Israel Braces for Wave of Lawsuits

English (US)  February 18th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

By Mel Frykberg

RAMALLAH, Feb 17 (IPS) - Israel is bracing for a wave of lawsuits accusing the Jewish state of substantial human rights violations during its 22-day military assault on Gaza which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and nearly 5,000 wounded, more than half of them civilian.

[More:]

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have confirmed that phosphorous bombs were used over Gaza. It is against international law to use phosphorous in densely crowded civilian areas.

According to Amnesty, Israel tanks also fired flechettes, 4cm long metal darts in civilian neighbourhoods. Shells containing 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes explode in the air and scatter in a conical pattern over an area about 300m wide and 100m long.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) also hit out at Israel.

The rights organisations had a group of monitors in the Palestinian territories for a number of days during Israel's military operation codenamed Operation Cast Lead.

"We are appalled at the horror of the war launched in the Gaza Strip, the major loss of civilian lives and the wide-scale destruction of civilian property and infrastructure in the context of the operation," they said in a joint statement.

New U.S. envoy to the UN Security Council Susan Rice has called on Israel to carry out an investigation into possible human rights abuses.

"We expect Israel will meet its international obligations to investigate, and we also call upon all members of the international community to refrain from politicising these important issues," said Rice in her debut speech to the UN Council.

Meanwhile Israel launched an appeal several weeks ago against a decision by Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu to investigate a bombing in 2002 which killed a Hamas leader in a densely populated residential suburb of Gaza city.

The Israel Air Force (AIF) dropped a one-tonne bomb on an apartment building where Salah Shehadeh lived, killing him, 14 civilians, nine of them children, and wounding 77. Eleven homes were completely destroyed and 32 damaged. Andreu said the attack by Israel might constitute a crime against humanity.

Israel's former chief of staff Dan Halutz, national infrastructures minister in the outgoing government Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and six other current or former Israeli officials are being investigated in the lawsuit in the Spanish court filed by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).

This is not the first time that Israel is being investigated for possible war crimes by courts abroad. The issue of universal jurisdiction came to the fore two years ago when a British judge issued a writ against Major-General Doron Almog over the destruction of 30 civilian houses in Rafah in the south of Gaza.

A warrant was issued for Almog's arrest. On being informed of the warrant on a visit to the UK in 2005, Almog refused to disembark from a plane at Heathrow airport, and returned immediately to Israel.

Israeli law also allows Israel to prosecute crimes committed outside of its borders. But these apply only to crimes committed against Israelis citizens or Jews.

It is not just the international repercussions of Operation Cast Lead and of previous military incursions into Gaza that are causing concern to the Israeli government. The government has voiced concern over a number of lawsuits it believes will be brought by pro-Palestinian organisations abroad and regionally, but it is also worried about home-grown Israeli leftists.

A group of Israeli activists has drawn up a list of nine battalion commanders from the Golani and Paratroops brigades and the armoured corps that the activists see as guilty of war crimes.

Defence officials fear that overseas organisations could use this list to compile far more comprehensive lists, and include junior officers and pilots.

In a bid to clamp down on identification of Israeli military personnel involved in the shelling of Palestinian civilians and property, Israel's military censors ordered foreign and Israeli journalists to delete the names and faces of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) members from their stories and photos of the Gaza operation.

In a further development, seven local human rights organisation have accused the IDF of mistreating hundreds of Gazans who were abducted from their homes during Cast Lead and taken to Israel for interrogation.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B'Tselem and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, amongst others, sent a letter to IDF Military Advocate-General Avihai Mandelblit and Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz seeking an investigation into the IDF's treatment of the detained Palestinians.

According to the testimonies of those detained, minors and adults were held in ditches dug in dirt for hours, sometimes days, exposing the detainees to the elements while handcuffed and blindfolded. They were also deprived of food and water.

Even after the detainees were taken out of the ditches, the letter argued, they were held inside trucks for an entire night, handcuffed, with one blanket for every two people. They were subjected to repeated violence and humiliation by Israeli soldiers.

The rights groups went on to argue that after the detainees were transferred to a military detention facility, they were denied bathroom facilities.

Inter Press Service

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    Black Agenda Report Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel "in Solidarity and Self-Defense"

    English (US)  February 18th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


    Wednesday, 18 February 2009

    "Black Americans, who have experienced apartheid at home and fought successfully against it in Africa," feel most intensely the need to register their opposition to Israel's version of apartheid. Yet their elected officials cower at the feet of the pro-Israel lobby, which has successfully targeted independent-minded Black officials for defeat. A boycott Israel movement will have to roll over cowardly Black elected officials, but so be it. "If solidarity with Palestinians who suffer the aggressions of a regime as fundamentally racist as apartheid South Africa is not a compelling enough reason - and it surely is - then self-defense against Zionist subversion of domestic Black politics should move us to action."
    Boycott and Disinvest in Israel, in Solidarity and Self-Defense

    By BAR executive editor Glen Ford

    "The corporate Right and the Israel lobby act in tandem."

    African Americans must take a leadership role in the movement to boycott and disinvest in Israel, both for reasons of elemental justice and to defend our own people from the raging rightwing, corporate assault, of which the pro-Israel lobby is an integral component. If solidarity with Palestinians who suffer the aggressions of a regime as fundamentally racist as apartheid South Africa is not a compelling enough reason - and it surely is - then self-defense against Zionist subversion of domestic Black politics should move us to action. There can be no prospect of global peace or domestic progress while Israel runs amok in the Mid-East and its operatives wreak havoc in the African American political arena.

    [More:]

    The moral imperative to answer the call "to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era," is overwhelming - so much so that failure to act amounts to a kind of self-mutilation, a defiling of one's legacy. Every iota of African American past and present existence tells us that no people can be allowed to superimpose themselves, their history, their supra-national rights on another people and their land, thus negating the Other's humanity - the essential facts of Zionism.

    "There can be no prospect of global peace or domestic progress while Israel runs amok."

    1948 saw the creation of civilization's greatest document to date - possibly the founding document of the truly modern era - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The year also witnessed the founding of a state based on the antithesis of those values: Israel.

    Both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tapped the deep reservoirs of the Declaration in their struggle for African Americans' human rights, and both understood the indivisibility of freedom. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," wrote Dr. King in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." Malcolm counseled Black activists that "if they would expand their civil rights movement to a human rights movement it would internationalize it."

    That movement was internationalized, culminating in the 1980s South Africa corporate disinvestment and boycott campaign. As Black writer/activist Kevin Alexander Gray wrote in a piece earlier this year, calling for a similar campaign against Israel:

    "What's happening in Palestine is not fundamentally different from what occurred in apartheid South Africa. Kids are being killed. People have been herded into the (more deadly) equivalent of Bantustans. Political leaders are targeted for assassination.... Israel's behavior demands the same response from the world human rights community as was mustered against South Africa."

    "African Americans are represented in public offices by abject cowards."

    The obligation to respond is felt most intensely among Black Americans, who have experienced apartheid at home and fought successfully against it in Africa - but who are represented in public offices by abject cowards. Thirty members of the Congressional Black Caucus shamed themselves and us by endorsing a Resolution affirming the Jewish State's "right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza" and absolving Israel of any blame for the slaughter. Seven Black lawmakers sought cover in voting "present" - as if that would cloak their slavish fear of the Israel lobby - while only two voted Nay: Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Gwen Moore (D-WS).

    The man- and womanhood was scared out of the Black misleadership class in general, and the Congressional Black Caucus in particular, in 2002, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) joined with corporate moneybags to unseat two Black lawmakers. Reps. Cynthia McKinney, of suburban Atlanta, and Earl Hilliard, from Alabama, could not be counted on to bend their knees to Israel. They had to go.

    "Reps. Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard could not be counted on to bend their knees to Israel."

    As Hilliard told me in July, 2002, tons of money suddenly rained down on his opponent, Artur Davis, "not just [from] corporations, but organizations like AIPAC. Mostly Republican operatives and Jewish operatives that were sent by different organizations and groups and corporations."

    Was it their intention to make a public display of their power, I asked? "Oh, definitely - the seed of fear," Hilliard replied. "It sends a message to every member of Congress."

    The same message was sent the next month, with Cynthia McKinney's defeat in Georgia. "I was targeted by AIPAC and others for my opposition to the Israeli occupation of and genocidal policies toward Palestine," said McKinney, who last year ran for president on the Green Party ticket.

    2002 was the beginning of a joint corporate/pro-Israel offensive to subdue or eject "unreliable" Black Democrats. The dramatic deterioration of the Congressional Black Caucus, as an agent for progress on Capitol Hill, dates from that year. The corporate Right and the Israel lobby act in tandem. Their purge of Black politicians has been so successful, they're running out of live targets. Maxine Waters and Gwen Moore are the last two righteous sisters standing on Capitol Hill - where Black manhood is extinct. Down the street at the White House, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel stands guard - although President Obama appears to be an entirely voluntary captive of Israel.

    So we see that the tentacles that strangle Gaza and once helped South Africa build nuclear weapons, are throttling the life out of independent Black politics in the United States. Boycott and disinvest in Israel! If not in solidarity, in self-defense.

    Black Agenda Report

    BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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      Zionist Israel changes conditions for ceasefire: No ceasefire without Shalit

      English (US)  February 18th, 2009 by admin ( Email )



      Meshaal said any deal with Israel must include the lifting of restrictions on Gaza's borders [AFP]

      Israel's security cabinet has voted to reject a long-term ceasefire deal with Palestinian fighters in Gaza until an Israeli soldier held captive is released.

      Members of the cabinet are believed to have also considered freeing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Sergeant Gilad Shalit.

      The meeting came amid negotiations towards a long-term "calm period" in Gaza after Israel's 22-day war on the Hamas-run territory.

      [More:]

      "The security cabinet unanimously decided that the release of the soldier Shalit is a condition to any agreement with Hamas," Meir Sheetrit, the interior minister, said.

      Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, had previously insisted that Shalit be released before any long-term ceasefire could be agreed.

      Shalit was captured in June 2006 in a cross-border raid by Palestinian fighters.

      "We will negotiate his release first, and only then will we be willing to discuss things like the Gaza crossings and rebuilding the [Gaza] Strip," Olmert said during a tour of Jerusalem on Tuesday.

      Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, a small coastal territory that is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, after Hamas seized de facto control of the territory from their Fatah rivals in June 2007.

      Sensitive deal

      Hamas has demanded the release of 1,400 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

      Jackie Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said that the prisoner-exchange deal was a sensitive issue for the security cabinet.

      "It would involve the possible release of Gilad Shalit ... Israel is aware that it would have to pay a price to get him back - that price being the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from a list drawn up by Hamas," she said.

      "Most of those prisoners are people who Israel describes as having blood on their hands: people who have been convicted and imprisoned by Israeli courts for alleged murder or conspiring to murder.

      Israel is likely to call for the release of Shalit before a long-term ceasefire with Hamas can be agreed, our correspondent said.

      "The argument of Olmert - one largely supported by the security cabinet - is that this prisoner exchange would have to be agreed before Israel is actually willing to agree to a ceasefire arrangement with Hamas in the Gaza Strip," she said.

      Lasting agreement

      Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' exiled political leader, has said that Olmert's position on releasing Shalit was not conducive to a lasting "period of calm" agreement between Hamas and Israel.

      "There can be no calm unless the [Gaza] blockade is lifted and the crossings are opened. The issue of calm should not be linked to the issue of prisoner Shalit," Meshaal said in Damascus on Tuesday.


      Israel's war on Gaza devastated the
      Hamas-controlled coastal territory [AFP]

      Olmert, whose term as prime minister is set to end soon, has suggested that a deal leading to Shalit's release could take time.

      "Even if Shalit's case cannot be resolved while I am in office, the foundations we built will facilitate in his release," he said on Tuesday.

      Egyptian officials have in recent weeks tried to secure a long-term ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel, following Israel's war on Gaza.

      Hamas and Israel, which refuse to deal with each other directly, have each had ceasefire orders in place since January 18, but a bilateral truce has so far proved elusive.

      Coalition consultations

      The Israeli security council meeting came just hours before Shimon Peres, the country's president, was due to begin consultations with political parties on the formation of a new government, following an indecisive general election.

      The centrist Kadima party, led by foreign minister Tzipi Livni, won 28 seats in the parliament, just one more than Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

      Despite Livni's narrow election victory, Netanyahu appears to have the backing of more parliamentarians in the 120-member Knesset [Israeli parliament] and is, therefore, tipped as the leader Peres is most likely to invite to form a coalition government.

      While official election results are due on Wednesday evening, Peres has until February 25 to name the new prime minister.

      Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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        Choose life!

        English (US)  February 18th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

        February 17, 2009

        By Deb Reich
        Abu Ghosh, Israel/Palestine

        Most people will say I'm delusional; that's okay. I will say what I have to say anyway. When your opinion is way out on the periphery, it may mean you are delusional - or it may just mean that the so-called center has gradually drifted closer and closer to a very high cliff, and finally fallen off the edge, while the majority of the population follows along like a horde of doomed lemmings. In that scenario, someone needs to stake out a position at the other extreme and drag the locus of the center back from oblivion. So here goes.

        After this futile, criminal, pornographic war in Gaza (Shmuel Amir rightly termed it a "hunt" rather than a war) and yet another national election in Israel ending basically in impasse, but this time with a distinctly fascist motif, we are no closer to sustainable peace in the Middle East. We need a drastic revisioning of what we are doing here.

        So we start with this: Speaking as an Israeli Jew, I say that we (Israeli Jews and our friends abroad) ought to embrace EVERYONE who wants to live here among us, so long as they truly love the land and have some reasonable claim to it. This would not include, say, tourists from Zanzibar or Antarctica - but would naturally include the Palestinians, whose claim to the land is (or ought to be) beyond dispute and whose deep and enduring love for the land is richly evident to any observer not in a vegetative state.

        [More:]

        I say we bring all the long-suffering, besieged, shell-shocked Gazans home to Israel now! They miss their homes. They want to come home. Let us welcome them! We can all move over a little bit and make room. Believe me, there is still plenty of room.

        Dayenu! (Enough!). Enough suffering inflicted on the surviving families in Gaza who are hungry, thirsty, cold, frightened, wounded, traumatized for life, and bereaved. Enough. And enough suffering on the other side of the fence in Sderot and environs, too. (Their fates are inextricably intertwined; all our fates are inextricably intertwined.)

        The generals and the militants have had their day, for the nth time - and at the end of it, as usual, all that we (any of us) have now, as a result, is war crimes and grief. War crimes and grief and fear. War crimes, grief, fear, hatred, and despair… with thousands of injured and disabled people bearing the burden most directly, forever.

        Enough! Israelis are more afraid now than before, and more at risk, too. Time to ABANDON this insane strategy that we (any of us) can force people to love us, or anyhow accept us, by killing them!

        Let us in Israel who have so much, open our homes and our communities to the victims of this insane war who have so little - exactly as we once opened our homes to refugees from northern Israel when the Katyushas were falling. Our traditional ethos is full of charity and generosity; we know all about providing refuge and succour; we have taken in wave after wave of refugees over the decades, most recently more than a million Russian émigrés deemed essential to our future, for whom we moved over and made room.

        So let's get going. Let every family in Israel who wants to live in peace in this region, open their home to a Gaza family until new housing can be built. Let the participating families declare a hudna between themselves. Now. Today.

        You start by not picturing these neighbors as "the enemy"; picture them instead as families who have suffered a tsunami like the one that flattened coastal Indonesia a few years ago - and in fact, the order of magnitude of what they have been through is about the same. Presto! Reaching out to help suddenly makes perfect sense. Moreover, professional planners have already minutely addressed the question of exactly where Palestinians coming home to Israel could reside, eager to make their best contribution to a shared future. What is missing in Israel is not sufficient space, but sufficient imagination to envision how much there is to be gained by all concerned. Now is a good time to change that.

        The Gaza disaster can become the turning point. Let the Gazan expatriates whose families came from Ashdod (Issdod) be matched with Ashdod-area families. Let the expatriates from Lod (Lydd) be matched with Lod/Lydd-area families - Jewish or Palestinian. And so forth. And let no time be lost! They have lost everything and their situation is dire. We in Israel have lost our moral compass and we want to reclaim it. Bingo!

        Let the governments of the world, led by the USA, immediately stop sending Israel aid for military ordnance, and earmark it instead for a massive rehabilitation and reconciliation program.

        Let all the tens of thousands of Palestinian professionals who are citizens of Israel, born and raised here - doctors, social workers, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists, lawyers, engineers, teachers, designers, journalists - join gladly and wholeheartedly in this effort, finally and at long last, to bring their fellow Palestinians home from exile in Gaza. Let us bind up the wounds and become whole, together. All of us. Let us build a really wonderful society together, for the sake of ALL OUR CHILDREN. Rewrite the national anthem! Why not? It's a SONG, folks. No song is holier than the life of even one child (anyone's child).

        The Gaza families who actually lived in Gaza before 1948 will want to stay and rebuild their homes and communities. Volunteers would doubtless throng to Gaza from all over the world to help them. Imagine them turning what was the world's largest open-air prison into the world's largest open-air Reconciliation Park - with facilities for tourism, education, environmental studies, cultural attractions, and museums (including a Palestinian Nakba Museum). Imagine Gaza as the reconciliation capital of the world - people in Israel could commute to work in Gaza for a change, instead of the other way around. Very refreshing.

        This is a blueprint for a SHARED LIFE. If it sounds crazy, just ask yourself: Which is crazier -- rampant slaughter, or rampant cooperation? Rivers of blood, or the free flow of joint prosperity? Rampant mass cooperation could break out here tomorrow - and in a week or two, or maybe a month or two, we would feel like we have always believed in it.

        A political accommodation would follow the humanitarian one - probably some creative form of federation, with complete, reciprocal, national-cultural autonomy based on each group's granting the other group the same perks it wants for itself. The technical restructuring follows the vision, not the other way around. There are several good plans, already fully elaborated, for political power-sharing here. Anyone can read them; they're on the web. Once we dare to envision a shared future, we can make it happen. And if not now, when?

        We Jews consider it rational and wonderful to rejoice in our emergence as a modern nation in the ancient homeland, after… not twenty years, not two hundred years, but two thousand years of exile!! Yet the idea of repatriating all those homesick Palestinian families, exiled from their homes a mere 60 years ago, is considered delusional. Something there does not compute.

        So think it over and let's put the guns away for good. Let the tribunals meet to apportion blame and responsibility, by all means, but as for the rest of us: we have other tasks. Treat the wounded, yes, of course, and heal the traumatized… And beat the swords into ploughshares and recycle the tank parts into computer equipment. Retool the death factories to make swimsuits instead of parachutes, irrigation pipes for farmers instead of M16 rifles. No time for missiles; we'll all be too busy getting a life. The only phosphorous I ever want to see around here again is in a spelling contest for the kids (ALL our kids). Haul out the welcome mat for the long-lost cousins and let's get busy – there's a lot of work to do here. It's not too late, even now, but you have to take the first step: Choose life!!!

        Deb Reich is a writer and translator in Israel/Palestine, at debmail@alum.barnard.edu

        http://www.amin.org/articles.php?t=ENews&id=2821

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          In the Wake of the Israeli ElectionsL Another Hamastan?

          English (US)  February 17th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

          By M. JUNAID LEVESQUE-ALAM

          Many observers describe Israel’s political system as dysfunctional because it has likely produced a government hostile to the peace process. These observers forget that Israelis may have no interest in the peace process: the public just cast its largest votes for the three candidates who most stridently brandished their anti-Arab credentials.

          [More:]

          No one figure emerged victorious, although what passes for “the left” in Israel certainly lost. The rejectionist Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu (whose supporters had hankered for Yitzakh Rabin’s murder) must vie with the centrist Kadima’s Tzipi Livni (who helped launch the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza) for the affections of Avigdor Lieberman (who pines for the purging of Israel’s Arab citizenry) in order to form a coalition government.

          All three have said that they will never negotiate if Hamas is included in a Palestinian government—and all three are committed to making sure that there is nothing left for Palestinians to govern. Hamas, by contrast, has insisted on no quid pro quo with respect to elected Israelis. It has also said it would support “a long-term truce with Israel along 1967 borders,” even as Israelis empower politicians who recognize no borders, and continue the creeping colonization of the West Bank.

          Nonetheless, few Western pundits have said that Israelis voted for terrorists or against peace—such impolite utterances only apply to the lesser races. Instead, it is said that the Israelis voted “for security,” even though the brutal punishment meted out by the Israeli military always engenders resistance that makes such security an eternal illusion. The idea that Palestinians might have security concerns of their own—indeed, much greater ones, judging from the carnage in Gaza—is scarcely considered.

          If Israel applied to itself the standards by which it measures the Palestinians, the results might be illuminating: the indifferent, unmoved mass of Israelis that shrugged off the death of hundreds of Palestinian civilians because “they all voted for Hamas anyway” might soon impose a suffocating siege and begin a mass invasion against themselves now that they, too, have voted for those with (much more) “blood on their hands.”

          Of course, that will not happen.

          As the late, prescient Israeli historian Baruch Kimmerling pointed out, Israel is an Herrenvolk democracy, maintaining one set of rules for its own “master people” and another set of rules for the “under people” whom it occupies and controls.

          Most analysts will not concern themselves with these realities. Instead, they will hone in on the details of how Israel’s selected politicians go about forming their government, like gamblers who follow a horse race expecting a clear victor.

          This fixation, however, causes them to miss the main point: in choosing politicians who can scarcely conceal their desire to smash the Palestinians, Israelis have ensured that more sane and reasonable voices won’t even leave the stables. As their country once again bets on the idea that it can subdue a people who have demonstrated matchless resilience, it is necessary to ask what in Israel is truly dysfunctional: the system, or the society?

          M. Junaid Levesque-Alam blogs about America and Islam at Crossing the Crescent and writes a column on American Muslim identity for WireTap magazine. He works as a communications coordinator for an anti-domestic violence agency in NYC and can be reached at: junaidalam1 AT gmail.com.

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            Mashal: Israel preventing Gaza truce deal with Shalit demands

            English (US)  February 17th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


            Khalid Mashal's portrait on a poster at a
            Hamas rally in Gaza [Ma'anImages]

            GAZA - Senior Hamas leader Khalid Mashal rejected an Israeli demand on Tuesday to release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as a part of a ceasefire agreement.

            "Israel is responsible for blocking Egypt's efforts to broker a truce by adding a new condition at the last minute," Mashal said after Damascus talks with Arab League chief Amr Mussa, according to the news agency AFP.

            [More:]

            Earlier Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated the demand that Shalit’s release be included in an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Until recently Israel had been conducting two separate tracks of negotiations with Hamas: one on Shalit, who has been held in Gaza since 2006, and one on a truce. Egypt is mediating on both issues.

            Since the end of the Israeli war on Gaza in January, Olmert has pressed for a link between the two issues.

            "A truce can come about only in exchange for a lifting of the blockade and the reopening of the crossing points. It is unacceptable to combine the truce issue with the question of Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit," Mashal said.

            Egypt has also said that the two issues should be kept separate.

            "Egypt will not change its position on the truce -- the matter of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is a separate issue which can in no way be linked to the truce negotiations," the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram quoted President Hosni Mubarak as saying, according to AFP.

            Maan News

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              Venezuelan Referendum from the Back of a Pickup Truck

              English (US)  February 17th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


              Rocking the vote in Venezuela. (Photo: Amelia Opaliñska.)

              By Belen Fernandez – Barcelona, Estado Anzoátegui, Venezuela

              On the afternoon of Friday 13 February, my friend Amelia and I found ourselves in the back of a pickup truck in the Venezuelan city of Barcelona with several members of the Partido Comunista de Venezuela (PCV), two loudspeakers, and our Lebanese-Palestinian companion Hassan. The loudspeakers treated motorists and pedestrians to a cycle of three short songs regarding the need for the enmienda constitucional, the proposed constitutional amendment enabling public officeholders to run for reelection indefinitely, scheduled to be voted on in a referendum on Sunday 15 February. The pickup truck’s designated spokesman occasionally interrupted the musical cycle to urge solidarity with Hugo Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) and to warn against anti-revolutionary maneuverings by the opposition.

              [More:]

              Friday had been established as the final day of the referendum campaign for both camps, el Sí—supporters of the enmienda—and el No. Amelia and I had first become acquainted with the terms of the struggle 10 days earlier, when we crossed from Colombia into Venezuela during a hitchhiking expedition originating in Quito. From the Venezuelan frontier onward, competing slogans such as “Vota Sí” and “No es No” monopolized the sides of buildings and the rear windshields of cars. The competition sometimes assumed even more straightforward forms, such as “Sí Sí Sí Sí” and “No No No No,” with the Sí campaign enjoying a decided aesthetic advantage based on the fact that the “I” could be dotted with a star.

              Amelia and I met our first representative of the No campaign when he picked us up hitchhiking a few hundred meters after passport control. Diego was a 25 year old from the nearby city of San Cristobal who had just purchased a sofa on the Colombian side of the border at a favorable exchange rate. As we had just very unfavorably exchanged dollars into bolivars—due to a refusal to comprehend that the rate on the Venezuelan street was more than twice as favorable as the official rate—Amelia and I congratulated him on his enterprising nature.

              Diego denied that opportunities for enterprise existed in a country whose leader insisted on declaring every other day a national holiday. As evidence he explained that the previous day (2 February) had been the 17th anniversary of Chávez’ attempted golpe de estado and that the following day (4 February) was the 10th anniversary of his ascension to power. He failed, however, to address opportunities for enterprise in forced holidays that were financially compensated; his subsequent announcement that chavismo was undemocratic was then slightly contradicted by his declaration that the enmienda would not pass due to the democratic character of the Venezuelan political system. Diego dropped us off in San Cristobal, wagering that Chávez’ conception of George Bush as the devil was slightly contradicted by the fact that the US was the primary recipient of Venezuelan oil.

              Having learned while hitchhiking through Colombia that military officials could be tasked with procuring rides for us, Amelia and I approached a checkpoint of the Venezuelan Guardia Nacional outside the city, where the Guardia addressed us in a conspiratorial whisper:

              GUARDIA: We are voting for el No.

              The Guardia acknowledged that they had at one point been convinced that only el Sí could be associated with el Comandante but had been won over when the Venezuelan opposition—supported by the United States—co-opted a quote by Simón Bolívar regarding the dangers of leaving the same man in power forever. (Not taken into consideration by proponents of the unchanging applicability of historical ideals was whether George Washington had ever been of the opinion that countries should be allowed to govern themselves.)

              At the Guardia checkpoint a truck driver named Benjamín was conscripted to transport Amelia and me as far as the state of Barinas, homeland of Chávez. Benjamín began by asserting that Barinas ranches belonging to the Chávez family were not examples of equitable property distribution, but over the course of our six hour drive became increasingly boastful of the fact that it cost him less than a dollar to purchase 83 liters of diesel fuel for his truck. He then moved on to gleefully quizzing us on the price of vegetable oil and flour in our own país.

              Amelia and I enjoyed our first personal encounter with supporters of the enmienda at another Guardia checkpoint in the state of Guárico in central Venezuela. Upon our arrival at their desk the Guardia offered us not only the greeting “Cómo va la revolución?” but also two cantaloupes and the monetary denomination required to use the bathroom at a nearby gas station. They outlined their political stance by pointing across the street to a billboard featuring multicolored repetitions of the word Sí, and did not object when Amelia and I utilized their official stamp on our upper arms.

              After reaching the coastal city of Barcelona east of Caracas, we were joined by our Lebanese-Palestinian friend Hassan, whose choice of countries in which to vacation was determined in part by Chávez’ willingness to expel representatives of the state of Israel. The three of us were hosted at the Barcelona home of Hassan’s friend Ali, whose insistence that Chávez was his second father was determined in part by the ease with which Ali had acquired Venezuelan residencia; he nonetheless continued to assure his Venezuelan girlfriend that he would be voting no in the referendum.

              Most of our time in Barcelona was spent on a street in the center of town with a high concentration of clothing stores and markets run by Lebanese and Syrian immigrants. On this street we acquired such knowledge as that:

              1. tahini was also produced in Venezuela, presumably as part of Chávez’ quest to achieve autonomia alimentaria and to combat the notion that Venezuela’s only resource was oil.
              2. a great deal of noise was caused by puntos rojos, the innumerable red tents in charge of disseminating information in favor of el Sí.

              Three days prior to the referendum, Amelia, Hassan, and I visited one of the local puntos rojos with the intention of acquiring red T-shirts bearing the slogan “¡Uh! ¡Ah! Chávez con el pueblo sí va”—on which the outline of a military beret functioned as the accent over the “A” on Chávez. Although it was at first claimed that there was a national shortage of T-shirts, we eventually persevered thanks to the intervention of a woman with several missing teeth who introduced herself as Del Valle.

              Del Valle proclaimed it an absolute necessity that Amelia and I learn to wear our shirts like real chavistas, who had apparently learned to deal with oversized attire by tying the T-shirts in a 1980s-style knot. Once our appearance had been rendered satisfactory, Del Valle commandeered the microphone belonging to the punto rojo and announced with tears in her eyes that three foreign visitors had joined the revolución bolivariana. It was then decided that the next step in our revolutionary education would be flier distribution the following day, a decision which we were forced to review several times given that the punto rojo’s resident DJ did not skimp on decibel levels.

              The soundtrack of the punto rojo covered Chávez-related themes in a variety of Latin beats, some of the numbers apparently performed by Chávez himself. The music enabled flier distributors to simultaneously distribute and dance, a combination we were instructed in upon returning to the punto rojo on 13 February, the final day of the referendum campaign.

              Most passersby were receptive to our handouts, which stressed different aspects of the proposed enmienda such as that Venezuelans should vote Sí on account of the fact that Chávez loved them. Only a few intended recipients responded with phrases involving the word mierda or implications that the receptive passersby were simply being receptive in order to avoid blacklisting; the DJ meanwhile periodically paused his soundtrack so that punto rojo attendants could perform karaoke to Spanish pop songs.

              When we ran out of fliers, we were supplied with business card-size photos of Chávez featuring the referendum question and the advised answer. One of the card recipients was a man who came to be known as “the Communist” based on his membership in the PCV and the fact that we forgot to ask his name; he greeted us with a “¿Como va la revolución?” and accepted a card despite being in the process of distributing a stack of the same cards himself.

              The Communist invited Amelia, Hassan, and me to join a section of the PCV in the back of a pickup truck for a quick tour of Barcelona. The itinerary of the quick tour turned out to be as follows:

              1. Drive five minutes from center of town. Stop so that Communist can address traffic jam on dangers of being tricked by opposition into staying at home on voting day.
              2. Drive five more minutes to barrio Rómulo Gallegos. Stop so that Communist can spend next two hours alternately dancing salsa on side of road and branding passing cars with variations on the word “Sí” in white marker.
              3. Listen to same three songs emitted on repeat from pickup truck loudspeakers.
              The first song in the cycle somewhat resembled a nursery rhyme and began: “Qué buena, qué buena, qué buena está la enmienda,” before going on to explain that the enmienda had been requested by the pueblo. The other two tunes incorporated the “¡Uh! ¡Ah!” theme, with the catchier of the two stipulating: “Y todos con la enmienda, ¡uh ah! Y Chavez con el pueblo, ¡sí va!”

              After the first dozen cycles, Hassan had mastered relevant portions of the Spanish language and Amelia and I had choreographed a simple dance routine in the back of the pickup truck, which we then performed for the next dozen cycles while Amelia intermittently flung Chávez cards through the windows of passing cars. As for the Communist, he and other supporters of the PSUV in possession of white markers continued to hinder the flow of vehicles through Rómulo Gallegos, in confirmation of Barack Obama’s contention that Hugo Chávez constituted an impediment to progress in the region. Freedom of expression was nonetheless upheld, and the driver of one hindered vehicle made a show of wiping the fresh “Sí” from his rear windshield.

              Amelia’s and my dance choreography was rendered more difficult when the Communist and half a dozen new cohorts suddenly appeared in the back of the pickup and the truck joined a lengthy caravan of motorcycles, cars, and buses draped in red. As we wound through the barrio, we were cheered on from doorsteps and balconies; aside from a group of spitting children, displays of opposition generally consisted of finger-wagging and amicable declarations of “No.” Non-spitting children meanwhile rushed into the street to collect the Chávez cards that the Communist tossed over the side of the pickup truck.

              By the end of the evening, the activity in the back of the pickup had effectively been reduced to limp waves of a red hat by the Communist and the occasional “Allahu Akbar” shouted by Hassan in time with the three-song cycle. When Amelia and I requested the symbolism of this act, he explained that Hezbollah caravans were also repetitive.
              Once the caravan had dispersed, we extracted ourselves from the pickup truck and were unable for the rest of the night to speak or comprehend anything that:

              1. was not a shout.
              2. did not somehow involve the words “uh” and “ah.”

              The next morning, the day before the referendum, I went to one of the Arab-run markets in the center of town, now cleared of puntos rojos. The Syrian cashier offered me a papaya shake on the house and informed me that all Venezuelans were “por el no” but that their orientation was masked out of fear. I asked the Syrian if he had gotten this idea from the Diario Región on the counter in front of him—the headline of which read: “¡No voten con miedo!”—and if dancing was a common symptom of fear in Venezuela. He responded that people were liable to do anything under duress, just as Lebanese civilians had been known on occasion to throw flowers and rice at invading Israeli armies.

              The Syrian had just returned from a visit to Damascus, where he had noted the prevalence of a certain keychain depicting Bashar al-Assad on one side and Chávez on the other, an arrangement which—according to his analysis—indicated inherent similarities between Bolivarian republics and Syrian Arab republics. In response I brought up a recent hitchhiking incident in which Bolivarianism had been compared to Italian fascism by a truck driver from Napoli.

              Further exploration of the wealth of historical analogies made possible by the sizable immigrant population of Venezuela was cut short when a man entered the market from the street and greeted the Syrian with “¿Cómo va la revolución?” before requesting a charitable donation. The Syrian promptly consumed himself with the straightening of a sign on the wall prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages from Friday to Monday in honor of the referendum; the question of the status of la revolución was thus deflected to me.

              My principal recommendation was that the revolution be accompanied by more than three songs—a proposal that was largely fulfilled the following evening when el Sí triumphed over el No and Chávez sang through part of his celebratory address to the people.

              -Belén Fernández is currently completing a book entitled Coffee with Hezbollah, which chronicles the 2-month hitchhiking journey through Lebanon that she and Amelia Opaliñska conducted in the aftermath of the July 2006 war. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: belengarciabernal@gmail.com.

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                Israeli Elections: From Bad to Ugly

                English (US)  February 17th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                'The mainstream Zionist groups are rooted in Judaism but secular when convenient.'

                By Dr. Ahmed Yousef - Gaza

                Pundits have asked Palestinians of every persuasion what they think of Israeli elections over the past several weeks. Opinions are varied and thoughtful; yet the truth is that to prefer one of the leading groups over another is an exercise in futility. Asking for a choice is akin to opting hypothetically for France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen (Lieberman), Dutch parliamentarian Geet Wilders (Livni), or Russia’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Netanyahu), with South Africa’s Pieter W. Botha (Peres) playing the presidential role of whom to ask for the formation of a national unity government.

                [More:]

                Israeli democracy is an oxymoron, a reality underscored by the abuse of any non-Jewish party vying for equal representation. Palestinian parties entering elections in 2006 were represented by Muslims, Christians and even atheists, with no obligation or pre-condition other than those recognized by international law. The Israeli state, however, routinely purges or inhibits Arab political movement, such as those of Azmi Bichara, with unsubstantiated claims of treason or treachery. And the political neutering of indigenous Arabs is negligible compared to the dismissive approach to any popular presence across the 1967 border.

                Israelis in this year’s elections claimed there were no Palestinian partners for peace. Ironic, since regardless of label, all Israeli politicians play the same game under a different name: settlements are built; borders are open and shut on a whim; buildings are destroyed; banks are stifled; cities are bombed; and so on. How can Palestinians, let alone the democratically elected Hamas, believe any Israeli politician can be spoken to, let alone trusted, when terrorism and/or racism runs through the veins of every political party?

                The roots of Labour and Likud are in organizations that terrorized innocent civilians and murdered randomly. Before Likud there was Gahal and before that Herut which was borne of Irgun, a proven terrorist group. Likud’s supposed peacemaker who became Prime Minister in 1977, Menachim Begin, was a key figure in the Irgun and even had a 2,000 British pound reward for his capture. The Haganah was the militant precursor to the Labour party. Yitzhak Shamir was a leader of the Stern Gang, accused of atrocities against civilians; yet still became PM in 1983.

                The mainstream Zionist groups are rooted in Judaism but secular when convenient. The religious parties – those that sell their seats for power in coalition governments – are more numerous therefore more likely to gain influence in one form or another. Although there are a few anti-Zionists such as Edah Ha Chareidis, Satmar and Neurei Karta International, right-wing Zioinists dominate, such as Tsomet, Shas, Morasha, Shinui Ometz, Gush Emunim (Ne’emanei Eretz Yisrael), the Jewish National Front (Hayil), and the National Movement (Herut) among others. Some are defunct, such as Kach, Kahane Chai and Tehiya (Banai), though their members often form other groups, with the usual aim of building Greater Israel.

                The emergence of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu as the “kingmaker” party is no surprise, given that their dependence on the public’s xenophobia is as deep as the religious groups. They play the chords of racism, nationalism, Zionism and Judaism perfectly. Their manifesto includes statements like the group’s “clear vision” to pursue “the three cardinal principles of Zionism: Aliyah (immigration), settlement, and defense of our homeland.” Further declaring: “The responsibility for primarily Arab areas such as Umm Al-Fahm and the ‘triangle’ will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. In parallel, Israel will officially annex Jewish areas in Judea and Samaria.”

                At their core, most Israeli political parties are the same when it comes to their neighbors. They dispute among themselves only in terms of controlling budgets and ministries – but as far as contributing meaningfully to regional stability or economic growth, they are satisfied to be parasites off the American taxpayer while bullying the occupied. That is why they have invested so much in lobbying groups, partisan think tanks, and other organizations in the US but made no effort to honor international law.

                While paying lip service to allies, Israelis use the Palestine dialectic much like some regional politicians do, for convenience rather than principle. War is declared on civilians to help prove how strong this or that Israeli leader can be; public meetings are held with puppets to show how much of a peacemaker this or that Israeli leader can be.

                The Israelis have decided to try and eliminate Hamas because it does not play according to the rules of their game. Hamas has witnessed the complete lack of progress gained by trying to engage the Israelis over the decades.

                After Sadat signed with Begin, the PLO kept hoping for over 10 years that peace would come. When it did not and the intifada broke out in 1987, the Israelis decided to divide and conquer and promised change if the PLO renounced its charter, which it did; and was merely rewarded with permission to enter occupied territory – the difference was that the Fatah leadership stopped being a field slave and was now a house servant. Historical precedent therefore, does not bode well for any group, let alone Hamas, to acquiesce to terms lain out by any contemporary Israeli party. Hamas’ position is that it shall represent the interests of its people regardless of who forms a coalition government; and this means breaking the blockade of Palestinian territories, both West Bank and Gaza, by any means necessary. Hamas believes there is no point in trying to have a rational engagement with the Israelis.

                There is no logic to justifying the payment of $2.2 million to the family of a wrongfully killed British cameraman, however much they may deserve it, but then to deny the moral and financial culpability of murdering 1,400 Palestinians, over 60% of whom were women, children and the elderly and less than 3% of whom were in the resistance according to human rights groups. According to Israeli authorities, quoted in Ha’aretz, two thirds of the dead were “terrorists”, a bizarre case of denial, especially for a nation that seeks criminal prosecution of anyone denying the scale of the Holocaust.

                There is no benefit in trying to resurrect dead ideas like those offered in and since Oslo because the Israeli leadership of today denies the very humanity of Palestinians. Those initiatives and declarations have been rendered irrelevant; and a new reality exists that the Israelis will have no choice but to address. Palestinians will not give up the right, enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights, to resist occupation. The group is, however, willing to reach long term solutions through the international community.

                Hamas believes a new entity should be created as a permanent body comprised of members of neutral nations, based in a regional capital, to engage with the democratically elected representatives of the two peoples, and resolve each and every issue on the table sequentially, starting with the issue of the freeflow of goods and people. Clear deadlines should be established, the penalty for which should be sanctions – not just economic but cooperative such as military cooperation, and even diplomatic ties.

                Hamas has stated clearly that it will accept a long term truce, and a Palestinian state within 1967 borders including Jerusalem as its capital. There can be no foreign control of Palestine’s borders; and the Palestinian people will be the only force permitted to manage their ports, industries, banking sector and energy resources.

                Hamas will honor the outcome of any Palestinian election in which the people participate without external influences; and it is prepared for the 2010 ballot. While it remains the voice of the people, however, it will speak only to those who demonstrate the maturity to listen.

                - Dr. Ahmed Yousef is a Deputy of Foreign Minister and former senior political adviser to PM Ismael Hanniya. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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                  Winning in Gaza

                  English (US)  February 17th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                  'All it takes is one child who decides to take up the fight..'

                  By Miko Peled

                  The common wisdom regarding Israel's latest attacks on Gaza suggests that Israel is defending itself against a vicious enemy and that all means justify the cause of security for the citizens of Israeli cities. Common wisdom dictates that the US must support the Israeli Jewish population in their effort to gain recognition and acceptance, not to say security for their fledgling democracy. But here common wisdom stand stands in stark contrast to the dictates of reality because Israel is fighting a war it cannot possibly win.

                  [More:]

                  For more than sixty years Palestinians have been living as refugees in the Gaza strip as well as other areas in and around what used to be Palestine. Those who live in the refugee camps have for three generations suffered unimaginable hardships that began with homelessness, poverty and deprivation and went on to include incursions by Israeli commandos, shelling by Israeli artillery and air assaults by the Israeli air force. In Gaza close to 900,000 people are refugees who were forced off of their land in 1948. They and their descendants have suffered more than their fair share of hardships.

                  The accepted position on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is that it began in 1967, but for Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere the Israeli occupation of Palestine began in 1948 and was only completed in 1967. Many Israelis feel this way too. So to expect that a solution that deals only with lands occupied in 1967 will hold for any length of time is naïve at best, and the ashes of the peace process of the 1990's lay as testament to that.

                  Most of the refugees in the Gaza Strip today came from the southern towns and villages of Palestine. According to UN sources, in 1948 some 200,000 refugees were concentrated in and around Gaza City whose original inhabitants numbered only 80,000. This severely burdened this narrow strip of land, an area of only 140 square miles. Today over three-quarters of 1.4 million people in the Gaza strip are registered refugees.

