 37 vetoes at the UN security Council). We thus hold special responsibility in this situation (and in the atrocities in Iraq that derive from it), which is not the same for example for Darfur, Sudan (where our government is not funding oppression but is actually at least verbally trying to stop it).

                                  Relevant Quotes

                                  Israeli Artists’ declaration of 2002:
                                  "If the state of Israel aspires to perceive itself as a democracy, it should abandon once and for all, any legal and ideological foundation of religious, ethnic, and demographic discrimination. The state of Israel should strive to become the state of all its citizens. We call for the annulment of all laws that make Israel an apartheid state, including the Jewish law of return in its present form"

                                  Albert Einstein
                                  "My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain - especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state."

                                  Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of Herut (later Likud Party of Israel) in “The Iron Wall: We and the Arabs"
                                  "Every reader has some idea of the early history of other countries which have been settled. I suggest that he recall all known instances. If he should attempt to seek but one instance of a country settled with the consent of those born there he will not succeed. The inhabitants (no matter whether they are civilized or savages) have always put up a stubborn fight.” "

                                  Ehud Olmert, 5 December 2003
                                  "The formula for the parameters of unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.”

                                  Yitzhak Rabin, 23 October 1979
                                  "We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population?' Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said 'Drive them out!'"

                                  Ben-Gurion
                                  "It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples . . . If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and spacious for us . . . The only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western land of Israel, without Arabs. There is no room here for compromises . . . There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe. The transfer must be directed at Iraq, Syria, and even Transjordan. For this goal funds will be found . . . And only after this transfer will the country be able to absorb millions of our brothers and the Jewish problem will cease to exist. There is no other solution."

                                  Israeli psychologist Avigail Abarbanel
                                  "If a day comes, and I hope it does, when Israelis decide to stop living in denial, they will have to realise that real peace will only come through justice. Justice in this context means one thing, that the ideal of an exclusively Jewish state at the cost of an entire people might have to be abandoned. Only a bi-national state and a right of return for the Palestinian refugees will come close enough to rectifying some of the injustices committed in 1948 and since. Having been ethnically cleansed, this is also what the Palestinians are entitled to under international law and common human decency."


                                  Recommended Books:

                                  Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
                                  Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid
                                  John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby
                                  Mazin Qumsiyeh, Sharing the Land of Canaan
                                  Edward Said, The Question of Palestine
                                  John Rose, The Myths of Zionism
                                  Naeim Giladi, Ben Gurion’s Scandals
                                  Tom Segev, The Seventh Million
                                  Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry

                                  Selected Websites:

                                  http://palestineremembered.com
                                  http://badil.org
                                  http://electronicintifada.net
                                  http://thestruggle.org
                                  http://qumsiyeh.org
                                  http://www.icahd.org/eng/
                                  http://endtheoccupation.org
                                  http://zochrot.org
                                  http://imemc.org

                                  1250 words posted in Human Rights, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                    Spring: Daffodils

                                    English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                    words posted in General NewsLeave a comment

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                                      "Falafel fuel" powers cars in petrol-starved Gaza

                                      English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                      By Rebecca Harrison

                                      GAZA, April 30 (Reuters) - When Hassan Amin al-Bana gingerly steps on the gas pedal of his bright yellow taxi, a strange smell wafts from the exhaust: deep-fried fast food.

                                      Faced with chronic fuel shortages due to an Israeli blockade and a strike by Palestinian distributors protesting supply caps, taxi drivers in the Gaza Strip are filling their tanks with cooking oil, often scrounging leftover fat from street vendors.

                                      [More:]

                                      "It's not like driving with diesel -- it takes time to get it going in the morning," said Bana, 40, at Gaza City's main taxi stand. "I know it's bad for my car, but I have to pay for food for my kids so what can I do?"

                                      The pumps at Gaza's petrol stations have been deserted for several weeks but brightly- coloured cartons of soya bean cooking oil, some smuggled from Egypt, are piled high at the taxi rank in the impoverished territory's main city.

                                      The drivers say they mix the oil with turpentine before filling up. Used oil is better than the fresh stuff so they often beg or buy leftovers from street vendors who sell falafel -- a fried chick-pea snack popular in the Middle East.

                                      Vendors are doing a brisk trade.

                                      "I set up the stall last week when I saw taxi drivers had started putting cooking oil in their cars," said Yehya Karam, 21, as he stacked cartons of oil alongside waiting taxis. "I sell about 70 cartons a day -- I'd say most of the taxi drivers still on the streets are powering their cars this way."

                                      PRICEY

                                      Israel has sharply cut the amount of fuel it pumps into the Gaza Strip as part of tightened restrictions on the enclave after Hamas Islamists routed forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and wrested control last June.

                                      Limited supplies have all but dried up since the Palestinian fuel association went on strike this month to protest the limits, preventing one million litres of diesel and petrol in tanks on the Gaza side of the border from being delivered.

                                      Israeli restrictions on cooking oil are less stringent than for fuel, although aid groups say supply is starting to run low now it is being used to power cars. Prices are also rising.

                                      International organisations condemn the Israel-led blockade but the Jewish state says it aims to curb Palestinian militants who fire rockets at Israel and target its border crossings.

                                      Some drivers buy diesel smuggled through tunnels from Egypt on the black market. But a litre costs up to 20 Israeli shekels ($5.76), about three times the price in Israel and beyond the reach of most Gazans, more than half of whom live in poverty.

                                      Others have hooked their cars up to canisters of cooking gas, but that too is in short supply. Many travel by donkey or bicycle.

                                      The fuel shortage has also hit the enclave's creaking sanitation system, and stinking sewage gushed onto the Gaza City streets on Wednesday when a main pump stopped working because diesel for back up generators ran out during a power cut.

                                      Ahmed al-Beltaji, who runs a falafel stall at the taxi rank, started selling his leftover oil to drivers about 10 days ago.

                                      "It makes the cars smell like a kitchen -- you feel like falafel is following you," said Beltaji, crinkling his nose. "Next week they'll be putting water in there."

                                      (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Jon Boyle)

                                      http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L29571543.htm

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                                        Repeating the Crime: The Iraq War Morphs Into the Iran War

                                        English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                        Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country’s territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the “two great democracies.”

                                        By Paul Craig Roberts

                                        It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

                                        The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

                                        The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

                                        The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

                                        [More:]

                                        The US Air Force can’t wait “to show what it can do.”

                                        Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

                                        Under cover of the mayhem and propaganda, Israel can grab the remains of the West Bank and have another go at grabbing the water resources of southern Lebanon.

                                        Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country’s territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the “two great democracies.”

                                        On April 27 Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed Iran for “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. Has Admiral Mullen forgot that it is the US, not Iran, that is responsible for as many as one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis, the “collateral damage” of a “cakewalk war” now into its sixth year?

                                        On April 26 the Washington Post reported that “the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action” against Iran.
                                        The Bush Regime’s national security advisor says Iran is a threat in Iraq, an accusation echoed endlessly by secretary of defense Robert Gates, secretary of state Rice, vice president Cheney, and president Bush. The US, which has 150,000 troops in Iraq, is not a threat. The US troops are protecting Iraq from Iran, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Just ask Fox “News.”

                                        Doing its part to egg on war with Iran, the US TV news program, “60 MInutes,” gave air time to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Eliezer Shkedi, who declared in a special interview that Iranian president Ahmadinejad was the new Hitler and that we must not again make the mistake of disbelieving a Hitler.

                                        There are better candidates for the role than Ahmadinejad.
                                        Gen. Shkedi himself sounds like Hitler blaming Poland for the outbreak of the second world war. Ahmadinejad has attacked no country, whereas Israel repeatedly invades its neighbors and continues 40-year occupations of Syrian and Palestinian territory.

                                        As Noam Chomsky has written, the US government thinks that it owns the world (Chomsky could have added that Israel thinks it owns the Middle East and America). Americans can wallow in indignation over China’s occupation of Tibet, but be perfectly content with America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel can wax eloquently about “Palestinian terrorism” while its military and Zionist settlers terrorize Palestinians.

                                        Americans see no hypocrisy in “their” government’s damning of Russia for opposing the incorporation of former Russian satellites and constituent parts in a US military alliance.

                                        Americans see manifest destiny, not US aggression, when “their” government drops bombs on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan. Americans do not think it is aggression for them to develop war plans to attack Iran or China or N. Korea or whomever, or to maintain hundreds of military bases all over the globe. The same Americans work themselves into hysterical frenzies over “Iranian influence in Iraq” and “al Qaeda plans to bring the war to America.”

                                        As Chomsky says, we own the world. No one else counts.
                                        Except Israel.

                                        Israel counts so much that every presidential candidate has declared his and her willingness to expend whatever American blood and treasure are necessary “to protect Israel.” There are no limits on the promise “to defend Israel,” no matter what Israel does, no matter if Israel initiates (yet again) war with its neighbors, no matter if it continues to force Palestinians out of their homes and villages in order to “create living room” for Israelis.

                                        With this sort of promise, why should Israel ever settle for anything less than “greater Israel”?

                                        Just as the US government launched its illegal invasion of Iraq on the back of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, the US government claims it must attack Iran or Iran will build a nuclear weapon. The Bush Regime has learned never to discard a lie as long as it works.

                                        The lie works for the US Congress, the US media and much of the US public, but it is breaking down abroad. On April 27 the British newspaper, the Independent, responded to the recent US government claim that the Syrian facility attacked last September by Israel in an act of naked aggression was a nuclear reactor built by N. Korea:

                                        “There is no independent way to verify any of this, especially since the installation has now been destroyed. We must rely on the integrity of the Israeli and US intelligence. That is where we hit a problem. The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented similar evidence to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 showing what we were told was strong evidence of Iraqi storage of weapons of mass destruction. As we all know, that intelligence turned out to be bogus.”

                                        A needless war, a country destroyed, all for bogus intelligence.

                                        Why must we repeat our crime in Iran?

                                        Why do we persist in our crime in Iraq? On April 27 McClatchy Newspapers reported that 50 Iraqi political leaders representing numerous political groups including Sunnis went to Sadr City to protest the siege by the US military. Why is al Sadr under seige?

                                        He called for a halt to bloodshed between Iraqis, for a “liberation of ourselves and our lands from the occupier,” for “a real government and real sovereignty.” However, for the Bush Regime, rhetoric about “freedom and democracy” is but a mask behind which to impose a US puppet government. Real Iraqi leaders like al Sadr are “terrorists” who must be eliminated.

                                        Why do the American people and “their” representatives in Congress continue to tolerate a criminal Bush Regime that uses lies and propaganda to mask its acts of naked aggression, war crimes under the Nuremberg standard?

                                        Why does the rest of the world continue to receive political representatives from a war criminal government?

                                        What if the rest of the world told the US to close its bases, its embassies, its CIA operations and to go home?

                                        Self-righteous Americans would regard such demands as effrontery! We own the world.

                                        Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

                                        Counterpunch

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                                          Bush administration still beating the drum for war: US "terrorist" report targets Iran

                                          English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                          Any country that resists submitting to US hegemony is automatically deemed a "terrorist" state.

                                          The US has said Iran remains the "most active" state sponsor of what it calls "terrorism".

                                          The US state department, in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism document, accused Iran of providing aid to the Palestinian group Hamas, the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, "Iraq-based militants", and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

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                                          The report said "elements" of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were directly involved in the planning and support of "terrorist" acts throughout the Middle East.

                                          Pentagon officials say they have given Iraqi leaders US evidence that contradicts Tehran's stated commitment to stop providing arms, weapons technology and training to Shia militias inside Iraq.

                                          US 'terror' reports
                                          --First US state department report on state sponsors of terrorism was published in 1979.
                                          --Libya, Syria, Iraq and South Yemen were named on the inaugural list.
                                          --South Yemen was removed after it merged with North Yemen in 1990.
                                          --Iraq was taken off the list in 2004 after the US invasion.
                                          --Libya was removed in 2006 after reaching agreements with the US over its "commitment to its renunciation of terrorism".
                                          --Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Sudan on current list

                                          The state department report comes as Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said this week that a second aircraft carrier sent to the Gulf was a "reminder" to Iran, but not an escalation.

                                          It also comes a day after Iran stopped conducting oil transactions in US dollars in what it called a concerted attempt to reduce reliance on Washington.

                                          The US state department report also listed Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Sudan as backers of what it called terror groups.

                                          And the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez was accused of failing to co-operate with US anti-terrorist efforts.

                                          The report also said attacks by fighters in Afghanistan rose by 16 per cent between 2006 and 2007 partly because of rise in al-Qaeda activity in neighbouring Pakistan.

                                          The US said that al-Qaeda had built up its operations in Pakistan's tribal areas over the course of the year.

                                          Al-Qaeda 'reconstituted'

                                          The US said attacks in Iraq dropped slightly between 2006 and 2007 but they accounted for 60 per cent of worldwide terrorism fatalities.

                                          More than 22,000 people were killed in attacks around the world in 2007 - eight per cent more than in 2006, although the number of actual attacks fell, the report said.

                                          The US said al-Qaeda remained the greatest threat to its security despite ongoing efforts to combat the group.

                                          "It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri," it said.

                                          The main reason for its resurgence was a ceasefire the Pakistani government reached with tribal leaders in the region last year, the report claimed.

                                          That truce has since ended but Pakistan's new government is now negotiating a similar agreement that some in the US fear could further undermine efforts to battle al-Qaeda.

                                          The earlier ceasefire and instability appear "to have provided al-Qaeda leadership greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States", the report said.

                                          However, Conn Hallinan from the Institute for Policy Studies told Al Jazeera that the report gave a misleading picture of global conflicts.

                                          "The US has elevated asymmetric warfare into some sort of organisation when it's a series of insurgencies that are very different - what happens in southern Lebanon is not what happens in Iraq," he said.

                                          The report, published annually, gives an overview of what the US calls terrorist attacks worldwide.

                                          Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                            Palestinian groups agree on truce

                                            English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                            Several Palestinian factions have agreed, in principle, to a ceasefire with Israel.

                                            A Palestinian official said that Hamas and 11 small groups agreed in Cairo on Wednesday to proposals that include a six-month truce, a prisoner exchange and reopening of the border between Gaza and Israel.

                                            The truce, if implemented, will initially take effect in Gaza, with a view to being extended to the West Bank.

                                            [More:]


                                            Egyptian security officials mediated the talks with the factions, including Islamic Jihad.

                                            Israel will now be asked if it accepts the proposal.

                                            But Israel has already rejected a similar plan from Hamas, describing it as a ploy for it to gain time to regroup.

                                            'Some reservations'

                                            Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the truce plan was "a huge step forward in terms of calming tensions between Israel and the Palestinians".

                                            "Now, for the first time in a long time, we have a consensus across the political spectrum in Palestine that there would be a consolidation of a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel on the condition that it lifts the blockade of Gaza," he said.

                                            "Whatever reservations Israel has now need to be dropped, simply because Israel – at least [Israeli prime minister] Olmert's government – can no longer continue to claim legitimacy while it is occupying the Palestinian territories."

                                            Mena, the Middle Eastern and North African news agency, reported that some of the groups still had some reservations on the plan, despite a deal being reached.

                                            Naser al-Kafarnah, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), told Al Jazeera: "The armed groups of the Palestinian resistance movement have agreed on the Egyptian proposal.

                                            "We at the PFLP have pointed out several points that we are not with the ceasefire in principle as long as there is an occupation.

                                            "However, the PFLP will not launch any attacks that will affect the Egyptian proposal."

                                            No date set

                                            Al-Kafarnah said that no date has been set as yet for the ceasefire to commence.

                                            However, a date could be set if Egypt manages to secure the acceptance of the deal by a majority of the Palestinian groups and presents it to the Israel.

                                            Amani Soliman, Al Jazeera's Middle East analyst, said: "There are three or four major groups that the talks have been going on with.

                                            "But from these groups there are many splinter groups that are difficult to rein in ... It's these smaller groups that have agreed to this truce."

                                            Soliman said that Hamas had been talking with the Egyptian authorities separately and agreed to a truce last week.

                                            Up to Israel

                                            The two deals will be taken to the Israeli authorities by the Egyptians in the next few days, Soliman said.

                                            "It will now be up to the Israelis to agree to the deal," she said.

                                            Israel had said that Hamas's agreement on a peace deal was simply a way for them to regroup and rearm.

                                            But Soliman said that there was the possibility that Israel could observe this new truce as it is a short-term cessation of hostilities.

                                            She said that because Israel is going to celebrate its 60th anniversary as a nation in the coming days, it would want peace during this time.

                                            Gaza air raid

                                            A Hamas activist has meanwhile been killed and three more people including a child wounded in an Israeli air raid in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, a Palestinian official said.

                                            Nafiz Mansur, 40, was killed near his house in Rafah, according to Muawiyah Hassanein, who heads the Gaza emergency services.

                                            Hassanein said a child was among the wounded, but did not give his age.

                                            The Israeli military confirmed it had carried out an air raid in Rafah but gave no further details.

                                            Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                              Wall

                                              English (US)  May 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

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                                                UN International Conference on Palestine refugees opens in Paris: Individual, Collective Rights of Palestine Refugees Remain Undiminished, Ban Ki-moon says

                                                English (US)  April 30th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                PARIS, 29 April -- ‘The Palestinian people’s desire to or right to live a normal daily life in their own sovereign land remains undiminished, as do the individual and collective rights of Palestine refugees,’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to the opening session of the United Nations International Conference on Palestine Refugees.

                                                [More:]

                                                In a statement read out by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane, the Secretary-General noted that 2008 marked the sixtieth year of the Palestinian dispossession. At Annapolis, the international community had come together to support efforts that would lead to an end of the conflict. Negotiations currently under way between Israelis and Palestinians were the only way to settle the conflict and address all permanent status issues. A sustainable peace in the entire region would have to factor in a viable and just solution to the Palestine refugees issue.

                                                The two-day meeting, convened at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will assess the present situation of Palestine refugees and examine the role of the United Nations in alleviating their plight. It will examine efforts at finding an agreed, just and fair solution to the refugee issue as a prerequisite for resolving the question of Palestine and achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

                                                Paul Badji ( Senegal), Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee, said, for the past six decades, no other refugees in modern history had remained refugees for such a long time as the Palestinians who had fled their homes in 1948. Yet, their predicament and the long-lost justice received little attention of the international community. Without a just solution to the issue, however, a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and in the whole region could not be achieved. ‘ Palestine refugees had gone through the suffering, humiliation and dispossession for far too long. Under international law, and also on a moral ground, all of us have a responsibility to continue to work towards bringing about a just solution to this problem.’

                                                The representative of Palestine pointed out that, had Israel chosen to respect international law and comply with United Nations resolutions, in particular resolution 194 (II), the plight of the Palestine refugees would have long ago been resolved and the international community would not continue to face the many humanitarian and political challenges arising from that crisis. Yet, Israel continued to deny Palestine refugees the right to return, while at the same time actively implementing a ‘law of return’ for any Jewish person.

                                                ‘After the passage of so many decades and so much loss, it is critical that the international community redouble its collective efforts to promote the realization of the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders, and the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination and the right of the Palestine refugees to return,’ he said.

                                                Marcio Barbosa, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, also spoke, as did the representatives of Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Senegal, Malaysia, Morocco, Indonesia, Jordan, Ghana and South Africa. A representative of the African Union and a representative of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spoke as well.

                                                The United Nations Conference will be divided into three plenaries. Experts in plenary I will discuss the theme Palestine refugees -– the longest running humanitarian problem in today’s world. Panellists in plenary II will address the relationship between the United Nations and the Palestine refugees. Plenary III will focus on international and regional efforts to promote a solution of the Palestine refugees’ issue. Invited to the Conference are experts on the issue, including Israeli and Palestinian, representatives of United Nations Member States and Observers, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies, parliamentarians, members of the academic community, representatives of civil society organizations, as well as the media.

                                                Opening Statements

                                                United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message read by ANGELA KANE, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said, ‘The Palestinian people’s desire to or right to live a normal daily life in their own sovereign land remains undiminished, as do the individual and collective rights of Palestine refugees.’ Noting that 2008 marked the sixtieth year of the Palestinian dispossession, he said that, at Annapolis, the international community had come together to support efforts that would lead to an end of the conflict. Negotiations currently under way between Israelis and Palestinians were the only way to settle the conflict and address all the permanent status issues, including that of the refugees.

                                                Calling the situation on the ground today an urgent concern, with violence a daily occurrence in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in Israel, the Secretary-General urged both parties to implement their Phase I Road Map obligations and build popular confidence in the negotiation process. As the United Nations now provided assistance to approximately 75 per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip, he welcomed efforts to end violence and reopen the Gaza crossings. That would require an end to rocket fire and other attacks against Israeli targets, and an end to Israeli incursions and military actions in Gaza.

                                                A sustainable peace in the entire region would have to factor in a viable and just solution to the Palestine refugee issue, to be agreed in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194, the Secretary-General noted as he committed himself to working towards peace within the agreed upon framework -– an end to the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the 1991 Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, Security Council resolutions 242(1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2002), and the Arab Peace Initiative. That framework should lead to an end of the conflict, the creation of a Palestinian State, living side by side in peace and security with Israel, and a comprehensive peace in the region.

                                                MARCIO BARBOSA, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, welcomed participants to UNESCO Headquarters on behalf of Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. He said the Conference was taking place at a critical moment. Annapolis had represented the first serious opportunity for several years to work towards a peace treaty involving the resolution of all permanent status issues, including that of refugees. During the Paris Donors’ Conference in December 2007, the international donor community had responded positively to the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP).

                                                He said that, although UNESCO did not deal directly with the issue of refugees, it did provide assistance to the Palestinian people and their educational and cultural institution and worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on matters relating to education in the region. The Eighth Joint UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Committee of 4 and 5 March had identified some strategic priorities, including: the promotion of quality education; the development of higher education and scientific research; support for the safeguarding of tangible and intangible heritage; development of media legislation; and gender and youth outreach. UNESCO also continued to pay special attention to programmes and activities that directly benefited those communities most affected by the fiscal crisis, including refugees.

                                                Those areas of action, which put education, culture and media development at the very heart of rehabilitation and development efforts, were critical to building peaceful and prosperous societies, he said.

                                                PAUL BADJI ( Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that, for the past six decades, no other refugees in modern history had remained refugees for such a long time as the Palestinian people who had fled their homes in 1948. Yet, their predicament and the long-lost justice received little attention of the international community. The question of Palestine refugees was the most difficult, sensitive and emotional one among the final status issues. Without a just solution to the issue, however, lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and in the whole region could not be achieved.

                                                The occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territory was at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said. With the ongoing consolidation of ‘facts on the ground’, however, there were few signs that Israel was serious about ending the occupation. Tenders for new housing units for the settlements in and around East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank continued to be issued in total contradiction to the Road Map obligations. The construction of the wall defied the International Court of Justice advisory opinion.

                                                In the Gaza Strip, the mostly refugee population continued to suffer from routine Israeli military raids as well as from the humanitarian crisis resulting from total closures. Unequivocally condemning the killing of innocent civilians by both sides, either in Israeli military operations or as a result of rocket fire from Gaza, he said it was totally unacceptable and unjust that the entire civilian population of the Gaza Strip was enduring collective punishment and was subjected to a suffocating blockade for the actions of a few militant groups.

                                                ‘ Palestine refugees had gone through the suffering, humiliation and dispossession for far too long. Under international law, and also on a moral ground, all of us have a responsibility to continue to work towards bringing about a just solution to this problem,’ he said in conclusion.

                                                ELIAS SANBAR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to UNESCO and Representative of Palestine at the Conference, speaking on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, said that, in the past year, the Palestinian people had marked many solemn occasions: the fortieth year of Israeli occupation; the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 242 (1967); and the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (II), which had partitioned the historic Palestine. This year marked the sixtieth year that the 1948 Al-Nakba made the Palestinian people stateless. The Palestine refugees -– now three generations of families, some 4.5 million registered with UNRWA -– continued to live in camps and in the Diaspora, awaiting the fulfilment of their right of return, the right of all refugees around the world.

                                                He said if Israel had chosen to respect international law and comply with United Nations resolutions, in particular resolution 194 (II), the plight of the Palestine refugees would have long ago been resolved and the international community would not continue to face the many humanitarian and political challenges arising from that crisis. Yet, Israel continued to deny Palestine refugees the right of return, while at the same time actively implementing a ‘law of return’ for any Jewish person. It even continued to deny any responsibility for the refugees’ plight. Palestine refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had suffered death and injury at the hands of the occupying Power, detention and imprisonment, and the destruction of their homes. The refugee population in the Gaza Strip had been forced to endure an inhuman siege and closure, by which Israel was virtually imprisoning the entire population.

                                                The Palestinian people continued to look to the international community for assistance in the search for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace and the realization of their inalienable rights, he said. The United Nations in particular had a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it was justly resolved in all its aspects. That, of course, included the question of the Palestine refugees. ‘After the passage of so many decades and so much loss, it is critical that the international community redouble its collective efforts to promote the realization of the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders, and the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination and the right of the Palestine refugees to return.’

                                                Other Statements

                                                The representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Movement had strongly stated its concern at the continued, disproportionate, indiscriminate and excessive use of force by Israel and had reiterated its concern at the increasing deterioration of the political, economic, social and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In the context of the current dire situation, the Movement reaffirmed the permanent responsibility of the United Nations and the Security Council, noting that the Security Council had failed more than 30 times to adopt resolutions on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He hoped that the resumed peace process would bring about the establishment of the independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. He further hoped for a just solution to the question of the refugees, based on resolution 194.

                                                The representative of Senegal said his country, which chaired the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, had never spared any effort to support the Palestinian people and was unswervingly committed to peace in the Middle East, which was one of the priorities of the President of Senegal. ‘We do not have the right to give up,’ he said. ‘We cannot and we will not.’

                                                The representative of Malaysia said his country insisted on the right of Palestine refugees to return to their homes or, for those who chose not to do so, to accept compensation, whereby Israel should acknowledge its complete moral responsibility over the injustice of the refugees’ expulsion. The collective form of punishment imposed by the occupying Power on the Palestinian people was unjustified and criminal.

                                                The representative of Morocco said the subject of Palestine refugees was at the very heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The refugees’ fate was an intrinsic part of any solution aimed towards two States living side by side. His country considered the problem of refugees as one of the most important aspects of the situation. He appealed to donors to step up their contributions to UNRWA.

                                                The representative of Indonesia said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and its aggression against the Palestinians not only violated international humanitarian law, but also fed and perpetuated the refugee crisis. If the will could be summoned by the parties, particularly Israel, a solution could be found to the issue. The ‘land for peace’ formula provided the answer. Israel, however, often opted to follow only its own interests while ignoring the voice of the international community. As long as Israel continued to comfort itself with the conviction that there was lasting security in that approach, there could be no progress, peace or resolution.

                                                The representative of the African Union said her organization reiterated its full solidarity with the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle for the exercise of their inalienable rights, including their right to self-determination, return to their land, recovery of the property and the right to live in peace and dignity in an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds as its capital. The African Union strongly condemned the Israeli occupation, the attacks against civilian areas, and the construction of the separation wall within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She appealed to the international community to ensure that the international law pertaining to the Palestine refugees be applied.

                                                The representative of Jordan stressed the importance of the United Nations taking on its moral responsibilities regarding the suffering of the Palestinian people. Any solution that did not take into account the inalienable right of Palestine refugees was doomed to fail. Jordan also had a special interest in the refugee problem, as it housed more than 40 per cent of the UNRWA-registered refugees. The Government supported their basic rights, including their right to return on the basis of international law. He appealed to donor countries to increase their contributions to the UNRWA budget until a final resolution was reached.

                                                The representative of Ghana also appealed to donors to make available sufficient funds to the Agency. She said her Government supported a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The international community must be consistent and prepared to hold both parties to their obligations. She urged all parties to muster the courage to reach a compromise for the sake of all the peoples of the region.

                                                The representative of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefing the Conference on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the Emergency Relief Coordinator had recently condemned the attacks by Palestinian militants on the Gaza crossings as cynical and irresponsible, because they contributed to a further escalation of violence and aggravated the humanitarian crisis. The 9 April attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot had affected fuel supplies. Because UNRWA’s fuel supplies had been exhausted since 24 April, the Agency had been unable to continue its food assistance to 650,000 refugees as well as its refuse collection services. It was crucial that the Gaza crossings be reopened in order to avert a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. OCHA was also concerned at the increasing restrictions placed on humanitarian agencies in the West Bank.

                                                The representative of South Africa emphasized that an improvement in the socio-economic conditions of the Palestinian people was a very fundamental aspect of the development of a viable Palestinian State and that it was important that assistance to the Palestinian people be continued and that UNRWA be allowed to fulfil its mandate fully, unimpeded and unhindered. Voicing her concern at the Israeli closures and restrictions imposed on the movement of persons and goods, particularly humanitarian assistance, she reiterated South Africa’s opposition to the construction of the separation wall. One of the major challenges for UNRWA was the deteriorating conditions within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially Gaza, which contributed to the need for increased expenditure by UNRWA. She called therefore for the continued and increased funding for the Agency.

                                                http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/KKAA-7E73T6?OpenDocument

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                                                  New York Times Opinion: Jimmy Carter: Pariah Diplomacy

                                                  English (US)  April 30th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                  New York Times April 28, 2008

                                                  By JIMMY CARTER

                                                  A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE Washington policy in recent years has been to boycott and punish political factions or governments that refuse to accept United States mandates. This policy makes difficult the possibility that such leaders might moderate their policies.

                                                  [More:]

                                                  Two notable examples are in Nepal and the Middle East. About 12 years ago, Maoist guerrillas took up arms in an effort to overthrow the monarchy and change the nation's political and social life. Although the United States declared the revolutionaries to be terrorists, the Carter Center agreed to help mediate among the three major factions: the royal family, the old-line political parties and the Maoists.

                                                  In 2006, six months after the oppressive monarch was stripped of his powers, a cease-fire was signed. Maoist combatants laid down their arms and Nepalese troops agreed to remain in their barracks. Our center continued its involvement and nations - though not the United States - and international organizations began working with all parties to reconcile the dispute and organize elections.

                                                  The Maoists are succeeding in achieving their major goals: abolishing the monarchy, establishing a democratic republic and ending discrimination against untouchables and others whose citizenship rights were historically abridged. After a surprising victory in the April 10 election, Maoists will play a major role in writing a constitution and governing for about two years. To the United States, they are still terrorists.

                                                  On the way home from monitoring the Nepalese election, I, my wife and my son went to Israel. My goal was to learn as much as possible to assist in the faltering peace initiative endorsed by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Although I knew that official United States policy was to boycott the government of Syria and leaders of Hamas, I did not receive any negative or cautionary messages about the trip, except that it might be dangerous to visit Gaza.

                                                  The Carter Center had monitored three Palestinian elections, including one for parliamentary seats in January 2006. Hamas had prevailed in several municipal contests, gained a reputation for effective and honest administration and did surprisingly well in the legislative race, displacing the ruling party, Fatah. As victors, Hamas proposed a unity government with Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah as president and offered to give key ministries to Fatah, including that of foreign affairs and finance.

                                                  Hamas had been declared a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel, and the elected Palestinian government was forced to dissolve. Eventually, Hamas gained control of Gaza, and Fatah is "governing" the Israeli-dominated West Bank. Opinion polls show Hamas steadily gaining popularity. Since there can be no peace with Palestinians divided, we at the Carter Center believed it important to explore conditions allowing Hamas to be brought peacefully back into the discussions. (A recent poll of Israelis, who are familiar with this history, showed 64 percent favored direct talks between Israel and Hamas.)

                                                  Similarly, Israel cannot gain peace with Syria unless the Golan Heights
                                                  dispute is resolved. Here again, United States policy is to ostracize the Syrian government and prevent bilateral peace talks, contrary to the desire of high Israeli officials.

                                                  We met with Hamas leaders from Gaza, the West Bank and Syria, and after two days of intense discussions with one another they gave these official responses to our suggestions, intended to enhance prospects for peace:

                                                  * Hamas will accept any agreement negotiated by Mr. Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel provided it is approved either in a Palestinian referendum or by an elected government. Hamas's leader, Khaled Meshal, has reconfirmed this, although some subordinates have denied it to the press.

                                                  * When the time comes, Hamas will accept the possibility of forming a
                                                  nonpartisan professional government of technocrats to govern until the next elections can be held.

                                                  * Hamas will also disband its militia in Gaza if a nonpartisan professional security force can be formed.

                                                  * Hamas will permit an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants in 2006, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, to send a letter to his parents. If Israel agrees to a list of prisoners to be exchanged, and the first group is released, Corporal Shalit will be sent to Egypt, pending the final releases.

                                                  * Hamas will accept a mutual cease-fire in Gaza, with the expectation (not requirement) that this would later include the West Bank.

                                                  * Hamas will accept international control of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, provided the Egyptians and not the Israelis control closing the gates.

                                                  In addition, Syria's president, Bashir al-Assad, has expressed eagerness to begin negotiations with Israel to end the impasse on the Golan Heights. He asks only that the United States be involved and that the peace talks be made public.

                                                  Through more official consultations with these outlawed leaders, it may yet be possible to revive and expedite the stalemated peace talks between Israel and its neighbors. In the Middle East, as in Nepal, the path to peace lies in negotiation, not in isolation.

                                                  Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

                                                  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/opinion/28carter.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&ore
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                                                  1 response(s) to New York Times Opinion: Jimmy Carter: Pariah Diplomacy

                                                  1. Scoville Soule [Visitor] Email says:

                                                    Jimmy Carter is a proven honest broker. It's criminal that our present administration has not used this obvious resource to advance the quest for a just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. If we had an honest broker in the White House, Jimmy Carter would be empowered to represent the USA with at least a modicum of support from the president. Let's hope we do better with Barack Obama as president. We couldn't do worse. He is a born uniter which is surely one of his greatest attributess.

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                                                  Mixed Priorities: Why Palestinian Unity is Not an Option

                                                  English (US)  April 29th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                  By Ramzy Baroud

                                                  Just days after the Hamas-Fatah clash last June in Gaza, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas looked firm and composed as he shook hands with members of his new emergency government. He made sure his move appeared as legitimate as possible, issuing decrees that outlawed the armed militias of Hamas, and also suspended consequential clauses in the Palestinian Basic Law, which had thus far served as a constitution.

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                                                  The Basic Law stipulates that the Palestinian parliament must approve of any government for it to be constitutional. Abbas simply decreed that such a clause was no longer valid, effectively robbing Palestinians of one of their greatest collective achievements ? democracy.

                                                  This system, when truly representative, is indeed precious and meaningful. Considering the impossible circumstances under which Palestinian democracy in particular was spawned and nurtured ? military occupation, international pressure, extreme poverty ? it was also deeply historic. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that followed the US occupation in Iraq, Arabs showed themselves as ultimately capable of carrying out democratic process.

                                                  Unfortunately, the achievement of democracy cannot guarantee its preservation.

                                                  Almost immediately after Hamas? sizable election victory in January 2006, both local and international forces scrambled to suffocate and reverse the outcome of this vote. Conceited intellectuals wrote about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy, politicians decried Hamas? victory as signalling the encroachment of militarism and extremism, and world leaders clambered to affiliate themselves with the ?legitimate? Abbas, as opposed to the ?illegitimate? Hamas. Indeed, it was a mockery.

                                                  For Israel, the clash between Abbas? Fatah and Islamic Hamas was a golden opportunity, one that is comparable to the benefits gleaned from another opportune moment, the terrorist attacks of September 11. The latter was recently ? and not for the first time ? described by Israeli Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as good for Israel (Haaretz, April 16).

                                                  The Palestinian fight was also good for Israel; no longer would the nuisance of Palestinian democracy compete with Israel?s self-ascribed ?only democracy in the Middle East.? More, Palestinians were once again depicted as the unruly mob, incapable of producing responsible peacemakers and creating an environment of ?security?, which the state of Israel so often claims to covet.

                                                  As for Abbas and his ministers, they knew too well that the newfound American-Israeli fondness for them was conditional. After all they are the same people, holding the same position and playing the same roles that they have always played. They are the ministers, aides, friends and officials of late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who were, like their president, repeatedly shunned. They also understood well their new appeal in representing the antithesis to Hamas. Rather than rejecting the role of the stooges, Abbas? cabinet ministers played along.

                                                  Suddenly the conflict that was hitherto seen as one between Israel and the Palestinians became one between Abbas and his supporters (Israel and the US) on one hand, and Hamas alone on the other. The problem as reported in mainstream media ceased being about settlements, occupation, and violations of international law, but rather about the anti-democratic ?forces of darkness? in Gaza as opposed to the forces of peace and civilization in Ramallah and Tel Aviv. To re-enforce these highly deceptive images with ?action?, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert initiated their quest for illusive peace. This started in Annapolis and was followed by regular, although equally futile ?rounds? of talks in Israel. Few expected such meets to yield any meaningful outcomes; they were clearly intended only to further isolate Hamas and underscore the Abbas-Israeli alliance.

                                                  In order for the show to go on, Hamas and Fatah will not be allowed to reconcile, at least not until Israel and the US decide to change tactics. Of course this doesn?t mean that there is no basis for reconciliation. Palestinian factionalism equals capitulation in the face of a harsh, emboldened enemy. Recently we have seen the 2005 Cairo Agreement, the 2007 Mecca Agreement and the March 2008 Yemen Agreement. But to win the approval of Israel in the West Bank ? and to avoid the tragic fate of Gaza ? Abbas is not interested in the points of agreement, but rather in the points of discord. Aljazeera reported that Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah member who signed the Hamas-Fatah memorandum in March, was chastised openly for keeping Abbas ?in the dark?, regarding the nature of the agreement. Al-Ahmad insisted that Abbas knew exactly what the agreement stipulated. It seems that a document that merely highlights a course of action towards full reconciliation between the two parties was too much for Israel to accept. Not even the blood of over 120 Palestinians in Gaza, who were killed in the matter of six days in early March, seemed a strong enough motive to override Israel?s threats of Palestinian unity signalling the end of the futile ?peace process?.

                                                  And, of course, there is the money trail. Just days before the Yemen fiasco, the US had agreed to transfer $150 million in support to the Palestinian Authority as ?part of past pledges to boost President Mahmoud Abbas? government.? Boost against whom? Surely not Israel.

                                                  Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reportedly said it was ?the largest sum of assistance of any kind to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority by any donor in one tranche since the Palestinian Authority?s inception (in 1994).? Heart-rending indeed, Mr Fayyad, but one must wonder how much of the money will go to feed the starving in Gaza, or rehabilitate the refugee camps of the West Bank?

                                                  While such noble efforts by the UN?s John Dugard, former US President Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu have brought much needed attention to the plight of Palestinians and Gazans in particular, PA officials are too busy attending donor?s conferences and issuing empty statements which few even bother to read. They act as if they are a neutral party caught in the middle of religious fanatics and Israel. Their fight no longer seems even remotely related to Palestine or its people. These are hardly the qualities of any liberation movement or leadership anywhere, in any period of history, recent or otherwise. Neither Abbas nor Fayyad are likely to be the exception.

                                                  ***Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

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                                                    Organized Zionist witchhunting of Muslims: Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School

                                                    English (US)  April 28th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                    Battle in Brooklyn | A Principal’s Rise and Fall

                                                    Debbie Almontaser, who built ties with Christians and Jews, announced in October that she would sue to be reinstated as principal.

                                                    By ANDREA ELLIOTT

                                                    Debbie Almontaser dreamed of starting a public school like no other in New York City. Children of Arab descent would join students of other ethnicities, learning Arabic together. By graduation, they would be fluent in the language and groomed for the country’s elite colleges. They would be ready, in Ms. Almontaser’s words, to become “ambassadors of peace and hope.”

                                                    [More:]

                                                    Things have not gone according to plan. Only one-fifth of the 60 students at the Khalil Gibran International Academy are Arab-American. Since the school opened in Brooklyn last fall, children have been suspended for carrying weapons, repeatedly gotten into fights and taunted an Arabic teacher by calling her a “terrorist,” staff members and students said in interviews.

                                                    The academy’s troubles reach well beyond its cramped corridors in Boerum Hill. The school’s creation provoked a controversy so incendiary that Ms. Almontaser stepped down as the founding principal just weeks before classes began last September. Ms. Almontaser, a teacher by training and an activist who had carefully built ties with Christians and Jews, said she was forced to resign by the mayor’s office following a campaign that pitted her against a chorus of critics who claimed she had a militant Islamic agenda.

                                                    In newspaper articles and Internet postings, on television and talk radio, Ms. Almontaser was branded a “radical,” a “jihadist” and a “9/11 denier.” She stood accused of harboring unpatriotic leanings and of secretly planning to proselytize her students. Despite Ms. Almontaser’s longstanding reputation as a Muslim moderate, her critics quickly succeeded in recasting her image.

                                                    The conflict tapped into a well of post-9/11 anxieties. But Ms. Almontaser’s downfall was not merely the result of a spontaneous outcry by concerned parents and neighborhood activists. It was also the work of a growing and organized movement to stop Muslim citizens who are seeking an expanded role in American public life. The fight against the school, participants in the effort say, was only an early skirmish in a broader, national struggle.

                                                    “It’s a battle that’s really just begun,” said Daniel Pipes, who directs a conservative research group, the Middle East Forum, and helped lead the charge against Ms. Almontaser and the school.

                                                    In the aftermath of Sept. 11, critics of radical Islam focused largely on terrorism, scrutinizing Muslim-American charities or asserting links between Muslim organizations and violent groups like Hamas. But as the authorities have stepped up the war on terror, those critics have shifted their gaze to a new frontier, what they describe as law-abiding Muslim-Americans who are imposing their religious values in the public domain.

                                                    Mr. Pipes and others reel off a list of examples: Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis who have refused to take passengers carrying liquor; municipal pools and a gym at Harvard that have adopted female-only hours to accommodate Muslim women; candidates for office who are suspected of supporting political Islam; and banks that are offering financial products compliant with sharia, the Islamic code of law.

                                                    The danger, Mr. Pipes says, is that the United States stands to become another England or France, a place where Muslims are balkanized and ultimately threaten to impose sharia.

                                                    “It is hard to see how violence, how terrorism will lead to the implementation of sharia,” Mr. Pipes said. “It is much easier to see how, working through the system — the school system, the media, the religious organizations, the government, businesses and the like — you can promote radical Islam.”

                                                    Mr. Pipes refers to this new enemy as the “lawful Islamists.”

                                                    They are carrying out a “soft jihad,” said Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a trustee of the City University of New York and a vocal opponent of the Khalil Gibran school.

                                                    Muslim leaders, academics and others see the drive against the school as the latest in a series of discriminatory attacks intended to distort the truth and play on Americans’ fear of terrorism. They say the campaign is also part of a wider effort to silence critics of Washington’s policy on Israel and the Middle East.

                                                    “This is a political, ideological agenda,” said John Esposito, a professor of international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University who has been a focus of Mr. Pipes’s scrutiny. “It’s an agenda to paint Islam, not just extremists, as a major problem.”

                                                    That portrait, Muslim and Arab advocates contend, is rife with a bias that would never be tolerated were it directed at other ethnic or religious groups. And if Ms. Almontaser’s story is any indication, they say, the message of her critics wields great power.

                                                    Ms. Almontaser watched city officials and some of her closest Jewish allies distance themselves from her as the controversy reached its peak. She was ultimately felled by an article in The New York Post that said she had “downplayed the significance” of T-shirts bearing the slogan “Intifada NYC.”

                                                    Last month, federal judges issued a ruling — related to a lawsuit brought by Ms. Almontaser to regain her job — stating that her words were “inaccurately reported by The Post and then misconstrued by the press.”

                                                    While city officials and the Education Department declined to comment about Ms. Almontaser because of the lawsuit, a lawyer for the city said she had not been forced to resign.

                                                    In her first interview since stepping down, Ms. Almontaser said that education officials had pressured her to speak to The Post and had monitored the conversation. After the article was published, she said, the department issued a written apology in her name, without her approval.

                                                    “I kept saying I wanted to set the record straight,” said Ms. Almontaser, 40. “And they kept telling me, ‘You can’t undo what was done.’ ”A Call to Lead

                                                    In April 2005, Debbie Almontaser got a telephone call that would change her life. The man on the line, Adam Rubin, worked for a nonprofit organization, New Visions for Public Schools. He was exploring whether to help the city create a public school that would teach Arabic. The group already had seed money — a $400,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — but needed the right person to help lead the venture.

                                                    Everywhere Mr. Rubin went — from the mayor’s office to a falafel stand in Brooklyn — people mentioned Ms. Almontaser. She was a teacher, a native Arabic speaker and arguably the city’s most visible Arab-American woman.

                                                    After 9/11, Education Department officials had enlisted Ms. Almontaser to hold workshops on cultural sensitivity for schoolchildren. She spread the message that Islam was a peaceful religion. She told of how her own son had served as a National Guardsman in the clearing effort at ground zero. She was soon attending interfaith seminars, befriending rabbis and priests. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg honored her publicly. She became a ready commentator for the media, prompting some Muslims to joke that she was the city’s “talking hijabi.”

                                                    In fact, it had taken a long time for Ms. Almontaser to embrace the hijab, or head scarf. Born in Yemen, she was 3 when she moved with her family to Buffalo. Her parents encouraged her to blend in. She called herself Debbie rather than Dhabah, her given name. She began wearing a veil in her 20s, as a Brooklyn mother whose life revolved around PTA meetings and Boy Scout trips. She took to riding on the back of her husband’s motorcycle, her head scarf tucked beneath a black helmet. She got used to the stares and learned to be unapologetic.

                                                    In the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, she offered other Muslim women the lessons she had learned: “The only way to claim this as your country is to continue on with your life here,” she recalled telling them.

                                                    For years, Ms. Almontaser had hoped to become a principal. But soon after joining hands with New Visions, she faced her first challenge. To administer the Gates grant, the school needed a community partner. Two groups wanted the job: a secular Arab-American social services agency and a Muslim-led organization that runs Al-Noor School, a private Islamic establishment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

                                                    Ms. Almontaser said she tried to remain neutral as discord erupted between the two groups. Quietly, though, she worried that if an organization linked to a private Islamic school took the lead, the city would never approve the project, despite the group’s pledge to keep religion out of the curriculum.

                                                    Ultimately, a steering committee led by Ms. Almontaser voted in favor of the social services agency. Leaders of the Muslim group walked away feeling disrespected and distrustful of her, several of the group’s members said in interviews. It was a rupture that would come back to haunt Ms. Almontaser.

                                                    As preparations moved forward, a design team assembled by Ms. Almontaser named the school after the Lebanese Christian poet and pacifist Khalil Gibran. A Palestinian immigrant had suggested the name, hoping it would deflect any concerns that the school carried a Muslim orientation.

                                                    In February 2007, the Department of Education announced that the school had been approved. It would eventually encompass grades 6 through 12, teach half of its classes in Arabic and be among 67 schools in the city that offer programs in both English and another language, like Russian, Spanish and Chinese. Ms. Almontaser designed a recruitment brochure to attract the school’s first class of sixth graders.

                                                    The leaflet cited the words of Mr. Gibran: “In understanding, all walls shall fall down.”

                                                    Opposition Forms

                                                    Irene Alter, a peppy, retired Queens schoolteacher, was sitting at her computer one morning that February when she read an article in The New York Times about the Khalil Gibran school, she said. A series of questions flooded her head.

                                                    Which courses would be taught in Arabic? How would Israel be treated in the study of Middle Eastern history? Then in April, she read an op-ed article by Mr. Pipes in The New York Sun.

                                                    Conceptually, such a school could be “marvelous,” Mr. Pipes wrote, but in practice, it was certain to be problematic. “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage,” he wrote, referring to the school as a madrassa, which means school in Arabic but, in the West, carries the implication of Islamic teaching.

                                                    Given how little Mr. Pipes knew about the school at the time, the word was “a bit of a stretch,” he said in a recent interview. He defended its use as a way to “get attention” for the cause. It got the attention of Ms. Alter, 60, who contacted Mr. Pipes and, with his encouragement, helped form a grass-roots organization in response to the school project. Mr. Pipes joined the advisory board of the group, which called itself the Stop the Madrassa Coalition.

                                                    Mr. Pipes, 58, has emerged as a divisive figure in the post-9/11 era. An author of 12 books who has a doctorate in history from Harvard, he has made a career out of studying and critiquing Islam. His research group, which he established in downtown Philadelphia in the early 1990s, “seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East,” according to its Web site.

                                                    Among his supporters, Mr. Pipes enjoys a heroic status; among his detractors, he is reviled. Those sharply divergent views reflect the passions that infuse Middle Eastern politics, arguably nowhere in the United States more than in New York City.

                                                    Mr. Pipes is perhaps best known for Campus Watch, a national initiative he created to scrutinize Middle Eastern programs at colleges and universities. The drive has accused professors of, among other things, being soft on militant Islam and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It has stirred widespread controversy and, in some cases, may have undermined professors’ bids for tenure.

                                                    Mr. Pipes was joined in the monitoring effort by other self-declared watchdogs of militant Islam. Their Web sites are often linked to one another and their messages interwoven. One critic, David Horowitz, founded Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a campaign aimed at college campuses. He noted in an interview that monitors of radical Islam have increasingly trained their sights on nonviolent Muslim-Americans.

                                                    “They don’t throw bombs, but they create political cover for ideological support of this jihadi movement,” he said.

                                                    Mr. Pipes places Muslims in three categories, he said: those who are violent, those who are moderate and those in the middle. It is this middle group, he argued, that now poses the greatest threat to American values.

                                                    “Are these people who are not using violence but who are not fully enthusiastic about this country and its mores, its culture — are they on our side or are they on the other side?” he asked.

                                                    Ms. Almontaser never considered herself unenthusiastic about America, she said. But as the conflict over the Khalil Gibran school intensified, she came to be seen by many through Mr. Pipes’s lens. In his article in The Sun, he referred to Ms. Almontaser by her birth name, Dhabah, and called her views “extremist.” He cited an article in which she was quoted as saying about 9/11, “I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims.” (As The Jewish Week later reported, Mr. Pipes left out the second half of the quote: “Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion.”)

                                                    The Stop the Madrassa Coalition focused primarily on Ms. Almontaser as a strategy, said Mr. Pipes, because the group could get little information about the school itself. The coalition quickly publicized several discoveries. Ms. Almontaser had accepted an award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim organization that critics claim has ties to terrorist groups (an assertion the group adamantly denies). In news articles, Ms. Almontaser had been critical of American foreign policy and police tactics in fighting terrorism. She also gave $2,000 to Representative Cynthia A. McKinney of Georgia, whom Mr. Pipes and others have characterized as an Islamist sympathizer. (Ms. McKinney, who is no longer in office and did not respond to requests for an interview, has had a strong following among Arab-Americans in part because of her criticism of the Patriot Act.)

                                                    Critics of the Madrassa Coalition say its tactics are typical of campaigns singling out Muslims: They lean heavily on guilt by association. The nuances of the claims against Ms. Almontaser were lost as the controversy lit up the blogosphere, said Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a liberal organization outside Boston that studies the political right. One Web site, MilitantIslamMonitor.org, displayed photographs of Ms. Almontaser wearing her hijab in different styles, suggesting that she had undergone a public relations makeover to “disguise” her “Islamist agenda.” The criticism of Ms. Almontaser and the school spread to newspapers, eliciting negative editorials in The Daily News and The New York Sun.

                                                    Ms. Almontaser was stunned, she said: Her school would touch upon religion only in its global studies class, following the same curriculum as all New York public schools. She tried to keep her head down, she said, and set out to recruit students, half of whom she hoped would be Arab. But opposition to the school mounted after critics learned that its advisory council included three imams (along with rabbis and priests), that there would be an internship for students with a Muslim lawyers’ association and that the proposal for the school suggested it might offer halal food. (The advisory council never met and has since been dismantled, and the school does not offer halal food, Education Department officials said.)

                                                    As the attacks continued, Joel Levy of the New York chapter of the Anti-Defamation League published a letter defending Ms. Almontaser in The Sun. Mr. Levy made reference to the possibility that his organization would provide anti-bias training to Ms. Almontaser’s staff.

                                                    The letter caused a stir among some Arab-Americans, who were bothered by Ms. Almontaser’s ties to Jewish groups. In late June, Aramica, an Arabic and English newspaper based in Brooklyn, ran a cover story with the headline “Zionist Organization Supports Gibran School Principal,” focusing on the link between Ms. Almontaser’s school and the Anti-Defamation League.

                                                    In just five months, Ms. Almontaser’s image had been transformed. She was rendered a radical Muslim by one group and a sellout by another.

                                                    T-Shirts, and a Resignation

                                                    At first, some city officials rallied to Ms. Almontaser’s side. Among them was David Cantor, the chief spokesman for the Department of Education, who wrote in an e-mail message to the editor of The New York Sun, Seth Lipsky: “I won’t allow Dan Pipes a free pass to smear Debbie Almontaser as an Islamist proselytizer who denies Muslim involvement in 9/11. It is a false picture and an ugly effort.”

                                                    But behind closed doors, department officials were nervous, Ms. Almontaser recalled. With her help, she said, they drafted a confidential memo of talking points to review with reporters: the school was “nonreligious,” for example, and Ms. Almontaser was a “multicultural specialist and diversity consultant.”

                                                    The Stop the Madrassa Coalition pressed its campaign. In July, one of its members, Pamela Hall, made a discovery that would elevate the controversy. At an Arab-American festival in Brooklyn, she spotted T-shirts on a table bearing the words “Intifada NYC.” The organization distributing them, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media, trains young women in community organizing and media production. The group sometimes uses the office of a Yemeni-American association in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Ms. Almontaser sits on the association’s board.

                                                    Ms. Hall took a photograph, and a few weeks later, the coalition announced on its blog that Ms. Almontaser was linked to the T-shirts.

                                                    On Aug. 3, Ms. Almontaser received a call from Melody Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Education Department. “What does ‘Intifada NYC’ mean?” Ms. Almontaser recalled Ms. Meyer asking.

                                                    Ms. Almontaser was stumped, she said. She knew of the group. But she had never heard about the T-shirts, she said she told Ms. Meyer, adding that “intifada” meant “uprising” and was linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

                                                    Most reporters lost interest in the T-shirts after Ms. Meyer explained that neither Ms. Almontaser nor the school was linked to them, but The Post persisted. Ms. Almontaser said Ms. Meyer and Mr. Cantor pressured her to respond to the newspaper in an interview.

                                                    “I said, ‘Wait a minute,’ ” recalled Ms. Almontaser, who was critical of The Post’s coverage of Arabs and Muslims. “ ‘I am not comfortable doing the interview.’ ”

                                                    Ms. Meyer promised to monitor the conversation, Ms. Almontaser said, and Mr. Cantor instructed her not to be “apologetic” about the T-shirts. While both Ms. Meyer and Mr. Cantor said they could not comment on the case, a city lawyer said that Ms. Almontaser was told to avoid discussing the T-shirts and intifada altogether, and was never pressured to speak to The Post.

                                                    During the Post interview, Ms. Almontaser said, she told the reporter, Chuck Bennett, that the Arab women’s organization was not connected to her or the school, and that she would never be affiliated with any group that condoned violence. Then Mr. Bennett asked her for the origins of the word intifada, she said.

                                                    “The educator in me responded,” Ms. Almontaser said. She explained, with Ms. Meyer listening in on the three-way phone call, that the root of the word means “shaking off.” Ms. Almontaser then offered what she described as a lengthy explanation about the evolution of the word and the “negative connotation” it had developed because of the Arab-Israeli struggle.

                                                    “The thought went across my mind to be extremely careful with my words — not to offend the Jewish community and not to offend the Arab-American community,” she said. “I was feeling pressure from all sides.”

                                                    Although Ms. Almontaser said she never spoke to the reporter about the T-shirts, she defended the girls in the organization because she believed that the reporter was set on “vilifying innocent teenagers.”

                                                    After the reporter hung up, Ms. Almontaser recalled, Ms. Meyer told her, “Good job.”

                                                    The next day, The Post ran the article under the headline “City Principal Is ‘Revolting’ — Tied to ‘Intifada NYC’ Shirts.” The article quoted Ms. Almontaser as saying that the girls in the organization were “shaking off oppression,” words that The Post, according to a ruling by federal appellate judges, attributed to Ms. Almontaser “incorrectly and misleadingly.”

                                                    Complaints about Ms. Almontaser began pouring into the Education Department, and Mr. Cantor informed her that an apology would be issued in her name. Ms. Almontaser objected, she said, and asked that the department clarify her comments to The Post, which she said were distorted, rather than apologize.

                                                    Mr. Cantor insisted on an apology, she said, and e-mailed her the proposed wording. The first sentence was not negotiable, she recalled him telling her. The apology began: “The use of the word intifada is completely inappropriate as a T-shirt slogan for teenagers. I regret suggesting otherwise.” Ms. Almontaser responded in an e-mail message that Mr. Cantor should change the latter sentence to “I regret my response was interpreted as suggesting otherwise.”

                                                    The press office issued the original apology. Pressure soon mounted for Ms. Almontaser to resign. Randi Weingarten, the head of the teachers’ union, published a letter in The Post criticizing Ms. Almontaser for not denouncing “ideas tied to violence.” On Aug. 9, Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott asked Ms. Almontaser to step down, she said. “The mayor wants your resignation by 8 a.m. tomorrow so he can announce it on his radio show,” Ms. Almontaser recalled Mr. Walcott saying.

                                                    She said he promised her that in exchange for her resignation, the school would still open, and she would remain employed. She resigned the next day, taking an administrative job at the Education Department. She kept her principal’s salary of $120,000.

                                                    On his radio program, Mayor Bloomberg announced that Ms. Almontaser had “submitted her resignation,” which “was nice of her to do.”

                                                    “She’s certainly not a terrorist,” he said, adding that she was not “all that media savvy maybe.”

                                                    Three days later, Ms. Almontaser was replaced by an interim principal, Danielle Salzberg, who is Jewish and speaks no Arabic.

                                                    Chaos in a New School

                                                    On Sept. 4, the Khalil Gibran International Academy opened its doors at 345 Dean Street as parents ushered their children past a throng of reporters, photographers and television crews.

                                                    Chaos soon erupted inside. Students cut classes and got into fights with little consequence, said staff members, parents and students. At least 12 of the 60 students showed signs of behavioral problems or learning disabilities, said Leslie Kahn, a licensed social worker and counselor who was employed at the school until January. (Education Department officials, who denied repeated requests by The Times to visit the school, said there are currently six special-needs students there.)

                                                    “Something is flying through the air, every class, every day,” Sean R. Grogan, a science teacher at the school, said in an interview. “Kids bang on the partitions, yell and scream, curse and swear. It’s out of control.”

                                                    Physical altercations are frequent, Mr. Grogan and others said, with Arab students and teachers the target of ethnic slurs. “I just don’t feel safe,” said an Arab-American student, 11, who will not return to the school next year.

                                                    In the first days after Ms. Almontaser resigned, she felt numb, she said. Her support among Arab-Muslims remained uneven. Had she not alienated some who wanted more of a role in the school’s creation, “the whole community would have stood behind her,” said Wael Mousfar, president of the Arab Muslim American Federation. “A lot of our kids would be part of that school.”

                                                    Ms. Almontaser soon found herself flanked by a new group of supporters, including Jewish and Muslim activists, who began lobbying for her to be reinstated as the school’s principal. On Oct. 16, Ms. Almontaser announced that she was suing the Education Department and the mayor. She claimed that her First Amendment rights had been violated because she was forced to resign after she was quoted as saying something controversial.

                                                    She requested that the city be prevented from hiring a permanent principal until her case was resolved. A judge rejected the request, and Ms. Almontaser appealed. In March, a federal appeals court upheld the ruling, but the judges were sharply critical of the city’s handling of Ms. Almontaser’s case.

                                                    “This was a situation where she was subject to sanction not for anything she said, not for anything she did, but because a newspaper reporter twisted what she said and the result of it was negative press for the city and the Board of Ed,” Judge Jon O. Newman told a city lawyer at a hearing in February.

                                                    Ms. Almontaser’s case will proceed in the Federal District Court in Manhattan.

                                                    The Stop the Madrassa Coalition continues to protest the school. The group sued the Department of Education in October, requesting detailed information about the school’s creation, faculty and curriculum. While the department has handed over thousands of records, the coalition’s lawyer said the documents leave many questions unanswered, including which textbooks the school is using to teach Arabic. A department spokeswoman said that a list of textbooks selected for the school was sent to the lawyer last fall.

                                                    The coalition has also broadened the reach of its campaign. Some members have joined with the Center for Policy Research in American Education, a new organization that will research the influence of radical Islam on public schools around the country.

                                                    In recent weeks, conditions at the Khalil Gibran school have improved, said several students and staff members. Holly Anne Reichert, who was appointed as the permanent principal in January, said in an interview that she had reduced some of the disruptive behavior by minimizing class sizes. She added that the media attention had led to a “chaotic experience” for students. “Adults have created this, and children are the ones who have had to endure,” she said.

                                                    The school will move to a larger space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, by next fall.

                                                    Ms. Almontaser still attends interfaith dinners and awards ceremonies. During the day, she works for the city’s Office of School and Youth Development. Part of her job entails evaluating other schools.

                                                    In an odd twist of fate, she was sent to the Bronx last fall to review a small, innovative school that had opened the same month as Khalil Gibran. It also taught a foreign language: Spanish. The students seemed to be thriving. As Ms. Almontaser walked the hallways, she was shaken, she said.

                                                    “It wasn’t that I was envious that her dream materialized,” said Ms. Almontaser, referring to the principal. “It was seeing her sixth graders, her teachers, and seeing that she did it. And I didn’t get a chance.”

                                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/nyregion/28school.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

                                                    4479 words posted in Racism, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                      Palestinian leaders condemn 'massacre' in Beit Hanoun

                                                      English (US)  April 28th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                      "The killing of innocent women and children in their homes is one of the most shocking consequences of the siege and attacks on the Gaza Strip, which the Israeli government is carrying out under the pretext of security. But tell me who is safer now that Khadra Abu Moatiq and her four young children are dead?" -- Mustafa Barghouti


                                                      RAMALLAH - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called "Israeli aggression" in the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip on Monday.

                                                      [More:]

                                                      Israeli tank fire killed seven Palestinians including a mother and her four young children in Beit Hanoun on Monday morning.

                                                      "This assault does not serve the efforts to reach a ceasefire, and it impedes the peace process," Abbas said. He reaffirmed his support for a ceasefire in order to save the Palestinian people from more killing.

                                                      Abbas did not indicate whether he would cut off "peace" talks with the Israelis.

                                                      Palestinian Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyeh condemned the Israeli attack in the stronges terms, calling it a massacre.

                                                      "This reflects the real face of the Israeli occupiers and their frequent attempts to frustrate any regional or international efforts to end the embargo imposed on the Gaza Strip and to halt hostilities.

                                                      "Such criminal acts, those that came before, and those still to come will not break the Palestinian people's will and insistence on their inalienable rights, including freedom and independence," Haniyeh said in a statement.

                                                      Mustafa Barghouthi, the former Palestinian Minister of Information and the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, called the killings "A sickening tragedy."

                                                      "The killing of innocent women and children in their homes is one of the most shocking consequences of the siege and attacks on the Gaza Strip, which the Israeli government is carrying out under the pretext of security," said Barghouthi. "But tell me who is safer now that Khadra Abu Moatiq and her four young children are dead?"

                                                      Haniyeh's Hamas movement rules the Gaza Strip, while Abbas' Fatah faction holds power in the West Bank. Abbas "dismissed" Haniyeh and a Hamas-Fatah unity government last June after Hamas took control of Gaza. The legality of Abbas's action is questionable since Haniyeh and the Hamas government were democratically elected with a supermajority in the winter of 2006.

                                                      Agencies

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                                                        Children killed in Zionist misslile attack on their home

                                                        English (US)  April 28th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

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                                                          Zionist Israel kills children in Gaza raid

                                                          English (US)  April 28th, 2008 by admin ( Email )



                                                          The dead children were aged between seven months and five years

                                                          GAZA - Seven Palestinians were killed, including a mother and her four young children, and at least seven others were injured when Israeli tanks shelled a house in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday morning, witnesses and medics said.

                                                          [More:]

                                                          Palestinian medics identified the mother, Khadra Abu Mu'attaq, and her
                                                          children Ahmad Abu Mu'attaq, three-year-old Hana Abu Mu'attaq, four-year-old Salih Abu Mu'attaq, and six-year-old Rudayna Abu Mu'attaq, medics reported.

                                                          The family was inside the house, eating breakfast at the time of the shelling.

                                                          A student, 17-year-old Ayyub Atallah, was killed on his way to school. His friend Mu'tasim Sweilim was injured.

                                                          The sixth Palestinian killed was a member of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, named Ibrahim Al-Hjuj. He was also identified by medical sources.

                                                          Muawiya Hassanain, the Gaza-based director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, confirmed that the deaths took place after Israeli forces fired on the Abu Ma'tuq family home in Beit Hanoun.

                                                          Witnesses reported that Israeli tanks and bulldozers invaded Beit Hanoun early on Monday morning and began firing on residential houses.

                                                          On Sunday night Israeli forces raided the town of Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, seized 40 Palestinians, and used bulldozers to destroy agricultural lands, witnesses said. The Israeli forces withdrew at midnight.

                                                          As always when civilians are massacred, the Israeli army said there was an air and tank attack on a group of armed men which were said to be nearby, but they say no houses were targeted.

                                                          David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, described chaotic scenes at the wrecked house and pools of blood and twisted shrapnel in the street.

                                                          "There is an overwhelming feeling of bitterness and shock among the residents," he said.

                                                          Military operation

                                                          Residents said an Israeli shell smashed through the ceiling of the one-storey dwelling; the dead included a teenager who was walking past the house on his way to school.

                                                          "A family was sitting and have their breakfast here and now what? We come to pick up their body parts," said Abu Mohamad, a neighbour.

                                                          Omar Abdel Nabi, a farmer, said he was driving his tractor in a nearby field when at least two explosions shook the area.

                                                          "People were screaming that a tank shell landed in the next street. I carried two people covered in blood out of a house," he said.

                                                          David Chater said he heard "more tank shells and heavy machine gun fire in the area" as they filmed the rescue operation.

                                                          "This aggressions does not serve efforts being exerted to achieve calm, and it obstructs the peace process," said Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

                                                          Border fence

                                                          Palestinian fighters regularly fire rockets from Beit Hanoun into western Israel.

                                                          The Israeli military said three rockets were fired early on Monday morning at the border town of Sderot, but no damage was caused.

                                                          Hamas said one of its snipers shot an Israeli soldier in the town, and the Israeli military confirmed one of its men was "slightly wounded" by gunfire.

                                                          The Zionist military said the operation in Beit Hanoun was launched to "ensure that rocket crews, snipers and tunnel diggers are kept away from the border".

                                                          "There are several versions of this event which are being investigated," said Major Avital Leibovich, aZionist Israeli military spokeswoman.

                                                          Retaliation

                                                          However, the military wings of Fatah and Islamic Jihad have threatened retaliation.

                                                          In a televised statement they said: "We assure you this crime will not pass without punishment. We assure you that the blood of our children is of high value and that our stance towards the resistance will remain the same all over the country."
                                                          Hamas has offered a six-month truce if Israel lifts its current embargo on the Gaza Strip, but Israel says the move is a ruse to allow them to re-arm and recruit new fighters.

                                                          "The continued Zionist massacres are new proof that the Occupation (Israel) is not interested in calm," Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said.

                                                          "Therefore Palestinian armed wings should continue to respond to the aggression by all possible means."

                                                          Source: Al Jazeera and Maan News Agency

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                                                            Hamas criticizes US pronouncement of Israel as 'homeland of Jews'

                                                            English (US)  April 27th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                            GAZA – Hamas expressed a vigorous objection on Sunday to resolutions passed in both houses of the United States Congress this week stating American support for Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

                                                            "Hamas reiterates refusal of these biased decisions and considers them dangerous racially-motivated decisions. The movement also affirms its intention to counter by all means such decisions which are aimed to cancel the right of repatriation of the Palestinian refugees," Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told Ma'an.

                                                            [More:]

                                                            "US president's George Bush recent 'illusionary' pledges to the Palestinian president emphasize that the US administration is beating around the bush in order to give Israel time to complete its plots," Barhoum added, referring to US-backed peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

                                                            Many Palestinians are critical of declarations in support of Israel as a Jewish-majority state, because they appear to cancel the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in the land that was Palestine until the creation of Israel in 1948. The fate of Palestinian refugees is one of the issues up for negotiation in the US-backed talks.

                                                            Maan News

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                                                              Meshaal: Israel truce a tactic

                                                              English (US)  April 26th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                              Meshaal said the truce cannot be viewed as a permanent measure

                                                              Khaled Meshaal, the exiled political leader of the Hamas movement, has said that Hamas is still awaiting Egypt's official stance after a day of closed-door meetings between Omar Suleiman, the country's intelligence chief who has been mediating between Hamas and Israel, with respect to a six-month ceasefire.

                                                              [More:]

                                                              A deal, which Egypt has been trying to broker for months, still appears distant because the group is demanding Israel open its blockaded border crossings with the Gaza Strip.

                                                              In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera on Saturday, Meshaal said that the proposed ceasefire can be considered "a tactic conducting the struggle".

                                                              He said: "It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people's interest ... to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit... The battle is to be run this way and Hamas is known for that.
                                                              In 2003, there was a ceasefire and then the operations were resumed."

                                                              'Further escalation'

                                                              Meshaal also warned of an escalation of violence in Gaza if Israel rejected the truce.

                                                              However, Israel's former deputy defence minister says it is not in Israel's interest to strike a truce deal with Hamas.

                                                              Ephraim Sneh told local radio on Saturday that a truce and anything else that would prolong Hamas's rule in Gaza is not in Israel's interest. He said that Israel would eventually have to try to oust Hamas by force.

                                                              The deal mediated by Egypt would also include a prisoner swap.

                                                              Meshaal told Al Jazeera of his readiness to hold a reconciliation meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

                                                              Abbas has voiced cautious support for the truce initiative.

                                                              Nimer Hammad, an aide to Abbas, said: "We hope that this proposal is a serious one, and we hope it will be taken seriously by Israel."

                                                              Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                Jabotinsky: The Iron Wall

                                                                English (US)  April 26th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                --Colonisation of Palestine
                                                                --Agreement with Arabs Impossible at present
                                                                --Zionism Must Go Forward

                                                                Originally published in Russian under the title O Zheleznoi Stene in Rassvyet, 4 November 1923

                                                                "The Jewish Herald" (South Africa) Friday, 26th November, 1937

                                                                By Vladimir Jabotinsky

                                                                It is an excellent rule to begin an article with the most important point, but this time, I find it necessary to begin with an introduction, and, moreover, with a personal introduction.

                                                                I am reputed to be an enemy of the Arabs, who wants to have them ejected from Palestine, and so forth. It is not true.

                                                                Emotionally, my attitude to the Arabs is the same as to all other nations – polite indifference. Politically, my attitude is determined by two principles. First of all, I consider it utterly impossible to eject the Arabs from Palestine. There will always be two nations in Palestine – which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority. And secondly, I belong to the group that once drew up the Helsingfors Programme, the programme of national rights for all nationalities living in the same State. In drawing up that programme, we had in mind not only the Jews, but all nations everywhere, and its basis is equality of rights.

                                                                [More:]

                                                                I am prepared to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights, and that we shall never try to eject anyone. This seems to me a fairly peaceful credo.

                                                                But it is quite another question whether it is always possible to realise a peaceful aim by peaceful means. For the answer to this question does not depend on our attitude to the Arabs, but entirely on the attitude of the Arabs to us and to Zionism.

                                                                Now, after this introduction, we may proceed to the subject.

                                                                Voluntary Agreement Not Possible

                                                                There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future. I say this with such conviction, not because I want to hurt the moderate Zionists. I do not believe that they will be hurt. Except for those who were born blind, they realised long ago that it is utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting "Palestine" from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.

                                                                My readers have a general idea of the history of colonisation in other countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonisation being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent.

                                                                The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage.

                                                                And it made no difference whatever whether the colonists behaved decently or not. The companions of Cortez and Pizzaro or ( as some people will remind us ) our own ancestors under Joshua Ben Nun, behaved like brigands; but the Pilgrim Fathers, the first real pioneers of North America, were people of the highest morality, who did not want to do harm to anyone, least of all to the Red Indians, and they honestly believed that there was room enough in the prairies both for the Paleface and the Redskin. Yet the native population fought with the same ferocity against the good colonists as against the bad.

                                                                Every native population, civilised or not, regards its lands as its national home, of which it is the sole master, and it wants to retain that mastery always; it will refuse to admit not only new masters but, even new partners or collaborators.

                                                                Arabs Not Fools

                                                                This is equally true of the Arabs. Our Peace-mongers are trying to persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to abandon to us their claim to priority in Palestine , in return for cultural and economic advantages. I repudiate this conception of the Palestinian Arabs. Culturally they are five hundred years behind us, they have neither our endurance nor our determination; but they are just as good psychologists as we are, and their minds have been sharpened like ours by centuries of fine-spun logomachy. We may tell them whatever we like about the innocence of our aims, watering them down and sweetening them with honeyed words to make them palatable, but they know what we want, as well as we know what they do not want. They feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico, and the Sioux for their rolling Prairies.

                                                                To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realisation of Zionism, in return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him, is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system.

                                                                All Natives Resist Colonists

                                                                There is no justification for such a belief. It may be that some individual Arabs take bribes. But that does not mean that the Arab people of Palestine as a whole will sell that fervent patriotism that they guard so jealously, and which even the Papuans will never sell. Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised.

                                                                That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of "Palestine" into the "Land of Israel."

                                                                Arab Comprehension

                                                                Some of us have induced ourselves to believe that all the trouble is due to misunderstanding – the Arabs have not understood us, and that is the only reason why they resist us; if we can only make it clear to them how moderate our intentions really are, they will immediately extend to us their hand in friendship.

                                                                This belief is utterly unfounded and it has been exploded again and again. I shall recall only one instance of many. A few years ago, when the late Mr. Sokolow was on one of his periodic visits to Palestine, he addressed a meeting on this very question of the "misunderstanding." He demonstrated lucidly and convincingly that the Arabs are terribly mistaken if they think that we have any desire to deprive them of their possessions or to drive them our of the country, or that we want to oppress them. We do not even ask for a Jewish Government to hold the Mandate of the League of Nations.

                                                                One of the Arab papers, " El Carmel," replied at the time, in an editorial article, the purport of which was this:

                                                                The Zionists are making a fuss about nothing. There is no misunderstanding. All that Mr. Sokolow says about the Zionist intentions is true, but the Arabs know that without him. Of course, the Zionists cannot now be thinking of driving the Arabs out of the country, or oppressing them, not do they contemplate a Jewish Government. Quite obviously, they are now concerned with one thing only- that the Arabs should not hinder their immigration. The Zionists assure us that even immigration will be regulated strictly according to the economic needs of Palestine. The Arabs have never doubted that: it is a truism, for otherwise there can be no immigration.

                                                                No "Misunderstanding"

                                                                This Arab editor was actually willing to agree that Palestine has a very large potential absorptive capacity, meaning that there is room for a great many Jews in the country without displacing a single Arab. There is only one thing the Zionists want, and it is that one thing that the Arabs do not want, for that is the way by which the Jews would gradually become the majority, and then a Jewish Government would follow automatically, and the future of the Arab minority would depend on the goodwill of the Jews; and a minority status is not a good thing, as the Jews themselves are never tired of pointing out. So there is no "misunderstanding".

                                                                The Zionists want only one thing, Jewish immigration; and this Jewish immigration is what the Arabs do not want.

                                                                This statement of the position by the Arab editor is so logical, so obvious, so indisputable, that everyone ought to know it by heart, and it should be made the basis of all our future discussions on the Arab question. It does not matter at all which phraseology we employ in explaining our colonising aims, Herzl's or Sir Herbert Samuel's.

                                                                Colonisation carries its own explanation, the only possible explanation, unalterable and as clear as daylight to every ordinary Jew and every ordinary Arab.

                                                                Colonisation can have only one aim, and Palestine Arabs cannot accept this aim. It lies in the very nature of things, and in this particular regard nature cannot be changed.

                                                                The Iron Wall

                                                                We cannot offer any adequate compensation to the Palestinian Arabs in return for Palestine. And therefore, there is no likelihood of any voluntary agreement being reached. So that all those who regard such an agreement as a condition sine qua non for Zionism may as well say "non" and withdraw from Zionism.

                                                                Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.

                                                                That is our Arab policy; not what we should be, but what it actually is, whether we admit it or not. What need, otherwise, of the Balfour Declaration? Or of the Mandate? Their value to us is that outside Power has undertaken to create in the country such conditions of administration and security that if the native population should desire to hinder our work, they will find it impossible.

                                                                And we are all of us ,without any exception, demanding day after day that this outside Power, should carry out this task vigorously and with determination.

                                                                In this matter there is no difference between our "militarists" and our "vegetarians". Except that the first prefer that the iron wall should consist of Jewish soldiers, and the others are content that they should be British.

                                                                We all demand that there should be an iron wall. Yet we keep spoiling our own case, by talking about "agreement" which means telling the Mandatory Government that the important thing is not the iron wall, but discussions. Empty rhetoric of this kind is dangerous. And that is why it is not only a pleasure but a duty to discredit it and to demonstrate that it is both fantastic and dishonest.

                                                                Zionism Moral and Just

                                                                Two brief remarks:

                                                                In the first place, if anyone objects that this point of view is immoral, I answer: It is not true: either Zionism is moral and just, or it is immoral and unjust. But that is a question that we should have settled before we became Zionists. Actually we have settled that question, and in the affirmative.

                                                                We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just, justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or Achmet agree with it or not.

                                                                There is no other morality.

                                                                Eventual Agreement

                                                                In the second place, this does not mean that there cannot be any agreement with the Palestine Arabs. What is impossible is a voluntary agreement. As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of getting rid of us, they will refuse to give up this hope in return for either kind words or for bread and butter, because they are not a rabble, but a living people. And when a living people yields in matters of such a vital character it is only when there is no longer any hope of getting rid of us, because they can make no breach in the iron wall. Not till then will they drop their extremist leaders, whose watchword is "Never!" And the leadership will pass to the moderate groups, who will approach us with a proposal that we should both agree to mutual concessions. Then we may expect them to discuss honestly practical questions, such as a guarantee against Arab displacement, or equal rights for Arab citizen, or Arab national integrity.

                                                                And when that happens, I am convinced that we Jews will be found ready to give them satisfactory guarantees, so that both peoples can live together in peace, like good neighbours.

                                                                But the only way to obtain such an agreement, is the iron wall, which is to say a strong power in Palestine that is not amenable to any Arab pressure. In other words, the only way to reach an agreement in the future is to abandon all idea of seeking an agreement at present.

                                                                From the text at http://www.jabotinsky.org/Jaboworld/docs/Iron%20Wall.doc (with some corrections of typography and grammar - emphasis is in the original).

                                                                THE ETHICS OF THE IRON WALL

                                                                By Vladimir Jabotinsky

                                                                'The Jewish Standard', 5/9/1941 (London).

                                                                Originally Published in Rassviet (Paris) 11/11/1923 as a continuation of the previous article.

                                                                I

                                                                Let us go back to the Helsingfors Programme. Since I am one of those who helped to draft it, I am naturally not disposed to question the justice of the principles advocated there. The programme guarantees citizenship equality, and national self-determination. I am firmly convinced that any impartial judge will accept this programme as the ideal basis for peaceful and neighbourly collaboration between two nations.

                                                                But it is absurd to expect the Arabs to have the mentality of an impartial judge; for in this conflict they are not the judges; but one of the contending parties. And after all, our chief question is whether the Arabs, even if they believed in peaceful collaboration they would agree to have any "neighbours", even good neighbours, in the country which they regard as their own. Not even those who try to move us with high-sounding phrases will dare to deny that national homogeneity is more convenient than natural diversity. So why should a nation that is perfectly content with its isolation admit to its country even good neighbours in any considerable number? I want neither your honey nor your sting", is a reasonable answer.

                                                                But apart from this fundamental difficulty, why must it be the Arabs who should accept the Helsingfors Programme, or, in that matter any programme for a State which has a mixed national population? To make such a demand is to ask for the impossible. The Springer theory is not more than 30 years old. And no nation, not even the most civilised, has yet agreed to apply this theory honestly in practice. Even the Czechs, under the leadership of Masaryk, the teacher of all autonomists, could not would not do it.

                                                                Among the Arabs, even their intellectuals have never heard of this theory. But these same intellectuals would know that a minority always suffers everywhere: the Christians in Turkey, the Moslems in India, the Irish under the British, the Poles and Czechs under the Germans, now the Germans under the Poles and Czechs, and so forth, without end. So that one must be intoxicated with rhetoric to expect the Arabs to believe that the Jews, of all the people in the world, will alone prove able, or will, at least, honestly intend to realise an idea that has not succeeded with other nations who are with much greater authority.

                                                                If I insist on this point, it is not because I want the Jews, too, to abandon the Helsigfors Programme as the basis of a future modus vivendi. On the contrary we- at least the writer of these lines – believe in this programme as much as we believe in our ability to give effect to it in political life, though all precedents have failed. But it would be useless now to the Arabs. They would not understand, and they would not place any trust in its principles: they would not be able to appreciate them.

                                                                II

                                                                And since it is useless, it must also be harmful. It is incredible what political simpletons Jews are. They shut their eyes to one of the most elementary rules of life, that you must not "meet halfway" those who do not want to meet you.

                                                                There was a typical example in old Russia, when one of the oppressed nations, with one accord, launched a crusade against the Jews, boycotting them and pogroming them. At the same time, this nation was fighting to gain its own autonomy, without any attempt to conceal it means to use its autonomy for the purpose of oppressing the Jews. Worse than before. And yet, Jewish politicians and writers, (even Jewish nationalists) considered it their duty to support the autonomist efforts of their enemy, on the ground that autonomy is a sacred cause. It is remarkable how we Jews regard it as our duty to stand up and cheer whenever the Marsellaise is played, even if it is played by Haman himself, and Jewish heads are smashed to its accompaniment. I was once told of a man who was an ardent Democrat and always whenever he heard the Marsellaise, he stood stiffly attention, like a soldier on parade. One night burglars broke into his house, and one of them played the Marsellaise. This sort of thing is not morality, it is twaddle. Human society is built up on the basis of mutual advantage. If you take away the mutual principle right becomes a falsehood. Each man who passes my window in the street has a right to live only in so far as he recognises my right to live; but if he is determined to kill me, I cannot admit that he has any right to live. And that is true also of nations. Otherwise, the world would become a jungle of wild beasts, where not only the weak, but also those who have any scrap of feeling would be exterminated.

                                                                The world must be a place of co-operation and mutual goodwill. If we are to live we should all live in the same way, and if we are to die we should all die in the same way.

                                                                But there is no morality, no ethics that concedes the right of a glutton to gorge, while more tempered people die of starvation. There is only one possible morality, that of humanity, and in practice it amounts in our particular instance to this: if besides the Helsingfors Programme we had our pocket full of concessions of every kind, including our willingness to participate in some fantastic Arab Federation od morza do morza (from sea to sea) negotiations with regard to them would still be possible only if the Arabs would first consent to the creation of a Jewish Palestine. Our ancestors knew that very well. And the Talmud quotes a very instructive legal action – which has a direct bearing on this matter. Two people walking along the road find a piece of cloth. One of them says: " I found it. It is mine:" But the other says: " No: that is not true: I found the cloth, and it is mine: " The judge to whom they appeal cuts the cloth in two, and each of these obstinate folk gets half. But there is another version of this action. It is only one of the two claimants who is obstinate: the other, on the contrary, has determined to make the world wonder at this magnanimity. So he says: " We both found the cloth, and therefore I ask only a half of it, because the second belongs to B. But B. insists that he found it, and that he alone is entitled to it. In this case, the Talmud recommends a wise Judgment, that is, how very disappointing to our magnanimous gentleman. The judge says: " There is agreement about one half of the cloth. A. admits that it belongs to B. So it is only the second half that is in dispute. We shall, therefore divide this into two halves: And the obstinate claimant gets three-quarters of the cloth, while the ”gentleman" has only one quarter, and serve him right. It is a very fine thing to be a gentleman, but it is no reason for being an idiot. Our ancestors knew that. But we have forgotten it. We should bear it in mind. Particularly, since we are very badly situated in this matter of concessions. There is not much that we can concede to Arab nationalism, without destroying Zionism. We cannot abandon the effort to achieve a Jewish majority in Palestine. Nor can we permit any Arab control of our immigration, or join an Arab Federation. We cannot even support Arab movement, it is at present hostile to us and consequently we all, including even the pro-Arab rhetoriomongers, rejoice at every defeat sustained by this movement, not only adjacent Transjordan, and Syria, but even in Morocco. And this state of affairs will continue, because it cannot be otherwise, until one day the iron wall will compel the Arabs to come to an arrangement with Zionism once and for all.

                                                                III

                                                                Let us consider for a moment the point of view of those to whom this seems immoral. We shall trace the root of the evil to this – that we are seeking to colonise a country against the wishes of its population, in other words, by force. Everything else that is undesirable grows out of this root with axiomatic inevitability. What then is to be done?

                                                                The simplest way out would be to look for a different country to colonise. Like Uganda. But if we look more closely into the matter we shall find that the same evil exists there, too. Uganda also has a native population, which consciously or unconsciously as in every other instance in history, will resist the coming of the colonisers. It is true that these natives happen to be black. But that does not alter the essential fact. If it is immoral to colonise a country against the will of its native population, the same morality must apply equally to the black man as to the white. Of course, the blackman may not be sufficiently advanced to think of sending delegations to London, but he will soon find some kindhearted white friends, who will instruct him. Though should these natives even prove utterly helpless, like children, the matter would only become worse. Then if colonisation is invasion and robbery, the greatest crime of all would be to rob helpless children. Consequently, colonisation in Uganda is also immoral, and colonisation in any other place in the world, whatever it may be called, is immoral. There are no more uninhabited islands in the world. In every oasis there is a native population settled from times immemorial, who will not tolerate an immigrant majority or an invasion of outsiders. So that if there is any landless people in the world, even its dream of a national home must be an immoral dream. . Those who are landless must remain landless to all eternity. The whole earth has been allocated. Basta: Morality has said so:

                                                                From the Jewish point of view, morality has a particularly interesting appearance. It is said that we Jews number 15 million people scattered throughout the world. Half of them are now literally homeless, poor, hunted wretches. The number of Arabs totals 38 million. They inhabit Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Tripoli, Egypt, Syria, Arabia and Iraq – an area that apart from desert equals the size of half Europe. There are in this vast area 16 Arabs to the square mile. It is instructive to recall by way of comparison that Sicily has 352 and England 669 inhabitants to the square mile. It is still more instructive to recall that Palestine constitutes about one two hundredth part of this area.

                                                                Yet if homeless Jewry demands Palestine for itself it is "immoral" because it does not suit the native population. Such morality may be accepted among cannibals, but not in a civilised world. The soil does not belong to those who possess land in excess but to those who do not possess any. It is an act of simple justice to alienate part of their land from those nations who are numbered among the great landowners of the world, in order to provide a place of refuge for a homeless, wandering people. And if such a big landowning nation resists which is perfectly natural – it must be made to comply by compulsion. Justice that is enforced does not cease to be justice. This is the only Arab policy that we shall find possible. As for an agreement, we shall have time to discuss that later.

                                                                All sorts of catchwords are used against Zionism; people invoke Democracy, majority rule national self-determination. Which means, that the Arabs being at present the majority in Palestine, have the right of self-determination, and may therefore insist that Palestine must remain an Arab country. Democracy and self-determination are sacred principles, but sacred principles like the Name of the Lord must not be used in vain –to bolster up a swindle, to conceal injustice. The principle of self-determination does not mean that if someone has seized a stretch of land it must remain in his possession for all time, and that he who was forcibly ejected from his land must always remain homeless. Self-determination means revision – such a revision of the distribution of the earth among the nations that those nations who have too much should have to give up some of it to those nations who have not enough or who have none, so that all should have some place on which to exercise their right of self-determination. And now when the whole of the civilised world has recognised that Jews have a right to return to Palestine, which means that the Jews are, in principle, also "citizens" and "inhabitants" of Palestine, only they were driven out, and their return must be a lengthy process, it is wrong to contend that meanwhile the local population has the right to refuse to allow them to come back and to that "Democracy”. The Democracy of Palestine consists of two national groups, the local group and these who were driven out, and the second group is the larger.

                                                                * A reference to the national-cultural autonomy theory of Otto Bauer and Karl Renner (who used the pseudonym of Rudolf Brenner) advanced at the second International by Austrian Social Democrats and adopted by the Jewish Russian Bund (anti-Zionist socialists).

                                                                http://www.jabotinsky.org/Jaboworld/docs/ethics.doc
                                                                Journals of original Publication not given

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                                                                  Zionist Israel rejects Hamas truce; kills 14-year-old girl with missile attack on her home

                                                                  English (US)  April 26th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                  Teenage girl killed in Gaza raid

                                                                  The Israeli military said that it had targeted
                                                                  armed men in Beit Lahiya [AFP]

                                                                  A Palestinian child wounded by Israeli fire
                                                                  on 16 April (Ma'anImages)

                                                                  Israeli forces killed a 14-year-old girl, Maryam Tal'at Ma'rouf, and injured her mother, Samyah Ma'rouf, along with six others during an incursion in Beit Layiha, in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, witnesses said.

                                                                  [More:]

                                                                  Israeli special forces, with helicopters hovering overhead, invaded Beit Layiha at dawn, surrounding the house of Hamas leader Samyah Ma'rouf. Witnesses said the Israeli troops opened fire on the house, killing the child. Israeli troops engaged in a heavy exchange of fire with Palestinian fighters in the area.

                                                                  The Israeli forces withdrew at 7:30am after seizing Tal'at Ma'rouf.

                                                                  Muawiyah Hassanein, the director of emergency and ambulance services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, identified some of the wounded: 40-year-old Saleh Ma'rouf, Saleh Ma'rouf, 27-year-old Zuhair Sobh, Ziad, 28-year-old Mustafa Sobh, 25-year-old Ahmad Abd al-Muttalib Al-Kahlout, 14-Year-old Al-Kahlout. All of the injured were treated at Kamal Udwan Hospital in northern Gaza.

                                                                  Palestinian resistance fighters claimed to have forced the Israeli troops to retreat. The National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said it engaged in armed confrontations with Israeli forces near the Al-Baraka Mosque in northern Gaza, claiming that there may be casualties on the Israeli side.

                                                                  The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility for attacking Israeli special forces in the Ash-Shayma' area north of Beit Lahiya at dawn.

                                                                  The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, also said they clashed with the Israeli forces that infiltrated in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

                                                                  The Israeli military said that it had carried an air raid targeting armed men in Beit Lahiya, near the border with Israel, early on Saturday.

                                                                  "The air force launched two raids on Saturday morning against armed elements in the northern Gaza Strip," a spokeswoman said.

                                                                  Hamas officials told the Associated Press news agency that Hassan Marouf, a local leader of the group, was the target of the Israeli raid and troops withdrew after detaining him.

                                                                  Critical conditions

                                                                  Three of the seven people who were wounded in air raids are in critical condition, they said.

                                                                  One of the ambulances coming from the scene was damaged after apparently being caught up in the clashes, which began when an Israeli undercover force entered a border area.

                                                                  Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters fired at the group with machine guns, mortars and homemeade bombs.

                                                                  Residents said that Israel responded by sending dozens of tanks to the area as aircraft provided cover.

                                                                  "There were also exchanges of fire, but none of our people were hit," the Israeli military spokeswoman said.

                                                                  Medics said the five missile strikes had been launched before dawn.

                                                                  Truce rejection

                                                                  The raid came after Israel on Friday dismissed a conditional six-month truce proposed by Hamas, saying that it was a ruse to allow the Palestininan group to recover from losses after recent clashes with the Israeli military.

                                                                  Hamas offered to halt cross-border rocket attacks if Israel opened crossing points into the Gaza strip and ended military incursions.

                                                                  "Hamas is biding time in order to rearm and regroup. There would be no need for Israel's defensive actions if Hamas would cease and desist from committing terrorist attacks on Israelis," David Baker, Israeli government spokesman, said.

                                                                  "Israel will continue to act to protect its citizens," he told the Reuters news agency on Friday.

                                                                  The same day, thousands of supporters of Hamas protested in Gaza against Israel's refusal to accept the truce.

                                                                  There were protests in the north and south of the enclave near border crossings into Israel and Egypt.

                                                                  In Jabaliya, in northern Gaza, about 5,000 people waved Hamas flags and banners proclaiming "No to the siege".

                                                                  Yussef al-Shrafi, a Hamas official, told the crowd: "Hamas is working in a positive manner to end the siege and achieve a truce."

                                                                  Egypt plea

                                                                  In Rafah, about 1,000 people called for Egypt to open its border crossing, the only one that bypasses Israel.

                                                                  "We do not represent a threat to Egypt's security, but we ask our brothers to open Rafah and break the siege," said Abu al-Sibbah, a Hamas leader.

                                                                  Al Jazeera's David Chater, reporting from Gaza, said the protests were an attempt by Hamas to put pressure on Israel to lift its blockade.

                                                                  "In a way, Hamas is showing its power - it's moved thousands of people to two of the crossing points, one by Israel and one by Egypt," he said.

                                                                  "And I suppose, behind it is the threat that once against they will attempt to storm these crossing points if and when the Israelis decide they are not going to change their attitude and lift the suffocating siege of the Gaza Strip."

                                                                  Source: Agencies

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                                                                    The Media Falls for Fake News Once Again: Syrian Nukes: the Phantom Menace

                                                                    English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                    By JOHN W. FARLEY

                                                                    Last September 6, Israel bombed a Syrian building at Dair el Zor. In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, little was said in public, by either Israel or Syria, but later the Israelis started claiming that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor. On the radio today (April 25), I heard NPR's Tom Jelton repeat, as if it were undisputed fact, the US. government claim to have "proof" of a Syrian-North Korean nuclear connection. Now I see that AP writers Pamela Hess and Deb Reichmann have a story headlined "White House says Syria 'must come clean' about nuclear work," while ABC news has a video entitled "Syria's Nuclear Reactor".

                                                                    Are the wonderful mainstream media, who gave us Saddam's mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction, lying to us again? The answer is yes.

                                                                    [More:]

                                                                    Last fall, journalist Laura Rozen spoke with Joseph Cirincione, director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress. Cirincione says
                                                                    "In attacking Dair el Zor in Syria on Sept. 6, the Israeli air force wasn’t targeting a nuclear site but rather one of the main arms depots in the country. Dair el Zor houses a huge underground base where the Syrian army stores the long and medium-range missiles it mostly buys from Iran and North Korea. The attack by the Israeli air force coincided with the arrival of a stock of parts for Syria’s 200 Scud B and 60 Scud C weapons."

                                                                    Cirincione says that there is a small Syrian nuclear research program, which has been around for 40 years and is going nowhere. "It is a basic research program built around a tiny 30 kilowatt reactor that produced a few isotopes and neutrons. It is nowhere near a program for nuclear weapons or nuclear fuel," he said. Over a dozen countries have helped Syria develop its nuclear program, including Belgium, Germany, Russia, China and even the United States, by way of training of scientists, he said.

                                                                    So what is really going on here? Cirincione told the BBC that "This appears to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted 'intelligence' to key reporters in order to promote a preexisting political agenda." The preexisting political agenda may be promoting a war with Syria and/or Iran, or torpedoing negotiations between the US and North Korea. Finally, Cirincione adds ominously "If this sounds like the run-up to the war with Iraq, then it should."

                                                                    A big salute to the intrepid Justin Raimundo of the Libertarian website www.antiwar.com, who had this all figured out last October 15. This column is much indebted to Raimundo and Rozen. For ABC, AP, Tom Jelton and National Pentagon Radio, it's just another day of journalistic infamy.

                                                                    John W. Farley writes from Henderson, Nevada.

                                                                    Counterpunch

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                                                                      Joint Chiefs Chairman Says U.S. Preparing Military Options Against Iran

                                                                      English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                      By Ann Scott Tyson

                                                                      Friday, April 25, 2008; 1:51 PM

                                                                      The nation's top military officer said today that the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government's "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq.

                                                                      Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a conflict with Iran would be "extremely stressing" but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.

                                                                      "It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," he said at a Pentagon news conference.

                                                                      [More:]

                                                                      Still, Mullen made clear that he prefers a diplomatic solution to the tensions with Iran and does not foresee any imminent military action. "I have no expectations that we're going to get into a conflict with Iran in the immediate future," he said.

                                                                      Mullen's statements and others by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently signal a new rhetorical onslaught by the Bush administration against Iran, amid what officials say is increased Iranian provision of weapons, training and financing to Iraqi groups that are attacking and killing Americans.

                                                                      In a speech Monday at West Point, Gates said Iran "is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons." He said a war with Iran would be "disastrous on a number of levels. But the military option must be kept on the table given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat."

                                                                      Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who was nominated this week to head all U.S. forces in the Middle East, is preparing a briefing soon to lay out detailed evidence of increased Iranian involvement in Iraq, Mullen said. The briefing will detail, for example, the discovery in Iraq of weapons that were very recently manufactured in Iran, he said.