                  The Gaza strip includes the city of Gaza which is approximately 48 miles southwest of Jerusalem, with a population of 410,000, as well as the cities of Beit Hanoun , Beit Lahia, Deir el-Balah (at the end of 1170, Saladin's army had arrived in Palestine entering through Darum, which is now known as Deir al-Balah) Jabalia, Khan Yunis and Rafah.

                  The majority of the refuges live in eight refugee camps that include: Jabalia, Rafah, Beach, Nuseirat, Khan Younis, Bureij, Maghazi and Deir el-Balah.

                  According to the United Nations the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have one of the highest population densities in the world. For example, over 80,688 refugees live in Beach camp whose area is less than one square kilometer. This high population density is reflected in the overcrowded schools and classrooms. Even with poverty and over population, Gaza maintains one of the highest literacy rates in the world, 92%.

                  Today these refuges and their descendents, who live just a short drive from their original homes who now house Jewish Israelis, are being told by the world that they must accept their fate and live as refugees with no law to protect them, no human rights and no civil rights. They are also told quite clearly that any resistance on their part, violent or otherwise will not be tolerated. Israel, the country responsible for their present condition will never allow them to return to their homes, to resist or to become part of a larger Israel/Palestine.

                  Whether one agrees that Palestinians deserve the same rights as all other people or not, one has to recognize why resistance to Israel has developed in the refugee camps in Gaza. It is a vicious cycle, not unknown in the history of other nations. Since the early 1950's refugees from Gaza tried to enter the newly establish Israel, seeking to reclaim houses, possessions, or crops. Eventually guerrilla fighters began to enter Israel and to engage in violent acts against Israeli citizens. It wasn't long before Israel developed a policy of no tolerance whereby infiltrators were shot on sight and retaliatory strikes in response to guerrilla attacks ensued.

                  In 1953 Ariel Sharon, then a young officer was sent at the head of the famous Unit 101 into Gaza to cleanse it of terrorists and to stop Palestinian "infiltrators" from penetrating Israeli borders. Sharon stated: "If we don't act against the refugee camps, they would become a murderers' nest." Or in other words, centers for resistance against Israel. Israeli attacks on Gaza continued throughout the 1950's, 60's 70's and they continue to this very day. It is hard not to see that this is an ongoing campaign against a nation that is unwilling to give up the struggle for freedom and justice.

                  Gaza has a history of being tough to subdue. It is said the Alexander The Great had to fight a bitter battle to conquer it, as did the British during the First World War. While violence may quell the resistance for a short time, all it takes is one child who decides to take up the fight and as we know this is a battle that no conquering power has ever one.

                  -Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and peace activist living in San Diego. His father was the later Israeli General, Matti Peled who was also the first Israeli military Governor of Gaza. For comments or contact information please go to mikopeled.wordpress.com.

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                    ElBaradei: Ignoring Israel undermines NPT

                    English (US)  February 17th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                    The UN nuclear chief says a double-standard approach to Israel's nukes has undermined the non-proliferation regime.

                    Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Monday that Arab nations believe that Israel has undermined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and this is a major obstacle to nuclear disarmament.

                    "What compounds the problem is that the nuclear non-proliferation regime has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of Arab public opinion because of the perceived double-standards concerning Israel, the only state in the region outside the NPT and known to possess nuclear weapons," he wrote in The Herald Tribune.

                    [More:]

                    Israel is largely believed to posses the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East and has refused to sign the NPT or put its nuclear facilities under the UN supervision.

                    Former US president Jimmy Carter confirmed in May 2008 that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

                    ElBaradei's remarks come amid speculations that the new administration of Barack Obama intends to engage Iran in direct negotiations over the country's nuclear program.

                    The UN nuclear watchdog has been investigating the Iranian program but its findings are often ignored by the international community.

                    "The UN and related agencies must be given adequate authority and funding and put in the hands of leaders who have vision, courage and credibility," the UN official added.

                    ElBaradei also blamed the US and Israel's unilateral policies for encouraging other nations to develop nuclear arms.

                    "Above all, we need to halt the glaring breach of core principles of international law such as limitations on the unilateral use of force, proportionality in self-defense and the protection of civilians during hostilities in order to avoid a repeat of the civilian carnage in Iraq and, most recently, in Gaza."

                    Press TV

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                      Zionist Israel launches "dirty tricks" illegal and immoral covert war against Iran

                      English (US)  February 17th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                      Israel has launched a covert war against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran's nuclear programme, US intelligence sources have revealed.

                      By Philip Sherwell in New York

                      It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project, the experts say.

                      The most dramatic element of the "decapitation" programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran's atomic operations.

                      [More:]

                      Despite fears in Israel and the US that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its ability to build atom bomb, Israeli officials are aware of the change in mood in Washington since President Barack Obama took office.

                      They privately acknowledge the new US administration is unlikely to sanction an air attack on Iran's nuclear installations and Mr Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Tehran puts any direct military action beyond reach for now.

                      The aim is to slow down or interrupt Iran's research programme, without the gamble of a direct confrontation that could lead to a wider war.

                      A former CIA officer on Iran told The Daily Telegraph: "Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way that they don't realise what's happening. You are never going to stop it.

                      "The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don't want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It's a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks."

                      Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the US private intelligence company with strong government security connections, said the strategy was to take out key people.

                      "With co-operation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear programme and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain," she said.

                      "As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration's outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result."

                      Mossad was rumoured to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran's Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported "gas poisoning" in 2007.

                      Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli "hits", intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the programme, according to Western intelligence analysts.

                      "Israel has shown no hesitation in assassinating weapons scientists for hostile regimes in the past," said a European intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. They did it with Iraq and they will do it with Iran when they can."

                      Mossad's covert operations cover a range of activities. The former CIA operative revealed how Israeli and US intelligence co-operated with European companies working in Iran to obtain photographs and other confidential material about Iranian nuclear and missile sites.

                      "It was a real company that operated from time to time in Iran and in the nature of their legitimate business came across information on various suspect Iranian facilities," he said.

                      Israel has also used front companies to infiltrate the Iranian purchasing network that the clerical regime uses to circumvent United Nations sanctions and obtain so-called "dual use" items – metals, valves, electronics, machinery – for its nuclear programme.

                      The businesses initially supply Iran with legitimate material, winning Tehran's trust, and then start to deliver faulty or defective items that "poison" the country's atomic activities.

                      "Without military strikes, there is still considerable scope for disrupting and damaging the Iranian programme and this has been done with some success," said Yossi Melman, a prominent Israeli journalist who covers security and intelligence issues for the Haaretz newspaper.

                      Mossad and Western intelligence operations have also infiltrated the Iranian nuclear programme and "bought" information from prominent atomic scientists. Israel has later selectively leaked some details to its allies, the media and United Nations atomic agency inspectors.

                      On one occasion, Iran itself is understood to have destroyed a nuclear facility near Tehran, bulldozing over the remains and replacing it with a football pitch, after its existence was revealed to UN inspectors. The regime feared that the discovery by inspectors of an undeclared nuclear facility would result in overwhelming pressure at the UN for tougher action against Iran.

                      The Iranian government has become so concerned about penetration of its programme that it has announced arrests of alleged spies in an attempt to discourage double agents. "Israel is part of a detailed and elaborate international effort to slow down the Iranian programme," said Mr Melman.

                      But Vince Canastraro, the former CIA counter-terrorism chief, expressed doubts about the efficacy of secret Israeli operations against Iran. "You cannot carry out foreign policy objectives via covert operations," he said. "You can't get rid of a couple of people and hope to affect Iran's nuclear capability."

                      Iran has consistently asserted that it is pursuing a nuclear capability for civilian energy generation purposes. But Israeli and Western intelligence agencies believe the 20-year-old programme, which was a secret until 2002, is designed to give the ruling mullahs an atom bomb.

                      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/4640052/Israel-launches-covert-war-against-Iran.html

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                        Remember Iraq? At least 8 killed, 24 injured in Baghdad bomb blasts Monday

                        English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                        Baghdad hit by two blasts

                        The bombings were the latest in a series of attacks
                        on Shia pilgrims in recent weeks

                        BAGHDAD - At least eight people have been killed and 24 others injured in two separate roadside bombs in Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

                        The attacks in the Iraqi capital on Monday targeted two minibuses full of pilgrims returning from the Iraqi city of Karbala, a holy site for many Shias.

                        [More:]

                        The first bomb exploded in Baghdad's Sadr City while the second went off in the al-Kamaliya neighbourhood. Both are predominantly Shia areas.

                        The blasts were the latest in a string of attacks against the pilgrims in the past two weeks.

                        On Friday, 42 pilgrims on their way to Karbala were killed in a suicide attack. An attempted suicide bombing also took place on Saturday in the same area.

                        A day earlier, eight people were killed by a roadside bomb near the Imam Hussein mosque in Karbala.

                        Defying threats

                        Despite the threat of violence, thousands of Shia pilgrims have converged under high security in Karbala to mark the last day of Ashura, a 40-day mourning period for Shia Muslims.

                        Iraqi officials said millions of people have visited the city in the last week for the ritual in which Shias mourn Hussein, Prophet Mohammad's grandson.

                        The local police chief said that at least 30,000 police were deployed around the city to prevent further attacks.

                        Policewomen have been searching female pilgrims following an attack by a female suicide bomber.

                        Since the invasion of Iraq by US and British-led forces in 2003, Shia pilgrims to Karbala have frequently been attacked.

                        Source: Agencies

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                          Abbas willing to continue "peace talks" if Zionists retreat to Sept. 28, 2000, positions

                          English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                          'We Won't Start Peace Talks from Scratch': Abbas

                          Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that he would not start from scratch in peace talks with Israel after the formation of a new government there, as Israel declared more land in the occupied West Bank as state land.

                          "To begin from scratch is out of the question," Abbas told reporters after holding talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

                          "All future dialogue between us and Israel has to be preceded by a total stop of settlement activity, the lifting of roadblocks and the return of Israeli forces to their positions before Sep. 28, 2000," the start of the second Palestinian intifada or uprising, he said.

                          "If the settlements don't stop, all negotiations will be futile and useless," he said.

                          [More:]

                          Following last week's parliamentary election in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party is widely expected to become the next prime minister, possibly at the head of a coalition of far-right parties.

                          Netanyahu put the brakes on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks when he was prime minister in 1996-1999, in part by authorizing major new Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

                          Lavrov for his part, reconfirmed Moscow's intention to hold an international Middle East peace conference during the first half of 2009 that it hopes will stimulate the dormant negotiations.

                          "We will continue our efforts with the aim of restarting the peace process, which will require both parties to respect their obligations under the roadmap, including a stop to violence and to settlement activity," he said.

                          Israel has meanwhile declared 170 hectares (1.7 square kms) in the occupied West Bank as state land, a move that paves the way for the expansion of a major settlement bloc near the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem.

                          The tract, which falls in the northern part of the Efrat settlement, just outside Bethlehem, was declared state land after eight appeals were rejected by the military authority in charge of the West Bank, a military spokesman said.

                          The project to build 2,500 homes had been launched in 2004 but was held up by the legal appeals filed by Palestinians. It could be further delayed as various formal approvals and permits are still required.

                          Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel will eventually have to give up most of the West Bank if it wants peace with the Palestinians, though settlement construction has expanded under his government despite international criticism.

                          Efrat, which has a population of 9,000, is part of Gush Etzion, one of the largest of the so-called settlement blocs Israel wants to keep under any agreement with the Palestinians.

                          (Alarabiya.net and Agencies)

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                            Hamas government aids dispossessed Gaza residents

                            English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                            GAZA CITY - The Hamas government in Gaza has said it is trying to help thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes and/or loved ones in the 22-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January. According to deputy minister of social affairs, Sobhi Redwan, Hamas has so far spent an estimated US$50 million on emergency relief assistance, but more aid is needed.

                            Scores of men have been queueing up outside the deputy minister’s office to try to persuade officials they need emergency food assistance and have not received any aid from the UN or other agencies.

                            “We are supplying all people in Gaza who are in need. It is the government’s duty to provide relief during and after the war,” Redwan told IRIN on 11 February.

                            [More:]


                            The government has formed a “national high committee for relief” comprised of representatives from all Gaza factions except Fatah. “The goal of the committee is to provide assistance equally to all those who are suffering,” Loay Qaryuout, committee spokesperson and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine representative on the committee, told IRIN.

                            Hamas has drawn up lists of potential and actual beneficiaries in order to make aid distribution effective and fair, explained spokesperson Qaryuout.

                            Hamas has also asked international and local aid organisations, including UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian affairs), to coordinate relief efforts with the government.

                            About 900,000 Palestinians have asked UNRWA for food aid. [UN lifts suspension of Gaza food imports after Hamas returns stolen aid]

                            “In general UNRWA donates food to refugees and the World Food Programme to non-refugees, although there has been some overlap since the war,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness told IRIN by phone from Jerusalem.

                            Since Hamas took over in Gaza in June 2007, the Israeli and international blockade has meant Hamas has had to seek the funds with which to run the enclave by unconventional means - using secret tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, the services of local middlemen, and money changers with affiliates in Amman and Cairo, to obtain the cash they need.

                            Cash handouts

                            Some 4,000 Gazans whose homes were completely destroyed have so far received about US$5,000 each from the government. Another 4,000, whose homes were partially destroyed, have received about $2,500 each, he said.

                            Some 4,000 homes were destroyed and about 17,000 badly damaged during the war, according to a recent UN Gaza flash appeal.

                            The government was providing about $1,300 to families who had suffered the loss of loved ones; injured people were getting about $650 each, said Redwan.

                            Hamas said it had also distributed a one-off relief payment of $100 to 80,000 social hardship cases on 11 February.

                            Ala (he did not want to give his full name), aged 37, a Fatah supporter from Gaza City, received $100 from the government for his wife and four children.

                            “It helps for a few days. We need milk and pampers [nappies] for the children, which are now expensive,” said Ala. But he said he lacked the funds to repair damaged water tanks on the roof of his home and replace broken windows.

                            Food aid

                            The government said it had distributed an emergency food package - including basic items like sugar, oil, rice, flour, tea, and tinned food - to nearly all families whose homes were destroyed. These families had also received thin mats for sleeping on, and blankets.

                            A one-off food distribution, including flour and tinned food, was also made by the government to 30,000 people whose homes were partially destroyed.

                            Before the hostilities, over 50 percent of the population were living below the poverty line and 42 percent were unemployed.

                            IRIN

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                              From the Ending We Shall Begin

                              English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                              'Behind the sadness of tales, there lies a resistance ..' (NYT)

                              By Natalie Abu Shakra - Gaza

                              His green eyes divert in the opposite direction as I look into them. He smiles at me shyly, sadly, forlornly. I stand against the magnitude of a man, too great not to be noticed. His tall, dark figure directs me to the car, and his friend drives us to the sea. It is almost noon, and I peak towards his seat. The windows dark, the car white, the sun shining and we stop at the hotel. “We shall come in a minute,” he tells me, “find us a seat.”

                              The darkness of his skin makes his emerald green eyes fire with brightness. His name is Adnan, and he is a father of six children. “The pressure was immense, and its magnitude pushed me forward. It was a magnanimous sound with extreme pressure,” he spoke motioning his hands towards his face and his chest, his body leaning towards the table and his head rose forward not surrendering to the excruciating memory of the Israeli bombing of the Jawazat [passports] section of the Ministry of Interior. It was one of the first targets of the Israeli Apache planes at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday December 27, 2008 where around forty Palestinian citizens were slaughtered the day they were finishing their training course in being traffic officers.

                              [More:]

                              Adnan was in the meeting room on the third floor, and in less than a second, he was under the rubble of a building leveled down. All he opened his eyes to, was a black void until sun rays from a nearby hole, in what seemed like a ceiling, was noticed. A flood of liquid poured down from his forehead, and he struggled to keep his eyes open against what he later realized was blood. Moments later, he was pulled out, and retrieved consciousness at the Shifa hospital full of people with amputated body parts, children with deep wounds on their faces and bodies. “I was shocked by the images. I forgot myself, I forgot my wounds, and I even forgot my pain. The images I saw were more shocking, were more painful than what my body was going through,” he told me calmly. But, Adnan is still alive, he goes back to work, he brings bread home.

                              The rubbles of the Jawazat section are now cleared off. Days ago, however, as I walked through the eastern neighborhood of Jabalya town, the rubbles of leveled down homes around me told different tales of resistance. I was greeted by families drinking tea above the ruins of their homes. As I walked past the uprooted olive tree orchards, a woman ran towards me crying “they killed the stones, the trees, the animals, the humans… they killed everything!” I observed the trails of the tanks, drawing images of the plummeting of the earth below them and devastating the life below their weight. But, I also saw a little green stem rise against the death of soil. As I ascended the staircase towards a still standing home’s roof, I saw two pigeons that the housekeeper had raised, killed. But, I also saw others flying around freely alive.

                              The core of this reality is not humanitarian. It is political. The core of this being is that it has been a being of 61 years of waiting, and the people are still waiting. The core of this absurdity is that there were around 483 children massacred during a period of twenty two days, and the criminal has not been tried yet. The core of this existence is that there have been numerous peace processes bringing about a series of episodes of massacres and acts of ethnic cleansing. The core of this actuality is that there is a society crippled, its development obstructed, its people repressed, oppressed, and imprisoned, and negotiations are still ongoing. From the tragedy of a siege to the tragedy of human slaughtering, and the sea still roars with pride along the coast of Gaza. “What can we do without the sea? I would die without the sea in Gaza” a friend tells me. There is always a sea.

                              Behind the sadness of tales, there lies a resistance, the roaring of a people with a meteoric amalgam of unforeseen power. The song of resistance has not ended yet, and the words of Frantz Fanon come again to ring in the ears of oblivion a narration of liberation. “Faced with the extent of the damage, colonialism begins to have second thoughts,” he writes, “a generation of people willing to make sacrifices, to give all they have, impatient, with an indestructible pride.” The war on Gaza was a spark, a calling onto morality and justice, onto the boycotting and isolation of an Aparthied ideology, regime and political entity. It is now that the ending is writing a new beginning, in a cause that witnessed the false notions of many new beginnings. From the ending, then, we shall start.

                              - Natalie Abu Shakra is from Lebanon and is affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement. She defied Israeli orders for Lebanese citizens not to go to Gaza and was able to get in with the Free Gaza movement. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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                                Between Resistance and Peace Process

                                English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                'Palestinian oppression continues apace. But resistance only grows.'

                                By Dina Jadallah-Taschler

                                It really is time to be biased, and emphatically so. Biased against racism, injustice and oppression.

                                The assault on Gaza and its wake leave the Palestinians on uncertain ground. On the one hand, there is their legitimate right of resistance in order to achieve national liberation. On the other hand, are internal, regional, and international forces that seek to impose an externally imposed and pre-determined hegemonic solution.

                                War is consistently used by Israel as the prime means of statecraft. In the past, it has usually succeeded in achieving its goals, being the far more technologically advanced party. But as that gap shrinks, it is less useful against the asymmetric tactics of the weaker and oppressed Palestinians. With the second intifada, it became clear that war was no longer sufficient. It was still useful to terrorize, but not so productive in ensuring submission. Credit here is due to the Palestinians’ resilience and refusal to accept their unjust condition. A second tactic was then pursued (at length) in Oslo: co-opt the leadership who would then make the concessions that are dictated and also use the Palestinian’s own “security apparatus” to control the unruly and resilient population. Since then, war continues, either blatantly, or disguised as the interminable and completely concessionary peace process.

                                [More:]

                                To terminate the endless recycling of Palestinian oppression it is time to strip the “process” away from “peace.”

                                To allow, accept and welcome resistance in the face of an oppressive occupier must start with truth-based and newspeak (1) - free re-education. For one, expose what “moderate” and “extremist” really means. Further, expose the truth behind every bomb dropped “smartly,” every “military maneuver” launched with a lofty name, programs of “democracy” and “human rights” and “cultural re-education” designed to “help” the Palestinians (with the caveat, if only they’d help themselves). Frequently the approach is that if Palestinians don’t like these results, then it is clearly their own fault and it only makes the violent Israeli response all the more urgent. Israel’s massacre in Gaza to “help” “free” the population from Hamas very generously freed thousands from their lives, limbs and livelihoods. News needs to truthfully report on the killed, maimed, and terrorized, the destroyed schools, the equipment-free and medicine-less hospitals, the broken sewers, the political prisoners in “detention,” the tortured, the displaced, etc. Just like the classical Orwellian formula that “war is peace,” Israel and her enablers use “ignorance” and apathy as their “strength.” It is time for American mainstream media to stop knowingly or unwittingly reinforce ignorance, thereby making the strong stronger in their oppression. Overwhelmingly, it has not done so. Why bother to explain Hamas and Gaza when you can label them “terrorist?” Why trouble with having Palestinians and Arabs speak for themselves when we could just question our own US-based reporters (and if pressed, they can always quote a “puppet” insider? Why bother to read their writers or learn their language when they can read (Israeli) Raphael Patai’s Arab Mind? The end result is that “informed” “free” Western observers of the Palestinian Question are now freely thinking and expressing worthless rhetoric, effectively enslaved in their ignorance. But only the truth will change policies in favor of justice and equality.

                                Internally, who may and may not speak for Palestinians is crucial. The aftermath of the attack on Gaza may have forced the need to decide who that will be. It highlighted the split between the “rejectionist” camp (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and socialist and nationalist other groups) and the “negotiating/peace-seeking/ moderate” camp (Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the PLO, both of which are dominated by Fatah -- although some groups within Fatah supported the resistance in Gaza). The failure of Israel to eliminate Hamas and the other rejectionists has given life to the possibility of “resistance” being a right and a prime policy of the PLO, as well as to ending the PA’s domination over the PLO. For many years various Palestinian groups have been calling for restructuring the PLO and for not allowing the appointed (and externally selected) PA to speak and negotiate (meaning concede) dictatorially on their behalf. (2)

                                On a regional level, a recent press conference of Turkish PM Erdogan and Egyptian President Mubarak is revealing. All rhetoric in support of Gaza aside, Erdogan’s presence raises the issue of a NATO role in enforcing a “solution.” It is also potentially subtle confirmation of the Rice-Livni Accord that was signed in Washington before the end of the assault and which announced that the US and NATO will be providing guarantees to Israel. For his part, Mubarak urged a “New Middle East.” But he also insisted on retaining the “historical” PLO as representative of the Palestinians. (3) Being the “moderate” mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians tells us a lot about whose interests will be represented. The announced talks that Egypt will be hosting will unsurprisingly not focus on the central issues of resistance and liberation and national rights. Instead, talks will deal only with the manifestations of the original injustice and not the cause: ceasefire, negotiations over opening borders, lifting the blockade, and resolving internal Palestinian divisions.

                                It is quite interesting what is left unsaid and what is discarded completely within these talks. For instance, Mubarak used “historical” ambiguously and did not elaborate on what that would really mean. To start, insistence on the “historical” PLO is code for the unelected and term-expired Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud ‘Abbas who graciously (!) re-elected himself president. This could and should be interpreted as external reinforcement for the PA, which was criticized for its stance during the last assault on Gaza and for its continued domination of the PLO in its post-Oslo reincarnation as an unrepresentative and weak rubber stamp structure. Egypt and those whose interests it represents demand that the PA be the voice to speak for and negotiate on behalf of Palestinians. Ironically, this same PA has eliminated the integral reason for the very creation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). It is no longer concerned with any form of resistance, and is, in fact, actively opposed to it. Especially since the Oslo Accords, it now prefers the role of other regional “moderates” whose role is to provide “security” for Israel. “Moderates’” other roles also entail following neo-liberal, neo-conservative and anti-human agendas. Mubarak’s call must therefore be viewed from within that framework. Seen this way, lifting the blockade actually means stopping the arms flow into Hamas-controlled Gaza, i.e. stopping a legitimate right of resisting occupation. And resolving internal divisions will entail manipulating and forcing a role for the present leadership of the PA. The resilience of resistance in Gaza has put Fatah on the defensive and so it recently announced that it will hold a conference in Jordan on March 21, 2009 to restructure. (4) Not so ironically, it will be held near the Dead Sea!

                                Moreover, Mubarak’s use of the phrase “New Middle East” is instructive. Despite a supposedly new approach to foreign policy under the Obama administration, it seems that Bush policies continue.

                                The term “New Middle East” was first introduced by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tel Aviv with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in June 2006 during the height of the Israeli assault on Lebanon. It replaced the older “Greater Middle East” and was intended to signal to the world the American and Israeli intentions to radically transform the region by relying mainly on the widespread “creative destruction,” (5) otherwise spun by Rice as “the birth pangs of democracy.” Essentially, its main component was (and is) the preference for military interventionism and chaos to effect change in favor of achieving US and Israeli hegemonic goals. It attempts to redraw maps to facilitate resource extraction, globalization, the spread of neo-liberalism, control over oil flows, and so forth. It does this by creating “security dilemmas” that force people to identify with smaller groupings and factions to ensure their protection against the disintegrating or violent state. It thus enhances and tries to consecrate societal, religious, and political divisions so as to fracture states into smaller and more easily controlled entities. (6) Examples of this include the invasion and attempted federalization of Iraq into Sunni, Shi’i and Kurdish states, the war and internal agitation in Lebanon against Hezbollah, as well as the effective split in the Occupied Territories between Gaza and the West Bank. The newspeak justification used continues to be Trojan horses like “liberation,” “democracy,” “human rights,” “women’s rights,” as well as (racist) arguments of civilizational advancement and overcoming “cultural stagnation.” This takes the guise of “fighting terrorism.” Furthermore, assistance for this “New Middle East” project is obsequiously and enthusiastically provided by “moderate” forces like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority as well as others in the region.

                                One must view Mubarak’s insistence on maintaining the “historical” PLO within this international and regional attempts to perpetuate Palestinian oppression. Resistance is nowhere to be seen. It has degenerated into talk about opening checkpoints and who is to be in charge of reconstructing Gaza. Moreover, the proposed framework for negotiations between the PA and Hamas is circumscribed as well to conform with the Israeli agenda, setting up four groups to deal with government, security forces, elections, and resolution of internal divisions. (7) Notice again the ignoring of the vastly more important question of achieving national rights and liberation for the Palestinians – a demand that historically Egypt insisted upon. International complicity in the Palestinians’ oppression was evident as well, with the EU announcing the donation of $216.2 million in “aid” to the PA (and implicitly, its security forces). (8) The same was intended with the previously mentioned Rice-Livni Accord.

                                Those who really care about the restoration of Palestinian legitimate and historic rights would like to see a fully inclusive and completely elected organization that truly reflects popular wishes and that can faithfully represent their interests and aspirations. This includes resistance and liberation. What name it is given is of much less significance. And achieving national aspirations is the vastly more important goal.

                                On the Israeli side, the elections have exposed, yet again, the increasing radicalization of the Israeli populace. The Labor Party, which founded the state, has slipped to fourth place in the number of seats won in the Knesset. They are now behind Kadima, Likud, and the even more racist and fascist Ysrael Beiteinu. Moreover, when one includes the seats of the far-right Shas party as well, it is quite obvious that the segment seeking “peace,” however deformed a version, has dwindled to insignificance.

                                Rhetoric aside, the Israeli version of “peace” has historically been merely a dragged out process during which they establish “facts on the ground” which effectively torpedo any such thing. More often than not, it has actively pursued war as a means of establishing the state, then expanding it, then suppressing any and all resistance to its oppression. The only new development is that in the present global neo-liberal and neo-conservatively aggressive environment, Israel sees no need to embellish its true nature. This makes it possible for political persons and parties in Israel to now defend and promote blatantly the racist and ethnically cleansing ethos of the state.

                                Proof of this is easy to find if one looks at the party platforms and political statements -- not to mention concrete actions like war, settlement expansion, road blocks, etc. The elected majority of Likud, overwhelmingly former Likud (Kadima), Ysrael Beiteinu, and Shas use overt or covert language that rejects a fully independent, contiguous and fully sovereign Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories – a promise made in the Oslo Accords.

                                If one was unaware of the truth, and only knew newspeak, then the results might seem surprising. For instance, Neve Gordon, in an interview with Democracy Now, said that Lieberman’s Ysrael Beiteinu party did exceptionally well even though they do not have a strong economic or social program. Likewise, Likud also surged in the elections despite having done nothing since Netanyahu was forced out of office in a scandal in 2006. (9) One reason, the main reason in my opinion, is that they can all agree on hatred of Palestinians. Lieberman’s demand of a loyalty oath was often reported as if he were exceptional. But that is disingenuous. According to Hanin Zoubi, the first Palestinian woman to stand for election in Israel, it is nothing new. The only innovation he introduced is stripping “disloyal Arabs” of their Israeli citizenship. (10) But this must have been anticipated. Legally, Palestinians are recognized only as “Arabs” and are theoretically equal, “except in civic duty.” But de jure, they are second class citizens who aren’t even identified using their own identity – as Palestinians. (11) Historically, Israel has consistently prevented the formation of Palestinian nationalist political parties. MAPAI (early Labor) Israeli governments always hand-picked Palestinian politicians from among (cooperative) notables. A strategy they pursue today using the PA.

                                Palestinian representative Mustafa Barghouti says that Israel has completed the shift to racism, an apartheid state and political system, with the complicity of the army and the international community. Commenting on the Rice-Livni agreement, he said: “That agreement was that the United States and NATO will be providing guarantees to Israel and … prevent[ing] the resistance of the Palestinian people who are under occupation. So this is the first time in human history where … the people under occupation in the West Bank are supposed, through this huge security apparatus, which is consuming 34% of our budget, depriving us from healthcare and education – the Palestinian Authority is supposed to provide protection to its occupiers, and the world community has to provide protection to the occupying force of Gaza, in this case the Israeli occupying force.” (12)

                                Even the “moderate” Labor’s Party platform states: “The Labour Party recognizes the Palestinian’s right to self-determination, and does not rule out in this connection the establishment of a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.” Note that it does not rule it in either. And while Kadima professes a willingness to give up parts of “Greater Israel,” its former leader Olmert proclaimed “our nation’s eternal and historic rights to this entire land” (2006 speech to US Congress). (13) Similarly, the so called peace-leaning leftist party, Meretz, initially supported the war on Gaza, and retreated from that position three days later only when the massacre didn’t achieve its goals on schedule. (14) Therefore, there are vast practical similarities between the parties despite the perceived spin/newspeak “differences” in their relations with the Palestinians.

                                Suffice to say that Palestinian oppression continues apace. But resistance only grows, as it must. And the vicious circle of resistance and oppression must and will be broken only when there is truth and justice.

                                - Dina Jadallah-Taschler is an Arab-American of Palestinian and Egyptian descent, a political science graduate and also an artist. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: dina.jadallah.taschler@gmail.com.

                                Notes:

                                (1) “Newspeak” is the concept from George Orwell’s 1984. It was the method by which vocabulary was constructed so as to give only “acceptable,” meaning government approved, meaning to events. This is done by stripping words of their original meanings, by reducing their associations, by eliminating anything considered unorthodox or heretical. In effect, Newspeak and its limited, officially sanctioned, and created vocabulary limited independent thought by effectively eliminating entire concepts, for example intellectual freedom. Thus it is possible for ignorance to be strength, for slavery to be freedom and for war to be peace.

                                (2) In Cairo 2005, Hamas and Fatah agreed to restructure and re-vivify the PLO, with no implementation since. Calls are still ongoing to restructure the PLO into a more representative and active structure. The Palestine National Council of the PLO has not met officially since 1998, when it met to rubber stamp and reaffirm “Israel’s right to exist”. And its activist role on behalf of Palestinians has been essentially hijacked and subverted by the PA in Oslo 2003. The authority of the PA’s right to do this is derived of course, not from any legal basis, but from those with whom they are negotiating! Effectively, the PA has silenced the voices of Palestinians outside the Occupied Territories, among other things.

                                (3) Aljazeera.net (Arabic)

                                (4) Khaled Mismar, member of the Palestinian National Council (interestingly, it was formerly called the Fateh Revolutionary Council), made the announcement.

                                (5) The term was first used by the neo-conservative Bush advisor Michael Ledeen.

                                (6) L.C. Ralph Peters, “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Will Look,” Armed Forces Journal, June 2006. It is not official Pentagon Doctrine but has been used in NATO training.

                                (7) Aljazeera.net (Arabic)

                                (8) Aljazeera.net (Arabic)

                                (9) Democracy Now with Mustafa Barghouti.

                                (10) Ibid.

                                (11) The Israeli Declaration of Independence states the establishment of a “Jewish” state. Even earlier, in 1914, when Chaim Weizman said that Palestine was “a country without people,” he did not claim that it was empty, only that its people had no right to self-determination. Moreover, their naming as “Arab” is similar to the imperialist and hegemon’s naming of its subjects, for example the imposition of invented names on Native American tribes.

                                (12) Democracy Now with Mustafa Barghouti.

                                (13) Wikisource.

                                (14) Uri Avnery, “The Israeli Elections Dirty Socks,” Counterpunch, 2/10/2009.

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                                  Hamas says it awaits Israel's response on Gaza truce

                                  English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                  CAIRO — A Hamas delegation met Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo late on Monday as Egypt continued bids to broker an extended truce with Israel over Gaza, the state MENA news agency reported.

                                  It said the Islamist delegation was preparing to return to the Gaza Strip and Syria to await Israel's final say on a long-term truce.

                                  A Hamas official told the news agency the delegation had been informed Israel would respond to an Egyptian truce proposal on Wednesday.

                                  [More:]

                                  MENA reported that the delegation of senior Hamas leaders from Gaza and Syria will leave on Tuesday ahead of the meeting of Israel's security cabinet to vote on the truce.

                                  Hamas has accused Israel of backtracking on a deal after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday ruled out lifting the blockade of Gaza, a key Hamas demand, until the Islamists release captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

                                  Hamas has insisted that Shalit, seized in a cross-border raid from Gaza more than two years ago, will be freed in a separate prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

                                  Israeli warplanes targeted smuggling tunnels on Gaza's border with Egypt on Monday after two rockets were fired from the Palestinian territory, witnesses said.

                                  Israel says armed groups use the tunnels around the border town of Rafah to smuggle weapons into the Hamas-run enclave.

                                  Just hours before the air strike, two rockets were fired into southern Israel from Gaza but exploded without causing any casualties, the Israeli military said.

                                  The latest violence in and around Gaza came despite ceasefires declared on January 18 after a three-week Israeli onslaught against the territory's Islamist rulers that killed 1,330 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis also died.

                                  http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hHu2tQdf7DcXMlNlV8c-nO4BEGcA

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                                    Zionist ceasefire: Zionist Israel kidnaps West Bank Palestinians; attacks Rafah border

                                    English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                    Monday February 16, 2009
                                    By Ghassan Bannoura

                                    [More:]

                                    The Israeli military kidnapped four Palestinian civilians during pre-dawn invasions, targeting the northern part of the West Bank on Monday.

                                    Palestinian sources said that Israeli troops invaded the city of Jenin and searched a number of homes before taking two men to unknown locations.

                                    Meanwhile in Nablus, Israeli troops searched two homes during a dawn invasion, kidnapped two young men and took them to a nearby military camp, local sources reported.

                                    30 civilians were kidnapped on Monday during an Israeli attack, targeting the city of Ramallah and nearby villages.

                                    The Israeli military said that all those kidnapped were on the army's "Wanted List".

                                    Meanwhile, on Monday, Israeli jet fighter raided areas at southern Gazan city of Rafah borders with Egypt.

                                    Palestinian sources said that the attack targeted open areas, and left no damage or injuries.

                                    The Israeli military said that the attack targeted underground tunnels claimed by Israel to be used for smuggling weapons inside of Gaza, adding that it was in response to two homemade shells fired from Gaza into nearby Israeli areas.

                                    The Palestinian resistance groups announced on Monday morning that it fired two homemade shells at the Negev region. Israeli sources said that both shells landed in open areas, causing no damage or injuries.

                                    imemc.org

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                                      Obama says US will help plan anti-racism Conference – despite Israeli pressure

                                      English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                      Related: Too hot to handle: Zionist state on the defensive boycotts UN anti-racism conference

                                      By Saed Bannoura

                                      Although US President Barack Obama has received pressure from U.S. Zionists to boycott a United Nations Conference against racism, his spokesman said late Saturday that the US would help plan the conference.


                                      Obama on the cover of 'Chicago Reader' after speech on racism (photo: Chicago Reader)

                                      Israeli officials have opposed the anti-racism conference when it was held in the past, because Israeli policies that discriminate based on race were addressed in the conference. The 2001 World Conference Against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa, and was boycotted by both Israel and the US because Israeli policies were discussed at the conference.

                                      [More:]

                                      In South Africa, many anti-apartheid activists have looked at parallels between the race-based system of apartheid that was imposed by white colonists on the indigenous African population, and the Israeli law system that differentiates people by race and ethnicity, and maintains different penal systems and rights based on that differentiation.

                                      But while the agenda and focus for the next World Conference on Racism has not yet been set, and it is unknown whether Israeli policies will be among those addressed, Israeli officials have already announced that they plan to boycott the conference, and have tried to get the U.S. to boycott it as well. An unnamed Israeli diplomat told the Israeli daily Ha'aretz that US participation in the conference “will pull the rug from under us and will lead to the participation of many more countries in the conference.”

                                      Barack Obama, as the first black President of the US, has not made his race a focus for his campaign or administration. But he has made it clear that he is opposed to racism, and acknowledges the US history of racism. His administration is moving forward with plans to assist the United Nations in planning the next World Conference Against Racism, which is likely to be held in South Africa again.

                                      International Middle East Media Center

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                                        Israeli confiscates Palestinian-owned farmlands for expanding settlements near Bethlehem

                                        English (US)  February 16th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                        By Ghassan Bannoura

                                        The Israeli Army decided to confiscates 1,700 dunums of land owned by Palestinians farmers for the expansion of a settlement near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, Israeli sources reported on Monday.

                                        One acre is equal to four dunums.

                                        According to sources, farmers have filed nine appeals to the Israeli court throughout the past several months; the court dismissed the first eight, but accepted the most recent, and decided to allow the settlers to take over the land to expand the settlement of Efrat.

                                        [More:]

                                        The Efrat settlement council told the Israeli online daily Haaretz, that the land will be used to construct 2,500 new homes for settlers.

                                        Efrat is the home of 9,000 Israeli settlers, and is part of the Kifar Atzion settlement block, which is the largest illegal settlement bloc in the southern West Bank.

                                        The settlement council of Efrat stated that they will try to get the approval for the new homes from the current government, especially now since outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed to build the illegal wall around those lands in order to annex them to the Israeli side of the wall, the council added.

                                        Bethlehem city is completely surrounded from three sides by Israeli settlements. On the fourth side of Bethlehem, there is a massive and sprawling annexation wall.

                                        In 2002, the International Court of Justice in the Hague voted 14 votes to one, determining that Israel's "Separation Barrier" is illegal, according to international law.

                                        The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 has been repeatedly referenced by the United Nations to infer that any Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land, which includes all "Jewish"settlements in the West Bank, as a violation of international law, and the UN has called for the immediate disbandment of all settlements.

                                        Many international scholars, lawyers and peace activists view Israel's expansion of settlements as the biggest impediment to peace and stability in the region.

                                        International Middle East Media Center

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                                          ANALYSIS-Israeli brinkmanship puts Gaza truce in peril

                                          English (US)  February 15th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                          Sun Feb 15, 2009

                                          By Adam Entous

                                          JERUSALEM, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is mounting a last-ditch effort to free a captured Israeli soldier by blocking an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in the Gaza Strip until Hamas agrees to release him.

                                          Western diplomats remain sceptical Olmert's brinkmanship can produce a breakthrough on a truce in the few weeks he has left in office.

                                          Hamas has no faith that Israel, which is about to change governments, will abide by commitments under the proposed ceasefire, mainly to keep Gaza's border crossings open, if captured soldier Gilad Shalit is freed.

                                          [More:]

                                          Wary of taking steps it believes would bestow legitimacy on Hamas, Israel has rebuffed a proposal under which the United Nations would monitor commitments on both sides, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity.

                                          A Palestinian official close to the talks said Hamas was counting on Egypt to ensure Israel's compliance.

                                          Despite a lack of certainty over the crossings, Hamas could go for a deal. The Islamist group stands to gain by forcing Israel to free long-serving prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

                                          Israel believes last month's military offensive in the Gaza Strip has increased its leverage over the territory's Hamas rulers, boosting chances of a breakthrough on Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid by Gaza militants in 2006.

                                          The air, sea and land bombardment, which Israel launched with the declared aim of halting rocket attacks, killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, destroyed some 5,000 homes and decimated much of Gaza's infrastructure, local officials said.

                                          OPPORTUNITY

                                          Many smuggling tunnels along Gaza's border with Egypt were destroyed, crimping Hamas's resupply lines. To rebuild, Gazans need Israel and Egypt to open the border crossings permanently.

                                          "When are we going to get another window of opportunity like this to get Shalit?" asked a senior Israeli official, summing up Olmert's thinking.

                                          Tuesday's inconclusive election in Israel has triggered what may be a protracted battle over who will get to form the next government, giving Olmert several weeks to manoeuvre.

                                          Hamas has demanded the release of 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. Western diplomats said Olmert would likely free closer to 1,000, including some Hamas militants involved in deadly attacks against Israelis.

                                          "This is precisely the difficulty," Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said of choosing whom to release.

                                          "Unfortunately, some of these terrorists being demanded by Hamas, and which Israel will apparently in the end release, are serious terrorists," he told Israel Radio.

                                          Officials said Olmert planned to step up indirect negotiations with Hamas on a formula for a prisoner exchange, which would likely be carried out in stages. Defence official Amos Gilad planned to return to Egypt this week, diplomats said.

                                          The question is whether Olmert can withstand international pressure to open the crossings more broadly, and whether U.S. President Barack Obama intervenes.

                                          Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, plans to return to the region next week, followed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a week later, diplomats said.

                                          During his last visit, Mitchell appealed to Olmert to ease Gaza's closure, but the request was rebuffed.

                                          Diplomats said the Obama administration could try to break the stalemate by joining the European Union in insisting on guarantees the crossings will remain open, a key Hamas demand.

                                          The Obama administration supports Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle with Iranian-backed Hamas for control of the passages, Gaza's gateway to the outside world and a major political and economic prize.

                                          But Israel asserts that opening the border crossings fully would only strengthen Hamas, which won a 2006 Palestinian election and forcefully seized control of the enclave 18 months later after routing Abbas's secular Fatah forces there.

                                          "The problem is that none of them trusts each other," a senior Western diplomat said of Israel, Hamas and Abbas's Fatah.

                                          Hamas does not want to give Abbas a foothold in Gaza's crossings that he could use to get credit for reconstruction.

                                          A European diplomat said that with Shalit freed, Hamas risked losing leverage with Israel in keeping crossings open.

                                          "Why would Hamas believe Israel?" the diplomat asked, pointing to a previous Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

                                          Under that six-month deal, Israel was supposed to let 30 percent more goods into the Gaza Strip. Citing Israel's failure to do so, Hamas pulled out of the deal and renewed cross-border rocket fire, triggering last month's war. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; editing by Andrew Roche)

                                          t

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                                            Israel lurches into fascism

                                            English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                            Israeli riot police argue with Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel protesting against racism outside a polling station in Um al-Fahem during the Israeli elections, 10 February 2009. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

                                            ByAli Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 12 February 2009

                                            Whenever Israel has an election, pundits begin the usual refrain that hopes for peace depend on the "peace camp" -- formerly represented by the Labor party, but now by Tzipi Livni's Kadima -- prevailing over the anti-peace right, led by the Likud.

                                            This has never been true, and makes even less sense as Israeli parties begin coalition talks after Tuesday's election. Yes, the "peace camp" helped launch the "peace process," but it did much more to undermine the chances for a just settlement.

                                            [More:]

                                            In 1993, Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo accords. Ambiguities in the agreement -- which included no mention of "self-determination" or "independence" for Palestinians, or even "occupation" -- made it easier to clinch a short-term deal. But confrontation over irreconcilable expectations was inevitable. While Palestinians hoped the Palestinian Authority, created by the accord, would be the nucleus of an independent state, Israel viewed it as little more than a native police force to suppress resistance to continued occupation and colonial settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Collaboration with Israel has always been the measure by which any Palestinian leader is judged to be a "peace partner." Rabin, according to Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, "never thought this [Oslo] will end in a full-fledged Palestinian state." He was right.

                                            Throughout the "peace process," Israeli governments, regardless of who led them, expanded Jewish-only settlements in the heart of the West Bank, the territory supposed to form the bulk of the Palestinian state. In the 1990s, Ehud Barak's Labor-led government actually approved more settlement expansion than the Likud-led government that preceded it headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

                                            Barak, once considered "dovish," promoted a bloodthirsty image in the campaign, bolstered by the massacres of Gaza civilians he directed as defense minister. "Who has he ever shot?" Barak quipped derisively about Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the proto-fascist Yisrael Beitenu party, in an attempt to paint the latter as a lightweight.

                                            Today, Lieberman's party, which beat Labor into third place, will play a decisive role in a government. An immigrant who came to Israel from the former Soviet republic of Moldova, Lieberman was once a member of the outlawed racist party Kach that calls for expelling all Palestinians.

                                            Yisrael Beitenu's manifesto was that 1.5 million Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel (indigenous survivors or descendants of the Palestinian majority ethnically cleansed in 1948) be subjected to a loyalty oath. If they don't swear allegiance to the "Jewish state" they would lose their citizenship and be forced from the land of their birth, joining millions of already stateless Palestinians in exile or in Israeli-controlled ghettos. In a move instigated by Lieberman but supported by Livni's allegedly "centrist" Kadima, the Knesset recently voted to ban Arab parties from participating in elections. Although the high court overturned it in time for the vote, it is an ominous sign of what may follow.

                                            Lieberman, who previously served as deputy prime minister, has a long history of racist and violent incitement. Prior to Israel's recent attack, for example, he demanded Israel subject Palestinians to the brutal and indiscriminate violence Russia used in Chechyna. He also called for Arab Knesset members who met with officials from Hamas to be executed.

                                            But it's too easy to make him the bogeyman. Israel's narrow political spectrum now consists at one end of the former "peace camp" that never halted the violent expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish settlements and boasts with pride of the war crimes in Gaza, and at the other, a surging far-right whose "solutions" vary from apartheid to outright ethnic cleansing.

                                            What does not help is brazen western hypocrisy. Already the US State Department spokesman affirmed that the Obama administration would work with whatever coalition emerged from Israel's "thriving democracy" and promised that the US would not interfere in Israel's "internal politics." Despite US President Barack Obama's sweet talk about a new relationship with the Arab world, few will fail to notice the double standard. In 2006, Hamas won a democratic election in the occupied territories, observed numerous unilateral or agreed truces that were violated by Israel, offered Israel a generation-long truce to set the stage for peace, and yet it is still boycotted by the US and European Union.
                                            Worse, the US sponsored a failed coup against Hamas and continues to arm and train the anti-Hamas militias of Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as Palestinian Authority president expired on 9 January. As soon as he took office, Obama reaffirmed this boycott of Palestinian democracy.

                                            The clearest message from Israel's election is that no Zionist party can solve Israel's basic conundrum and no negotiations will lead to a two-state solution. Israel could only be created as a "Jewish state" by the forced removal of the non-Jewish majority Palestinian population. As Palestinians once again become the majority in a country that has defied all attempts at partition, the only way to maintain Jewish control is through ever more brazen violence and repression of resistance (see Gaza). Whatever government emerges is certain to preside over more settlement-building, racial discrimination and escalating violence.

                                            There are alternatives that have helped end what once seemed like equally intractable and bloody conflicts: a South African-style one-person one-vote democracy, or Northern Ireland-style power-sharing. Only under a democratic system according rights to all the people of the country will elections have the power to transform people's futures.

                                            But Israel today is lurching into open fascism. It is utterly disingenuous to continue to pretend -- as so many do -- that its failed and criminal leaders hold the key to getting out of the morass. Instead of waiting for them to form a coalition, we must escalate the international civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to force Israelis to choose a saner path.

                                            Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006). A version of this article first appeared on the Guardian's Comment is Free website with the headline "No peace for Israel."

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                                              BOYCOTT NEWS: Educators of Conscience Call for an Academic Boycott of Israel

                                              English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                              Kehaulani Kauanui

                                              February 13, 2009 · 2 Comments

                                              By J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Ph.D.

                                              On Monday, February 2, 2009, scholar Benny Morris gave a lecture, “The First Arab-Israeli War,” at Wesleyan University, which was sponsored by the Jewish and Israeli Studies Certificate Program. As a New Historian who supports Zionist ideology, Morris is one of Israel’s most distinguished historians. He became well known after accessing and analyzing Israeli military documents and discovering that they ran counter to the Zionist propaganda that asserted Palestinians left their homeland voluntarily; instead, they had been systematically expelled from their homeland in 1948. Some would say he was even sympathetic with Palestinians for a number of years. However, since 2000, he has become an apologist for the right in Israel by trying to justify the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians and even suggested in an interview in Ha’aretz that the state of Israel did not go far enough. To justify this point, he referred to the United States: “Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history.” This contemporary colonial position in support of ethnic cleansing is morally bankrupt, and as repugnant as advocating the merits of modern day slavery.

                                              [More:]

                                              At his recent lecture at Wesleyan, less than a dozen or so protesters showed up to picket the event. The demonstration was organized by The Middle East Crisis Committee—a Conn.-based activist group that organized in 1982 in New Haven, Conn., during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. No Wesleyan students joined the protest, and no other Wesleyan professor stood with the group, although the next day, The Wesleyan Argus reported that a few people in the audience challenged with Morris, and those who attended were said to be “both Orthodox Jews and members of student pro-Palestinian liberation groups.”

                                              While the call to boycott Israeli academics and institutions has not yet taken root on U.S. campuses in any widespread way, there is a new development across the country that deserves urgent attention. Last month, educators of conscience launched the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel -- www.usacbi.wordpress.com. Several brave scholars—Rabab Abdulhadi, Nada Elia, Manzar Foroohar, Jess Ghannam, Sherna Berger Gluck, Sondra Hale, David Klein, Dennis Kortheuer, David Lloyd, Sunaina Maira, Marcy Newman, Edie Pistolesi, and Magid Shihade—initiated the effort and comprise the Organizing Committee. The Advisory Board includes: Bill Fletcher, Glen Ford, Mark Gonzales, Edward S. Herman, Robin D. G. Kelley, James Petras, and me. Specifically, the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel comes in response to international calls by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and by more than 500 Israeli citizens to foreign embassies in Tel Aviv to stand up and challenge Israel’s unlawful assault on the people and institutions of Gaza.

                                              Israel’s latest assault on Gaza has killed at least 1,300 Palestinians, one third of them children, and injured 5,300 or more–the vast majority of whom are civilians who endured incessant bombardment that amounts to collective punishment and blatant war crimes. After three weeks of renewed attacks since Israel launched air strikes on December 27, 2008 against the 1.5 million Palestinians, Israel unilaterally declared a cease-fire and withdrew from Gaza. It has been a tenuous cease-fire given that Israel continues to assert its political right to attack Gaza if Hamas continues firing rockets across the border, and has done so since the withdrawal, even though under international law, Palestinians have the right to engage in armed resistance because they are illegally occupied. In the U.S. media, Hamas is represented as the aggressor with little or no acknowledgment that it was Israel that broke the cease fire on November 4, 2008; while the world’s attention was focused on the U.S. presidential elections Israel launched a raid into Gaza and killed six Hamas men to provoke a response that would create a pretext for further invasion.

                                              Israel has also consistently targeted educational institutions of all kinds. Since December 27, Israel bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, the Ministry of Education, the American International School, at least 10 United Nations Reliefs and Work Agency schools, and numerous other educational facilities. Israeli’s actions against the Palestinians have been fully supported by the US government through military aid and diplomatic oversight. Because of this, we in the United States have a particular moral obligation to speak out in protest of Israel’s compounded aggression as it fortifies an apartheid regime of settler colonialism in the occupied territories. We must ask why there are economic sanctions against the occupied rather than the occupier.

                                              Educators of conscience who support the U.S. Campaign urge our colleagues, nationally, regionally, and internationally, to stand up against Israel’s ongoing scholasticide and to support the non-violent call for academic boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions. The mission of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel is clear: (1) Refraining from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine; (2) Advocating a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions; (3) Promoting divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions; (4) Working toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations; and (5) Supporting Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

                                              The U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel draws on the same strategy that created the global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa: Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS). BDS is an effective way to put non-violent external pressure on Israel. In the form of an academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel, educators of conscience can help bring an end to the ongoing massacres of civilians and the occupation of Gaza and Palestine as part of a comprehensive boycott, including divestment, political sanctions, and the immediate halt to all military aid, sales and deliveries to Israel.

                                              This boycott 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.

                                              Although the U.S. Campaign specifically addresses institutions and not individuals, hopefully we’ll see a louder moral outcry on the next campus where Benny Morris and any other Zionist may be invited to lecture.

                                              J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Ph.D. is an associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University. She is the producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” on WESU, Middletown, CT, which is syndicated throughout 13 states along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and archived online: www.indigenouspolitics.com. Her first book, Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity, is newly released from Duke University Press. She is on the Advisory Board for the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.

                                              Diverse Education
                                              http://diverseeducation.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/educators-of-conscience-call-for-an-academic-boycott-of-israel/

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                                                Remember Iraq? DOZENS KILLED IN IRAQ SUICIDE BLAST TODAY

                                                English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                Shia pilgrimages to Karbala have frequently been attacked since the 2003 invasion of Iraq [Reuters]

                                                At least 40 people have been killed and another 60 injured in a suicide bombing along a religious pilgrimage route south of Baghdad, police say.

                                                [More:]

                                                The attack on Friday in Iskandariya, 40km south of the Iraqi capital, took place as Shia Muslims headed towards the city of Karbala.

                                                Located 80km south of Baghdad, Karbala houses the Imam Hussein shrine.

                                                The bomber had hidden her explosives under an abaya, a traditional head-to-toe garment, and blew herself up just after midday (09:00 GMT).

                                                Most of those killed in the bombing were women and children, Captain Mohammed al-Awad, a police captain in Babil, said.

                                                Sectarian violence

                                                The attacks against the pilgrims appear to be part an extremist campaign to rekindle the sectarian conflict that nearly pushed the country into full-scale civil war two years ago.

                                                A suicide bomber on Thursday detonated an explosive belt packed with nails among Shia worshippers in Karbala near the Imam Hussein shrine, killing eight pilgrims and wounding more than 50 more.

                                                At least 12 people were killed and more than 40 others wounded in bombings in Baghdad the previous day.

                                                The attacks also targeted Shia pilgrims travelling to Karbala.

                                                About 40,000 Iraqi troops have been deployed along major routes to Karbala.

                                                Officials say security cameras have been installed near the Imam Hussein shrine to keep a lookout for possible threats.

                                                The pilgrims will be celebrating Monday's end of 40 days of mourning that follow Ashura, the anniversary of the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein.
                                                Source: Agencies

                                                257 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                  WHY DID OBAMA DISS HELEN THOMAS?

                                                  English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                  By MJ Rosenberg
                                                  Director of Policy for the Israel Policy Forum

                                                  I love Helen Thomas. During the past eight years she was the only reporter who stood up to Bush, took on this rotten war, and, in general, acted like a journalist. Last night, the great hall looked like it was populated by a president, a reporter, and 11th graders from local high school newspapers. I think I saw a cub reporter from the Dillon, Texas high school paper. (sadly, not Lilah Garrity).

                                                  Ms. Thomas' moment came when she asked the president about nuclear proliferation. Her question ended with the query: does he know of any Middle Eastern state with nukes?

                                                  [More:]

                                                  Why did she ask that? She asked it to see if Obama would refuse to respond as previous presidents have. The answer is Israel, of course. And everyone knows it. In fact, the State Department has published reams of material about JFK's concern about the Israeli bomb. Israeli politicians talk about it. Every Arab in the world knows about it. And Israel's nukes are its number one deterrent against attack by Iran -- and everyone knows that too.

                                                  But Israel has a policy of not talking about its nukes in any official capacity because acknowledging them might lead to Israel having to sign the NPT and opening itself up to nuclear inspection.

                                                  So Israeli Prime Ministers try (not always successfully) not to acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal while ensuring that everyone knows it does.

                                                  That may be a sensible policy...for Israel.

                                                  But why is it our policy? Why is the American president forbidden from being honest on such a critical subject. Answer: there is no reason, unless we are to believe that Israeli policy guidelines, by definition, apply here as well.

                                                  So why did Obama refuse to answer? Simple. Because if he did, the media would have reported it as a gaffe. Reporters either know nothing about the Middle East or, for the most part, have adopted Israel's perspective.

                                                  Had Obama spoken the truth, the media would have made his "blunder" the story of the night. He cannot afford that because, frankly, we have more important things to worry about, like rescuing the economy.

                                                  So I don't fault Obama. But I salute Helen Thomas. Next time she should ask how he felt about those pictures that came out of Gaza. As the father of those two precious girls, we all know how he felt. But it would help America in the eyes of the world if he'd just say it.

                                                  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mj-rosenberg/why-did-obama-diss-helen_b_165544.html

                                                  437 words posted in American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                    Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?

                                                    English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                    And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness.

                                                    By Gideon Levy

                                                    The Israeli left died in 2000. Since then its corpse has been lying around unburied until finally its death certificate was issued, signed, sealed and delivered on Tuesday. The hangman of 2000 was also the gravedigger of 2009: Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The man who succeeded in spreading the lie about there being no partner has reaped the fruit of his deeds in this election. The funeral was held two days ago.


                                                    The Israeli left is dead. For the past nine years it took the name of the peace camp in vain. The Labor Party, Meretz and Kadima had pretensions of speaking in its name, but that was trickery and deceit. Labor and Kadima made two wars and continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank; Meretz supported both wars. Peace has been left an orphan. The Israeli voters, who have been misled into thinking that there is no one to talk to and that the only answer to this is force - wars, targeted killings and settlements - have had their say clearly in the election: a closing sale for Labor and Meretz. It was only the force of inertia that gave these parties the few votes they won.

                                                    [More:]

                                                    There was no reason for it to be otherwise. After many long years when hardly any protest came from the left, and the city square, the same square that raged after Sabra and Chatila, was silent, this lack of protest has been reflected at the ballot box as well. Lebanon, Gaza, the killed children, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and all the atrocities of occupation - none of this drove the indifferent, cowardly left onto the street. Though ideas of the left have found a toehold in the center and sometimes even on the right, everyone from former prime minister Ariel Sharon to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken in a language that once was considered radical. But the voice was the voice of the left while the hands were the hands of the right.

                                                    On the fringes of this masked ball existed another left, the marginal left - determined and courageous, but minuscule and not legitimate. The gap between it and the left was supposedly Zionism. Hadash, Gush Shalom and others like them are outside the camp. Why? Because they are "not Zionist."

                                                    And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness.

                                                    A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again - yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.

                                                    Anyone who wants a meaningful left must first air out Zionism in the attic. Until a movement that courageously redefines Zionism arises from the mainstream, there will be no broad left here. It is not possible to be both leftist and Zionist only in accordance with the right's definition. Who has decided that the settlements are Zionist and legitimate, and the struggle against them is neither?

                                                    This taboo must be broken. It is permissible not to be a Zionist, as commonly defined today. It is permissible to believe in the Jews' right to a state and yet come out against the Zionism that engages in occupation. It is permissible to believe that what happened in 1948 should be put on the agenda, to apologize for the injustice and act to rehabilitate the victims. It is permissible to oppose an unnecessary war from its very first day. It is permissible to think that the Arabs of Israel deserve the same rights - culturally, socially and nationally - as Jews. It is permissible to raise disturbing questions about the image of the Israel Defense Forces as an army of occupation, and it is even permissible to want to talk to Hamas.

                                                    If you prefer, this is Zionism, and if you prefer, this is anti-Zionism. In any case, it is legitimate and essential for those who do not want to see Israel fall victim to the insanities of the right for many more years. Anyone who wants an Israeli left must say "enough" to Zionism, the Zionism of which the right has taken complete control.

                                                    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1063597.html

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                                                      Jerusalem Post: 'College denies divesting over IDF ties'

                                                      English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                      Feb. 12, 2009
                                                      Haviv Rettig Gur , THE JERUSALEM POST

                                                      A pro-Palestinian student group at Hampshire College in western Massachusetts irked the college administration by disseminating a message on-line Thursday congratulating the school for becoming the first US college to divest from companies benefitting the "Israeli occupation of Palestine."

                                                      Matan Cohen, a member of the college's Students for Justice in Palestine organization and the former co-founder of the far-Left Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall, insisted the divestment from a State Street corporation fund, which holds stock in the six companies in question, marked a dramatic first step toward an "international movement" of divestment from Israel.

                                                      [More:]

                                                      An SJP statement insisted the group had "pressured Hampshire College's Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors and alumni have signed SJP's 'institutional statement' calling for the divestment."

                                                      The statement had spread widely across pro-Palestinian blogs within hours of its publication on Thursday.

                                                      Such a move by the small Massachusetts college would have dramatic symbolic power, as Hampshire was the first US college to divest from the apartheid regime of South Africa in the late 1970s.

                                                      But the college's director of communications, Elaine Thomas, insisted the message spread on-line was incorrect.

                                                      In a "statement of clarification" sent by Thomas to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday evening, the college's president, chairman of the board of trustees, and dean of faculty insisted the decision to divest from State Street had been made because the fund had been found by an outside consultant to hold stocks in "well over 100 companies engaged in business practices that violate the college's policy on socially responsible investments. These violations include: unfair labor practices, environmental abuse, military weapons manufacturing, and unsafe workplace settings."

                                                      The statement acknowledged that the Board of Trustees' initial review of the college's State Street holdings had been based on a complaint by Students for Justice in Palestine about six companies doing business in Israel.

                                                      But the college's top leadership insisted the "decision expressly did not pertain to a political movement or single out businesses active in a specific region or country. No other report or interpretation of the actions of February 7, 2009 by the Hampshire College board of trustees is accurate."

                                                      The six companies that earned the SJP's disapproval were Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola and Terex. They sell products in Israel used both by the military and by civil and commercial sectors of society.

                                                      Asked if the SJP would encourage the college to divest from companies providing similar "dual-use" products in Gaza that assist Hamas's fighting efforts, Cohen replied, "the bottom line is that we as an institution have money invested in the Israeli occupation. We do not have money in Hamas. So it's a non-issue."

                                                      http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304768171&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

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                                                        Uber-Zionist Allen Dershowitz threatens to boycott Hampshire College

                                                        English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                        from Mondoweiss

                                                        Alan Dershowitz certainly doesn't waste any time in trying to shut down academic freedom. Hampshire SJP is reporting that Dershowitz has already contacted them with a threat. From the Hampshire Students for Peace and Justice blog:

                                                        Allen Dershowitz has just called SJP members and has threatened to start an international campaign to divest from Hampshire College - we need your support! We will be beginning an international fundraising drive to help Hampshire the negative backflash for this stand against the illegal occupation of Palestine. We will also have other ways to support us.

                                                        Please stay tuned!

                                                        Not sure what exactly divesting from Hampshire would look like, but this does seem a bit ironic from the person who has railed against the academic boycott of Israel. (Adam Horowitz)

                                                        128 words posted in Arts, Culture & Entertainment2 comments

                                                        2 response(s) to Uber-Zionist Allen Dershowitz threatens to boycott Hampshire College

                                                        1. Axel Anti-Nazi [Visitor] says:

                                                          Boycott Hampshire College!!! No more money and no more respect for these little Nazis! This so-called liberal college is doomed.

                                                        2. Justin [Visitor] Email says:

                                                          in response to "this does seem a bit ironic from the person who has railed against the academic boycott of Israel"
                                                          that's exactly the point. That is precisely why Mr. Dershowitz is conducting this boycott - it is a counter boycott. Dont paint as hypocrisy an action that is actually giving the anti-Israel boycott a taste of their own medicine.

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                                                        BOYCOTT NEWS: HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE IS FIRST IN U.S. TO DIVEST FROM ILLEGAL ZIONIST ISRAELI OCCUPATION. PROMPTED BY STUDENTS

                                                        English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                        By Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine
                                                        February 12, 2009

                                                        [Editor’s Note: Since July 2005, a coalition of Palestinian groups has called on ”people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”. On Feb. 7, Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts became the first U.S. institution of higher learning to divest in companies that directly profit from Israel’s rule over the Occupied Territories. Below is a press release that went out earlier today from Students for Justice In Palestine, a campus group that led the divestment effort.]

                                                        Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, has become the first of any college or university in the U.S. to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

                                                        This landmark move is a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign by the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The group pressured Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP’s “institutional statement” calling for the divestment.

                                                        [More:]

                                                        The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 Feb 2009 by the Board.

                                                        By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.

                                                        Meeting minutes from a committee of Hampshire’s Board of Trustees confirm that “President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that brought this issue to the attention of the committee.”

                                                        This groundbreaking decision follows in Hampshire’s history of being the first college in the country to divest from apartheid South Africa thirty-two years ago, a decision based on similar human rights concerns. This divestment was also a direct result of student pressure.

                                                        The divestment has so far been endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Rashid Khalidi, Vice President of the EU Parliament Luisa morganitini, Cynthia McKinney, former member of the African National Congress Ronnie Kasrils, Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, John Berger, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, among others.

                                                        The six corporations, all of which provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza are: Caterpillar
                                                        United Technologies
                                                        General Electric
                                                        ITT Corporation
                                                        Motorola
                                                        Terex
                                                        (see attached info sheet for more information on these corporations.) Furthermore, our policy prevents the reinvestment in any company involved in the illegal occupation.

                                                        SJP is responding to a call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as a way of bringing non-violent pressure to bear on the state of Israel to end its violations of international law. SJP is following in the footsteps of
                                                        many noted groups and institutions such as the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in the UK, the Israeli group Gush Shalom, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the American Friends Service Committee.

                                                        As well as voicing our opposition to the illegal occupation and the consistent human rights violations of the Palestinian people, we as members of an institute of higher education see it as our moral responsibility to express our solidarity with Palestinian students whose access to education is severely inhibited by the Israeli
                                                        occupation.

                                                        SJP has proven that student groups can organize, rally and pressure their schools to divest from the illegal occupation. The group hopes that this decision will pave the way for other institutions of higher learning in the U.S. to take similar stands.

                                                        http://www.indypendent.org/2009/02/12/hampshire_israel_divestment/

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                                                          Afghan Pitfalls

                                                          English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                          By M. Shahid Alam

                                                          As the United States prepares to escalate its eight-year war against the Taliban, it might be useful to weigh its chances of success.
                                                          Consider, first, the fate of three previous invasions of Afghanistan by two great European powers, Britain and Soviet Union, since the nineteenth century.

                                                          These invasions ended in defeat – for the Europeans.

                                                          The first British occupation of Kabul lasted for four years. When the British garrison retreated from Kabul in 1842, it was picked off by Ghilzai warriors as they trudged through the snow. Only one British officer, William Brydon, survived this harrowing retreat. This solitary survivor was memorialized in a haunting painting by Elizabeth Butler, titled, Remnants of an Army.

                                                          [More:]

                                                          The British occupied Kabul a second time in 1878, withdrew a year later, leaving behind a British resident to keep an eye on the Afghans. They returned the same year, when their resident in Kabul was killed in an uprising. When the British withdrew in 1880, discretely, they did not insist on leaving behind a British resident.
                                                          Nearly a hundred years later, 30,000 Soviet troops, invading from the north, occupied Kabul in December 1979. In order to oppose the growing Afghan resistance, the Russians soon raised their troop strength to 100,000 but never controlled any areas beyond the limits of a few cities. With 15,000 deaths, and unable to sustain growing casualties, the Soviets retreated in February 1989.

                                                          Will the United States fare better than Britain or the Soviet Union?
                                                          In terms of logistics, British India and Soviet Union were better placed than the United States. Afghanistan was next-door neighbor to both. It is half a world away from the United States, which, as a result, depends on long rail and road transit through Pakistan to supply and re-supply its troops. Moreover, the supply routes – from Karachi to Kabul – are vulnerable to attacks by the Taliban and their allies in Pakistan.

                                                          Alternative land supply routes would have to pass through Russia or Iran. Russia might make these routes available, at a steep cost, and keep raising the cost as US troop concentration in Afghanistan rises.

                                                          Dependence on the Russians may turn out to be trap. Almost certainly, the Iranians will refuse, since, to do so, would badly tarnish its image with Sunni Islam.

                                                          The Soviet and British invaders primarily had to deal with Afghan fighters. The Americans are fighting the Taliban on both sides of the Afghan border, who, besides the Pushtuns, also have help from several Jihadi groups based in Punjab and Pakistani Kashmir.

                                                          Pakistan, America's indispensable ally in the war against the Taliban, is an unwilling partner at best; it is also unreliable. Pakistan army has been gang-pressed and bribed into fighting the Taliban, and, as a result, the war is not popular with the junior officers and soldiers. In a rising spiral, Pakistan’s war against the Taliban has provoked them to carry their war deeper into Pakistan. At some point, this could split the Pakistan army, intensify Taliban attacks on Islamabad and Lahore, or force Islamist and nationalist officers to take over and end Pakistan’s collaboration with the United States.

                                                          Under pressure, the Taliban could launch another attack inside India. After the attacks on Mumbai last November, India was threatening ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan, forcing Pakistan to divert its troops to the eastern front. Another Mumbai, followed by Indian surgical strikes against Pakistan, could produce consequences too horrendous to contemplate.

                                                          Are US objectives in Afghanistan so vital as to bring two nuclear powers to the brink of a war?

                                                          Iran was not much of a factor when British India and Soviet Union were fighting in Afghanistan. It is now. In Iraq, Iran favored the defeat of the Sunni insurgency once it had denied the United States a victory. In Afghanistan, Iran prefers to create a quagmire for the Americans, ensuring a long stalemate between them and the Taliban.
                                                          In light of the consequences that have flowed from the US presence in Afghanistan, who would advise an escalation? President Obama still has time to put on hold his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan. Instead, the best political minds around the world should be examining the least costly exit from a war that promises to become a quagmire, at best, and, at worst, a disaster, which no US objective in the region can justify.

                                                          Unless, dismantling the world’s only Islamicate country with the bomb is an objective worthy of such horrendous costs.

                                                          M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Challenging the New Orientalism (2007). Send comments to alqalam02760@yahoo.com. Visit the author’s website at http://aslama.org.

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                                                            Proposal to the Dutch to Ban this Hair

                                                            English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                            By Emily

                                                            ... on grounds that of the Quran, this MP, and this MP's hair, the hair is most banworthy.

                                                            Kabobfest

                                                            20 words posted in Humor/SatireLeave a comment

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                                                              Dutch MP banned from entering UK

                                                              English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                              Geert Wilders has threatened to defy the ban on him

                                                              A Dutch MP who called the Koran a "fascist book" says he still plans to travel to the UK despite being banned on public security grounds.

                                                              Freedom Party MP Geert Wilders was invited to show his controversial film - which links the Islamic holy book to terrorism - in the UK's House of Lords.

                                                              But Mr Wilders, who faces trial in his own country for inciting hatred, has been denied entry by the Home Office.

                                                              [More:]

                                                              He plans to fly into Heathrow later, saying: "Let's see what happens."

                                                              Mr Wilders was asked to show the film at the House of Lords by UK Independence Party peer Lord Pearson.

                                                              However, he received a letter from the British Embassy in the Netherlands telling him he would not be allowed into the UK.

                                                              Lord Pearson said he disagreed with Mr Wilders' call to ban the Koran, but accused the Home Office of "appeasing violent Islam".

                                                              "We're coming to this from the angle of freedom of speech," he said. "This man must be allowed to say what he wants, he must answer questions and then everyone can make up their minds.

                                                              "I think this man is raising one of the most important issues of our time. I think it should be discussed more, particularly by the vast majority of the mild Muslim community. They should talk about what the Koran really means.

                                                              "These people are using verses in one of the great religious tracts in history to blow up innocent people. That's what we want to talk about... whether these acts of violence can be rooted in the Koran."

                                                              'Offensive'

                                                              Mr Wilders' film Fitna caused outrage across the Muslim world when it was posted on the internet last year.

                                                              Its opening scenes show a copy of the Koran followed by footage of the 9/11 attacks in the US and the bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

                                                              The Dutch prime minister has said the film served "no purpose other than to offend".

                                                              The Home Office said there was a blanket ban on Mr Wilders entering the UK under EU laws enabling member states to exclude someone whose presence could threaten public security.

                                                              "The government opposes extremism in all forms," it said in a statement, adding that it had tightened up rules on excluding those engaging in "unacceptable behaviour" in October.

                                                              "It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred, and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country."

                                                              RECENT CASES
                                                              --Jamaican reggae singer Bounty Killer (real name Rodney Pryce) allowed entry despite using controversial lyrics about homosexuals and gang culture
                                                              --Muslim cleric Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi refused entry in order to protect community cohesion. He has described suicide bombers as "martyrs" and homosexuality as "a disease"
                                                              --Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan barred on the grounds that his allegedly racist and anti-Semitic views could threaten public order
                                                              --Martha Stewart and US rapper Snoop Dogg denied entry because of criminal convictions

                                                              Who is barred from Britain?
                                                              Profile: Geert Wilders

                                                              The home secretary has the power to stop people entering the UK if she believes there is a threat to national security, public order or the safety of UK citizens, but she cannot exclude people simply because of their views.

                                                              Mr Wilders described the decision as "cowardly" and said he still intends to travel to the UK on Thursday to take part in the event.

                                                              He told the BBC: "It's incredible that an elected politician who was invited by one of your parliamentarians to a discussion with people who are against me, or in favour of me [was banned from the UK]."

                                                              Mr Wilders added: "I was surprised and very saddened that the freedom of speech that was a very strong point of UK society has been harassed. I thought Great Britain had the mother of all parliaments."

                                                              The Dutch government is reported to be trying to overturn the ban and Lord Pearson said the screening would still go ahead on Thursday - with extra security - whether Mr Wilders was present or not.

                                                              The peer also called for a major Muslim conference to discuss the Koran and its meaning.

                                                              Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered prosecutors to put Mr Wilders on trial for inciting hatred and discrimination by making anti-Islamic statements.

                                                              Labour peer Lord Ahmed, who expressed his concerns to the Parliamentary authorities about Mr Wilders' visit, said he welcomed the decision to ban the MP.

                                                              "It would be unwise to have him in the UK because this man's presence would cause hatred," he said.

                                                              "He has a case against him in the Amsterdam court for inciting hatred."

                                                              'Revolting'

                                                              Lord Ahmed, who said other Muslim peers shared his concerns, stressed that Mr Wilders' views would certainly present a threat to public order.

                                                              The Muslim Council of Britain said Mr Wilders was "an open and relentless preacher of hate".

                                                              "We have no problem with the challenge of criticisms to our faith, but the film... is nothing less than a cheap and tacky attempt to whip up hysteria against Muslims," it said.

                                                              And Chris Huhne, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said he had watched the film, which he called "revolting", and backed the ban.

                                                              "Freedom of speech is our most precious freedom of all, because all the other freedoms depend on it," he said.

                                                              "But there is a line to be drawn even with freedom of speech, and that is where it is likely to incite violence or hatred against someone or some group."

                                                              http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7882953.stm?lss

                                                              925 words posted in Religion, RacismLeave a comment

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                                                                Upholding justice

                                                                English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                Al Ahram

                                                                By Salama A Salama

                                                                At a time when the Arab League and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry are documenting Israel's war crimes in the recent onslaught against Gaza, some European countries -- including Spain -- are thinking of changing their laws to ensure that Israeli war criminals are never brought to trial in their courts.

                                                                Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riyad, one of Egypt's top legal experts and a former judge at the International Criminal Court, says that available evidence indicates that Israel committed genocide in Gaza. His views are shared by fair-minded Israelis, including historian Ilan Pappe. Some of Israel's crimes are believed to have exceeded in cruelty the crimes committed in the last decade in Bosnia.

                                                                [More:]

                                                                The problem, however, is that the procedures for trying war criminals in any particular country are subject to international calculations and political pressures, some of which are not necessarily in our favour as Arabs. It is therefore advisable for Arab countries to seek the help of civil institutions and appeal to conscientious individuals to assist in building the legal case and bringing Israeli criminals to justice.

                                                                The atrocities that have been committed need to become public knowledge, for they constitute crimes against humanity and an impediment to efforts aiming to promote human rights.

                                                                Persistent documentation of Israel's crimes is the first step towards building the case before international and national courts. It is unlikely for the Arabs to win a UN Security Council resolution calling for the crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank to be prosecuted. But once the UN Security Council has failed to take action, the matter can be referred to the General Assembly by virtue of the Uniting for Peace resolution of 1950. Once the General Assembly takes over, Arab countries would have little trouble getting the support they need.

                                                                The whole thing may take time, however. And Israel's friends in the US and the EU are likely to use the time to hide the evidence. It is therefore preferable to file lawsuits with the national courts of countries frequented by Israeli leaders. Even though the atrocities may not have taken place in their territory, they would be required by their commitments under international law to take action.

                                                                Lawsuits should not be confined to the soldiers who committed the physical acts, for the liability extends to the commanders who ordered the atrocities and the political leaders who made the policies. The top people, whether military or political, are responsible for the crimes perpetrated by their subordinates.

                                                                Fearing legal action, Israel now withholds the names of the officers who took part in the crimes. But that doesn't absolve politicians and the top brass from criminal responsibility. And if indicted abroad, they may have to avoid travelling for fear of being arrested. We may actually reach the point where it would be the right, indeed duty, of every country in the world to arrest Israeli leaders and bring them to justice.

                                                                This is something that Arab governments dealing with Israel, including our own, should understand. It is always possible for Israeli leaders to visit these countries for any number of reasons. And we cannot ask others to engage in a legal process that we are unwilling to enforce at home.

                                                                I believe that we should pursue this course of action, regardless of any future political and diplomatic developments that may lead to talks or agreements involving Israel. It should be clear to all by now that Israel doesn't see the peace agreements it made with Arab countries as a reason for refraining from murder. Israel is a loose cannon, and we have the means that can put it in its place.

                                                                607 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                  Stay in the street

                                                                  English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                  Al Ahram


                                                                  A masked Palestinian youth prepares to fire a tear gas cannister using an improvised firing mechanism at Israeli soldiers following a demonstration against Israel's apartheid wall in the village of Nilin, near Ramallah.

                                                                  The protest movement against Israel must be sustained, for Obama is not going to change the essence of America's Middle East course, writes Azmi Bishara

                                                                  I will sum up the transition in US foreign policy as follows: in the Bush era, since September 2001, US foreign policy entailed the orchestration of crisis that played on the twin themes of the "war against terror" and "those who aren't with us are against us." The Barack Obama era opened with the two central chords, "diplomacy first" and "those who aren't with us could be with us, and those who can not be won over will be isolated and boycotted before recourse to force."

                                                                  Obama has taken pains to make it clear that the "us" involved is pretty much the same, only having changed insofar as to make it possible for him to become president. Nor is he the one who brought this change, and the change was hardly sudden. It required enormous sacrifices from African Americans and decades of sustained efforts on the part of civil rights movements in order to bring the White House within his grasp. The new president represents the Democratic wing of that "us". Yet he is promoting the greatest possible continuity with what went before and the greatest possible bipartisanship, to which testify keeping Robert Gates as secretary of defence and designating George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East (Mitchell was cosponsor of the Mitchell-Tenet plan that preceded the roadmap). The neoconservatives are out.

                                                                  [More:]

                                                                  The ruling establishment is settling down in Washington without seeking to shake the world or ignite democratic "revolutions" in the manner of neoconservatives. Perhaps the economic crisis is helping Obama pursue the economic and social programmes that his party has long wished for but had been unable to promote in the past. The crisis has handed him the arguments he needs to push for the resuscitation of a Keynesian central government hand to guide the country out of stagnation and to bring into effect a Roosevelt-like "New Deal", albeit one naturally fundamentally different to its predecessor. Obama has vowed to make the US independent in its energy needs by leveraging alternative sources of energy. To rhetorically spur this drive forward he has conjured up nasty images of oil exporting nations with their hands around the throat of the American spirit. He has simultaneously pledged to look for ways to get the world to work together to curb global warming. Such commitments, which he has stressed in all speeches and statements since taking office, lead to the conclusion that US foreign policy will shift toward greater cooperation with the major industrialised nations in the search for alternative sources of energy and that this drive will be spurred not only by the desire for a cleaner environment but also by the idea that oil is a dirty sort of energy, as though it had a curse on it, perhaps an Islamic curse, or one that courts Muslim blackmail and terrorism, and other such myths that have arisen since the well began to run dry in Texas and that have been passed down to the Obama era -- like the Israeli lobby.

                                                                  Now that lobby remains totally unchanged, and it has come lock, stock and barrel into the Obama era, with its customary taunts of anti-Semitism against all who disagree with it and its hymns to the security of Israel, the supposed one and only democracy in the region. We have been treated to the full gamut of clichés in Obama's political and cultural oratory: in his address to AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee), during his visit to Israel, and in his recent speech to State Department staff. He has left no doubt that the point of departure for his Middle East strategy is the firm and resolute commitment to the security of Israel.

                                                                  The ceasefires in Gaza came in time for the new US president's inauguration, conducted in accordance with the well-known rights and rituals of the American secular religion. Obama was thoroughly immersed in the spirit of it all, so much so that he delivered an address of the purest tradition, with consummate oratorical polish, pulling all the right knobs and buttons to the synthesised flutter of the wings of history, in crude imitation of the nation's founding fathers, as though the speech had been crafted to be taught to high school civic classes. He did not try to represent another face of American history, the history of the slaves, of the Native Americans, of oppressed workers or of other persecuted minorities. Nor was his English anything but that passed down from the oppressors of slaves and the exterminators of the indigenous peoples.

                                                                  One cannot read much in that celebratory speech, other than that it confirmed that Obama and his campaign had been assimilated into the establishment through the liberal affirmation that there is no contradiction between the defence of "American values" and the defence of "American national security". All that remained of the famous tide of change that Obama had championed was the convergence of the opponents of the war on Iraq with the conservatives who criticised democratic evangelism in the Islamic world and those who feared the erosion of the American Constitution, judicial autonomy and civil rights due to the fallout of the war on terror. Therefore, the John Hancock on the orders to prohibit torture and close down Guantanamo were symbolically fitting as the first steps of this new president, graduate of Harvard Law School, and they were fitting for the enlightened wing of the American establishment whose enlightenment stops at America's borders.

                                                                  Speeches that are made to go down in history are generally snubbed by history. In all events, the more important speech was that Obama delivered to the State Department on 22 January in which he announced the appointments of George Mitchell as his envoy to the Middle East and Richard Holbrook as special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obama wanted to deliver two messages. The first was to signal, through his mere appearance at the State Department only two days after he was sworn in, the new emphasis on the role of American diplomacy after eight years of having been marginalised in favour of the armed forces and other security agencies. The second was to underscore the difference between his administration and the outgoing one. That difference is to be found entirely in the Middle East as a focus of US policy, not simply because of the importance of this region to the US but also because of the moral and strategic questions involved with regard to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and everything connected with these countries, including the baseline of the security of Israel (as opposed to Palestinian rights).

                                                                  Contrary to McCain, who favoured remaining in Iraq along the lines of South Korea, Obama has always stressed the need to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible. He has advocated stipulating a timeframe that would force the current Iraqi leadership to resolve issues among themselves and that would simultaneously permit for a gradual withdrawal so as not to leave a security vacuum. As Democratic candidate, Obama famously broke the taboo concerning talking with Iran. In fact, this was nothing revolutionary but rather a return to traditions established by previous conservative administrations since Kissinger's overtures to what the US then regarded as one of the world's dangerous dictatorships, namely China at the height of the hysteria over its cultural revolution. In this case, talks will aim to strike a historical deal in which Iran would give up its uranium enrichment activities, help bring stability to Iraq and stop supporting "terrorist movements" (meaning Hizbullah and Hamas), all in exchange for the recognition of the regime in Tehran, the legitimisation of an Iranian regional role, its acceptance in the "international community", and perhaps even the reestablishment of full diplomatic relations.