                                                                      "The Iranian government pledged to halt such activities some months ago. It's plainly obvious they have not. Indeed, they seem to have gone the other way," Mullen said.

                                                                      He said recent unrest in the southern Iraqi city of Basra had highlighted a "level of involvement" by Iran that had not been understood by the U.S. military previously. "It became very, very visible in ways that we hadn't seen before," he said.

                                                                      But while Mullen and Gates have recently stated that Tehran must know of Iranian actions in Iraq, which they say are led by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mullen said he has "no smoking gun which could prove that the highest leadership [of Iran] is involved in this."

                                                                      In an incident early local time yesterday, a cargo ship contracted by the U.S. military fired "several bursts" of warning shots at two fast boats that approached in international waters off the Iranian coast, defense officials said today.

                                                                      The unidentified small boats approached the Westward Venture, a ship carrying U.S. military hardware, as it headed north through the central Persian Gulf at about 8 a.m. local time, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for the Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.

                                                                      The U.S. ship initiated bridge-to-bridge communications, and, after receiving no response, it fired a flare. The speed boats continued to approach, so the ship fired warning shots with a .50-caliber machine gun and M16 rifle. The boats then left the area, she said.

                                                                      "They fired several bursts, it went pretty quickly," Robertson said.

                                                                      Soon afterwards, an Iranian coast guard boat queried the Western Venture, Robertson said. It was unclear whether that was one of the small boats.

                                                                      "There have been some Iranian boats that have operated this way, and some unidentified boats," said Robertson, adding that the crew had no voice communication with the small boats.

                                                                      In January, five Iranian patrol boats sped toward a U.S. warship and dropped small, boxlike objects in the water, an incident that alarmed military officials and that President Bush called "a provocative act." The objects turned out to pose no threat to the USS Port Royal or two other U.S. vessels accompanying it.

                                                                      Washington POST

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                                                                        Remembering the past

                                                                        English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                        Azmi Bishara identifies the most urgent challenges facing any renewal of Arab nationalist thought

                                                                        It takes more than seminars and conferences to resurrect ways of thinking. Renovation is a process undertaken by individuals at the intersection between the needs imposed by the socio-historical process and the course of the history of ideas. One of the most pressing needs is for thinkers of the type that embraced the concept of the "Arab idea" and who made their mark in the first half of the 20th century. Conferences and seminars will not produce them, just as they will fail to produce any other kinds of innovative thinkers. Ultimately the task of renewal falls upon the individual who must engage in a creative intellectual process.

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        Since Arab national thought is not uniform we should not expect any renewal to be so. The factors that distinguish it from other trends of Arab thought are few, but they make all the difference. Even so, the difference is not sufficient to establish a distinct way of thought. Nationalism that is liberal democratic in outlook is a world away from nationalism that is fascistic. Nationalism is not a way of thought but the politicisation of an affiliation and it is as easy to imagine democratic bearers of the idea of politicising national affiliation as a platform for the realisation of sovereignty as it is to imagine fascist ones.

                                                                        A national movement that transforms itself from the collective awareness of a common cultural identity as the foundation for an imagined community to a pure ideology can only ever be totalitarian and meagre: it is totalitarian because it will strive to define all its stances on the basis of a single tenet, and meagre because it will do so on the basis of a limited set of shaky premises that offer few answers. To transform national affiliation into a sovereign democratic nation is a modern concept, as is fascism. The two, though, are antithetical.

                                                                        What are the distinguishing features of Arab national thought?

                                                                        First, it recognises the existence of an Arab national identity that has the right to sovereign national expression. Secondly, it holds that Arab national theory and the policies derived from it should be founded upon the higher collective interest of the whole, as opposed to only a part such as the sect, tribe or region.

                                                                        While these points might suffice to distinguish Arab national thought from the bodies of thought that do not recognise Arab national identity they do not offer a sufficient platform for running a country. They cannot define a position on democracy, civil rights or education or healthcare policies. This is why early Arab nationalists had such divergent views on what constituted the most urgent concerns of their countries.

                                                                        It is precisely for this reason that persons such as myself believe that democracy offers the best means for a nation to express its will, that the complementary side of sovereignty is the principle of equal citizenship and civil rights and that social rights, such as medical insurance, free education and labour rights are an integral part of nation-building. It is also for this reason that people of different outlooks and temperaments might translate the two distinguishing premises of Arab national thought into completely different outward expressions.

                                                                        It is because of the outward expressions -- the regimes and movements -- that Arab national thought has taken that there is a need for renovation. Arab national thought fossilises when its proponents are marginalised from the political and social process and when the thought itself becomes no more than an ideological prop for a ruling regime.

                                                                        The major obstacle to the fertility of political thought founded on the premise of the existence of an Arab national identity with the right to sovereign national expression resides in the practices of the proponents of the idea who exercise power in countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq. This obstacle impairs the idea itself -- the idea of a sovereign nation -- for it is because of their practices that unity cannot be achieved even between neighbours. Every instance of the scrambling for excuses not to unify only succeeded in miring Arab nationalist thought in scandal. The practices of Arab nationalists in power also proved an obstacle to renovation in Arab thought on democracy because their attitudes towards citizen rights, public supervision of power and civil liberties undermined the credibility of those other Arab nationalist thinkers who explored such issues.

                                                                        The second major obstacle to the development of Arab national thought is that Arab nationalists are marginalised in those societies in which they do not participate in government, at best confined to an opposition that vocalises its support for Arab unity and which rejects normalisation with Israel as opposed to constituting a dynamic opposition that offers a democratic alternative to the existing government of society. Arab nationalist thought cannot evolve outside attempts to rise to the challenges posed by the concrete concerns of the people, among which are social rights, civil rights, democracy and questions of identity.

                                                                        Attitudes and policies on such issues cannot be directly derived from the national idea itself because, in and of itself, the idea does not provide the answers to such questions. The task of finding answers falls upon the proponents of the idea, and the more the proponents of the idea produce answers to the people's pressing needs and concerns in the form of political platforms and policies the more they will contribute to the development of national thought. In other words, Arab national thought can only evolve within a practical environment. All attempts to derive positions from the abstract are in essence doctrinal and pave the way for totalitarianism.

                                                                        Developing Arab nationalist thought entails clarifying its position in favour of democracy and civil and social rights. It is a task that assumes a clearer and more constructive direction through practice. Practice in the context of social currents and political trends not only offers concrete answers but alleviates the utopianism of the answers provided by angry national revivalist theory, the other face of dogmatism, another fringe language remote from the actual lives of the people and the dynamism of political and social activity.

                                                                        Renewed Arab national thought will have to settle, through practice, the question of democratic citizenship as organic to the state (as opposed to organic to the affiliation). When it does it will find that the way to Arab unity is not through the imposition of theory from above but through the exercise of grassroots democracy, as was the case with the European Union. Also, through practice and involvement with the people Arab liberals, who have been so frustrated by their marginalisation from politics and society to the extent of airing admiration for Israeli democracy, will find themselves not only ready to condemn the Israeli version of democracy as a colonialist model but will also be capable of appreciating the achievements of Arab nationalists and not just their flaws and failures.

                                                                        When proponents of Arab national thought, democratically inclined and open-minded, deal directly with the needs of the people they will discover their own sources of strength. For example, they will discover that identity is not an airy theoretical concept but a pressing popular concern with tangible ramifications and that Arab identity, in contrast to sectarian and tribal identity, is one of the sources of the strength of the Arab national movement and its thought.

                                                                        National thought, as defined by the two primary premises mentioned above, is a modern mode of thought. A nation is an imagined community, but it is not imagined out of nothing. Its constituent elements exist and they include such ingredients as language, culture and a shared history (ethnicity, by contrast, is an imagined common origin or even common ancestry). Modernity is what furnishes the instruments, such as the press, channels of communication, and even the rise of the middle class, needed by a nationalist ideological drive to transform the constituent elements of an imagined community into a sovereign state.

                                                                        Arab nationalism is no less modern than other national movements. It is not to be confused with Arabism, which has existed for more than a thousand years. It is not based upon a concept of an imagined ethnicity founded upon a common ancestry. It embraced many non-Arabs (in the ethnic sense) at a time when Arabism was an urban movement made up of intellectuals, members of a rising middle class and officers in the Ottoman army and merchants. Arab national identity is not about blood or ethnic bonds, it is about an imagined community with the tools of language and modern communications to help it become a sovereign nation. The theoretical underpinnings of this quest are what make up Arab nationalist ideology.

                                                                        This type of theorising was common in countries with delayed capitalist development, in which an advanced capitalist economy was not around to unify the market and the state in a natural way, and in which absolutist monarchies also failed to perform this task. As a result we have nationalist ideologies that arose on the ruins of crumbled empires, as opposed to evolving in tandem with the evolution from an absolute monarchy to a nation state. Take, for example, the cases of Turkish and then Arab nationalism which emerged from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, or the case of the nationalist ideologies that arose on the ruins of the Hapsburg Empire, or those that are still in the process of coalescing following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

                                                                        The more recent such nationalist expressions the more adamantly they feel they must justify themselves. However, not every national ideology is justifiable and there is no reason why the democratic nationalist should not look favourably upon the alternative of living in a multinational democratic country. Yugoslavia, for example, could have become such a multinational democratic state instead of a series of bloodbaths and ethnic cleansings on the way to the establishment of several separate "democratic states". National purity as grounds for secession and as a condition for establishing an ostensibly democratic state is an almost certain road to massacres, ethnic transfer and the spread of totalitarian ideology.

                                                                        When we speak of citizenship in Arab national thought we must recall that just as Arab nationalism is an imagined community seeking sovereign expression, there are non-Arab groups living in Arab countries. Not only must we recognise that the individual members of these groups should be endowed with full rights of citizenship but also we must recognise the collective rights of groups that continue to define themselves as non-Arab and that seek to express their national identity.

                                                                        These are some of the challenges that the renewal of Arab national thought must meet. But they cannot be met without engaging innovatively and practically in the attempt to address the problems and concerns of the people. Nor can they be met without summoning the humility needed to treat with critical respect the intellectual and practical heritage bequeathed by earlier generations of Arab nationalists.

                                                                        Al Ahram

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                                                                          Can Bush attack again?

                                                                          English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                          Though the balance of reason weighs against the US waging war on Iran, since when has the Bush administration appeared reasonable, asks Galal Nassar

                                                                          At a time of ongoing talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), of diplomatic efforts by a group of UN Security Council members to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, and coordination between Washington and Tehran over Iraq to the extent of forming joint security committees, a dangerous current is pushing in the polar opposite direction and gaining momentum. There is a growing frequency of leaks, innuendoes, outright threats and other signs that point to an immanent military attack by the US or Israel or both against Iran.

                                                                          [More:]

                                                                          Is a fourth war really slated for the Gulf or is it all part of an orchestrated pressure to compel Iran to capitulate to Western demands to halt its nuclear development programme? This article takes an in-depth look at the harbingers of war and the obstacles to war, obstacles that may ultimately gain the upper hand if reports that secret negotiations have been ongoing between Washington and Tehran for five years are anything to go by.

                                                                          THE RISE OF THE MILITARY OPTION AGAINST IRAN: The US and Israel have been pounding the alarm bell over Iran's nuclear programme in the hope of rallying the international community against Iran. Intelligence, they say, shows that Tehran is trying to develop the technology necessary to produce nuclear arms and may soon possess it. They point to Iranian statements regarding Israel's presence in the region to suggest that a nuclear Iran would not only imperil Israel but regional and international peace and stability. They have been beating the war drum in order to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear programme.

                                                                          US military posture against Iran dates to President Bush's state of the union address of 29 January 2002, in which he tagged Iran as a corner in the "Axis of Evil" and charged that Iran was a sponsor of terrorism, an allegation founded upon specious CIA evidence that Iran had given shelter to Taliban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar and Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. Two years later, the Bush administration took the campaign a notch higher. In a speech to the Senate on 28 April 2004, the US assistant secretary of state claimed that Iran was involved in dangerous activities that threatened regional stability and that this could have adverse repercussions on US and international security. He vowed that his government would take all necessary steps to protect American interests. He went on to enumerate the possible alternatives, which included military action against Iran.

                                                                          Foremost among the "dangerous activities" Iran was allegedly involved in was the development of its nuclear energy programme, which Washington regards as the greatest threat to efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In the case of Iran, Washington does not discriminate between nuclear energy for peaceful or for military purposes. It maintains that Iran is simply bent on acquiring the technology to produce the full nuclear cycle and, hence, the capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium. Not only would this trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, Washington insists, but it would also pose a direct threat to the US, because once in the hands of a "renegade state" such as Iran the likelihood would be high that it would supply nuclear arms to terrorists. US officials take Iran's refusal to submit to UN resolutions 1737 and 1747 calling upon it to halt its uranium refinement activities as proof of its malevolent intentions.

                                                                          Thus Iran, which has been the object of American anger since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and which has grown ever more irksome since the invasion of Iraq, has come under Washington's military crosshairs. In The New Yorker of April 2007, the eminent journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that he had learnt from intelligence sources that the Bush administration had already begun to draw up war plans. He added that he believed that the play the US administration was giving to Iran's activities in Iraq was intended to prep US public opinion for a military offensive against Iran. More recently, France's foreign minister echoed the tenor of American rhetoric and cautioned public opinion to gird itself for the worst from the Iranian nuclear crisis. When called on to explain this statement he denied that he had actually called for war, but affirmed that war would be the last resort if sanctions failed to persuade Tehran to suspend its nuclear programme.

                                                                          According to informed military sources, top officials in US Central Command in Florida have long since identified strike targets in Iran, which include the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and similar facilities in Esfahan, Arak and Bushehr. The sources add that the US will use long-range Phantom B-2 missiles and silo-busting bombs dropped from mammoth B-52s in an attempt to destroy reactors built some 25 metres underground. B-52s can fly at altitudes well out of reach of even the latest defence missile batteries.

                                                                          ISRAEL'S STAKES IN WAR: Signs of Israel's intentions against Iran emerged in August 2003 when Israeli press reports revealed that Mossad -- Israel's primary security intelligence agency -- had received instructions to study means of delivering military strikes to more than six nuclear sites in Iran. A team from Israeli national intelligence accordingly produced a report containing numerous scenarios for coordinated aerial strikes (using F-16 missile carriers) against the targets. The team felt that although logistical support requirements presented major problems, these problems could be overcome.

                                                                          Ironically, the Israeli threat to Iran shed unprecedented light on Israel's own considerable nuclear capabilities. According to an investigative report in one of Israel's top newspapers, Israel could deliver nuclear strikes against all its targets in Iran and destroy them all in one go. Tel Aviv's choice of that time to depart from its customary policy of nuclear ambiguity, offering a peek beneath the shroud of secrecy with which it normally veils its nuclear arsenal, was designed to deliver an explicit message to all Arab or Islamic countries that might get it in their heads to possess nuclear weapons. The article added that some Israeli military sources stated that Israel's nuclear weapons could reach some 15 major cities at considerable distances away from Israel inside the Arab and Islamic world.

                                                                          Iran was clearly intended as the main recipient of this message. Like officials in the Bush administration, Israeli officials believe that Iran is on the threshold of possessing nuclear military capacity. On 29 September 2004, the Israeli defence minister stated that, "Israel must get ready to deal with the Iranian threat." Earlier that year, on 18 July, the British Sunday Times announced that Israel was contemplating a pre- emptive strike against the Bushehr nuclear facility, for which purposes it would use Turkish airspace. On 12 March 2005, the same newspaper reported that Israel had drawn up plans for an aerial assault against Iranian nuclear targets to be put into effect in the event that diplomatic means failed to persuade Tehran to shut down the facilities. The report added that the plans featured detailed diagrams of the phases of attack and it quoted then vice- president Shimon Peres as saying, "The world must take action against the Iranian nuclear option."

                                                                          Israel was not pleased when Bush announced, in advance of his European tour in February 2005, that speculations regarding an immanent military strike against Iran were based on unfounded rumours. Israeli officials voiced their concern over this change in Washington's tone towards Iran, which they feared was conveying the wrong message. The Israeli foreign minister proclaimed, "An Iranian nuclear bomb would be a nightmare for Israel," with the Israeli chief of intelligence reported to have said, "If we don't act now, Iran will have the ability to produce enriched uranium in six months, which will enable it to produce its first nuclear bomb by 2008," and the commander of the Israeli air force was quoted as saying, "Israel must be prepared to strike Iran's nuclear facilities." In addition, Mossad asked for an increase in its budgetary allocations so that it could intensify its covert monitoring of the Iranian nuclear programme.

                                                                          By 2007, Israeli plans were even more concrete. In January, the Sunday Times reported that Israel was conducting long-range training exercises and that if it did strike Iran it would use atomic bombs to penetrate Iranian underground bunkers. The newspaper added that the air force would use conventional laser-guided missiles to open breaches into which airplanes would then drop tactical atomic bombs, supposedly one-15th the power of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

                                                                          French military sources confirm the existence of secret Israeli plans to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities using nuclear weapons. They add that following strategic talks between Israeli and US officials in Washington on the Iranian nuclear threat, the Israeli and US air forces conducted joint training missions fine-tuned to the crisis in the Negev and in Gibraltar.

                                                                          SCENARIOS FOR GULF WAR IV: Many military and strategic reports discuss a blueprint for a run-up phase to military action against Iran. US strategic planners are especially keen to neutralise pro-Iranian militias and organisations elsewhere in the region, such as the Shia Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade in Iraq, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine. As a first step towards severing the connections between Iran and the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Lebanese Hizbullah, Washington will hone in on Hizbullah; it has already given the CIA the green light to put into effect a covert operation to assist the Lebanese government in undermining the Islamist resistance organisation and dismantling its militia. In tandem, Washington is campaigning to form a coalition of "moderate" Arab states against Iranian influence in the Arab world. In the meantime, the US has intensified its military presence in the vicinity. More mammoth aircraft carriers are roaming the Gulf, equipped with early-warning radar systems, short- range defensive shields -- consisting of Ram land-air missiles and the latest anti-cruise missile defence to intercept any possible Iranian assault.

                                                                          Reports predict that the US offensive against Iran will rely primarily on fighter planes from aircraft carriers and combat ships based in the Gulf. They also note that General John Abizaid was replaced by Admiral William Fallon as commander of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the region, perhaps with this in mind. The replacement took place several weeks before General Abizaid was due to retire because of publicised differences with the Bush administration over the magnitude of the threat of a nuclear Iran and the military option. That Fallon would also step down in circumstances that suggest a difference of opinion on waging war on Iran underlined for many the seriousness of US administration rhetoric on Iran.

                                                                          One possible scenario for an American offensive was proposed by former US Air Force Commander Tom McKenzie. It identifies 1,000 Iranian locations to be attacked by 15 B-52 bombers taking off from the US and supported by 45 F-15s and F-16s based in the Gulf. The first wave of assault would be intended to take out Iranian long-range radars and strategic defence systems. This would be followed by successive waves of B- 52, F-15 and F-16 aerial assaults targeting Iranian nuclear installations, command-and-control centres, Revolutionary Guard bases, some of the headquarters of the Iranian leadership and other sensitive infrastructure. The thinking is that these attacks will encourage either a mass uprising against the regime or a concerted revolt on the part of opposition groups inside the country. Supposedly the operation could be completed within the space of two days and set the Iranian nuclear programme back to zero for the next five years.

                                                                          A second scenario drafted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies envisions the deployment of between 150 and 200 cruise missiles launched from the Red Sea in conjunction with some 100 raids by B-52s and other aircraft. According to Anthony Cordesman, an expert at the centre, the offensive would have to rely on land bases in countries neighbouring Iran for organising and refuelling and re-equipping the aircraft for repeated waves of assault. He believes that an operation of this sort would succeed in destroying at least two out of Iran's three most valuable nuclear facilities.

                                                                          The Oxford Research Group, with the assistance of global security consultant Paul Rogers, came up with a third scenario. The group operated on the premise that a military operation against Iranian nuclear facilities needed to accomplish two primary objectives: first, to bury the Iranian nuclear dream forever; and second to show that the US is ready to take pre-emptive military action on this matter. Accordingly, the scenario envisions an intensive assault, relying on the element of surprise, to destroy Iran's primary nuclear infrastructure and air defence systems. It would use primarily air and naval power, in the form of hundreds of formations supported by missile fire and reconnaissance flights to take out Iranian defence systems. Some are of the opinion that such a scenario could forestall a protracted war. They argue that a short, intensive and powerful surgical operation against Iranian nuclear facilities would convince the Iranian regime to acknowledge defeat without great resistance or responses that would severely damage US military capacities in the region. Some add that US planners are particularly attracted to the idea of using tactical atomic bombs to accomplish a rapid victory and that this option makes sense in terms of the way US forces are deployed in the area.

                                                                          Other Western research centres have drawn up scenarios of likely Iranian responses to a military assault. Most believe that these would not exceed closing the Straits of Hormuz, rallying its allies in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to subject Israel to a concerted barrage of missile bombardment, and mobilising its operatives to attack US and Israel embassies around the world.

                                                                          WHAT CHANCE DIPLOMACY? Despite all the publicity given to leaks, conjecture and projected scenarios, the US administration still sticks to the claim that it intends to stick to resolve the crisis with Iran by diplomatic means. The last affirmation of this was when US Secretary of Defense Gates announced that Washington had no intention of attacking Iran. Are all those threats and innuendoes, then, no more than smoke? Is it all just psychological warfare, or is the intent to goad Tehran into escalatory actions that would create openings for an American offensive?

                                                                          Certainly events on the ground suggest the latter. The US military build-up in the region, the provocative tone and behaviour of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Israeli allegations of an Iranian threat to Israel, US charges against the actions of Iranian forces in Iraq, plus the need to sideline the influence of Iran and its allies in order to push through a formula for a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, all seem to tip the probabilities in favour of war. However, there remains a strong likelihood that although this is precisely the impression Washington is trying to convey, it is, in fact, no more than a façade for another strategy.

                                                                          Amidst the din of the war drums several questions arise. Why see the glass as half empty? Why rule out the possibility of a repetition of US experience with North Korea, which Washington had identified as another corner in the "Axis of Evil," and yet which Washington eventually decided it could live with even after it had crossed the nuclear threshold? Nor should we exclude from our calculations the US quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, tensions between the now Democratically- controlled Congress and the Bush administration, the positions and opinions of other international powers, and Iran's ability to deploy its effective military, strategic and economic assets. Surely these and other considerations weigh in against another US military adventure.

                                                                          Unfortunately, three recent developments seem to tip the scales in the opposite direction and lead one to affirm that war with Iran is at hand: first, the split of Moqtada Al-Sadr's faction from the Iraqi parliamentary coalition and recent clashes with Iraq forces supported by US-British occupation forces (this faction has sufficient popular and military leverage to form part of an Iranian response in the event of a military strike against it); second, the fact that Israel now seems reluctant to go ahead with a major incursion into Gaza despite the resources and training it has already invested in this option; third, ongoing negotiations between the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian Authority president over a binding agreement. The subtext in these negotiations is that whatever binding agreement is produced it is going to be based on the outcome of a military strike against Iran.

                                                                          MOMENTUM TOWARDS WAR: Several other developments support this tipping of the scales. French President Nicolas Sarkozy's succession, following British prime minister Tony Blair, as Washington's closest European ally marks a radical departure from his predecessors. Sarkozy has positioned himself fully behind US policies in the Middle East, so much so that during a meeting with France's ambassadors to 188 nations in October 2007 he informed them that Iran would be bombed if it did not renounce its nuclear ambitions. France, he said, regarded the possession of nuclear weapons as a red line that Iran had best not cross. The message was subsequently reiterated by Sarkozy's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who cautioned that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, the whole world would be in danger.

                                                                          Second, note the about-face Bush made towards the Nuri Al-Maliki government. Whereas the US president had formerly expressed disappointment in that government and hinted that he wanted to remove it from power, he suddenly gave it a public vote of confidence. Translated, this means that the Bush administration does not feel that it has enough time to arrange things exactly to its liking in Iraq before a military operation against Iran, so it decided to accept the current situation and avoid a constitutional crisis in Iraq and other headaches.

                                                                          Third, the British withdrawal of its forces from Basra and the handing over of security in southern Iraq to Iraqi security forces reflects two British predictions for the future. On the one hand, that the defeat of US-led coalition forces is a foregone conclusion; on the other, that a US military strike against Iran is in the near offing and that Britain wants its own forces well out of range of what would be one of the immediate targets of an Iranian retaliation. Basra is only a stone's throw away from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, if it is not already under their de facto control.

                                                                          Fourth, the US's branding of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation, setting the stage for sanctions against the Iranian leadership, is another step towards war. In addition, the Bush administration has upped the tenor of its invective against Tehran, levelling against it a lengthy list of accusations including intervening in Iraqi domestic affairs, inflaming sectarian violence, undermining security efforts, supplying Shia militias with arms and explosives, supporting such "terrorist groups" as Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, seeking nuclear weapons technology and working to undermine the Arab-Israeli peace process. As though to back these threats, the US deployed the latest generation of Patriot missiles abroad for the first time since their production, with Israel receiving considerable quantities of them. Also, the USS Stennis aircraft carrier and its attendant fleet recently left its customary patrolling grounds in the Pacific to join the USS Eisenhower in the Gulf. Other naval vessels of various types and functions have also headed to the Gulf. In addition, there is the 21,500 troops increase in Iraq following the suspension of the planned force reductions that had been scheduled for July 2008. The troops, which may yet be increased, could be redeployed to meet a possible Iranian land incursion into Iraq in the event of an eruption of hostilities.

                                                                          Fifth, the US president's frequently reasserted personal conviction regarding Iran's alleged determination to obtain nuclear weapons. In a press conference in October 2007, he said, "I am telling world leaders that if you want to avoid World War III it seems to me that you have to stop the Iranians from getting the know-how to make a nuclear weapon." Also in October 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres echoed this belief. Ahmadinejad, he said, was following in the footsteps of Hitler and Stalin, which was why the international community should move quickly against Iran's nuclear designs. He added, "Even if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin says he is not convinced that Iran is conducting nuclear development for the purpose of war, everyone knows their true intentions, and many intelligence agencies throughout the world have proof that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons for the purpose of war and death."

                                                                          Sixth, as additional proof of the inevitability of war on Iran some cite the theory that this would be only the latest episode in a series of US wars in the Middle East that began in the 1950s and identified a new enemy per decade: Abdel-Nasser and Arab nationalism (beginning in the late 1950s), Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (beginning in the late 1960s), the Iranian Revolution (in the late 1970s), Iraq by the end of the following decade, to be joined by Al-Qaeda and then Tehran again in the first decade of the new millennium. At every new turn, it is charged that the enemy of the moment threatens regional and/or international security, and in coordination with Israel the US has always moved onto the offensive, striking the Nasserist project in 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1982, Bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2001, and Saddam's Iraq in 2003. Only one of the five enemies is left: Khomeini's Iran (now headed by Ahmadinejad) and its Syrian retainer.

                                                                          Seventh, there are strong indications of a heavy covert US presence in Iran. Iranian officials have accused the US of engineering a new wave of subversion in the country, using Pakistan as a staging point, with the purpose of destabilising the Iranian regime. In February 2008, Zahedan was the scene of a massive explosion that killed or injured dozens of Iranian Revolutionary Guard members. Iranian fingers pointed to Washington and charged that CIA operatives were increasingly active in the country, especially in the region of Baluchestan adjacent to the Pakistani and Afghan borders. These suspicions are not unfounded. We recall that Bush asked Congress for a $75 million allocation for the purpose of promoting democratic change in Iran and supporting Iranian opposition groups. The problem the US is encountering, in this regard, is that apart from the Kurds, Iran has no minorities that are interested in secession.

                                                                          Eighth, on the more overt side, the US has engaged in various high- profile displays of muscle in which thousands of US and Israeli troops engaged in joint exercises to test new ways of intercepting missiles carrying nuclear, chemical or biological warheads. In addition, Israel recently carried out the largest training manoeuvre in its history. On 20 March 2008, diverse military formations staged simulated conventional and non-conventional assaults on various Iranian targets. Citing US and Israeli sources, Haaretz reported that the purpose of that manoeuvre was to test and train in ways to confront Syrian or Iranian long-range missile reprisals in the event of a US or Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear facilities. Earlier, on 30 and 31 October 2007, the US staged naval manoeuvres in which 24 countries took part. The purpose was to train in the interception of ships transporting weapons of mass destruction and related materiel. Iran naturally believed itself the target of these manoeuvres, especially in view of an ever-larger display of US naval muscle in the Gulf. The largest manoeuvre since the US invasion of Iraq, it involved two aircraft carriers, support vessels and 100 fighter planes in scenarios based on hypothetical assaults on ships and submarines, and searches for mines off the Iranian coast.

                                                                          OBSTACLES TO US-ISRAELI PLANS: The US-Israeli path to war is not free of potholes and obstructions. For one, Iran has military capacities large enough to cause significant losses were hostilities to break out. The London International Institute for Strategic Studies report on the balance of powers in 2006 offers tangible information in this regard. Iran produces some 2,000 types of defensive arms, from ammunition to airplanes, and from missile launching systems to satellites. It exports military equipment to more than 30 countries, among which are seven European ones.

                                                                          According to the report, under the Shah, US companies constructed assembly plants in Iran for helicopters, planes, guided missiles, tanks and electronic components. This military industrial base was expanded during the Iraq-Iran war, enabling Iran to accumulate an arsenal of missiles with ranges from 45 to 2,000 kilometres. It also has 19 aerospace centres employing more than 100,000 engineers. The military complex in Loristan, for example, is capable of producing 80,000 tires for airplanes of different models, which ranks Iran as the first nation in the Middle East and seventh in the world in this technology. In addition, Iran possesses the third largest helicopter fleet in the world, a large number of pilot- less aircraft used for reconnaissance and fighting missions, an arsenal of anti-ship missiles, submarines and high-speed and easily manoeuvrable missile carrying vessels, all produced and/or serviced by its military-industrial infrastructure.

                                                                          Certain domestic factors enhance Iran's ability to militarily and politically weather an attack. Above all, the majority of the Iranian people feel a deep sense of loyalty to their government, even if they do not always agree with it. Therefore, even if an offensive succeeds militarily, the chances of it succeeding in accomplishing its political objective, which is to topple the regime, are low. Certainly secessionist uprisings are unlikely. Ahvaz is regarded as one of the most sensitive areas because of the some eight million Arabic speakers in the district who contend that the "Persians" occupy this originally Arab land to the north of the Gulf. Saddam's attempt to annex this area in 1980 touched off the eight-year long Iraq-Iran war. But even supposing that that "Arabistan", as some call it, made a bid to rebel, the revolt would be quickly crushed by Tehran that would not tolerate being cut off from an area that contains 90 per cent of its oil resources. As for the left-wing Mujahidi Al-Khalq, it would pose no real threat in view of its limited influence. The same applies to the PJAK (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan), the most militant Iranian Kurdish group which is being armed by the CIA and that is pushing for national autonomy for Iran's approximately four million Kurds.

                                                                          A second problem is the lack of sufficiently detailed information, a point made by the US secretary of state in interview with Haaretz, in which she admitted that she had informed European officials with whom she had met recently that her government still lacked vital intelligence on Iranian nuclear facilities. She went on to list three reasons that worked against a US military operation against Iran: her government's desire to settle the matter peacefully; its anxiety over the efficacy of a strike in obtaining its objectives; and its lack of sufficiently accurate information on the intended targets.

                                                                          What Rice did not mention was that US forces are too widely dispersed, and already overtaxed, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The point was brought up, however, by the chief- of-staff of the US land forces in an annual conference of these forces. The US army is suffering from a lack of equilibrium after six years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, adding that it would take four years for the army to return to normal after the nerve-racking pace of operations in Iraq. As an official in charge of troop morale in Iraq put it, "Our army is tired. We're keeping troops in the field who are reaching their breaking point."

                                                                          LUKEWARM SUPPORT ELSEWHERE: In addition, the US is having a very difficult time finding support for a strike among its allies. In October 2007, the Italian deputy prime minister and foreign minister announced that in its meeting in Luxembourg in October 2007, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers adopted a balanced approach towards Iran, relying on negotiations, sanctions and cooperation with the IAEA. Geographically closer to Iran, the Caspian Sea countries (Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan) announced during a summit held in Tehran on 16 October 2007 that they would not under any circumstances allow their territories to be used as platforms for any military action against any member of their forum.

                                                                          Equally frustrating to US planners and policymakers is the unpredictability of the Iranian and regional response. Iran is capable of retaliating on its own, in the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel. With the help of its allies it can compound the impact of its retaliation on all these fronts. It is perhaps sufficient here to recall that untold numbers of Iranians had poured into and began living in Iraq since security on Iraq's borders broke down. The penetration of what a former Iraqi diplomat called the "second occupation" into Iraq is not restricted to the predominantly Shia area in the south, but also extends to Mosul in the north. Iran thus has the ability to prey on US forces in Iraq without having to mobilise large forces from within its own territory. The same could apply to other areas. On top of this is Iran's ability to cut off the flow of oil through the Gulf and the consequent international economic impact of this and other possible measures.

                                                                          Military experts in the US also know that, as it plays out on the ground, the concept of a surgical strike is an adolescent fantasy. It is not air forces that ultimately determine the outcome of battles, but rather land forces. In a theatre the size of Iran, in particular, the US would never have enough land forces. In addition, there is the fear that an attack might provoke Iran into accelerating its drive to obtain a nuclear weapon, which would be precisely the opposite result that the US is ostensibly looking for.

                                                                          The US and its allies in the Gulf also have to take environmental factors into account. Striking active nuclear installations could release large quantities of radioactive contaminants and create a regional Chernobyl. The widespread air and water pollution caused by Iraq's deliberate ignition of Kuwait oil wells during the second Gulf War (1990-1991) is still fresh in people's minds.

                                                                          Finally, a pre-emptive strike against Iran on the grounds of self- defence will not square with international law. The UN Charter may sanction recourse to pre-emptive force in the case of an immanent threat, but this is clearly not the case with Iran. Even in this fast- paced age when wars are fought at the press of a button, enriching uranium, per se, is far from a hostile act and unsubstantiated suspicions that this uranium is being enriched for military purposes are not sufficient grounds to invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter.

                                                                          FALSE FLAGS AND DISSIMULATIONS: Perhaps it is for all or some of the foregoing reasons that, at the height of the US propaganda campaign against Iran and in the midst of predictions that a military offensive is at hand, a Pentagon spokesman announced that the US is not planning to go to war against Iran and that rumours to the contrary were groundless. Simultaneously, President Bush reaffirmed his resolve to resolve the Iranian crisis through diplomatic means and his secretary of state reiterated that message on Fox News Television, adding that the Iranian threat in Iraq can be handled without crossing international borders into Iran.

                                                                          We are thus faced with two antithetical opinions that have us oscillating between certainty and doubt. On the one hand, various developments coupled with well-timed leaks and strategic analyses put us in mind of the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq. But it is difficult to determine how far the resemblance goes, for Iran differs from Iraq in many political, geographical, economic and strategic/military aspects. In addition, the Iranian regime has been a much cleverer and cool-headed player against the US than its erstwhile Iraqi counterpart. Indeed, Tehran has proved the wiliest adversary the US has encountered since World War II. In addition, circumstances are entirely different today to those that had prevailed in the lead-up to the war on Iraq. The climate of international opinion is not the same, US forces are mired in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the adversary this time is not one whose resources have been sapped by war and followed by a decade of sanctions. Other domestic, regional and international factors must also weigh heavily on Washington's decision as to whether or not to go to war, all the more so in view of the heavy stakes at risk if it can't guarantee the outcome.

                                                                          Indeed, the differences between the present situation and the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq are so different that it is almost possible to foresee a deal resulting from direct negotiations on all outstanding issues. Of course, any qualitative breakthrough towards a breakthrough is contingent upon the willingness of both sides to back down from their brinkmanship and compromise. If that condition can come about, then it is possible to envision, for example, Iran's acceptance of a renewed Russian offer to perform its uranium enrichment processes outside Iran under strict controls that allay the fears of the international community that uranium enrichment is being used for military purposes. Then, in exchange, the US and the West in general would recognise Iran as a regional power and its right to defend and promote that position. Undoubtedly, too, there are aspects of the resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis that could be brought to bear.

                                                                          However, it is difficult to perceive the US and Israeli governments accepting such a compromise, as both fear the transformation of a "hot crisis" into a protracted cold war in the course of which Iran could come into possession of nuclear weapons capacity. A nuclear Iran would obviously tie the US's hands in the pursuit of its project in the region and weaken Israel's strategic value and its negotiating position in peace talks.

                                                                          A number of other factors work against the spirit of compromise and normalisation. Among these are the staunch ideological tenors of both the American and Iranian regimes, the historic animosity between the two, and the ongoing efforts of the pro-Israeli lobby to push the US into a war against Iran.

                                                                          DANGEROUS ECHOES: That said, since the Iranian agreement with the IAEA in July 2007 over inspections of its nuclear facilities the most dangerous threat to a peaceful solution resides in intelligence errors and strategic miscalculations on the part of both sides. US military leaders, for example, might reach the conclusion that they could destroy Tehran's military capacities, which would give impetus to the position of American hawks that a military solution leading to regime change is the only way to deal with the Iranian crisis. The Iranians, meanwhile, might be too complacent in their belief that the US is mired and on the verge of defeat in Iraq and that it could not summon the will or ability to wage another war. The current administration in the US is not one to shrink from considerable risk, not to say recklessness.

                                                                          In sum, while US-Israeli threats should not be underestimated, the situation as it stands seems to favour the protraction of a state of no-war, no-peace. Overall, the factors against war seem to outweigh the factors propelling towards war. But since when has logic had the upper hand in determining the behaviour of the Bush administration? It is perhaps again the unknown quantity of Bush and his neo-con allies that, above all, feeds the spectre of Gulf War IV.

                                                                          Al Ahram

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                                                                            The "masquerade of peace talks" hides deepening crisis

                                                                            English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                            Economic conditions in the West Bank as well as Gaza are deteriorating, leaving many incensed at the masquerade of peace talks, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

                                                                            As 1.5 million Gazans are crying out to the world to pressure Israel to lift its scandalously callous blockade of the coastal territory, another 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank are struggling to cope with an unprecedented economic crisis that is further impoverishing and exhausting them.

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            The crisis, the harshest in recent memory, stems from a host of local and global factors, including soaring food and energy prices, sagging currency value, rampant joblessness and draconian Israeli restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services.

                                                                            Further exacerbating these conditions is a devastating drought, unseen for decades, and which has nearly destroyed this year's grain crops upon which many Palestinian families depend for their livelihood. And the drought is not just affecting farmers. Coupled with a phenomenal rise in temperatures, it is also expected to cause a serious water shortage crisis in most localities, especially in the summer months.

                                                                            Some Palestinians are already at loss as to how they will be able to cope with the steep rise in basic commodities.

                                                                            Take flour, for example -- a staple for most Palestinian families. Last year, a sack of wheat flour weighing 50 kilogrammes cost 70 Israeli Shekels, or $20. Today, the same amount costs 210 Israeli Shekels or $65. Prices of other basic consumer products, such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, meat, including poultry, vegetables and fruits have likewise skyrocketed, making them nearly unaffordable for many Palestinian families. This week, a kilo of medium-quality tomatoes was sold in the Hebron region for 10 Israeli Shekels or $3.

                                                                            Further, the price of electricity and cooking gas have become a real burden for the poorer segments of society, with many families unable to pay their accumulating utility bills, some resorting to burning wood for cooking. Added to that is the freefall in the value of the Jordanian Dinar, the main currency of Palestinian savings. The Dinar has lost a fourth of its value against the Israeli Shekel.

                                                                            The Palestinian Authority (PA), which depends to a large extent on handouts from the West and oil-rich Arab countries, has failed to deal with the evolving crisis.

                                                                            Last week, the Federation of Palestinian Labour Unions, launched a "warning strike" to protest against the high cost of living as well as the government's refusal to pay the accumulating salaries of thousands of school teachers and other civil servants appointed in 2006 following Hamas's electoral victory.

                                                                            Initially, the government of Salam Fayyad rattled sabres in the face of the striking civil servants, vowing to prosecute and punish strikers. The government eventually backed down, however, promising to resolve "all issues" in a friendly manner and through dialogue.

                                                                            With PA-Israeli peace talks going nowhere, and with Israel continuing to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank, effectively annulling any remaining prospect for a viable Palestinian state, the next few months are predicted to be crucial in terms of how the Palestinians will elect to manage their national ordeal.

                                                                            Al-Ahram Weekly asked Palestinian economist Hazem Kawasmi how he thought the Palestinian masses would cope with the present economic crunch. Kawasmi said he foresaw an "unprecedented" and "historic deterioration" in the Palestinian economy that would shake the political and economic system in Palestine and the region.

                                                                            As to the situation in the Gaza Strip, where there is economic meltdown resulting from the hermetic Israeli blockade, Kawasmi predicts an "explosion" in the coming few weeks or months. This explosion, he argued, would again be directed towards the Egyptian border, for the sake of getting food, medicine and all kinds of goods that don't exist today in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                            "One cannot expect people to live in hunger and in high rates of poverty and unemployment for a long time. There is no convincing justification why the Palestinian- Egyptian border at Rafah has not opened yet, even on temporary basis, leaving Gazan children, women and elderly people to die slowly and suffer on a daily basis," he said.

                                                                            The Palestinian people in Gaza, Kawasmi said, shouldn't continue to suffer until all political problems in the region are solved, adding that unless there is an immediate economic arrangement on Rafah that will facilitate the movement of goods and people across the border, the Gazan economy will soon collapse entirely.

                                                                            As to the West Bank, Kawasmi points out that Israel is taking steps to disengage itself economically from the West Bank. As soon as the so-called apartheid wall is completed, Kawasmi argues, "the basis for the new economic relationship will be, from an Israeli view point: 'We are here, and you are there, and we don't care.'"

                                                                            In this context, Palestinians are growing disillusioned with peace talks with Israel. According to a poll conducted in mid-April by the Jerusalem Centre for Information and Communication, the proportion of Palestinians supporting the two-state solution fell from 53 per cent in October 2007 to 47 per cent now. Similarly, those who voiced optimism about the possibility of reaching a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fell substantially from 44.9 per cent last year to 36 per cent now.

                                                                            According to the poll, Palestinians are voicing a variety of views as to the alternatives available to the current political deadlock, with more than 27 per cent advocating a third Intifada or uprising, and 37 per cent calling for dismantling and dissolving the PA. Nearly 13 per cent favoured a unilateral declaration of independence.

                                                                            To be sure, Palestinian frustration with the peace process is more than justified since that process has so far yielded no substantive outcome despite numerous talk sessions, highlighted meetings -- involving American, Israeli and Palestinian leaders -- as well as a number of peace conferences in the US and Europe.

                                                                            This week, Henry Siegman, director of the US/Middle East Project in New York, underscored the bankruptcy and disingenuousness of the peace process. "What is required of statesmen is not more peace conferences or clever adjustments to previous peace formulations but the moral and political courage to end their collaboration with the massive hoax the peace process has been turned into," he said.

                                                                            "Of course," he added, "Palestinian violence must be condemned and stopped, particularly when it targets civilians. But is it not utterly disingenuous to pretend that Israel's occupation -- maintained by Israel's army- manned checkpoint and barricades, helicopter gun-ships, jet fighters, targeted assassinations, and military incursions, not to speak of the massive theft of Palestinian lands -- is not an exercise in continuous and unrelenting violence against more than three million civilians? If Israel were to renounce violence, could the occupation last even one day?"

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                                                                              Uneasy balance

                                                                              English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                              With Israel gaining more respect, at least in military terms, for Hamas, the situation over Gaza appears ever more deadlocked, writes Saleh Al-Naami


                                                                              A Palestinian man flees the scene of an Israeli missile strike which killed a Palestinian Reuters cameraman and two other civilians in Gaza.

                                                                              General Yoav Galant, commander of the southern zone in the Israeli army, doubled his inspection tours of the positions manned by the elite Givati Brigade, now engaged in military operations against Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza. Israeli media say that the frequent visits by Galant to army sites are intended to boost the morale of the soldiers, who lost many of their comrades in recent operations by Ezzedine Al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas.

                                                                              [More:]

                                                                              Israeli military commanders, including General Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, admit that Hamas has become "creative" in its attacks since it stopped firing homemade rockets at nearby Israeli settlements. Israel's Infrastructure Minister General Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that the recent spate of attacks shows that the Israeli offensive of last March, in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, failed to discourage Hamas.

                                                                              Maariv commentator Ben Kasbit says that many Israeli commanders feel frustrated by the unusual resilience of Hamas. "What else can we do to stop them? We've nearly tried everything. We carried out targeted killings and abductions. We destroyed homes and businesses. We used economic pressures and collective punishment. Nothing is working," Kasbit cited one general as saying.

                                                                              Ron Ben-Yishayi, military analyst for Yediot Aharonot, noted that Hamas is pushing Israel into a corner. Israel can no longer use Hamas rocket attacks to justify attacking civilians in Gaza, he pointed out.

                                                                              The shift in Hamas military tactics may ultimately undermine the policies of the Olmert government in Gaza. When Hamas kills soldiers stationed near Gaza, the public is likely to be weary of an extensive ground operation against Gaza. The more soldiers die, the less supportive public opinion would be of a full-scale offensive, Ben-Yishai concluded.

                                                                              Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says that the shift in military tactics is allowing Hamas the chance to decide the time and place of battle. "We wanted to send a message to Israeli decision-makers that we will not die without fighting for our right to live in dignity," he told Al-Ahram Weekly. Barhoum promised Israel more "surprises" unless the siege is lifted and Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons are released. "We intend to abduct more soldiers so as to force Israel to release our detainees," he said.

                                                                              Barhoum described the recent attacks by Al-Qassam Brigades as a "warning shot". Hamas, he added, would force Israel to pay dearly for continuing the blockade. Its operations will continue until Israel gives up its "arrogance" and accepts the terms of the resistance, Barhoum promised. Israel only understands the language of force, Barhoum said, noting that although Mahmoud Abbas and Olmert held talks repeatedly, Israel has not removed its roadblocks from the West Bank.

                                                                              Palestinian analyst Nehad Al-Sheikh Khalil believes that the military wing of Hamas has shifted tactics from defence to attack. "Hamas wants the Israelis to know that its blockade of the Palestinians is unacceptable." Hamas is stepping up its attacks on Israeli targets to indicate that the "explosion" its leaders have promised is meant for Israel, not Egypt. In recent protests on the border with Egypt, Hamas told participants to hand out roses to Egyptian soldiers, Khalil noted.

                                                                              Israel's knee-jerk reaction would be to strike back and hard, but this would be problematic, Khalil said. The Israelis are divided in their views about Hamas. Some want the fight to continue until Hamas is eradicated. Others want Israel to start talking to Hamas. Still others think that Hamas can be isolated through consistent support given to President Abbas.

                                                                              Khalil said that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who came to the job because of his outstanding military experience, is now just as troubled as Olmert. With Israelis divided and the Palestinians left with nothing to lose, the future is grim, Khalil notes.

                                                                              Israel is likely to order more incursions into Gaza, as Barak recently hinted. But the defence minister is aware that Hamas cannot be neutralised through military action alone. In a radio interview Sunday, Barak said that Israel could not destroy Hamas and end its control of Gaza through military means. Barak warned against attempts to install friendly governments by force, alluding to Israel's experience in Lebanon.

                                                                              In 1982, Israel managed to expel the Palestine Liberation Organisation from Lebanon and put Bashir Al-Gemayel in power. The outcome was horrid, Barak said, referring to the rise of Hizbullah. US experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq is rather similar, Barak added. The defence minister pointed out that he was trying to convince his fellow ministers that it was "nearly impossible" to eradicate Hamas.

                                                                              For the moment, both Israel and Hamas are keeping their options open. Both are interested in a ceasefire and fearful of an all-out confrontation. But neither is willing to give way. Israel is not in a mood to lift the siege, and Hamas is not going down without a fight.

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                                                                                Last-ditch effort

                                                                                English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                Al Ahram

                                                                                Abbas looks to Bush to bring Israel to heel, marvels Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

                                                                                Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas met with President Bush in Washington Thursday in a desperate effort to save the American-backed peace process from the danger of collapse. Abbas is reportedly "gravely concerned " that the prospects of reaching a breakthrough in peace talks with Israel before the expiration of Bush's term in the White House are very slim.