                                                                  Obama and his team do not believe that the Bush administration really wanted to establish a Palestinian state, nor that the "Bush vision" that Palestinian negotiators praised in accordance with their obligatory periodic sycophancy towards the Americans was more than a public relations gambit. They also suspect that the Israeli unilateral disengagement from Gaza was a Sharon-Bush formula for indefinitely postponing the creation of a Palestinian state while the Judaisation of Jerusalem and settlement expansion in the West Bank continue apace and the Palestinians preoccupy themselves with electoral politics and power struggles. However, they do believe that the US must devote itself fully to the peace process from day one. Yet what the Palestinians and Arabs need is not a peace process but a just peace that fulfils the rights of the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, there is no prospect of a just peace on the horizon, which means that reviving the peace process is essentially a means of perpetuating a camouflage for Israeli occupation and Israeli terrorism.

                                                                  Obama's position on this issue does not bode well. This applies to both substance and approach. He is still using the terms and tools of the Bush administration, dividing the Arabs into "moderates" and "extremists" solely from the perspective of Israeli security demands. Worse, he made no reference whatsoever to Israeli crimes in its brutal, gratuitously bloodthirsty war on Gaza. After expressing his regret over the loss of civilian lives on both sides, in Gaza and the "south of Israel", he proceeded to justify the Israel aggression. No democratic country in the world would agree to stand by with its hands tied behind its back while missiles are being fired on it, he said, parroting between the lines the Israeli narrative of a peace-loving democratic country in a savage region full of evil terrorists who have bombarded it mercilessly with missiles for years until its long-suffering patience wore thin and it finally determined to act, and when it did it acted swiftly and with resolve. So goes the script and we heard a version of it on 27 January from EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel. He, too, regretted -- not condemned -- the loss of civilian lives. He then held the "terrorist" Hamas movement responsible for the Israeli attack and accused "both sides" of violating international law.

                                                                  No president or official with this approach and substance in mind can possibly work effectively to reach a just solution. The view completely ignores the fact that Israel is an occupying power, that it is far from meek and forbearing, and that it has imposed a cruel and belligerent blockade on Gaza. Anyone bearing such a view will produce no more than efforts to come up with "moderate" Palestinians and Arabs who rejoice at the paltry handouts Israel gives them so that it can use them as a shield and pretend that it is not against the Arabs but against extremists. This is a cynical racist game of playing mandate over a people whose official leadership refuses to act like national leaders and it cannot go on.

                                                                  Yet within a very short space of time Obama has succeeded in adopting the supercilious language of this game when dealing with the Arabs and Muslims. He says, "Hamas must end its rocket fire; Israel will complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza; the United States and our partners will support a credible anti- smuggling and interdiction regime, so that Hamas can not rearm," (Obama's remarks to State Department staff on 23 January). Simply note where he uses "must" and where he uses "will". This very haughtiness is what could make someone like Michel spout such remarks against Hamas without a peep from Hamas in response. Consider that, with all due respect to freedom of opinion in Belgium, the Belgian government will not even allow a Hamas representative to set foot in that country and if one did it would probably have that representative arrested if he issued a similarly provocative statement on Belgian territory.

                                                                  According to the rules of the mandate game, which dates back to Oslo (the born in Europe made in the US peace process), only Palestinians who unconditionally recognise Israel first will be recognised as candidates for the peace process. In insisting that Hamas recognise Israel, Obama has offered nothing new. He has merely repeated the same "conditions" of the Quartet that were introduced following the election of Hamas with the purpose of justifying the blockade. As long as this remains Obama's position, the war in Gaza will continue with the same alliances though perhaps with slightly different instruments.

                                                                  Arab governments should have protested the concept of the Quartet from the outset. According to this concept, the UN, which presumably represents all countries of the world, has been reduced to a mere partner in a team led by the US. Moreover, it is shameful that the Arabs agreed to a person such as Tony Blair as the Quartet envoy. Why should the "people of the Middle East" possibly look favourably on the very man who was voted out of power by his own people precisely because of his Middle East policies, for the sake of which he lied in order to justify a war against an Arab people and then dragged his own country into that war?

                                                                  What is left of Israeli war crimes and the heroic steadfastness of one of the most densely populated quarters on earth whose inhabitants had no way to escape a ruthless bombardment is the collusion between the EU, the US and some Arab countries to transform relief and reconstruction into yet another lethal weapon. It will be unleashed against civilians, of course, with the aim of following through on the bombardment as a means to pressure the resistance movements to bow to Israeli conditions. Meanwhile, if you had thought that this region had no more curiosities in store for you, you are in for a surprise. Suddenly, European countries are calling for Palestinian unity. Since when has Europe displayed such concern? Since it realised that this is the only way to rescue its Arab allies and force the resistance movements to accept the Quartet's conditions.

                                                                  The US -- the aforementioned "us" -- has not changed much in a single bound. What has changed is that it is ready to talk with the "not with us". Still, the purpose of the talk is to reach the same goals (or modified goals) through different means, means more commensurate not with justice and fairness but with America's current notion of itself as an enlightened power.

                                                                  The war on Gaza has not ended. It continues using the means described above: border crossings, the blockade, the Quartet's conditions, the alliance with moderates and the emphasis on the role for Palestinian and moderate Arab security forces. Popular forces and their leadership must realise that it is too early to call off the protest movement calling for a freeze to relations with Israel and security coordination with Israel, and insisting on the opening of crossings, the lifting of the blockade and the prosecution of war criminals. The protest movement must be sustained, rather than starting and stopping in time with the horrors that appear on the television screen. The powers that are alienated from their people will not benefit much from Obama's support, since he will not be firmer in his defence of them than his predecessor. Ultimately, it is those who hold on to their land and resist who will prevail, on the condition that they assess the current situation well, plan accordingly and forge the alliances needed to face the forthcoming challenges.

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                                                                    Angry words of compromise

                                                                    English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                    Al Ahram
                                                                    The ceasefire may -- out of dire necessity -- push forward national reconciliation talks, according to Khaled Amayreh in the West Bank

                                                                    With a vitriolic war of words still raging between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the status of the PLO, both camps are bracing themselves for what many observers describe as a decisive round of national reconciliation talks sponsored and mediated by Egypt.

                                                                    The intensive talks, slated to start on 22 February, will centre on the formation of a "national reconciliation government" that would enjoy the backing of all or most Palestinian political and resistance factions, especially Fatah and Hamas. The government would have to be accepted as well by the international community, especially the donor countries.

                                                                    [More:]

                                                                    The enduring crisis between Fatah and Hamas took a turn for the worst last week when Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based head of the Hamas politburo, said during a press conference in Doha that he and the leaders of exiled Palestinian factions would see to it that a new umbrella leadership was formed for the purpose of overseeing the resistance against Israel.

                                                                    Meshaal said the formation of such a body was becoming necessary in the aftermath of the Israeli blitzkrieg and the "heroic steadfastness" of the resistance in Gaza.

                                                                    Predictably, the announcement hit a sensitive nerve in Ramallah which interpreted the announcement as a call for the creation of an alternative Palestinian leadership that would replace the PLO, "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people".

                                                                    PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who Hamas is now referring to as "ex- president", strongly condemned Meshaal's "divisive and corrosive efforts", saying "these absurd and irresponsible acts will be rejected by the Palestinian people."

                                                                    "We will not enter into dialogue with whoever rejects the PLO; they [Hamas] will have to unequivocally recognise the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," said a sombre-looking Abbas during a press conference in Cairo on 2 February.

                                                                    Abbas praised the Egyptian efforts to restore Palestinian national unity, saying that the Palestinians had no refuge save Egypt.

                                                                    "Whoever seeks alternatives to Egypt is living on borrowed time and seeking to undermine national interests."

                                                                    Other PA leaders strongly denounced the perceived attempts by Hamas to create an alternative PLO, arguing that the internationally-recognised organisation was the cumulative outcome of decades of Palestinian national struggle, and that weakening it, let alone destroying it, would inflict irreparable damage to the Palestinian people and its national cause.

                                                                    Retorting to the PA, Hamas leaders denied that Meshaal's call for an umbrella political leadership that would supervise and oversee the resistance against Israel constituted a call for an alternative PLO.

                                                                    "We are not against the PLO in principle. However, the current PLO is like an ill man, it is corrupt, sick, and nearly crippled," said Hamas leader Mohamed Nazzal. He added that the PLO was tightly controlled by the Palestinian Authority which, he said, was nearly totally subservient to Israel.

                                                                    Osama Hamdan, the outspoken Hamas spokesman in Beirut, accused the PA leadership in Ramallah of "effectively killing the PLO by transforming it into a propaganda tool against Hamas." "Since March 2005, the Fatah leadership has confiscated the PLO and all its institutions, and used the organisation as a rubber stamp to compromise Palestinian rights." Hamdan argued that "the PA- controlled PLO" was being used as a tool of repression against the Palestinian people, while its doors were being closed in the face of Palestinian resistance organisations.

                                                                    While insisting that it acknowledges the representative nature of the PLO, Hamas, unlike the PLO, refuses to recognise Israel. In 1993, the PLO recognised Israel as well as UN resolutions 242 and 338 as part of the Declaration of Principles, otherwise known as the Oslo Accords. This recognition was not reciprocated by Israel with recognition of a Palestinian state, which Hamas views as a strategic blunder on the part of the PLO. Hamas eventually broke away from the PLO as a result and refuses to grant unconditional legitimacy to the current PLO, as that would amount to giving a free recognition of Israel which to this date refuses to recognise a Palestinian state.

                                                                    In addition to its fundamental disagreement with the PLO on the issue of recognition of Israel, Hamas objects to the "overwhelming corruption" and "rampant absence of democracy" within the PLO.

                                                                    In Paris, Abbas mitigated his harsh language vis-à-vis Hamas, saying that he still wanted to talk with the Islamist group which he said was "part of our people", in order to end the national rift. However, he stressed that any future Palestinian government would have to accept "international legitimacy", an allusion to UN resolutions and agreements between Israel and the PLO.

                                                                    However, some of these resolutions are likely to be unacceptable for Hamas which refuses to recognise Israel. "We will never ever recognise Israel under any circumstances," said Mushir Al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman. "Recognising Israel represents the antithesis of everything Hamas stands for," he added.

                                                                    Hamas leaders have insisted that national reconciliation ought to be based on the National Reconciliation Accord which itself is based on the so-called "prisoners' document" prepared by the leaders of the estimated 11,000 Palestinian political and resistance prisoners in Israel who represent all Palestinian political factions.

                                                                    The document doesn't explicitly stipulate recognition of Israel by Hamas. However, it does stipulate that all signatories accept a Palestinian state on 100 per cent of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in addition to a just solution of the refugee plight pursuant to UN Resolution 194 which called for repatriation and compensation to refugees.

                                                                    Palestinian leaders are hoping that the success of Egyptian-mediated efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel would facilitate and help expedite national reconciliation talks, though the hurdle of recognition of Israel without reciprocity will not be an easy one to overcome.

                                                                    Hamas officials have spoken optimistically of the ceasefire talks in Cairo, saying that the group has given "positive answers" to all Egyptian enquiries pertaining to the proposed calm.

                                                                    Hamas has been saying all along that all border crossings would have to be reopened and the harsh blockade of Gaza will have to be lifted as part of any probable ceasefire agreement.

                                                                    1022 words posted in PALESTINE, PoliticsLeave a comment

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                                                                      If not fascism, what is?

                                                                      English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                      Al Ahram

                                                                      Without censure, a growing current in Israeli politics is calling for the outright killing of Palestinians, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem


                                                                      A vandalised Israeli Labour billboard in the build-up to the 10 February elections showing Labour leader Barak, Likud leader Netanyahu, with Kadima leader Livni's face painted over, presumably as public displays of the female form and face are frowned upon by Ultra Orthodox Jews

                                                                      His name is Avigdor Lieberman and he is widely expected to be the main surprise of the Israeli elections, slated to take place 10 February.

                                                                      Many Israeli intellectuals dub Lieberman as the secular equivalent of Meir Kahana, the slain founder of the Kach terrorist group who advocated genocidal ethnic cleansing of non-Jews in Israel-Palestine. Kahana was assassinated in Manhattan, New York, in 1990 shortly after giving a speech in which he called for the annihilation and expulsion of Palestinians from "the Land of Israel".

                                                                      According to most opinion polls, Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu, or "Israel is our Home", is projected to win 16-17 Knesset seats out of 120 making up the Israeli parliament. This would allow Yisrael Beiteinu to overtake the Labour Party, led by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, to become the third largest party in the Israeli political system, after the Likud and Kadima parties. Lieberman's party will likely be a chief coalition partner in the next Israeli government.

                                                                      [More:]

                                                                      Yisrael Beiteinu is not a party of marginal or pariah politicians. A few months ago, several high-profile politicians joined the party, including former Israeli Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon and Uzi Landau, a former Israeli cabinet minister and prominent Likud figure for many years.

                                                                      Some observers expect the Obama administration and international Jewish circles to press Benyamin Netanyahu, who is widely expected to form the next Israeli government, to exclude Lieberman from government in order to avoid negative ramifications with regards to relations with the United States and European Union. However, it is uncertain that Netanyahu would cave in to such pressure, given his rapport with Lieberman. Lieberman was the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office when Netanyahu was premier in 1996-1998. He later assumed key portfolios, including deputy prime minister, minister of strategic affairs and minister of national infrastructure.

                                                                      Lieberman was born in Moldova in the former Soviet Union in 1958. In 1978, at the age of 20, he immigrated to Israel and received automatic citizenship under Israel's law of return. He now lives in the settlement of Nokdi in the West Bank. A nightclub bouncer-turned-politician, Lieberman formed the Yisrael Beiteinu Party in 1999 when he was first elected to the Knesset. Without controversy, Lieberman's political and social ideas can be described as racist, even genocidal. In recent weeks, he was quoted as suggesting that Israel should use nuclear weapons against the Gaza Strip.

                                                                      In 2002, Lieberman called on the Israeli government, under Ariel Sharon, to blanket-bomb Palestinian population centres in order to force Palestinians to flee to Jordan. The Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted Lieberman as saying during a cabinet meeting that the Palestinians should be given an ultimatum: "At 8am we'll bomb all the commercial centres... at noon we'll bomb their gas stations... at 2pm we'll bomb their banks... while keeping the bridges open."

                                                                      In 1998, Lieberman called for flooding Egypt by bombing the Aswan Dam. In 2001, as minister of national infrastructure, Lieberman proposed that the West Bank be divided into four cantons, with no central Palestinian government and no possibility for Palestinians to travel between the cantons. In 2003, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Lieberman called for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide buses to take them there.

                                                                      Further, Lieberman has proposed that a "loyalty test" be applied to those "Arabs" who desire to remain in Israel. Those committed to making Israel a state of all its citizens, including the Palestinian minority, would be stripped of their voting rights. In April 2002, Lieberman stated that there was "nothing undemocratic about transfer".

                                                                      In May 2004, Lieberman said that 90 per cent of Israel's 1.2 million Palestinian citizens would "have to find a new Arab entity" in which to live beyond Israel's borders. "They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost."

                                                                      In May 2006, Lieberman called for the killing of Arab members of the Israeli parliament who meet with members of the then Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

                                                                      In recent months, Lieberman urged that Tehran be levelled if Iran went ahead with its alleged nuclear weapons programme. He reportedly told listeners of Israel's Radio Persian Service that "you will pay a high price; you, the good Iranian citizens, will pay for your leaders' actions."

                                                                      According to Israeli journalist Gideon Samet, the rising star of Lieberman in Israel shouldn't be dismissed as an anomalous development, saying that "Lieberman's ideas [are] penetrating deeply in the Israeli society." Samet opined that the political class in Israel was expected to adapt to Lieberman's reality.

                                                                      "Netanyahu will not say openly he won't sit down with Lieberman in government. After all, both Kadima and Labour had sat down with him in previous governments," Samet wrote in Maariv.

                                                                      In recent weeks, a large number of Israeli intellectuals, including ostensible leftists, have spoken in favour of the idea of waging a genocidal war against the Palestinians. Left-leaning television personality Yaron London surprised many during the recent blitz on Gaza by urging a "no-holds-barred" campaign against Palestinian civilians. London outlined his views in an article in Yediot Aharonot and then elaborated on them in a series of interviews published in the Hebrew media.

                                                                      "The time has come to shock the Gaza population with actions that until now have nauseated us -- actions such as killing the political leadership, causing hunger and thirst in Gaza, blocking off energy sources, causing widespread destruction, and being less discriminating in the killing of civilians. There is no other choice," he wrote.

                                                                      Responding to questions, London further argued that murdering civilians was a justified act. "I am referring to both the population and their leadership; they are the same, because the population voted for Hamas. I can't separate between one who voted for Hamas and a Hamas leader."

                                                                      This clearly criminal mindset is not going unchallenged, but is gaining in popularity. Former TV anchorman Haim Yavin has warned against including Lieberman and his ilk in the next Israeli government. "Kahana may have died, but Kahanism is alive and well; there is too much 'death to the Arabs' and hatred for Arabs," Yavin said in an interview with Haaretz this week.

                                                                      Alarmingly, Yavin represents a dwindling minority in a society that is drifting fast towards fascism.

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                                                                        Jewish Solidarity With Palestine-Banner Drop Over Cross Bronx Expressway

                                                                        English (US)  February 13th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                        By Liza N. Katznelson

                                                                        February 11, 2009

                                                                        A banner drop over New York City's entrance to the Cross Bronx Expressway, at 179th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, carried out by members of Jews Against the Occupation/NYC, declared "Free Palestine." This action by Jewish New Yorkers continued the wave of increasingly public Jewish solidarity with the Palestinians recently targeted by the Israeli government's attack on the Gaza Strip, which killed over 1,300 people. Four banners were hung from overpasses on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and a fifth near the U.S.S. Intrepid on the West Side Highway in January.

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        MORE ON THIS STORY:

                                                                        Pro-Palestinian Bronx Expressway banner - a Jewish initiative
                                                                        By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent

                                                                        If drivers on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway were wondering who was responsible for hanging banners over the highway calling to "Free Palestine" - they might be surprised to discover it was an initiative by Jewish activists.

                                                                        Another banner was spotted over New York City's entrance to the Cross Bronx Expressway, at 179th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan on Wednesday morning.

                                                                        The group is calling themselves JATO (Jews against the occupation); some of them also participated in demonstrations against last month's Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, claiming that "The occupation is being paid for with U.S. taxpayers' money," and "Even if foreclosures and unemployment weren't decimating our neighborhoods, surely there are better uses for $3 billion a year than helping the Israeli government commit war crimes."

                                                                        "Today's action is one small contribution to the growing movement in solidarity with the 1.5 million Palestinians whose lives are being destroyed by the occupation," said Ethan Heitner, one of the group's activists.

                                                                        "We know from our own history what being sealed behind barbed wire and checkpoints is like, and we know that 'Never Again' means not anyone, not anywhere - or it means nothing at all," he said.

                                                                        http://www.mystudydate.com/pg/blog/Liza/read/2053/jewish-solidarity-with-palestinebanner-drop-over-cross-bronx-expressway&s

                                                                        1 response(s) to Jewish Solidarity With Palestine-Banner Drop Over Cross Bronx Expressway

                                                                        1. Tom [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                          Wow. Interesting photo. Just shows that many people aren't happy with the occupation..

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                                                                        PLO: Why an Alternative and Why the Panic?

                                                                        English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                        'Why an alternative to the PLO, and why the fury over a call for a new leadership?'

                                                                        By Ramzy Baroud

                                                                        When Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared before a cheering crowd in Doha, Qatar, on January 28, the need for a new leadership, his words generated panic amongst leaders of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as well as traditional Palestinian leadership elites stationed in various Arab capitals.

                                                                        The reaction to Mashaal’s call was more furious than most of the statements issued by the PA and its backers during the 23-day Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip, which killed and wounded thousands of innocent Gazans.

                                                                        Mashaal, who spoke triumphantly in Qatar exhorted that the PA “in its current state is no authority.” “It expresses a state of impotence, abuse and (it is a) tool to deepen divisions,” he stressed. He called for the creation of a new leadership structure that would include all Palestinians.

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        Mashaal intentionally remained ambiguous regarding the nature of the new structure, perhaps to examine the reactions to his call before moving forward with any tangible plans.

                                                                        Expectedly, the Old Guard who largely remained mute during the Gaza onslaught, reacted with fury to what they understood as Hamas’ attempt to discount the PLO, which, for them, represents a place of personal leverage and status. However, there were some outsiders to the PA’s Old Guard apparatus who rejected any alternative to the PLO because of what the organization for long represented, a platform that guided and guarded Palestinian national aspirations for many years.

                                                                        But why an alternative to the PLO, and why the fury over a call for a new leadership structure?

                                                                        The two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah agreed in Cairo in 2005 to revamp the PLO, which would allow Hamas and other organizations that operate outside its political structures to join. But the agreement was never activated. Each side accused the other of delaying the much needed reform. Then, the disagreement appeared factional and political, as opposed to a substantiated one, predicated on principals.

                                                                        But the Israel war on Gaza has created a political reality that cannot be discounted as factional. Indeed the reverberation of the post Gaza war can be felt throughout the Middle East, and even beyond, and it will be some time before the full political and non-political impact of the war is fully realized. However, as far as inner-Palestinian politics is concerned, the war on Gaza has yielded two distinctly different groups, one that is being increasingly referred to as the ‘resistance factions’ (Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other socialist and nationalist groups) and the Oslo factions (mainly Fatah, but with a few other less known groupings), dubbed as such because it embraced the Oslo ‘peace process’ culture within Palestinian society. Fatah dominates the PLO, which also includes factions that stand in solidarity with Hamas in Gaza and Damascus.

                                                                        Following the signing of the Oslo accords in September 2003, the PA, with limited jurisdiction, if any, was established at the expense of the PLO, which was once seen as an organization that represented Palestinians everywhere. The latter’s authority, international import and political relevance dissipated over time, to the point that it became an institution that simply represented its members or at best one specific faction, Fatah. The PLO would resurface once in a while to serve as a rubber stamp for PA policies, and had long ceased to represent all Palestinians or play any important role in shaping political realities in occupied Palestine or anywhere else.

                                                                        The PLO’s state of idleness is relatively a new phenomenon. The PLO was established in 1964, at the behest of Egypt’s Jamal Abdul-Nasser. It served a complementary role at the time, but grew more independent from Egypt, although not entirely independent from Arab politics or the hegemony of specific leaders and parties. Nonetheless, the PLO served an important role over the years, for it embodied various Palestinian institutions such as the Palestine National Council (PNC), the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the Palestine National Fund (PNF), and more.

                                                                        But Oslo demanded a new political arrangement that expected a non-democratic body to represent Palestinians, for obvious reasons. Thus, the PLO was marginalized, almost entirely. Palestinians in Diaspora, especially those lingering in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere, felt particularly disowned, for the PA didn’t represent them and the PLO was no longer a formidable body that mattered in any truly meaningful way. The PLO however existed, in the minds of some as a symbol of a unifying body that expressed a nation’s political aspirations. For others, it was a useful tool summoned to endorse the PA’s political agenda whenever needed. For example, under pressure from the US and Arafat, PNC members met to nullify clauses of the Palestinian constitution that deny Israel’s “right to exist”, and again, in 1998, under Israeli pressure, and in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton they were summoned once again to stress Israel’s right to exist.

                                                                        The PNC has not held another meeting since.

                                                                        The emergence of Hamas as a political power in 2006 was perceived as a great threat to the Old Guard, for inclusion of Hamas carried the risk of canceling all the “achievements” scored by the PA since Oslo. Thus the delay in implementing the Cairo Agreement.

                                                                        The war on Gaza, which was meant to crush Hamas, emboldened and empowered the movement and its supporters, who now insist that any national unity would have to accommodate post-Gaza realities. In other words, “resistance” would be affirmed as a “strategic choice.” More, a PLO that is revamped based on compromises that satisfy both camps could also mean the end of privilege and domination of the Ramallah-branch over Palestinian affairs. Thus the pandemonium triggered by Mashaal’s declaration.

                                                                        Many Palestinians are still hoping that the PLO can be revamped without the need for further fragmentation. However, since neither the current PLO nor the PA are truly independent bodies, one has to wonder if national unity under the current circumstances is at all possible.

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

                                                                        1049 words posted in PALESTINE, PoliticsLeave a comment

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                                                                          Remember Iraq? At least eight pilgrims killed, 56 wounded in bobm attack

                                                                          English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                          Shia pilgrims have been repeatedly targeted during Ashura, the latest one occurring in Karbala

                                                                          At least eight people have been killed and 56 others wounded in a bomb attack targeting pilgrims in Iraq.

                                                                          The attack took place on Thursday in the city of Karbala as Shia Muslims marked Ashura, one of the most important dates in their religious calendar.

                                                                          "There are eight dead and 56 wounded," a doctor at the emergency services unit of Karbala general hospital told the AFP news agency,

                                                                          [More:]

                                                                          A child and three women were among the dead, he said.

                                                                          General Uthman al-Ghanimi, the security chief for Karbala, said "the explosion came as a result of a small, locally made bomb" in an area one kilometre from the Imam Hussein shrine.

                                                                          However, a police officer told AFP that a suicide bomber had triggered the blast.

                                                                          The attack in Karbala came a day after at least 12 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in bombings in Baghdad that also targeted Shia pilgrims.

                                                                          Favoured target

                                                                          Thousands of Shia pilgrims have been converging on Karbala in recent days, to celebrate Ashura - a ceremony to mark the end of symbolic mourning for Imam Hussein, Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

                                                                          Since the invasion of Iraq by US and British-led forces, Shia pilgrimages on Karbala have frequently been attacked by fighters, often with very high casualties.

                                                                          In other incidents, a car bomb in Mosul killed four policemen and wounded three people, police said.

                                                                          Elsewhere in Mosul, armed men killed a local Sunni Muslim official on Thursday, police said.

                                                                          It was the second assassination of a locally prominent Sunni politician in as many days in a city where al-Qaeda in Iraq still has a strong presence.

                                                                          Meanwhile, in the southern city of Basra, a British soldier was killed in a "shooting incident", the ministry of defence (MoD) in London said.

                                                                          "It is with deep regret that the MoD must confirm that a soldier serving with 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment died this morning in a shooting incident," a ministry statement said on Thursday.

                                                                          "The circumstances surrounding the incident are still being investigated."

                                                                          In December last year two British soldiers died at the same base from bullet wounds.

                                                                          At least 179 British troops have died in Iraq since 2003.

                                                                          Source: Agencies

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                                                                            Livni wins Israel final vote tally

                                                                            English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                            Livni

                                                                            Final results from Israel's election have kept the Kadima party, led by Tzipi Livni, with a slight lead over Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud.

                                                                            The official results, released on Thursday after all votes were counted, gave Kadima 28 seats in the 120-member parliament and Likud 27 seats.

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            These figures were in line with preliminary results released after Tuesday's election, which also gave most of the remaining seats to rightist parties.

                                                                            The majority of the remaining seats went to other parties of the right, with the hard-right Yisrael Beitenu of Avidgor Lieberman taking 15 and Labor slipped into fourth place with 13 seats.

                                                                            Israel's election commission released the final results after counting votes by soldiers, prisoners and diplomats, about 100,000 out of a total of 3.3 million cast.

                                                                            The additional votes did not change the allocation of seats in the parliament tallied after the election.

                                                                            Coalition race

                                                                            The results give both Livni and Netanyahu far less than the majority each would need to govern as the two are already hard at work trying to line up potential coalition partners.

                                                                            Israel Radio said 50 legislators have said they will recommend Netanyahu be charged with forming the next government, as opposed to only 28 - all Kadima legislators - who want Livni.

                                                                            But Livni was still trying to put together a coalition and was putting out feelers to the Yisrael Beteinu, whose 15 seats make it a key player in any future coalition, and to two ultra-Orthodox parties who together have 16 seats.

                                                                            Should all three parties agree to sit with her in a coalition, she will still be short of the necessary 61 seats needed as a minimum for a coalition, and will have to tempt on board Labor, which won only 13 seats.

                                                                            But the centre-left Labor may be loath to sit in the same coalition as Yisrael Beteinu, whose leader Lieberman ran an election campaign fuelled by anti-Arab rhetoric.

                                                                            The bloc headed by Likud, including Lieberman's party, controls 65 seats, giving Netanyahu the edge in coalition building.

                                                                            However, each party has its own agenda, and getting them all to sit around the same cabinet table is far from automatic.

                                                                            Both Livni and Netanyahu are also promoting the idea of a joint "national unity" government.

                                                                            Likely scenario

                                                                            In one likely scenario, Netanyahu would be the prime minister, and Kadima would be allocated important government ministries like finance, defence or foreign affairs.

                                                                            Together the two parties would approach a parliamentary majority, reducing the bargaining power of the smaller factions as potential coalition members.

                                                                            Next Shimon Peres, the president, will consult the 12 parties to hear their recommendations about who should become prime minister. He will pick the candidate he believes has the best chance.

                                                                            If more than 60 members of parliament express support for one of the candidates, Peres's choice becomes obvious - and efforts by Livni and Netanyahu now are focused on trying to win those endorsements.

                                                                            The premier-designate has six weeks to form a coalition government and win approval from the new parliament.

                                                                            Source: Agencies

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                                                                              Hamas says truce with Israel soon

                                                                              English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                              Hamas says the ceasefire with Israel will end violence in Gaza

                                                                              Officials from the Palestinian group Hamas have said that an 18-month ceasefire with Israel will be announced within three days.

                                                                              The officials, speaking in Egypt on Thursday, said the agreement would ensure the end of violence in Gaza and the opening of the territory's commercial border crossings.

                                                                              [More:]

                                                                              Moussa Abu Marzouq, the Hamas deputy political leader, told Al Jazeera that "in two, three days, Inshallah [God willing], we are going to announce the calm situation".

                                                                              Mahmoud al-Zahar, another senior Hamas official, said the parties were now just waiting for "the technical points - the communication between the Egyptian side with the Israelis in order to address the time … at what time and what date the ceasefire [will] start".

                                                                              The apparent breakthrough comes after weeks of negotiations in Cairo between Hamas and Egyptian officials who have been mediating between Israel and Hamas.

                                                                              Taher al-Nono, a member of the Hamas delegation in Cairo, said "most of the obstacles that prevented us from reaching an agreement were resolved".

                                                                              Longer-term deal

                                                                              The longer-term truce deal would take the place of shaky ceasefires, declared separately by Israel and Hamas last month, that ended Israel's 22-day military offensive on the Gaza Strip that killed about 1,300 Palestinians.

                                                                              Fourteen Israelis have been killed since December 27, when Israel launched its offensive.

                                                                              Once the ceasefire is in place, Hamas told Al Jazeera, all crossing points into the Palestinian territory will be open.

                                                                              And the group said it would accept Israel continuing to ban the import of so-called "dual use" items which could be used for military purposes, such as some construction material, provided that alternatives could be found.

                                                                              Hamas has repeatedly sought guarantees that Israel will lift the blockade it has enforced on Gaza since Hamas seized the territory from forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Western-backed Palestinian president, in 2007.

                                                                              No prisoner exchange

                                                                              Abu Marzouq said the agreement was not linked to any possible prisoner exchange deal with Israel that would see the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian fighters in a cross-border raid in 2006.

                                                                              "This is a separate issue that has no relation with the truce," he said. "Gilad Shalit will be [released] in exchange for Palestinian captives."

                                                                              Hamas has previously demanded Israel free 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

                                                                              Abu Marzouq also said Egypt was the main guarantor of the deal.

                                                                              Egypt, a regional mediator and the only Arab state other than Jordan to have signed a peace deal with Israel, said earlier on Thursday that it would announce "positive" results from the talks in the coming hours.

                                                                              A deal, if proved true, would help restore Cairo's regional image after it was criticised in the Arab world for not opening its Rafah border crossing with Gaza and for its limited humanitarian operation during Israel's offensive.

                                                                              Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the apparently imminent deal, but Hamas said it believed Israel would implement the ceasefire whichever party ended up heading the new government, because it was in Israel's best interest, it said.

                                                                              It is unclear who will lead the next Israeli government after the more centrist Kadima party, led by Tzipi Livni, beat the more right-wing Likud led by Benyamin Netanyahu, by just one seat in Israel's election on Saturday.

                                                                              The two are trying to line up potential partners to form a governing coalition, and the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party led by Avidgor Lieberman could end up with a big voice in the coalition after it came in third in the election.

                                                                              Hamas also confirmed that reconciliation talks with other Palestinian factions, including Fatah, would take place on February 22.

                                                                              Similar talks in November were postponed when Hamas said it would boycott the event, citing differences with the Fatah faction led by Abbas.

                                                                              Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                The Dominion of Canadisrael: Canada becomes Israel

                                                                                English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                (EI Illustration)

                                                                                By Yves Engler, The Electronic Intifada, 12 February 2009

                                                                                Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper's government publicly supported Israel's brutal assault on Gaza and voted alone at the UN Human Rights Committee in defense of Israel's actions three weeks ago. Now Canada has taken over Israeli diplomacy. Literally.

                                                                                In solidarity with Gaza, Venezuela expelled Israel's ambassador at the start of the bombardment and then broke off all diplomatic relations two weeks later. Israel need not worry since Ottawa plans to help out. On 29 January, The Jerusalem Post reported that "Israel's interests in Caracas will now be represented by the Canadian Embassy." This means Canada is officially Israel, at least in Venezuela.

                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                Prior to the recent bombing in Gaza, the Harper government made it abundantly clear that it would support Israel no matter what that country did. It publicly endorsed Israel's 2006 attack on Lebanon, voted against a host of UN resolutions supporting Palestinian rights and in January 2008 refused to criticize illegal Israeli settlement construction at Har Homa near Jerusalem (even Washington publicly criticized these settlements). Canada was also the first country (after Israel) to cut off financial aid to the elected Hamas government and Ottawa has provided millions of dollars as well as personnel to create a US-trained Palestinian police force to act as a counterweight to the Hamas government and to oversee Israel's occupation.

                                                                                Harper's support for Israel is extreme, but despite what many well-meaning commentators claim, it is not a break from Canada's role as an "honest broker" in the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is a long history of Canadian support for Zionism, a European settler ideology that has violently dispossessed Palestinians for more than six decades.

                                                                                The idea for a Middle Eastern Jewish homeland to serve Western imperial interests has a long history in Canada. Since at least the 1870s Christian Zionists called for their biblical prophesies to be fulfilled under British auspices. By November 1915, Solicitor General (and then Prime Minister) Arthur Meighen publicly proclaimed, "I think I can speak for those of the Christian faith when I express the wish that God speed the day when the land of your [Jewish] forefathers shall be yours again. This task I hope will be performed by that champion of liberty the world over -- the British Empire." Two decades later Prime Minister RB Bennett began a national radio broadcast of the United Palestine Appeal with a speech about how the Balfour declaration and British control over Palestine was a step towards Biblical prophecies. "Scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled," he noted. "The restoration of Zion has begun."

                                                                                During the 1947 UN negotiations over the British mandate of historic Palestine, Canada played an important role in creating Israel. Lester Pearson (then under-secretary of state for External Affairs) who chaired two different UN committees dealing with the mandate and Supreme Court Justice Ivan C. Rand, a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), played central roles in the negotiations that led to partition. In State in the Making, David Horowitz (the first governor of the Bank of Israel and first director general of Israel's ministry of finance) writes: "It may be said that Canada more than any other country played a decisive part in all stages of the UNO [United Nations Organization] discussions of Palestine."

                                                                                The UN's 1948 partition plan gave the new Jewish state the majority of Palestine despite the Jewish population owning roughly seven percent of the land and representing a third of the population. Rand's assistant on UNSCOP, Leon Mayrand, provides a window into the dominant mindset at External Affairs: "The Arabs were bound to be vocal opponents of partition but they should not be taken too seriously. The great majority were not yet committed nationalists and the Arab chiefs could be appeased through financial concessions, especially if these accompanied a clearly declared will to impose a settlement whatever the means necessary." A dissident within External Affairs, the department's only Middle East expert, Elizabeth MacCallum, claimed Ottawa supported partition, "because we didn't give two hoots for democracy."

                                                                                Above all else support for partition was driven by a geostrategic worldview. An internal report circulated at External Affairs explained: "The plan of partition gives to the western powers the opportunity to establish an independent, progressive Jewish state in the Eastern Mediterranean with close economic and cultural ties with the West generally and in particular with the United States." The Ottawa mandarins largely supported Israel as a possible western outpost in the heart of the (oil-producing) Middle East.

                                                                                When the first Palestinian intifada broke out in 1987, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) that Israel's brutal suppression of rock throwing Palestinian youth was handling the situation with "restraint." When questioned by a CBC reporter about the similarity between the plight of Palestinians and Blacks in South Africa, Mulroney replied that any comparison between Israel and South Africa was "false and odious and should never be mentioned in the same breath."

                                                                                A decade later, Ottawa signed a free trade agreement with Israel. It was only Canada's fourth free trade agreement. Begun January 1997, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of where Israel's custom laws are applied.

                                                                                The political motivation for supporting Israel has not changed significantly over the years. The government in Ottawa today receives limited electoral support from the Jewish community, but is close to a right-wing Christian Zionist movement. Most importantly, the Harper government strongly supports Western (US-led) imperialism in the Middle East. This is why Canada has taken over Israeli diplomacy in Venezuela.

                                                                                Yves Engler is the author of the forthcoming Canada on the World Stage: A Force for Good or Bad Actor? and other books. He can be reached at yvesengler A T hotmail D O T com

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                                                                                  It's Up to Obama and the World Now: Few Peacemakers in the New Israeli Knesset

                                                                                  English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                  Counterpunch

                                                                                  By NEVE GORDON

                                                                                  Israeli voters have elected a majority of lawmakers who are against the two-state solution. Now it's up to the world--and the Obama administration--to respond.

                                                                                  Thirty-three parties ran for the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), ranging from the well-known Kadima, Likud and Labor to a variety of lesser known parties that ran on an array of platforms from the rights of the disabled to legalizing cannabis. However, only twelve parties managed to garner enough votes to secure seats in the Knesset.
                                                                                  The incoming Knesset will have a solid right-wing bloc, made up of Likud with twenty-seven seats, Yisrael Beiteinu with fifteen seats, two ultra-Orthodox parties with sixteen seats and two smaller nationalist parties with seven seats. This bloc has four more than the sixty-one-seat threshold needed to form a coalition.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  The center bloc was able to muster forty-one seats. This bloc consists of Kadima with twenty-eight seats and Labor with thirteen seats. The remaining fourteen seats were won by liberal, leftist and Arab national parties.

                                                                                  The results clearly testify to the fact that a large majority of the elected politicians are against an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the two-state solution. Moreover, some parties have blatant neo-fascist tendencies. Yisrael Beiteinu, for example, ran under the banner of "no citizenship without loyalty," and would like to strip any person who is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians of their citizenship. People like me.

                                                                                  While the devastating effects of these elections on internal Israeli politics may not concern the international community, their repercussions for Israel's relations with its neighbors--not least the Palestinians--should certainly concern world leaders and specifically President Barack Obama, who has already declared that Middle East stability and peace are vital to US interests.

                                                                                  Obama's political vision has engendered hope not only in the United States, but around the world. My expectation is that he will make good on his promise for change and introduce a courageous initiative that will finally bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians. He has both an opportunity and a responsibility to do so.

                                                                                  The opportunity has arisen as a result of over eighteen years of political negotiations on the two-state solution (from the Madrid Conference in 1991, through Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis) as well as the publication of promising initiatives (from the Geneva Initiative and the Arab Peace Initiative to the Nusseibeh and Ayalon Plan), which have clarified exactly what needs to be done in order to reach a peace settlement between the warring sides.

                                                                                  The two-state solution entails three central components:

                                                                                  1. Israel's full withdrawal to the 1967 border with possible one per one land swaps so that ultimately the total amount of land that was occupied will be returned.

                                                                                  2. Jerusalem's division according to the 1967 borders with certain land swaps to guarantee that each side has control over its own religious sites and large neighborhoods. These two components entail the dismantling of Israeli settlements and the return of the Jewish settlers to Israel.

                                                                                  3. The acknowledgment of the right of return of all Palestinians but with the following stipulation: While all Palestinians who so desire will be able to return to the fledgling Palestinian state, only a limited number agreed upon by the two sides will be allowed to return to Israel; those who cannot exercise this right or, alternatively, choose not to, will receive full compensation.

                                                                                  Obama's responsibility arises from the fact that the only way to advance US regional interests and to provide real security for the two peoples is by having Israelis and Palestinians sign a comprehensive agreement of this kind. Taking into account the results of the current Israeli elections, Obama will have to neutralize the rejectionists in order to resolve this bloody conflict once and for all.

                                                                                  With determination and political boldness he can do just that. His administration will need to adopt the following strategy: First, the White House needs to draft a proposal using the above-mentioned guidelines. Second, the draft proposal should be submitted to the two sides so that each one can suggest minor alterations. Third, the Obama administration will have to hammer out a final proposal. Finally, this proposal should be publicized, with the US and international community applying pressure by declaring that the two parties will be rewarded if they support the initiative and penalized (economically and politically) if they do not.

                                                                                  The task might seem greater than it actually is, since ironically the majority of Jews (despite the elections) and Palestinians in the region support the two-state solution. The deadlock has occurred because the Israeli political configuration has allowed a sizable minority of settlers and their sympathizers to block all past governments from making the necessary compromises. This deadlock, however, can be overcome if the international community, and particularly the US, assumes a more interventionist role. And while intervention may be conceived by some as anti-Israeli, particularly if such intervention includes sanctions, it is the only way to secure Israel's existence in the long run. Obama should not therefore hesitate to compel the incoming government to adopt the two-state solution. This would be the genuine pro-Israeli stance.

                                                                                  Neve Gordon is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

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                                                                                    The Left and Support for Islamist Resistance

                                                                                    English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                    'The Left refuses to support (Islamic resistance and) also denounces it.'

                                                                                    By Nadine Rosa-Rosso - Brussels

                                                                                    Editor's Note: The following is the text of a speech delivered by Nadine Rosa-Rosso at the Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives, held from January 16 to 18, 2009.)

                                                                                    The key question in this forum is how to support resistance against imperialism across the world. As an independent Belgian communist activist I would like to focus on the position of the European Left vis-à-vis this issue.

                                                                                    The massive demonstrations in European capitals and major cities in support of the people of Gaza highlighted once again the core problem: the vast majority of the Left, including communists, agrees in supporting the people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, but refuses to support its political expressions such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                    The Left not only refuses to support them, but also denounces them and fights against them. Support for the people of Gaza exists only at a humanitarian level but not at the political level.