                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                Palestinian sources in Ramallah told Al-Ahram Weekly that Abbas urged the Bush administration to exert "a real and meaningful pressure" on Israel in order to ensure the drafting of a final status agreement before the end of 2008. The PA leader asked Bush to push for a detailed draft agreement that would lead to a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

                                                                                Israel prefers to reach a "declaration of principles" that would lay out general guidelines for a final status solution with the Palestinians. But the PA is not interested in another vaguely-worded declaration (the Oslo Agreement was a declaration of principles) which would give Israel more time to "create facts" on the ground in the West Bank. "A declaration of principles would be meaningless in the absence of agreement on hardcore issues such as Jerusalem, the settlements and the refugees," said Abdullah Abdullah, a Fatah lawmaker and former director-general of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry. Abdullah said "another declaration of principles would be a waste of time because we already have one, the Oslo Accords. What we want and seek is a framework agreement covering all aspects of the conflict. We want to know for example when our prisoners will be freed from Israeli jails and detention camps."

                                                                                The Palestinian leader will also complain to Bush about Israel's failure to implement key clauses of the Quartet-sponsored roadmap for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Under the roadmap plan, Israel is committed to removing hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank as well as freeze Jewish settlement expansion.

                                                                                Palestinians and peace-watch groups in the occupied territories accuse Israel of reneging on these pledges. They argue that Israel has kept the vast bulk of its physical barriers in the West Bank and that only a few roadblocks of secondary significance have been removed. Israel has also embarked on a fresh spate of settlement expansion in the West Bank, especially in East Jerusalem. The PA repeatedly complained to Washington in this regard, but the Bush administration has failed or refuses to exert pressure on the Israeli government to halt settlement expansion on occupied Arab land.

                                                                                Israel and the PA have been holding intensive talks for more than a year, but without reaching a breakthrough, especially with regard to the final status issues. Abbas is under tremendous pressure from Palestinian public opinion to reach a dignified peace agreement or quit. "The Palestinian people can't continue to watch this game of make-believe for much longer. If Abbas thinks that a peace agreement with Israel is not possible, he should have the courage to tell the people the truth," said a Palestinian official. "The Palestinians are mentally exhausted by this peace process."

                                                                                Apart from mental exhaustion caused by protracted but futile talks with Israel, Abbas sees that his political career and credibility as PA president and Fatah leader will be seriously compromised if he fails to get Israel to agree to end its 41-year-old occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Azmi Shuebi, a former Palestinian cabinet minister, said, "I think that Abu Mazen [Abbas] will most likely resign if a peace agreement or at least a draft peace agreement is not reached by the end this year."

                                                                                Shuebi told the Weekly that Abbas was receiving "discouraging reports from Ahmed Qurei about numerous rounds of talks, some secret, he had been holding with his Israeli counterparts. "We know that they are very slow and making very little progress." Hamas has repeatedly criticised PA-Israeli talks as "lacking credibility" because of Israel's refusal to end its military occupation.

                                                                                Olmert is not in a position to take far-reaching steps towards a peace agreement with the PA, e.g., stopping settlement expansion, let alone dismantling existing settlements. The ultra- Orthodox Haredi party Shas, which represents religious Jews from the Middle East, has threatened to leave the Olmert government if "the subject of Jerusalem is discussed with the Palestinians". Shas has been behind recently-announced plans to build thousands of settler units in East Jerusalem. The fundamentalist party is vehemently opposed to ending the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem as well as allowing a significant number of Palestinian refugees to be repatriated back to their former villages and homes in what is now Israel.

                                                                                Some Israeli columnists, like Uri Avnery, believe the Olmert government is not really interested in reaching a genuine and lasting peace with the Palestinians and that the ongoing peace talks with the PA are only a show for the international community. Olmert and other Israeli leaders consider President Bush a "lame duck", relieving Israel of the need to make genuine moves towards peace with the Palestinians. Israel hopes that the American elections and the subsequent transition period, will give it time to create yet more facts on the ground in the West Bank, supposedly putting Israel in a more advantageous negotiating position.

                                                                                However, the PA is unlikely to accept being dragged yet again into a new and uncertain episode of open-ended talks with Israel which Palestinians realise would be just another exercise of futility.

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                                                                                  Zionist Israel prefers war, rejects Hamas truce offer

                                                                                  English (US)  April 25th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                  The blockade of the Gaza Strip has forced UN Works and Relief Agency to halt food aid deliveries [AFP]

                                                                                  Israel has dismissed a conditional six-month truce proposed by Hamas, saying that it was a ruse to allow the Palestininan group to recover from losses after recent clashes with the Israeli military.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  Hamas offered to halt cross-border rocket attacks if Israel opened crossing points into the Gaza strip and ended military incursions.

                                                                                  "Hamas is biding time in order to rearm and regroup. There would be no need for Israel's defensive actions if Hamas would cease and desist from committing terrorist attacks on Israelis," David Baker, Israeli government spokesman, said on Friday.

                                                                                  "Israel will continue to act to protect its citizens," he told the Reuters news agency.

                                                                                  West Bank extension

                                                                                  Mahmoud al-Zahar, the former Palestinian foreign minister, told reporters in Cairo on Thursday, said: "The movement agrees to a truce in the Gaza Strip ... fixed at six months, during which period Egypt will work to extend the truce to the West Bank."

                                                                                  He said other Palestinian factions, including Islamic Jihad and groups based in Damascus, had preliminarily approved the offer.

                                                                                  Al Jazeera's David Chater in Gaza said that the Egyptian mediators were due to officially present the ceasefire proposal to Israeli official next week.

                                                                                  "At the moment this does seem to be a very discouraging shot across Hamas's bows by Israel," he said.

                                                                                  "But there is no doubt that the Hamas Gaza-first proposal is a significant development and a breakthrough in terms of the fact they are willing to accept Gaza only for the the first few months of a ceasefire and then discuss ... developing it and extending it to the occupied West Bank."

                                                                                  Tacit agreement

                                                                                  However, an official close to Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, suggested that the two sides could still decide to hold their fire without a formal accord being agreed.

                                                                                  "We don't rule out a tacit agreement, on condition it is done in stages. In a first stage we demand all groups stop firing rockets. Israel would then be willing to reduce its operations if the calm continues," he told the AFP news agency.

                                                                                  Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has voiced cautious support for the truce initiative.

                                                                                  "We hope that this proposal is a serious one, and we hope it will be taken seriously by Israel," Nimer Hammad, an aide to Abbas, said.

                                                                                  Israel has besieged Gaza since fighters from Hamas's armed wing routed Palestinian Authority forces loyal to rival Fatah there in June.

                                                                                  Food aid suspension

                                                                                  Meanwhile, thousands of Gazans gathered at the Rafah and Erez crossings to protest against the Israeli blockade, which on Thursday forced the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) to suspend aid deliveries after lorries ran out of fuel.

                                                                                  The last shipment of fuel to Gaza by Israel - the sole distributor of it to the territory - came before Palestinian fighters attacked an Israeli fuel depot on April 9.

                                                                                  An emergency shipment of fuel for UNRWA lorries from within Gaza was reportedly intercepted on Thursday by angry strawberry farmers who needed the supplies for irrigation and refrigeration.

                                                                                  'Extremely unhelpful'

                                                                                  "The big picture is there is a peace process going on and this is extremely unhelpful," Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UNRWA, said.

                                                                                  "Hungry, angry people do not serve the interests of peace, neither do they serve Israel's security interests."

                                                                                  Israel has accused Hamas of stage-managing the crisis to encourage international condemnation of Israel.

                                                                                  "Unfortunately, we are witnessing once again Hamas attempts to create a crisis situation in the Gaza Strip, on the back of the civilian population," Colonel Nir Press, head of the Israeli office for liaison with Gaza, said.

                                                                                  Also on Friday, Israeli security forces were hunting for Palestinian fighters after two security guards were shot dead at an industrial complex near the West Bank.

                                                                                  Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                    Hamas proposes truce with Israel

                                                                                    English (US)  April 24th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                    The UN normally delivers food aid to about 860,000 of Gaza's 1.4 million population [AFP]

                                                                                    Hamas has proposed a six-month truce with Israel, aimed at easing a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                    At a meeting with Egyptian mediators in Cairo on Thursday the Palestinian group offered to cease cross-border rocket attacks if Israel opens crossing points into Gaza and ends military incursions into the Palestinian territory.

                                                                                    [More:]


                                                                                    Mahmoud al-Zahar, the former Palestinian foreign minister, speaking to reporters in the Egyptian capital on Thursday, said: "The movement agrees to a truce in the Gaza Strip ... fixed at six months, during which period Egypt will work to extend the truce to the West Bank."

                                                                                    Palestinian factions were to meet in Egypt next week to further discuss the Hamas plan.

                                                                                    Key points of the Hamas-proposed truce

                                                                                    The Palestinian group Hamas has proposed a truce between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, with an option to extend it to the West Bank.

                                                                                    The following is a summary of Hamas's offer, as revealed by Mahmoud al-Zahar, the former Palestinian foreign minister:

                                                                                    * The truce between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip would be for a period of six months, during which time Egypt would try to extend it to the West Bank.
                                                                                    * The truce must be reciprocal and simultaneous on the part of Israelis and Palestinians.
                                                                                    * Israel must lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and re-open all its crossing points, including the Rafah crossing point into Egypt.
                                                                                    * If Israel rejects the truce, Egypt will re-open the Rafah crossing point. If Israel reneges on its truce commitments, Egypt will keep the Rafah crossing open.
                                                                                    * Egypt will supervise the process of reaching a consensus on the terms of the truce with other Palestinian factions. Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, will invite whichever Palestinian factions Egypt sees fit to the country next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the Hamas proposals.
                                                                                    * Once the Palestinian factions have agreed to the terms of the truce, Suleiman will contact the Israeli side to ensure that they are committed to the truce and fix a starting time.
                                                                                    * Egypt has promised to start immediate contacts with the Israeli side to prepare the atmosphere for the truce and to provide basic needs to the Gaza Strip, especially fuel.
                                                                                    * Egypt will contact Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to make sure his rival Fatah faction does not obstruct the opening of the crossing points.
                                                                                    * Egypt must try to persuade Abbas to put an end to abuses and violations in the West Bank - a reference to Fatah's harassment of Hamas members there.
                                                                                    * If Israel does not meet its truce obligations by stoping attacks and ending the blockade, then the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves by all legitimate means.

                                                                                    Food aid suspension

                                                                                    The proposal came as the UN suspended aid deliveries to more than half a million people in Gaza after its delivery lorries ran out of fuel.

                                                                                    The United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA), which distributes food and essential commodities to nearly two-thirds of Gaza's population, had earlier warned it expected to run out of fuel by Thursday afternoon.

                                                                                    The last shipment of fuel to Gaza by Israel - the sole distributor of it to the territory - came before Palestinian fighters attacked an Israeli fuel depot on April 9.

                                                                                    An emergency shipment of fuel for UNRWA lorries from within Gaza was reportedly intercepted on Thursday by angry strawberry farmers who needed the supplies for irrigation and refrigeration.

                                                                                    "It's something that we've been warning about since early April, and that is what is so tragic," John Ging, head of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera.

                                                                                    "Now we're at a standstill - we just don't have the fuel to operate the trucks.

                                                                                    "We have the food, and we certainly have hundreds of thousands of desperate people who need it. But this is the situation tonight."

                                                                                    Israel has besieged Gaza since fighters from Hamas's armed wing routed Palestinian Authority forces loyal to rival Fatah there in June.

                                                                                    Key condition

                                                                                    The proposal Hamas put forward on Thursday could be extended to a year-long agreement.

                                                                                    Al-Zahar said other Palestinian factions, including Islamic Jihad and groups based in Damascus, had preliminarily approved the offer.

                                                                                    "The key condition for this ceasefire is that Israel should re-open all the crossings ... to lift the embargo on the Palestinian people"

                                                                                    Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera that it would aim to begin improving the situation in Gaza first, and then expand to the West Bank as well.

                                                                                    He said: "I think the key condition for this ceasefire is that Israel should re-open all the crossings [into Gaza], especially the Rafah crossing, in order to allow people and goods to move in and out and to lift the embargo on the Palestinian people.

                                                                                    "Without opening the crossings, there will be no means for the ceasefire."

                                                                                    In exchange, Hamas would agree to stop firing rockets into southern Israel and attacking crossing points.

                                                                                    David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said while Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups in the Strip may agree to the deal, it remains to be seen what action Israel will take.

                                                                                    He said: "There are many difficulties involved on the Israeli side, [such as] who exactly will control the crossing points, especially at Rafah.

                                                                                    "There is a lot of talking still to do on the Israeli side before they accept these conditions."

                                                                                    'Collective punishment'

                                                                                    Speaking a day earlier about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, Robert Serry, UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, said it was "wrong for Israel to punish a civilian population for attacks" carried out by Palestinian fighters.

                                                                                    Twenty per cent of ambulances in the Strip are completely out of fuel, according to the UN, while another 60 per cent are due to run out of supplies in less than a week.

                                                                                    Fuel reserves at hospitals have, meanwhile, dropped below critical level and the central pharmacy has run out of fuel for refrigeration.

                                                                                    Serry said: "I call on Israel to restore fuel supplies to Gaza, and to allow the passage of humanitarian assistance and commercial supplies, sufficient to allow the functioning of all basic services and for Palestinians to live their daily lives."

                                                                                    UNRWA delivers aid to about 860,000 of Gaza's 1.4 million population, with the UN World Food Programme delivering food and essential items to an additional 270,000.

                                                                                    Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                      From Jamestown to Virginia Tech: Colonization and Massacres

                                                                                      English (US)  April 24th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                      By Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz

                                                                                      What does it mean, if anything, that a student, child of Korean immigrants, killed thirty classmates and faculty at a Virginia university while nearby celebrations of the onset of colonialism was taking place?

                                                                                      In April 2007, all the news seemed to be coming from Virginia and was about mass murder, occurring yesterday (400 years ago in Jamestown) and today. I heard no commentary on the coincidence of those bookends of colonialism. Maybe I noticed because I was working on the first chapter of a history of the United States and had colonialism and massacres on my mind.

                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                      Jamestown famously was the first permanent settlement that gave birth to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the colonial epicenter of what became the United States of America nearly two centuries later, the colony that in turn gave the United States its national capitol on the Potomac River up the coast. A few years after Jamestown was established, the more familiar and historically revered Plymouth colony was planted by English religious dissidents, but still under the auspices of private investors with royal licenses, accompanied by massacres of the indigenous farmers, just as Jamestown was. This was the beginning of British overseas colonialism, which led to its eventually far more powerful spawn.

                                                                                      343 years after ragged mercenaries set foot on Powhatan territory at Jamestown and began massacring the indigenous farmers and stealing their food crops, the United States invaded Korea, a half-million troops strong, with 30,000 remaining more than a half century later.

                                                                                      The Virginia Tech killings were heralded as the worst "mass killing," and "worst massacre," in the United States.

                                                                                      Descendants of massacred ancestors--indigenous peoples, African Americans, Mexicanos, Chinese--took exception to that designation.

                                                                                      But, we know what those headlines meant; they meant the largest number of innocents killed by one armed civilian, although even that's probably not accurate either, so they really mean with guns and in the last half-century or so, maybe beginning in 1958 with nineteen-year-old Charles Starkweather, and his even younger girlfriend Caril Fugate, who killed eleven in Nebraska and Wyoming.

                                                                                      Then, in 1966, there was Charles Whitman up on top of the University of Texas tower, sniping and killing 13, wounding 31 others before being shot by police. Twenty years later, the post office killings began in the quiet town of Edmond, Oklahoma, a few miles from where I grew up, giving rise to a new term, "going postal." Other workplace killings followed, with around 50 deaths up to now. More recently, school killings have prevailed, some 22 incidents since 1989 in the U.S.

                                                                                      Having lived through all of them, I have been interested in the mass response to each one, ever since Starkweather, who was my age at the time. Each mass killing is followed by an orgiastic chorus of proclamations about a bubble of normality punctured by a sole evildoer. Perhaps the incidents play a role in U.S. society somewhat as Dostoevsky had his character, the "idiot," play as the member of the family who is weird or evil so that the rest of the family can be perceived or perceive themselves as "normal." With all the anger and tension we experience and observe daily, it's a wonder mass killings don't happen more often, but maybe the mass killer speaks for many and is a preventative.

                                                                                      The Dostoevskian "idiot" is a universal archetype under the patriarchal western family and the triad of family, church, and state. But, there's more to it than that in the United States. This can be seen from how we react. Some say we react so massively because it's the 24-7 television and internet that causes us to dwell on such events. But, I recall the Starkweather crime spree from my youth in rural Oklahoma with no television at all and only local papers and local radio, and it didn't even happen in Oklahoma.

                                                                                      Everyone knew about it, following the news of the killers' evasion of the massive law enforcement pursuit, fearing the killers' arrival at their homes.

                                                                                      At the same time the news repelled and terrified me, I harbored curiosity about and perhaps admiration for the teen killer and his girlfriend. I was already successfully "the idiot" in my family, as an invalid with chronic asthma. Sickliness still was considered a character flaw and a weakness in that post frontier rural setting. As well, my childhood bedtime stories were about heroic outlaws--Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy Floyd, Belle Starr, Bonnie and Clyde. They were heroes to many who were inspired by their deeds. I can understand how Cho might be secretly admired.

                                                                                      Cho stated in his suicide message, "I die like Jesus Christ to inspire generations of the weak and defenseless people."

                                                                                      Then there's the factor of the continual reincarnation of the Anglo-Scots outlaw, so pervasive on the North American frontier, often erroneously referred to as a "cowboy."

                                                                                      But, I think we have to go back to that yesterday in another part of Virginia, Jamestown, the site of the British queen's visit in April to celebrate the first permanent English colony in the western hemisphere; Vice-President Dick Cheney, in his Jamestown speech commemorating the 400 year anniversary called the birthplace of the United States. Indeed it is, a bloody birth at that.

                                                                                      When Cho went on his killing spree, there was a great deal of news about the 400 year commemoration, especially in Virginia, highly publicized planning for which had been ongoing for a year. Was Cho curious enough to do a search on the internet about Jamestown? (Maybe the FBI knows from studying Cho's hard drive, but they most likely wouldn't "get it") Or maybe Cho just looked at a book, or had taken a history course. Perhaps he saw some pictures of drawings of the Powhatan Indians who were killed by Captain John Smith and his soldiers. Perhaps Cho saw a reflection of his own features in those Powhatan faces, and was reminded of what had happened to his own people, the multiple massacres of Korean civilians in the 1950s U.S. invasion and occupation of his parents' homeland, the occupation and humiliation continuing today. (I recall stories from Native American vets returning from Vietnam, how they could not bring themselves to shoot when they could see the faces of the people who looked like their relatives.)

                                                                                      Much was made in the press about Cho being Asian, then specifically, Korean, surely touching on those mystic chords of memory of "yellow peril" and Asian wars "lost" by the United States, or not "won" militarily. Yet, there was nothing about the Korean War, 1950-1953, and the ongoing U.S. military presence. Uncountable millions of Korean civilians were killed in the war, many in U.S. military massacres of refugees. Millions of children were left without parents. Cho was not a child of those Korean war orphans stolen by U.S. religious groups, children who grew up in white, middle-American communities not knowing their real names or birth dates or families or villages.

                                                                                      Cho's parents had immigrated in 1992, when he was eight years old, settling in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C., where they started a dry cleaning business, sending Cho and his older sister to the best schools. That may sound like the "American Dream" realized, but only if one has never taken notice of the toxic, backbreaking work involved in a family owned and run dry-cleaning operation, with the immigrant parents working themselves to death so their children might have a crack at that putrid dream of consumerism. Cho and his sister were beneficiaries of their parents' labor to pay for their elite educations.

                                                                                      In his video rant, Cho expressed hatred for the "rich kids" who surrounded him. In U.S. society we are not allowed to hate anyone or anything not designated by the State as the enemy. We are jumped on and accused of "playing the class card" or "playing the race card."

                                                                                      "The rich are not like you and me." "The poor will always be with us." Get real and accept it we are told. It's toxic thinking. Why should we have to swallow and internalize our righteous hatred of the rich? Hate, yes. The language can be dressed up to it rage or outrage, but, hate is a concept underrated.

                                                                                      Everyone does it, but no one wants to admit it. We are held back and diminished by the claim that hating is bad for us, bad for everyone.

                                                                                      We are told that it's all right to hate the act but not hate the person. We are allowed to hate wealth or capitalism but not the purveyors. Even in the post-modern intellectual world where "agency" is bestowed upon the poor and oppressed (they are responsible for their actions), the rich remain an abstraction. It's a ridiculous logic that keeps us hating and blaming ourselves for not being rich and powerful, literally driving people crazy.

                                                                                      Who are the rich? We have to be careful about that, living in a country that does not admit to class relations, and class is subject to little analysis. It's not a matter of income per se.

                                                                                      High income can certainly make a person dilusional, and most U.S. citizens who live on high fixed or hourly incomes due to circumstances of a good trade union or a professional degree have no idea that they aren't rich. In polls they say they are in the top fifth of the income ladder, and they aren't. A majority of U.S. citizens don't want to tax the rich more, because they think they will be rich one day. They won't. The rich own not just a mortgaged house and a car, maybe a boat or a cabin in the woods or a beach house to boot; rather they own us. Even the cash and luxury soaked entertainment and sports stars are not the rich; they certainly deserve contempt and disgust, but not hatred. Don't go for scapegoats--Jews, Oprah, Martha Stewart, or random kids on campus as Cho did. Hatred should be reserved for those who own us, that is, those who own the banks, the oil companies, the war industry, the land (for corporate agriculture), the private universities and prep schools, and who own the foundations that dole out worthy projects for the poor, for public institutions-their opera, their ballet, their symphony, that you are allowed to attend after opening night, and they own the government. My oldest brother, who like me grew up dirt poor in rural Oklahoma, landless farmers and farm workers, rebuts my arguments by saying that no poor man ever gave him a job.

                                                                                      That says it all. The rich own you and me.

                                                                                      In all the arguments about the crimes of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions, rarely is their greatest crime ever discussed--the leveling of class, rich and poor are the same in god's sight. What a handy ideology for the rich! The same with U.S. democracy with its "equal opportunity" and "level playing fields," absurd claims under capitalism, but ones held dear, even by liberals.

                                                                                      When rampages such as Cho's occur, my first thought is not why, rather why not more often. What do we do with the anger, the rage? Violence in the United States is usually associated with the narrative of the frontier having hardened the society, creating the killer, the "cowboy," all that is bad, a direction taken away from the rational Puritans and the wise Virginians who did all they could to get along with the Indians. But, that's a lie; the killing began at the beginning and the purpose was to eradicate the inhabitants of North America, to take their land, and to replace them. There is no redemption in exorcising the "cowboy" or firearms.

                                                                                      Such probing as this is said by some to justify or rationalize individual violent behavior, and in a way it does. But, the alternative, to name it evil, is not helpful, nor is blaming guns, freedom, lack of mental health counseling. Why not seize the opportunity to explore what we have in common with the culprit, explore his humanity, rather than vilify him? Some say that any time or effort spent trying to understand does a disservice to the victims and their families. That kind of thinking has strangled and suppressed even studies of history, such as the holocaust. Whose interest is served by shutting down discussion of motives and circumstances, and, particularly, history? One is not alleging lack of criminal intent or behavior, but what made it possible? Wouldn't this be an appropriate moment to at least acknowledge the pathological celebration of colonization in Virginia at the time of the shootings, and the war and continuing occupation of Korea as a possible cause for Cho's decision?

                                                                                      As a child during the Korean War, I sold Veterans of Foreign Wars crepe paper roses. Several young men in our rural farming community were drafted and came home wounded or not quite right in the mind. One of the boys who returned sat with my brother and me and our cousins and told us about Korea. He told us how, poor as we were, how lucky we were in comparison with the Koreans.

                                                                                      "They're lucky to eat a spoonful of rice once a day," he said. Then he told us about going through a small village and seeing an old man die of starvation right in front of him, and said a tapeworm came out of his mouth. His story made us feel lucky to be free Americans fighting communism, proud of our country for helping others. He later blew his brains out with a shotgun, but he didn't take anyone with him. Maybe he had a conscience.

                                                                                      Video games portraying violence and casual killing are blamed for leading young men like Cho to act out in reality. But what about the virtual real war that has saturated the brains of everyone since the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, and subsequent war in Iraq? From age 17 to his death at 23, Cho, like the rest of us, had a head full of pictures of licensed killing and torture. His highly functional sister, a Princeton graduate, works as a contractor for the U.S. State Department's management of the Iraq War. Which of the actions of the two were more destructive?

                                                                                      This essay is excerpted from There is a Gunman on Campus edited by Ben Agger and Timothy W. Luke, from Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

                                                                                      Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a longtime activist, university professor, and writer. In addition to numerous scholarly books and articles she has published two historical memoirs, Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie (Verso, 1997), and Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960­1975 (City Lights, 2002). She is a contributor to Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance from the Heartland, edited by Josh Frank and Jeffrey St. Clair. She can be reached at: rdunbaro@pacbell.net

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                                                                                        Part One: Historical Context and Current Posturing: Bush to Nasrallah: an Offer Hezbollah Cannot Refuse?

                                                                                        English (US)  April 24th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                        Note: This is the first installment in a series of three which we will publish across Thursday, Friday and the weekend. Editors.

                                                                                        By Franklin Lamb

                                                                                        “The Bush administration parking a flotilla from its US 6th fleet off the coast of Lebanon was made necessary, it claims, to demonstrate Washington’s ‘commitment to stability in the region’. This provocation, aimed at Hezbollah and also Syria, is the equivalent of a Sicilian fish wrapped in newspaper with a white rose—left on a doorstep: “This is business. It is not personal. Here is an offer you cannot refuse“.
                                                                                        – Italian officer seconded to UNIFIL outside his Tebnine HQ, South Lebanon

                                                                                        Recent US back channel feelers to Dahiyeh, where Hezbollah’s decision makers are sometimes present, reflect US calculations that given current trends in the Middle East, Hezbollah will play a major regional role.

                                                                                        According to US Senate Intelligence Committee sources, the efforts to date have run tepid and less ‘qualitative’ than informal Iran-USA contacts. US diplomat Thomas Pickering has revealed that he has been a participant in secret Iran-US ‘back channel’ discussions for the past five years. The subjects discussed include Iran’s nuclear program, the broader relationship between the two and US relations with Hezbollah. Other participants include former US diplomat William Luers and MIT nuclear expert Jim Walsh. While “unofficial”, the discussions, organized by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the UN Association of the USA, are thought to be useful.

                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                        Dismissive of Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s pledge to “drive Hezbollah out of Lebanon”, serious US officials want to engage the Lebanese Resistance partly because they are concerned with Israel remaining a Jewish state in the region.

                                                                                        The Bush administration no longer believes there is a viable military option - American, Israeli or combined - for destroying Hezbollah. The Party is deeply embedded in much of Lebanon and has broad support in the region. Recent reports indicate that some of its administrative staff is moving offices into Sunni areas including Tripoli and north Lebanon and that more Sunni, Christians and Druze are joining the Lebanese Resistance under Hezbollah leadership.

                                                                                        Even if there had been a US military option against Hezbollah, the war in Iraq has effectively eliminated it. American military strength has been exhausted in Iraq and Afghanistan and it has inadequate force to devote to a particularly dangerous third front. This is perhaps the greatest damage done by the Bush adventure in Iraq, where after five years there is no end in sight. The United States may be in Iraq for years to come with Israel ending up a victim of the Iraq adventure it instigated.

                                                                                        Doubts about Israel’s future

                                                                                        CIA and Israeli demographers such as Sergio Della-Pergola estimate that in the next 10 years Jews will be less that 45 per cent of the population in Palestine i.e. between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. This sets up the South African Apartheid model of a minority occupying population ruling the indigenous majority.

                                                                                        According to an Israeli academic who has studied Israel’s 60 year history and the growing conflict between Zionism and Judaism relative to Israel’s future prospects:

                                                                                        “We should have taken Uganda when Britain offered it to our Zionist leadership in 1903. Ben Gurion’s plan took over Palestine in stages. Given the growing strength of the Palestinian Resistance, it is likely to be taken back in the same piecemeal fashion. Every Jew in Israel knows it may cease to exist and have considered what is best for their children — more Israelis are moving to the US where currently over 500,000 are living”

                                                                                        Many US policy makers and Israelis are realizing that the safest place for Jews is in the US and that Israel is the least safe place as it continues to lose international legitimacy. A survey commissioned for the Israeli Interdisciplinary Centre found that 14 per cent of Jews in Israel would likely leave the country if a hostile state acquired nuclear arms.

                                                                                        US intelligence assessments of Israel include pessimistic conclusions based on sentiments by Israeli Jews to the effect that ‘We don’t really believe in this country’s existence anymore and will never be accepted in this region. Americans accept the Jews so why do we need Israel which has been squandering not only the lives of our children but increasingly undermining global respect for Judaism.’

                                                                                        The experienced observer, Robert Fisk, of the UK Independent recently reflected these sentiments to Rachel Cooke of the London Observer. As Cooke writes, “When Fisk first arrived in Beirut, he believed that Israel would survive. Now he is not so sure. The Israeli press is, he says, self-delusional. The army is ’shabby, a rabble; they don’t always obey orders, and they don’t always turn up’. In South Lebanon in 2006, they got ‘chucked out by Hizbollah,’. He wonders whether, if Israel’s borders were really threatened - ‘as opposed to false threats’ … Israel’s best bet (for survival) will be to go back to its international borders”.

                                                                                        Others have reminded Fisk that the real Zionist vision does not recognize any maps. It is a vision of a state without borders - a state that expands at all times according to its demographic, military and political power.

                                                                                        Can Hezbollah save Israel?

                                                                                        Edward Abington, Jr, the US consul general in Arab East Jerusalem during the Clinton administration, said he returned to Washington “convinced more than ever that the two-state solution is dead as a doornail”. Abington, noting that 40 per cent of the West Bank is closed to Palestinians, claims that, “There is absolutely no willingness on the part of the IDF to change the situation on the ground from the stranglehold they now have.”

                                                                                        US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared pessimistic as she told a House Foreign Affairs Committee several months ago that she is concerned that “we will lose the window for a two-state solution”.

                                                                                        Some in the Bush administration believe that history is on Hezbollah’s side given the swelling Lebanese resistance trend over the region including Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan (the latter two with growing and serious Islamist problems with Hosni Mubarak looking fearfully over his shoulder at the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organization. Jordan’s King Abdullah, likewise, cannot ignore the rise of the Islamists in his own mostly Palestinian population), Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. They recommend engagement with Hezbollah, viewed as pragmatic and in many ways the most secular movement in Lebanon, since trying to weaken or destroy Hezbollah is not working. Pressure to engage with Hezbollah will likely increase following Jimmy Carter’s meetings with Hamas and perhaps Hezbollah representatives.

                                                                                        US feelers to Hezbollah to ‘let bygones be bygones’ have a long history. Yet in the past, when Hezbollah rejected US feelers which sometimes firmed into offers, the movement would experience the tightening of US pressure such as the terrorism lists, searching for Hezbollah financial assets, trying to incite Lebanese ‘warlords’ or al Qaeda type jihadist salafists against it, as well as sundry threats and assassination attempts.

                                                                                        The Khomeini Paradigm

                                                                                        A forerunner of the recent US-Israeli feelers to Hezbollah can be found back in the days of the Imam Khomeini-led Iranian Revolution. The Israeli Mossad, the CIA, and the Shah’s intelligence service, Savak, worked closely to end the Iranian revolt from its earliest beginnings. In June of 1963 a crowd of unarmed Iranian men, women and children peacefully demonstrating in Tehran were attacked by government forces and more than 5,000 were killed.

                                                                                        This demonstration of savagery shocked the Kennedy administration, and revealed the weakness of the Shah’s tyranny which eventually led to its collapse. Over time, the US government realized that the Iranian Resistance could not be defeated and made Khomeini an offer it was said at the time, “he won’t be able to refuse”. The offer included that the Shah would be summarily stripped of all his political power if Khomeini would allow him to become “just a figurehead like Queen Elizabeth of England”.
                                                                                        Khomeini rejected the offer and argued that such a ‘compromise’ would “keep the US-Israeli hegemonic knife in Iran’s body” and it would grow until the Shah’s tyranny returned.

                                                                                        Similarly, the past quarter century in Lebanon has seen the US and Israel offer (demand) the May 17th capitulation treaty before it would even consider a partial Israeli withdrawal from any of the 801 villages it occupied in 1982. Due to the persistence of the Lebanese Resistance, Israel suffered a series of retreats while offering first a treaty, then ’security arrangements’ downgraded to ’security negotiations’, then ‘an offer of security guarantees’ and now that Hezbollah just disarm and leave them alone.

                                                                                        US overtures to Hezbollah began following the March 8, 1985 US-organized Bir Abed Massacre (see below). The ‘offers’ continued subsequent to Hezbollah’s success in expelling Israel from 55 per cent of South Lebanon (and 168 villages) on April 30, 1985, the end date of a three month process whereby Israel was forced out of Sidon, Tyre, Nabataea, some Western Bekaa villages and other areas. More feelers were sent to Dahiyeh after Israel was driven from its ‘permanent security zone’ on May 24, 2000, and yet again following the 9/11 attack organized by Hezbollah’s mortal enemy, Al Qaeda, which along with Israel, initially hoped Hezbollah would be blamed. Hezbollah’s continuing resistance activities in October 2000 at Shebaa Farms, and recently the results of the July 2006 defeat of Israel, led to other feelers.

                                                                                        The March 8, 1985 Bir Abed Massacre and a US Offer

                                                                                        An initial US offer to Hezbollah followed a massive US terrorist attack in Lebanon and its aftermath is instructive regarding the occasional American disposition to achieve a modus operandi or perhaps vivendi with Hezbollah.

                                                                                        In December of 1984, the Reagan administration was furious with the March 5, 1984 cancellation of the May 17th Agreement, which required the US to conduct 35 negotiation sessions just to fulfill Israeli conditions and controls regarding the treaty. Israel and the White House blamed the yet to be publicly announced Hezbollah, as well as Syrian President Hafez al Assad, for the collapse of the Israel-Lebanon ‘Agreement’. Suspicions also existed that this ‘new religious group’, one of more than 30 civil war era militias operating in Lebanon at the time (fascinating political posters from 30 of these groups are now on exhibition at Planet Discovery Hall in Beirut as part of the April 13 anniversary of the 1975-90 civil war) may have been involved in actions against the US.

                                                                                        (CIA agent Robert Baer, now a contributor to Time Magazine, was given the job of finding out who bombed the US Embassy on April 18, 1983. During his March 2008 visit to Lebanon, Baer reminded reporters that his final report delivered to the White House more than 20 years ago concluded there was no proof to charge anyone, including Imad Mughniyeh, with either the April Embassy or the October 1983 Marine barracks attack. His conclusions are just as valid today, he advised interlocutors at the Beirut Vendome Hotel last month).

                                                                                        The unpleasant fact for the Reagan administration was that Gunboat diplomacy had been defeated by car bombs in Lebanon. The Reagan administration and especially CIA Director William Casey were left hungry for revenge — against someone.

                                                                                        Casey won approval for NSDD-166, a secret directive that inaugurated a new era of direct infusions of advanced U.S. military technology into the Middle East, which was to become the greatest technology transfer of terrorist techniques in history.

                                                                                        By January of 1985, according to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in Veil, his book on Casey’s career, he worked out with the Saudis a plan to use a car bomb to eliminate an Israeli recommended ‘liability’. Lebanese agents led by a former British SAS officer and financed by $15 million arranged by Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar, were activated.

                                                                                        According to Woodward, Casey told his staff: “I’m going to solve the big problem by essentially getting tougher than or as tough as the terrorists in using their weapon, the car bomb.”

                                                                                        With its new authority, the CIA set up ‘counterterrorism units’ similar to those Bush authorized in 2007. Casey quickly funded the “Foreign Work and Analysis Unit” (FWAU) inside Lebanon which had the assassination of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah as its first priority. Others targeted for death were Lebanese former Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss, Imad Mughniyeh and Walid Jumblatt, then supporting the PLO. The FWAU conducted a car bombing campaign in Muslim areas of Beirut and targeted the Cinema Salwa, Beirut’s Raouche Market, Sabra Street, the Abu Nawwas restaurant, and the Druze Social Centre, among others, killing at least 280 civilians and wounding nearly 1,150. This mayhem was designed to ignite further internal strife and to send the Lebanese Resistance a message and offer: ‘Support a new May 17 agreement with Israel and we can help you.’ When this ‘offer’ was unanswered, and on the Mossad’s recommendation to Casey, Fadlallah was targeted on March 8, 1985.

                                                                                        The Bir Abed Massacre was caused by an enormous car bomb outside Fadlallah’s home as he was conducting a religious studies class for women. Had a neighborhood woman not detained him with questions, Fadallah would have been at nearly the exact spot where the rigged vehicle exploded according to Hezbollah investigators.

                                                                                        The blast killed 83 people, mainly school girls, women and children, and wounded 283. The attempted assassination of Fadlallah, who is to this day Lebanon’s most respected senior Shi’ite cleric and social worker, enraged Lebanon, including Dahiyeh’s two century old Christian community, long beneficiaries of his social services and respectful of his calls for religious dialogue and tolerance. Six months later, on September 12, in what appeared to be a tit for tat operation, the supposedly impregnable perimeter defenses of the new U.S. embassy in eastern Beirut was attacked killing 23 employees and visitors.

                                                                                        Eleven local individuals confessed to various roles in the Bir Abed bombing. The terrorist attack was based on now admitted faulty Israeli supplied “intelligence”. Israel had advised the Reagan administration that Fadlallah was the founder, spiritual leader, and chief of operations for Hezbollah and was behind attacks on the US Embassy and the Marine barracks as well as the kidnappings of western hostages. Not one of the claims was true as the White House was later to learn. But at the time, CIA Director William Casey was beside himself that the US had, less than a year earlier, been forced out of Lebanon by what he told the President were “third rate rabble-rousers”.

                                                                                        President Reagan, by way of acknowledging the US error and American regrets, signed off on a reported nearly $20 million dollar secret “offer” to Sayeed Fadlallah, conveyed through a current Lebanese political leader, who was not at the time a member of Parliament, to help support the Senior cleric’s orphanages and social service centers. A US condition of the cash was that there was to be no paper trail. Fadallah rejected the offer stating he would not be part of a private arrangement which he could not disclose to his community.

                                                                                        Despite the Fadlallah fiasco, Casey remained an enthusiast for using urban terrorism to advance American goals. A year after the Bir Abed massacre, U.S. Special Forces experts started a five year program focusing on high-tech explosives and taught state-of-the-art sabotage techniques, distributed sabotage training manuals in different languages, offered instruction on how to make cheap electronic bomb detonators including the fabrication of ANFO (ammonium nitrate-fuel oil) and car bombs. Huge quantities of CIA-supplied plastic explosives as well as thousands of advanced E-cell delay detonators (some CIA knockoffs) still flow around the Middle East.

                                                                                        The US educational initiative, in contrast to Bekaa Valley ‘extension courses’ which did train motivated Lebanese anxious to resist the Israeli occupation, opened full scholarship bomb makers “Graduate Schools” and trained thousands of mujahidin and future al Qaeda cadres. Some of the ‘graduates’ drove the Soviets from Afghanistan. More recently, others supplied salafists for Nahr al Bared and Ein el Helwe and are today setting up networks in Lebanon.

                                                                                        The Bush administration has clearly lost control of this blowback and some officials think engaging Hezbollah offers a solution.

                                                                                        Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com

                                                                                        Counterpunch

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                                                                                          US denies Israel settlement support

                                                                                          English (US)  April 24th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                          Israel is continuing to expand settlements in the West Bank

                                                                                          The US has denied a report that it gave Israel permission to expand West Bank settlements before a final peace deal with the Palestinians.

                                                                                          Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said that George Bush, the US president, had given Ariel Sharon, Olmert's predecessor, a letter giving the green light on expansions, the Washington Post reported.

                                                                                          [More:]


                                                                                          But Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, denied that the story was true on Thursday.

                                                                                          Under the 2003 road map peace deal drafted by the US and its key partners, Israel is required to freeze settlement building and the Palestinians must end attacks.

                                                                                          The newspaper quotes Israeli officials as saying that they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements under certain criteria.

                                                                                          Rice approval

                                                                                          Dov Weisglass, Sharon's chief of staff, said Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, reaffirmed the understanding in a secret deal reached in 2005 before Israel withdrew it settlements from the Gaza Strip, the newspaper reported.

                                                                                          McCormack said both sides in the conflict were aware of the US position on their responsibilities.

                                                                                          "And we've also made clear over and over again that any lines that are drawn by both sides need to be negotiated by both sides and any deviation from the ... known lines are going to have to be negotiated," he said.

                                                                                          During a visit to Washington this week, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told Rice that continued Israeli settlements in the West Bank "are still the main obstacle" to the peace process.

                                                                                          The West Bank has been under military occupation by Israel since 1967 and at least 400,000 Israelis have been settled in the territory, including East Jerusalem.

                                                                                          The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

                                                                                          Source: Agencies

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                                                                                            US man accused of spying for Zionist Israel

                                                                                            English (US)  April 23rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                            The 84-year-old is accused of spying for Israel between 1979 and 1985 [Reuters]

                                                                                            US authorities have arrested an engineer on suspicion of passing classified defence information to Israel during the 1980s, according to the justice department.

                                                                                            Ben-Ami Kadish, 84, is suspected of passing nuclear weapons and air defence information to Israel while working as a mechanical engineer at an army base in New Jersey.

                                                                                            Court papers say Kadish's spying took place between 1979 and 1985, although he maintained contact with an Israeli official until this year.

                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                            Kadish was arrested in New Jersey on Tuesday and was scheduled to appear before a court in New York later in the day.

                                                                                            US authorities also accused Kadish of illegally acting as an agent for Israel from 1979 to 2008 without notifying the US attorney-general's office.

                                                                                            Kadish was suspected of reporting to the same Israeli official as Jonathan Jay Pollard, who is serving a life term on a charge of spying.

                                                                                            Pollard, a former Pentagon official, pleaded guilty to spying for Israel in 1986 and received a life sentence.

                                                                                            Mor recently, Lawrence (Larry) Franklin, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst with expertise in Iranian policy issues who worked in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and reported directly to Feith's deputy, William Luti, was sentenced January 20, 2006, to more than 12 years in prison for giving classified information to an Israeli diplomat and members of the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

                                                                                            David Mack, a former deputy assistant secretary for Near East affairs, told Al Jazeera: "I'm sure that the Israelis will say that this is based upon an old programme that they are no longer practising in any active way.

                                                                                            However, Mack added: "It's pretty clear from a department of justice statement that came out today, that the Israeli handler of this American army person, that the Israeli handler has been in touch with him as recently as a month or so ago."

                                                                                            Classified documents

                                                                                            The complaint alleges that the consular official, identified in the indictment as "CC-1", gave Kadish lists of classified documents to obtain from the US Army's Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Centre at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.

                                                                                            The documents included information about nuclear weapons, fighter jets and the US Patriot missile air defence system.

                                                                                            Kadish, who worked at the arsenal from 1963-1990, kept in touch with CC-1 via telephone and email and met the official in Israel in 2004, the authorities said.

                                                                                            "CC-1" left the US in 1985 and has never returned, the authorities said.

                                                                                            Arye Mekel, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said: "We know nothing about it. We heard it from the media."

                                                                                            Source: Agencies

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                                                                                              Hedges: The Left Has Lost Its Way

                                                                                              English (US)  April 22nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                              By Chris Hedges

                                                                                              The failure of the American left is a failure of nerve. It has been neutralized and rendered ineffectual as a political force because of its refusal to hold fast on core issues, from universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans, to the steadfast protection of workers’ rights, to an immediate withdrawal from the failed occupation of Iraq to a fight against a militarized economy that is hollowing the country out from the inside.

                                                                                              The object of a movement is not to achieve political power at any price. It is to create pressure and mobilize citizens around core issues of justice.

                                                                                              Let the politicians compromise. This is their job. It is not ours. If the left wants to regain influence in the nation’s political life, it must be willing to walk away from the Democratic Party, even if Barack Obama is the nominee, and back progressive, third-party candidates until the Democrats feel enough heat to adopt our agenda. We must be willing to say no. If not, we become slaves.

                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                              Political and social change, as the radical Christian right and the array of corporate-funded neocon think tanks have demonstrated, are created by the building of movements. This is a lesson American progressives have forgotten. The object of a movement is not to achieve political power at any price. It is to create pressure and mobilize citizens around core issues of justice. It is to force politicians and parties to respond to our demands. It is about rewarding, through support and votes, those who champion progressive ideals and punishing those who refuse. And the current Democratic Party, as any worker in a former manufacturing town in Pennsylvania can tell you, has betrayed us.

                                                                                              “The mistake of the former left-wingers, from Tom Hayden to Todd Gitlin, is that they want to be players in the Democratic Party and academia,” said John R. MacArthur, the publisher of Harper’s magazine, speaking of two prominent 1960s activists. “This is not what the left is supposed to be. The left is supposed to be outside the system. The attempt by the left to take control of the Democratic Party failed with [Eugene] McCarthy and George McGovern. The left, at that point, should have gone back to organizing, street protests, building labor unions, and the mobilization of grassroots activists. Instead, it went for respectability.”

                                                                                              The rise of a corporate state, and by that I mean a state that no longer works on behalf of its citizens but the corporations, is as much a part of the Democratic agenda as the Republican agenda. Sure, every four years Democratic candidates pay lip service to the old values of the party, but then they head off to Washington and do things such as ram NAFTA down our throats, throw 10 million people off welfare, and peddle health-care proposals acceptable to the HMOs, huge pharmaceutical giants, and for-profit health-care providers who are, after all, the very sources of our health-care crisis. What we as citizens need and work for in a corporate state is irrelevant.

                                                                                              The working class has every right to be, to steal a line from Obama, bitter with liberal elites. I am bitter. I have seen what the loss of manufacturing jobs and the death of the labor movement did to my relatives in the former mill towns in Maine. Their story is the story of tens of millions of Americans who can no longer find a job that supports a family and provides basic benefits. Human beings are not, despite what the well-heeled Democratic and Republican apologists for the free market tell you, commodities. They are not goods. They grieve, and suffer and feel despair. They raise children and struggle to maintain communities. The growing class divide is not understood, despite the glibness of many in the media, by complicated sets of statistics or the absurd, utopian faith in unregulated globalization and complicated trade deals. It is understood in the eyes of a man or woman who is no longer making enough money to live with dignity and hope.

                                                                                              “The other side has religion, and we need some,” said the Rev. Susan B. Thistlethwaite, president of Chicago Theological Seminary. “We need a more robust understanding of the role of religious values, values that prevent us from compromising the sanctity and dignity of human life. The left, because it is largely secular, did not do enough as the working class was finished off. And now the same thing is happening with the middle class. It is the loss of the left’s spiritual resources that has crippled the movement. The left forgot that nations, like individuals, have souls. Once you sell your soul, it is hard to get it back. History is not linear. History is about constant struggle. It is the struggle, if you come out of faith, which matters.”

                                                                                              The failure of the left is the failure of well-meaning people who kept compromising and compromising in the name of effectiveness and a few scraps of influence until they had neither. The condemnations progressives utter—about the abuse of working men and women, the rapacious cannibalization of the country by an unchecked arms industry, our disastrous foreign wars, and the collapse of basic services from education to welfare—are not backed by action. The left has been transformed into anguished apologists for corporate greed. They have become hypocrites.

                                                                                              “The loss of nerve by the left comes down to this lack of faith,” Thistlethwaite said. “Having a soul means there is coherence between our actions and our values. The left can no longer claim this coherence. It has no moral compass. It does not know right from wrong. It has, in its confusion, lost the capacity to make moral judgments.”

                                                                                              Hope, St. Augustine wrote, has two beautiful daughters. They are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and the courage to see they do not remain the way they are. We stand at the verge of a massive economic dislocation, one forcing millions of families from their homes and into severe financial distress, one that threatens to rend the fabric of our society. If we do not become angry, if we do not muster within us the courage to challenge the corporate state that is destroying our nation, we will have squandered our credibility and integrity at the moment we need it most.

                                                                                              Chris Hedges is author of “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” and “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” This column was originally published by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

                                                                                              Truthdig

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                                                                                                US Muslims call on Obama for change

                                                                                                English (US)  April 22nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                Philadelphia has been described as a "Mecca for US Muslims".

                                                                                                By Sarah Brown in Philadelphia

                                                                                                As the US city of Philadelphia prepares for its most closely watched political primary in generations one significant part of the population seems to have already picked their man.

                                                                                                Muslim-American community leaders, activists and voters in the city of brotherly love, as Philadelphia is known, say Barack Obama is by far their preferred candidate.

                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                Philadelphia's Muslim community is one of the most significant, in terms of size and in terms of prominence, of all US cities.