                                                                                    Concerning Hamas and Hezbollah; the Left is mainly concerned with the support these groups have amongst the Arab masses, but are hardly interested in the fact that Israel’s clear and aggressive intention is to destroy these resistance movements. From a political point of view we can say without exaggeration that the Left's wish (more or less openly admitted) follows the same line as the Israeli government's: to liquidate popular support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

                                                                                    This question arises not only for the Middle East but also in the European capitals because, today, the bulk of the demonstrators in Brussels, London and Paris are made up of people of North African origin, as well as South Asian Muslims in the case of London.

                                                                                    The reactions of the Left to these events are quite symptomatic. I will cite a few but there are dozens of examples. The headline of the French website ‘Res Publica’ following the mass demonstration in Paris on the 3rd of January read: "We refuse to be trapped by the Islamists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah!” The article continued: "Some activists of the left and far left (who only turned out in small numbers) were literally drowned in a crowd whose views are at odds with the spirit of the French Republican movement and of the 21st Century Left. Over 90% of the demonstrators championed a fundamentalist and communitarian worldview based on the clash of civilizations which is anti-secular and anti-Republican. They advocated a cultural relativism whose harmful tendencies are well known, particularly in England.

                                                                                    Res Publica is neither Marxist or communist, but one would be hard pressed to find even the most remotely positive words about Hamas on Marxist websites. One does find formulations such as “Whatever we think about Hamas, one thing is indisputable: the Palestinian people democratically elected Hamas to lead Gaza in elections held under international supervision.” Looking further at “what we can think of Hamas” one finds on the websites of both the French Communist Party and the Belgian Labour Party an article entitled “How Israel put Hamas in the saddle.” We learn little more than the assertion that Hamas has been supported by Israel, the United States and the European Union. I note that this article was put online on January 2nd after a week of intensive Israeli bombardment and the day before the ground offensive whose declared aim was the destruction of Hamas.

                                                                                    I will return to the quotation of Res Publica, because it summarizes quite well the general attitude of the Left not only in relation to the Palestinian resistance, but also in regard to the Arab and Muslim presence in Europe. The most interesting thing in this article is the comment in parentheses: ‘the Left and far Left (who only turned out in small numbers)’. One might expect following such a confession some self-critical analysis regarding the lack of mobilization in the midst of the slaughter of the Palestinian people. But no, all charges directed against the demonstrators (90% of the whole protests) are accused of conducting a "war of civilizations."

                                                                                    At all the demonstrations I participated in Brussels, I asked some demonstrators to translate the slogans that were chanted in Arabic, and they did so with pleasure every time. I heard a lot of support for the Palestinian resistance and denunciation of Arab governments (in particular the Egyptian President Mubarak), Israel's crimes, and the deafening silence of the international community or the complicity of the European Union. In my opinion, these were all political slogans quite appropriate to the situation. But surely some people only hear Allah-u-akbar and form their opinion on this basis. The very fact that slogans are shouted in Arabic is sometimes enough to irritate the Left. For example, the organizing committee of the meeting of 11 January was concerned about which languages would be used. But could we not have simply distributed the translations of these slogans? This might be the first step towards mutual understanding. When we demonstrated in 1973 against the pro-American military takeover by Pinochet in Chile, no one would have dared to tell the Latin American demonstrators "Please, chant in French!” In order to lead this fight, we all learnt slogans in Spanish and no one was offended.

                                                                                    The problem is really in the parentheses: why do the Left and far Left mobilize such small numbers? And to be clear, are the Left and far Left still able to mobilize on these issues? The problem was already obvious when Israel invaded Lebanon in the summer of 2006. I would like to quote here an anti-Zionist Israeli who took refuge in London, jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, who already said, six months before the invasion: "For quite a long time, it has been very clear that the ideology of the Left is desperately struggling to find its way in the midst of the emerging battle between the West and the Middle East. The parameters of the so-called "clash of civilizations" are so clearly established that any “rational” and “atheist” leftist activist is clearly condemned to stand closer to Donald Rumsfeld than to a Muslim.”

                                                                                    One would find it difficult to state the problem more clearly.

                                                                                    I would like to briefly address two issues which literally paralyze the Left in its support to the Palestinian, Lebanese, and more generally to the Arab and Muslim resistance: religion and terrorism.

                                                                                    The Left and Religion

                                                                                    Perplexed by the religious feelings of people with an immigrant background, the Left, Marxist or not, continuously quotes the famous statement of Marx on religion: “religion is the opium of the people”. With this they think everything that needs to be said has been said. It might be more useful cite the fuller quote of Marx and perhaps give it more context. I do this not to hide behind an authority, but in the hope of provoking some thought amongst those who hold this over-simplified view, “Religion is the general theory of this world, (…), its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. (…) The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” (Translation of Prof. W. Banning, Life, Learning and Meaning, 1960, The Spectrum (p.62-63)

                                                                                    I have always been and remain an atheist, but the rise of religious feelings is hardly surprising. In today’s world most politicians, including those on the Left, do little more then display their weakness on this issue: they do nothing against the military power of the US, they do nothing or almost nothing against financial speculation and the logic of profit that plunges billions of people on this Earth into poverty, hunger and death. All this is due we are told to “the invisible hand” or “divine intervention”: where is the difference between this and religion? The only difference is that the theory of the “invisible hand” denies people the right to struggle for social and economical justice against this “divine intervention” that helps to maintain the status quo. Like it or not, we cannot look down on billions of people who may harbour religious feelings while wanting to ally with them.

                                                                                    The Left does exactly the same thing as what it accuses the Islamists of: it analyses the situation only in religious terms. It refuses to disclose the religious expressions as a “protest against misery”, as a protest against Imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. It cuts itself off from a huge part of the masses. Gilad Atzmon expresses it best when he states: “Rather than imposing our beliefs upon others, we better learn to understand what others believe in”. If we continue to refuse to learn, we will continue to lament the religious feelings of the masses instead of struggling with them for peace, independence and social and economic justice.

                                                                                    But there is more. The fate of Islam is very different from that of Christianity. I have never known the Left to hesitate when showing solidarity with the Latin American bishops, followers of liberation theology and the struggle against Yankee Imperialism in the 70s, or the Irish Catholic resistance to British Imperialism. Nor have I known the left to criticize Martin Luther King for his references to the Gospel, which was a powerful lever for the mobilisation of the Black American masses that did not have political, economic or social rights in the U.S in the sixties. This discriminatory treatment by the Left, this systematic mistrust of Muslims who are all without any distinction suspected of wanting to impose sharia law on us, can only be explained by colonialism that has profoundly marked our consciousness. We will not forget that the Communists, such as the Communist Party of Belgium (KPB), praised the benefits of colonization that were enthusiastically spread by Christian missionaries. For example, in the 1948 program of the KPB, when the party had just emerged from a period of heroic resistance against the Nazi occupation, it stated the following about the Belgian Congo: “a) Establishment of a single economic unit Belgium-Congo; b) Development of trade with the colony and realization of its national resources; c) Nationalization of resources and trusts in Congo; d) Development of a white colonists class and black farmers and artisan class; e) Gradual granting of democratic rights and freedoms to the black population.”

                                                                                    It was this kind of political education of workers by the Party which meant that there was hardly any protests from these Belgian workers influenced by the KPB when Patrice Lumumba, Pierre Mulele and many other African anti-imperialist leaders were assassinated. After all "our" Christian civilization is civilized, is it not? And democratic rights and freedoms can only "gradually" be assigned to the masses in the Third World, since they are too barbaric to make good use of them.

                                                                                    On the basis of exactly the same political colonialist reasoning, the Left is rather regretful in having supported democratic elections in Palestine. Perhaps they should have adopted a more gradualist approach towards the Palestinians since the majority of Palestinians have now voted for Hamas. Worse, the Left bemoans the fact that "the PLO was forced to organize parliamentary elections in 2006 at a time when everything showed that Hamas would win the elections". This information is available on the sites of the French KP and Belgian PVDA.

                                                                                    If we would agree to stop staring blindly and with prejudice at the religious beliefs of people, we would perhaps "learn to understand" why the Arab and Muslim masses, who today demonstrate for Palestine, are screaming ‘Down with Mubarak’, an Arab and Muslim leader, and why they jubilantly shout the name of Chavez, a Christian-Latin American leader. Doesn’t this make it obvious that the Arab and Muslim masses frame their references not primarily through religion but by the relation of leaders to US and Zionist Imperialism?

                                                                                    And if the Left would formulate the issue in these terms, would they not partly regain the support of the people that formerly gave the Left its strength?

                                                                                    Another cause of paralysis of the Left in the anti-imperialist struggle is the fear of being associated with terrorism.

                                                                                    On the 11th of January 2009, the president of the German Chamber of Representatives, Walter Momper, the head of the parliamentarian group of ‘Die Grüne’ (the German Greens), Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig, a leader of ‘Die Linke’, Klaus Lederer, and others held a demonstration in Berlin with 3000 participants to support Israel under the slogan ‘stop the terror of Hamas’. One must keep in mind that Die Linke are considered by many in Europe as the new and credible alternative Left, and an example to follow.

                                                                                    The entire history of colonisation and decolonisation is the history of land that has been stolen by military force and has been reclaimed by force. From Algeria to Vietnam, from Cuba to South-Africa, from Congo to Palestine: no colonial power ever renounced to its domination by means of negotiation or political dialogue alone.

                                                                                    For Gilad Atzmon it is this context that constitutes the real significance of the barrage of rockets by Hamas and the other Palestinian resistance organizations: “This week we all learned more about the ballistic capability of Hamas. Evidently, Hamas was rather restrained with Israel for a long while. It refrained from escalating the conflict to the whole of southern Israel. It occurred to me that the barrages of Qassams that have been landing sporadically on Sderot and Ashkelon were actually nothing but a message from the imprisoned Palestinians. First it was a message regarding stolen land, homes, fields and orchards: ‘Our beloved soil, we didn’t forget, we are still here fighting for you, sooner rather than later, we will come back, we will start again where we had stopped’. But it was also a clear message to the Israelis. ‘You out there, in Sderot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Haifa, whether you realise it or not, you are actually living on our stolen land. You better start to pack because your time is running out, you have exhausted our patience. We, the Palestinian people, have nothing to lose anymore”. (Gilad Atzmon - Living on Borrowed Time in a Stolen Land)

                                                                                    What can be understood by an Israeli Jew, the European Left fails to understood, rather they find ’indefensible’ the necessity to take by force what has been stolen by force. Since 9/11, the use of force in the anti-colonial and the anti-imperialist struggle has been classified under the category of ‘terrorism’; one cannot even discuss it any more. It is worth remembering that Hamas had been proscribed on the list of ‘foreign terrorist organizations’ by the United States in 1995, seven years before 9/11! In January 1995, the United States elaborated the ‘Specially designated terrorist List (STD)’ and put Hamas and all the other radical Palestinian liberation organisations on this list.

                                                                                    The capitulation on this question by a great part of the Western Left started after 9/11, after the launching of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) by the Bush administration. The fear of being classified ‘terrorists’ or apologists of terrorism has spread. This attitude of the Left is not only a political or ideological question, it is also inspired by the practical consequences linked to the GWOT. The European ‘Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism’ and its attached terror list who was a copy-and-paste version of the American terror list that has been incorporated into European legislation, which allow the courts to prosecute those who are suspected of supporting terrorism. During an anti-war rally in London, some activists sold a publication which included Marxist analysis on Hamas were stopped by the police and their magazines were confiscated. In other words, to attempt to inform people on the political program and the action of Hamas and Hezbollah becomes an illegal enterprise. The political atmosphere intimidates people into distancing themselves from these resistance movements and to denounce them without reservations.

                                                                                    In conclusion I have a concrete suggestion to make: we must launch an appeal to remove Hamas from the terror lists. At the same time we must ensure that Hezbollah are not added to the terror list. It is the least we can do if we want to support the Palestinian, Lebanese and Arab resistance. It is the minimal democratic condition for supporting the resistance and it is the essential political condition for the Left to have a chance to be heard by the anti-imperialist masses.

                                                                                    I am fully aware of the fact that my political opinions are a minority in the Left, in particular amongst the European communists. This worries me profoundly, not because of my own fate, I am not more then a militant amongst others, but for the fate of the communist ideal of an end of exploitation of man by man, a struggle which can only happen through the abolition of the imperialist, colonial and neo-colonial system.

                                                                                    - Nadine Rosa-Rosso is a Brussels-based independent Marxist. She has edited two books: "Rassembler les résistances" of the French-language journal 'Contradictions' and "Du bon usage de la laïcité", that argues for an open and democratic form of secularism. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact the author at: nadinerr@gmail.com.

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                                                                                      UN says Israel blocks most Gaza aid; supplies for only 30,000 let in

                                                                                      English (US)  February 12th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                      UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says Israel only allows a meager amount of humanitarian aid to enter the impoverished Gaza Strip.

                                                                                      The United Nations strives to provide relief to one million people daily inside a coastal sliver that is home to 1.5 million people, Ban said during a news conference on Tuesday.

                                                                                      Israel, however, is only allowing supplies enough for 30,000 people to get through and only from one crossing, he added.

                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                      "We are experiencing serious difficulty in getting all the materials, humanitarian assistance, so it is absolutely necessary that they open the crossings," the secretary general affirmed while announcing plans to launch a probe into Israel's bombing of UN compounds during its war on the Gazan population.

                                                                                      Ban told reporters that although Israel has completely ignored his calls, he "will continue to urge that" Tel Aviv allow more aid into the Palestinian strip.

                                                                                      Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has largely criticized Ban for being too timid on the extent of an inquiry into Israel's attack on its facilities.

                                                                                      "What is needed is a comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law by all armed groups involved in the conflict," Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said in an announcement.

                                                                                      Khan added that researchers have found clear evidence of war crimes during the operation - in which more than 1300 Gazans have been killed and over 5300 others have been injured.


                                                                                      Press TV

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                                                                                        Israeli results dismay Palestinians

                                                                                        English (US)  February 11th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                        Israel's 22-day Gaza offensive killed 1,300 people
                                                                                        and destroyed thousands of homes [EPA]

                                                                                        Palestinians say they are concerned about the future of the Arab-Israeli peace process following the strong showing by right-wing parties in Israel's parliamentary elections.

                                                                                        With hardline leaders gaining a greater say in Israeli politics, officials in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are of the view that a new Israeli government - be it under Tzipi Livni or Benyamin Netanyahu - would make little difference to the Palestinians.

                                                                                        "I would tell you, looking very closely at these results, the requirements of peace ... cannot be met by any form of coalition as a result of this election," Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said.

                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                        Although Kadima, led by Livni, the current foreign minister, narrrowly came out on top, the far-right appears to hold the key to forming a coalition government following the parliamentary elections.

                                                                                        Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, who campaigned on a platform to deny citizenship to Israeli Arabs considered disloyal, won 15 seats, pushing the traditionally dovish Labor into fourth place.

                                                                                        "Any form of government as a result of these elections will not accept the two state solution, they will not accept the agreements signed, they will continue with the settlements activities and the incursions and the attacks," Erekat told Al Jazeera.

                                                                                        "I think we will conside them an un-partner."

                                                                                        'Terrorist troika'

                                                                                        The Hamas movement, which has de facto control of the Gaza Strip but is considered to be a "terrorist" group by Israel, said that Israeli voters had elected "extremists".

                                                                                        "This shows that the Zionist voters clearly start choosing the one who is most extreme in his speech, the one who wants war with the Palestinians," Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas official, said.

                                                                                        "This troika, this trio of terrorism of Lieberman, Livni and Netanyahu chose the dramatic development in Israeli society towards terror."

                                                                                        Speaking from Beirut, Osama Hamdan, another senior Hamas official, said "both sides are working against Hamas, against the Palestinians", but Netanyahu and the right-wing was doing it in a way "that cannot be defended".

                                                                                        He said that Livni was doing it in a "very soft way so it can be defended by the West and the United States".

                                                                                        Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, had criticised Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, for ending the recent 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip before the Hamas-run government was effectively toppled.

                                                                                        Peace progress

                                                                                        Peace talks under Livni have made little progress in recent years, but during campaigning she signalled that they would resume if she were made prime minister.

                                                                                        "Netanyahu, Livni or [Defence minister Ehut] Barak? They all say they want peace, but they are all liars," Abu Ahmed, a police officer, said as he sat with colleagues at a Gaza cafe.

                                                                                        "They all want war. All their declarations are nothing but political manoeuvres to assume power," he said.

                                                                                        Israel maintains an economic blokade of the Gaza Strip, restricting the supply of basic necessities such as food and fuel.

                                                                                        Palestinian newspapers reflected the generally gloomy mood following the election.

                                                                                        "There will be a continuation of the political paralysis that has characterised the government of Ehud Olmert since the Lebanon war, and all the Arab and international initiatives will be shelved for the time being," Al-Quds newspaper said.

                                                                                        'Same policies'

                                                                                        Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the Palestinian Authority's daily, was even less enthusiastic, saying the only differences between the Israeli parties were their names.

                                                                                        "The substance is the same: murders, settlements and destruction," it wrote.

                                                                                        "We expect a continuation of the same Israeli policies, renewed aggression in Gaza, the continuation of settlements in the West Bank and the demolition of houses in Jerusalem."

                                                                                        Abbas on Tuesday said that the peace talks would only restart if Israel's government committed to a freeze on the building of settlement in the occupied West Bank.

                                                                                        However, under the outgoing Kadima-led government the expansion of the Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law, continued, while Netanyahu has said he wants to increase their construction.

                                                                                        Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                          Remember Iraq? 21 people died there today in bomb attacks not reported on the evening news

                                                                                          English (US)  February 11th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                          Deaths in Iraq bomb attacks

                                                                                          Some of Wednesday's attacks targeted Shia Muslim pilgrims marking the Ashura festival [AFP]

                                                                                          At least 21 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a series of attacks in Iraq.

                                                                                          The explosions, which targeted civilians and security personnel, took place in Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, police sources said.

                                                                                          In Baghdad, sixteen civilians were killed and 45 others injured after two simultaneous car bombs exploded.

                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                          Security and medical sources said that the bombs were planted in parked cars at a bus station in the Shia district of Bayah.

                                                                                          A separate roadside bomb in northern Baghdad killed a civilian and wounded six others as they were heading towards Karbala to mark the religious rite of Ashura, police said.

                                                                                          In another incident, an explosion hit pilgrims in southern Baghdad, killing at least one civilian.

                                                                                          "A bomb exploded on the main road in Zaafaraniya district, killing a Shia pilgrim and wounding eight others," a security official confirmed.

                                                                                          In a similar bombing in Iskandariya, 40km south of Baghad, two officers were killed and three others wounded, police said.

                                                                                          The attack in Mosul targeted a US-Iraqi military patrol, and left one Iraqi soldier dead.

                                                                                          The violence that erupted in Iraq after the 2003 invasion has decreased in the past year, but suicide attacks still take place.

                                                                                          Source: Agencies

                                                                                          221 words posted in Iraq war, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                            Zionist Israel blocks delivery of Gaza textbook paper

                                                                                            English (US)  February 11th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                            Feb. 10, 2009

                                                                                            The Zionist Israeli Defense Ministry rejected accusations leveled by the UN on Tuesday that the IDF was preventing the transfer of paper into the Gaza Strip to print much-needed textbooks for Palestinian schoolchildren.

                                                                                            John Ging, the top UN official in Gaza, said the textbooks were for a new human rights curriculum to be taught to children in all grade levels. He said 60 percent of the textbooks had yet to be printed.

                                                                                            Ging said he was "extremely frustrated" at Israel's refusal, "not least because we have a new human rights curriculum which everybody here is very excited to teach the children."

                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                            The human rights courses are modeled on those developed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, with input from the human rights community in Gaza, he said. They are to be taught by special teachers in every school, with the human rights organizations evaluating the teachers' performance.

                                                                                            "Hopefully, when the kids leave our schools, they'll have the clearest understanding of rights, responsibilities and the effective mechanisms to uphold and achieve those rights," Ging said.

                                                                                            "We want these kids to come up with a civilized outlook, with the mindset that is orientated toward peace and tolerance, and we're being obstructed," Ging continued. "Not being allowed to bring in paper to print the human rights textbooks means that there is an obstruction for the teaching of human rights to the children here in Gaza."

                                                                                            Defense officials have said that Israel did not object to transferring printed textbooks to the Gaza Strip, but was opposed to the delivery of raw materials that could be seized by Hamas and used for its own purposes.

                                                                                            Jerusalem Post and agencies

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                                                                                              Israel's Inverse Exceptionalism

                                                                                              English (US)  February 10th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                              'Israel is the only country in the world that refuses to define its borders.' (Getty)

                                                                                              By M. Shahid Alam

                                                                                              Critics of Zionism and Israel – including a few Israelis – have charted an inverse exceptionalism, which describes an Israel that is aberrant, violates international norms with near impunity, engages in systematic abuse of human rights, wages wars at will, and has expanded its territories through conquest. This is not the place to offer an exhaustive list of these negative Israeli exceptionalisms, but we will list a few that are more egregious.

                                                                                              As an exclusionary settler-colony, Israel does not stand alone in the history of European expansion overseas: but it is the only one of its kind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Since the sixteenth century Europeans have established exclusionary settler-colonies in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand – among other places – whose white colons displaced or nearly exterminated the indigenous population to recreate societies in the image of those they had left behind. By the late nineteenth century, however, this genocidal European expansion was running out of steam, in large part, because there remained few surviving Neolithic societies that white colons could exterminate with ease; in tropical Africa and Asia, the climate and the pathogens were not particularly kind to European settlers.

                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                              The Zionist decision in 1897 to establish an exclusionary colonial-settler state in Palestine marked a departure from this trend. In 1948, some fifty years later, the Jewish colons from the West would create the only state in the twentieth century founded on conquest and ethnic cleansing. Israel is also the only exclusionary colonial-settler state established by the modern Europeans anywhere in the Old World.

                                                                                              In Israel, moreover, settler-colonialism is not something that belongs to its past. After their victory in the June war of 1967, the Israelis decided to extend their colonial-settler project to the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights. In recent decades, the demand for another massive round of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the ‘Occupied Territories’ – and even inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders – has moved from the extremist fringes of the Israeli Right to the mainstream of Israeli politics.

                                                                                              Israel is most likely the only country in the world that insists on defining citizenship independently of geography. On the one hand, it has continued to deny the right of return – and, hence, rights of citizenship – to millions of Palestinians who or whose parents and grandparents were expelled from Palestine in two massive rounds of ethnic cleansing since 1948. At the same time, under it Law of Return, Israel, automatically and instantly, grants citizenship to applicants who are Jews, persons of Jewish parentage, or Jewish converts. Under this law, as Mazin Qumsiyeh puts it succinctly, “no Jew emigrates to Israel; Jews (including converts) ‘return’ (hence the name of the law).” In addition, the Jewish immigrants receive generous support from the state upon their arrival in Israel. In other words, Israel turns internationally recognized rights of residence and citizenship on their head, denying these rights to those who have earned them by birth, while granting them freely to those who claim them because of ancient religious myths.

                                                                                              In recent years, critics have increasingly charged Israel with practicing legal discrimination against Palestinians. Such discrimination is massive and blatant in the ‘Occupied Territories’ where Israel has established Jewish-only settlements, connected to pre-1967 Israel by Jewish-only roads. Since June 1967, the Palestinians in these territories have suffered under a system of military occupation, which shows even less regard for their human rights than South Africa’s apartheid. A former US President, Jimmy Carter, has recently dared to acknowledge the existence of apartheid in the ‘Occupied Territories’ in the title of his new book, Palestine: Peace not apartheid. Instantly, America's mainstream media – led by Zionist censors – began savagely attacking President Carter for mentioning the unmentionable. Not a few political and academic careers in the United States have met a premature end for lesser offenses. Jimmy Carter, the octogenarian former President, had little to lose.

                                                                                              Inside its pre-1967 borders too, Israel has allocated rights based on ethnicity. Until 1966, Palestinians in Israel were governed under martial law, which severely restricted their civil and political rights, including their right to free movement, to establish their own media, and to protest or form political parties. Since its founding, Israel has openly tied its immigration policy to Jewish ethnicity. Israeli law defines land to be a property of the Jewish people, owned on their behalf by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a quasi-governmental organization. Israel nationalized all the lands belonging to the Palestinians it expelled in 1948, and it has continued to expropriate Palestinian lands under a variety of arbitrary measures. As a result, the JNF today owns 93 percent of all the lands in pre-1967 Israel. Yet, even in his moment of daring, President Carter shrank from addressing the presence of apartheid inside pre-1967 Israel.

                                                                                              Israel is the only country in the world that refuses to define its borders. Its de facto borders have shifted with impressive frequency. At first, the armistice line of 1948 served as Israel's borders; but they expanded outwards in 1956, 1967 and 1982, because of wars and conquests. On a few occasions, Israel had to retract from the territories it had conquered: from the Sinai in 1957, from the Sinai again in 1978, from Southern Lebanon in May 2000, and from Southern Lebanon again in August 2006. In addition, since the Oslo Accord of 1993, Israel has defined a new set of internal ‘borders’ inside the West Bank to contain and neutralize the Palestinian resistance in a set of regulated Bantustans.

                                                                                              If Israel has not yet reached or exceeded the borders of the mythic David’s Kingdom, it is not because of any lack of ambition. The constraint is demographic. In order to expand beyond its present borders, Israel would need a more ample supply of Jewish colons willing to assume the risks of colonization. Fortunately, for the Arabs, these colons are in short supply, as they were before the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Had Israel succeeded in attracting five million Jewish colons after 1967, the Sinai would still be under Israeli occupation, and its borders in the north would extend to the Litani River and across the Jordan River in the east. Luckily, for the Arabs, Israeli expansionism has been stalled by the poverty of Jewish demography. That could change very quickly, however, if Israel decides to soften the requirements for conversion to Judaism. Millions of Jewish converts from the poorest countries in the world, attracted by the promise of a ‘better life,’ could start pouring into Israel under its Law of Return.

                                                                                              - M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Challenging the New Orientalism (2007). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: alqalam02760@yahoo.com and visit his website: http://aslama.org.

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                                                                                                BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT & SANCTIONS NEWS: Trade unionists launch boycott of Israeli goods

                                                                                                English (US)  February 10th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                Tuesday, 10 February 2009

                                                                                                Trade unionists are to launch a boycott of Israeli goods as part of a major campaign to secure a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, Stormont heard today.

                                                                                                The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) launched a report on Israel and Palestine compiled by senior members who visited the troubled region.

                                                                                                As controversy continues to rage over the death toll in Gaza caused by the recent Israeli military attacks, trade union leaders announced they are to hold a major conference this year to act as a springboard for their campaign.

                                                                                                While the DUP dismissed the report as unbalanced and urged unions to concentrate on local economic issues, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams who hosted the report's launch in Stormont's Long Gallery commended the trade unionists.

                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                ICTU President Patricia McKeown led the Middle East visit that involved 11 senior members of the umbrella group representing trade unions across Ireland, including 36 trade unions with 250,948 members in Northern Ireland.

                                                                                                The delegation met Israeli trade unionists and politicians, plus Hamas political leaders, but said they were shocked by the conditions they found in Palestinian areas.

                                                                                                "I was profoundly shocked by what we found," said Ms McKeown.

                                                                                                "I didn't expect the denial of human rights and the discrimination to be so evident and to be an obvious part of daily life.

                                                                                                "To see unemployment on the West Bank rising to 80%, to see people having to get up at three in the morning, and virtually sleep outside the the army controlled crossings in order to get into work - that's something we didn't expect to see."

                                                                                                The ICTU trip took place more than a year ago, but its campaign will move up a gear this year with a major conference to highlight the Palestinian/Israeli situation, while research on a boycott of Israeli goods to press for a settlement will also be finalised.

                                                                                                The ICTU delegates urged an end to rocket attacks on Israel during their a face-to-face meeting with Hamas politicians.

                                                                                                But Ms McKeown said her colleagues were deeply shocked by the conditions they saw in the Palestinian areas they visited and felt compelled to push for international action, with talks already under way with trade unions in Britain and the United States.

                                                                                                But she said she was angry the debate split along unionist/nationalist lines in Northern Ireland.

                                                                                                "Nelson Mandela described this as the most important problem on this planet," she said.

                                                                                                "To come back and find out that this is the way in which it is treated in certain quarters... I put that down to a couple of things, an absence of knowledge... but it is also, in some quarters, extreme fundamentalism responding to extreme fundamentalism."

                                                                                                Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams told today's event: "Since the visit by the ICTU delegation, Gaza has been the target of an all-out military assault by Israeli forces. Over 1,300 people were killed, many of them children.

                                                                                                "Unless the international community and that includes the Irish government, the British government, the EU and the US government exercises its considerable influence and authority, any relaxation of the current assault on Gaza will only bring a short respite for citizens there."

                                                                                                He said a sustained international effort was needed to secure a durable settlement and added: "If the conflict here taught us anything, that is that no conflict is intractable. There are solutions."

                                                                                                The ICTU praised Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain for providing the necessary cross-party support to host the event in Stormont and the trade unionists insisted an open debate on the Middle East was vital.

                                                                                                But the DUP's Robin Newton said the ICTU report was unbalanced and he warned sanctions would hurt innocent Israelis and Palestinians.

                                                                                                "I can only wonder about the attitude of the ordinary member of a trade union who witnesses the senior members of their union traipsing around the Middle East delving into complex problems when the employees of local firms are facing redundancy, cutbacks or at least very challenging times," he said.

                                                                                                Mr Newton said: "The report takes no cognisance of the difficulties of Israeli men women and children, the daily deadly Hamas rockets launched into homes, shops and schools, the many suicide bombers and the need for innocent Israeli families to enjoy peace and security.

                                                                                                "ICTU would be better concentrating their efforts on behalf of the local TU members rather than delving into complicated international relationships that have perplexed the best minds in the UN, USA and Europe."

                                                                                                The ICTU said it was in favour of a just settlement of the conflict, but Ms McKeown said it was a fact that Palestinians endured very difficult living conditions and needed the support of the outside world.

                                                                                                The SDLP's Carmel Hanna told today's event that the experience of the Troubles should inspire support for peace in the Middle East.

                                                                                                "We have learned from the conflict here that violence does not work and creates bitterness," she said.

                                                                                                www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/trade-unionists-launch-boycott-of-israeli-goods-14181932.html"

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                                                                                                  The Universal Right to Self-Defense: Remembering the Second Intifada

                                                                                                  English (US)  February 10th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                  'Writers like Baroud take their task to separate the truth of the Israeli-Palestine conflict from the Washington-Tel Aviv mythology seriously.'

                                                                                                  By Ron Jacobs

                                                                                                  I finally got around to reading Ramzy Baroud's 2006 book The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle on the twentieth day of Tel Aviv's most recent attack on Gaza.

                                                                                                  While debating with various online acquaintances about the possible intentions of Israel's government and watching streaming video from Al-Jazeera inside Gaza, I began to read this volume. Hoping to understand what I can't understand--why Israel insists on what seems to be a path towards eternal war that will never guarantee its security--I was drawn into Baroud's description of the events leading up to the Al-Aqsa intifada that took place for some five years after Ariel Sharon took thousands of Israeli troops and police forces with him to the Al-Aqsa mosque in September 2000.

                                                                                                  In the days that followed hundreds of Palestinians were killed and wounded by Israeli security forces. Soon afterwards, the much criticized Palestinian strategy of suicide bombing began, bringing the death and destruction visited on the Palestinians into the cafes and shopping areas of Israel. These murderous acts were naturally responded to by further murderous acts by Israel, with the end result of hundreds dead and wounded on both sides, although the Palestinians took an exponentially larger number of those casualties.

                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                  Baroud, the editor of the Palestine Chronicle, is a partisan observer. He makes no bones about his belief that Palestine should be free and that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is a crime. His description of events in this book are written with a passion and occasional anger that does not spare Israel or Washington's role in the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people. Concurrently, he does not spare his criticism of the Palestinian resistance, the makeshift Palestinian governing body known as the Palestinian Authority (PA), or the strategies undertaken by these forces. Most telling in this latter regard is his discussion of the corruption of the PA and various Palestinian businessmen discovered selling Egyptian concrete to the Israeli companies building the separation wall that divides the Territories into sections Israel hopes to manage by destroying communities and livelihoods. He also roundly criticizes the morality and strategic sense of suicide bombings.

                                                                                                  The question of Palestine is on one level a very simple one. It has the right to exist in peace. This means that its people have the right to conduct their own trade, decide on their own government, live free from the fear of attack, travel freely, and educate its children and give them hope for the future. This can only occur when it is no longer occupied. Israel knows this and, if our eyes are to be believed, has no desire to see such a scenario take place. After all, Israel refuses to acknowledge the results of Palestinian elections, ignores most agreements it has made with any of Palestine's leaders, refuses to allow Palestinians freedom of movement, restricts education in the West Bank and Gaza, and attacks the territories at will. As Baroud, points out, Israel does all of this not only because it can, but because it is allowed (if not encouraged) to by Washington and many European governments. Until this fact is no longer a fact, Palestine's future will be one that is defined by more of the same.

                                                                                                  The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle is an eloquent and evocative book based in part on the premise that Palestine, like Israel, has the right to defend itself. Over and over Tel Aviv and Washington were told the world that the murderous attacks on Gaza a few weeks ago were justified because Israel "has the right to defend herself." Baroud's narrative makes a clear argument that Palestine also has that right. Indeed, it is Palestine that needs the world to help in its defense. Unfortunately, unless the people of the West see through the mythology of Israel as victim that pervades our media, Palestine's day is a long way off. Writers like Baroud take their task to separate the truth of the Israeli-Palestine conflict from the Washington-Tel Aviv mythology seriously. So should the rest of us who care about peace and justice.

                                                                                                  Mr. Baroud published this book in 2006. Right before its publication, Hamas won a substantial number of seats in the Palestinian legislature in certifiably free elections. Israel and Washington quickly disavowed the results despite their demand for democracy in the Middle East and Israel began a blockade of the territories that is supported by the US and many European governments. Hamas and other resistance movements in Gaza fired several thousand rockets into Israel, killing a little over a dozen Israelis. Hezbollah stood its ground against Israel in a summertime war while the West Bank slipped further into economic and political despair. Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza, but left their siege intact via air force flyovers and surveillance. This siege culminated in the December 27th air attacks on Gaza that preceded a ground invasion. This action by Israel killed around 1500 Palestinians, many of them women and children.

                                                                                                  - Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs' essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch's collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mains

                                                                                                  tay Press. (Originally published in CounterPunch.org, Feb 9)
                                                                                                  If you like this article, please consider making a contribution to the Palestine Chronicle.

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                                                                                                    Architecture as the continuation of politics: White City, Dark City

                                                                                                    English (US)  February 10th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                    By V.G. Smith
                                                                                                    10 February 2009

                                                                                                    While Israeli tanks and bombs hit Gaza, a sales video for an apartment tower in Tel Aviv, 40 miles north of Gaza City, pitches the "Neve Tsedek White City Residence." As photos roll, the voice describes the tower in the heart of the "vibrant cosmopolitan city" of Tel Aviv; it cites "luxurious apartments," even a penthouse designed by Armani Casa, Milan, a "sophisticated lobby, lounge, and business rooms" for new enterprises. Sharing the same Mediterranean coast, Gaza City and Tel Aviv offer a brutal display of contrasts.

                                                                                                    There is no need for conference rooms in Gaza, since 80 percent of inhabitants live under the poverty level, and 38 percent are unemployed. No call for penthouses by Armani, Milan, in Palestinian houses destroyed by US-supplied F16s. No sophisticated lobby for shelter, but refugee camps and darkened homes without electricity. While residents of the "White City" tower will enjoy sea views, Gaza inhabitants experience a blockade and see gunboats that occasionally fire "practice" shots inland, which last year killed a family picnicking on Gaza Beach. Where is the truth about these two towns?

                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                    The myth of Tel Aviv as "the White City" rests on the importation of style characteristics from European Modernism into Israel, and the number of Israeli architects educated or practicing in the "International style." This last connection centers largely on Arieh (not Ariel) Sharon, who studied with Hannes Meyer at the Bauhaus. The myth supports the presentation of Israel as a sophisticated, modern nation, understanding and willing to further goals of harmony and peace—a better life.

                                                                                                    Those were the goals underlying buildings of the Modern Movement in Europe in the 1920s, practiced primarily in the Netherlands, Germany and France. The myth started in 1959 at the 50th anniversary of Tel Aviv, progressed in the 1980s through museum exhibitions in Tel Aviv and their publications; in 2003, the district was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; and continued most recently in the Netherlands with an exhibition from Israel at the Technical University of Delft in September entitled "Revival of the Bauhaus in Tel Aviv," introduced by the Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of Israel.


                                                                                                    Completed in Poissy, outside Paris, France, in 1929, LeCorbusier's Villa Savoye provides an iconic representation of early modernism, incorporating the five points which the architect used to define this "entirely new kind of building": columnar structure, roof gardens, open plan, horizontal window and free design of the facade.

                                                                                                    In the construction boom of the 1930s, virtually all of Tel Aviv was built in the "International Style," understood here as white walls, flat roofs and massing of cube-like blocks, sometimes raised on columns. Conditions favored this style. Concrete construction was cheap and used unskilled workers. Buildings raised on columns like Corbusier's pilotis worked especially well in Tel Aviv because they allowed sea breezes to pass through. Flat roofs are not alien to Canaan, but stem from ancient tradition; David lusted after Bathsheba from his roof, and later, Jesus healed the man on a litter whose friends cut a hole in the roof to let him down (Mark 2:4). The Eastern aspect of Tel Aviv has been acknowledged and sometimes surfaces in White City "International" construction—atriums with splashing pools (not German), cupolas, tall arches, occasional ogees and ornament.

                                                                                                    The International Style can be understood as a vocabulary of forms or as a social movement to achieve a better life through architecture. Its iconic buildings in Europe manifest both. Betondorf, a 1920s white concrete village outside Amsterdam, admitted only socialists, and provided a village green with adjoining library, but banned bars and churches. During a visit last autumn, it appeared to be still happily inhabited. The movement inspired sanitariums with balconies for TB patients, workers' housing projects, open-air schools and orphanages. The style allied architecture with a conscience.

                                                                                                    Today, there are two architectures in Israel, as there are two politics. There are peace movements in Tel Aviv, and elsewhere in the land, and there are extremists, defiant of the law, even the laws of their own courts and certainly that of the UN. So there is another architecture alongside the imported/borrowed-International/Bauhaus style. It is the architecture of the outposts: wall and tower.

                                                                                                    In July 2002, two Israeli architects won a competition within the Israeli Association of United Architects to produce an exhibition of Israeli architecture in Berlin. It was a trenchant critique of the architecture of occupation. When a spokesman for the Interior Ministry reviewed the exhibition the day before its shipment, he became enraged, demanding that the exhibition be cancelled and all the catalogs shredded.

                                                                                                    The architects themselves revised and published the catalog as A Civilian Occupation (Verso, English edition 2003). In the catalog, they map the spread of settlements in the West Bank and document through photographs a new native building type, a hasty ensemble of a wall, a tower and dwellings. The wall area outlines and claims the territory, usually a hilltop, and the tower allows surveillance of the surroundings. The dwellings housed pioneer settlers. This model was favored by Ariel (the Prime Minister) Sharon when he constructed an upscale wall-and-tower residence on land allegedly taken from a Palestinian farmer.

                                                                                                    As Israel continues its aggression on Palestinian land, wall-and-tower architecture appears as its authentic voice. To mimic International Style characteristics is as false as the nation's imitation of a modern state. Claiming a free press, it controls journalists at gunpoint at the Gaza border; having established a court system, it ignores its rulings; boasting of cosmopolitanism, it shuts down airports and forbids Palestinian travel—somehow in imitating Modernism it has violated all the beliefs of what was truly the spirit of Modernism, that of social justice.

                                                                                                    V.G. Smith is a designer and design historian, and Professor Emerita of Art at City University of New York.

                                                                                                    WSWS

                                                                                                    1 response(s) to Architecture as the continuation of politics: White City, Dark City

                                                                                                    1. Jason [Visitor] says:

                                                                                                      I don't think the peace movement in Tel Aviv is going anywhere and I believe the conflict in Israel will continue indefinitely into the future. You might be able to find more information at http://tothecenter.com/

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                                                                                                    Israeli Elections: Solidifying Fascism

                                                                                                    English (US)  February 10th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                    By Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Bethlehem University

                                                                                                    Well before the recent murderous Israeli attacks on Gaza, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Northern Command leader Gadi Eisenkot stated that "We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases…This isn't a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized." ("IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war," by Amos Harel, Haaretz, October 5, 2008).

                                                                                                    The same report stated that Colonel (Res.) Gabriel Siboni authored a report through Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies backing Eisenkot's statements stating that the answer to rocket and missile threats from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip is "a disproportionate strike at the heart of the enemy's weak spot, in which efforts to hurt launch capability are secondary...."

                                                                                                    Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad intelligence service, wrote in the Israeli press that the government “could have stopped the rocket attacks long ago by lifting its siege of Gaza. But [] Israel has a broader interest — to ensure that it is the Fatah party .. and not Hamas that is politically dominant in the Palestinian territories. If Israel's goal were to remove the threat of rockets from the residents of southern Israel, opening the border crossings would have ensured such quiet for a generation. But the real objectives of the operation include preserving Fatah's status as the sole sovereign in the Palestinian Authority (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/04/israel-gaza-invasion-troops-hamas/print)

                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                    That Israel broke the cease fire in Gaza with the same aims is now a well established fact even agreed to by Israeli spokespersons (see e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=SILJxPTqjAM )

                                                                                                    These things are all sidelined on the eve of Israeli elections and the Israeli political landscape is poised to finally fulfill its destiny of fascism. Israelis will (like Germans under Hitler) continue to be lulled into supporting the unthinkable. It is instructive here to pause and examine the Zionist political structure that makes this possible. While strands of Zionism included things like religious and cultural Zionism (ala Judas Magnus, Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt), the programs articulated by the World Zionist Congress held in West Jerusalem in 1966 remain the dominant form. This program aims to strengthen the “Jewish state”, strengthen “Jewish connections” to Zionism, strengthen “Jewish education” and thus cohesiveness around the political program. Its agenda does not leave much to the imagination and the programs that emanate from the tribal mission and goals of Zionism become very clear. These include strengthening “Jewish” institutions to defend “Jewish” values/interests (here I put Jewish in quotations because many Jews and others would take issue with the Zionist mantra that Zionism represents Jews or Jewish interests). Such a program tries to appear liberal to the outside world but any rational person and Jewish Zionists themselves know what it entailed and will continue to demand. To sustain a Jewish state requires an endless effort to fend off the majority of the population in that area who are not Jewish. The inevitable result was that of the 10 million Palestinians in the world over 7 million are refugees or displaced people, others live in concentration camps, and many are subjected to endless wars (since natives in history never simply fade away on their own).