                                                                                                There are up to 70,000 people worshipping in 34 mosques in the city alone, leading one local leader to describe Philadelphia as "a Mecca for US Muslims".

                                                                                                In focus

                                                                                                In-depth coverage of the
                                                                                                US presidential election

                                                                                                The community is also becoming increasingly politically active, ahead of both Tuesday's crucial primary vote and the November election itself, with pressure groups holding workshops about the primary systems in a bid to educate the community and mosques holding voter registration drives.

                                                                                                Iftekar Hussain, chairman of the Council on Islamic American Relations in Pennsylvania, says the primary marks a watershed for many Muslim-Americans as they will be participating in far larger numbers.

                                                                                                "One of the main things I've seen with Pennsylvania Muslims is that four or eight years ago I'd I talked to Muslims about the primaries they had no idea - they thought it was the November elections and that was it," he says.

                                                                                                "This time I've seen lots of Muslim participation and you will see it in the primaries which is something you didn't have before, and this has come through a learning process in the Muslim community."

                                                                                                New enthusiasm

                                                                                                This increase in political awareness is paying enormous political dividends for Obama's campaign.


                                                                                                Salima Abdullah has been campaigning
                                                                                                for Barack Obama

                                                                                                Salima Abdullah, a secretary at the Foundation for Islamic Education, an Islamic school for children on the outskirts of Philadelphia, has spent the past few weeks working for the Obama campaign – hosting fundraisers, canvassing voters and signing up new ones.

                                                                                                She says she is convinced he is the candidate to set the country in the right direction.

                                                                                                "He stands for change and he has a new perspective … he gives hope. You feel the energy and you feel charged," she says.

                                                                                                "As a Muslim I feel he'll be the best candidate to negotiate peace with Arab countries, men respect men more as he would be on better ground … with Muslims abroad."

                                                                                                In fact such is the enthusiasm among many voters that some have even changed life-long political allegiances.

                                                                                                The al-Aqsa Islamic Society in Philadelphia is a large mosque which also houses a school where children in the playground shoot hoops in the basketball court before heading off for afternoon prayers.

                                                                                                Amin Elarbi, the president of the society, says he switched from the Republican party only a month ago – along with three family members – to vote for Obama.

                                                                                                "Both Clinton and Obama … value the human rights and the civil rights of the people and this is very important to us, we understand our country is involved in a war and our kids are dying for something that was misplanned," he says.

                                                                                                "That said, I will vote for Obama, but if Ms Clinton was the candidate I would vote for her, too."

                                                                                                Community split

                                                                                                With the economy, the Iraq war and social issues such as healthcare leading concerns of many Muslim-Americans the community is also leaning towards Obama because its demographic is mainly comprised of African-Americans - an overwhelmingly Democratic voting bloc.

                                                                                                In depth
                                                                                                Voices: Voters speak out
                                                                                                Video: Economic woes
                                                                                                Guide: State-by-state map

                                                                                                However Philadelphia's Muslim community is far from homogenous – its predominantly African-American members have been in the city for generations - it also has sizeable populations of South Asian, Arab and African descent, sometimes referred to as the "immigrant Muslim" population.

                                                                                                The community has also, in terms of voter allegiance, weathered a potentially damaging split following the controversial 2000 US election which brought Bush into the White House.

                                                                                                In 2000, the city's immigrant Muslim community voted for Bush, mainly for his socially conservative values which aligned favourably with those of Arab-Americans, however this, Hussain says "rubbed off very badly" with the city's African-American population.

                                                                                                "It created a series of very tense conversations in the city and there was a sharp divide, but then 9/11 happens and Bush occurs and there was this 'I told you so'; from the African community, and the immigrant community switched and went Democratic and has been so ever since," he says.

                                                                                                Now, however, both sides appear to be favouring Obama – himself an African-American and son of a Muslim, although not, as some have attempted to insinuate, a Muslim himself – the frontrunner.

                                                                                                Cautious welcome

                                                                                                In discussions with members of the United Muslim Masjid in south Philadelphia, a predominantly African-American mosque which serves around 150 families and runs local schools and businesses, the names Hillary Clinton and John McCain are not even mentioned, aside from in negative references to their stances, or previous votes, on the Iraq war.

                                                                                                Awareness of the election is at an all time high, while many community members, they say, have given money to political candidates for the first time, or have switched from independent voters to Democrat just to cast their vote.

                                                                                                Talk is consistently of Obama, and how much – or how little – he will change the existing political system, although the tone is cautious, particularly on his attitudes towards Muslim-Americans.

                                                                                                "As for domestic foreign policy well I know he's not coming to a masjid [mosque] anyday soon [and] he's not had any alliances with any national [Muslim] figures," says Qasim Rashad, president of the UMM.

                                                                                                Rashad says that, while the support amongst Muslim-Americans is there, whether Obama can win is entirely different matter, as while the Illinois senator will probably "landslide" the state's cities on Tuesday, the state's more conservative rural regions will be another matter.

                                                                                                "But I think overall Muslims have hope and Muslims and African-Americans are going to vote for Obama based on the whole campaign strategy of hope, that this guy will be a change for the better. After all it can't get any worse," he says.

                                                                                                His colleague, Abdul Rahim, director of operations for UMM, agrees.

                                                                                                "I don't think anybody's looking for anyone doing anything special for Muslims, just do what you're doing for the whole county and we'll benefit.

                                                                                                "No-ones saying look out for us in particular, not even as African-Americans, just as men and woman. We deserve part of the American dream, whatever that is."


                                                                                                Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                  Hamas ready to accept 1967 borders

                                                                                                  English (US)  April 21st, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                  Meshaal's comments follow two meetings with former US president Jimmy Carter [AFP]

                                                                                                  Hamas has said it is ready to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders but "will not recognise Israel".

                                                                                                  Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas political leader, reaffirmed Hamas's stance towards Israel and clarified his comments as relayed earlier by Jimmy Carter, the former US president.

                                                                                                  Meshaal said: "We accept a state on the June 4 line with Jerusalem as capital, real sovereignty and full right of return for refugees but without recognising Israel."

                                                                                                  [More:]


                                                                                                  The Hamas leader was making his first public comments following two meetings with Carter in Damascus last week.

                                                                                                  Carter, speaking in Jerusalem earlier on Monday, said that Hamas had told him it would accept the right of Israel "to live as a neighbour" if a peace deal was approved by a Palestinian referendum.

                                                                                                  Carter said Hamas leaders had told him they would "accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders if approved by Palestinians".

                                                                                                  But Carter also said Meshaal turned down his appeal for a unilateral ceasefire with Israel to end violence threatening peace efforts.

                                                                                                  "I did the best I could on that," Carter said of his failure to persuade Hamas to halt rocket fire from the Gaza Strip it has controlled since June last year when it ousted the Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

                                                                                                  Referendum

                                                                                                  Carter said his understandings with Hamas called for a referendum to be preceded by reconciliation between the group and Abbas's Fatah faction.

                                                                                                  In his news conference, Meshaal said Hamas would "respect Palestinian national will, even if it was against our convictions".

                                                                                                  Sami Abu Zuhri, a Gaza-based Hamas official, said Palestinian refugees living in exile must take part in a referendum - a condition that could dim the chances of approval since Israel opposes their mass return, which could skew the state's ethnic make up.

                                                                                                  Ghazi Hamad, a former Palestinian government spokesman, told Al Jazeera that Hamas would be willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (leaving a reduced Israeli state inside its 1948 borders) but insisted that Hamas would not recognise Israel.

                                                                                                  "Hamas says frankly - we will not recognise the right of Israel," he said.

                                                                                                  "Israel until now has no clear position on recognising the rights of the Palestinian people within the 1967 borders or the right of return or the rights in Jerusalem."

                                                                                                  He also said that a ceasefire with Israel was possible.

                                                                                                  "Many times Hamas has stopped firing missiles from Gaza but Israel continues its aggression against our people, especially in Gaza," he told Al Jazeera.

                                                                                                  "If Israel stops all military aggression against our people, I think Hamas will have no problem in reaching a compromise."

                                                                                                  Carter criticised

                                                                                                  Carter's meeting with Hamas has drawn criticism from both the Israeli and US administrations.

                                                                                                  Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has refused to see Carter, who has for years been critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

                                                                                                  Carter, who helped negotiate a 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, said excluding Hamas is "just not working".

                                                                                                  "The problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to meet with these people, who must be involved," he said.

                                                                                                  Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                    No Peace Without Hamas

                                                                                                    English (US)  April 19th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                    Washington Post

                                                                                                    Mahmoud al-Zahar, a surgeon, is a founder of Hamas. He is foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, which was elected in January 2006.

                                                                                                    By Mahmoud al-Zahar

                                                                                                    GAZA -- President Jimmy Carter's sensible plan to visit the Hamas leadership this week brings honesty and pragmatism to the Middle East while underscoring the fact that American policy has reached its dead end. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acts as if a few alterations here and there would make the hideous straitjacket of apartheid fit better. While Rice persuades Israeli occupation forces to cut a few dozen meaningless roadblocks from among the more than 500 West Bank control points, these forces simultaneously choke off fuel supplies to Gaza; blockade its 1.5 million people; approve illegal housing projects on West Bank land; and attack Gaza City with F-16s, killing men, women and children. Sadly, this is "business as usual" for the Palestinians.

                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                    Last week's attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot should not surprise critics in the West. Palestinians are fighting a total war waged on us by a nation that mobilizes against our people with every means at its disposal -- from its high-tech military to its economic stranglehold, from its falsified history to its judiciary that "legalizes" the infrastructure of apartheid. Resistance remains our only option. Sixty-five years ago, the courageous Jews of the Warsaw ghetto rose in defense of their people. We Gazans, living in the world's largest open-air prison, can do no less.

                                                                                                    The U.S.-Israeli alliance has sought to negate the results of the January 2006 elections, when the Palestinian people handed our party a mandate to rule. Hundreds of independent monitors, Carter among them, declared this the fairest election ever held in the Arab Middle East. Yet efforts to subvert our democratic experience include the American coup d'etat that created the new sectarian paradigm with Fatah and the continuing warfare against and enforced isolation of Gazans.

                                                                                                    Now, finally, we have the welcome tonic of Carter saying what any independent, uncorrupted thinker should conclude: that no "peace plan," "road map" or "legacy" can succeed unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions.

                                                                                                    Israel's escalation of violence since the staged Annapolis "peace conference" in November has been consistent with its policy of illegal, often deadly collective punishment -- in violation of international conventions. Israeli military strikes on Gaza have killed hundreds of Palestinians since then with unwavering White House approval; in 2007 alone the ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed was 40 to 1, up from 4 to 1 during the period from 2000 to 2005.

                                                                                                    Only three months ago I buried my son Hussam, who studied finance at college and wanted to be an accountant; he was killed by an Israeli airstrike. In 2003, I buried Khaled -- my first-born -- after an Israeli F-16 targeting me wounded my daughter and my wife and flattened the apartment building where we lived, injuring and killing many of our neighbors. Last year, my son-in-law was killed.

                                                                                                    Hussam was only 21, but like most young men in Gaza he had grown up fast out of necessity. When I was his age, I wanted to be a surgeon; in the 1960s, we were already refugees, but there was no humiliating blockade then. But now, after decades of imprisonment, killing, statelessness and impoverishment, we ask: What peace can there be if there is no dignity first? And where does dignity come from if not from justice?

                                                                                                    Our movement fights on because we cannot allow the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state -- the violent expulsion from our lands and villages that made us refugees -- to slip out of world consciousness, forgotten or negotiated away. Judaism -- which gave so much to human culture in the contributions of its ancient lawgivers and modern proponents of tikkun olam -- has corrupted itself in the detour into Zionism, nationalism and apartheid.

                                                                                                    A "peace process" with Palestinians cannot take even its first tiny step until Israel first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem; releases all prisoners; and ends its blockade of our international borders, our coastline and our airspace permanently. This would provide the starting point for just negotiations and would lay the groundwork for the return of millions of refugees. Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again.

                                                                                                    I am eternally proud of my sons and miss them every day. I think of them as fathers everywhere, even in Israel, think of their sons -- as innocent boys, as curious students, as young men with limitless potential -- not as "gunmen" or "militants." But better that they were defenders of their people than parties to their ultimate dispossession; better that they were active in the Palestinian struggle for survival than passive witnesses to our subjugation.

                                                                                                    History teaches us that everything is in flux. Our fight to redress the material crimes of 1948 is scarcely begun, and adversity has taught us patience. As for the Israeli state and its Spartan culture of permanent war, it is all too vulnerable to time, fatigue and demographics: In the end, it is always a question of our children and those who come after us.

                                                                                                    872 words posted in Human Rights, American Empire, , RacismLeave a comment

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                                                                                                      Breaking the Silence: Testimonies of Israeli soldiers

                                                                                                      English (US)  April 19th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                      "Breaking the Silence" is an organization of veterans who served in the Israeli army during the Second Intifada (since September 2000), and have taken upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to everyday life in the Occupied Territories, a routine situation that is never reflected in the media. An alternative information-conduit thus becomes accessible to the public at large about what the daily goings-on in Israel's "back yard."

                                                                                                      "Breaking the Silence" came into being in March 2004, and has since acquired a special standing for both the public and the media, bringing forth the voices of soldiers who had previously remained silent. The ultimate goal of "Breaking the Silence" is to stimulate public debate about the moral price that Israeli society as a whole has been paying for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on an everyday basis and control its life. All the testimonies we publish undergo meticulous research, including cross-checking facts with additional eye-witnesses and/or archives of other human rights organizations who are also active in the field.

                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                      True to our journalistic effort, the identity of our sources is not exposed and remains confidential. The testimonies published here are unedited and presented in their original form, except for details that are withheld in order to conceal the identity of specific testimony-bearers, and/or clarifications of military jargon.

                                                                                                      Printed in Jerusalem, April 2008

                                                                                                      INTRODUCTION:

                                                                                                      This booklet is an anthology of testimonies collected by "Breaking the Silence" in the past few years from over thirty enlisted men – officers, commanders and soldiers – who served in the city of Hebron in the years 2005-2007.

                                                                                                      Hebron – located forty minutes by car from Jerusalem – bears cultural, national, historical and religious importance for both Muslims and Jews. This city contains the Tomb of the Patriarchs where, according to both the Jewish and Muslim traditions, the Biblical Fathers were interred. Nowadays, Hebron is the second largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, and the only one that harbors a Jewish settlement in its midst. This is the only city where Jewish and Palestinian families share adjacent house walls.

                                                                                                      For Israeli soldiers, especially those who have served in combat units, Hebron is also notorious for being one of the most difficult, complex areas in the Occupied Territories. "Breaking the Silence" - beginning its activity as an organization in June 2004 with an exhibition of testimonites and photographs taken by soldiers who served in Hebron - is now publishing the present booklet after four years of activity. Now, as then, the present booklet aims to hold up a mirror to Israeli society, reflecting reality in Hebron as it emerges from the testimonies of those who served there.

                                                                                                      Roughly 166,000 Palestinians and 800 Jewish settlers now reside in Heron. In 1997, the city was divided into two parts, under the Hebron Accord:

                                                                                                      H1 – falling under full Palestinian jurisdiction, including security control, populated by most of the city's Palestinian residents;
                                                                                                      H2 – consisting of about 18% of the city's area, hardly larger than four square kilometers, subject to full Israeli control through military rule. The "Hebron Accord" gave the Palestinian Authority administrative responsibility for the Palestinian residents living in this area as well.

                                                                                                      During the Second Intifada, the Israeli army invaded - often also occupying vast parts of the Palestinian part of Hebron, H1. The Israeli colonies in Hebron – the neighborhoods of Avraham Avinu, Beit Romano, Beit Hadassa and Tel Rumeida – are all included in the area subject to Israeli control. Alongside the 800 settlers living there at present, this part of the city was also inhabited by about 35,000 Palestinians. In 2007 ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel) and B'tselem (human rights organization) published a joint report presenting data on the closing of H2 to Palestinians, and the rate of Palestnian evacuation of this area following army and settler activity in the past decade. Many streets in this part of town are out of bounds for commerce and movement of Palestinian residents. The economic and social erosion of the Palestinian population, together with ongoing violence on the part of Jewish settlers in this area, have caused many – about 40% of the Palestinians according to the said report – to give up their homes and move to the other part of the city, or out altogether.

                                                                                                      This anthology of testimonies offers Israeli society a brief glance at the world of soldiers serving in Hebron, and at the city itself. The testimony-bearers cited in this booklet represent various field units that have served in the city in 2005-2007 – years during which the Second Intifada had supposedly receded. But the essence of the army's activity in the Occupied Territories, as it was prior to the Intifada, during the Intifada and as it is still today, even after the 'official' end of the Intifada – that essence has not changed in the least. Service in the Occupied Territories requires Israeli soldiers to control the Palsetinian population in a total, absolute and daily manner. The soldiers' determination to fulfill their mission yields tragic results: the proper-normative becomes despicable, the inconceivable becomes routine. Soldiers whose testimonies are recorded in this booklet illustrate the manner in which they are swept into the brutal reality reigning on the ground, a reality whereby the lives of many thousands of Palestinian families are at the questionable mercy of youths. Hebron turns a focused, flagrant lens at the reality to which Israel's young representatives are constantly sent.

                                                                                                      Testimony 1, Hebron

                                                                                                      Anything else you remember from Hebron?
                                                                                                      It’s a place that for many soldiers, life there - they can all sense they’re doing something wrong, let’s put it that way. They can all point it out and feel desperate. I can safely say that the power you wield there is incredible. Because you walk around armed through a place where so many people hate you, as well as into their homes. You enter homes.

                                                                                                      It’s the kind of provocation you’re sensing all the time. You enter a home to conduct a search, you go into their building, just like that. Kicking people out. That’s it, that’s my main recollection from there.

                                                                                                      Testimony 2, Hebron

                                                                                                      Do you recall your first shift at the outpost?
                                                                                                      Of course. Miserable. At first it’s minor, until you start feeling burnout, as they say.

                                                                                                      What do you mean?
                                                                                                      You start finding interesting things to do, estimating range and stuff, especially in the daytime. Just nonsense, all kinds of horsing around, playing around with our weapons.

                                                                                                      I was a sharpshooter so all day we’d observe children and stuff. A little. At first it’s just nothing. Later, when we moved up to senior company we started really fooling around.

                                                                                                      Like what?
                                                                                                      Patrols with lots of rubber-coated ammo.

                                                                                                      Eight-hour shifts at… just static positions?
                                                                                                      In Hebron? Nearly. My platoon had the static ones. For about a month, then patrols.

                                                                                                      30?
                                                                                                      Yes, 30-patrol. Then I went up to senior company, and we sent out patrols. You know where ***(name of position) is located? We’d send all the patrols out from there. By that time we were, you know, a little less nice, let’s say. We’d beat up Arabs a lot, and so on.

                                                                                                      Testimony 3, Hebron

                                                                                                      The worst testimonies of operation-orders to kill Palestinian policemen and the like are very exceptional. They exist, they are awful, but it’s not an everyday occurrence. I chose to bring something mundane, out of dozens of daily incidents where the lack of any consideration or comprehension of the reactions, of the consequences literally cries out, but they happen on a daily basis and never enter the mind of commanders at all, because there’s this phenomenon… I don’t know if it’s a general phenomenon, but this is what things are like for the combat units in the Occupied Territories during my years there.
                                                                                                      A mission is received with no critical judgment whatsoever. I mean, obviously a mission is a mission and must be carried out unless it is a flagrant breach of the law. But not a thought is given to how it is carried out, how to minimize unwanted damage, things like that.
                                                                                                      As soon as a mission-order comes in, whoever is in charge – battallion, company or platoon commander – receives it and carries it out religiously. I went through this myself, it took me a while to catch myself and begin to think twice about the missions. I mean, I didn’t doubt their importance and that I would carry them out regardless, but thinking more about how to do it. And this happens dozens of times a day, from the simplest ID check, how to make it more efficient for most of the people being checked. The great majority are innocent, after all, so how does one avoid making them wait for hours on end, how to minimize unnecessary friction with the population, reduce violations of their freedom of movement, freedom of employment, their right to livelihood. These terms are never taken in consideration. It took me a while to realize this. I’ll testify about something really routine… We were on duty in Hebron and were required, I mean the batallion was sent on a mapping mission. Mapping is when we’re assigned a neighborhoodd or several streets we're not too familiar with. Hebron is a very clannish city, everyone knows everyone else in the clans, the ‘hamulahs’, and it’s very difficult to penetrate, intelligence-wise. The battallion’s mission was to go from house to house, knock on the door, get the owner’s ID, write down his name, telephone number, cell phone numer, register all this children who live at home. Proceed from door to door, all the apartments in the building, building by building, the whole street, the entire neighborhood, as many neighborhoods as the *** assigned us. I don’t doubt the mission, I suppose it’s very important. The battallion commander received the assignment, passed it on to the company commander, as usual. I was in the platoon that was assigned special projects – namely, projects assigned higher up, not routine acitivity of guard duty and patrols – so I was assigned such a mission. It seemed pretty urgent, and the battallion commander told the company commander: this should be done within – I don’t remember in how many days he wanted it done. And there were lots of… about three whole neighborhoods, lots and lots of houses to go through. We were sent there directly with the maps. With everything we needed, after some very brief planning, to go ahead and check the houses. At some point it was already nighttime. Ten, eleven p.m. – say that’s still okay – and then midnight, one, two a.m. You’re already waking people up, flashing lights in their faces, people the vast majority if not all of whom are perfectly innocent, I mean they have not been involved in terrorist activity. And maybe they know of someone here or there, I don’t doubt the need to get their particulars. The question is whether it really must be done at two o’clock in the morning. I mean waking up entire households one by one, all those children crying, the women not understanding what’s going on, flash lights in their eyes, guns pointed at them for them to present their IDs. And what can you do, got to watch out for yourself too. So I get on radio and ask permission to conclude the action and proceed the next day. No, no, no – finish another street or two, must get through as many as possible right now. I explained my reasons to my superiors, that I didn’t think its’s… that I’d get up two hours earlier and do another two hours tomorrow.
                                                                                                      I mean, we’d eventually get through all the assigned houses.

                                                                                                      You suggested this?
                                                                                                      I suggested this. Yes, I mean, I was sure this would be okayed. Why now? I know exactly where I finished, no one is going to run away, they live here.
                                                                                                      I’ll get here tomorrow two hours earlier, we’ll start in the morning and finish whatever needs to be done on time. It wasn't even considered an option. I got a flat “no” on radio, even when I gave them my second reasoning, the operational one.

                                                                                                      Who were “they”?
                                                                                                      The company commander, through the war-room. I mean, the company commander can decide on his own whether to go through with it or not. He is the one who received the orders, he is responsible enough to carry them out as he sees fit. Even when I brought up my other reasoning, the operational aspect - I think it’s crazy to keep going from house to house in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar location, not knowing what’s inside the house, which way the door opens, who expects me inside, at night, first time I’m in the neighborhood. Suppose I just woke up people in one house, banged on their door, flashhed my lights, the next house already knows and is waiting for me, if someone there is out to get me. I mean, even the operational consideration was not taken and we kept at it until two o’clock in the morning. Apparently my talk with the company commander through the war-room made its way up the grapevine and the next day orders arrived from our own (Nahal rather than regional) brigade commander NOT to continue mapping missions after ten o’clock in the evening, unless some emergency calls for it etc. etc. But on principle no more mappings later than ten o’clock at night…

                                                                                                      Two o’clock in the morning was pre-planned?
                                                                                                      Essentially action cycles during that time in Hebron were eight to ten hours at a time. You have no business getting back unless your eight hours are up. Absolutely no judgment here. Now, I relate all of this to what I opened with here, the lack of any serious consideration the moment you’re assigned your mission… If the values, or say moral considerations are not a part of your mission, as soon as orders reach battallion level and down – a level I’m very familiar with – such things are almost never taken in consideration, for the mission is as good as ‘sacred’ in this situation.

                                                                                                      There’s quite a bit of ‘gray area’ about such missions. Checkpoints for example. You are often called upon to exercise your own judgment.
                                                                                                      Judgment is within given limitations. Exercising your own judgment as the platoon commander in the field means deciding from which direction you want to be covered, and how to talk to the homeowner who has just opened his door for you at two o’clock in the morinng. Whether to bark at him “ID!” or to greet him, “Good evening, sir, would you kindly show us your ID?” etc. The fact that you forced your armed presence on him and summoned him outside to gather the information while you could have collected it just as well the next day during waking hours and still carried out your mission – that is not subject to your own judgment on the ground. You’re already there and you’re told this is your mission. The company commander has already exercised his own judgment here, or the battallion commander before him. They received their orders for this mission and will stick to the book. Everyday actions that violate human rights are nearly never subject to any calculation how else to carry out orders, because of this idea that a mission is not something you can contest. Naturally you have to perform your mission etc. etc. but the fact that one cannot even consider other ways of doing things, that is really serious.

                                                                                                      Testimony 4, Hebron

                                                                                                      How do you deal with settlers?
                                                                                                      As platoon commander in a relatively veteran company, I experienced relatively little friction with them, for theoreticallly I had no assigned area. I would get a mission and carry it out. Not actually maintain a permanent line with positions and all. I did, but nothing like routine garrison companies who literally sat inside the Jewish settlement, especially standby duty on Saturdays etc. In fact, I had some routine stuff there. I had to do patrols in the area that was right next to… Listen, the violence was horrifying while I was there. It was just when the High Court of Justice okayed the Sharhabati house or whatever it was called, a Palestinian family home right on the verge of the settlement. During my last month there soldiers had to make a human-chain every day around this house so the Jewish settlers there wouldn’t take it apart. And it didn’t help.

                                                                                                      Was that a mission?
                                                                                                      That was our mission, to prevent the Jews from approaching the Sharhabati house. And it failed.

                                                                                                      I’m a soldier in your company. I get up in the morning, and I am assigned to create a human-chain around the Sharhabati home?
                                                                                                      It was a young company. I don’t know whether human-chain was the literal depiction in the orders themselves, but in actual fact that was what happened. But it didn’t work
                                                                                                      because inside the Jewish settlement they can move everywhere on the roofs. The children simply move along the roofs and there's nothing you can do. You’re not going to point guns at them to get them down, and if you chase them, they run away.

                                                                                                      What about civilian police?
                                                                                                      It doesn't have too much say there either…

                                                                                                      You summon them?
                                                                                                      Yes. We do. I didn’t deal with it personally, I saw it done on my patrols, I’d see it…
                                                                                                      A new squad-commander replaced me once, taking out the patrol, it was his first time, and on that same patrol a Palestinian tried to stab him and he opened fier. He turned around and the moment he looked away the guy was already facing him with the knife, and he pushed him away and shot him to death. There was a debriefing, normal army procedure in such cases, and our operational routine just took it up from there. The Jewish settlers in Hebron decided that it was that Arab’s purpose to stab any Jew.

                                                                                                      I think they even said “a Jewish child”. I don’t remember. They decided that this was what he was after.

                                                                                                      That was the talk on the street?
                                                                                                      Yes. Later they demonstratd, and part of the time in those demonstrations they run into the Abu Sneina casbah and do whatever they please. My mission there was literally to stop them, not to let them in. I had to fight some Jewish boys, really, and later they wouldn’t let us through with our jeep and all hell broke loose. But that was an exception. I mean, I don’t justify it, it was extreme and violent and as far as I am concerned they should sit in jail, the people who bring this on. Certainly the mothers who put their babies on the road so that the army jeep can’t move.

                                                                                                      That actually happened?
                                                                                                      That actually happened.

                                                                                                      What age was the baby?
                                                                                                      No more than one-year old. They should go to jail, but that was an exceptional incident. The usual incidents are when Palestinian children finish school and they have to be protected, because otherwise they get beaten up by the Jewish kids. Rough beatings-to- kill are not an everyday occurrence, but definitely throwing small stones. That happens literally everyday. Things that after you spend some months in Hebron don’t seem exceptional to you. To me personally they do.

                                                                                                      Shock.
                                                                                                      Sure. But the situation there is so surreal, so eccentric, that you realize you’re in this kind of twilight-zone, with altogether different rules. The place really forces itself on you.

                                                                                                      Testimony 5, Hebron

                                                                                                      I remember the first time I was really screwed up in Hebron, opening some street corner or house on one of my first patrols, you know you really are in shock. I was sure that any moment now I’d be shot. So you stare at every window, turn every corner really stressed out. Then you become indifferent. Yes. But in the beginning… I remember I took a corner and my rifle was pointing at this little child. I had a really hard time with this one. He burst out crying and ran away. Things like that. Or say I remember once, you know the patrol moves in two lines, so these two children passed along in between, an older and a younger brother. The older brother held the younger close and they hurried along. This picture won’t leave me. Later, after becoming indifferent, I remember I took a corner once and saw some Arab looking at me through the window. Then just like that, I have no idea why I did this – I pointed my gun at him, and he closed the door and ran. And I went – "Wow, I’m really losing it. Really." That’s how we all felt, it was like - feels like talking to a shrink now – but you just say, "man, I’ve really been screwed." You keep talking about burnout all the time, all this shit and stuff. But it’s a real horror. You keep getting under their skin. At first you’re really scared, then you allow yourself some humane feelings, and then you just don’t give a damn. It’s like that everywhere in the Occupied Territories, but particularly so in Hebron.

                                                                                                      After how long?
                                                                                                      Next to nothing. Two weeks maybe. Think about it. Eight-hour patrol shifts. You get into this routine right away. Never fails… I remember some commander who’s actually a really nice guy, heart of gold. I remember some Arab child suddenly gave him this strange look. I was shocked, this was at an army post with commander and soldier, and another soldier above. Suddenly he gripped the kid, pushed him against the wall, picked him up and yelled at him. The whole street was silent. And I was… What just happened here now? Trying to cover him, I don’t even know what. I was in shock. And then I talked to him about this: Sir, why do we do this, actually? “No, you gotta understand, it’s called deterrence” and all that crap. I understood him, really. I’m not here to blame anyone.

                                                                                                      No one blames anyone.
                                                                                                      Not true. It’s what I told you about some of the things I read in the booklet. Sometimes this is really very target-oriented. I think that reality there is really problematic. Not because of the soldiers, see? Especially not in our unit, okay? No one there’s bad. The soldiers don’t try to be mean. Really not. That commander, too, the one who picked up that Arab kid against the wall, he wasn't being vicious. He's no Arab-hater. Really not. It’s burnout, and because – you no longer know what you’re supposed to do there, see? You stand at that post all day, suddenly something happens and some little Arab stares at you and says something, and you snap…

                                                                                                      Snap?
                                                                                                      Yes. Snap.

                                                                                                      Do you think your fuse got shorter since you were in Hebron?

                                                                                                      Towards Arabs, yes. I’m sad to say this, but I always said that sometimes – it’s a terrible thing to say but sometimes the way to treat Arabs is like rookies, new recruits. Because you know, that’s discipline. If you don’t – this is after I was in Hebron for a long time and as a commander and all – this is discipline. Not only in Hebron, in the Occupied Territories in general. If someone comes to you and he wants to cross the line and you’re nice and you argue don’t cross, cross, don’t… then eventually he does cross. And then “you failed your mission”. So you start yelling and all that. Then at night suddenly you think about it. Not while you’re actually do doing it.

                                                                                                      The next day?
                                                                                                      Next day? No way, right after the patrol, suddenly you go, wow…

                                                                                                      The next day you carry on as usual?
                                                                                                      Business as usual, totally. That’s why it works, the Territories. That’s how you start to change, really. Because you don’t understand what’s happening to you, as a person.

                                                                                                      Testimony 6, Hebron

                                                                                                      And the cameras inside Hebron itself?
                                                                                                      The police has them, as far as I know at *** Just serveillance of what goes on around there. And the army has them, it goes to *** They have monitors there.

                                                                                                      Monitors at the war-room?
                                                                                                      Yes, incredible stuff.

                                                                                                      And the footage, where does that go?
                                                                                                      Nowhere, it stays in the computers. In case there’s any incident… There’s closed-circuit television, cameras everywhere… Like in “The Truman Show”, which are controlled by joystick and zoom and… really state-of-the-art. All the films are kept on the computer.
                                                                                                      Poor quality. That’s it. So in those films I saw all kinds of assaults. And breaking in to houses and assaulting people.

                                                                                                      Breaking into settler homes?
                                                                                                      No, settlers breaking into Arab homes.

                                                                                                      Okay, what did you see?
                                                                                                      You see them… you see really well. Breaking windows and all. Breaking, kicking and…

                                                                                                      So what you see is settlers banging on doors, breaking into houses, you see soldiers standing around nearby and not doing a thing?
                                                                                                      No. After a while soldiers come along beacuse they are alerted, and usually do nothing. Maybe catch them… Stop the… Cut the power.

                                                                                                      What do you mean?
                                                                                                      Most of the cameras, if not all of them, get their power from the settlers’ houses. When they anticipate some rioting, they disconnect the… electricity.

                                                                                                      The settlers? Disconnect the cameras, and so…
                                                                                                      Yes. Or otherwise disrupt them, yes…

                                                                                                      You have witnessed such things sitting at the war-room receiving end?
                                                                                                      Sure. It happens. They don’t always know there’s another camera catching them from another direction.

                                                                                                      Who is there actually seeing what happens in real time?
                                                                                                      Women-soldiers monitoring screens. They have this monitoring system in which they are trained.

                                                                                                      How many cameras are there?
                                                                                                      About ***. Not just covering the Jewish settlements. They also cover H1 (The part of Hebron supposedly under full Palestinian control). You see, the cameras are situated inside the area of the Jewish settlement – otherwise they’d be vandalised – and cover H1 as well.

                                                                                                      So what do they show? Anyone approaching the Jewish settlement?
                                                                                                      Yes, anyone there.

                                                                                                      What is done with this material?
                                                                                                      You mean in case the settlers attack Palestinians? When I was there I know that it could not be passed on to the police…

                                                                                                      Forbidden?
                                                                                                      Yes. To avoid friction, perhaps. I don’t know. I have no idea what it’s like now. If something happens, say, I know that once there was this incident, I don’t know how to label it – not criminal, not insurgency, but the other way around – on the part of the settlers.

                                                                                                      What happened?
                                                                                                      I don’t know, *** or someone beat up one of the Arabs. Then, during the police investigation he was shown this film where he was plainly seen. Naturally he called the brigade commander right away and said that these cameras are there to protect the settlers, the Jews. Not to protect the Arabs. And this must not be misunderstood: what happened there was a criminal felony, not insurgent activity. Since then, anytime something like takes place, the army may not hand this material over to the police. And since then, no policeman has been allowed to enter the closed-circuit television monitoring room.

                                                                                                      Policemen were not allowed into the war-room?
                                                                                                      For a while. Until that was changed. For about a month, no policemen was allowed.

                                                                                                      And the army was not supposed to let the police have these tapes?
                                                                                                      Yes. I was at the war-room, a policeman came in so this woman-officer said: “I’m sorry, we have our orders from the brigade commander not to let you in here, please leave.”

                                                                                                      Testimony 7, Hebron

                                                                                                      There are few defensive assignments, such as guard-duty and the like. There are offensive assignments, usually carried out by the more special units or the senior companies, like arrests and such.

                                                                                                      You took part in arrest missions?
                                                                                                      Yes. Lots of them. The main bulk of the assignments is offensive in nature. I mean – never mind, we won’t go into this – essentially they are intended to make people (Palestinians) constantly aware of your presence. So they’ll never feel comfortable, and realize the army is always around. Get used to having the army there, that there is no such thing for them, routine life without the army. That anywhere they go, the can be inspected.

                                                                                                      You mean throughout the Territories or more specifically?
                                                                                                      I know Hebron best, I can’t vouch for other areas, but the principle is the same all over. Most missions – I mean routine ones – are also intended to make the Palestinians know you’re there. That the army’s there. That they mustn’t relax for a second, normal civilians just as well. I guess it’s some kind of strategic concept, that they’ll want to ostracize terrorists, anyone involved in insurgency.

                                                                                                      These are sociological assumptions.
                                                                                                      What are sociological assumptions? This is the working principle in the Occupied Territories since the onset of the Intifada. I guess it has changed a few times, but at officers' training they would lecture us about this, taken for granted. Namely, the objective is to force the Palestinian population into rejecting terrorists. Kick them out of their midst. Not allow them to disrupt their everyday life. In actual fact this has not worked, disruption of routine life has been ongoing for six years now. As far as I’m concerned, any such action is a significant disruption of people’s lives. Every sudden stopping of vehicles, delaying people until the GSS clear or block them according to their ID particulars.

                                                                                                      What about the soldiers? How do they see it? Let’s put it this way, are there any initiatives felt on their part?
                                                                                                      I’ve had all kinds. I’ve had soldiers who came to me on a mission and said: "Listen, I think we’re holding them up too long, why don’t we let them go?" I’ve had soldiers who, as far as they were concerned, were there to do the job, and would do it as best they could and then get back to the post and go to sleep. And I’ve also had soldiers who made sure to stall as much as possible, and force someone waiting for his ID to squat long enough for his quadriceps to bust. Naturally I had to balance out the extremes.

                                                                                                      You were their commander?
                                                                                                      Yes.

                                                                                                      What were they told about such an event?
                                                                                                      I’d order them to stop it right away.

                                                                                                      You would supervise the mission?
                                                                                                      I would command the operation itself. We’d go out on patrol, stop somewhere to check IDs. This is patrol routine. You and you secure over there, you and you go there, I take IDs. You stand guard over those waiting, you pass the ID numbers on radio. And I don’t always see the guys standing guard over those waiting. You move around, trying to get an overview of the scene, perhaps you should change places, check to see that those posted to cover you are really doing that, etc. Meanwhile, someone waiting on the side approaches a soldier, which is perfectly understandable and legitimate, and says: "Listen, will this take long? We’re in a hurry to get to work." And the soldier, he’s strong, he’s armed, and expects this person to cower, not to dare approach him like this, although he poses no actual threat. And this is an everyday situation. The soldier yells back at him, pointing his gun at him, forcing him into physically painful poses. You witness such things, as a platoon commander, and immediately order them to stop it and get back to their normal procedure. Later when the platoon gets back, you talk about it. There were soldiers who would get very upset about our being wimps, and others who justified it, still others who were indifferent.

                                                                                                      Did you punish soldiers for this?
                                                                                                      Not when it first occurred. I can’t punish someone for being brought up at home in a certain way, or a certain belief-system. As soon as I gave an order not to repeat this and they did, punishment would be expected. But it happened very seldom under my command, at least as far as I know. Naturally there were patrols without me, when squad-commanders or sergeants would be in charge.

                                                                                                      What was the atmosphere like in the company, your unit?
                                                                                                      In what way?

                                                                                                      Were such things legitimized?
                                                                                                      There’s a difference between, I mean, the company commander talks to his men, speaks about the importance of maintaining certain humane standards in action, but that’s it. He is not personally present on patrol. There are some junior commanders who are more vicious, others less. There is an invisible competition going on, who is the strongest ‘sheriff’, in every battallion, in every company, always.

                                                                                                      What's a ‘sheriff’?
                                                                                                      King of the zone.

                                                                                                      Among the squad-commanders?
                                                                                                      Among the companies. The company commanders and squad-commanders. It was implicit, no one talked about it openly. But if I were on four patrols in a row that had incidents, well – I was working harder, I was 'more of a man' for it. Sacrificing more for the mission. This is a frame of mind that works as an undercurrent, not consciously but quite strong. Some patrols are led by different-ranking commanders for whom such power play is everything.

                                                                                                      Testimony 8, Hebron

                                                                                                      What about vehicles? Confiscating car keys?
                                                                                                      Yes, it's done. Their car-keys are taken away. If Palestinians are detained, their car-keys and IDs are taken from them.

                                                                                                      And how do they get them back?
                                                                                                      Either they do or they don't, from the next patrol. If they're found, they're found, if not – not.

                                                                                                      Can you estimate how many there were?
                                                                                                      I don't know. Most of them did get them back, the next patrol would come and give them back their keys. The vehicle stayed at the same spot and they'd wait with it.

                                                                                                      And their IDs, how did they get those back? Same way?
                                                                                                      From the patrol, too. Or not. If someone was really irritating he would not get them back, because he'd be considered insolent.

                                                                                                      Testimony 9, Hebron

                                                                                                      Were you ever alerted to the Occupied Territories during basic and advanced training?
                                                                                                      Actually we were in Hebron, for some two-three days. My first Hebron experience.
                                                                                                      I remember doing guard duty, at Tapuz Gross and Sentry posts. These were the first two army posts I ever experienced outisde the brigade training camp.

                                                                                                      What was it, reinforcements for securing the 'prayer route'?
                                                                                                      It was a Friday-Saturday reinforcement. There were incidents there that really cracked us up, so funny… I was at Tapuz Gross post when it was still manned, a soldier below and a commander. So I remember a vehicle arriving from Mani Road, I mean through the Abu Sneina neighborhood, a Palestinian Municipality vehicle, for they are in charge of infrastructure there. I recall the Palestinian vehicle arriving to repair something in the power lines: the Palestinian municipality services infrastructures in the Jewish settlement, after all. Pretty ironic.

                                                                                                      To this day, it's the Palestinians who collect the garbage there?
                                                                                                      Naturally, naturally. Everything. Electricity, water, the works. So this vehicle came, and entered, and then – I'll never forget this, I couldn't believe my own ears: a band of little kids, four-five-six-year olds, started yelling: "Palestinian car!" Running down from Avraham Avinu settlement with stones in their hands, running towards us. Meanwhile, the vehicle goes uphill to Tel Rumeida. Then I see my officer sprinting after them. Naturally they smashed his windshield, so cute of them. Well, it was over. I stayed, depressed as I was, at the Tapuz Gross post. A six-hour guard stint.

                                                                                                      Anyone arrested there?
                                                                                                      No. Five-six-year old children, there's nothing you can do. It's like a joke.

                                                                                                      Did you try to detain anyone, talk to them?
                                                                                                      Whom? I could tell you things that, in retrospect, sound like a sick joke. That time, I saw three mothers coming down from Tel Rumeida, talking among themselves: "It's so horrible, really sickening! How could they possibly prevent them from doing what they were doing?" So I'm thinking, sure, normal. "How can they (soldiers) stop them (the settlers children)? After all they're (Palestinians) throwing stones at us!" something in that vein. Suddenly I realized, shocked, that these three mothers walking down with their prams are really saying that it's not fair to prevent their poor precious children from throwing stones at the Palestinian municipal maintenance truck. I look around me and wonder: What? Where am I?

                                                                                                      Testimony 10, Hebron

                                                                                                      How's the interaction between Palestinians and Jewish settlers?
                                                                                                      Okay, it's really not simple.

                                                                                                      Recall any incidents?
                                                                                                      Yes. Again, I was stationed at the post but many guys were involved in this, because this was – again – prayers alert. Lots of people (Jews) came from the outside, as they usually visit the settlers inside Hebron, staying over the Sabbath. And again, they went for their Friday prayers. En route, behind ‘Jilber’, behind the guardpost, there's a grocery store. So these people go in and start trashing the place. I don't exactly know to what extent.
                                                                                                      A friend of mine was on duty there and he said they went in, started yelling and dropping products off the shelves, I don't know exactly.

                                                                                                      A Palestinian grocery store?
                                                                                                      Yes.

                                                                                                      The one next to Jilber?
                                                                                                      Right behind the post there's a grocery store. They went in as I said, and our two guys on guard duty nearby went in and started arguing with the Jews, trying to get them out of there. So the Jews left and on their way, they saw an old woman sitting. They were on their way to the synagogue. So passing this old woman, they started yelling at her, I don't know, kicked her or something. This is just from stories that soldiers told me. I remember this incident particularly because the guys really dwelt on it.

                                                                                                      What were you told in your briefing, about your mission at Hebron?
                                                                                                      To protect the Jewish settlers.

                                                                                                      That's the mission?
                                                                                                      Protect residents, all of them, and the Jewish settlers of Hebron. Overall. And the army is there mainly to secure the Jewish settlers. If there were no Jewish settlement, there would be no army. That's how I see it. Now in this context, you are also protecting Palestinians, whether overtly or covertly.

                                                                                                      How did you protect Palestinians? What did you do to the settlers who ran wild in that grocery store?
                                                                                                      We kicked them out of there.

                                                                                                      Testimony 11, Hebron
                                                                                                      We conducted fake arrests.

                                                                                                      What do you mean?
                                                                                                      A fake arrest, that's what we carried out. We did not actually make arrests.

                                                                                                      In Hebron?
                                                                                                      Yes. It was a major issue, brought up some really hard feelings. At first we didn't really know how to cope with it. We didn't know if it was legal or not.

                                                                                                      What was it?
                                                                                                      A fake arrest is basically a training move, to practice arrest procedure in order to be able to carry it out. Again, to intimidate, deter Palestinians, to say: This here is army. So that will be the next day's talk around the Palestinian neighborhood. Now, intelligence gives us the name of someone who is in fact okay, no problem at all, nothing on him, and we go and conduct an arrest at his home. A seemingly regular arrest, in every way.

                                                                                                      You went with this all the way? You picked up the person?
                                                                                                      We picked him up. The commanding mobile unit would pick him up, drive around with him, and then bring him back home.

                                                                                                      Testimony 12, Hebron

                                                                                                      'Patrol 30' – what are its missions?
                                                                                                      'Patrol-30' is actually a security effort. So we get contact first thing before standing duty at the posts.

                                                                                                      You walk around for 12 hours in the casbah?
                                                                                                      12 hours in the casbah, walking around, that's it. Nothing special.

                                                                                                      House mappings?
                                                                                                      Again, it all changes. You get to do mappings, and eventually it's up to whoever's in charge.Let's say I and my platoon commander never led a single mapping in the western casbah, because I can't… I mean I don't believe it's really necessary. On the other hand, there's another platoon commander and sergeant who do this regularly, three-four times a patrol.

                                                                                                      What does this mapping involve?
                                                                                                      What is it? You get a map sheet, and you enter a home.

                                                                                                      Daytime? Nighttime?
                                                                                                      Day, night, no difference. Night's preferrable. The company commander always preferred nighttime. When whole families are at home. I'll go over the mappings I did. You map the house. You go around with the owner and he lifts this and that, shows you everything. In fact everything that's been caught so far is just bullshit. Found a knife hidden in some spot, a toy knife. A knife that is actually a cigarette-lighter. So I go, yeah sure, that's like a knife that's going to be used – I mean, it's plainly a decoration. Basically if you are a Palestinian living in the western casbah or anywhere around there, I've realized that it's about the shittiest life you can have. You can't have a cap gun, mustn't own a knife. Any kind of knife. I got to the point where my platoon commander confiscated a kitchen knife. I go: "Why? Why pick that up?" "It was lying very strangely in the living room." I'm not taking it. "Take it!" I find myself confiscating this kitchen knife from a person who is, well, a "Fatah supporter". Since he was in the… I got to the point where I had personal contact with residents of the western casbah because, I don't know, I try not to be nice to them, for people treat you the way you treat them and so on. But they're really used to army presence. As soon as we show up they start asking: 'Ah, you're new, you're an officer, your're a sergeant…' Anyone there already knows enough to ask you for your recruitment date: 'What are you, enlisted March 06? March 05?' Anyone. Even the kids there go, 'Until when are you in, March 06? Until when, November 05?' they ask my men. And then my men answer them: 'We're not November 05, we're March 06.' So the kids go, 'Ah, until when March 06?' Personally I don't let my men do this, teach them such stuff. But companies that have been here before us have already taught them everything. 'Sorry about your time', 'Ohh, that's tough' – I mean four-year old kids come to you…
                                                                                                      Back to mappings. You go over the house, look around. The only time I was really stressed – you've got to do mapping because everyone does it, why not you? – I go into someone's house, I knock on the door, call up the whole family. I did this at nine o'clock. I said, if I do this later I'll really feel like shit.

                                                                                                      People do it at a later hour as well?
                                                                                                      Yes. Just a second. I'll go over the mapping that we actually do, in Abu Sneina where…
                                                                                                      I enter his home, go through his living room, see a flower-pot: "Thanks to so-and-so for your contribution to the mediation process between Palestinians and Israelis". I mean this is my first home mapping and this is what I see there, a plant given in homage, a certicate of honor. I proceed, and am really embarassed. Simply embarassed. I felt shitty about going through his things.

                                                                                                      What does that mean, going through things? Down to cigarette butts?
                                                                                                      Depends whom you ask. If you ask my company commander, then it's down to the last cigarette butt. But again, no one, at least in our company, not that I know of, does it just to be nasty. My commander really believes that it's operational and that you can find stuff. I know him, he's not a… he's the opposite of a hater. He would tell us that as a platoon commander, say, he'd wouldn't let his soldiers go into 'straw widow' operations (whereby Israeli army forces take over Palestinian homes and turn them into military posts for hours, days and even longer). They would sleep on the floor, not even sit in an easy chair. It's something he always emphasized in his talks. It was something he really abhorred when he saw it done. But, on the other hand, he would insist on the searches. But, okay, that's already his own conception of operations and how he feels about them. So I went in, went over things, felt I couldn't handle it any more and left. We cleared, all my men felt really shitty about this, I mean in a big way.

                                                                                                      Do you have patrols for making your presence felt in the area?
                                                                                                      'Patrol-30' is done expressly for making our presence felt. To make the enemy feel hunted down.

                                                                                                      Testimony 13, Hebron

                                                                                                      The peak was really once when we were on patrol, we had a report of some clan fighting. It was like a chance to take revenge. We were told, you know how it is, every time they have this kind of clan fight, someone comes after us eventually. And everyone was already really sick of it. We were told to go over there and find out what was happening. Our commander was a bit screwed in the head, he hsaid: "We're not really going over there to see what's happening". He sent everyone up on roofs and told them: "Anyone you see holding a knife, take down his knee, I don't care."

                                                                                                      In the middle of the night?
                                                                                                      No, noon time. Why middle of the night?

                                                                                                      People were going around with knives?
                                                                                                      There was a clan fight. Guns. He said, "I don't care, I'm not going to be kind about this, the army can do whatever I want. Now I'm taking revenge on anyone throwing stones at us, check them out if they're throwing." He goes: "Anyone identified with a knife, a stone, even a stone is enough – get his knee. Anyone detecting something suspect, shoot to maim."

                                                                                                      What's suspect?
                                                                                                      Anyone holding a knife is out to assault. Anyone with a molotov cocktail, a rifle, all of that – is out to attack.

                                                                                                      Attack whom?
                                                                                                      Us.

                                                                                                      And he came with a knife where?
                                                                                                      To a clan fight. Also with guns.

                                                                                                      They're no business of yours?
                                                                                                      No.

                                                                                                      You weren't in any danger?
                                                                                                      Danger? No way, we were 150 meters away, on roofs. We located a house and just fired.
                                                                                                      What danger? If we had wanted to, we could have ignored it. We just wanted to… We would be on the move with an extra bag of ammo just in case there's an emergency drill, that we'd always have enough. You know, we'd go through cartridge checks to make sure we didn't fire anything by mistake. So even though we weren't checked, just to make sure we had enough.

                                                                                                      You always have spare ammo?
                                                                                                      Yes. Plenty. Whatever you want. So anyway, we would locate houses, and he'd tell us: "Okay, anyone you see armed with stones or whatever, I don't care what – shoot. Everyone would think it's the clan fight." After five minutes we'd see stones and stuff, and then I'm telling you, we started…

                                                                                                      How did Palestinians react to sudden shooting?
                                                                                                      I don't know, maybe they thought it was theirs, who knows.

                                                                                                      Did you hit them?
                                                                                                      Sure. Not just them. Anyone who came close. Anyone else who was around. you know how it is. There's always those who just shoot. I see a suspect, boom.

                                                                                                      They went on with their fight?
                                                                                                      There was a really bad fight on there. Really strong. It just got worse, I tell you, hands, legs went flying there. Platoon ***, the really good one in our company, what do I mean by good? Professionally our platoon was the one that got everything. We always caught weapons. And platoon *** were like the goody-goodies, who don't do anything. They did checkpost duty. You know. People came out of vehicles there without knees. The company commander told them: "No one gets through. Everyone check out vehicles." He didn't really know who gave the order.

                                                                                                      The company commander knew nothing about this?
                                                                                                      No one knew. Platoon's private initiative, these actions. That's how it was in ours: we would not be the suckers. Yes, that's a bit extreme. It was really bad. I think at some point they realized it was soldiers, but they were not sure. Because they could not believe soldiers would do this, you know.

                                                                                                      What other kinds of wounding were there?
                                                                                                      Particularly legs, legs and arms. Some people also sustained abdominal hits.

                                                                                                      Anyone died?
                                                                                                      I don't know if anyone died. Many wounded were reported. Platoon *** kept coming up on the radio: there are wounded here. Seriously wounded. They could not stop the vehicles, we know what it is, so we tell them: "Yes, those clan fights also have armed men." Most of the hits were from our fire. The company commander said: Check out the vehicle, to make sure they're not carrying weapons."
                                                                                                      … We weren't really thinking very much at the time, fuck, we'd had it, you know what Hebron is like. And it was really like that, everyone had had it. Some were lefties when they arrived: "I'd never hit an Arab", you know. I have a good friend who would tell me, right after we got our of there: "I can't believe I did these things".

                                                                                                      He had a hard time?
                                                                                                      A bit. The commander always explained to him: "That is not your job. Your job is to take care of our soldiers…" He accepted that, as it were.

                                                                                                      But was uncomfortable?
                                                                                                      Yes, but what can you do. Go with the flow. Nothing else you can do.

                                                                                                      How many people were there?
                                                                                                      Lots. About 150 people. A real clan-fight.

                                                                                                      How did children get there?
                                                                                                      Children came too. You know, kids stand aside, yelling. There was a big mess. Whole families, I tell you, came out there. You know how it is in a clan fight. I've seen a lot but this was really something awesome. And we only made it worse, when they see them and wounded, and then the clans get even more… We made things a lot worse there. The commander was as happy as if we'd taken down the head of Hamas in Hebron…

                                                                                                      Did he reward people?
                                                                                                      Reward? "Very good, we're doing our job. Restoring the army's deterring force." They didn't even know it was us. And it was all inside the platoon, no one else knew.

                                                                                                      Was that the first time for something like that to happen?
                                                                                                      No. We always gave hell. We would always beat Arabs. we'd come, smash mosque windows, throw detonators in, and then there'd be some protest and we'd fire rubber-coated ammo. And they'd come out all nervous and we'd disperse them with rubber ammo, concussion grenades, teargas, the works.

                                                                                                      Was an investigation held later?
                                                                                                      No, we didn't report it. There were wounded. We were asked what happened. "Clan fight." Needn't expound too much. Beatings, shootings, and that's it. We don't elaborate… I remember that once, after the shooting, we stopped some vehicle, we had quit checking, so we stopped some car and someone must have been hit with a bullet here.

                                                                                                      Below the shoulder?
                                                                                                      Yes. We were told, and we saw, smears of blood. The commander says, "No, I'm checking your car." We said, "Listen, he's going to die on us here, at the checkpoint". "No." Our company commander was screwed up, never mind. So he says:"You're not releasing anyone here until after you check this guy. Nobody." And this commander was really a bit crazy, now really. There were protests, so he'd grip stones and throw at Arabs' cars, breaking up cars.

                                                                                                      Let's get back to the checkpoint. You finish dealing with disruptions of public order, you go down, put up a checkpoint. A vehicle arrives.
                                                                                                      He claims it's a bullet. He goes, "I was shot, I was shot." We ask, who shot you? "That guy over there, a clan fight." For they don't know who fired at them. In other words, all hell broke loose. You see that people there are on edge, ask them: "Who is this?" They tell us. What's his name? Head of the family, not a sheikh,don't remember the name, but something like the head of the house. I don't remember how they call this person. Anyway, someone important. So we told the commander, "Listen, this is not right".
                                                                                                      "No," he says, "no one lets him go. Get everyone out of the car. Him too, as far as I'm concerned."

                                                                                                      Who says this?
                                                                                                      The commander.

                                                                                                      The sergeant? The platoon commander?
                                                                                                      Sergeant. Squad-commander. Junior staff.

                                                                                                      So what happens?
                                                                                                      We got everyone out of the car, took everything apart, didn't find a thing. I tell you we took it apart, I mean we dismantled doors, everything.

                                                                                                      How long did it take?
                                                                                                      We smash. In a matter of seconds. One minute and the whole car is in pieces.
                                                                                                      We'd come with knives, tear up the top, everything. No car left. Chances are it wasn't exactly in usable shape after we were through. Then we left him go, having inspected the passengers, see?

                                                                                                      ID check or body inspection?
                                                                                                      Body inspection.

                                                                                                      Testimony 14, Hebron

                                                                                                      You mentioned some incursion in the casbah.
                                                                                                      I did.

                                                                                                      When and why?
                                                                                                      Following settlers' claims, something that may have taken place, I don't know. They say two Palestinian children somehow came to the Avraham Avinu settlement, then ran away. Following that, fifteen people, settlers, heroic salt of the earth, from eight-year old girls to an armed settler, enter the western casbah through gate 4-5. The 4-5 outpost commander could not block fifteen people, reports this on his radio. Our 'patrol-30', present inside the casbah, chases them for ten minutes.

                                                                                                      And you are where?
                                                                                                      At the outpost at the time. I was summoned later simply as reinforcement. So the the guys of 'patrol-30' do this. One girl shouts to another in Arabic, "Keep quiet!" while this guy could just trample her. Naturally the Palestinians know that any reaction is followed by a counter-reaction, so everyone there keeps from reacting to Jews. The children are yelling, running the whole operation, and in the meantime our patrol conducts a chase.

                                                                                                      Just yelling?
                                                                                                      As far as I know, yes. They enter an yell, all sorts of stuff – a show of Jewish force inside the casbah. I don't know when this ridiculous event took place. Our patrol chases, the command unit arrives, begins to chase them. One of the settlers swore at one of our soldiers, an Ethiopean Jew.

                                                                                                      What do you mean?
                                                                                                      Things like "This is what you came here for, all the way from Ethiopea?" Let's say I've noticed they really badmouth our Ethiopeans, mercilessly…

                                                                                                      And then they come to you?
                                                                                                      No. Then plenty of reinforcements were summoned, Border Patrol reconnaissance unit as well as ourselves. So I get there, block some gate, push some girl. Push? I wish it were that. It was more like, "Girl, I'm about to close this gate so either I squash your fingers or you move." So her mother starts up, "Don't you touch my daughter!" If I had not touched her daughter she wouldn't have had too many fingers left anyway. They open one of the gates that had been closed, and run in all over the place.

                                                                                                      Why a gate?
                                                                                                      Gate 5 has this bolt on the Jewish side. So they open it and enter. In the meantime we chase them all over the place. Stuff like you only see on television. All this police and army chasing the settlers. So me and four others totally block the gate, making a human chain. hen some girl sitting there says: "You, you only protect them…" You this, you that.

                                                                                                      Were they violent with you?
                                                                                                      My officer on 'patrol-30' experienced more violence. He was shoved around, stuff like that. He's already filed a statement with the police. He really came out angry at them, unreasonably furious, because he was really offended by the insults hurled at his soldier, which made him even madder. He was really mad about how they behaved there. They were worse than ever that day.

                                                                                                      How does this all end up?
                                                                                                      Dozens of soldiers and policemen arrive, and they chase them (the settlers) away.
                                                                                                      At some point their fighting spirit just died down and they cleared out.

                                                                                                      No one was arrested?
                                                                                                      No. No way. It's pretty absurd, the things that go on there.

                                                                                                      Testimony 15, Hebron

                                                                                                      Eventually you get to the outpost at the end of your patrol, and there's this lull just before you fall asleep, which is very short, and you call home or your girlfriend and she asks you, "Hey, how are you?" "Okay." "So what did you do today?" And I don't know, suddenly you think about everything you did, like an outside observer, and to this day she doesn't have much of an idea about my service in Hebron, because I simply didn't know how to tell her what I did that day, or the past week, without feeling ashamed of myself.
                                                                                                      That's what I mean when I say that I'm afraid to think what would happen to us if we had stayed there, because this sense of not being able to face myself and tell the person I'm closest to in the world, being unable to tell her what I had done, for me this is the worst discredit. This is how I sum it up.

                                                                                                      Testimony 16, Hebron

                                                                                                      … Not always but mostly. I mean if you are already inside the home, you go through it. The purpose of the search eventually – and we were also told why it's done this way – a bunch of lefties from our unit would come along and ask, "Why just go into rooms and homes and stuff?" We were told: "Listen, the layout of Hebron makes it impossible for us to create a borderline such as settlements have, for example, in the northern West Bank, where they are fenced in. So terror here can emerge out of any home. So what we do, is to random-check everyone." Now what does random-check mean? For this to be effective, it has to take place at times when everyone is already at home. So it's nighttime. Meaning that harassment here is supposedly just a 'side-effect', and it is, but eventually this too, as I see it, was a goal in itself. For at the end of the day the obejctive is also to sow fear. Make everyone know that the army can appear at any moment. An army patrol can show up anytime and search a home.

                                                                                                      Testimony 17, Hebron

                                                                                                      Being a TIPH (Temporary International Presence at Hebron) observer is really a bad scene. Here's another classic example of having a shitty time in Hebron. TIPH regularly get a 'warm reception'. Whenever they come down from Abu Sneina (neighborhood), they are target for a stone or two at their car. Extra-special.

                                                                                                      By the settlers?
                                                                                                      Sure. Simply for being TIPH.

                                                                                                      And what do you do about it?
                                                                                                      I can just repeat what I told one of them. I'll do it in Hebrew. He goes: "Stones have just now been thrown at me."

                                                                                                      Where do you meet him?
                                                                                                      He shows up. Comes back to Gross (outpost). I go, "Yes, I know. That's why I was summoned here." Then I tell him, "Listen, you know that these are kids under the age of 14 so there's nothing I can do." And the, in these very words: "I know, I just wanted you to realize that." Like, he already knows and there's nothing to do about it, absolutely nothing.

                                                                                                      So what are the procedures you're given, genearlly, regarding the settlers?
                                                                                                      Nothing. Ask my deputy company commander, who's really dying to do something about them, what the procedures really are…

                                                                                                      … Any time TIPH or CPT (Christian Peacemaking Teams) activists approach me – before we absolutely prohibited any leftist or such activists enter Avraham Avinu settlers, once they went in there and I told them: "Do me a favor, don't. I can't be responsible for what could happen to you in there." The funniest incident was when this group, I mean all of the CPT activists came through, twenty of them, and I was commander at Gross and I go: "What are you doing here?" You can't mistake them, with their CPT and those awful red caps they have, so "What are you doing here?" and they go, "Why, is there a problem?" I ask them, "Did you coordinate this with anyone? Did you inform anyone you were walking around here?" A huge group, I mean you can't really hide such a thing.
                                                                                                      I was really concerned about their safety.

                                                                                                      Where were they walking, at the wholesale market?
                                                                                                      No, just plainly no the 'David Route' which you know as Shuhada Street.

                                                                                                      Are there any special instructions regarding the Bnei Avraham tour groups?
                                                                                                      Bnei Avraham (a group of activists that conducts guided tours in Hebron) arrive, and they are not supposed to enter anywhere in Avraham Avinu neighborhood settlement. I'm dying to know how we got to the point where a Jew is not allowed to walk around Jewish public space. For leftists…

                                                                                                      There's an instruction forbidding them to enter Avraham Avinu?
                                                                                                      Yes. There's an explicit instruction forbidding leftist activists and international organizations from entering Beit Hadassah, Avraham Avinu and other such settlements.

                                                                                                      Testimony 18, Hebron

                                                                                                      We were on patrol, going way out of our assigned borders. Never mind.

                                                                                                      Why?
                                                                                                      Because we were always extending our patrol range. So no one will know where we were. Some of us kept clubs in our vests. It would get to the point where we'd be walking down the street, patrolling, suddenly stop a vehicle, just for the sake of it, stop it, check it out, break doors and such, not realy gentle. Smash up the door from inside. Maybe they're hiding weapons.

                                                                                                      Who decided that now they stop and search vehicles?
                                                                                                      Just like that. Soldiers. Not even necessarily the squad-commander. Whoever did, it was alright. "Smash it", he'd say. "Go wild."

                                                                                                      The squad-commander?
                                                                                                      Most vicious patrols were with him. There was this patrol which included the most vicious guys in our platoon. So they went out, and suddenly stopped this car. Someone came out and announced, "I've got to reach the hospital in a hurry", like really pressured. We couldn't care less. Get back in the car. Yelling at him. "What's with this talking?" So they got at him, beat him to a pulp. The father wants to get out of the car, and as he does, an elderly man, someone took out his club and – boom! smashed the windshield. I'm telling you, really smahsed it. A whole mess started out there. The guy was forced inside, with clubs.

                                                                                                      Who?
                                                                                                      It was a man, about 20-years old. Something like that. The guy who shouted "We're in a hurry to get to the hospital. I've got an aunt to visit there", I don't know.

                                                                                                      Forced inside where?
                                                                                                      A house. Nearby. We were just going in for a mapping. So he was forced in, with these iron clubs, and beaten to a pulp.

                                                                                                      Calves?
                                                                                                      Yes. I said… They had absolutely no pity on him.

                                                                                                      The whole patrol goes in?
                                                                                                      Sure. Everyone goes in for a search, two secure on the outside.

                                                                                                      What about traffic?
                                                                                                      What do we care about the traffic? Let him block it, think anyone cares? It got to the point where as far as we were concerned, let the whole place go up in flames. Just like that.

                                                                                                      So how did this incident end?
                                                                                                      They broke him. They told him: "If once more you dare talk to the army, you realize what'll happen to you." "Sure, sure." He was already in tears. After having been clubbed in the ribs, too. I think he ended up in the hospital. He understood the message and they released him. Released him with a smashed up car, after taking the car apart, too.

                                                                                                      Testimony 19, Hebron

                                                                                                      I was on commander duty at 4-5 on a Saturday. 4-5 commander on Saturday is simply standing there at the post that day, and this is what I note for myself: your mission is to protect Palestinian homes from little, vicious Jewish children. Period. That's the mission there on Saturdays. That's when they pass along, a whole bumch of about ten kids, and you have to be something like their adult accompanier. The kids are terrible, really. A horror. The parents know, okay? We couldn't do a thing. Somehow they instill such hatred in their kids. They arrive at this junction of four buildings between the 4-5 and the Tenuvah posts, to the 'Tenuvah triangle', literally shutting off the Palestinians' electricity switches and turning on the water and cursing a Palestinian child who happens to be passing just then. All I did there for six hours was accompany little children from point A to point B. And you have no choice.

                                                                                                      … At Abed roadblock I see a Palestinian woman going out, and immediately I say: "Wait a second". I turn around and take the risk to make sure that going through that crowd she'll come to no harm. I stop her there, turn, and in the meantime two (settler) children approach her, "Hey, hey…" holding their torches, getting close to her, joking like this: "Look Palestinian woman! Fire! Fire!" I am standing watching them. "Go away, little nasty kids before I step all over you!" Like really, it reached such an exetnt… I don't know where they learn so much hatred. I get down from one of my posts and there's this four-year old child asking, "Have you killed an Arab already?" A three-four-year old child plays in the sand and asks me this. I ask him: "Why, child, what happened?" "Arabs beat me up" he answers. And I go, "What? Who hit you?" Then I understand that he wasn't actually hurt, but someone got it into his head that some Arab hurt him sometime in history, something that didn't even happen. Where does so much hatred come from? It's really, that of the things that most… They're being filled with so much hatred.

                                                                                                      Testimony 20, Hebron

                                                                                                      We would go on these revenge missions.

                                                                                                      Against whom?
                                                                                                      Palestinians who threw stones at us.

                                                                                                      But you don't really know who throws stones?
                                                                                                      Other kids inform on them. We catch them, beat them to a pulp, kids who were nearby, until they lead us to their homes. And you identify them, see them from a distance through the weapon's optic sights.

                                                                                                      From what distance?
                                                                                                      From a hundred meters you can recognize a person, so you catch him later, you know it was he.

                                                                                                      How do you remember?
                                                                                                      By his shirt. But they often change clothes right away. I recall we'd catch them, grip their hands, see if they were dirty, with soil and stuff, if they had thrown stones.

                                                                                                      Right after the stone-throwing?
                                                                                                      Yes, straight away. Or sometimes on the next day, so we weren't sure, but we were told that this was the one, so it was he.

                                                                                                      What about women, what did you do to women?
                                                                                                      Not too much, to tell you the truth. That's already more out-of-bounds.

                                                                                                      Everyone agreed on that?
                                                                                                      Yes. That was the limit. Like that was something we still had to respect

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                                                                                                        Mario Vargas Llosa: How Arabs have been driven out of Hebron

                                                                                                        English (US)  April 19th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                        Saturday, 19 April 2008

                                                                                                        Hebron is the image of desolation and pain. I'm talking of the H-2 sector, the oldest part of this ancient city, which is under Israeli military control and where some 500 colonos – settlers – live in four settlements. It is one of the holiest places of Judaism and Islam, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where in February 1994, the settler Baruch Goldstein machine-gunned Muslims at prayer, killing 29 and wounding dozens.

                                                                                                        To protect these settlers, the zone bristles with barriers, camps and military posts, and is overrun by Israeli patrols. But such mobilisation will soon be unnecessary because this part of Hebron, subject to ethnic and religious cleansing, will soon have no Arab residents.

                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                        Its centuries-old market, which was once as multi-coloured, varied and bustling as that of Jerusalem, is now empty and the doors of all the shops are sealed. Travelling around, you feel in limbo. So too when you walk through the surrounding deserted streets, with shopfronts shuttered with metal sheets and on whose roofs you glimpse military posts. The walls of this entire semi-empty neighbourhood are filled with racist inscriptions: "Death to the Arabs".

                                                                                                        Some 25,000 residents have been cleared from their homes in H-2 zone in five years. In the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood alone, where there is a settlement of the same name, barely 50 out of 500 Arab families remain.

                                                                                                        The extraordinary thing is that they haven't already gone, subjected as they are to systematic and ferocious harassment by settlers, who stone them, throw rubbish and excrement at their houses, invade and destroy their homes, and attack their children when they return from school, to the absolute indifference of Israeli soldiers who witness these atrocities.

                                                                                                        No one told me this: I saw it with my own eyes and heard with my own ears from the victims themselves. I have a video of the hair-raising scene of children from Tel Rumeida settlement stoning and kicking Arab schoolchildren and their teachers who, to protect themselves, returned home in groups instead of individually. When I told Israeli friends this, some looked at me with incredulity and I saw they suspected I exaggerated or lied, as novelists often do. It turned out that none had ever set foot in Hebron.

                                                                                                        Translated by Elizabeth Nash. This is an edited extract of an article that appeared in El Pais

                                                                                                        http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/mario-vargas-llosa

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                                                                                                          A rough guide to Hebron: The world's strangest guided tour highlights the abuse of Palestinians

                                                                                                          English (US)  April 19th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                          Yehuda Shaul is a religious Israeli who served in the army. Now he runs guided tours highlighting the abuse of Palestinians. It's controversial and dangerous work – so hy does he do it? Donald MacIntyre finds out on a unique tragical history tour


                                                                                                          A Jewish settler boy carrying a plastic gun looks up to an Israeli paratrooper in a military position in Hebron's H2 area
                                                                                                          (Quique Kierszenbaum0

                                                                                                          Staruday, 26 January 2008
                                                                                                          Close to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the site holy to both Muslims and Jews in Hebron's city centre, Yehuda Shaul, a religious Israeli who served in an elite Army combat unit in the city during the worst of the Palestinian uprising, is trying to guide a tour round four Jewish settlements in the heart of an overwhelmingly Arab city.

                                                                                                          It starts in Shuhada Street, which runs through what is now the settlers' security zone, the rows of empty Palestinian shops and houses boarded up with steel shutters, many daubed with Stars of David to show who is in charge here. The only permitted vehicles are those of the settlers and the Israeli military.

                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                          Shaul is seeking to demonstrate to his visitors that the settlements and the formidable military apparatus which protects them have violated the human rights of the Palestinians who live – or increasingly no longer live – in what was once the teeming Arab city centre.

                                                                                                          But his every footstep is dogged by another religious Jew conducting a non-stop monologue designed to drown out Shaul's explanation of what his visitors are seeing. "Yehuda Shaul – he helps the Arabs," Baruch Marzel tells them, before making clear his view of the two-state peace deal with the Palestinians which the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, US President George Bush and a majority of the Israeli public say they want. "Do you think if there is going to be an agreement that you will be allowed to pray at this tomb? Only because there are Jews living here can you visit the tomb. He isn't telling you about the 40 terrorist attacks there have been on Jews here. You can visit our Hebron centre and learn the truth about Hebron, not the lies Yehuda Shaul is filling you with."

                                                                                                          American-born Marzel – a man to whom the term "right-wing extremist" hardly does justice – had lain in wait for the tour bus near the grave of his fellow settler Baruch Goldstein, who walked into a mosque at the tomb in 1994 with an automatic assault rifle and shot dead 29 Palestinians as they prayed. Marzel, who has a police record for attacks on Palestinians, was a prominent figure in the far right Kach group which was designated a "terrorist" organisation in both Israel and the US after issuing a

                                                                                                          statement praising the Goldstein massacre. Seven years ago, Marzel held a macabre graveside commemoration for Goldstein, who had been lynched by enraged survivors after the attack. It was a "big party", Marzel said, to mark the anniversary of Goldstein being "murdered by the Arabs" – a somewhat incomplete account of the day in question.

                                                                                                          Shaul struggles to conduct his tour against Marzel's noisy filibuster. At one point, Shaul walks across the street to a watching senior police officer and asks him to move Marzel on; the officer replies, "You can carry on. He's not stopping you." When Shaul then turns to Marzel himself and tells him quietly: "You are disturbing us, please can you move?" Marzel replies defiantly: "No. This my house."

                                                                                                          This tense little scene underlines – in miniature – one of the looming obstacles facing the current Israeli-Palestinian talks in the wake of this month's visit by President Bush. It is impossible to imagine any final peace deal which does not put Hebron – 12 miles east of the "green line" that marked Israel's eastern border until the Six Day War, and the site of some of the first Jewish settlements on Palestinian land which followed that victory – in the heart of a Palestinian state. When Marzel says "this is my house" it is an understated but forceful reminder that the Hebron settlers may prove the toughest to remove – as they would surely have to be if the occupation is ever to end – of any in the West Bank

                                                                                                          Marzel is not alone in stalking Shaul. Enjoying the sport alongside him is Ofer Ohanna, the settlement security officer, who on a previous visit has goaded Shaul about a recent haircut. Noticing that the (heterosexual) Shaul had sheared off the pony tail which, along with his beard, black velvet kippa (or skullcap) and habitual sandals, has – ironically – long served to make him look like the more hippyish kind of settler, Ohanna had told him he had done it because "your boyfriend wouldn't go to bed with you if you didn't cut it off". Today, another prominent settler, Moshe Ben Batat, marches up to Shaul and demands more chillingly the date of his "mother's remembrance day" because "your mother threw you out of the house and committed suicide". (One – and only one – part of this is true. Shaul's mother did commit suicide, but during a post-natal depression – when Shaul was four years old.) Later still, the vociferous group of Shaul-stalkers is joined by David Wilder, the US-born spokesman of the Hebron settlers. Saying that Shaul's tours are "very dangerous", he adds that Shaul "feeds the enemy and plays into their hands" by criticising the settlers. Wilder sums up his view of Shaul: "Hamas with a kippa."

                                                                                                          The man who attracts such hatred from the Hebron settlers has, at only 24, already led a remarkable life. He was described by the celebrated Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, to whom he acted as a guide in the city two years ago, as "one of the righteous this country has". He was a co-founder of Breaking the Silence, the growing group of dissident ex-soldiers – the core of whom served in Hebron at the peak of the intifada like him – who have testified on the persistent abuses they say the military has committed during the years of warfare.

                                                                                                          Stationed in Bethlehem in the last few weeks of his military service he had "an enlightened moment" in which he says he began to understand what one of the group's later publications would call the "terrible moral price" exacted by the occupation from the young soldiers who serve in the West Bank and Gaza. Then and over the time that followed, Shaul began to find himself "in the very terrifying place [where] there is no justification for 90 per cent of the actions you took part in".

                                                                                                          Since then he has become a political guide to, and activist in, the part of Hebron which was once its Arab commercial and cultural heart but which is now overwhelmingly dominated by the presence of 800 Jewish settlers. He has conducted or organised more than 200 tours of Israelis – including school and college students in their year before Army service – and foreigners. Last October, he and another ex-combat soldier, Avichai Sharon, briefed the international Middle East envoy Tony Blair on the daunting problems of inner-city Hebron.

                                                                                                          To understand what led him to this unusual vocation, you have to climb with Shaul to look over the Palestinian city from a vantage point close to the old Jewish cemetery. As the afternoon muezzins ring out from the mosques, Shaul points out the red-roofed house where his unit's snipers and machine gunners were posted after giving the Palestinian family who lived in it half an hour to leave. At the peak of the intifada in 2002-03, with Palestinian gunmen using mainly assault rifles to shoot towards the settlements to their south at night, the Israeli soldiers were firing back grenades from machine guns.

                                                                                                          "A grenade is not a bullet," Shaul explains. "It hits something and explodes, kills everyone in a radius of eight metres and injures everyone in a radius of 16. Secondly a machine gun is not an accurate weapon. You aim it a bit to the left and a bit to the right. If you're a real good operator you'll probably hit your target the fifth time."

                                                                                                          Briefed initially by his platoon commander on the task, Shaul says he "freaked out. You still have a sense of a mission, of black and white, and I'm like, 'What's going on here? I'm supposed to shoot grenades into a city where people live?' The first night, you aim in the area of the target and you pull the trigger and you let it go as fast as you could and inside you're praying that the least amount of grenades were fired because if you pull the trigger for a minute around 60 grenades are out."

                                                                                                          But as the week wore on, he says, it became "the exciting moment of the day. You're bored. You're stuck in this house. You don't go out. You play it like a video game with your joy-stick on top of the city – boom, boom, boom."

                                                                                                          Shaul has no direct evidence of casualties from the salvos he fired – the "worst thing I did" – though he assumes there must have been injuries at the very least. It is something "you would prefer not to think about". And, yes, Palestinian snipers did indeed claim the lives of Jewish victims from the settlements – five since 2000. But Shaul says that the fire to which the military mainly responded in the way he describes habitually fell well short of the settlements.

                                                                                                          The Israeli military employed draconian measures in Hebron during the peak of the intifada to protect the settlers – whose right to live in the city is not recognised in international law. These included imposition of curfews in the city centre (377 days in the first three years of the initifada), checkpoints (the UN counted more than 100 in the Israeli controlled sector of the city in 2005), comprehensive house-to- house searches in which Shaul says Palestinian families were sometimes locked into a single room while soldiers grabbed some sleep elsewhere in the house, and a refusal to intervene in many cases when settlers attacked or threw stones at local Palestinians.

                                                                                                          According to a report earlier this year from the two most respected Israeli human-rights organisations, B'Tselem and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), "violence, arbitrary house searches, seizure of houses, harassment, detaining passers-by, and humiliating treatment have become part of daily reality for Palestinians and have led many of them to move to safer places". And while armed violence has significantly reduced inside the city, most of the restrictions on movement within the area of the settlements have remained. Shaul draws comparisons with other West Bank cities. "Does the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] have posts inside Nablus all the time? No. Inside Jericho? No. Inside Hebron? Yes. Why? Because you have the settlements here. H1 [the outer area of Hebron] is like all the rest of the Palestinian cities and H2 [the centre] is a ghost town; it's missing from the frame."

                                                                                                          After a 13-year-old process of closures and segregation which began – ironically – with the Goldstein attack on Palestinians in the mosque, and continued through the intifada, there are now 304 closed shops and warehouses – 218 of them shut down by military order. The whole of the "sterile zone" protecting the settlements is closed to Palestinian vehicles. And the central section of Shuhada Street is closed to Palestinian pedestrians, except for four families who still live on this once densely populated but now desolate artery. The term used by B'Tselem and ACRI for the steady Palestinian depopulation of the area is "enforced eviction". Jan Kristiansen, a former head of the (already decade-old) Temporary International Presence in Hebron, described it as "ethnic cleansing".

                                                                                                          An internal 2003 report produced by the Israel Defence Forces's civil administration cited a lengthy series of legal violations – mainly damage, break-ins and seizure of Palestinian property – by Hebron's Jewish settlers as they "consistently and systematically" worked to "establish and expand" their colony. "The leadership selects a target and broadcasts it a number of ways. Youths/teenagers burgle the building and even if they are driven away in the beginning, they eventually succeed. Youths/teenagers empty/burn the contents ... They enter through a common wall/the yard/narrow passageway between the properties without being noticed and begin to settle in." Adding that the activities of Jews in Hebron can be described as "if carried out under the protection of the Israeli regime", the report added: "The State of Israel looks very bad with regard to the rule of law in Hebron."

                                                                                                          In December 2006, ACRI challenged the ban on pedestrians using much of Shuhada Street, pointing out that it had not been sanctioned by a written military order. The Army agreed it was indeed a mistake and issued a directive cancelling the prohibition. Some prominent local Palestinians were allowed to walk along the street after detention and body searches, and with a substantial military escort. Within a week the Palestinians were again told they were not allowed to use the route.

                                                                                                          "We have a few hundred settlers there," says Shaul. "We don't even question it. They are Israeli citizens and they deserve protection, just like people in Tel Aviv. To give them the protection, we take a lot of things into consideration – we have geography, we have a budget, large numbers of soldiers – but there's one thing we won't take into consideration, and that's 166,000 Palestinians around here. This is the problem of Hebron. Only in this way can you close what used to be the main street for 60 years and then say it was a mistake and continue this mistake."

                                                                                                          But, for Shaul, Hebron is also a paradigm of the wider West Bank, almost 40 per cent of which is now reserved for the settlers, along with the military apparatus and the roads – in many cases prohibited to Palestinians – that serve them. "If you zoom out of Hebron, if you look at the segregation, the methods, the tactics, Hebron is like the laboratory where things are tested before being used outside."

                                                                                                          Another milestone in the long journey that led Shaul towards this point began early in his Army service. Shaul explains that the seminal historic event in every settler child's early education is the 1929 massacre during the riots against Jewish immigration to Palestine, when 67 Jews were slaughtered on a single day – though 435 survived after being sheltered by their Arab neighbours. And then he recalls how he saw an elderly Palestinian woman coming down from the hillside neighbourhood of Abu Snena to be greeted by settler children throwing stones at her. "I said to a child of about 10, 'What do you think you are doing?' He said, 'Do you know what this woman did in 1929?'"

                                                                                                          We are now walking – a privilege exclusive to Israelis and foreigners – along Shuhada Street, past the abandoned stalls of the market area, illegally occupied by eight settler families from Avram Avinu after a Palestinian sniper killed a 10-month-old settler baby, Shalhevet Pass, in 2001. The settlers were finally issued with eviction orders in January 2006 – but then agreed to leave voluntarily after a remarkable deal with the Army under which they would be allowed to return after a few months. The deal was later overruled by Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

                                                                                                          As we pass to the left, leaving a manned Israeli checkpoint to the right, we come to the surreal lane where two Palestinian families still live amid a dozen settler families. We walk past the Abu Ayesha house, protected by wire mesh from the stones and garbage frequently thrown at it by the settlers. It was against this wire mesh that Jewish settler Yifat Alkobi pressed her face while repeatedly hissing "sharmuta" – whore – at her married Palestinian neighbour. The scene was caught in a video recording given to B'Tselem which shocked many Israeli viewers when it was shown on prime-time TV last January – including Tommy Lapid, the former Israeli Justice Minister who lost many of his family in the Holocaust. "In the years that preceded the Holocaust," he wrote, "behind shuttered windows hid terrified Jewish women, exactly like the Arab woman of the Abu-Ayesha family in Hebron." And where, according to testimony given by Taysir Abu Ayesha, Baruch Marzel broke into the house with 10 other settlers in the winter of 2002, beat him and attempted to drag him into the road before he was rescued by his stick-brandishing father.

                                                                                                          And then we arrive at the end of the street and the home of Hani Abu Heikel, whose family was one of those who sheltered more than 400 of the Jews who survived the 1929 massacre. He says that the settlers from the neighbouring Al Bakri house have attacked his house with water pipes in the night, that his car has been attacked and burned four times and that in June most of the trees in the olive grove next to his house were ruined by being set on fire. When his son suggested to soldiers – some of whom, on this occasion, helped put the fire out – that they could identify the culprits by means of the ubiquitous cameras, he was told, says Mr Abu Heikel, that the cameras were for "security" – for the settlers' security, that is. The Abu Heikel family, a fixture of the Yehuda Shaul tours, are as pleased to see him as the settlers are displeased. "Yehuda, Yehuda," two-and-a-half-year-old Yara Abu Heikel shouts excitedly. The fact that Yehuda brings Israelis to the house has been, says Abu Heikel, especially valuable for his children. "I welcome it," he says. "I want them to know that the Israelis are not just the settlers. I wanted to show them that there are Jews who are not in conflict with us."

                                                                                                          A tour round the inner city with a senior Israeli military official gives a very different take on Hebron from Shaul's. The official, who insists on anonymity, argues that while Palestinians are restricted in only three per cent of the city, Israelis are either barred or heavily restricted in the other 97 per cent. While ACRI and B'Tselem pointed out that a resident of the Old City wanting to cross one side of Shuhada Street to the other needs to go round the entire city centre and pass through a number of checkpoints, the Army insists that the restrictions on pedestrian movement in the city are "minimal". As for vehicles, the Army says that those carrying supplies like construction materials are allowed through with prior authorisation and that the required detours add only 10 minutes to the journey for Palestinians. The official stresses that the closures are needed for security reasons and insists, "I am responsible for the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. I am not just in charge of the Israelis."

                                                                                                          This, of course, goes to the heart of the question of who bears the real burden of keeping the settlers safe. In the words of the ACRI/B'Tselem report, "Israeli law-enforcement authorities and security forces have made the entire Palestinian population pay the price for protecting Israeli settlement in the city." In doing so, it caused "the economic collapse of the centre of Hebron and drove many Palestinians out of the area." The Army repeatedly – and rightly – points out "that the rights of Israeli citizens to live in the city have been authorised by the decisions of the Israeli government." The military official says, moreover, that since the Goldstein massacre, which he adds was a "horrible thing" which brought "shame to the Jewish people all over the world", the principal "targets" of violence here have been not Palestinians but Israelis. "Since 1994 until today Israelis have been targeted by all the organisations of terror," he concludes.

                                                                                                          Certainly, since the beginning of the intifada, Palestinian militants have killed 17 members of the security forces and five civilians – including 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass, shot by a Palestinian sniper in 2001. In Hebron as a whole, according to the ACRI/B'Tselem report, the security forces killed 88 Palestinians in the same period "at least 46 of whom (including nine minors) were not taking part in hostilities at the time they were killed". In addition two Palestinians were killed by settlers, one of them 14-year-old Nasseem Jamjoum, gunned down at her home by settlers in 2003 on the rampage after the shooting of a soldier/settler outside the city. No one was indicted for that shooting.

                                                                                                          The official says that because "Hamas terror is strong" in the area, the soldiers consist of "the best units in the Israeli Army" – inevitably trained to defeat the militants rather than to keep the peace between civilian populations, But despite the human-rights groups' well-documented charge that soldiers repeatedly fail to intervene when an Israeli attacks a Palestinian or his property, the army insists that soldiers are under orders to do so. In general, the military official says, violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis have fallen 50 per cent in 2006-07 from the level in 2003-04.

                                                                                                          The official insists – rightly – that the decision about whether to allow settlements in Hebron is a matter for the politicians and not the military. But he is also clearly sympathetic to the argument that the Jews had a right after the Six Day War to reclaim property that had been historically Jewish. On the subject of the progressive takeover of Arab property since 1967, he repeatedly draws a distinction – not recognised in international law – between property that was historically Jewish and property that wasn't. He points, for example, to the Beit Hadassah settlement (which was taken over by settlers in 1979 though even Menachem Begin, the right-wing Likud Prime Minister at the time, was strongly opposed to the move). "This was a hospital that served all the neighbourhood, Jews and Muslims, until most of the staff were killed in the 1929 massacre," says the military official. "When Germany gave back property which had been taken from Jews, people in Israel were very proud," he says. "If we hadn't had the war in 1967 the emotion about recovering the property [in Hebron] would be the same."

                                                                                                          For Yehuda Shaul, however, that argument – that there were always Jews in Hebron in the past – is no different from that of the "right of return" to Israel claimed by the families of Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their homes in what is now Israel during the war of 1948, a claim consistently rejected by both Israel and the international community. And the argument that alternative routes, however tiresome, exist for Palestinians to the one through the old city centre of Hebron is as tenable as if "you said to people in West Jerusalem, you can no longer use Mahane Yehuda [the main Jewish market in the city] and Jaffa Street [the main artery of Jewish West Jerusalem]; you are going to have to go round it."

                                                                                                          Nor is he impressed, as a religious Jew, by the argument that the settlers are needed to establish the right of Jews to pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. While even some Palestinians have suggested that in the event of a Palestinian State there could be guaranteed "safe passage" for those Jews who would want to pray at the Tomb, Shaul doubts that would be realistic, pointing out that no such permission existed before the occupation. Instead he suggests the price being paid is too high simply to "control the city of the patriarchs" and to allow access to the Tomb for the minority of religious Jews who use it now. "All this was done on the back of thousands of Palestinians who were more or less expelled from their lives," he says. "This is not Jewish. I'm an Israeli, I'm a Jew and I care what my society looks like, about what are the values that are at the heart of my country. And Hebron is a huge problem for my society and my country. There is a clear plan to cause the Arab population to leave the centre of Hebron."

                                                                                                          Shaul doesn't for a moment deny the threat to settlers and soldiers. "You don't have to teach me about security problems," he tells today's visitors about his period serving in the city. "Hebron was a very dangerous place. Israelis were killed. But what we are doing on this tour is asking: what are the red lines we cannot cross?" David Wilder retorts: "His red line is that we shouldn't be here."

                                                                                                          Many – possibly even a majority – of Israelis would indeed agree that the settlers should not be in Hebron. After the Goldstein massacre, Yitzhak Rabin wanted to expel them but was advised that it was politically impossible. Shaul does not use his tours to urge the withdrawal of the settlements from Hebron. Instead, "We just ask them: 'What do you think? You saw the price in human rights, in morality, in the lack of law, the price that Palestinians pay for 800 settlers in the heart of their city. And you saw the price the Israeli regime pays and Israeli society pays for running this place and you have to decide for yourself.'"

                                                                                                          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/

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                                                                                                            Our reign of terror, by the Israeli army

                                                                                                            English (US)  April 19th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                            In shocking testimonies that reveal abductions, beatings and torture, Israeli soldiers confess the horror they have visited on Hebron

                                                                                                            Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian student during a protest in Hebron in 2005. Hebron is the only Palestinian city whose centre is directly controlled by the Israeli military
                                                                                                            NAYEF HASHLAMOUN/REUTERS/CORBIS)

                                                                                                            By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
                                                                                                            Saturday, 19 April 2008

                                                                                                            The dark-haired 22-year-old in black T-shirt, blue jeans and red Crocs is understandably hesitant as he sits at a picnic table in the incongruous setting of a beauty spot somewhere in Israel. We know his name and if we used it he would face a criminal investigation and a probable prison sentence.

                                                                                                            The birds are singing as he describes in detail some of what he did and saw others do as an enlisted soldier in Hebron. And they are certainly criminal: the incidents in which Palestinian vehicles are stopped for no good reason, the windows smashed and the occupants beaten up for talking back – for saying, for example, they are on the way to hospital; the theft of tobacco from a Palestinian shopkeeper who is then beaten "to a pulp" when he complains; the throwing of stun grenades through the windows of mosques as people prayed. And worse.

                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                            The young man left the army only at the end of last year, and his decision to speak is part of a concerted effort to expose the moral price paid by young Israeli conscripts in what is probably the most problematic posting there is in the occupied territories. Not least because Hebron is the only Palestinian city whose centre is directly controlled by the military, 24/7, to protect the notably hardline Jewish settlers there. He says firmly that he now regrets what repeatedly took place during his tour of duty.

                                                                                                            But his frequent, if nervous, grins and giggles occasionally show just a hint of the bravado he might have displayed if boasting of his exploits to his mates in a bar. Repeatedly he turns to the older former soldier who has persuaded him to speak to us, and says as if seeking reassurance: "You know how it is in Hebron."

                                                                                                            The older ex-soldier is Yehuda Shaul, who does indeed "know how it is in Hebron", having served in the city in a combat unit at the peak of the intifada, and is a founder of Shovrim Shtika, or Breaking the Silence, which will publish tomorrow the disturbing testimonies of 39 Israelis – including this young man – who served in the army in Hebron between 2005 and 2007. They cover a range of experiences, from anger and powerlessness in the face of often violent abuse of Arabs by hardline Jewish settlers, through petty harassment by soldiers, to soldiers beating up Palestinian residents without provocation, looting homes and shops, and opening fire on unarmed demonstrators.

                                                                                                            The maltreatment of civilians under occupation is common to many armies in the world – including Britain's, from Northern Ireland to Iraq.

                                                                                                            But, paradoxically, few if any countries apart from Israel have an NGO like Breaking the Silence, which seeks – through the experiences of the soldiers themselves – as its website puts it "to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created" in the occupied territories.

                                                                                                            The Israeli public was given an unflattering glimpse of military life in Hebron this year when a young lieutenant in the Kfir Brigade called Yaakov Gigi was given a 15-month jail sentence for taking five soldiers with him to hijack a Palestinian taxi, conduct what the Israeli media called a "rampage" in which one of the soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian civilian who just happened to be in the wrong place, and then tried to lie his way out of it.

                                                                                                            In a confessional interview with the Israeli Channel Two investigative programme Uvda, Gigi, who had previously been in many ways a model soldier, talked of "losing the human condition" in Hebron. Asked what he meant, he replied: "To lose the human condition is to become an animal."

                                                                                                            The Israeli military did not prosecute the soldier who had fired on the Palestinian, as opposed to Gigi. But the military insists "that the events that occurred within the Kfir Brigade are highly unusual".

                                                                                                            But as the 22-year-old soldier, also in the Kfir Brigade, confirms in his testimony to Breaking the Silence, it seems that the event may not have been exceptional. Certainly, our interview tells us, he was "many times" in groups that commandeered taxis, seated the driver in the back, and told him to direct them to places "where they hate the Jews" in order to "make a balagan" – Hebrew for "big mess".

                                                                                                            Then there is the inter- clan Palestinian fight: "We were told to go over there and find out what was happening. Our [platoon] commander was a bit screwed in the head. So anyway, we would locate houses, and he'd tell us: 'OK, anyone you see armed with stones or whatever, I don't care what – shoot.' Everyone would think it's the clan fight..." Did the company commander know? "No one knew. Platoon's private initiative, these actions."

                                                                                                            Did you hit them? "Sure, not just them. Anyone who came close ... Particularly legs and arms. Some people also sustained abdominal hits ... I think at some point they realised it was soldiers, but they were not sure. Because they could not believe soldiers would do this, you know."

                                                                                                            Or using a 10-year-old child to locate and punish a 15-year-old stone-thrower: "So we got hold of just some Palestinian kid nearby, we knew that he knew who it had been. Let's say we beat him a little, to put it mildly, until he told us. You know, the way it goes when your mind's already screwed up, and you have no more patience for Hebron and Arabs and Jews there.

                                                                                                            "The kid was really scared, realising we were on to him. We had a commander with us who was a bit of a fanatic. We gave the boy over to this commander, and he really beat the shit out of him ... He showed him all kinds of holes in the ground along the way, asking him: 'Is it here you want to die? Or here?' The kid goes, 'No, no!'

                                                                                                            "Anyway, the kid was stood up, and couldn't stay standing on his own two feet. He was already crying ... And the commander continues, 'Don't pretend' and kicks him some more. And then [name withheld], who always had a hard time with such things, went in, caught the squad commander and said, 'Don't touch him any more, that's it.' The commander goes, 'You've become a leftie, what?' And he answers, 'No, I just don't want to see such things.'

                                                                                                            "We were right next to this, but did nothing. We were indifferent, you know. OK. Only after the fact you start thinking. Not right away. We were doing such things every day ... It had become a habit...

                                                                                                            "And the parents saw it. The commander ordered [the mother], 'Don't get any closer.' He cocked his weapon, already had a bullet inside. She was frightened. He put his weapon literally inside the kid's mouth. 'Anyone gets close, I kill him. Don't bug me. I kill. I have no mercy.' So the father ... got hold of the mother and said, 'Calm down, let them be, so they'll leave him alone.'"

                                                                                                            Not every soldier serving in Hebron becomes an "animal". Iftach Arbel, 23, from an upper-middle class, left-of-centre home in Herzylia, served in Hebron as a commander just before the withdrawal from Gaza, when he thinks the army wanted to show it could be tough with settlers, too. And many of the testimonies, including Mr Arbel's, describe how the settlers educate children as young as four to throw stones at Palestinians, attack their homes and even steal their possessions. To Mr Arbel, the Hebron settlers are "pure evil" and the only solution is "to remove the settlers".