                                                                                                    The difference between strands of political Zionism has always been about the need or importance of having a powerful and secure Jewish state on someone else’s land and not about how to build a modern sate that complies with International law. The differences centered on how to create and maintain the Jewish state despite the rights of indigenous people and in the face of their expected resistance. It was about what tactics and what procedures ensure colonization success with maximum benefit for the Zionist movement at minimum expense. The difference between Ben Gurion and Vladimir Jabotisnky was not over the goal (a secure powerful Jewish state) but over tactics. Ben Gurion believed in maintaining strong Western support (the British and later the US) by couching language in internationally acceptable discourses and trying to handle the natives with a mixture of methods (violence, trickery, buying them off etc). Jabotinsky believed in hard power only; an “iron wall to which the natives have no answer”.

                                                                                                    In today’s discourses, the soft racism of Ben Gurion has become a minority (Israeli Labor Party) while the more blunt racism of Jabotinsky ascended to make up the majority powers (Likud, Kadima, Israel Beitano). That the latter block of fascist parties now dominates Israeli politics is a sad commentary not just on the depravity of the Zionist discourse but the fact that the world allowed it to get so far. The whole sale slaughter in Gaza using US weapons and protection and European government acquiescence is now a textbook example of the trashing of International law in favor of brute power politics.

                                                                                                    Some may say the Palestinians could have helped stem the move towards fascist parties if they were more accommodating. But that statement has to be dissected more carefully. Haven’t Palestinian leadership already compromised enough by agreeing to cede 78% of Palestine, limiting its demands to only 22% of historic Palestine (West Bank and Gaza)? Why would the victims be expected to accommodate every whim and desire of their tormentors? Would Palestinians be actually better off under the rule of Labor than Likud? We do know that Labor built just as many settlements when it was in power as Likud and Labor is the one which developed Israel’s weapons of mass destruction and used some of them (e.g. white phosphorous). Labor was actually able to accomplish far more ethnic destruction than the so called “right wing” ever could (just look at the hundreds of thousands of refugees created between 1948-1950 and in 1967). Labor’s ability to lull the international community to sleep by talk of “peace” (while acting completely opposite) is legendary. Labor and supposed moderates managed to break the blockade and lack of diplomatic recognition without having to comply with even one of the 60+ UN Security Council resolutions that Israel is violating.

                                                                                                    Of course a rational examination of history would clearly show (as many South African leaders stated) that Israel is indeed worse than apartheid South Africa. Lamenting the dismal reality on the ground and in Israeli political discourse is instructive in other ways. Since Israel has never declared its borders, let us look at Israel’s attempts to deal with its neighbors in the past 30 years:

                                                                                                    1) Israel's deal with Egypt in 1978/79 neutralized a large Arab country while partially complying with International law (withdrawing from the Sinai while limiting Egyptian sovereignty there) has accomplished more for Israel than all its wars including massive US aid and other economic benefits. Yet, the average Egyptian saw worse conditions while the regime of the dictatorship was strengthened. Overall, Egyptian society suffered a significant setback in its struggle for democracy and human rights (not to mention economic development). Divisions between Egypt and other Arab countries were created and fanned from which we still suffer today (see how Egypt collaborated with Israel and oppressed the dissent within Egypt). The cold peace that is kept only by US support of a ruthless dictator is a testament to how such a deal was not fair or balanced (to take into account Israeli and Egyptian PUBLIC needs).

                                                                                                    2) Israel's deal with PLO also accomplished much for Israel (breaking the isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with 30+ new countries, economic boom, the freedom to colonize more of the West Bank) while using the language of autonomy to get the prisoners to simply pick-up their own garbage and pay for their own society relieving the occupation from its responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Conventions. Between 1993-2000 Israel's economy boomed and settler population in the West Bank doubled (from 200,000 to more than 400,000). Meanwhile Palestinian economy suffered massive losses (unemployment went from 20% to over 45%) and the Palestinian body politics was severly damaged (with creation of different Palestinian populations, different agendas, different expectations etc). Divisions ensued.

                                                                                                    3) Under fire of Hizballah, Israel got out of South Lebanon unilaterally (and essentially defeated) in 1999 but kept the Sheba farms and a few Lebanese prisoners. Hizballah was succeeded in 2006 to secure release of prisoners and Israel’s unconditional withdrawal and now Israel is talking about relinquishing the Sheba farms.

                                                                                                    4) Under fire from Hamas, Israel vacated the Gaza strip unilaterally in hope of strengthening its grip on the West Bank but it merely strengthened Hamas. While the move succeeded in its other goals of fostering stronger divisions among Palestinians, it also strengthened Hamas and increased the likelihood of further militarization of the resistance to occupation (the increasing sophistication and reach of Hamas rockets are but one of the outcomes of this policy). While many Israelis recognize the failure of achieving Israeli goals in either 2000 or 2008, this is not resolved yet. But if I was a betting person, I would bet that Hamas has grown in popularity and that funding will be flowing to that organization thanks to Israeli massacres of Gazans and other plunders of an occupation army bereft of ideas.

                                                                                                    The contrasts between 1/2 and 3/4 lead many observers to conclude that violent resistance works to achieve results while negotiations only bring humiliating conditions that just set the stage for conflict. The third way of justice was never tried. Israeli leaders continue to speak of the management of the “demographic problem”: Palestinian Christians and Muslims who remain have higher birth rates than Jews who come to live in Palestine/Israel. Different political parties come up with different solutions ranging from the South Africa model under apartheid (create for them their own state or Zululand, “us here them there”) to demanding a loyalty oath to the “Jewish state” and expel those who disagree (it is like demanding blacks in South Africa give a loyalty oath to “White South Africa”).

                                                                                                    The only thing that could change that dynamic and go beyond the choice of either violent resistance or humiliating agreements is if Israeli leaders would finally be compelled to respect international law and treat the Palestinians with justice. This would be the only thing that would pull the rug from under the extremists. The international movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions provides a significant pathway that combined with steadfast resistance to destruction by the natives would be sufficient to achieve change for the better here. I already feel the winds of change coming. Each human being can play a role to speed it along and the faster it comes the more lives are saved.

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                                                                                                      Israel Sought ‘Politicide’ Through Gaza Attack: Saree Makdisi

                                                                                                      English (US)  February 10th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                      Commentary by Saree Makdisi

                                                                                                      Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- In three weeks of incessant bombardment, Israel killed or injured more than 6,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, and a third of them children.

                                                                                                      It pushed the territory it has militarily controlled for four decades (and for the welfare of whose population international law holds it legally accountable) even deeper into deliberately engineered, even fine-tuned, misery.

                                                                                                      It wrecked much of what was left of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure after months of siege and years of isolation from the outside world; it smashed thousands of family homes, schools, offices and mosques; it obliterated the personal property of tens of thousands of refugees -- many of whom have now lost two or three homes in succession to Israeli bombs.

                                                                                                      Israel’s primary justification for the bombardment of Gaza was that it was intended to stop Palestinian rockets fired into Israeli territory.

                                                                                                      But Israel failed to accomplish a single one of its declared objectives. It failed to stop the firing of rockets from Gaza. It failed to stop smuggling across the Egypt-Gaza border. And it failed, even in the short run, to bring security to Israel’s own population.

                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                      If anything, the bombardment of Gaza left Hamas stronger than ever, for having stood up to three weeks of bombardment and preventing the Israeli army from translating its overwhelming firepower superiority into actual accomplishments on the battlefield -- of which there were none, other than crude destruction.

                                                                                                      Point of Attack

                                                                                                      It left the aging leadership of Fatah -- still pleading for a return to the so-called road map to peace, which was supposed to have led to a Palestinian state four years ago -- looking more pathetic and desperately servile than ever.

                                                                                                      What then was the point of the Israeli assault on Gaza?

                                                                                                      The sheer scale of the violence Israel unleashed on that territory’s hapless population may, in itself, provide some answer to that question, precisely because, for all its ferocity, it failed to accomplish any of its declared objectives.

                                                                                                      Consider, then, that for three weeks Israel showered high explosives, white phosphorous and other advanced munitions from land, sea and air on the packed residential neighborhoods of one of the most densely populated areas on Earth, in sweeping disregard for the principles of international humanitarian law.

                                                                                                      Knowing full well that the residents of those neighborhoods lack any real form of shelter, it denied them even the last desperate right normally afforded to civilians in a war zone -- the ability to flee to safety. The 1.5 million residents of Gaza were thus locked into what Israel turned into a free-fire zone, and bombarded around the clock.

                                                                                                      Providing Answers

                                                                                                      Consider, further, that the people who went through this bombardment were already hungry, thirsty and cold from months of deprivation caused by Israel’s siege of Gaza.

                                                                                                      Consider, also, that half of the people who suffered through all this were children.

                                                                                                      And consider, finally, who all these people are and what they are doing in Gaza in the first place. That may provide an answer to the question.

                                                                                                      The majority of Gaza’s population consists of refugees or their descendants who were driven from the formerly multireligious, multicultural land known as Palestine, which was turned into an exclusively Jewish state in 1948.

                                                                                                      As Muslims and Christian Palestinians, they would have outnumbered the Jewish residents -- most of them then immigrants from Europe -- of the new state that wanted to claim an exclusive Jewish identity. Had they remained, the state wouldn’t have been Jewish after all. So they had to go. Were they to be allowed back to their homes now, Israel would, again, lose its claim to an exclusively Jewish character. They are, in short, regarded by Israel as an excess population.

                                                                                                      Making Sense

                                                                                                      Seen in that way, all the steps that Israel has taken toward this population over the years -- isolation, imprisonment, blockade, impoverishment, deprivation, denial, starvation, death and destruction -- suddenly make a kind of twisted sense.

                                                                                                      Clearly, the aim of the bombardment of Gaza wasn’t to extirpate this population. But it was intended to pound them, and all other Palestinians, into submission, to make them give up their call for self-determination and justice. It was intended to extirpate them in a symbolic sense -- a kind of politicide, to use the term coined by the Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling.

                                                                                                      And on this score, too, Israel failed.

                                                                                                      The Palestinian people have never been more united, and never been more determined in their threefold demand: That Israel end its occupation of Palestinian land; that it end its repression of its Palestinian minority; and that it end its denial of the moral and legal right of return for those Palestinians who were removed from their homes in 1948.

                                                                                                      Only when all three conditions are fulfilled will there be a just and lasting peace.

                                                                                                      (Saree Makdisi is professor of English literature at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.” The opinions expressed are his own.)

                                                                                                      Bloomberg

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                                                                                                        Deceptive findings of Israeli military “investigation” cover up extra-judicial killing of West Bank Palestinian

                                                                                                        English (US)  February 10th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                        AL-HAQ ALERT
                                                                                                        REF.: 7.2009E
                                                                                                        9 February 2009

                                                                                                        On 2 February 2009, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported the findings of an “investigation” into an incident in which, that morning, “a Palestinian gunman opened fire at an IDF Patrol Force near the Community Yatir [sic], south of Hebron.” As a result of the investigation, the Israeli military Central Command “assumes” that the “terrorist,” who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers, “was intending to execute a terror attack against Israeli civilians.”

                                                                                                        After a full field investigation, Al-Haq has determined serious factual inaccuracies and false assumptions in the Israeli authorities’ version of events, and reports the following findings:

                                                                                                        [More:]


                                                                                                        On the morning of Monday, 2 February 2009, an infantry unit of Israeli occupying forces was deployed to Janba, south-east of Yatta in the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. Between 7:30 and 8:00 am, the Israeli soldiers stopped a total of three vehicles on a dirt road in the Marah al-Tabaka area of Janba. This road is close to the West Bank’s southern border with Israel, and is used by Palestinian merchants who travel to Israel to sell their goods. Two of the three vehicles were returning from Israel, while the other was travelling towards Israel from Yatta. The Israeli soldiers had not set up a visible “flying” checkpoint on the road, but rather each time a vehicle arrived, the soldiers jumped out from positions of hiding off to the side of the road, ordered the drivers to turn off their engines, took the IDs of those in the vehicles, and forced them to wait at the side of the road. By the time the three vehicles had been stopped, a total of eleven Palestinians were being kept by the Israeli soldiers at the side of the road.

                                                                                                        At approximately 8:45 am, a fourth vehicle arrived along the road, coming from Yatta, containing only the driver, Taysir Shihda Manasra, 28, from Bani N’eim. Although the first three vehicles were still blocking the road, they were not yet visible to Mr. Manasra because of a bend in the road. The Palestinian witnesses, being guarded by soldier ‘A,’ were at the side of the road, on the bend, and could see Mr. Manasra’s car approaching. Further back up the road, the rest of the Israeli soldiers were hiding again, and two of them jumped out (one from each side of the road) to ambush Mr. Manasra in a similar manner to the other vehicles. He was already passing them by the time they emerged and called on him to stop. It is not clear whether Mr. Manasra noticed the soldiers or not, as he did not stop immediately, driving for another ten metres, before seeing soldier A emerge from the side of the road at the bend, 25 metres in front of him. Mr. Manasra stopped immediately as the soldier fired five shots into the air. A total of five Israeli soldiers then opened fire on the car, without warning or justification: soldier A, from the front; the two soldiers who had initially called on Mr. Manasra to stop, from behind; and another two soldiers who had been hiding in line with where Mr. Manasra stopped his car, from the side.

                                                                                                        Corroborated witness reports confirmed that no shots came from the car, and that the barrage of shooting at the car continued for approximately 15 minutes, with hundreds of bullets fired. Medical reports later showed that Mr. Manasra was hit and killed by four bullets: one to the face, one to the back, one to the left arm, and the fourth to the left leg. Mr. Manasra’s body was left on the road outside his car until approximately 2:00 pm. He was then placed on a stretcher by four Israeli soldiers who repeatedly kicked the body as they brought it to a military ambulance.

                                                                                                        Shortly after the victim had been killed, a number of Israeli officials arrived, including a military police unit as well as an apparently senior officer who arrived in a helicopter, spoke to the soldiers present about what had happened, and left after ten minutes. At approximately 10:00 am, a remote-controlled robot was brought by the Israeli forces to open the doors of the car and remove Mr. Manasra’s body from the car.

                                                                                                        Between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, the Palestinian witnesses were taken one by one to a military jeep close to where they were still being kept at the side of the road, and interviewed by Israeli military police officers. Each one was asked whether Mr. Manasra had shot at the Israeli soldiers, and each one responded in the negative. However, when one of the military police investigators asked soldier A what had happened, the soldier claimed that Mr. Manasra had fired 30 shots at him with a pistol from inside the car. Witnesses reported that no gun was found on Mr. Manasra’s body or in his car when searched by the Israeli soldiers.

                                                                                                        After the body was removed, the Palestinian witnesses were all brought to the nearby Israeli military checkpoint at Lasifer, and held there from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm before being released.

                                                                                                        The findings above demonstrate that Taysir Manasra was summarily executed by the Israeli occupying forces, amounting to an extra-judicial killing in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. It also constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as a wilful killing. Having stopped his car, Mr. Manasra was under the control of the Israeli soldiers, yet they made no attempt to question or arrest him for any alleged offence before opening fire. The “assumption” on the part of the Israeli authorities that Mr. Manasra intended to carry out an attack on Israeli civilians is disingenuous and unfounded in fact. There is no evidence that Mr. Manasra had any weapon, and the Israeli military is fully aware of the fact that the road in question is regularly used by Palestinian workers and merchants to enter Israel, which Mr. Manasra did every day. Any assumptions or suspicions as to the victim’s intentions certainly provide no basis in law for the arbitrary deprivation of his inalienable and inviolable right to life.

                                                                                                        Al-Haq emphasises its concern over the lack of impartiality and diligence in the Israeli authorities’ “investigation,” the findings of which were reported on the same day as the incident occurred, and calls for a full and independent investigation into the incident by the Israeli authorities. Al-Haq further reiterates its condemnation of the systematic impunity with which the Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are allowed to persistently violate the right to life of Palestinians.

                                                                                                        alhaq.org

                                                                                                        Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation based in Ramallah, West Bank. Established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the organisation has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

                                                                                                        Al-Haq documents violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable. The organisation conducts research; prepares reports, studies and interventions on breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT; and undertakes advocacy before local, regional and international bodies. Al-Haq also cooperates with Palestinian civil society organisations and governmental institutions in order to ensure that international human rights standards are reflected in Palestinian law and policies. The organisation has a specialised international law library for the use of its staff and the local community.

                                                                                                        Al-Haq is the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists - Geneva, and is a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Habitat International Coalition (HIC), and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO).

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                                                                                                          A Report from Gaza: Strong Indications of Israeli War Crimes

                                                                                                          English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                          February 9, 2009

                                                                                                          By NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD
                                                                                                          Gaza City.

                                                                                                          We are a delegation of 8 American lawyers, members of the National Lawyers Guild in the United States, who have come here to the Gaza Strip to assess the effects of the recent attacks on the people, and to determine what, if any, violations of international law occurred and whether U.S. domestic law has been violated as a consequence. We have spent the last five days interviewing communities particularly impacted by the recent Israeli offensive, including medical personnel, humanitarian aid workers and United Nations representatives. In particular, the delegation examined three issues: 1) targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure; 2) illegal use of weapons and 3) blocking of medical and humanitarian assistance to civilians.

                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                          Targeting of Civilians and Civilian Infrastructure

                                                                                                          Much of the debate surrounding Israel’s aerial and ground offensive against Gaza has centered on whether or not Israel observed principles of proportionality and distinction. The debate suggests that Israel targeted Hamas i.e., its military installations, its leaders, and its militants, and in the process of its discrete military exercise it inadvertently killed Palestinian civilians. While we have found evidence that Palestinian civilians were victims of excessive force and collateral damage, we have also found troubling instances of Palestinian civilians being targets themselves.

                                                                                                          The delegation recorded numerous accounts of Israeli soldiers shooting civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, in the head, chest, and stomach. Another common narrative described Israeli forces rounding civilians into a single location i.e., homes, schools which Israeli tanks or warplanes then shelled. Israeli forces continued to shoot at civilians fleeing the targeted structures.

                                                                                                          We spoke to Khaled Abed Rabbo, who witnessed an Israeli soldier execute his 2-year-old and 7-year-old daughters, and critically injure a third daughter, Samar, 4-years old, on a sunny afternoon outside his home. Two other Israeli soldiers were standing nearby eating chips and chocolates at the time on January 7, 2009. Abed Rabbo recounts standing in front of the Israeli soldiers with his mother, wife and daughters for 5 – 7 minutes before one of the soldiers opened fire on his family.

                                                                                                          We spoke to Ibtisam al-Sammouni, 31, and a resident of Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City. On January 4th, the Israeli army forced approximately 110 of Zaytoun’s residents into Ibtisam's home. At approximately 7 am on January 5th, the Israeli military launched two tank shells at the house without warning killing two of Ibtisam’s children: Rizka, 14 and Faris, 12. When the survivors attempted to flee Israeli forces shot at them. Her son Abdullah, 7, was injured in the shelling and remained in the home among his deceased siblings for four days before Israeli forces permitted medical personnel into Zaytoun to rescue them. After medical personnel removed the injured persons, an Israeli war plane destroyed the house and it crumbled over the lifeless bodies. The dead remained beneath the rubble for 17 days before the Israeli Army permitted medical personnel to remove their bodies for burial.

                                                                                                          We spoke to the family of Rouhiya al-Najjar, 47, who lived in Khoza’a, Khan Younis. Israeli forces ordered her neighborhoods residents to march to the city center. Rouhiya led 20 women out of her home and into the alley. They all carried white scarves. Upon entering the alley, an Israeli sniper shot Rouhiya in her left temple killing her instantly. Israeli forces prevented medical personnel from reaching her body for twelve hours. These are only some of the accounts that we’ve collected.

                                                                                                          Israeli forces also destroyed numerous buildings throughout the Gaza Strip during the recent incursion. Guild delegates viewed the remains of hundreds of demolished homes and businesses – in addition to the remains of the American School in Gaza, damaged medical centers, and the charred innards of UNRWA warehouses. While in situations of armed conflict, collateral damage and mistakes can occur, the circumstances surrounding the cases that the delegation investigated indicate deliberate targeting rather than collateral damage or mistake. Specifically:

                                                                                                          The American School at Gaza, which was hit with two F-16 missiles on January 3, 2009, killing the watch guard on duty. According to Ribhi Salem, the school’s director, the Israelis gave no warnings. Mr. Salem stated that the school had come to an agreement with resistance groups not to use school grounds and there had never been resistance activity on the property.

                                                                                                          United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

                                                                                                          John Ging, the Director of Gaza Operations for UNRWA reported that Israeli forces fired missiles at UNRWA schools in Gaza City, Jabalyia and Bet Lahiya. The United Nation compound in Gaza city was also hit with white phosphorous shells and missiles. Ging noted that al United Nations buildings and vehicles all fly UN flags, are marked in blue paint from the top, and that during hostilities the UN personnel remained in constant contact with Israeli authorities.

                                                                                                          Misuse of Weapons

                                                                                                          Our delegation has heard allegations of the use of DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) weaponry, white phosphorus and other possible weapons whose use in civilian areas is prohibited. We have also heard of the use of prohibited weapons, such as fleshettes. We have found our own evidence of the use of fleschette shells, which we will combine with evidence collected by Amnesty International to push for further investigation. We have not found any conclusive evidence of the use of DIME, though we believe that this warrants further investigation and disclosure by the Israeli military.

                                                                                                          Our findings overwhelmingly point to the use of conventional weapons in a prohibited manner, specifically, the use of battlefield weaponry in densely populated civilian areas. Customary international law forbids the use of weapons calculated to cause unnecessary suffering. We found evidence that Israel used white phosphorus in extensively throughout its three-week offensive in a manner that led to numerous deaths and injuries. For example, Sabah Abu Halima, 45, lived in Beit Lahiya with her husband, seven boys, and one girl. It was midday and she and her entire family was home. Within minutes she felt her home shaking and missiles fell through the rooftop. She fell to the ground upon impact. When she looked up she saw her children burning.

                                                                                                          Preventing Access to Medical and Humanitarian Aid

                                                                                                          Under customary international humanitarian law, the wounded are protected persons and must receive the medical care and attention required by their conditions, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay. Parties to a conflict are required to ensure the unhindered movement of medical personnel and ambulances to carry out their duties and of wounded persons to access medical care. Speaking to medical workers and the family of victims, NLG delegates documented serious violations of this provision. Among the stories documented include:

                                                                                                          Zaytoun neighborhood, which came under attack and invasion by ground foces on January 3, 2009. The Palestinian Red Crescent received 145 calls from Zaytoun for help, but were denied entry by Israel. Bashar Ahmed Murad, Director of Emergency Medical Services for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told us that “a lot of people could have been saved, but hey weren’t given medical care by the Israelis, nor did the Israeli army allow Palestinian medical services in.” When paramedics were finally allowed to enter on January 7, Israeli forces only gave them a 3-hour “lull” to work and prohibited ambulances into the area. Instead they forced paramedics park the ambulances 2 kilometers away and enter the area on foot. Murad told delegation members how they had to pile the wounded on donkey carts and have the medical workers pull the carts in order to help the most people possible in the short time they were given. After the 3 hours were over, the Israeli army started shooting toward the ambulances. The Red Crescent was not able to reach that area again to evacuate the dead until January 17, 2009 when the Israeli army pulled out.

                                                                                                          Al-Shurrab Family

                                                                                                          On January 16th, Israeli forces shot at the jeep of Mohammed Shurrab, 64 years of age, and two of his sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, aged 28 and 18 as they were returning from their fields. Mohammad was shot in the left arm and Ibrahim was shot in the leg. The elder son, Kassab, sustained a fatal bullet wound to the chest, being shot multiple times after being ordered out of the car. Mohammad, bleeding from his wound, contacted the media, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a number of NGOs via mobile phone in order to acquire medical assistance. Israeli forces denied medical relief agencies clearance to reach them until almost 24 hours after Mohammad, Ibrahim and Kassab had been shot. Earlier that morning, Ibrahim had succumbed to his wound and died. Mohammad Shurrab and his sons were shot during a so-called “lull” in Israeli ground operations, which Israeli forces had agreed to in order to allow humanitarian relief to enter and be distributed in the Gaza Strip. As such NLG delegates fail to see how this denial of medical access to the wounded Shurrab family could have been absolutely necessary and not simply arbitrary.

                                                                                                          International humanitarian law also prohibits attacks on medical personnel, medical units and medical transports exclusively assigned to carry out medical functions. Delegate members saw ambulances seriously damaged and destroyed, some apparently deliberately crushed by Israeli tanks. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Palestinian Ministry of Health informed delegates that 15 Palestinian medics were killed and 21 injured in the course of Israel’s assault.

                                                                                                          Conclusions

                                                                                                          This delegation is seriously concerned by our initial findings. We have found strong indications of violations of the laws of war and possible war crimes committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. We are particularly concerned that most of the weapons that were found used in the December 27 assault on Gaza are US-made and supplied. We believe that Israel’s use of these weapons may constitute a violation of US law, and particularly the Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act.

                                                                                                          A report of our initial findings will be compiled and submitted to, among others, members of the United States Congress. We intend to push for an investigation by the United States government into possible violations by Israel of US law. We also hope to contribute our finding and efforts to other efforts by local and international lawyers to push for accountability against those found responsible for the egregious crimes that we have documented.

                                                                                                          MEMBERS OF THE LEGAL DELEGATION

                                                                                                          Huwaida Arraf (New York, Washington DC)
                                                                                                          huwaida.arraf@gmail.com
                                                                                                          Palestine: 0599-130-426
                                                                                                          USA: 1-202-294-8813

                                                                                                          Noura Erekat (Washington DC)
                                                                                                          noo194@yahoo.com
                                                                                                          Palestine:
                                                                                                          USA: 1-510-847-4239

                                                                                                          James Marc Leas (Vermont)
                                                                                                          jolly39@gmail.com
                                                                                                          Palestine:
                                                                                                          USA: 1-802 864-1575 and 1-802 734-8811(cell)

                                                                                                          Linda Mansour (Ohio)
                                                                                                          Lindamansour@aol.com
                                                                                                          Palestine:
                                                                                                          USA: 1-419-535-7100 and 1-419-283-8281 (cell)

                                                                                                          Rose Mishaan (California)
                                                                                                          roseindigo7@gmail.com
                                                                                                          Palestine:
                                                                                                          USA: 1-917-803-2201

                                                                                                          Thomas Nelson (Oregon)
                                                                                                          nelson@thnelson.com
                                                                                                          Palestine:
                                                                                                          USA: 1-503-709-6397

                                                                                                          Radhika Sainath (California)
                                                                                                          radhika.sainath@gmail.com
                                                                                                          Palestine:
                                                                                                          USA: 1-917-669-6903

                                                                                                          Reem Salahi (California)
                                                                                                          reemos@gmail.com
                                                                                                          Palestine:
                                                                                                          USA: 1-510-225-8880

                                                                                                          Counterpunch

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                                                                                                            Non-Violence? Finkelstein and Gandhi

                                                                                                            English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                            'As Palestinians marched and died, people in the West would have to boycott and divest.'

                                                                                                            By Robin Yassin-Kassab

                                                                                                            When Western liberals call on the Palestinians to renounce violence and to adopt Gandhian passive resistance instead, I usually become enraged. My first response is, they've tried non-violence, and you failed to notice.

                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                            For the first two decades after the original ethnic cleansing of 1947 and 48, almost all Palestinian resistance was non-violent. From 1967 until 1987 Palestinians resisted by organizing tax strikes, peaceful demonstrations, petitions, sit-down protests on confiscated lands and in houses condemned to demolition. The First Intifada was almost entirely non-violent on the Palestinian side; the new tactic of throwing stones at tanks (which some liberals consider violent) was almost entirely symbolic. In every case, the Palestinians were met with fanatical violence. Midnight arrest, beatings, and torture were the lot of most. Many were shot. Yitzhak Rabin ordered occupation troops to break the bones of the boys with stones. And despite all this sacrifice, Israeli Jews were not moved to recognize the injustice of occupation and dispossession, at least not enough to end it. The first weeks of the Second Intifada were also non-violent on the Palestinian side. Israel responded by murdering tens of unarmed civilians daily, and the US media blamed the victims. Then the Intifada was militarized.

                                                                                                            Was it really, or only, non-violence which liberated India? In colonized India there were hundreds of thousands of Indians to each British officer, so the cause of independence had sheer numbers on its side as well as time. The British people certainly came to love Gandhi and to respect the moral courage of his non-violent strategy, but the British officials who counted could also see the tide of violent anti-imperialism rising behind Gandhi, a tide that would dominate if Gandhi’s method failed. Likewise in the American civil rights struggle: behind Martin Luther King stood Malcolm X. It’s a lot easier to deal with the nice guy when you see the nasty guy rolling up his sleeves.

                                                                                                            My third point: I’ll listen to the call for non-violence if it comes from the mouth of a genuine pacifist. From someone who believes, as Ghandi did, that Nazism could have been better resisted non-violently. From someone who would himself engage only in peaceful action after seeing his own child killed, his own flat bombed. And of course from someone who realizes that Palestinian violence is as nothing when put next to the staggering violence of Zionism.

                                                                                                            Another problem is that not all Palestinians are capable of suppressing their desire for revenge. I’m not insulting them; God knows that I, comfortable in front of my screen many miles away from the trouble, am thirsting for revenge. In the Palestinians’ circumstances, violence is natural. So if the Palestinians have to prove they deserve justice by acting nice, there will never be justice. We have to get beyond condemning the inevitable violence of a traumatized refugee population to condemning the causes of the violence – dispossession, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, occupation, massacre.

                                                                                                            Norman Finkelstein’s reading of Gandhi (I’ve never read Gandhi, so I’ll have to trust Finkelstein) settles many of my reservations. Gandhi argues that violent resistance is acceptable by the conventional moral standards of our times. He says that an oppressed and humiliated population must resist its oppressors violently if it is incapable of non-violent resistance. According to Gandi, the worst of failures is to submit.

                                                                                                            With specific reference to Palestine, Gandhi said this in 1938:

                                                                                                            “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French…What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…If (the Jews) must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs…As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unacceptable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.”

                                                                                                            In his lecture, Finkelstein suggests what could be done:

                                                                                                            “A massive mobilization of Palestinians building on the non-cooperation tactics of the first intifada (commercial and tax strikes, popular committees) could again make the Israeli occupation ungovernable. Is it so far-fetched to imagine an “army” of Palestinian satyagrahis converging on the Wall, their sole “weapons” a pick in one hand and a copy of the ICJ opinion in the other? The ICJ stated that the Wall was illegal and must be dismantled. The Palestinians would only be doing what the world should already have done a long time ago. Who could fault them for enforcing the law? No doubt Israel would fire on Palestinians and many would be killed. But if their supporters in North America and Europe publicized the ICJ opinion, and if Palestinians found the inner wherewithal to persevere nonviolently, it seems probable that far, far fewer than 5,000 Palestinians would be killed before Israel were forced to desist. No one writing abroad from the comfort and safety of his study can in good conscience urge such a strategy that entails so much death. But Gandhi’s point nonetheless stands: if Palestinians have repeatedly shown a willingness to pay the ultimate price, doesn’t it make sense for them to pursue a strategy that has a better likelihood of success at a smaller human price?”

                                                                                                            Dismantling the wall. Gazans dismantling the border fence. Marches of Return from the West Bank and Gaza and Jordan, Syria and Lebanon to the border fences and the Israeli bullets. The numbers would have to be huge, and the coordination with the world's official and alternative media incredibly efficient. It would require a mobilization that neither the corrupt and collaborative PA nor the hunted and secretive Hamas could command. It would take a concerted simultaneous effort by the Palestinian people and their supporters around the world to shine the light on Israel and on Palestinian history. As Palestinians marched and died, people in the West would have to boycott and divest. It seems farfetched in the present blood-soaked bitterness, but it's worth thinking about.

                                                                                                            The latest massacre has changed things. Perhaps the world is ready to see now. Perhaps.

                                                                                                            I don’t agree with Finkelstein’s desire to limit discussion to the two state solution, although I understand his tactics. For reasons that I will write of later, reasons of justice but more importantly of pragmatism, I am a supporter of some kind of one state solution. I speculate a world in which a non-violent campaign against the wall spawns a non-violent campaign for Israeli passports.

                                                                                                            In any case, I support bringing injustice into the light. 94% of Israeli Jews supported the Gaza massacre. 40% – an incredible statistic – believe Jews were a majority in Palestine at the end of the 19th Century. We have to engage Israeli ignorance and paranoia, the dark products of Zionist indoctrination. The 6% of Israeli Jews who can think more critically could be our allies in this.

                                                                                                            I continue to believe that Zionism is the enemy, but by Zionism I mean the Iron Wall Zionism of Jabotinsky that has come to determine the character of the mainstream, from the Labour Party to the openly fascist fringe. Those Zionists, however, who are interested in a cultural home and refuge in Palestine on terms of equality and brotherhood with the Palestinians – those could be allies.

                                                                                                            I feel something has snapped in mind and heart since December 27th. I’m trying to get beyond the snapping. I find the concluding paragraph of Finkelstein’s lecture both educative and humbling:

                                                                                                            “The Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire once wrote, “There’s room for everyone at the rendezvous of victory.” Late in life, when his political horizons broadened out, Edward Said would often quote this line. We should make it our credo as well. We want to nurture a movement, not hatch a cult. The victory to which we aspire is inclusive, not exclusive; it is not at anyone’s expense. It is to be victorious without vanquishing. No one is a loser, and we all are gainers if together we stand by truth and justice. “I am not anti-English; I am not anti-British; I am not anti-any government,” Gandhi insisted, “but I am anti-untruth—anti-humbug, and anti-injustice.”(188) Shouldn’t we also say that we are not anti-Jewish, anti-Israel or, for that matter, anti-Zionist? The prize on which our eyes should be riveted is human rights, human dignity, human equality. What, really, is the point of ideological litmus tests such as, Are you now or have you ever been a Zionist? Indeed, it is Israel’s apologists who thrive on and cling to them, bogging down interlocutors in distracting and endless intellectual sideshows—What is a Jew? Are the Jews a nation? Don’t Jews have a right to national liberation? Shouldn’t we use a vocabulary that registers and resonates with the public conscience and the Jewish conscience, winning over the decent many while isolating the diehard few? Shouldn’t we instead be asking, Are you for or against ethnic cleansing, for or against torture, for or against house demolitions, for or against Jews-only roads and Jews-only settlements, for or against discriminatory laws? And if the answer comes, against, against and against, shouldn’t we then say, Keep your ideology, whatever it might be—there’s room for everyone at the rendezvous of victory?

                                                                                                            May we all, seekers of truth, fighters for justice, yet live to join the people of Palestine at the rendezvous of victory.”

                                                                                                            - Robin Yassin-Kassab’s first novel The Road From Damascus was recently published by Hamish Hamilton and Penguin. He is also the co-editor of Pulsemedia.org. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his blog.

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                                                                                                              Israeli University Welcomes 'War Crimes' Colonel

                                                                                                              English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                              Sharvit-Baruch (right) provided legal cover for war crimes in Gaza.

                                                                                                              By Jonathan Cook – Nazareth

                                                                                                              The Israeli government has moved quickly to quash protests over the appointment of the army's senior adviser on international law to a teaching post at Tel Aviv University. Col Pnina Sharvit-Baruch is thought to have provided legal cover for war crimes during the recent Gaza offensive.

                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                              Government officials fear that recent media revelations relating to Col Sharvit-Baruch’s role in the Gaza operation may assist human rights groups seeking to bring Israeli soldiers to trial abroad.

                                                                                                              A Spanish judge began investigating Israeli war crimes in Gaza under the country’s “universal jurisdiction” laws this month, and a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is considering a Palestinian group’s petition to indict Israeli commanders.

                                                                                                              Meanwhile, the furore -- by highlighting the close ties between the army and Israeli universities -- is adding weight to a growing campaign in Europe and the US to impose an academic boycott on Israel, say activists.

                                                                                                              Tel Aviv University’s decision to hire Col Sharvit-Baruch to teach international law prompted protests from staff after the local media published details of the military planning for the Gaza offensive.

                                                                                                              More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the operation, the majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured.

                                                                                                              According to critics quoted by the Haaretz newspaper, Col Sharvit-Baruch and her staff manipulated standard interpretations of international law to expand the scope of army operations to include civilian targets.

                                                                                                              Leading the protest is Haim Ganz, a law professor who has called the colonel’s approach to international law “devious jurisprudence that permits mass killing”. In a letter to the university, Prof Ganz said he was lodging “a moral protest against a state of affairs where somebody who authorised these actions is teaching the law of war”.

                                                                                                              Last week Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, threatened to cut government funding for the law faculty should Col Sharvit-Baruch’s appointment not proceed. The university’s president, Zvi Galil, phoned the cabinet secretary to reassure the government, saying Prof Ganz’s opinions were not shared by most staff.

                                                                                                              Other academics have rallied in support of Col Sharvit-Baruch, accusing her critics of waging a McCarthyite campaign against her.

                                                                                                              According to the Israeli media, she personally approved the first wave of air strikes in Gaza that targeted a police graduation ceremony, killing at least 40 cadets.

                                                                                                              Although police forces have civilian status in international law, and are therefore protected from military reprisal, Col Sharvit-Baruch is reported to have revised her opinion of the attack’s legality during the many months of planning.

                                                                                                              In addition, she is said to have “relaxed” the rules of engagement, approved widespread house demolitions and the uprooting of farmland, and sanctioned the use of incendiary weapons such as white phosphorus over the densely populated enclave.

                                                                                                              She also offered legal justification for the targeting of buildings in which civilians were known to be located as long as they had been warned first to leave. Schools, mosques and a university were among the many civilian buildings shelled by the Israeli army during the 22-day operation.

                                                                                                              Her decisions have been widely criticised by international human rights organisations as well as by international law experts in Israel.

                                                                                                              The professor Yuval Shany, who teaches public international law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, called her interpretation of the rules of war “flexible”. Regarding the strike against the police cadets, he said: “If you follow that line, there is not much that differentiates [the cadets] from [Israeli] reservists or even from 16-year-olds who will be drafted [into the Israeli army] in two years.”

                                                                                                              Col Sharvit-Baruch’s predecessor, Daniel Reisner, noted that her staff had stretched the accepted meanings of international law. The army’s operating principle, he added, was: “If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it.”

                                                                                                              Orna Ben-Naftali, the dean of law at the College of Management in Rishon Letzion, said the army’s conduct in Gaza had made international law “bankrupt”. “A situation is created in which the majority of the adult men in Gaza and the majority of the buildings can be treated as legitimate targets. The law has actually been stood on its head.”

                                                                                                              But despite the protest at Tel Aviv University, most academic staff in Israel supported Col Sharvit-Baruch’s appointment, said Daphna Golan, a programme director at the Minerva Center for Human Rights at Hebrew University. “I think even Prof Ganz has been frightened into silence by the backlash.”

                                                                                                              The episode, she said, highlighted the intimate relations between the army and universities in Israel, as well as the dependence of the universities on army funding.

                                                                                                              She noted that there were many special programmes designed to favour army and security personnel by putting them on a fast track to degrees.

                                                                                                              “Most of the professors in the country’s Middle East departments -- the ‘experts on Arabs’ who shape the perceptions of the next generation -- are recruited from the army or the security services,” she added.

                                                                                                              Omar Barghouti, a co-ordinator of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said Col Sharvit-Baruch’s employment was a further indication of the “organic ties” between Israeli institutions and the army.

                                                                                                              “This just adds one more soldier to an already very long list of war criminals roaming around freely in Israeli universities, teaching hate, racism and warmongering, with impunity,” he said.

                                                                                                              He noted that calls for an academic boycott were growing in the wake of the Gaza offensive.

                                                                                                              Al-Quds University, with campuses in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, severed its contacts with Israeli universities last week. It had been the last Palestinian university to maintain such ties.

                                                                                                              At the same time, a group of US professors announced that they were campaigning for an academic boycott of Israel -- the first time such a call has been heard in the US.

                                                                                                              Mr. Barghouti said an “unprecedented” groundswell of popular opinion was behind new campaigns in countries such as Australia, Spain, Sweden, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

                                                                                                              - Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his website is www.jkcook.net.

                                                                                                              1036 words posted in Human Rights, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                The Ultimate Irony: Hamas and the Israeli Politik

                                                                                                                English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                'The ultimate irony of the 2009 Knesset elections could be Israelis' choice of Netanyahu.'

                                                                                                                By Jason Hicks – Jerusalem

                                                                                                                Until 2006, the Israeli-Palestinian political landscape was dominated almost exclusively by three major players: the Labor and Likud parties in Israel, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) largest faction, Fatah. That year brought a dramatic change, however, with the success of Israel’s newly formed Kadima party in the elections for the 17th Knesset and of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections.

                                                                                                                Since Hamas won a plurality of seats in January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Israel has refused to negotiate with the democratically elected Palestinian government, deeming Hamas a terrorist organization which includes in its founding charter a statement calling for the elimination of Israel. Throughout most of its existence, however, Hamas has also provided humanitarian programs, including extensive welfare and social services in the Palestinian occupied territories, and in April 2008, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal offered implicit recognition of Israel if it withdraws from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. “We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition,” said Meshal—the target of a botched 1997 Israeli assassination attempt in Amman. Hamas has also said it would abide by any peace deal with Israel, as long as the agreement is approved by the Palestinian people in a referendum.

                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                One would assume that those criticizing Hamas for not accepting the right of Israel to exist would not only support the right of Palestinians to live in the West Bank and Gaza, but would also support an independent Palestinian state. Ironically, this is not the case. The charter of the Likud party, which is in a two-way race with Kadima to win the Feb. 10 parliamentary elections, clearly rejects a two-state solution and unequivocally calls for annexing, settling and developing all of “Greater Israel,” which according to fundamentalist Jews incorporates both the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, in calling for the elimination of Arab Palestine, the Likud party’s vision of historic Palestine is in effect a mirror image of Hamas’ from an Israeli perspective. Indeed, since 1977 Likud-led governments have attempted to transfer this ideology into on-the-ground reality in the occupied Palestinian territories and have facilitated the greatest increases in Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. During periods of Likud leadership (1977-84, 1986-92, 1996-99 and 2001-05), more than 90 new settlements were constructed to further the Greater Israel ideology and Judaize the West Bank.