                                                                                                            He believes it would be possible even within these constraints to treat Palestinians better. He adds: "We did night activity. Choose a house at random, on the aerial photo, so as to practise combat routine and all, which is instructive for the soldiers, I mean, I'm all for it. But then at midnight you wake someone up and turn his whole house upside down with everyone sleeping on the mattresses and all."

                                                                                                            But Mr Arbel says that most soldiers are some way between his own extreme and that of the most violent. From just two of his fellow testifiers, you can see what he means.

                                                                                                            As one said: "We did all kinds of experiments to see who could do the best split in Abu Snena. We would put [Palestinians] against the wall, make like we were checking them, and ask them to spread their legs. Spread, spread, spread, it was a game to see who could do it best. Or we would check who can hold his breath for longest.

                                                                                                            "Choke them. One guy would come, make like he was checking them, and suddenly start yelling like they said something and choke them ... Block their airways; you have to press the adams apple. It's not pleasant. Look at the watch as you're doing it, until he passes out. The one who takes longest to faint wins."

                                                                                                            And theft as well as violence. "There's this car accessory shop there. Every time, soldiers would take a tape-disc player, other stuff. This guy, if you go ask him, will tell you plenty of things that soldiers did to him.

                                                                                                            "A whole scroll-full ... They would raid his shop regularly. 'Listen, if you tell on us, we'll confiscate your whole store, we'll break everything.' You know, he was afraid to tell. He was already making deals, 'Listen guys, you're damaging me financially.' I personally never took a thing, but I'm telling you, people used to take speakers from him, whole sound systems.

                                                                                                            "He'd go, 'Please, give me 500 shekels, I'm losing money here.' 'Listen, if you go on – we'll pick up your whole shop.' 'OK, OK, take it, but listen, don't take more than 10 systems a month.' Something like this.

                                                                                                            "'I'm already going bankrupt.' He was so miserable. Guys in our unit used to sell these things back home, make deals with people. People are so stupid."

                                                                                                            The military said that Israeli Defence Forces soldiers operate according to "a strict set of moral guidelines" and that their expected adherence to them only "increases wherever and whenever IDF soldiers come in contact with civilians". It added that "if evidence supporting the allegations is uncovered, steps are taken to hold those involved to the level of highest judicial severity". It also said: "The Military Advocate General has issued a number of indictments against soldiers due to allegations of criminal behaviour ... Soldiers found guilty were punished severely by the Military Court, in proportion to the committed offence." It had not by last night quantified such indictments.

                                                                                                            In its introduction to the testimonies, Breaking the Silence says: "The soldiers' determination to fulfil their mission yields tragic results: the proper-normative becomes despicable, the inconceivable becomes routine ... [The] testimonies are to illustrate the manner in which they are swept into the brutal reality reigning on the ground, a reality whereby the lives of many thousands of Palestinian families are at the questionable mercy of youths. Hebron turns a focused, flagrant lens at the reality to which Israel's young representatives are constantly sent."

                                                                                                            A force for justice

                                                                                                            Breaking the Silence was formed four years ago by a group of ex-soldiers, most of whom had served in Israel Defence Forces combat units in Hebron. Many of the soldiers do reserve duty in the military each year. It has collected some 500 testimonies from former soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza. Its first public exposure was with an exhibition of photographs by soldiers serving in Hebron and the organisation also runs regular tours of Hebron for Israeli students and diplomats. It receives funding from groups as diverse as the Jewish philanthropic Moriah Fund, the New Israel Fund, the British embassy in Tel Aviv and the EU.

                                                                                                            http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/our-reign-of-terror-by-the-israeli-army-811769.html

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                                                                                                              New Kid on the Block Sings Same Old Tune J Street: Do We Really Need Another Pro-Israel Lobby?

                                                                                                              English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                              By RANNIE AMIRI

                                                                                                              This week witnessed the online debut of a new, self-styled "pro-peace, pro-Israel" lobby dubbed J Street, and its affiliated political action committee, JStreetPAC. Purposely named after a fictional street in the nation's capital in order to distinguish itself from the very real lobbyist row on K Street, it will be "filling a gap in the political map in Washington, D.C.," according to the founder and director of both organizations, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

                                                                                                              In contrast to the hawkish American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), J Street says it represents the mainstream of pro-Israel voices who seek to "promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts peacefully and diplomatically" (www.jstreet.org). JStreetPAC will both endorse and financially support United States Senate and House candidates who share this vision.

                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                              As reported by Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service, J Street plants to spend $1.5 million in its first year of operation (which pales in comparison to AIPAC's $50 annual budget). It will be led by 100 American Jewish leaders and has already received the endorsement of two dozen prominent Israelis including former heads of the foreign ministry as well as military and intelligence officers.

                                                                                                              In distancing itself from AIPAC and its like-minded supporters, Ben-Ami states, "Those voices have claimed that the only way to be pro-Israel is to support military responses to political problems, to refuse to engage one's adversaries in dialogue and to put off the day of reckoning when hard compromises will be required to achieve a peaceful and secure future for Israel and the entire Middle East."

                                                                                                              That all sounds well and good. Unfortunately too many U.S. presidents, secretaries of state, senators and representatives have fallen victim to the proverbial "new direction" that many Israelis and their supporters have pledged to take, only to be later duped into backing peace plans and initiatives which are mere diplomatic machinations to maintain the status quo.

                                                                                                              There is no better example of this than former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's "generous offer" to Yasser Arafat made at the December 2000 Camp David Summit hosted by President Clinton, in which he proposed ceding control of the West Bank to the Palestinians.

                                                                                                              Widely criticized for having rebuffed such an "unprecedented" proposal, Arafat was thereafter marginalized by the U.S. as punishment for not accepting Barak's plan.

                                                                                                              But as is so often the case with Israeli propositions, what was alleged to have been offered was quite different from what actually was.

                                                                                                              Whereas Barak claimed to propose giving 96% of the West Bank back, in fact it was only between 78-81% (from an analysis by the Foundation for Middle East Peace). He conveniently omitted including parts of the West Bank Israel decided to annex for itself as well as East Jerusalem. In addition, Israel would still retain sovereignty over one-third of East Jerusalem and maintain complete control of the Haram al-Sharif, site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques.

                                                                                                              Noam Chomsky wrote of the accord:

                                                                                                              "The intended result is that an eventual Palestinian state would consist of four cantons on the West Bank: Jericho, the southern canton extending as far as Abu Dis (the new Arab 'Jerusalem'), a northern canton including the Palestinian cities of Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarm, and a central canton including Ramallah.

                                                                                                              The cantons are completely surrounded by territory to be annexed to Israel. The areas of Palestinian population concentration are to be under Palestinian administration, an adaptation of the traditional colonial pattern that is the only sensible outcome as far as Israel and the US are concerned" (ZMag, 27 July 2000).

                                                                                                              Israeli academic Dr. Tanya Reinhart:

                                                                                                              "The only clear element of Barak's plan in Camp David was the immediate annexation by Israel of about 10 percent of the West Bank land. These include the settlement blocks which are close to the center of Israel and in which there are already over 150,000 Israeli settlers. But the bigger fraud of Barak's plan, which has not received any attention in the public debate, is the fate of the rest of the 90 percent which were supposedly designated to belong to the 'Palestinian state'. The situation in these areas is easily visible today: These lands are cut up by 37 isolated settlements which were purposely built in the midst of the Palestinian population to enable future Israeli control of these areas. As a result, 2 million Palestinians are crowded in enclaves which consist of about 50 percent of the West Bank, and the other 40 percents are blocked by the defense array of some 40,000 settlers" (Yediot Aharonot, 8 July 2001).

                                                                                                              [The above references and citations were taken from "Misrepresentation of Barak's offer at Camp David as 'generous' and 'unprecedented'" by Nigel Parry, The Electronic Intifada, 20 March 2002. Please see for additional details.]

                                                                                                              Ehud Barak has since moved on. Acting as Israel's defense minister, he is currently supervising the Gaza onslaught and collective punishment of its captive population through limitation of food, fuel and other necessary humanitarian supplies into the territory.

                                                                                                              The image of Shimon Peres, Israel's elder statesman and current president, has also been carefully cultivated as being on the dovish-side; always advocating a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians if only he had the support of the Knesset. Yet as Israeli prime minister in 1996, he was the architect of the first massacre of civilians in Qana, Lebanon, where more than a hundred Lebanese civilians who took refuge at the UN headquarters there were slaughtered.

                                                                                                              Robert Fisk, in his essay "Massacre in Sanctuary; Eyewitness" writes the following day, April 19, 1996, of what he observed:

                                                                                                              "It was a massacre. Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this. The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disembowelled. There were well over a hundred of them. A baby lay without a head. The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world's protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.

                                                                                                              Israel's slaughter of civilians in this terrible 10-day offensive - 206 by last night - has been so cavalier, so ferocious, that not a Lebanese will forgive this massacre."

                                                                                                              But the Israel did not give the Lebanese the chance to forgive or forget, because the second Qana massacre was committed by two other Israeli "doves," namely Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, 10 years later. In the ill-fated July 2006 war with Lebanon, 55 civilians were massacred in Qana, nearly half of them children (ironically, it is Ehud Olmert who is featured on J Street's promotional video as the alternative to Israeli extremists).

                                                                                                              So we have seen what the Israeli "doves" and "peacemakers" have brought to Palestine and Lebanon. This understandably makes one skeptical of any pro-Israel lobby that simultaneously claims to be pro-peace. But let us take a brief look at J Street's own policy positions, taken directly from their website:

                                                                                                              Israel-Palestine: The Two State Solution

                                                                                                              The outlines of an agreement are by now well-known and widely accepted: Borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed reciprocal land swaps allowing Israeli incorporation of a majority of settlers as well as Palestinian viability and contiguity; a division of Jerusalem that is based on demographic realities, establishes the capitals of the two states, and allows freedom of access to all holy sites; robust security arrangements; and resolution of the refugee issue that focuses on resettlement in the new state of Palestine, financial compensation and assistance.

                                                                                                              "Israeli incorporation of a majority of settlers"? "Demographic realities"? Is Ehud Barak's "generous offer" being re-visited? Will "demographic realities" -- a quaint euphemism for the annexation of large swathes of the West Bank and Jerusalem -- lead to the Bantustan that Palestine is destined to become? Will the "robust security arrangements" include maintaining the myriad of checkpoints which obstruct access to hospitals, reunion of families and imposition of unnecessary hardship on all but the privileged West Bank settlers who are allowed unencumbered travel? And what of the separation/apartheid wall? Is the construction of this monstrosity, essentially designed to be a high-tech land grab, also supported by "pro-peace" J Street?

                                                                                                              Settlements

                                                                                                              Israel's settlements in the occupied territories have, for over forty years, been an obstacle to peace. They have drained Israel's economy, military, and democracy and eroded the country's ability to uphold the rule of law. Consistent US opposition to settlements should continue, and diplomatic tools such as monitoring and public declarations should continue to be applied.

                                                                                                              What is written above is all that is mentioned on this issue. Of course, it says nothing about the illegality of all settlements in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Golan Heights, as stipulated by Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies). For the record, all U.S. presidents forced to deal with the Middle East conflict have voiced their perfunctory opposition to settlements, and all have been ignored. A principled position of J Street, should it truly be interested in peace, would be to unequivocally call for the dismantlement of all settlements.

                                                                                                              Security and Terror

                                                                                                              A cornerstone of any peaceful resolution of the conflict and two-state solution has to be the fulfillment of Palestinian security obligations and the cessation of terror. J Street will support efforts to hold the Palestinians to their commitments to prevent terror and violence that targets Israel and its citizens.

                                                                                                              What about the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military in Gaza and beyond? The "targeted killings" and "administrative detentions" and bulldozing of homes which have become part of daily life? When will Israel be held to account for the displacement of civilians, the expropriation of lands, and the collective punishment meted out under its military occupation? All are flagrant violation of countless United Nations resolutions and ignored by J Street.

                                                                                                              Other than a cursory mention of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative being a framework for peace, no direct reference was found on J Street's website regarding the need for Israel to abide by UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from occupied territories and form the basis of any just settlement to the conflict.

                                                                                                              Plainly stated, J Street is simply a pro-Israel lobby. Its "pro-peace" cover is just that. Its policy positions are no different than Barak's 2000 proposal, falling short on all marks. It may provide suitable refuge for American politicians who cannot stomach AIPAC but who also cannot stomach criticizing Israel. The emergence of a lobby like J Street only provides a different means to the same end, making it all the more insidious.

                                                                                                              Whether it is AIPAC on the "right" and J Street on "left" in the U.S. or Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres in Israel, they all sit at the same table and cut the same deals. All are pro-Israel, none are pro-peace.

                                                                                                              Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at rbamiri at yahoo.com.

                                                                                                              Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                Oops! Nato admits mistakenly supplying arms and food to Taliban

                                                                                                                English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                Nato forces mistakenly supplied food, water and arms to Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan, officials today admitted.

                                                                                                                Containers destined for local police forces were dropped from a helicopter into a Taliban-controlled area of Zabul province.

                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                The coalition helicopter had intended to deliver pallets of supplies to a police checkpoint in Ghazni, a remote section of Zabul late last month.

                                                                                                                By mistake they were dropped some distance from the checkpoint where it was taken by the Taliban, the Internal Security Affairs Commission of the Wolesi Jirga — the Afghan parliament's lower house — was told.

                                                                                                                Hamidullah Tukhi, a local politician from Zabul, told the parliamentary commission that the consignment had been taken by a local Taliban commander.

                                                                                                                A Nato spokesman said the pallets were carrying rocket propelled grenades, ammunition, water and food.

                                                                                                                Afghan politicians have said they do not believe the drop was an accident.

                                                                                                                Nato's General Carlos Branco blamed it on "human error" when the navigator confused two very similar grid references.

                                                                                                                A spokesman at Nato headquarters in Brussels denied the suggestion the alliance had deliberately armed the Taliban. "We are aware of it but we are not fired up about it. It sounds like someone made a mistake. It was a cock-up rather than a conspiracy.

                                                                                                                "The forces on the ground are working to get the message across that we do not deliberately supply the Taliban with arms."

                                                                                                                http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/18/nato.afghanistan

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                                                                                                                  BOYCOTT NEWS: Canadian Union of Postal Workers Votes to Support Boycott of Israel

                                                                                                                  English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                  Palestine's Boycott National Committee Issues Statement Saluting the Postal Workers' Boycott Resolution

                                                                                                                  At their annual national convention, delegates of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)representing 50,000 workers across Canada, voted overwhelmigly in favor of resolution 338/339. The resolution commits the union to support the Palestinian people's inalienable rights including the right of return. The resolution also joins the global campaign of "boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS)against Israeli Apartheid."

                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                  In a statement issued on Friday, the BDS National Committee (BNC) in Palestine, which represents over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, saluted what it called a "historic resolution." The BNC statement further stated that the resolution "exemplifies the cause of workers' solidarity against oppression and racism, particularly at a time when Israel is intensifying, with impunity, its acts of genocide against close to 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza."

                                                                                                                  The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)'s resolution is the first boycott resolution passed by a labor union at the national level in North America. It follows a similar resolution that was passed in May 2006 by the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

                                                                                                                  The workers comprising the CUPW have a history of international solidarity. The union passed a similar resolution during the boycott campaign against the South African Apartheid regime. During that period, Canadian postal workers, members of the union, refused to handle mail to and from South Africa as part of the boycott.

                                                                                                                  While stemming from a long history of non-violent civil action, the Palestinian BDS campaign was officially launched in July 2005, when over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations signed an appeal to the people of the world calling for a BDS campaign against Israel. The call states that these non-violent measures to isolate Israel "should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: 1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."

                                                                                                                  Since the call was issued in 2005, several churches, labor unions, and civil society organizations have responded to the call by taking action to implement BDS.
                                                                                                                  International Middle East Media Center

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                                                                                                                    Hypocrisy over Tibet

                                                                                                                    English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                    Al Ahram

                                                                                                                    While the West is whipping anti-Chinese sentiment over Tibet, it is throwing stones from within a glass house, writes John Whitbeck*

                                                                                                                    I have been watching with growing astonishment and concern assaults on the bizarrely quasi-religious Olympic Torch as it has staggered through London, Paris and San Francisco, as well as the self-righteous pronouncements of certain European "leaders" (and even by the European Parliament, the UN secretary-general and John McCain) that they will not be attending the opening ceremony of the Olympics -- or are seriously considering not attending and urging others not to attend -- unless China bows to their "human rights" demands.

                                                                                                                    Can anyone seriously argue that Chinese treatment of Tibetans, who have not been subject to either genocide or ethnic cleansing and of whom the vast majority continue to live on their ancestral lands, compares unfavourably with the treatment accorded to Native Americans by the European settlers in North America or the treatment accorded (and continuing to be accorded) to the indigenous Palestinians by Zionist settlers in Palestine? Can anyone seriously argue that it is even in the same league of evil and injustice?

                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                    Have they even been invited? Who needs them? Why, aside from the obvious intention to offend, should the Chinese care?

                                                                                                                    I should make clear from the start that I am profoundly sympathetic to Tibet and Tibetans. I have had the privilege of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama on two occasions, most recently when we both spoke at the same human rights conference in Sweden. The white kata that he hung around my neck on the first occasion is proudly displayed in my study. In person, he exudes a quiet, modest charisma and aura of human saintliness that is captivating even to an atheist. I wish that he could return to the Potala Palace and that his people could enjoy the broad cultural and administrative autonomy that he seeks for them.

                                                                                                                    Furthermore, when I travelled to Tibet in 1981 (at a time when I had already visited all but one of the world's then existing countries), I found it, far and away, the most fascinating place that I had ever visited. It took my breath away in every sense.

                                                                                                                    Having said that, the current anti-Chinese frenzy in the West, pursued in the guise of pro-Tibetan (and, to a lesser extent, pro-Darfuri) human rights activism, and the Western media's coverage of it, reek of hypocrisy.

                                                                                                                    As best as I can tell, the recent violence occurred when some ethnic Tibetans, understandably fed up with the ever-increasing presence and domination of Han Chinese in traditional Tibetan areas, exploded in frustration, burned some Han Chinese shops and killed some Han Chinese civilians. What, in such circumstances, would one expect the Chinese authorities to do? When, by way of example, some African-Americans in Watts and other poor areas of Los Angeles exploded in frustration, burned some white- owned and Korean-owned stores and attacked some non-blacks, did the American police run away? As I recall, they sought to restore order. So have the Chinese authorities. (As a practical matter, the most brutal images of repressive police action against ethnic Tibetan protesters have not come from China but from other countries, most notably Nepal).

                                                                                                                    Can anyone seriously argue that Chinese treatment of Tibetans, who have not been subject to either genocide or ethnic cleansing and of whom the vast majority continue to live on their ancestral lands, compares unfavourably with the treatment accorded to Native Americans by the European settlers in North America or the treatment accorded (and continuing to be accorded) to the indigenous Palestinians by Zionist settlers in Palestine? Can anyone seriously argue that it is even in the same league of evil and injustice?

                                                                                                                    With more than 50 recognised ethnic minorities comprising roughly six per cent of China's immense population, Chinese government policy has always aimed at cultural integration of all Chinese citizens rather than at multiculturalism. Inevitably, some peoples are deeply attached to their own distinct cultures and do not wish to be integrated into another one. If Chinese treatment of certain ethnic minorities justly merits criticism, most serious observers would argue that repressive measures against the Uighurs of Xinjiang have been more severe than repressive measures against Tibetans.

                                                                                                                    However, although there are many more Uighurs than Tibetans, one hears very little about Uighurs in the West. They are Muslims. Uighur nationalist movements are on America's list of "terrorist" groups, and four Uighurs swept up in Afghanistan were incarcerated at Guantanamo for years, even long after being exonerated as potential threats to America, before finally being dumped in Albania because no other country would provide them asylum.

                                                                                                                    Furthermore, how reasonable is it to hold China responsible for the human suffering resulting from multiple separatist insurgencies and governmental counterinsurgency measures in the Darfur region of Sudan (because China invests in Sudan's oil industry?) while not holding America and its Western collaborators responsible for the far worse human suffering resulting from America's invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and America's unconditional financial and diplomatic support for Israel's occupation of Palestine?

                                                                                                                    If the Chinese feel that the current anti-Chinese frenzy in the West has its roots in jealousy at China's 12 per cent annual economic growth rate and its increasing success in all aspects of world affairs, seasoned with ample doses of racism and hypocrisy, this would not be an irrational appreciation of the situation.

                                                                                                                    At least with respect to its role in world affairs, China has proven a rather gentle and benign dragon in recent decades, focussed on improving the economic conditions and quality of life of its people rather than on military aggression or full-spectrum domination over mankind and the planet, even while its strength and potential power have been growing exponentially. Seeking personal emotional satisfaction or domestic political advantage by gratuitously sticking pins in the Chinese dragon is unlikely to prove a wise course of action.

                                                                                                                    The world has enough problems already.

                                                                                                                    * The writer is an international lawyer and author of The World According to Whitbeck .

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                                                                                                                      The US Palestine-Israel fairytale

                                                                                                                      English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                      Al ahram

                                                                                                                      The US is so awash with untruths about the Palestinians and Israel that freedom of conscience on the issue for most Americans is virtually unimaginable, writes Ramzy Baroud*

                                                                                                                      A memorable quote in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) still carries a wealth of relevance. He writes, "They own the [holy] land, just the mere land, and that's all they do own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them."

                                                                                                                      Recently an influential pastor, John Hagee of the Dallas's Cornerstone mega-church, followed his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain with some telling remarks. "What Senator McCain, I feel, needs to do to bring evangelicals into his camp is to make it very clear that he is a strong defender of Israel and that he has a strong 24 years of being pro-life. And I think on those two issues they will get on common ground and have a common understanding."

                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                      Such are the views of a man who has ever- growing influence among an ever-swelling culture in the US -- the evangelical Christian bloc. No mention was made of the well being of Palestinians, even Christian Palestinians, many of who are descendants of the early church.

                                                                                                                      To be sure, the human rights and needs of Palestinians are rarely addressed by American officials. On the rare occasion that they are, any expression of support must be closely followed by a strong condemnation of "Palestinian terrorism".

                                                                                                                      Welcome to America's parallel reality on Israel and Palestine, bare-faced in its defying the notions of common sense, equality and justice, ever-insistent on peeking at the Arab- Israeli conflict through a looking glass manufactured jointly in the church, in Congress and in the newsroom, where the world is reduced to characters interacting in a Hollywood-like movie set: good guys, well groomed and often white-skinned versus bad guys bearing opposite qualities.

                                                                                                                      One may become accustomed to watching, reading and listening to the chorus of support that America -- its politicians, most of its mainstream media and a large conglomerate of its churches and clergies -- tirelessly offers Israel. While the advocacy for Israel by various evangelical churches is both bizarre -- since the ultimate objective of this crowd is the annihilation of most Jews and the conversion of some as prerequisites for "the Rapture" -- and widely acknowledged, their influence on the political culture of America is not equally recognised. For example, Pastor Hagee, a televangelist to 99 million viewers, established Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in 2005 following the publication of his book, The Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World.

                                                                                                                      US writer Robert Weitzel explains, "Hagee envisions CUFI as the Christian version of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby whose political clout has significant influence on US foreign policy in the Middle East."

                                                                                                                      Journalist Max Blumenthal took his cameras to the CUFI's Washington-Israel summit held July 2007, in Washington DC. The result was a documentary entitled, Rapture Ready: The Unauthorised Christians United for Israel Tour. It opens with former Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who is asked how important the Second Coming is as a factor in his support for Israel. "Obviously, it is what I live for. Really, I hope it comes tomorrow. Obviously, we need to be connected to Israel to enjoy the Second Coming of Christ."

                                                                                                                      Weitzel reports, "John Hagee is not without fawning friends in Washington. Presidential hopeful John McCain made a campaign stop at the summit and admitted to the audience that, 'it's very hard trying to do the Lord's work in the city of Satan ... ' House Minority Leader Whip Roy Blunt followed McCain to the podium and assured the faithful that 'This is a mission, this is a vision that I believe is a vision for God's time.' Senator Joe Lieberman was there and described Pastor Hagee as an 'Ish Elokim,' a man of God." Even President Bush sent his best wishes, "I appreciate CUFI members... for your passion and dedication to enhancing the relationship between the United States and Israel. Your efforts set a shining example for others ..."

                                                                                                                      While most US politicians are self-seeking, power-hungry and would do whatever it takes to be elected, the average American, though it may seem otherwise, is not born "pro-Israel" and "anti-Palestinian". Most Americans are pro the manufactured yet misleading images of Israel that reach their homes through television, wait at their doorsteps in the morning newspaper, and confront them through the web. Israel has mastery over the language of the Western media, which, again, helped create a parallel reality that has little correlation to the real world, that of facts, numbers and actual events. That alternative universe only exists on newspaper editorial pages, in mega-churches and in the blabber of Fox News "experts".

                                                                                                                      There is no serious or equitable debate regarding Palestine and Israel in the US corporate media, nor in any other US cultural, political and religious circles. If the existing narrative is to be called a debate, then it's one with an imagined, not real, language, almost entirely irrelevant to realities in Palestine and Israel; one that is largely predicated on a narrow minded, apocalyptic religious discourse that for decades has found itself an accepted point of departure for most politicians, even those who falsely pose as liberals.

                                                                                                                      Between the two discourses, that of misguided religious fantasies and pandering politicians, there maybe exists enough room for alternative narratives. Unfortunately, that space too is overwhelmed by cultural misconceptions, institutional bias and deliberate confusion introduced and instilled by media producers, pundits and other manufacturers of American popular culture.

                                                                                                                      Until the gatekeepers of US culture are seriously challenged, Palestine will continue to reside in American imagination as a battle between good and evil, a "Holy Land" that must be wrested from the hands of those who might have owned the land, at some point, but now "haven't any business to be there defiling it."

                                                                                                                      * The writer is editor of PalestineChronicle.com .

                                                                                                                      1016 words posted in Human Rights, American Empire, , RacismLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                        Saving the US from Israel

                                                                                                                        English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                        Al Ahram

                                                                                                                        While not the thinking person's only concern, Israel's continued hegemony over US foreign policy formulation is the greatest threat to world peace, writes Hassan Nafaa*

                                                                                                                        For many years the US was a beacon of light and hope to many. It was easy for the dazzled and awestruck to come up with evidence in defence of that country that in the mere two centuries since its appearance on the world map as an independent nation had accomplished more than any other nation in history. That gleaming new and modern nation had become the most powerful, wealthiest and most influential nation on earth. Its political, economic and social systems were models of dynamism, efficiency and achievement. The American way of life amazed, inspired and lured people around the world. More importantly, that country's awesome material might remained subordinated to the moral might of the country that was the most democratic on earth, the most respectful of law and vigilant in its defence of human liberties and the rights of peoples to self-determination.

                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                        Not all, however, were gripped by this image. For some, the image of the US was bleak and far from noble. To them, the history of the US was an uninterrupted train of colonialist expansionism, violence and racism. The train of violence had been set into motion even before the founding of the state, with the beginning of the systematic genocide of the indigenous population, and continued through the dropping of two atom bombs on Japanese cities without any military justification whatsoever. The American history of racism began with the importation of millions of Africans to be sold into slavery and it certainly did not end with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. America's record of imperialist expansionism began with the extension of its western frontiers to the Pacific and continued beyond the establishment of its current boundaries by means of its drive to expand its sphere of influence and control, starting with the Western hemisphere (in accordance with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823) and ending with its current hegemony over the international order, a status it is now in the process of trying to secure.

                                                                                                                        Two antithetical images, but neither belies the important fact that the US in the post-World War II period was far less ugly than colonialist Europe and the Stalinist Soviet Union. Certainly, the presence of rivals on the international stage, regardless of whether it planned on eventually inheriting their estates or containing them, helped restrain Washington's thirst for power and control, smoothing the way to the helm inside the US for more liberal political forces, be they Republican or Democrat. Yet once it succeeded in elbowing Europe to the side, after the 1956 crisis, and in tying Soviet hands in the Middle East following the 1973 War, the American right wing gradually gained ground and eventually moved into the White House in 1980. Then, following the elimination of the Soviet rival for good, the even more racist and fanatical ultra right grew stronger until it succeeded in taking control over the White House and installing in the Oval Office a repentant alcoholic called George W Bush. With this development, the American drive for global hegemony moved up into full gear.

                                                                                                                        It is impossible for anyone now to mistake America's international bearing. The beast has shed all remnants of sheep's clothing and run rampant, and the ravages in Iraq and Palestine, in particular, testify to a mode of ferocity next to which even the brutal ages of colonialism pale. A power that devastates a country with an ancient civilisation, such as Iraq, causing the death of more than a million of its people and the displacement of a quarter of its population; that permits a blockade intended to starve a defenceless people into submission; that commits horrifically brutal human rights violations in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the CIA's secret prisons around the world, can not by any stretch of the imagination be called democratic or civilised.

                                                                                                                        It is difficult to conceive how such a vibrant society as that in the US could produce such a foolhardy, rash and contemptuous administration. Even supposing that a people had not thought very clearly in 2000, how could they have made the same mistake and voted Bush into power for a second time in 2004 in the face of all the evidence of his gross incompetence and criminal deceit? Surely the only possible explanation is that there is something wrong with American society and that the George W Bush phenomenon is not a passing anomaly but rather a reflection of a deep and powerful current of opinion and interests in that society.

                                                                                                                        True, US society has finally begun to wake up, albeit very late in the day, and has punished Bush in the legislative elections of November 2006 by depriving him of a congressional majority. However, this by no means suggests that a corrective revolution has erupted or that Barack Obama already has a foot in the Oval Office. American society is still deeply divided and all possibilities remain open, including the victory of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who is a rational extension of everything Bush stands for and, therefore, more dangerous. Also, despite his congressional setback, Bush appears so smug in his confidence regarding his base of support that it is impossible to rule out yet another reckless folly engaged under his administration, such as an assault on Iran.

                                                                                                                        In an article published online 12 April, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan lists several reasons why "the neocons may get their war on Iran" before Bush leaves the White House. He observes that, in early 2007, Nancy Pelosi withdrew a resolution that would have denied Bush the authority to attack Iran without congressional approval. In September, both houses passed the Kyl-Lieberman resolution designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation. "Courtesy of Congress", he writes, "Bush thus has a blank check for war on Iran. And the signs are growing that he intends to fill it in and cash it." Among these signs are the major military manoeuvres that took place in the region in the wake of Cheney's tour. Apart from the trouble Iran is ostensibly causing the US in Iraq, Buchanan notes that Bush has another incentive to go to war: it will drive a wedge between the Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton -- who voted for the Kyl- Lieberman resolution -- and Obama. With the Democrats at each other's throats, the path to the White House will be pretty well cleared for McCain.

                                                                                                                        It would not surprise me if this scenario, which appears to mirror a deep and disturbing facet of US society, comes to pass. But why has this voracious power drive singled out the Middle East and the Arab and Muslim peoples, in particular, for its most brutal forms of aggression?

                                                                                                                        The Israel or Zionist factor is surely one of the most obvious keys, and it would be naïve to disregard it. Although I am not among those inclined to attribute US policy orientation in the Middle East to the Zionist lobby alone, there is no denying its influence. A relatively new phenomenon in the US, awareness is dawning among a slowly but steadily growing segment of American opinion of the power of the Zionist lobby and the extent to which it jeopardises American strategic interests. Not that this is the first time voices have cried out in the US against the Zionist lobby's ways of asserting its influence on American decision- making centres and hounding out opponents. We all remember Paul Findley's They Dared to Speak Out (1982), which exposed the tactics the Zionist lobby used to, among other things, bring about his electoral defeat in the 1982 congressional elections. However, never before has it been possible to come across so many prominent names in American political and academic circles that have begun to level open and harsh criticism at Israel and its advocates in the US. Not least of these are former US President Jimmy Carter who, two years ago, published Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, and Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer who jointly produced The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy, a lengthy and thoroughly documented study on the extent to which that lobby has shaped US policy on the Middle East to promote Israeli over American interests.

                                                                                                                        The title of Carter's book speaks for itself. It criticises Israeli policies on settlement expansion and the construction of the apartheid wall as reminiscent of the racist policies of former apartheid South Africa. The former president appears to have weathered the storm his book triggered and the campaign of personal vilification that predictably labelled him anti-Semitic. Apparently he is now preparing for a visit to Damascus to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, which I regard as another important step towards breaking Zionist taboos.

                                                                                                                        The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy originally appeared in the London Review of Books, having initially been turned down for publication by Harvard University Press. Despite ferocious attacks from the Zionist lobby, it evolved into a 500-page bestseller. The book is significant not only because of its scholastic thoroughness but also because of the academic eminence of its authors, one the dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and professor of international relations and the other a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. The book furnishes extensive corroboration of the extent to which the influence of the Zionist lobby has penetrated the White House, congress, research centres, the media, universities and other important forums for influencing decision-makers and American public opinion. Among the most significant conclusions of the Walt and Mearsheimer work is that the Zionist lobby was highly instrumental in drawing the US into the war on Iraq and that it is now campaigning to propel the US into another war, this time against Iran.

                                                                                                                        The book is a breath of fresh air in thinking on US Middle East policy in American academic circles, and it is acquiring some respectable company. The Washington Quarterly, an international affairs journal, recently featured an article entitled "After Iraq: Future US military posture in the Middle East". Written by Bradley L Bowman, the article reaches the conclusion -- startling to Americans, perhaps -- that the US military presence in the region is the leading source of an unprecedented rise and spread of terrorism therein.

                                                                                                                        However, there is little to be gained from chasing rainbows. The blind support for Israel in the US is too strong to be shaken, to which testifies the recently adopted House of Representatives Resolution 185 on the recognition of the rights of "Jewish refugees" from the Middle East. The resolution is not binding, but it is a sign of the shape of things to come, unless someone comes along to save the US from itself and from Israel, and in doing so to save mankind.

                                                                                                                        * The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University.

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                                                                                                                          Between truce and escalation

                                                                                                                          English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          Al Ahram

                                                                                                                          Blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian detainees were kept at a military base on the Israeli-Gaza border following an Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip

                                                                                                                          The stalemate between a cold truce and outright war continues, with both Israel and Palestinian factions preparing for all eventualities, writes Saleh Al-Naami

                                                                                                                          With the exception of stray dogs, no one can enter into Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip after midnight without proving his identity and being carefully searched by members of the marabatin (garrisoned) groups guarding the camp's entrances.

                                                                                                                          In a survey that Al-Ahram Weekly conducted early this week of the sites of the marabatin, who are affiliated with the various military arms of most of the Palestinian factions, it was clear that they have begun to take intensified security measures around all Palestinian residential areas in the Gaza Strip in case Israeli forces should enter.

                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                          Saad (not his real name), the 29-year-old leader of the marabatin groups in Al-Maghazi camp, says that he and his scores of men are operating under the assumption that Israeli forces may raid the camp at any moment, and thus are in a constant state of readiness for battle. "We are taking both publicised and secret security measures, 24 hours a day, so as to limit the enemy's ability to surprise us," he told the Weekly.

                                                                                                                          Top officials in the dismissed Haniyeh government and leaders of various Palestinian factions believe that the Israeli army's recent invasions of the Gaza Strip have been preparation for major military action. The Palestinian factions listen carefully to the statements of top Israeli leaders regarding Tel Aviv's intentions. Tsahi Hanegbi, head of the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee in the Knesset, told Hebrew Radio last Sunday that both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Minister of Defence Ehud Barak agree that a wide-scale land campaign should be waged in Gaza, and that commencing such an operation depends only on operational considerations. General Matan Vilnai, Israeli deputy defence minister, says openly that major military action in Gaza is vital for regaining Israel's ability to deter Palestinian factions. Vilnai has declared that the resistance factions' ability to strike at Israel is indisputable evidence that Israel has completely failed to uphold its deterrence capacity.

                                                                                                                          Abu Obeida, official spokesperson of Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has pointed out that Israel has recently exaggerated the abilities of Palestinian resistance movements in the Strip so as to justify waging major military action against Gaza. "It is absolutely clear that the power balance tips considerably in the favour of Israel, and yet despite that, Israel is trying to convince the world that Gaza has turned into a major arsenal, so as to secure international cover for its attack on Gaza," he told the Weekly. Abu Obeida went on to say that despite the prevailing balance of power, Palestinian resistance movements have prepared "unprecedented surprises" for Israel's army should it invade the Strip.

                                                                                                                          Although Ghassan Al-Khatib, vice-president of Birzeit University and former Palestinian minister of planning, believes that all signs indicate that Israel is currently preparing for overwhelming military action against Gaza, he does not believe that Israel will reoccupy the Strip or even large sections of it. Al-Khatib holds that reoccupation would have a negative effect on Israel's ability to achieve its goal of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and connecting it with Egypt. "Control of the Strip, or wide areas of it, would mean risking the achievements Israel has made in separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, because controlling the Strip would embroil Israel in a Gazan quagmire, for it would again assume responsibility for providing services to the Palestinian public," he told the Weekly. Al-Khatib proffers that Israel is interested in exploiting its military operations to complement the role of the siege placed on the Strip in order to drive the Palestinians towards Egypt.

                                                                                                                          Yet it is striking that talk of preparations to confront Israeli military plans for Gaza is accompanied by talk of the possibility of reaching a truce agreement. Said Siyyam, minister of defence in Ismail Haniyeh's government and Gaza's "strong man", holds that many attempts are being made to reach a truce agreement between Israel and Palestinian resistance movements. Siyyam suggests that Hamas is prepared to forego some of the conditions it had placed on reaching a truce, and in particular that it be comprehensive in including a halt to raids and arrests in the West Bank. "Our experience with the occupation shows that you cannot get everything in the first round, and yet that it is in Israel's interest that a truce be reached and missiles stop being fired on settlements in the occupied territories, in return for Israel halting its aggression against our people and taking measures to lighten the siege. We are prepared for the truce to be limited to Gaza in the beginning, and to later extend to the West Bank," he told the Weekly.

                                                                                                                          Siyyam emphasises that this position does not mean that Palestinian resistance movements are prepared to allow Israel to single out the West Bank for implementation of the first stage of the roadmap that deals with security and eliminating the resistance.

                                                                                                                          Siyyam further points out that the factions' readiness to accept a truce in the Gaza Strip as a first stage came following indications that the resistance movements are capable of striking Israel in the West Bank should Israel insist on removing the West Bank from the truce's scope. "Numerous indicators show that the West Bank will again become the primary arena of confrontation with the enemy, and the best evidence of that is some of the operations that have complicated Israel's plans. This has made Israel increase its attacks on the resistance in cooperation with the security agencies of President Mahmoud Abbas. Most unfortunately, this is happening at the same time that Israel is building more settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank," he said.

                                                                                                                          Siyyam thinks it unlikely that Israel is interested in opening up a wide military front in the West Bank at a time when there is tension between it and Hizbullah and Syria, as well as the possibility of confrontation with Iran. "I don't believe that Israel is capable of confronting all these fronts at once when the Israeli domestic situation is full of confusion. One moment they threaten Syria and the next they give it signs of assurance. Sometimes they threaten leaders of the movement and threaten to invade, and at other times they push foreign parties to mediate for a truce. In all cases, I believe that the region is up for an escalation, but no one knows exactly in what direction. The important thing is that Israel hasn't comprehended the defeat of the June war of 2006," he said.

                                                                                                                          In interview, Siyyam added that the Palestinian security agencies possess verified information about Israel's intent to execute a limited number of operations in Palestinian cities. The Israeli army, he says, has recently dug tunnels that stretch from Israel into the Gaza Strip to use them to kidnap leaders of the resistance movements. "The prevailing belief is that drugs will be used in the kidnapping operations. We assume that Israel will use all of the technical abilities it has as a state to dig these tunnels," he said. Siyyam also revealed that the Israeli domestic security agency, Shin Bet, has used its agents to purchase residential apartments in Palestinian cities in the Gaza Strip to use as bases for the kidnapping operations.

                                                                                                                          An informed Palestinian source told the Weekly that Hamas has submitted a complete proposal to the Egyptian government concerning a comprehensive truce. This proposal provides for the resistance movements halting the firing of missiles on Israeli settlements in return for Israel first halting its military operations in Gaza. After that, the West Bank would be drawn into the truce, the siege of Gaza would be lifted, and Gaza's border crossings would be reopened, including the Rafah crossing.

                                                                                                                          The source added that the Egyptian government realises that the siege cannot be separated from solving domestic Palestinian strife, and thus agreed with Palestinian President Abbas to play a role in reaching a truce with Israel as well as an agreement between Abbas and Hamas on making the Rafah crossing functional again. It would also ensure that security agencies affiliated with the Palestinian presidential office, return to supervise the crossing alongside a symbolic presence of forces allied to the dismissed Haniyeh government. This source holds that although Israel is beating the drums of war and that Palestinian factions are undertaking all preparations to confront that eventuality, both parties are interested in reaching a truce.

                                                                                                                          According to this source, Israel is afraid that a limited operation in the Gaza Strip might lead to a complete invasion, with all that implies with regard to large numbers of casualties on the Israeli side. This is something that Olmert is trying to avoid, especially after his failure in the 2006 war on Lebanon. At the same time, Palestinian resistance factions, and in particular Hamas, are concerned with reaching a truce since it would end the siege, or at least lighten it. This is essential given the paralysis that has struck all aspects of life in Gaza.

                                                                                                                          1539 words posted in Human Rights, American Empire, , RacismLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                            Between truce and escalation

                                                                                                                            English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                            Blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian detainees were kept at a military base on the Israeli-Gaza border following an Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip

                                                                                                                            The stalemate between a cold truce and outright war continues, with both Israel and Palestinian factions preparing for all eventualities, writes Saleh Al-Naami

                                                                                                                            With the exception of stray dogs, no one can enter into Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip after midnight without proving his identity and being carefully searched by members of the marabatin (garrisoned) groups guarding the camp's entrances.

                                                                                                                            In a survey that Al-Ahram Weekly conducted early this week of the sites of the marabatin, who are affiliated with the various military arms of most of the Palestinian factions, it was clear that they have begun to take intensified security measures around all Palestinian residential areas in the Gaza Strip in case Israeli forces should enter.

                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                            Saad (not his real name), the 29-year-old leader of the marabatin groups in Al-Maghazi camp, says that he and his scores of men are operating under the assumption that Israeli forces may raid the camp at any moment, and thus are in a constant state of readiness for battle. "We are taking both publicised and secret security measures, 24 hours a day, so as to limit the enemy's ability to surprise us," he told the Weekly.

                                                                                                                            Top officials in the dismissed Haniyeh government and leaders of various Palestinian factions believe that the Israeli army's recent invasions of the Gaza Strip have been preparation for major military action. The Palestinian factions listen carefully to the statements of top Israeli leaders regarding Tel Aviv's intentions. Tsahi Hanegbi, head of the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee in the Knesset, told Hebrew Radio last Sunday that both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Minister of Defence Ehud Barak agree that a wide-scale land campaign should be waged in Gaza, and that commencing such an operation depends only on operational considerations. General Matan Vilnai, Israeli deputy defence minister, says openly that major military action in Gaza is vital for regaining Israel's ability to deter Palestinian factions. Vilnai has declared that the resistance factions' ability to strike at Israel is indisputable evidence that Israel has completely failed to uphold its deterrence capacity.

                                                                                                                            Abu Obeida, official spokesperson of Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has pointed out that Israel has recently exaggerated the abilities of Palestinian resistance movements in the Strip so as to justify waging major military action against Gaza. "It is absolutely clear that the power balance tips considerably in the favour of Israel, and yet despite that, Israel is trying to convince the world that Gaza has turned into a major arsenal, so as to secure international cover for its attack on Gaza," he told the Weekly. Abu Obeida went on to say that despite the prevailing balance of power, Palestinian resistance movements have prepared "unprecedented surprises" for Israel's army should it invade the Strip.

                                                                                                                            Although Ghassan Al-Khatib, vice-president of Birzeit University and former Palestinian minister of planning, believes that all signs indicate that Israel is currently preparing for overwhelming military action against Gaza, he does not believe that Israel will reoccupy the Strip or even large sections of it. Al-Khatib holds that reoccupation would have a negative effect on Israel's ability to achieve its goal of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and connecting it with Egypt. "Control of the Strip, or wide areas of it, would mean risking the achievements Israel has made in separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, because controlling the Strip would embroil Israel in a Gazan quagmire, for it would again assume responsibility for providing services to the Palestinian public," he told the Weekly. Al-Khatib proffers that Israel is interested in exploiting its military operations to complement the role of the siege placed on the Strip in order to drive the Palestinians towards Egypt.

                                                                                                                            Yet it is striking that talk of preparations to confront Israeli military plans for Gaza is accompanied by talk of the possibility of reaching a truce agreement. Said Siyyam, minister of defence in Ismail Haniyeh's government and Gaza's "strong man", holds that many attempts are being made to reach a truce agreement between Israel and Palestinian resistance movements. Siyyam suggests that Hamas is prepared to forego some of the conditions it had placed on reaching a truce, and in particular that it be comprehensive in including a halt to raids and arrests in the West Bank. "Our experience with the occupation shows that you cannot get everything in the first round, and yet that it is in Israel's interest that a truce be reached and missiles stop being fired on settlements in the occupied territories, in return for Israel halting its aggression against our people and taking measures to lighten the siege. We are prepared for the truce to be limited to Gaza in the beginning, and to later extend to the West Bank," he told the Weekly.

                                                                                                                            Siyyam emphasises that this position does not mean that Palestinian resistance movements are prepared to allow Israel to single out the West Bank for implementation of the first stage of the roadmap that deals with security and eliminating the resistance.

                                                                                                                            Siyyam further points out that the factions' readiness to accept a truce in the Gaza Strip as a first stage came following indications that the resistance movements are capable of striking Israel in the West Bank should Israel insist on removing the West Bank from the truce's scope. "Numerous indicators show that the West Bank will again become the primary arena of confrontation with the enemy, and the best evidence of that is some of the operations that have complicated Israel's plans. This has made Israel increase its attacks on the resistance in cooperation with the security agencies of President Mahmoud Abbas. Most unfortunately, this is happening at the same time that Israel is building more settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank," he said.

                                                                                                                            Siyyam thinks it unlikely that Israel is interested in opening up a wide military front in the West Bank at a time when there is tension between it and Hizbullah and Syria, as well as the possibility of confrontation with Iran. "I don't believe that Israel is capable of confronting all these fronts at once when the Israeli domestic situation is full of confusion. One moment they threaten Syria and the next they give it signs of assurance. Sometimes they threaten leaders of the movement and threaten to invade, and at other times they push foreign parties to mediate for a truce. In all cases, I believe that the region is up for an escalation, but no one knows exactly in what direction. The important thing is that Israel hasn't comprehended the defeat of the June war of 2006," he said.

                                                                                                                            In interview, Siyyam added that the Palestinian security agencies possess verified information about Israel's intent to execute a limited number of operations in Palestinian cities. The Israeli army, he says, has recently dug tunnels that stretch from Israel into the Gaza Strip to use them to kidnap leaders of the resistance movements. "The prevailing belief is that drugs will be used in the kidnapping operations. We assume that Israel will use all of the technical abilities it has as a state to dig these tunnels," he said. Siyyam also revealed that the Israeli domestic security agency, Shin Bet, has used its agents to purchase residential apartments in Palestinian cities in the Gaza Strip to use as bases for the kidnapping operations.

                                                                                                                            An informed Palestinian source told the Weekly that Hamas has submitted a complete proposal to the Egyptian government concerning a comprehensive truce. This proposal provides for the resistance movements halting the firing of missiles on Israeli settlements in return for Israel first halting its military operations in Gaza. After that, the West Bank would be drawn into the truce, the siege of Gaza would be lifted, and Gaza's border crossings would be reopened, including the Rafah crossing.

                                                                                                                            The source added that the Egyptian government realises that the siege cannot be separated from solving domestic Palestinian strife, and thus agreed with Palestinian President Abbas to play a role in reaching a truce with Israel as well as an agreement between Abbas and Hamas on making the Rafah crossing functional again. It would also ensure that security agencies affiliated with the Palestinian presidential office, return to supervise the crossing alongside a symbolic presence of forces allied to the dismissed Haniyeh government. This source holds that although Israel is beating the drums of war and that Palestinian factions are undertaking all preparations to confront that eventuality, both parties are interested in reaching a truce.

                                                                                                                            According to this source, Israel is afraid that a limited operation in the Gaza Strip might lead to a complete invasion, with all that implies with regard to large numbers of casualties on the Israeli side. This is something that Olmert is trying to avoid, especially after his failure in the 2006 war on Lebanon. At the same time, Palestinian resistance factions, and in particular Hamas, are concerned with reaching a truce since it would end the siege, or at least lighten it. This is essential given the paralysis that has struck all aspects of life in Gaza.