                                                                                                                From the creation of the state in 1948 until 1977, Israel’s Labor party, including its predecessors the Mapai and Alignment parties, was the single major player in Israeli politics. Historically, it has been a champion of Social Zionism and was one of the earliest proponents of the settler initiative. In contrast to Likud’s religious justification, Labor’s drive for Jewish colonization of the Palestinian territories arises from a secular, security-based agenda. Both parties, however, advance their goal of an expanded Israeli state by creating facts on the ground in the form of settlement construction and settler immigration.

                                                                                                                Following the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel conquered and occupied the Palestinian territories, Labor governments have authorized the construction of nearly 50 settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. New settlement construction continued during the Oslo process in the 1990s under the Labor administrations of Yitzhak Rabin (1992-1995), Shimon Peres (1995-1996) and Ehud Barak (1999-2000). In all, the settler population grew by more than 163,000 between 1993, the beginning of the Oslo period, and 2004—a 63 percent increase.

                                                                                                                Historically, the Labor party platform contained a clause rejecting the possibility of an independent Palestinian state. The platform was altered in 1997, and that terminology was replaced with the words, “we do not rule out…the establishment of a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.” It is important to recognize that not ruling out a Palestinian state is not synonymous with supporting a Palestinian state, as some have implied. Further, “limited sovereignty” by definition rules out the possibility of a completely autonomous Palestinian state.

                                                                                                                Further constraints on Palestinian sovereignty are clearly defined in the Labor party platform, including the declaration that “The Jordan River will be Israel’s eastern security border and there will be no other army stationed to the west of it.” The Palestinians unquestionably view the Jordan River as the eastern border of the West Bank and of a potential Palestinian state. Further, indefinite Israeli control of the Jordan River would result in a Palestinian state completely encompassed by a militarily dominant Israeli state. This is an unacceptable scenario for an independent nation, particularly one having endured more than four decades of occupation. Clearly, past and present Labor party doctrine, combined with its historical support of settlement construction and settler emigration into Palestine, indicates a lack of authentic support for a two-state solution and a desire to create an Israeli state incorporating the Palestinian territories.

                                                                                                                Since winning a plurality of seats in the 2006 Knesset elections, the Kadima party has headed Israel’s governing coalition. It was formed in 2005, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left the Likud party to establish a party that would allow him to carry out his Unilateral Disengagement Plan. Although created under the guise of removing Israeli settlements from Gaza, Kadima also has fundamental ties to the Greater Israel concept. According to the party platform, “The Israeli nation has a national and historic right to the whole of Israel. However, in order to maintain a Jewish majority, part of the Land of Israel must be given up to maintain a Jewish and democratic state.”

                                                                                                                Statements by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sharon’s successor as party leader, echo this dichotomy. In a cabinet meeting last fall Olmert declared, “‘Greater Israel’ is finished. There is no such thing as that anymore. Whoever talks in those terms is only deluding himself.” In 2006, however, he told the United States Congress, “I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people’s eternal and historic right to this entire land.”

                                                                                                                Kadima’s contradictory position on the Land of Israel parallels the often-criticized dichotomy of Hamas’ call for the elimination of Israel and their stated support of a long-term truce. Kadima supports a "demilitarized" Palestinian state in the short-term (as does Hamas towards an Israeli state) to preserve a Jewish majority, but in the long-term believes fundamentally, as stated in the Torah, that Jews have a right to all of the Land of Israel. Therefore, if demographic realities change in Israel's favor or the geo-political situation in the future allows for them to take control of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will do so because it is their religious right to occupy all of the Land of Israel.

                                                                                                                Not only do these paradoxes bring into question the veracity of Kadima’s commitment to a long-term, sovereign Palestinian state, but the facts on the ground speak for themselves. According to the Israeli Interior Ministry, under Kadima the Jewish population in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, grew by 14,000—from 268,000 at the end of 2006 to 282,000 at the end of 2007. This 5.2 percent increase is over five times the immigration rate of Jews into Israel during the same time period. Furthermore, immediately before the November 2007 Annapolis summit, the Israeli government announced the future construction of nearly 8,000 apartments and homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. By contrast, only 1,600 units were built from 2002-2006, indicating a six times greater growth since Annapolis than during the previous four years. This extensive settlement development is in stark contrast with Olmert’s declaration that Israel must withdraw from “nearly all” of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, to achieve peace. The concept of Greater Israel evidently is alive and well in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

                                                                                                                The election of Tzipi Livni (characterized by many as a dove) as head of Kadima was thought by many to be a positive step toward peace. However, the basis for this assumption is unclear, particularly given her unabashed support and participation in the War on Gaza. Additionally, as Israel’s minister of housing and construction in 2004, Livni personally reviewed and issued tenders for the construction of 1,001 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Her direct role in settlement expansion and advancing the Greater Israel ideology in occupied Palestine should not be a surprise, given her recent statement during an interview with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that “the peace process is not and should not be affected by any settlement activities.” Livni’s actions and language are hardly that of a “dove” and strongly bring into question her sincerity in supporting a genuine two-state solution.

                                                                                                                Palestinian voters elected Hamas nearly three years ago in large part because of their frustration with the corrupt and ineffective Fatah leadership. As has been seen, however, Hamas has indicated its willingness to support a two-state solution with Israel on its pre-’67 border, despite constant Israeli military incursions into Gaza (prior to the War on Gaza) and a dire humanitarian situation in the besieged Palestinian territory. By contrast, all of Israel’s major parties are committed to the ideology of a Greater Israel—an ideology they implement with illegal facts on the ground.

                                                                                                                The ultimate irony of the 2009 Knesset elections could be Israelis’ choice of Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) as their next prime minister—the very man who occupied that position in 1997, and presumably ordered the assassination of Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal.

                                                                                                                - Jason Hicks works for the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) in Jerusalem. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (A version of this article was recently published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2009 issue.)

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                                                                                                                  Interview: Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, senior Hamas leader

                                                                                                                  English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                  Zahar said that the PLO has been caught taking sides in the Palestinian conflict

                                                                                                                  In his first interview following the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, Dr Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader and member of the movement's political bureau, talks to Al Jazeera, from Cairo.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: What is the political meaning behind Hamas sending a delegation to Cairo at this time?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: The main motive behind this issue is to rebuild what the occupation has demolished - the crimes which the whole world has witnessed and its serious impact on humanity.

                                                                                                                  The truce has to be upheld on conditions that are not unjust to the rights of the Palestinian people. Particularly to give them a chance to rebuild the houses that have been demolished, the mosques, hospitals, schools and others.

                                                                                                                  My attendance, along with a delegation of senior [Hamas] figures, reflects the real desire of Hamas's leadership inside and outside the Palestinian territories to end this crisis by upholding the truce in a way that guarantees the rights of the Palestinian people. To give them back their rights in rebuilding what the occupation has demolished via a ceasefire.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: Is it believed such a truce would be for the benefit of the Palestinian people and Hamas and to lift the siege imposed on the Strip?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: Absolutely. Our project is not "armed action". The "armed action" is a part of the resistance.

                                                                                                                  We have repeatedly explained the concept of resistance. The resistance is, first rejection of the occupation and the injustice, the resistance is rejection of abuse of rights. This idea led to [the emergence] of Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, under this name, before it fired a single bullet at the Jews.

                                                                                                                  Therefore, we want to continue the comprehensive programme of the resistance. But we also want to give ourselves a chance to rebuild what the occupation has demolished - as long as the Israeli side will stop its aggression against the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: Do you think the movement's leadership in Damascus, which watches what is happening in Gaza far away on TV and does not witness the real suffering of those in their houses in Gaza, do you think this leadership will espouse this ideology?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: This is their ideology, by the way. I do not defend anyone, but I know my brothers, their ideology and visions.

                                                                                                                  The previous experience was a failure. We do not wanr to repeat such a failing experience, because eventually, we will eliminate the principle of a "free" truce.

                                                                                                                  Therefore, trying to visualise that the stance of those [members of Hamas] who live outside Gaza is different from those inside Gaza is wrong. The movement's decisions have all the time been unanimous; those outside respect the vision of those inside, and those inside respect the vision of those outside. And the results are determined by the movement's consultative sides.

                                                                                                                  I believe that we have maintained the movement's unity for a long time and are fortified against any division, like what happened in other factions.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: Is it not true that your daily life is confined by the geography of Egypt, while those in Damascus are confined by their presence in Syria?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: I hope the Arab nations would not push any faction to take sides. I hope Egypt in particular would not push any faction or consider Hamas on one side or another.

                                                                                                                  What has weakened the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) is its experience of this game of sides. We do not want to repeat this experience.

                                                                                                                  We are with all those who back the resistance's programme.

                                                                                                                  I have seen what the Egyptian people did during this crisis. The Egyptian people, the Turkish people, the Arab people, all of them everywhere, Muslims everywhere, Europeans in pro-Israel states. They were all moved for Gaza and for its rights.

                                                                                                                  We want all Arab states to adopt the stance of Hamas, the stance of the resistance, the stance of the unity of the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                  We want all these people across the world to devote themselves to our cause, the alternative cause. We want all these people to stand by our side, support our cause, not only financially but by all means that will keep the Palestinian cause upstanding.

                                                                                                                  That is why we call for the reorganising and restructuring of the PLO in order to become strong and capable of talking on the behalf of the Palestinian people inside and outside [the Palestinian territories].

                                                                                                                  This PLO in its current state cannot take a step forward. What is frozen cannot move. That is why we want to push the PLO to revive its activities.

                                                                                                                  Our relation with the whole Islamic world must be good.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: Can we expect a truce announcement within days in Cairo?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: We carry the vision of the movement's leadership from inside the Palestinian territories and have an idea now of the latest developments [in Cairo].

                                                                                                                  I have started talks with real intentions to end this crisis.

                                                                                                                  We will make enough effort to reach an honoured agreement that guarantees the Palestinian people's rights and dignity.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: What about the political differences in remarks made by Hamas's elder leaders and those of its young activists, who tend to use more moderate language?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: Hamas is known for having a clear language. We never play the game of distributing roles, because distributing roles classifies people and eventually leads to ... [division]. We do not have the issue of ‘hawks and pigeons'.

                                                                                                                  The problem sometimes lies in understanding media and media figures who sometimes try to incorrectly divert words. Just like what happened with Khaled Meshaal's recent remarks on the resistance's programme - it was misinterpreted as an "alternative" to the PLO.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: So Meshaal's remarks did not refer to the structure of the PLO ... ?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: To make it simple, we have three strategic options; we have achieved one of them but still have not achieved the other two.

                                                                                                                  The first option: We adopted the jihadi legitimacy, we were requested to obtain the constitutional legitimacy and we already did so through the legislative and municipal elections. The institution remained as it is, but its content, which had a specific type, acquired another type.

                                                                                                                  We want to gain international legitimacy, Arab legitimacy and all what the PLO has earned through elections, we want to enter the PLO. If we were a minority, we would respect that, and if we were a majority, they would have to respect that.

                                                                                                                  That is why we are keeping with the PLO, with its structure not its programme, as 28 items of it have been removed.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: As a Hamas leader, do you think that after the crisis of the Rafah border crossing and others, Hamas's relations with Egypt are improving or ... ?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: It has to improve. It is against the benefit of Egypt, Hamas and the Palestinian people to have tense relations between any Palestinian faction, particularly Hamas, and any Arab country.

                                                                                                                  Therefore, our relation with Egypt must improve.

                                                                                                                  Those who view Hamas as an enemy to Egypt are wrong. Those who believe that Hamas may be dangerous to the national security of any Arab state are wrong.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: Do you view your movement as a resistance group or as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood group?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: This is not the issue. Syria has very good relations with Hamas, but terrible relations with the Muslim Brotherhood group. More than 24,000 people were killed in 1982 by the Syrian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood group.

                                                                                                                  It is wrong to be confined by a particular experience.

                                                                                                                  We are not the ones that may weaken the Arab or the Islamic stance. Our vision is to keep the Islamic nation alert and active.

                                                                                                                  This Islamic alertness must be correctly exploited.

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera: Will Hamas prosecute or hold accountable those proved to be involved in operations against Hamas' respect of human rights?

                                                                                                                  Zahar: First, we must bear in mind that Hamas fears God before any other thing. We strongly believe in God's rules on injustice.

                                                                                                                  Injustice is a big issue for us. However, we should differentiate between ... for example, during the past period of time, some people wrote on walls in Gaza "welcome to the Israeli defence army". Those who write such a thing, how can the Palestinian people interpret this? Other people felt forced to demolish these walls because it is a real shame.

                                                                                                                  Some of the collaborators who were held in prisons in Gaza escaped during the war.

                                                                                                                  People whose interests are related to Israel's wanted to spark this serious case to help in achieving the war objectives. We had to face these people's attempts.

                                                                                                                  Source: Al Jazeera

                                                                                                                  1439 words posted in PALESTINE, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                    Breaking the Palestinian impasse

                                                                                                                    English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                    With his term as PA president expired since 9 January, Mahmoud Abbas is now trying to cling to power with his position as PLO head. (Thaer Ganaim/MaanImages)

                                                                                                                    By Arjan El Fassed, The Electronic Intifada, 9 February 2009

                                                                                                                    To end the Palestinian political impasse, elections for the Palestine National Council (PNC) should be the top priority for all Palestinian parties. The 669-member Palestinian "parliament-in-exile" has not held a meeting since 1998 and its members have never been elected. Once a central body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), what is left of the PNC lacks all legitimacy.

                                                                                                                    Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal caused an uproar recently when he stated that in its current form the PLO is no longer a reference point for Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as president of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority expired on 9 January, reacted with fury. Having himself lost all legal and political legitimacy, Abbas told a crowd in Cairo that "There will be no dialogue with those who reject the PLO."

                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                    Of course Meshal did not reject the PLO, but he asserted that the PLO has become "a center of division for the Palestinian household." Speaking to Al-Jazeera on 30 January, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan clarified that the "PLO represents a good framework that can be used to solve a lot of our problems and disputes." Hamdan added that the body "is the only organization that is capable of continuing the negotiations and the signing of political agreements with internal factions and external sides alike." Fawzi Barhoum, another Hamas spokesperson, said that when Hamas made the suggestion to create "a new representation" it was not meant to suggest the creation of an alternative to the PLO. "We want to add opposition factions to the PLO, factions that are still not included within the body," he told reporters.

                                                                                                                    Yet Abbas' own reaction to this challenge to reactivate and democratize the PLO demonstrated why the once iconic organization has lost so much credibility. Trying to shore up the appearance of legitimacy, Abbas summoned the surviving unelected members of the PNC for an emergency meeting in Ramallah. Only a handful of opportunistic relics showed up. PNC speaker Salim Zanoun urged Hamas to withdraw its statements. Salih Rafat, the secretary-general of Fida, a tiny pro-Oslo splinter of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, suggested that the PLO could hold "internal" elections -- whatever that means -- and expand itself to include all Palestinian parties. Indeed, the 2005 Cairo agreement between Abbas' Fatah faction, which long dominated the PLO, and the other groupings including Hamas, called for reform and democratization. But for four years, Fatah has used its dominance of the PLO to stubbornly resist reform. Such undemocratic tactics have a long history.

                                                                                                                    Before the PLO began secret negotiations with Israel in Oslo in 1992, the old Fatah leadership refused to mobilize the PLO's various dispersed constituencies, in the words of the late Edward Said, "to attract its people's best talents." Already in 1993 Said wrote: "Central to the opposition's thought is the desperate need for internal reform within the PLO, which is now put on notice that noisy claims for 'national unity' are no longer an excuse for incompetence, corruption, autocracy." He added that "such opposition cannot, except by some preposterous and disingenuous logic, be equated with treason or betrayal" ("The lost liberation," The Guardian, 9 September 1993). Said had harsh words for Yasser Arafat, Abbas' predecessor.

                                                                                                                    "By signing an agreement with Israel to be Israel's collaborator in occupation," Said wrote, "[Arafat] left the PLO -- a body that did in face once represent Palestinian aspirations and, throughout the Third World, was seen as a peculiarly beleaguered but nevertheless authentic liberation organization, acknowledged as such by Nelson Mandela himself -- to dry up abroad" (Edward Said, Peace and its discontents (London: Vintage), p.167).

                                                                                                                    During Israel's recent massacres of Palestinians in Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank who tried to demonstrate in solidarity with their sisters and brothers under siege faced a brutal crackdown by Abbas' security forces. The blatant use of the police for party political advantage and crushing opposition has fueled Palestinian anger and resentment and demonstrates clearly that the Fatah criticized by Said has changed only for the worse. Abbas' armed militias are funded and trained by Western governments and aided and abetted by Israel to play the role of the occupation's native enforcers. While the vast majority Palestinians no matter where they were felt outrage and wanted to express solidarity with Gaza, the Ramallah regime was obsessed with maintaining good relations with its foreign donors, which meant repressing its own people. Israel holds Abbas responsible for keeping the West Bank safe for prolonged military occupation and colonization, turning Abbas in the eyes of his people into a Palestinian Buthelezi (the Zulu leader who allied himself with the apartheid government of South Africa).

                                                                                                                    In the process of serving Israel, Abbas has lost all legitimacy and support among Palestinians -- except those whose loyalty is purchased with European Union-funded salaries. Abbas, instead of putting all his efforts into national reconciliation and PLO reform, visits Strasbourg, London, Paris and Rome and gives speeches to European parliamentarians and officials and receives more support from them than he does in Gaza, Nablus or any other place where Palestinians reside.

                                                                                                                    With his term as Palestinian Authority president expired, Abbas now uses his title of head of the PLO as a way to cling to power. But the only way he can maintain it is to ensure that there is no democracy and no accountability. And while blocking any reform, he still insists that the rusting hulk of the PLO that he leads is the "sole legitimate representative" of the Palestinian people. Other than preserving Abbas and his entourage in place, there is no reason why PNC elections could not be held. Only a PLO that gains legitimacy through an elected PNC can represent all Palestinians -- including those living in exile and as well as under occupation in Palestine -- and can formulate and endorse a common strategy for liberation.

                                                                                                                    Arjan El Fassed is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and the author of Niet iedereen kan stenen gooien (Uitgeverij Nieuwland, 2008).

                                                                                                                    1015 words posted in PALESTINE, PoliticsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                      Dining with Terrorists Part 2

                                                                                                                      English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

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                                                                                                                        Dining with Terrorists Part 1

                                                                                                                        English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

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                                                                                                                          Israel is addicted to war

                                                                                                                          English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          By Linda S. Heard
                                                                                                                          Online Journal Contributing Writer

                                                                                                                          Israelis go to the polls next Tuesday (fEB. 10) to choose a new leader. Ahead is Benjamin Netanyahu, a right-wing hard-liner who has little time for the two-state solution, was vehemently against Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and, who, for years, has been banging the drums of war against Iran. This silver-tongued, ruthless individual is highly dangerous. Choosing him is tantamount to choosing war. What are they thinking?

                                                                                                                          Successive Israeli governments have proved over and over again that they’re not interested in relinquishing land for peace. Instead, “peace process” has become nothing more than a carrot held up as balm for Palestinian discontent and to appease the international community. Israelis have lived in a state of conflict for so long it has become the norm. For most, the status quo is safe and familiar.

                                                                                                                          Peace would hurtle them into unknown territory. Peace would mean Israel could no longer paint itself as the eternal victim. Peace would erode the emotion felt by its international supporters. Peace would pressure Israel to abide by international laws and conventions and would remove cover for its nuclear weapons program. In short, if peace were ever to reign, tiny Israel would no longer be in the spotlight; no longer of importance on the world stage. Over the decades, Israel has become addicted to its drug of choice: raw military power that shapes its identity, allows it to be a law unto itself and punch above its weight.

                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                          Israeli children are indoctrinated in schools to believe that Eretz Israel is the be all and end all of everything. I once asked a seemingly well-balanced Israeli teenager whether she would like to visit Paris, London or Rome one day. “Oh no!” she said. “Our country is the best in the world. Why would I want to go anywhere else?”

                                                                                                                          Of course, this ultra-nationalist mindset gets softened later on. But not before those young people are thrust into the military for up to three years when they are prematurely allowed to make life or death decisions.

                                                                                                                          Just imagine, while their peers abroad are playing at war on their computers, these kids are handed real guns and tanks along with the power to use them on an occupied captive people without any real rights. For many, this must be quite a heady experience. One minute they’re in school or playing basket on the beach and the next they’re uniformed and manning checkpoints where, if they feel so disposed, they can give “the enemy” a hard time without repercussions to themselves. This is akin to handing revolvers to 18-year-old European football supporters and expecting them to behave responsibly.

                                                                                                                          For young Israelis, the army is like a giant social club and its hardware their playthings. Most find the experience pleasurable. If you had tuned into to the Israeli channels 2 or 10 during the recent incineration of Gaza, you would have seen Israel’s grinning finest piling onto tanks with lollipops or cans of soda for photo-ops. There they were looking as though they were enjoying a fun-packed jamboree instead of destroying lives and livelihoods. It is little wonder they grow up to become immune to the suffering of the other when the other has been systematically dehumanized in their eyes.

                                                                                                                          Moreover, throughout Israeli society the army is a revered institution that cements an otherwise disparate society against a perceived existential threat. This is why Israelis draw their leaders from people they call war heroes, who are very often known to the rest of the world as war criminals or even terrorists.

                                                                                                                          Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both former prime ministers, led terrorist groups and who was Ariel Sharon if not a war criminal when he was found to be responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila by the Israelis themselves?

                                                                                                                          And what should we call Ehud Olmert who facilitated the murder of 1,200 Lebanese civilians and 1,300 Gazans on his watch? The only Israeli leader who proved serious about peace. Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated, which speaks volumes. If the climate within Israel were otherwise, a two-state solution would have been achieved decades ago. After all, it isn’t rocket science. All Israel has to do is move back to borders rightly or wrongly legitimized by the United Nations and return the Golan Heights to its rightful owner, Syria.

                                                                                                                          With the right will and a spirit of compromise the issues of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return could be successfully negotiated. The Arab peace initiative that was unveiled at a 2002 Arab League summit offers Israel normalized relations with all of the league’s 22 members along the above lines. Until now, this important olive branch on the part of the region’s main players has been spurned.

                                                                                                                          Israeli intransigence cannot go on forever. People everywhere are becoming sickened by the devastation wrought by its military while regional leaders are growing impatient. Saudi Arabia recently made it clear that its peace offer won’t remain on the table forever.

                                                                                                                          Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off the stage at Davos in frustration at having to listen to Shimon Peres justify the killing of Palestinian children without being given time to counter his arguments.

                                                                                                                          According to the Jerusalem Post, a senior Israeli official has characterized Erdogan’s outburst as “encouraging expressions of anti-Semitism.” But this old canard used by Israelis to fend off legitimate criticism doesn’t wash any more. Israelis should be made to realize that nothing ever stays the same. The war that they want is one that is on their terms, but if they carry on indefinitely stomping on any chance at peace, they may end up with more than they bargained for. As the new Obama presidency has shown us, the tectonic plates of our world are shifting and with them new attitudes. Israelis need to change their own else wait for the day when the piper will finally have to be paid.
                                                                                                                          Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at heardonthegrapevines@yahoo.co.uk.

                                                                                                                          1 response(s) to Israel is addicted to war

                                                                                                                          1. Kim [Visitor] says:

                                                                                                                            Upon reading your article, I could not help but find your generalizations inaccurate and misleading. I think the fact that one can find Israelis traveling and living all over the world is enough to disprove your "indoctrination" comment. And if Israelis aren't willing to relinquish land, then what of their returning the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a peace agreement? Yitzhak Rabin was killed by an Israeli extremist; the fact that the entire country still mourns his passing as a missed opportunity for peace speaks volumes. There is nothing most Israelis want more than peace; and I am sure the same goes for most Palestinians. There is far, far more to this situation than you discuss in your article, and difficulties and faults persist on both sides of the fence. Framing this as a situation in which fault lies entirely with one party is misleading, inaccurate, and does nothing to further the process of working toward a peaceful future rooted in tolerance and understanding. PS: Israel's importance on the world stage will persist regardless of whether peace is achieved; their scientific, medical, literary, and artistic contributions to the world will continue unabated.

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                                                                                                                          BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, SANCTIONS NEWS: Media Release: Victory for worker solidarity

                                                                                                                          English (US)  February 9th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          "The momentum against apartheid Israel has become an irresistible force. We are proud to stand with the millions around the world who say 'Enough is enough'. They are doing what we asked them to do when we faced the apartheid regime in our own country."

                                                                                                                          Issued by Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC)
                                                                                                                          6 February 2009

                                                                                                                          The Congress of South African Trade Union is pleased to announce that its members, dock workers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) achieved a victory last night when they stood firm by their decision not to offload the Johanna Russ, a ship that was carrying Israeli goods to South Africa. This, despite threats to COSATU members from sections of the pro-Israeli lobby, and despite severe provocation.


                                                                                                                          The Johanna Russ, flying an Antigua flag, is owned by M. Dizengoff and Co., an established "pioneer of the modern era of shipping business in the Middle East" and shipping agent for the ironically named Zim Israel Navigation Company. (Ironic because, last year, the same SATAWU members refused to offload the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang, which was carrying arms and ammunition destined for Robert Mugabe’s army.)

                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                          The worker action last night took place despite attempted subterfuge on the part of the owners of the shipping company. There was an attempt to confound the plan by arriving earlier than originally scheduled, which was 8 February. Dates for the berthing of the Johanna Russ were changed constantly. Yesterday morning, SATAWU members were told that the ship would dock this morning (Friday) at 02:00. Thanks to the vigilance of the dock workers, SATAWU discovered that the ship had docked on Wednesday morning and was due to be offloaded last night at 21:00. But the vigilant workers were on guard and immediately they realised that it had docked, they then refused to handle it, despite pressures from management. SATAWU members maintained their refusal to offload the ship and also attempted to ensure that scab labour would not be used.

                                                                                                                          A few hours after berthing, at 23:00, the Johanna Russ sneaked out of the Durban Harbour.

                                                                                                                          From the beginning of this action, COSATU workers remained resolute about their position and were convinced that, following the recent Israeli massacres in Gaza, they will take determined action against Israel. Israel’s terror included flagrant breaches of international law, the bombing of densely populated neighbourhoods, the illegal deployment of chemical white phosphorous, and attacks on schools, ambulances, relief agencies, hospitals, universities and places of worship.

                                                                                                                          COSATU has now decided to intensify its efforts in support of the struggles of the Palestinian people. The worker victory in Durban yesterday spurs COSATU members on to more determined action in order to isolate the Apartheid state of Israel. Other Cosatu unions are currently in discussion about how they might also give effect to Cosatu resolutions on boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, including a refusal to handle Israeli goods, and continuing pressure on our government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.

                                                                                                                          The momentum against apartheid Israel has become an irresistible force. We are proud to stand with the millions around the world who say ‘Enough is enough’. They are doing what we asked them to do when we faced the apartheid regime in our own country.

                                                                                                                          COSATU and the PSC call on all people of conscience to join us in boycotting Israeli products and institutions until a just, democratic state, with equal rights for all comes into existence in Palestine. This is just the beginning of a solidarity campaign which will continue until the demands of the Palestinian people have been won.

                                                                                                                          For more information, call:
                                                                                                                          Randall Howard (Satawu General Secretary) - 082 564 6298
                                                                                                                          Patrick Craven (Cosatu) – 082 821 7456
                                                                                                                          Melissa Hoole (PSC) – 073 906 0017
                                                                                                                          Bongani Masuku (Cosatu)– 079 499 6419
                                                                                                                          Salim Vally (PSC) – 082 802 5936
                                                                                                                          Na’eem Jeenah (PSC) – 084 574 2674

                                                                                                                          http://www.cosatu.org.za/press/2009/feb/press13.htm

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                                                                                                                            Khatami to run in Iranian election

                                                                                                                            English (US)  February 8th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                            TEHERAN - Mohammad Khatami, a former president of Iran, will run in the country's presidential election in June, he has told a news conference in Tehran.

                                                                                                                            Khatami, who served as president from 1997 to 2005, made the announcement on Sunday to run against the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

                                                                                                                            "I strongly announce my candidacy in the elections," Khatami said.

                                                                                                                            "I never had doubt. Is it possible to remain indifferent toward the revolution's fate and shy away from running in the elections?

                                                                                                                            "I consider this as a right to run in this stage. This candidacy doesn't deprive others and the path is open. What should be stressed is that the elections must be held freely."

                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                            While serving as president between 1997 and 2005, Khatami was often referred to as a "reformist" for pushing for improved relations with the West.

                                                                                                                            Refomists' approach

                                                                                                                            Teymoor Nabili, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Iranian city of Qom, said Khatami's candidacy promises an interesting election race.

                                                                                                                            "It is shaping up to be quite a battle. We don't know the full electoral slate yet; there could be some candidates still be announced and maybe even some to drop out," he said.

                                                                                                                            "The two people in particular are the mayor of Tehran, Mohammed Ghaliabaf, who is seen as a hardliner, a former Revolutionary Guard like Ahmadinejad. But it is still an unanswered question whether he will run. The other reformist candidate is Mehdi Karroubi, who some people hope will stand down now that Khatami has announced his candidacy.

                                                                                                                            "The whole debate here is who will lead the reformist effort against Ahmadinejad. Khatami himself has said in the past that he is not all that happy to stand; he would rather have someone else take on the mantle. But Khatami has announced he will run."

                                                                                                                            "Whether the reformists are united at all at this point is still a matter for debate."

                                                                                                                            The election in June comes amid continuing accusations from Western states that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, a claim denied by Tehran.

                                                                                                                            The United Nations has imposed three separate rounds of sanctions against Iran due to its continued work on uranium enrichment.

                                                                                                                            There has been speculation that Barack Obama's administration in the United States will wait until the outcome of the June vote before making any offers to Tehran.

                                                                                                                            Al Jazeera

                                                                                                                            378 words posted in Iran, PoliticsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                              Ecuador expels US embassy official

                                                                                                                              English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                              Correa, who enjoys a 70 per cent popularity rating, will run for a second term as president in April polls [AFP]

                                                                                                                              The president of Ecuador has ordered a US embassy official to leave after accusing him of meddling in local police projects, a move likely to fray ties with Washington.

                                                                                                                              President Rafael Correa said during his weekly media address on Saturday: "Foreign minister, give this gentleman 48 hours to pack up his suitcases and get out of the country".

                                                                                                                              The popular leftist president has generally kept good relations with the United States since he took office in 2007, but his socialist allies in Bolivia and Venezuela have often clashed with Washington over US policies in Latin America.

                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                              Correa said Armando Astorga, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache, had abruptly ended a financing deal with local police after authorities refused to abide by his terms in selecting officers in charge of the aid projects.

                                                                                                                              Correa said Astorga suspended $340,000 in annual aid to Ecuador's anti-contraband police and demanded in a January 8 letter that the police return all vehicles, furniture, cameras and phones donated by Washington.

                                                                                                                              "Mr Astorga keep your dirty money. We don't need it. We have dignity in this country," he said.

                                                                                                                              "Ecuador doesn't need charity from anyone."

                                                                                                                              Fred Lash, a US State Department spokesman, said that Washington was aware of the announcement and was checking into it.

                                                                                                                              Anti-US sentiment

                                                                                                                              Correa also said that he would allow US coast guard airplanes to land on Ecuadorean soil, a request made earlier by Heather Hodges, the US ambassador, only "on one condition: that we be allowed to vet the pilots of those planes, so that they don't sneak criminals into the country."

                                                                                                                              There has been tension with Washington since Correa vowed not to renew a lease ending this year on a coastal air base used by US troops for counter-narcotics missions.

                                                                                                                              Correa, who enjoys a 70 per cent popularity rating, is running for a second four-year term as president in April elections.

                                                                                                                              Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president and a standard-bearer for anti-US sentiment, last year expelled the US ambassador to Caracas and Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, kicked out the US envoy in September after accusing him of fanning civil unrest.

                                                                                                                              Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                                from One composition and four directions

                                                                                                                                English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                By Lobna Al Ameen
                                                                                                                                Studied at the Faculty of Information in Cairo and studied Computer Science at the American University in Cairo. Has attended several free studies in Art in Bahrain, Egypt and Switzerland. Member of Awal Women's Society and the Bahrain Arts Society

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                                                                                                                                  End the Occupation First

                                                                                                                                  English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                  By Sam Bahour
                                                                                                                                  February 7, 2009

                                                                                                                                  If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today he may well have attended President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony wearing a black-and-white checkered kaffiyeh and holding a sign saying, "Mr. President, stop the Gaza nightmare. No more false hopes and delayed dreams. End the Occupation NOW!" Civil rights leaders spent precious political capital to speak out against America's wrongdoings across the world, most notably the war in Vietnam. President Obama should spend domestic political capital to denounce Israel's domination of the Palestinians. Nothing would boost desperately needed international capital more.

                                                                                                                                  Rev. King would have recognized that without unfettered US arms, funds and political cover, Israel would never have been able to inflict the level of brutality it 'proudly' inflicted on Gaza. Nor would it have been able to keep Palestinians in bondage so long.

                                                                                                                                  King would have pointed to where the solution to this conflict lies: the United States of America. If President Obama is to be an historic leader, and not just the first African American elected to the presidency, he must not tolerate Israel's continued slaps in the face, from restricting President Carter's movements in the Mideast, to using US funds to build illegal Jewish-only settlements, to launching a one-sided "war" on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. He will instead deal with the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                  The Palestinian people have been on the receiving end of the US-armed-and-financed Israeli military machine for over 60 years. This latest chapter of Israeli-sponsored state terrorism has claimed over 1,300 Gazan lives, mostly civilians, in just three short weeks. A similar Israeli attack on America would have caused over 260,000 deaths: 92 times the loss of life witnessed from the 9/11 tragedy.

                                                                                                                                  Israel owes its existence to the United States. America's vote was the key to establishing the self-proclaimed Jewish State. However, Israel's existence is also threatened by the United States. Since President Truman, every US administration has indulged Israel while it has dug itself into deeper and deeper trouble. From expansionist adventures in Egypt-Syria-Palestine, to Jewish-only settlements, to caging Palestinians in their own cities and villages, America has paid the bill. To be sure, Palestinians also paid. But the ultimate cost will be borne by Israel. Its endless aggression (enabled by US warplanes, war technology, Apache helicopters, munitions, and so on) not only angers the world, but causes resistance to escalate.

                                                                                                                                  More dangerous than weaponry has been America's role in demobilizing international organizations created to rein-in countries like Israel when they act like rogue nations. The two most blatant examples are the Bush administration's green-lighting of Israel's military misadventure in Lebanon 2006 and its recent crimes against humanity in Gaza by delaying UN Security Council resolutions calling for immediate ceasefires.

                                                                                                                                  To stop further bloodshed, including inevitable revenge attacks against Israelis, President Obama must act immediately to create momentum for lasting peace.

                                                                                                                                  First, he must stop the needless killing. It's not enough to stop Palestinians from arming themselves. An arms embargo must be placed on Israel, too. No more weapons of any kind should be sent to it. Israel has shown time and again that increasing its military might just escalates the conflict, leading to a regional arms race. The Arms Export Control Act gives the President of the United States the authority to control the export of defense articles and defense services. He should use that authority. And, in due time, he should dismantle Israel's nuclear capacity, too.

                                                                                                                                  Second, President Obama must force Israel to end--totally--its 41-year military occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem). It took Israel six days to occupy those areas. It would take less than six months to end the occupation, moving settlers violating international law back to Israel, were the will there. Then and only then can the world expect Palestinians to approach negotiations and reach final status agreements. To expect them to negotiate while Israel's boot of occupation is on their neck (especially after the recent slaughter in Gaza), is a pipe dream.

                                                                                                                                  To bring into reality the dream Martin Luther King envisioned and to avoid the nightmare of a Mideast in flames (which will not spare America), President Obama must focus on leadership. There is no time for posturing or second-term politicking. It's time for him to make a historical correction that will make the world and America safe for years to come. He can begin by visiting Gaza and the West Bank for the same reason Martin Luther King, Jr. gave from his jail cell: "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here."

                                                                                                                                  Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman from Youngstown, Ohio who lives in the occupied West Bank and is co-editor of "Homeland: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians." He may be reached at sbahour@palnet.com.

                                                                                                                                  http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/02/07/end_the_occupation_first/#more

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                                                                                                                                    Zionist Israeli Spokesman Says "We Control Stupid Americans "

                                                                                                                                    English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                    "Another Israeli spokeswoman, Tzipora Menache, stated that she was not worried about negative ramifications the Israeli onslaught on Gaza might have on the way the Obama administration would view Israel. She said 'You know very well, and the stupid Americans know equally well, that we control their government, irrespective of who sits in the White House. You see, I know it and you know it that no American president can be in a position to challenge us even if we do the unthinkable. What can they (Americans) do to us? We control congress, we control the media, we control show biz, and we control everything in America. In America you can criticize God, but you can't criticize Israel."

                                                                                                                                    The Israeli spokesman, Nachman Abramovic demonized Palestinian children stating "They may look young to you, but these people are terrorists at heart. Don’t look at their deceptively innocent faces, try to think of the demons inside each of them … I am absolutely certain these people would grow to be evil terrorists if we allowed them to grow… would you allow them to grow to kill your children or finish them off right now? … Honest and moral people ought to differentiate between true humans and human animals. We do kill human animals and we do so unapologetically. Besides who in the West is in a position to lecture us on killing human animals. After all, whose hands are clean?"

                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                    Commenting on the latest Israeli one-directional onslaught against the Palestinians of Gaza Strip, the Israeli 10th TV channel has disclosed that the Israeli genocidal forces had used half of its air force and had launched at least 2500 air raids against Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                    The television military correspondent stated that the Israeli warplanes had dropped more than a thousand tons of explosives, including white phosphorous and DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) bombs, during three weeks on the virtually unarmed densely populated 360 square Kilometers Strip.

                                                                                                                                    He added that the shells fired by tanks, artillery, gunboats, and infantry were not included in those fired by the air force.

                                                                                                                                    After a whole week of continuous air bombardments Israel sent in its elite foot soldiers; 30,000 of them, and called in 10,000 of its reservists. Armed with the latest weapons of mass murder, covered with an umbrella of free reigning air force, and accompanied with raining shells of heavy artilleries, they drove their tanks into the civilian towns murdering civilians and destroying every structure in their path.

                                                                                                                                    Living outside of Gaza one cannot fully understand the barbarity of this genocide especially when the Western media had barely covered any of its atrocity. To gain a slight idea of its enormity one should remember that, during the 6-days war of 1967, this same Israeli army was distributed on four fronts; Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, and Lebanese, and it was fighting regular armies. Now the whole brunt of this army is concentrated on a small strip against unarmed and untrained civilian population.

                                                                                                                                    Latest official count was 1350 murdered, 40% of them were children, and 5300 were injured; mutilated and amputated. It was reported that 80% of the injured were the victims of burning phosphorous bombs. More dead are being discovered under the rubble, and many seriously injured are expected later on to die.

                                                                                                                                    Israeli tanks had left several city blocks completely destroyed without any homes or structure standing. The tanks shelled homes and apartment towers. Due to the small size of Gaza Strip Palestinians had to build vertically. Many apartment towers went up 15-20 stories high with each story containing 6-8 apartments.

                                                                                                                                    A total of 20,000 buildings were completely or partially burnt and damaged. The UN has reported that more than 50,000 Palestinians are left homeless and are now crowded into 50 emergency shelters.

                                                                                                                                    An estimated of 50,000 more are living with relatives and in tents they erected on the ruins of their homes.

                                                                                                                                    The Israeli bombardment targeted everything in Gaza including government buildings, police headquarters, banks and business offices, the main university, 67 schools sheltering civilians, shopping centers and market places, factories, water, sewer, and electricity infrastructures, private homes and apartment towers and charity organizations.

                                                                                                                                    Farms, including their animals, were also targeted and hundreds of acres of crops and fruit groves were incinerated. Religious buildings, where civilians usually seek shelter, were specifically targeted. Israeli fighter planes had completely destroyed 41 mosques, and partially damaged 51 others. One church was also targeted. Even cemeteries were not spared; 5 of them were bombed.

                                                                                                                                    Although the Israeli army was given the exact GPS co-ordinates of every UN structure, as asserted by Christopher Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman, Israeli F-16 planes had repeatedly dropped phosphorous bombed on UN schools knowing very well that hundreds of civilians had taken shelter there. At least 45 children and women were burnt and murdered there.

                                                                                                                                    The UN headquarters in Gaza City was also hit with three, not just one, phosphorous bombs burning tons of humanitarian aid and food stuff. The fire kept on burning for three days. UN-flagged humanitarian convoy was also shelled killing one driver.

                                                                                                                                    Medical centers and paramedics were not spared. The Red Crescent Al-Quds hospital in Tal el-Hawa neighborhood was hit by Israeli shells and caught on fire. Other two hospitals; Al-Wafa and Al-Fata hospitals, were also shelled, leading the World Health Organization to express its deep concern about the serious implications of such bombardments. 16 other smaller health clinics and 16 ambulances were also damaged. Medics were targeted and prevented from helping the injured. Ten of them, including two doctors, were murdered.

                                                                                                                                    Media centers were particularly targeted. Local and international news reporters were prevented from entering Gaza. Those, who were able to enter, were directly targeted. The Al-Shuruq office tower housing several international and Arab media outlets was directly hit. Two cameramen working for Abu Dhabi TV were injured, while the offices of Reuters News Agency, Fox TV, Sky, and Al-Arabiya TV offices were damaged. Another raid had damaged the headquarter offices of Al-Resala newspaper.

                                                                                                                                    Similar to all their previous wars the Israeli soldiers had committed massacres against Palestinian unarmed civilians. They have used internationally banned weapons such as phosphorous bombs, DIME, and depleted uranium, as reported by international physicians, eyewitnesses, and military experts. Israeli soldiers had mutilated the bodies of their victims to instill terror in the hearts of people hoping they will leave Gaza. Israeli soldiers herded many families in one building using them as human shield, and then later on bombed the building on top of them. They shot civilians, mainly children, directly and at point blank. The bodies of some children were found shot several times; as many as 18 bullets in the body of a 12 years old girl, and 12 bullets in the body of her 2 years old sister.