                                                                                                                            1537 words posted in Human Rights, American Empire, , RacismLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                              Cheerleading genocide

                                                                                                                              English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                              Israel is gearing up to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its birth; six decades of destruction for the Palestinians, writes Khaled Amayreh

                                                                                                                              With spectacular fanfare and a plethora of highlighted events, Israel is planning to celebrate its 60th birthday on 18 May 2008.

                                                                                                                              According to an Israeli government website called Israelfestival.com, the festival will include "non-stop entertainment, [a] fashion show, a variety of ethnic food for sale, Israeli folk dancing, arts and crafts, Israeli and Jewish cultural and heritage pavilions and art exhibits".

                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                              The centrepiece ceremony is expected to take place in West Jerusalem and be attended by Israel's political and military leaders as well as foreign dignitaries. Among those expected are US President George W Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

                                                                                                                              Israeli media and non-governmental organisations have already begun celebrations in earnest. For example, Israeli television has begun airing a new series called Shishim (meaning "60"), which looks back at the six decades since Israel was created in May 1948. The series, which began 31 March, is divided into six episodes, each devoted to one of the decades following the founding of the state.

                                                                                                                              Israel hopes that the high-pitched celebrations will serve as an opportunity to promote Israel and enhance its questionable standing abroad. "It is an opportunity to celebrate our achievements, our successes, our national being," boasted Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was not yet born in 1948.

                                                                                                                              From the Zionist viewpoint, Israel is a story of success. Today, Israel is a political and military force to be reckoned with, even if its power is based on the patronage of foreign entities. A country of no more than seven million people, including nearly 1.5 million non-Jews (mainly Palestinians), Israel more or less directs the politics and policies of world's only superpower, the United States, thanks mainly to powerful Jewish lobbies in Washington.

                                                                                                                              The power of the Jewish lobby largely explains how massive American financial and military support is to Israel, which is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars. Were it not for this nearly unlimited financial, economic, technological, political and military backing, Israel would never have been able to survive, especially given its predator tactics.

                                                                                                                              Israel, which has been mounting a vitriolic incitement campaign against Iran for its acquisition of nuclear technology, is a nuclear power on par with other established nuclear powers, and its military supremacy -- at least until summer of 2006 -- has covered the vast bulk of the Middle East from Turkey to Iran and from North Africa to east and central Africa.

                                                                                                                              Economically, Israel is also a regional economic superpower, with a GNP bordering on $0.5 trillion. In fact, Israel is among a few pioneering states in the field of electronics and the development of new generations of medicine, with Israeli pharmaceutical firms' share of the world market reaching billions of dollars.

                                                                                                                              Notwithstanding all its success and achievements, Israel remains a state based on racism, apartheid and criminality against the Palestinian people whose homeland it seized and whom it is trying to obliterate to this day. To be sure, Israel has failed. Palestinians remain, both as a human entity and as a national entity.

                                                                                                                              Israel, in order to achieve its goals, always sought to acquire, by hook or by crook, as much Palestinian land as possible while taking in as few Palestinian people as possible. The policies and tactics employed by Israel to achieve this goal are both blunt and insidious and amount to ethnic cleansing and the international crime of genocide. Israel has institutionalised racism, bulldozed hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages, shamelessly confiscated Palestinian land and property, including private homes, and recently built the so-called "Separation Wall" in the West Bank, aimed first and foremost at annexing to Israel as much Palestinian land as possible.

                                                                                                                              On top of all of this, Israel has perfected the practice of state-sponsored mass terror; a deliberate policy aimed at making Palestinian life as unbearable as possible with the ultimate goal of forcing Palestinians to leave their homes and land altogether. This is done in broad daylight; in full view of key world powers, such as the US, EU, Russia and China, which either keep silent or issue a few terse and innocuous words about the need to stick to a peace process that has form but very little substance.

                                                                                                                              Today, as Israel is getting ready to celebrate its 60th birthday, the massive theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank, especially in East Jerusalem and its surroundings, continues unabated. Against all odds, the Palestinian people have survived. Indeed, Palestinian resilience to Israeli oppression is legendary -- a trait that continues to baffle and frustrate Israeli strategists. Perhaps it is this resilience that is encouraging influential Israeli political, military and religious leaders to openly call for genocide of the Palestinians.

                                                                                                                              Recently, Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatened to "inflict a greater holocaust" on Palestinians. Similarly, a growing number of rabbis associated with the two largest religious camps in Israel, the Haredi ultra-Orthodox religious sector and the national Zionist religious sector, issuing one edict after the other, permitting soldiers to murder at will Palestinian civilians, including children, on the grounds that in war all among the enemy population ought to be treated as combatants, including children.

                                                                                                                              One might imagine that this is exaggerated, but it is not. Recently Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director of the Tsomet Institute, a religious seminary attended by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, declared: "All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women, infants, and even their beasts." And the chief rabbi of the City of Safad, Shmuel Eliyahu, urged the state and the army recently to hang the children of a Palestinian fighter who last month attacked the Merkaz Haarav Centre, run for Jewish settlers in West Jerusalem, killing eight pre-military Talmudic students in retaliation for the killing by the Israeli army of more than 130 Palestinians, most of them innocent civilians, in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                              The mushrooming of fascist impulses is not confined to the religious sector. In March, the Israeli media quoted Knesset members and former cabinet ministers as threatening to extend discriminatory laws against non-Jews in ways reminiscent of Nuremberg Laws passed in Nazi Germany. One Israeli Knesset member reportedly told his Arab colleague: "the day will come when we will kick you out of this house."

                                                                                                                              Such instances raise no eyebrows in a country where some rabbis, like David Batsri, openly teach that non-Jews are animals and donkeys. A recent opinion survey published this week showed that as many as 75 per cent of Israeli Jews support ethnic cleansing of Arabs from mandate Palestine -- Israel proper and the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Understandably, the poll drew angry reactions from the Israeli Arab community. Jamal Zahalqa, an Israeli Arab Knesset member, suggested that Arabs are being treated in ways similar to the way Jews were treated in the Third Reich ahead of World War II.

                                                                                                                              "The hateful smell of racism and fascism is wafting everywhere in this country. You must know that we didn't come to Israel from abroad... On the contrary; it was Israel that invaded us. We are the indigenous people of the land, and we receive our legitimacy from our belonging to this land, not from having Israeli citizenship," he said.

                                                                                                                              Zahalqa described the poll as "additional evidence underscoring the growing rampancy of racism and fascism in Israel as a result of the ongoing waves of hate against everything and anything Arab."

                                                                                                                              The fears of Zahalqa and other Israeli Arabs are real. Recently, hundreds of Arab residents from Jaffa, Lod and Ramleh took to the streets to protest against the planned eviction by the state of thousands of Arab residents from Jaffa. Authorities had issued warrants for the evacuation and destruction of hundreds of homes, claiming infringements on building regulations. The state also claimed that, "the families [had] lost the right to continue living in their homes, since these homes belonged to their parents ... "

                                                                                                                              "We are here and we won't leave. We will either live on this land or die on this land. We will not let you touch our lands or our holy places," said Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Arab movement in Israel. "All your rulings belong in the trashcan. We are not afraid of you. We will continue to live in our homeland," he added.

                                                                                                                              Last year, Richard Falk, a renowned American Jewish professor of international law and practice, wrote an article entitled "Slouching toward a Palestinian holocaust," in which he warned that Israel was moving towards the perpetration of a holocaust against the Palestinians. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not," said Falk.

                                                                                                                              Justifying the Israel-equals-Nazi analogy, Falk argued that developments in Gaza (the blockade against its estimated 1.5 million inhabitants), were especially disturbing because they expressed vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its backers to subject an entire human community to life- endangering conditions of maximal cruelty. "The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating into a collective tragedy," Falk wrote.

                                                                                                                              In sum, from the standpoint of fascism, Israel has much to celebrate in terms of political and military achievements. But in terms of justice, morality and humanity, one struggles to name a country on earth that so openly practices oppression and racism. As such Israel, on its 60th birthday, remains what it was when born six decades ago: a state built on blood, murder, theft and lies.

                                                                                                                              Is Israel about to change its ways? Don't hold your breath, Israeli leaders might say. Unless, that is, you're Palestinian.

                                                                                                                              Al Ahram

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                                                                                                                                Carter defends right to meet Hamas

                                                                                                                                English (US)  April 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )



                                                                                                                                Carter, who condemned Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip
                                                                                                                                as a crime and an atrocity on Thursday, will meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.

                                                                                                                                Jimmy Carter, the former US president, has defended his right to meet Hamas leaders during his trip to the Middle East.

                                                                                                                                Carter arrived in Syria on Friday and held talks with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, before preparing to defy US and Israeli opposition by meeting with Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based Hamas leader.

                                                                                                                                [More:]


                                                                                                                                Details on the meeting with Assad were not immediately available, but Carter's spokesman Rick Jafculca said that the two were to discuss the peace process.

                                                                                                                                On Thursday, Carter met a delegation of Hamas leaders from the Gaza Strip in Cairo and held talks with Husni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

                                                                                                                                Speaking to the media, Carter defended his meetings with Hamas, calling them necessary in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

                                                                                                                                The former US president also described Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip as a crime and an atrocity on Thursday.

                                                                                                                                Profiles
                                                                                                                                Jimmy Carter
                                                                                                                                Khaled Meshaal

                                                                                                                                He said Palestinians in Gaza were being "starved to death", receiving fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa.

                                                                                                                                "It's an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza," he said. "It's a crime... I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on."

                                                                                                                                Carter also said that US attempts to undermine Hamas have been counterproductive.

                                                                                                                                His meeting with leaders of Hamas, a group he insists must be included in peace negotiations, has angered many in Washington and Israel, who call the Palestinian group a terrorist organisation.

                                                                                                                                The agenda

                                                                                                                                A senior Hamas official said that "the meeting between Carter and Meshaal will mainly focus on the Palestinian cause and means to deal with the Israeli occupation and its sanctions on the Palestinian people."

                                                                                                                                Mohammed Nasr said the two men would also discuss the fate of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian groups in June 2006.

                                                                                                                                "In my opinion, the two are expected to discuss the Israeli soldier Shalit. I think it is natural to talk about this," Nasr said.

                                                                                                                                Earlier on Friday Hamas said Shalit would "not see the light" until Palestinian prisoners were released in a prisoner exchange.

                                                                                                                                "Gilad will not see the light, will not see his mother, will not see his father, God willing, as long as our heroic prisoners do not see their families, in their houses." Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas official, said in a speech.

                                                                                                                                Egyptian-led talks over a prisoner swap have been bogged down. Hamas has demanded the release of over hundreds of prisoners. Israel has agreed to release some inmates, but has balked at some of those on Hamas' list.

                                                                                                                                Borders sealed

                                                                                                                                Israel has meanwhile sealed off the West Bank and Gaza for 10 days as it prepares to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover.

                                                                                                                                Tanks and soldiers moved into position at the crossings following the shutdown that took effect early on Friday, barring Palestinians from the occupied territories from entering Israel.

                                                                                                                                The shutdown follows a statement by Hamas on Thursday that "all options are open" to avenge the killing of 20 Palestinians in a day of air assaults and ground battles in Gaza that also left three Israeli soldiers dead.

                                                                                                                                In a statement published on the internet, the armed wing of Hamas called on its fighters to attack Israel "in every place and with all means available".

                                                                                                                                "This enemy only understands the language of force," it said.

                                                                                                                                The sealing of the borders also comes after the Israeli military said on Thursday that it had foiled a third attempt in the past week by Palestinian fighters to infiltrate the Gaza crossing.

                                                                                                                                The army said three Palestinian fighters attacked Kerem Shalom, a crossing used to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

                                                                                                                                One attacker was killed while a second was wounded when Israeli troops opened fire. The third man escaped, the military said.

                                                                                                                                The Israeli military said troops would be on high alert during the holiday period, regarding it "as a highly sensitive time, security wise".

                                                                                                                                It said it would try its best to preserve the daily life of Palestinians, allowing humanitarian cases, doctors and lawyers to cross the border.

                                                                                                                                But Israel has already been restricting the flow of food and fuel supplies into Gaza since Hamas seized control of the area last June.

                                                                                                                                Israel says the restrictions are in response to repeated rocket attacks launched from there and they have been tightened in recent weeks in response to continued heavy fighting.

                                                                                                                                Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                                                  Zionist government used banned U.S. supplied "flechettes" to kill camerman; Murdered cameraman's film shows tank firing the shell that killed him

                                                                                                                                  English (US)  April 17th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                  Arms row over cameraman's death

                                                                                                                                  A controversial weapon that fired metal darts from a tank shell killed Fadl Shanaa, a Reuters cameraman, as he was working in Gaza, doctors in the territory have said.

                                                                                                                                  Several of the 3cm-long darts, known as flechettes, were embedded in Shanaa's legs and chest, a medical examination showed on Thursday.

                                                                                                                                  The darts were also discovered in his flak jacket.

                                                                                                                                  The 23-year-old was killed on Wednesday along with two youths who were nearby as he covered one of the bloodiest days in Gaza for a month in which 16 other Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers died during heavy fighting.

                                                                                                                                  [More:]


                                                                                                                                  Shanaa had left the vehicle he was travelling in to film Israeli tanks when he was killed.

                                                                                                                                  He captured footage showing a tank firing the shell that killed him.

                                                                                                                                  Markings on the vehicle that Shanaa was travelling in were emblazoned with "press" and "tv" and his flak jacket was clearly marked.

                                                                                                                                  The Reuters news agency has called for a full inquiry by Israel's government and military authorities into the death.

                                                                                                                                  Alastair McDonald, the Reuters bureau chief in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said: "We are asking the army to explain was that [shell] aimed at the position where Fadl was filming?

                                                                                                                                  "Clearly our concern is to protect our journalists and to ensure that such tragic events are not repeated."

                                                                                                                                  Investigation urged

                                                                                                                                  Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed deep concern about the use of antipersonnel weapons such as flechette shells in areas where civilians such as journalists were present.

                                                                                                                                  Human rights organizations maintain tha the such use of flechettes conflicts with the Fourth Geneva Convention provisions protecting non-combatants.

                                                                                                                                  A spokesperson told Al Jazeera: "An independent investigation is urgently needed to determine whether these principles were violated."

                                                                                                                                  The Israeli army has expressed "sorrow" over the death of Shanaa.

                                                                                                                                  Major Avital Leibowitz, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military, told Al Jazeera: "You have to take into consideration that in a war zone when there is exchange of fire and journalists are hanging around those places, that sometimes as a result of these consequences journalists will be hit."

                                                                                                                                  Advocacy groups have repeatedly sought to have flechettes banned on the ground that they kill indiscriminately.

                                                                                                                                  Thousands of the darts are released in mid-air when a tank shell explodes and can spray out over hundreds of metres.

                                                                                                                                  Weapon 'indiscriminate'

                                                                                                                                  HRW said in 2003 that the Israeli army should cease using the shells in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                  The group said their use in civilian areas contravenes global conventions because of their potential for harming civilians and their indiscriminate nature.

                                                                                                                                  Israeli doctors and Palestinian human rights groups attempted to get the US-supplied weapons banned in Israel five years ago.

                                                                                                                                  But Israel's supreme court of justice ruled that although the 1980 UN convention restricts the use of conventional weapons that cause excessive injury, it did not prohibit those with "sub-ammunition such as flechette shells".

                                                                                                                                  B'tselem, the Palestinian information centre for human rights, says at least nine Palestinians were killed by flechettes between 2001 and 2003.

                                                                                                                                  The group also says that the Israeli army used flechettes against Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon war.

                                                                                                                                  The Zionist state also used tens of thousands of cluster bombs which still litter the landscape in southern Lebanon.
                                                                                                                                  Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                                    Hamas vows to avenge Gaza deaths

                                                                                                                                    English (US)  April 17th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                    Palestinian mourners carry the body of Reuters TV cameraman Fadal Shana during his funeral in Gaza City. Zionist Israeli military forces hit Shana's car despite it being clearly marked as a media vehicle.

                                                                                                                                    Thousands of Palestinians marched through Gaza City on Thursday at the funeral procession of a Reuters cameraman killed while covering a day of fighting that killed 20 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers. Responding to the wave of Zionist killings, the Hamas movement said that "all options are open" to avenge the deaths of the Palestinians, which included five children.

                                                                                                                                    The warning on Thursday came while thousands of Gaza residents gathered for the funeral procession of Fadal Shana,23, a cameraman who was killed by an Israeli missile attack on a car that was clearly marked as a media vehicle.

                                                                                                                                    "

                                                                                                                                    ... when there is an exchange of fire and journalists are hanging around in those places ... sometimes a journalist will be hit -- Major Avital Leibowitz,Israeli military spokeswoman

                                                                                                                                    [More:]


                                                                                                                                    In a statement published on the internet, the armed wing of Hamas called on its fighters to attack Israel "in every place and with all means available".

                                                                                                                                    "This enemy only understands the language of force," it said.

                                                                                                                                    Shana's body was wrapped in a bloodied Palestinian flag as fellow journalists marched alongside carrying his broken camera and bloodstained flak jacket.

                                                                                                                                    Later, the body was taken to Shana's hometown of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. About 3,000 Palestinians attended the funeral.

                                                                                                                                    "Fadel, Fadel, loved by God!" the crowd chanted.

                                                                                                                                    Three Israeli soldiers were also killed before the military withdrew from the Gaza Strip late on Wednesday.

                                                                                                                                    Ignoring the fact that the Zionist state illegally occupies stolen Palestinian land, Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said that Hamas was "responsible" for the violence.

                                                                                                                                    'Direct responsibility'

                                                                                                                                    "We consider that Hamas bears sole, direct responsibility for what happened in Gaza and it will pay the price," he said in an interview with Israel's Maariv newspaper.

                                                                                                                                    "There is a war in Gaza and we will act against terrorism. Last year we killed more than 200 terrorists," Olmert boasted.

                                                                                                                                    The surge in violence came after a relatively quiet month and threatened to unravel an Egyptian effort to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

                                                                                                                                    'Victim of truth'

                                                                                                                                    The marchers at Shama's funeral waved Palestinian flags and carried small posters of Shana posing with his camera.

                                                                                                                                    "Fadl Shanaa, goodbye, the victim of the truth," the posters said.

                                                                                                                                    Shanaa had been travelling to the al-Bureij camp to cover the aftermath of an air raid that killed at least 12 Palestinians, including five children aged between 12 and 15.

                                                                                                                                    An Israeli helicopter had fired four missiles at targets near the camp in central Gaza.

                                                                                                                                    Alastair Macdonald, Reuters bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the company wanted an explanation from the Israeli army for Shanaa's death.

                                                                                                                                    "We are asking the army to explain if they aimed at the position where Fadel was and if so, why they did that," he said.

                                                                                                                                    "Our objective is to protect our journalists and to ensure that such tragic events are not repeated."

                                                                                                                                    The Palestinian Journalists Union declared a one-day strike to protest against the killing of Shanaa.

                                                                                                                                    "His death is a stark reminder of the risks our Palestinian colleagues take every day to cover the news in Gaza," the Foreign Press Association, representing journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said.

                                                                                                                                    Israeli denial

                                                                                                                                    Reuters released the video taken by Shanaa in the seconds before his death.

                                                                                                                                    The footage shows a tank on a distant hilltop open fire. A tank shell is seen flying toward the camera followed by a large explosion before the screen goes black.

                                                                                                                                    Pictures taken by his colleagues after the attack showed that the vehicle was clearly marked as a media vehicle.

                                                                                                                                    Major Avital Leibowitz, an Israeli military spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera that the army had "no intention whatsoever" of targeting journalists.

                                                                                                                                    "You have to take into consideration, when we're talking about a war zone, when there is an exchange of fire and journalists are hanging around in those places ... sometimes a journalist will be hit," Israeli military spokeswoman, said.

                                                                                                                                    She said the incident was being investigated, but it was possible that the signs on the vehicle may not have been visible to the soldiers in the tank.

                                                                                                                                    Security stepped up

                                                                                                                                    Security has been stepped up across Israel for the week-long Jewish Passover holiday beginning on Saturday, with restrictions on the occupied West Bank tightened and police reinforcements deployed throughout the country.

                                                                                                                                    "Over the next ten days thousands of policemen will be deployed in the whole country in all sorts of places, streets and commercial centres," Micky Rosenfeld, Israeli police spokesman, told the AFP news agency.

                                                                                                                                    "There is no concrete threat for the holidays, but the usual threats that we are used to."

                                                                                                                                    Meanwhile on Thursday, two Islamic Jihad fighters died during an exchange of fire with Israeli troops during an incursion in the West Bank town of Qabatiya.

                                                                                                                                    Islamic Jihad said that the men killed were Bilal Komel, a commander long-wanted by Israel, and 19-year-old Ayed Zakarna.

                                                                                                                                    Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                                      Zionist Israeli forces continue killing people in Gaza

                                                                                                                                      English (US)  April 17th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                      People evacuate a wounded Palestinian after an Israeli artillery strike hit the place in southeast Gaza City, April 16, 2008. Eighteen Palestinians, including Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana'a, were killed on Wednesday in several Israeli army operations, including ground incursion and artillery shelling, in Gaza Strip. MaanImages/Wissam Nassar

                                                                                                                                      GAZA – An activist from Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades was killed and two others were injured in clashes with Israeli troops near the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, according to Palestinian medical sources.

                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                      Mu'awiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry said that the ministry had to liaise with the Israeli authorities to let ambulances take the dead man and the injured activists to Abu Yousif An- Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

                                                                                                                                      Palestinian medical sources identified the dead man as Usama Abu 'Anza.

                                                                                                                                      Also on Thursday the Al-Qassam Brigades announced that two of their activists, Abdullah Sulaiman and Muhammad Al-Mutawwaq, succumbed to wounds they sustained a few days ago in an ambiguous explosion in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. A 15-year-old boy was killed in the explosion.

                                                                                                                                      Maan News

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                                                                                                                                        Flashback: Wright's Letter To NYT About Obama

                                                                                                                                        English (US)  April 17th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                        In March 2007, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor published a brief story about how Rev. Jeremiah Wright had been uninvited from delivering the invocation before Barack Obama's official presidential announcement.

                                                                                                                                        Wright responded by writing the following letter:

                                                                                                                                        March 11, 2007

                                                                                                                                        Jodi Kantor
                                                                                                                                        The New York Times
                                                                                                                                        9 West 43rd Street
                                                                                                                                        New York,
                                                                                                                                        New York 10036-3959

                                                                                                                                        Dear Jodi:

                                                                                                                                        Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years. You sat and shared with me for two hours. You told me you were doing a "Spiritual Biography" of Senator Barack Obama. For two hours, I shared with you how I thought he was the most principled individual in public service that I have ever met.

                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                        For two hours, I talked with you about how idealistic he was. For two hours I shared with you what a genuine human being he was. I told you how incredible he was as a man who was an African American in public service, and as a man who refused to announce his candidacy for President until Carol Moseley Braun indicated one way or the other whether or not she was going to run.

                                                                                                                                        I told you what a dreamer he was. I told you how idealistic he was. We talked about how refreshing it would be for someone who knew about Islam to be in the Oval Office. Your own question to me was, Didn't I think it would be incredible to have somebody in the Oval Office who not only knew about Muslims, but had living and breathing Muslims in his own family? I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed something other than what he believed.

                                                                                                                                        I talked about how rare it was to meet a man whose Christianity was not just "in word only." I talked about Barack being a person who lived his faith and did not argue his faith. I talked about Barack as a person who did not draw doctrinal lines in the sand nor consign other people to hell if they did not believe what he believed.

                                                                                                                                        Out of a two-hour conversation with you about Barack's spiritual journey and my protesting to you that I had not shaped him nor formed him, that I had not mentored him or made him the man he was, even though I would love to take that credit, you did not print any of that. When I told you, using one of your own Jewish stories from the Hebrew Bible as to how God asked Moses, "What is that in your hand?," that Barack was like that when I met him. Barack had it "in his hand." Barack had in his grasp a uniqueness in terms of his spiritual development that one is hard put to find in the 21st century, and you did not print that.

                                                                                                                                        As I was just starting to say a moment ago, Jodi, out of two hours of conversation I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack's taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print? You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed "sound byte" and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.

                                                                                                                                        I have never been exposed to that kind of duplicitous behavior before, and I want to write you publicly to let you know that I do not approve of it and will not be party to any further smearing of the name, the reputation, the integrity or the character of perhaps this nation's first (and maybe even only) honest candidate offering himself for public service as the person to occupy the Oval Office.

                                                                                                                                        Your editor is a sensationalist. For you to even mention that makes me doubt your credibility, and I am looking forward to see how you are going to butcher what else I had to say concerning Senator Obama's "Spiritual Biography." Our Conference Minister, the Reverend Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman who belongs to a Black church that Hannity of "Hannity and Colmes" is trying to trash, set the record straight for you in terms of who I am and in terms of who we are as the church to which Barack has belonged for over twenty years.

                                                                                                                                        The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth. I do not remember reading in your article that Barack had apologized for listening to that bad information and bad advice. Did I miss it? Or did your editor cut it out? Either way, you do not have to worry about hearing anything else from me for you to edit or "spin" because you are more interested in journalism than in truth.

                                                                                                                                        Forgive me for having a momentary lapse. I forgot that The New York Times was leading the bandwagon in trumpeting why it is we should have gone into an illegal war. The New York Times became George Bush and the Republican Party's national "blog." The New York Times played a role in the outing of Valerie Plame. I do not know why I thought The New York Times had actually repented and was going to exhibit a different kind of behavior.

                                                                                                                                        Maybe it was my faith in the Jewish Holy Day of Roshashana. Maybe it was my being caught up in the euphoria of the Season of Lent; but whatever it is or was, I was sadly mistaken. There is no repentance on the part of The New York Times. There is no integrity when it comes to The Times. You should do well with that paper, Jodi. You looked me straight in my face and told me a lie!

                                                                                                                                        Sincerely and respectfully yours,

                                                                                                                                        Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Senior Pastor
                                                                                                                                        Trinity United Church of Christ

                                                                                                                                        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/27/flashback-wrights-lette_n_93820.html

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                                                                                                                                          Report: Netanyahu says 9/11 terror attacks good for Israel

                                                                                                                                          English (US)  April 16th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                          The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv on Wednesday reported that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan university that the September 11, 2001 terror attacks had been beneficial for Israel.

                                                                                                                                          "We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq," Ma'ariv quoted the former prime minister as saying. He reportedly added that these events "swung American public opinion in our favor."

                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                          Netanyahu reportedly made the comments during a conference at Bar-Ilan University on the division of Jerusalem as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                          Meanwhile, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the September 11 attacks Thursday a "suspicious event," calling it a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

                                                                                                                                          "Four or five years ago, a suspicious event occurred in New York. A building collapsed and they said that 3,000 people had been killed but never published their names," Ahmadinejad told Iranians in the holy city of Qom.

                                                                                                                                          "Under this pretext, they [the U.S.] attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and since then, a million people have been killed only in Iraq."

                                                                                                                                          Speaking Wednesday at a news conference on the Iran threat, Netanyahu compared Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler and likened Tehran's nuclear program to the threat the Nazis posed to Europe in the late 1930s.

                                                                                                                                          Netanyahu said Iran differed from the Nazis in one vital respect, explaining that "where that [Nazi] regime embarked on a global conflict before it developed nuclear weapons," he said. "This regime [Iran] is developing nuclear weapons before it embarks on a global conflict."

                                                                                                                                          In a National Intelligence Estimate released by last fall said Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. But Israel has continued to claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons development and has pushed for war against Iran in the same way that the Jewish state pushed for the US to attack Iraq.

                                                                                                                                          The Zionist regime has been compared to the Nazis in their treatment of the Palestinians/

                                                                                                                                          Agencies

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                                                                                                                                            Children and journalist dead in Zionist Israeli rampaging raid in Gaza again

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  April 16th, 2008 by admin ( Email )



                                                                                                                                            The Reuters news car was marked with signs
                                                                                                                                            to say it was a press vehicle [AFP]

                                                                                                                                            Two children and a cameraman from Reuters news agency are among at least 17 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                            At least nine people were killed and 17 were wounded in an air raid on al-Bureij camp on Wednesday, Palestinian medics said.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]


                                                                                                                                            At least two of those killed in the attack were children, Dr Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian health ministry said.

                                                                                                                                            Fadl Shanaa, a Reuters cameraman, was killed with two Palestinian civilians when a missile hit his vehicle. Shanaa was travelling to al-Bureij camp to cover the aftermath of the air raid there.

                                                                                                                                            Car 'marked'

                                                                                                                                            Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said the car in which Shanaa was travelling was "clearly marked with 'press' symbols".

                                                                                                                                            "It was even clearly marked on the roof, so it can't be mistaken on the ground or from the air," she said.

                                                                                                                                            "It is quite inconceivable that Israeli forces, who are looking over the territory with drones, helicopters and aeroplanes, were unfamiliar with this car."

                                                                                                                                            An eyewitness, journalist Yassir Qadih, said, "Reuters journalist Fadil Shana'a was killed while he was in a jeep which was clearly marked 'Press'."

                                                                                                                                            "There was nobody around us except a group of children who we were going to film. There were no resistance groups in the area" he added.

                                                                                                                                            Television footage showed the jeep, with large signs reading "Press" and "TV" with a gaping hole blown in the driver's side.

                                                                                                                                            An Israeli military spokesman said: "We regret the death of a photographer, but it must be pointed out that there's a war going on against armed terrorists who are extremists and dangerous."

                                                                                                                                            "Members of the media or civilians put themselves in danger by entering a combat zone."

                                                                                                                                            Muawiya Hassanain, the director of the ambulance and emergency department in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said that the corpses of eight civilians, including two children, were taken to the Al-Aqsa Maryters hospital. He said that eighteen people sustained "more than moderate" injuries.

                                                                                                                                            Cross-border raids

                                                                                                                                            Meanwhile nine Palestinians were killed, some of them children, and 18 others were injured in an artillery bombardment that leveled a mosque and two houses in Juhor Ad-Dik in the central Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                            These two attacks bring Wednesday's death toll to 18 with a large number of wounded in a series of air strikes and ground attacks in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                            Five people were killed in two Israeli air raids at noon in the northern Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                            Hani Zu'rub was killed and five others were wounded in an air strike on a car. Witnesses said the first strike targeted a white Mitsubishi car. The second attack targeted a car near the Sheema school in the northern Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                            Dr. Hassanain clarified that the first strike resulted in one dead and three wounded. The second attack left two wounded. They were taken to Al-Awda hospital.

                                                                                                                                            Four Hamas fighters were killed during clashes with Israeli forces east of Gaza City's Ash-Shuja'iyya neighborhood in the early hours of the morning. Medical sources identified the dead as Abdul-Karim Al-Khaisi, Mustafa Tatar, Karam Al-Wadiyya and Mahmoud Hillis.

                                                                                                                                            The Israeli army said it lost three soldiers and that three more were wounded in an exchange of fire near the security fence between Israel and the Palestinian territory.

                                                                                                                                            Hamas said that it killed the soldiers in a "sophisticated ambush" in Gaza City. The deaths were not immediately confirmed by the Israeli military.

                                                                                                                                            An Israeli army spokeswoman said that troops entered the territory to target Palestinian fighters launching rockets.

                                                                                                                                            She said that troops exchanged fire with Hamas fighters at several points, hitting some.

                                                                                                                                            In one battle, Israeli troops were "targeted by Palestinians and there were several casualties," she said, adding that there had been several incidents and that Palestinians had used anti-tank missiles and mortars as well as assault rifles.

                                                                                                                                            'Several casualties'

                                                                                                                                            Hamas officials said that the Israeli soldiers were supported by helicopter gunships during the fighting near the Nahal Oz border terminal.

                                                                                                                                            Two Israeli civilians, two Palestinian civilians and two fighters were killed in an attack on the border crossing last week, the only terminal for supplying fuel to the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million people.

                                                                                                                                            Fuel deliveries, which were halted after the April 9 attack, were resumed on Wednesday, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

                                                                                                                                            Israeli officials had said earlier on Wednesday that the terminal would not be reopened.

                                                                                                                                            The move to resume fuel deliveries came a day after the UN called for Israel to re-open supplies to Gazan civilians.

                                                                                                                                            Mahmoud Khuzandar, the deputy director of the Gaza fuel station owners' association, said Israel had pumped 90 tons of liquid gas for cooking and 180 thousand litres of fuel for the power station into Gaza.

                                                                                                                                            However, an Israeli defence official said that they had only sent fuel for a power plant.

                                                                                                                                            Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                                              Semantics Can’t Mask Bush’s Chicanery

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  April 15th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                              By Robert Fisk

                                                                                                                                              After his latest shenanigans, I’ve come to the conclusion that George Bush is the first US president to march backwards. First we had weapons of mass destruction. Then, when they proved to be a myth, Bush told us we had stopped Saddam’s “programmes” for weapons of mass destruction (which happened to be another lie).

                                                                                                                                              Now he’s gone a stage further. After announcing victory in Iraq in 2003 and “mission accomplished” and telling us how this enormous achievement would lead the 21st century into a “shining age of human liberty”, George Bush told us this week that “thanks to the surge, we’ve renewed and revived the prospect of success”.

                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                              Now let’s take a look at this piece of chicanery and subject it to a little linguistic analysis. Five years ago, it was victory – ie success – but this has now been transmogrified into a mere “prospect” of success. And not a “prospect”, mark you, that has even been glimpsed. No, we have “renewed” and “revived” this prospect. “Revived”, as in “brought back from the dead”. Am I the only one to be sickened by this obscene semantics? How on earth can you “renew” a “prospect”, let alone a prospect that continues to be bathed in Iraqi blood, a subject Bush wisely chose to avoid?

                                                                                                                                              Note, too, the constant use of words that begin with “re -”. Renew. Revive. And – incredibly – Bush also told us that “we actually re-liberated certain communities”. This, folks, goes beyond hollow laughter. Since when did armies go around “re-liberating” anything? And what does that credibility-sapping “actually” mean? I suspect it was an attempt by the White House speech writer to suggest – by sleight of hand, of course – that Bush was really – really – telling the truth this time. But by putting “actually” in front of “re-liberate” – as opposed to just “liberate” – the whole grammatical construction falls apart. Rather like Iraq.

                                                                                                                                              For by my reckoning, we have now “re-liberated” Fallujah twice. We have “re-liberated” Mosul three times and “re-liberated” Ramadi four times. The scorecard goes on. My files show that Sadr City may have been “re-liberated” five times, while Baghdad is “re-liberated” on an almost daily basis. General David Petraeus, in his pitiful appearance before the US Senate armed services committee, was bound to admit his disappointment at the military failure of the equally pitiful Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Basra. He had not followed Petraeus’ advice; which was presumably to “re-liberate” the city (for the fourth time, by my calculation but with a bit more planning).

                                                                                                                                              Indeed, Petraeus told senators that after his beloved “surge” goes home, the US will need a period of “consolidation and evaluation” – which is suspiciously close to saying that the US military will be, as the old adage goes, “redeployed to prepared positions”. Ye gods! Where will this tomfoolery end?

                                                                                                                                              In statistics, perhaps. By chance, as Bush was speaking this week, my mail bag flopped open to reveal a letter from my old American military analyst friend, George W Appenzeller. He gently (and rightly) corrects some recent comparative figures I used on US casualties in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. “In previous wars,” he writes, “the US army has not reported to the public the number of wounded who are treated and immediately released back to duty. They have reported these casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars”.

                                                                                                                                              So here are a few Appenzeller factoids (glossed by Fisk, so the responsibility is mine!). The correct ratios for wounded in action vs killed in action for Iraq and Afghanistan is 8.13 to 1; for Korea, it’s 7.38 to 1 and for Vietnam it’s 6.43 to 1.

                                                                                                                                              The true number of US wounded in Iraq until 18 March this year was 13,170, of whom 8,904 were so badly wounded that they required air evacuation to hospitals outside Iraq. The number of killed in action in Iraq is 3,251. (The other 750 died in accidents or of sickness.) But this does not include the kind of figure that the Pentagon and Bush always keep secret: an astonishing 1,000 or more Western-hired mercenaries, killed in Iraq while fighting or killing for “our” side.

                                                                                                                                              But now I’ll let George Appenzeller speak in his own words. “There are widely ranging estimates, but roughly 450,000 individuals ... fought on the ground in Vietnam ... At the height of the Vietnam war there were 67,000 ground combat troops there. That is roughly the number of ground combat troops the US presently has deployed in Iraq. Interestingly enough, that is also about the number of ground combat troops the US had fighting at any one time in the Korean war.

                                                                                                                                              “The US army now has a much leaner and meaner organisation than in the past with a higher proportion of combat troops to total troops. All those American civilian truck drivers and Bangladeshi cooks have freed up troop slots that have gone to the combat arms.”

                                                                                                                                              No, Iraq has not yet reached Korea and Vietnam proportions. The three-year Korean war resulted in 33,686 US battle deaths and about 250,000 US wounds, an average of 94,562 casualties per year. The American phase of the Vietnam war lasted 14 years and resulted in 47,378 US battle deaths and 304,704 US wounds, an average of 25,149 casualties per year and an average of 66,792 during the four years of 1966-1969, the height of American fighting.

                                                                                                                                              The Iraq war has lasted five years and has resulted in 3,251 battle deaths and 29,395 wounds, an average of 6,529 casualties per year. “Thus, the average number of killed and wounded during the Korean war was three times the total number of killed and wounded in the five years of the Iraq war. The average number of killed and wounded during each of the most difficult years of the Vietnam war was twice the total for the five years of the Iraq war.”

                                                                                                                                              Now for much more blood, the civilian variety. According to George, “About 1,600,000 were killed in the Korean war, 365,000 (according to American authorities) and four million (according to the Vietnamese government) during the American phase of the Vietnam war, and who knows how many in Iraq. No fewer than 250,000, certainly.”

                                                                                                                                              Not that long ago, Bush claimed that civilian fatalities in Iraq were “30,000 more or less” – again, note the “more or less” – but I can see why these statistics matter even less for him. It’s not just that we don’t care a damn about Iraqi lives. We are going to care even less about Iraqi civilian casualties when we walk backwards, when we are renewing and reviving and re-liberating all over again.

                                                                                                                                              Originally published in The Independent.

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                                                                                                                                                Hidden Agenda: Manifest Destiny and Israel

                                                                                                                                                English (US)  April 15th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                By Uri Avnery

                                                                                                                                                NEXT MONTH, Israel will celebrate its 60th anniversary. The government is working feverishly to make this day into an occasion of joy and jubilation. While serious problems are crying out for funds, some 40 million dollars have been allocated to this aim.

                                                                                                                                                Bur the nation is in no mood for celebrations. It is gloomy.

                                                                                                                                                From all directions the government is blamed for this gloom. "They have no agenda" is the refrain, "Their only concern is their own survival." (The word "agenda", with its English pronunciation, is now fashionable in Israeli political circles, pushing aside a perfectly adequate Hebrew word.)

                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                It is hard not to blame the government. Ehud Olmert speechifies endlessly, at least one speech per day, today at an industrialists' convention, tomorrow at a kindergarten, saying absolutely nothing. There is no national agenda, nor an economic agenda, nor a social agenda, nor a cultural agenda. Nothing.

                                                                                                                                                When he came to power, he presented something that sounded like an agenda: "Hitkansut", an untranslatable word that can be rendered as "contracting", "converging", "ingathering". That was supposed to be a historic operation: Israel would give up a large part of the occupied territories, dismantle the settlements east of the "Separation" Wall and annex the settlements between the Green Line and the Wall.

                                                                                                                                                Now, two years and one war later, nothing of this remains, even the word has been forgotten. The only game in town is the "negotiations" with the Palestinian Authority, which were a farce to start with. Like actors on the stage drinking from empty glasses, all parties pretend that there are negotiations going on. They meet, embrace, smile, pose for photographs, convene joint teams, hold press conferences, make declarations - and nothing, absolutely nothing, really happens.

                                                                                                                                                What is the farce for? Each of the participants has his own reasons: Olmert needs an agenda to fill the void. George Bush, a lame duck who leaves behind him nothing but ruins in every field, wants to present at least one achievement, fictitious as it may be. Poor Mahmoud Abbas, whose continued existence depends on his ability to show some political achievement for his people, clings to this illusion with all his remaining strength. And so the farce goes on.

                                                                                                                                                * * *

                                                                                                                                                BUT ANYONE who believes that the government has no agenda, and that the State of Israel has no agenda, is quite wrong. There certainly is an agenda, but is hidden. More precisely: it is unconscious.

                                                                                                                                                People say that ideology is dead. That, too, is a mistake. There is no society without an ideology, and there is no human being without an ideology. When there is no new ideology, the old ideology continues to operate. When there is no conscious ideology, there is an unconscious one, which can be much more potent - and much more dangerous.

                                                                                                                                                Why? A conscious ideology can be analyzed, criticized, opposed. It is much more difficult to fight against an unconscious one, which directs the agenda without giving itself away.

                                                                                                                                                That's why it is so important to locate, uncover and analyze it.

                                                                                                                                                * * *

                                                                                                                                                IF YOU ask Olmert, he will strenuously deny that he has no agenda. He has a perfect agenda: to make peace (which is nowadays called "permanent status"). And not just any peace, but a peace based on "Two States for Two Peoples". Without such a peace, Olmert has pronounced, "the State is finished".

                                                                                                                                                In that case, why is there no negotiation, only a farcical pretense? Why does the massive building activity go on, even in the settlements east of the Wall, well within the area that government spokespersons propose for the Palestinian state? Why does the government carry out dozens of military and civilian actions daily that push peace even further away?

                                                                                                                                                According to the government itself, and contrary to what it said at the beginning, it has no intention of achieving peace in 2008. At most, perhaps, maybe, there will be a "shelf agreement". That is an original Israeli invention, meaning an agreement that would be put on the shelf "until conditions are ripe". In other words, meaningless negotiations for a meaningless agreement. Now they say that there is no chance even for that, not in 2008, not in the foreseeable future.

                                                                                                                                                There is no escape from the inevitable conclusion: the government is not working for peace. It does not want peace. And, also, that there is no effective parliamentary opposition pressing for peace, nor any pressure from the media.

                                                                                                                                                What does all this mean? That there is no agenda? No, it means that behind the fictitious agenda, which appears in the media, there hides another agenda that does not meet the eye.

                                                                                                                                                * * *

                                                                                                                                                THE HIDDEN agenda is opposed to peace. Why?

                                                                                                                                                Conventional wisdom has it that the government does not pursue peace because it is afraid of the settlers and their supporters. The peace that is being talked about - the peace of Two States for Two Peoples - demands the dismantling of dozens of settlements, including those which harbor the political and ideological leadership of the whole movement. That would mean a declaration of war on all the 250 thousand settlers, apart from those who will leave voluntarily for generous compensation. The current argument is that the government is too weak for such a confrontation.

                                                                                                                                                According to the fashionable formula, "both governments, the Israeli and the Palestinian, are too weak to make peace. Everything must be postponed until strong leaderships emerge on both sides." Some people add the Bush administration to the count - a lame duck president cannot impose peace.

                                                                                                                                                But the settlements are only a symptom, not the heart of the problem. Otherwise, why doesn't the government freeze them, at least, as it has undertaken again and again? If the settlements are the main obstacle to peace, why are they being enlarged even now, and why are new settlements still being set up, disguised as new "neighborhoods" of existing settlements?

                                                                                                                                                Clearly, the settlements, too, are in reality only a pretext. Something more profound is causing the government - and the entire political system - to reject peace.

                                                                                                                                                That is the hidden agenda.

                                                                                                                                                * * *

                                                                                                                                                WHAT IS the heart of peace? A border.

                                                                                                                                                When two neighboring peoples make peace, they fix, first of all, the border between them.

                                                                                                                                                And that is precisely what the Israeli establishment opposes, because it negates the basic ethos of the Zionist enterprise.

                                                                                                                                                True, at different points in time the Zionist movement has drawn up maps. After World War I, it submitted to the peace conference the map of a Jewish state extending from the Litani River in Lebanon to El-Arish in the Sinai desert. The map of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky, which became the Irgun emblem, copied the borders of the original British Mandate on both sides of the Jordan. Israel Eldad, one of the Stern Group leaders, distributed for many years a map of the Israeli Empire that reached from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates and included all of Jordan and Lebanon, with great chunks of Syria and Egypt thrown in. His son, the extreme right-wing Member of the Knesset Arieh Eldad, has not given up this map. And after the Six Day War, the map favored by the right-wing covered all the conquests, including the Golan Heights and the entire Sinai peninsula.

                                                                                                                                                But all these maps were only games. The real Zionist vision does not recognize any maps. It is a vision of a state without borders - a state that expands at all times according to its demographic, military and political power. The Zionist strategy resembles the waters of a river flowing to the sea. The river snakes through the landscape, goes around obstacles, turns left and right, flowing sometimes on the surface and sometimes underground, and on its way takes in more springs. In the end it reaches its destination.

                                                                                                                                                That is the real agenda, unchanging, hidden, conscious and unconscious. It does not need decisions, formulations or maps, because it is encoded in the genes of the movement. This explains, among other things, the phenomenon described in the report of senior prosecution lawyer Talia Sasson on the settlements: that all the organs of the establishment, the government and the military, without any official coordination but with miraculously effective cooperation, acted to set up the "illegal" settlements. Every one of the thousands of officials and officers who spent decades involved in this enterprise knew exactly what to do, even without receiving any instructions.

                                                                                                                                                That is the reason for David Ben-Gurion's refusal to include in the Declaration of Independence of the new State of Israel any mention of borders. He did not intend for a minute to be satisfied with the borders fixed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution of November 29, 1947. All his successors had the same approach. Even the Oslo agreements delineated "zones" but did not fix a border. President Bush accepted this approach when he proposed a "Palestinian state with provisional borders" - a novelty in international law.

                                                                                                                                                In this respect, too, Israel resembles the United States, which was founded along the Eastern seaboard and did not rest until it had reached the Western shores on the other side of the continent. The incessant stream of mass immigration from Europe flowed on westwards, breaching all borders and violating all agreements, exterminating the Native Americans, starting a war against Mexico, conquering Texas, invading Central America and Cuba. The slogan that drove them on and justified all their actions was coined in 1845 by John O'Sullivan: "Manifest Destiny".

                                                                                                                                                The Israeli version of "Manifest Destiny" is Moshe Dayan's slogan "We are fated". Dayan, a typical representative of the second generation, made two important speeches in his life. The first and better known was delivered in 1956 at the grave of Roy Rutenberg of Nahal Oz, a kibbutz facing Gaza: "Before their [the Palestinians in Gaza] very eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived This is the fate of our generation, the choice of our life - to be prepared and armed, strong and tough - or otherwise, the sword will slip from our fist, and our life will be snuffed out."

                                                                                                                                                He did not mean only his own generation. The second, lesser known speech is more important. It was delivered in August 1968, after the occupation of the Golan Heights, before a rally of young Kibbutzniks. When I asked him about it in the Knesset, he inserted the entire speech into the Knesset record, a very unusual procedure in our parliament.

                                                                                                                                                This is what he told the youth: "We are fated to live in a permanent state of fighting against the Arabs For the hundred years of the Return to Zion we are working for two things: the building of the land and the building of the people That is a process of expansion, of more Jews and more settlements That is a process that has not reached the end. We were born here and found our parents, who had come here before us It is not your duty to reach the end. Your duty is to add your layer to expand the settlement to the best of your ability, during your lifetime ... (and) not to say: this is the end, up to here, we have finished."

                                                                                                                                                Dayan, who was well versed in the ancient texts, probably had in mind the phrase in the Chapter of the Fathers (a part of the Mishnah, which was finished 1800 years ago and formed the basis of the Talmud): "It is not up to you to finish the work, and you are not free to stop doing it."

                                                                                                                                                That is the hidden agenda. We must haul it up from the depths of our unconscious minds to the realm of consciousness in order to face it, to reveal the terrible danger inherent in it, the danger of an eternal war which may in the fullness of time lead this state to disaster.

                                                                                                                                                Approaching the 60th anniversary of the state, we must draw a line under this chapter of our history, exorcise the dybbuk and say clearly: yes, we have ended the chapter of expansion and settlement.

                                                                                                                                                This will enable us to change the course of the river. To put an end to the occupation. To dismantle the settlements. To make peace. To effect a reconciliation with the neighboring people. To turn Israel into a peaceful, democratic, secular and liberal state, that can devote all its resources to the creation of a flourishing, modern society.

                                                                                                                                                And first of all: to agree on a border.

                                                                                                                                                Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is o a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

                                                                                                                                                Counterpunch

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