                                                                                                                                    Israeli soldiers had wiped off whole Palestinian families. Al-Samuni family lost 11 members, Abu Aisha family lost 6, Batran family lost 6, al-Rayyan family lost 15 and al-Balousha family lost 5 sisters. Other families, too many to mention here, were either murdered or incinerated by the phosphorous bombs. The Israeli army has been carrying out a deliberate indiscriminate mass murder. During the first Intifada, 1987 – 1993, they murdered 1162 Palestinians. During the second Intifada, 2001- 2006, they murdered 5500 Palestinians. Now, in a short period of three weeks, they murdered 1350 Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                    This onslaught is a holocaust since the many tons of phosphorous bombs, dropped on Gaza cities, had burnt civilians to the bones, burnt their homes and buildings, and burnt their fields and crops. This is the holocaust that the Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, had threatened Palestinians with when he stated: "the more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah (holocaust) because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

                                                                                                                                    One cannot help but wonder how could a group of people, who claim to be the victims of a holocaust, commit another holocaust against another nation. What is it that feeds, perpetuates and intensifies this Judaic genocidal spirit although all Arabs, including Palestinians, had offered these Zionist Jews many agreements of coexistence, peace and security? The answer comes through their media outlets, through the words of their scholarly educators, and through the teachings of their Rabbis.

                                                                                                                                    "All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women, infants, and even their beasts" cries the religious opinion of Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, the director of the long-established Tsomet Religious Institute. He wrote that Palestinians are like the nation of Amalekites, who attacked the Israelite tribes led by Moses on their way to Jerusalem. He stated that the Lord sent down in the Torah a ruling that allowed the Jews to kill the Amalekites, and that this ruling is known in Jewish jurisprudence.

                                                                                                                                    The Torah states: "Annihilate the Amalekites from the beginning to the end. Kill them and wrest them from their possessions. Show them no mercy. Kill continuously, one after the other. Leave no child, plant, or tree. Kill their beasts, from camels to donkeys." Rosen stated that Amalekites are not a particular race, but rather all those who hate and oppose the Jews; Christians and Muslims.

                                                                                                                                    Many leading Israeli Rabbis support Rosen’s views. Israel’s former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu advocated carpet bombing of Gaza stating that "there is absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during massive military offensive on Gaza" (The Jerusalem Post, 30 May, 2007). His son Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu amplified his father’s genocidal call stating: "if they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, then we must kill 10,000 and even a million"

                                                                                                                                    Many Rabbis had argued that Palestinians in Gaza are not innocent civilians and that during war time it is not individuals but nations the Israelis are fighting. (It seems that Hitler had adopted this Telmudic teaching when he persecuted all European Jews)

                                                                                                                                    Israeli educators, scholars, and politicians, openly, advocate the annihilation of all Palestinians. Dr. Nachum Rakover, a legal scholar, opined "They voted for killers and sent them to kill us. To call them (civilians) innocent is a tragic comedy… civilians are partners of the killers" Eli Yeshai, Israeli official in the Orthodox Shas party argued that "extermination of the enemy is sanctioned by the Torah." Many other politicians called for the need for "wiping off Gaza from the face of earth", and "annihilating of every moving thing there." The right-wing Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman proposed nuking Gaza following the US example when it dropped the atomic bomb on Japan during WWII.

                                                                                                                                    This "ideology of annihilation" is by no means a minority opinion in Israel, but represents a mainstream in the Jews of Israel as well as Jews in the West (US). The popular attitude is "if it was right by God to order us to commit genocide during Biblical time, why can’t it be right to commit genocide now. Has God changed his mind?" Indeed Judaic god is a racist genocidal god.

                                                                                                                                    Watch and listen here to an example of how Israeli Jews are brainwashed and indoctrinated into the ideology of annihilation by their rabbis and scholars through Israeli media. Watch Max Blumenthal’s videotape of a group of messianic Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch exhibit this ideology in NYC in January 11, 2009.

                                                                                                                                    The Israeli spokesman, Nachman Abramovic demonized Palestinian children stating "They may look young to you, but these people are terrorists at heart. Don’t look at their deceptively innocent faces, try to think of the demons inside each of them … I am absolutely certain these people would grow to be evil terrorists if we allowed them to grow… would you allow them to grow to kill your children or finish them off right now? … honost and moral people ought to differentiate between true humans and human animals. We do kill human animals and we do so unapologetically. Besides who in the West is in a position to lecture us on killing human animals. After all, whose hands are clean?"

                                                                                                                                    Human animal mentioned by Abramovic refers to the Judaic religious belief that Jews are Gods chosen people; the elite and the pure-blooded, while all others (non-Jews, Goyims, gentiles) are animal souls incarnated into human bodies to serve the Jews. Killing a human animal is just a sport like hunting deer or birds.

                                                                                                                                    Pakistan Daily

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                                                                                                                                      from Encounter: Three Generations of Jordanian Art

                                                                                                                                      English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                      NASR ABDUL AZIZ

                                                                                                                                      Born in Zakaria, Hebron in 1941
                                                                                                                                      Abdul Aziz started painting at a very early age. Growing up in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ayn al-Sultan, Jericho, he was exposed to Sufi meetings and chants, which had a strong influence on his cultural development.
                                                                                                                                      After a short academic career in Baghdad and Moscow, Abdul Aziz earned a degree in fine arts in Cairo, exhibiting at the Annual Art Salon during his first academic year.
                                                                                                                                      His first exhibition in Jordan was held in 1969, followed by the Mediterranean Biennale in Alexandria in 1970. In 1971, he studied animation in London. Back in Amman, he held two exhibitions, one individual and the second with two other Jordanian artists. From 1974 to 1998, he lived in Dubai, UAE, where he worked as a television producer. During that period, he obtained an advanced diploma in film from the Academy of Arts in Cairo. Abdul Aziz wrote numerous television scripts and taught and wrote on the history of Arab art. He is a member of the Egyptian Cinema Professionals Syndicate. He currently lives and works in Amman.

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                                                                                                                                        Ramallah is now the 'Green Zone"

                                                                                                                                        English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                        from Hanini

                                                                                                                                        Reports from family, friends, and other eyewitnesses are quite disheartening. Many now in Palestine speak of Ramallah as Palestine’s version of Iraq’s “Green Zone” and liken the situation faced by students trying to express their anger and frustration with what the Zionists are doing/done to the people of Gaza as the same in other despotic Arab countries and regimes, particularly that of Egypt!

                                                                                                                                        Students at Bir Zeit University were severely beaten by masked PA security forces when they tried to demonstrate against the war crimes in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                        (Editor's note: The PA is the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian National Authority, the administrative organization that was created in 1994 as a result of the Oslo Accords, allegedly to have control over both security-related and civilian issues in Palestinian urban areas referred to as Area A, and only civilian control over Palestinian rural areas, known as Area B. The remainder of the occupied territories, known as Area C, including Israeli settlements, the Jordan Valley region, and bypass roads between Palestinian communities, were to remain under exclusive Zionist Israeli control. The PA is effectively a tool of the Zionist Israeli government, acting as its law enforcement proxy to oppress Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaze who resist the Zionists' illegal occupation -- or, indeed, the PA's corruption. The PA is under former President Mahmoud Abbas's control. Abbas's term expired Feb. 9 but he continues to pretend he is still the president, and his controllers -- the U.S.A, and Zionist Israel --continue to treat him as if he is still legitimately the president. The U.S. and Israel provided massive amounts of money, arms and training for Abbas's militia with the aim both of suppressing resistance to the occupation and destroying Hamas, the democratically elected majority government chosen by the Palestinian people in 2006.)

                                                                                                                                        Students suffered many injuries including broken bones as the PA tried to snuff out any form of expression of sympathy amongst the general Palestinian population in Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank (many of you can now understand why the Israelis allowed the PA to send hundreds of its Egyptian/Jordanian trained security personnel to enter Hebron/Jenin/Nablus in the run-up to the Israeli invasion of Gaza)!

                                                                                                                                        As Israel was starving and blockading the people of Gaza and during barbaric invasion of Gaza, the PA security wrote the sermons for the Friday prayers and warned the Imams from deviating from the scripts that were written for them AND as an added precaution, masked PA security personnel in full riot gear (supplied by the US and trained by the US in Egypt and Jordan) awaited the faithful as they existed Friday prayers, making sure that no one dared to demonstrate or express their anger to what was happening to their brothers and sisters in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                        (Thank you Israel and America for teaching the PA about democracy and freedom of speech and expression. I guess those freedoms are reserved for Americans and Israelis only and do not apply to Palestinians.)

                                                                                                                                        The PA goons who are doing the dirty work for their Israeli masters are out of work young men who, after six months of extensive training in Jordan or Egypt are sent into areas “foreign” to them: young men from Ramallah are sent to Nablus/Hebron, while those from Hebron/Nablus are sent to Ramallah and so forth so as to eliminate or minimize any chance that the people they are charged with abusing and or oppressing are recognized by them. I guess they don’t want “brothers” beating up their brothers and or fathers and so forth.

                                                                                                                                        The few expressions of sympathy the PA did allow were the “candle light” vigils in central Ramallah whereby the young people had to follow a script (I can understand this in Europe or in the US, BUT NOT in Palestine) and it seems that the young people in Ramallah have been infiltrated by these so-called foreign “peace activists” who have essentially “neutered” them, turning them into nothing more than stupefied hooka smoking/coffee guzzling “pacifists."

                                                                                                                                        It seems that the famous Palestinian :street," which has stood up to some of the most barbaric and inhumane forces on earth, has been pacified in the “Green Zone” whereby trendy cafés, restaurants, and shops flourish, to keep the young people distracted while the people of Gaza are being massacred and starved, serving as an effective “disconnect” as if the people of Gaza were in a “distant” and “far away” land! The “Green Zone” keeps it’s prisoners “happy” and distracted, and makes “examples” out of those that are not so “content in their cage, one way or another.

                                                                                                                                        A sad day has dawned on us indeed when one finds much more expressions of solidarity in the streets of Europe and the US than in the “Green Zone” of Palestine. This is precisely what the Zionists had wanted from the late Yasser Arafat when the late Israeli Prime Minister Rabin famously said that he didn’t want “a democracy in Palestine." He said “we need a strong and ruthless dictator to lead the Palestinians.”

                                                                                                                                        Mike Odetalla..."A seed in the eternal fruit of Palestine"

                                                                                                                                        "Come, I'll tell you about Palestine" www.Hanini.org

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                                                                                                                                          from Visit Palestine: A Voyage through Contemporary Art

                                                                                                                                          English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                          ASAD `AZZI

                                                                                                                                          1955 Born in Shafa `Amr
                                                                                                                                          1982 MA Tel Aviv University
                                                                                                                                          1980 BFA Department of Fine Arts, Haifa University
                                                                                                                                          SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
                                                                                                                                          1996 Bypass Your Limits, Ashdod Museum, Ashdod
                                                                                                                                          1991 Nazareth Municipality Cultural Centre, Nazareth
                                                                                                                                          1987 Israeli Museum, Jerusalem
                                                                                                                                          SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
                                                                                                                                          2004 Colours of Life and liberty, UNESCO, Paris
                                                                                                                                          1986 Haifa Contemporary Art Museum, Haifa 48th Biennale, Venice
                                                                                                                                          1984 Arab Painters in Israel, Acre
                                                                                                                                          Asad `Azzi teaches art in various institutes in Israel. He was awarded numerous awards and prizes. He lives and works in Jaffa.

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                                                                                                                                            Tunisian Jews Enjoy Religious Tolerance and Peace in Djerba

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                            By Delinda C. Hanley

                                                                                                                                            The Washington Report recently visited the Tunisian island of Djerba, home to one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities, looking for answers to a vital question: Can Jews, Muslims and Christians live together in peace? A common myth claims they can’t. Americans are told, falsely, that Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting each other “since time immemorial,” and that their conflict will never end; that they can’t agree on anything, so why bother? and that peace is impossible.

                                                                                                                                            A trip to Djerba quickly dispels these myths. More than 1,000 Jews, a third of Tunisia’s total Jewish population, live on this tiny island, off the southeastern Tunisian coast, not far from the Libyan border. A 3.6-mile Roman causeway connects Djerbans with the Tunisian mainland.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                            Here Jews, Muslims and Christians live in harmony—just as they did throughout the Middle East and North Africa before the advent of Zionism in 20th century Europe. For nearly two millennia, adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths have enjoyed the same rights and opportunities, and suffered from the same invasions and occupations.

                                                                                                                                            Djerba is known for its miles of glorious sandy beaches, groves of palm, olive, and fig trees, luxurious hotels, picturesque villages, 2,700 wells, 200 mosques, and the Ghriba synagogue, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

                                                                                                                                            The island also is known for the April 11, 2002 suicide attack on its synagogue, the oldest in North Africa. Although the present structure was built only in 1929, there has been a continuously used synagogue on the site for over 1,900 years. The synagogue’s name has many meanings in Arabic, including “the one who works wonders,” and for centuries pilgrims seeking miracles have visited the synagogue. Last year’s bombing caused no real damage to the synagogue and its holy books—yet another miracle to add to its colorful history.

                                                                                                                                            When Tunisian-born French resident Nizar Nawar crashed a tanker truck carrying natural gas into the side of the Ghriba synagogue, killing 21 people, Tunisians first thought it was an accident. Nothing like this had ever happened before in their country. No Jews were killed and there was little physical damage to the synagogue, thanks to a fast-thinking security guard who stopped the vehicle, but died in the blast.

                                                                                                                                            The bomber, Tunisian officials note, was an outsider, not part of the community, who received his training and orders in France.

                                                                                                                                            Perez Trabelsi, head of Djerba’s large Jewish community, had left the synagogue for coffee just before the blast. “The bomber’s aim was to cast a blow against the Tunisian economy and reputation,” he said. “He could have attacked a hotel, but he was looking for a big symbol.”

                                                                                                                                            Over the years Tunisian Jews have weathered some anxious moments, usually in times of strife between Israel and its neighbors. A mob burned the synagogue in Tunis during the 1967 Six-Day War. Despite then-President Habib Bourguiba’s apology to Tunisia’s chief rabbi, many Jews emigrated to France. Although Tunisia’s government stepped up protection for its Jewish citizens, Tunisian Jews worried when Israel bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunis on Oct. 1, 1985. There were no further anti-Jewish incidents, however, until the 2002 synagogue attack.

                                                                                                                                            Last year, TV viewers in every nation outside the United States watched Israeli forces invade the West Bank and Gaza. Jews and Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and other organizations in France, the UK and other parts of Europe faced attacks. In Tunisia, however, the government and Jewish community leaders worked together to ensure safety and calm. After all, Tunisians point out time and again, Jews in Tunisia are Tunisians, not Israelis.

                                                                                                                                            The 2002 attack, for which the al-Qaeda terrorist network claimed responsibility, shattered the calm enjoyed by the Jewish community, and sent Djerba’s tourism industry into a brief but devastating slump.

                                                                                                                                            Today the only evidence of the tragedy is a new wall around the entrance to the whitewashed synagogue. While there is heightened security, tourists and pilgrims still can step through the doors of the synagogue, remove their shoes and don a headcovering (a yarmulke for men, and a scarf for women). The bright blue, green and white tiles, painted archways and stained glass windows add a splendid North African flavor to the synagogue.

                                                                                                                                            The chief rabbi of Djerba, Haiem Maddar, who looks like he walked straight out of the pages of a holy book, tells pilgrims and journalists the complete history, beginning with the prophet Abraham, of the Jews in Djerba. Their ancestors, he explains, fled Palestine after Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first temple in the sixth century BC. The rabbi’s predecessors sailed from Jaffa, along with a stone from the first temple. That stone is buried somewhere beneath the synagogue—no one quite remembers where. The synagogue also houses a unique collection of Torahs and other holy books. For Jews, only Jerusalem’s Western Wall is more revered.

                                                                                                                                            Every May several thousand Sephardic Jews from around the world make a pilgrimage to Ghriba to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer. The dormitories and dining halls on the grounds of the synagogue become filled with pilgrims, revelers and students drinking bokha, a local fig liquor, and eating barbecued meats. Led by Raoul Journou, a famous Tunisian Jewish musician whose songs are played at every wedding and circumcision celebration, regardless of the participants’ religion, an exuberant crowd walks to the nearby village of Hara Sghira. The processionthen returns to El Ghriba for more music, food and festivities.

                                                                                                                                            In 2002, following the attack on the synagogue, Djerbans proudly point out that leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities walked together in another, more somber, procession from the synagogue to a church and on to the Gaid Mosque, built in 1516. The immediate response of leaders and neighbors who offered condolences and assistance demonstrated the solidarity among Tunisians.

                                                                                                                                            Jewish leader Trabelsi described the peaceful life his community enjoys. Jewish synagogues, schools and daycare centers receive government funding, as do Muslim and Christian facilities. Weighing his words carefully, Trabelsi compared life for Jews in Djerba before and after the creation of Israel: It definitely became harder to stay in Djerba after 1948, he acknowledged.

                                                                                                                                            “Many Jews left Tunisia following the creation of Israel in 1948, or after the 1967 war,” he said. “Others tried their luck in Israel, but got homesick, and returned to Djerba. Why not? We have everything we need here.

                                                                                                                                            “Why does coexistence work in Djerba?” Trabelsi waxed eloquent: “There is no reason why we shouldn’t coexist. Jews, Christians and Muslims—the only difference between us is where we pray. We’ve lived here from father to son. Djerba has always been stable. Our houses are surrounded by Muslim houses. We live together. We visit our friends on their religious holidays. We work together. Muslims buy meat from our butchers. When we are forbidden to work or cook on the Shabbat, we buy bread and kosher food cooked by Muslims. Our children play together.

                                                                                                                                            “We have freedom to educate our children, teach them in Hebrew school after class, worship as we please,” he concluded.

                                                                                                                                            Djerbans, all people of the book, live together and socialize together while keeping their own traditions at home.

                                                                                                                                            Asked why there can’t be peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims living in Israel and Palestine, as there is in Tunisia, Trabelsi shook his head, and replied, “People must be ready to sit down and discuss peace. For their own purposes, Israelis and Palestinians want to destabilize things. People who don’t want peace make the situation ever more rotten in order to serve their own purposes. Tell Americans that everyone has to make some big concessions and sit down and talk,” he said. “Americans should encourage both sides to negotiate.

                                                                                                                                            “Journalists ask us all the time, ‘How can you live together?’ When things are tense in Israel, Tunisians watch the strife on TV. It makes things more worrisome here,” Trabelsi admitted, “but our government looks after us and we are not disturbed.”

                                                                                                                                            Although Trabelsi didn’t state the obvious, others did. Israel’s actions make things tense for Djerbans. Jews in Tunisia and elsewhere are exposed to criticism for policies over which they have no control.

                                                                                                                                            Israel is not a safe haven for Tunisian Jews. Like their great-great-great grandparents, they consider Djerba their refuge.

                                                                                                                                            The gnarled old chief rabbi Haiem Maddar, echoed Trabelsi’s words. “Jews and Muslims share the same belief in one God,” he explained. “We only have slight differences in customs, like how we slaughter animals. We share the same principles and traditions. When we celebrate an event, Muslim neighbors give us grain, lamps and gifts. In fact in the past there was no need for money, we just bartered our goods.”

                                                                                                                                            While Djerbans may make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, “most people return to Djerba,” Rabbi Maddar said. “There’s good business here.”

                                                                                                                                            According to the rabbi, Jews in Djerba have more in common with their fellow Tunisians than they do with the transplanted Europeans, Russians and Americans who hold political and religious power in Israel today. Those doctors, lawyers, professionals and industrialists may be helping to exacerbate the conflict, he said. Before 1948, Jews and Arabs coexisted together for centuries in Palestine, trading and working on the land. Now everyone in the world helps fuel the conflict so they can sell weapons to both sides, the rabbi complained.

                                                                                                                                            “If we can make a living in Djerba,” he said, “why should we move to Israel or anywhere else? Tunisia is the light of our sight. We live in comfort and peace. Perhaps we could earn more money living in France or Israel, but there is no place better than Djerba. If I can make a living at home, why move?

                                                                                                                                            “One day the crow will coexist with the fox,” Rabbi Maddar declared.

                                                                                                                                            Seeing his audience’s puzzled faces, he explained that a powerful occupying country cannot flourish by taking advantage of a small, weak state. There was no excuse for the French to continue to colonize Tunisia, he said. “Once the French left, we could coexist in peace, learn from the French, and both countries could thrive,” the rabbi concluded. “The Torah says we should all live in peace.”

                                                                                                                                            Business is thriving at the bustling Houmt-Souk, or market center. It is bursting with brilliant clothing, straw baskets (straw hats are a unique tradition for both men and women on this island), bright Berber and luxuriant silk carpets, leather, pottery, spices and food.

                                                                                                                                            In an open square filled with tables, people—mostly men—gather to drink tea or coffee, smoke and talk. Many eyes are fixed on the soccer match playing on a huge TV screen atop the facing building.

                                                                                                                                            Jeweler Yussif Gamoun points to windows laden with silver guaranteed to ward off the evil eye, remind worshipers to pray five times a day, or bearing fish designs that symbolize fertility or Christianity. Jewish, Christian and Muslim works of art complement each other. He lovingly shows silver engraved 50 years ago by Mushin Nemni, a long-dead jeweler whose style and craftsmanship, he says, are unparalleled today.

                                                                                                                                            Another jeweler, Hai Hadad, has worked for 25 years in the souk creating works of art for clients of every religion. When Hadad, the son of a rabbi, was young, he worked in London teaching Hebrew. “Living in London was very nice,” he recalled. “We can make a living here or there. But there are other aspects of life—like one’s spiritual life—that you have to take into consideration.

                                                                                                                                            “I feel at home here,” Hadad said. “There are interesting places to study outside Tunisia, but maybe not to live. From my childhood I’ve lived here. The Jewish community feels secure here in Djerba. We feel the government helps us live in a secure way.

                                                                                                                                            “People in Djerba are a little bit different mentally,” Hadad admitted. “We have deep roots in Djerba. Some have moved to Israel, others to Paris. But we are the main center for Jews in North Africa, the oldest Jewish community. We can live in a free way here.

                                                                                                                                            “Muslims and Jews have lived together for hundreds of years. There has never been a religious problem like there has been between Jews and Christians,” Hadad noted. “Religion makes problems and keeps people separate. Religion can be used in a way to harm others.

                                                                                                                                            “Today there are political differences [between Arabs and Israelis] which, one day, we hope will be resolved. These are difficult problems, but they are not deep. Jews and Arabs have lived together for hundreds of years. Just for the last 50 there have been serious problems,” the jeweler concluded. “Political problems can end and be resolved. They don’t last forever.”

                                                                                                                                            Delinda C. Hanley is news editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

                                                                                                                                            Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

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                                                                                                                                              from Works by Seven Iraqi Artists

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  February 7th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                              GHASSAN GHA'EB

                                                                                                                                              Born in Baghdad in 1964
                                                                                                                                              1997 BA in Fine Arts,Academy of Fine Arts, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              1986 Graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              SOLO EXHIBITIONS
                                                                                                                                              2001 Orfaly Gallery, Amman
                                                                                                                                              GROUP EXHIBITIONS
                                                                                                                                              2005 ''Improvisation''-Seven Iraqi artists.Bissan Gallery, Doha. AL-Riwaq, Bahrain. 4Walls Gallery, Amman.
                                                                                                                                              2002 Joint Exhibition, 4 Walls Sheraton Amman – Al Nabil Hotel and Towers
                                                                                                                                              2001 Six Artists from Iraq, Dar al-Bareh, Bahrain
                                                                                                                                              2000 Ather Gallery, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              Hiwar Gallery, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              Exhibition of Iraqi Art, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris
                                                                                                                                              1999 Ajial Gallery, Beirut
                                                                                                                                              Dialogue Among Seven Artists, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              Ather Gallery, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              1998 Hiwar Gallery, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              Baghdad Gallery, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              1997 Environment and Surroundings in Iraqi Art, National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman
                                                                                                                                              1996 Ab`ad Gallery, Amman
                                                                                                                                              Contemporary Iraqi Art, Ather Gallery, Baghdad
                                                                                                                                              Contemporary Iraqi Art, Hiwar Gallery, Baghdad

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                                                                                                                                                No More Charades, Please! Obama, Mitchell and the Palestinians

                                                                                                                                                English (US)  February 6th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                February 6, 2009

                                                                                                                                                By JAMES ABOUREZK

                                                                                                                                                Abe Foxman, head of the “Anti-Defamation League”, claims that George Mitchell is too fair to be a broker between Israel and the Palestinians. I guess that Foxman, in denouncing the choice of Mitchell for Middle East negotiator, shows that he is accustomed to such impartial mediators as Dennis Ross, who, when he left the Clinton Administration returned to the Israeli Lobby, whence he came. Or he possibly could be making a comparison between George Mitchell and Alan Dershowitz, the notorious Israeli propagandist. (I once called Dershowitz a “snake” on Al Manar TV, which prompted him to write a column in the Jerusalem Post calling me an anti-Semite. My mistake was to forget to apologize to the snakes.)

                                                                                                                                                I’m sorry to say that, as much as I admire George Mitchell for the public service he has provided over the years, being fair will not be enough to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the brutality that accompanies it.

                                                                                                                                                [More:]


                                                                                                                                                The gyrations of various administrations over the years, all of whom have put on great shows of “settling” the conflict, has done nothing but waste a great deal of newspaper ink and television time reporting peace efforts, as though the media believed what snake oil salespeople, such as Condi Rice, were selling to the public. What someone in our government should have realized by now is that Israel absolutely does not want to give up the West Bank for a Palestinian state, even though there are warnings that if a “two state solution” is not reached, the Palestinians will be forced into a state of apartheid for the rest of the century. Certainly, the Israelis have no intention of allowing the Palestinians to outvote them in Israel, which leaves South African style apartheid as the only solution.

                                                                                                                                                One can count all the reasons given by the Israelis for not achieving the “peace” that Israel claims it wants, reasons such as:

                                                                                                                                                1. We have no negotiating partner.
                                                                                                                                                2. The Palestinians have to recognize Israel’s right to exist first before we talk to them.
                                                                                                                                                3. They have to end terrorism first.
                                                                                                                                                4. We made the Palestinians the best offer they could ever have gotten, but they turned it down.

                                                                                                                                                These are just some of the shopworn excuses trotted out to avoid cutting a deal.

                                                                                                                                                It seems that very few people have caught on to this scam, even though it has been exposed for many years. So, as the establishment continues to blather about achieving “peace,” Israel continues to swallow up Palestinian lands, beating up, imprisoning and massacring Palestinians on a daily basis.

                                                                                                                                                It is very clear to me, as well as to anyone else who declines to see the conflict through an Israeli prism, that only when an American President flatly tells the Israelis that they must move the settlers out of the West Bank, there will be no peace, only more occupation, more brutality, more violations of international law, and more bloody slaughters of civilians such as the one we only recently witnessed in Gaza. Anything short of that leaves the Israelis in complete control, and it will leave America with more and more enemies not only in the Middle East, but around the world.

                                                                                                                                                President Obama mentioned recently that if he doesn’t get the economy turned around in his first term, he will most likely not have a second term. What he has not yet calculated is that the Israeli occupation results in angry terrorism against American interests all over the world. He is faced with the choice of either angering the Likud Lobby by demanding that the Israeli settlers be kicked out of the West Bank, or of continuing the heavy spending required to maintain Israel’s occupation against the wishes of the people they are occupying. What is your guess as to what he will do?

                                                                                                                                                Surely we should have learned by now that America can no longer afford to listen to the Abe Foxmans and the Alan Dershowitzes of the world. As a nation, we are out of money, bereft of ideas, and incapable of curbing the moral and financial corruption in Washington, D.C., which includes the corruption brought about by the Likud Lobby.

                                                                                                                                                The result is that the rich get richer, the poor and the middle class become more and more desperate, searching for jobs that no longer exist, and for homes they can no longer afford.

                                                                                                                                                The likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have brought the world down around our collective ears, and after having done so, they have ridden off into the sunset, happy in the knowledge that they’ve taken care of their rich friends, who have profited from the wars they have started. The oil price surge, the conflicts in the Middle East, which have brought about the surge in military spending has created fortunes for their cronies, all paid for by the people of this country. We are, unfortunately, not finished paying the price for Mr. Bush’s costly -- in terms of human lives and of money -- puerile adventures for the past eight years. We will be reaping the hatred and the violence caused by their wars, in addition to suffering the economic fallout resulting from their policies of greed and corruption. And we have not yet counted the kinds of misery and poverty and corruption these two heroes have spawned as a result of the Iraq War.

                                                                                                                                                The cowardice of our presidents and of our Congress keeps Israel in the driver’s seat so far as continuing the occupation. Brutality is the natural product of an occupation that is necessary to keep the land they’ve stolen from the Palestinians. We are in desperate need of “change,” and we hope and we pray that Mr. Obama will have the courage to put it in motion.

                                                                                                                                                James G. Abourezk is a lawyer practicing in South Dakota. He is a former United States senator and the author of two books, Advise and Dissent, and a co-author of Through Different Eyes. This article also runs in the current issue of Washington Report For Middle East Affairs. Abourezk can be reached at georgepatton45@gmail.com

                                                                                                                                                Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                                                  Mission near impossible

                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  February 6th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                  Al Ahram

                                                                                                                                                  "It is time the new US administration realise that efforts to neutralise Hamas can't succeed. They [Israel and the US] tried the criminal blockade of Gaza and failed; and then they tried this holocaust and failed. They must talk with Hamas, or else there will be no peace in Palestine." -- Ahmed Youssef, chief political advisor to Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Gaza-based Hamas government.

                                                                                                                                                  The arrival of George Mitchell to the region is being greeted with both relief and dispassion, report Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah and Sherine Bahaa in Cairo

                                                                                                                                                  Despite an air of optimism in some regional capitals about the recent appointment by US President Barack Obama of Senator George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy, there are serious doubts in many quarters as to whether the veteran diplomat will be able to work the miracles the region so badly needs.

                                                                                                                                                  Sceptics, and they are legion, argue that getting Israel to end once and for all its 40-year-old colonialist occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip (for many the foremost miracle needed) necessitates a transformation, if not revolution of strategic thinking in Washington.

                                                                                                                                                  The US is Israel's guardian-ally. Absent meaningful US pressure on Tel Aviv, the Jewish state will continue to behave and act as it has always, namely defying international law, savaging the Palestinians, and building more Jewish colonies on occupied Arab land.

                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                  Mitchell, a half-Arab half-Irish diplomat, is credited with resolving the 800-year-old conflict in Northern Ireland. This "asset" induces optimists, and they are many, to give Mitchell the benefit of the doubt, at least for the time being. According to Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi, Mitchell's promise is his refusal to "put preconditions on the weaker party, as the Americans and the Israelis have been in a habit of doing... [meaning] preconditions on the Palestinians always."

                                                                                                                                                  Mitchell's visit to the region comes in the aftermath of the Israeli blitzkrieg on the Gaza Strip that left thousands killed or maimed, transforming the coastal enclave into a carbon copy of Dresden during World War II. What he says and does is going to be watched very carefully, not only by political leaders, but also by hundreds of millions of frustrated Arabs and Muslims in this region and beyond, long fed up with America's blind embrace of Israel's criminality, insolence and territorial aggrandisement.

                                                                                                                                                  Mitchell arrived in Cairo Tuesday on the first leg of a tour that will also take him to Ramallah, occupied Jerusalem, Amman and Riyadh. However, the old-new American envoy will not visit Gaza or Damascus, an ominous sign suggesting that the Obama administration will uphold the previous administration's policy of classifying the Arab-Islamic Middle East into "moderates" and "extremists".

                                                                                                                                                  Mitchell held "exploratory talks" with Egyptian leaders, including President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit, who reportedly told him that the Obama administration would have to adopt "new effective tools" to resolve the festering Palestinian problem because the "old tools" have proven inadequate and ineffective.

                                                                                                                                                  Mitchell will also be meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah, as well as the Saudi King Abdullah, who are likely to communicate more or less the same message.

                                                                                                                                                  Mitchell has the full confidence of President Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "So when he speaks, he will be speaking for us," Obama said. Ashrawi affirmed in interview with Al-Ahram Weekly : "He will have a serious mandate that is substantive, and that means he will have credibility when he comes here. Mitchell knows what is needed and he knows the situation on the ground and he knows the players -- he is not a newcomer."

                                                                                                                                                  President Obama this week told Al-Arabiya TV that, "What I told [Mitchell] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating... and we don't always know all the factors that are involved." Nonetheless, Mitchell doesn't plan to listen to Hamas, not even indirectly via Egypt, as US State Department Spokesman Robert Wood confirmed in a briefing in Washington ahead of Mitchell's visit

                                                                                                                                                  "Hamas is a key player in the area, and it is inconceivable that there can be peace between Israel and the Palestinians without involving Hamas," said Ahmed Youssef, chief political advisor to Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Gaza-based Hamas government.

                                                                                                                                                  Youssef, while acknowledging that it is premature to pass judgement on the Obama administration and its ability -- especially its sincerity -- to achieve peace in the Middle East, argued forcefully that US reluctance to speak with Hamas was like "sending a letter to the wrong address".

                                                                                                                                                  "It is time the new US administration realise that efforts to neutralise Hamas can't succeed. They [Israel and the US] tried the criminal blockade of Gaza and failed; and then they tried this holocaust and failed. They must talk with Hamas, or else there will be no peace in Palestine."

                                                                                                                                                  Apart from exploring the prospects of reviving the manifestly moribund "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians, Mitchell will try to boost a fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. That ceasefire suffered a serious setback Monday when Israeli warplanes bombed the Philadelphi Corridor along the border with Egypt. Israel said the strikes were in retaliation against the killing of an Israeli soldier by suspected Palestinian fighters.

                                                                                                                                                  In Ramallah, Mitchell will be presented with graphic evidence by his Palestinian hosts of how Israel has been effectively killing the chances of peace by continuing to expand Jewish settlements -- settlements that a growing number of reasonable observers believe render the two-state solution unrealistic if not impossible.

                                                                                                                                                  On Tuesday, 27 January, the Israeli group Peace Now released a study showing that the number of newly built settler units in the West Bank increased by 69 per cent in 2008 compared to 2007. The report also showed that the settler population in the West Bank grew from 270,000 at the end of 2007 to 285,000 at the end of 2008. The figures don't include about a quarter of a million settlers living in East Jerusalem and its environs.

                                                                                                                                                  Israel's relentless settlement expansion, along with numerous other expressions of Israeli colonialism, is leaving the PA leadership thoroughly despairing and embittered. This week, Abbas voiced his exasperation with Israel, saying he would tell Mitchell that Israel simply didn't want peace. "We need to understand this and tell it to those coming from Europe and America. Israel wants to waste time to strengthen facts on the ground with settlements and the wall."

                                                                                                                                                  Nonetheless, some PA officials are optimistic about Mitchell's entry to the scene. "I think the Obama administration is treating the situation in Palestine with a sense of urgency. They seem to be serious, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt," said Abdullah Abdullah, a prominent Fatah MP and former director-general of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.

                                                                                                                                                  Abdullah added, however, that the PA had no choice but to engage the new US administration because "the US is the only state in this world that is capable of pressuring Israel." He added: "If our optimism is vindicated, then this will be good for us, so let us wait and see."

                                                                                                                                                  In Israel too Obama will be watching and listening. Mitchell, of whom Israeli leaders are not particularly fond, will likely be confronted in Tel Aviv with talk about the "Iranian threat", "terror", and the "rearmament" and "weapons smuggling" of Hamas, though how these perceived threats prevent Israel from ending its occupation of Palestinian land is unclear.

                                                                                                                                                  Given the proximity of Israeli elections, Mitchell is unlikely to indulge in serious talks with his Israeli interlocutors. On 10 February, nearly four million Israelis will go to the ballot box to elect a new government that most observers expect will be formed by the right-wing Likud whose leader Benyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his firm opposition to ending the Israeli occupation. For sure, Mitchell would then need to invoke all his inherited Irish ingenuity and Arab imagination.

                                                                                                                                                  In selecting Mitchell, the new US president has chosen a man who believes that all problems have solutions -- that no problem is intractable. Further, Mitchell believes in conflict resolution, not merely conflict management that -- to a large degree -- was the default setting of the Bush administration and the Sharon and Olmert governments.

                                                                                                                                                  Up against Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, both of Jewish origin and who served as envoys to the Middle East with presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, who believe in granting Israel's security the highest priority, Obama made "the right choice" in choosing Mitchell, according to Egyptian columnist Salama Ahmed Salama.

                                                                                                                                                  Mitchell favours bringing antagonists to the negotiating table without preconditions, but this diplomatic strategy can fail if the protagonists themselves are divided. As Salama affirmed, "he needs to explore the new givens on the ground: reinforce efforts exerted for inter-Palestinian reconciliation, and maintaining the Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire, before delving into the details of a new peace process."

                                                                                                                                                  For Ashrawi, the timing of Mitchell's appointment is prescient, coming after the Bush administration largely destroyed the US's reputation in the region. Relative to Israel in particular, "he has to tell Israel that there are limits. People do not want negotiations to proceed at one level and Israel to create facts on the ground at another level, destroying the chances of peace. We need a new modus operandi; we need a multilateral agreement and we need implementation. We don't need any more talks," Ashrawi said.

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                                                                                                                                                    Extremist fundy Zio settler/politican who would like to executie Arabs, now asks Palestinian Israelis for "oath of loyalty" -- or no vote

                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  February 6th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                    The settler politician dubbed 'Le Pen of the West Bank' wants Israeli Arabs to swear loyalty to the state – or lose their vote

                                                                                                                                                    By Donald Macintyre in Umm el Fahm

                                                                                                                                                    Friday, 6 February 2009

                                                                                                                                                    Avigdor Lieberman once suggested that Arab Knesset members who had talks with Hamas representatives should be executed

                                                                                                                                                    Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right politician campaigning on a platform that Israeli Arabs should pledge loyalty to the state or lose their right to vote, has become the pivotal figure in next week's election after two polls showing his party has overtaken Labour.

                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                    The Yisrael Beiteinu party headed by the Moldovan-born Mr Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank Jewish settlement and has been depicted by his critics as an Israeli version of Jean-Marie Le Pen or Jorg Haider, is in third place with a projected 19 or 17 seats in two newspaper polls yesterday.

                                                                                                                                                    If the party did take that number of seats, it would mean it has performed well beyond its original base among immigrants from the former Soviet Union and is in pole position to emerge as the kingmaker determining whether Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu or Kadima's Tzipi Livni can best form the next coalition government
                                                                                                                                                    Related articles

                                                                                                                                                    The leaders of all three main parties have left open the possibility of joining a coalition with Yisrael Beitenu, including Labour's Ehud Barak, who has provoked sharp internal dissent by refusing to rule out the possibility.

                                                                                                                                                    The poll results underline the growing appeal of Mr Lieberman's hardline nationalist policies, which beside his "no loyalty, no citizenship" demand also includes a plan to redraw the country's borders to make more than 100,000 other Israeli Arabs citizens of the West Bank as part of a land "swap" in which Israel would annex the territory occupied by most West Bank settlements.

                                                                                                                                                    Nowhere do Mr Lieberman's bitterly controversial proposals touch a rawer nerve than in the northern Arab hill city of Umm el Fahm, at the heart of the Wadi Ara triangle. At a stroke, residents would lose their status – and voting rights – as Israeli citizens.

                                                                                                                                                    Said Abu Shakra, director of the town's well-known art gallery, and a long time promoter of co-existence between Jews and Arabs, said he now felt "depressed and frustrated" in the face of the ascendancy of Mr Lieberman, who once proposed the bombing of Egypt's Aswan Dam and suggested that Arab Knesset members who had talks with Hamas representatives should be executed.

                                                                                                                                                    Mr Abu Shakra, who is proud that a Jewish Israeli architect, Amnon Bar On, has won an open competition to design the gallery's new premises, recalled that in 1998 Yoko Ono staged a successful exhibition in the town entitled Open Window – dedicated to the idea of inter-community dialogue.

                                                                                                                                                    This spirit had been broken once by the outbreak of the second intifada, he said. "It took us eight years' work to build dialogue again and now it is being destroyed, this time by Lieberman." Seeing similarities in Mr Lieberman's rise to that of Hitler in pre-war Germany, Mr Abu Shakra added: "I have many Jewish friends who know that Lieberman is very destructive for all people, Jews as well as Arabs."

                                                                                                                                                    Umm el Fahm's sense of becoming a target for the extreme right has been compounded by the provocative plans of Baruch Marzel, an extremist Hebron settler who has criticised Mr Lieberman for not being right wing enough. Mr Marzel intends to spend election day here as a teller at a polling station. Mr Abu Shakra warned: "My own view is that the best thing to do with [Mr Marzel] is to ignore him, but not everybody here thinks like me."

                                                                                                                                                    Afo Agbaria, a local surgeon who is a candidate for the Communist joint Arab-Jewish Democratic Front – or Hadash – said that Mr Lieberman's success was a "danger not for Arabs only but for democracy in Israel", adding that history showed that "those fascists that got to the leadership got there by election". But Dr Agbaria insisted that the impact of Mr Lieberman would be to increase voting for the Arab parties – including his own, which he predicted would add a fourth seat in the Knesset. He said a campaign by the Islamic Party to boycott the election would be largely ignored.

                                                                                                                                                    Evidence to support this was mixed in the town yesterday. Coffee shop owner Mohammed Jabarin, 50, said that while he would be voting for the Democratic Front and thought Knesset representation was important, public "depression and frustration" because of the war in Gaza and Mr Lieberman's rise would reduce the turnout. He said of the "loyalty" demand: "Arabs in Israel will be loyal when we get our rights." Repeating widespread complaints of anti-Arab discrimination, he added: "This means better job opportunities and rights to own land."

                                                                                                                                                    Meanwhile, Farid Juma Agbaria, 63, was – unusually – more sanguine about Mr Lieberman. "He is shouting slogans now but he will stop when he gets to power," he said.

                                                                                                                                                    Amal Mahajne, 38, said that, although she was not an Islamic Party member, she would boycott the poll. She said this was not really because of Mr Lieberman: "He may kill us but we are not afraid. We will not get out of our land", but because of Israel's invasion of Gaza. If Labour – led by Defence Minister Barak – "can do this when it pretends to believe in peace, what will the other parties do?" She said that whether she would vote in any subsequent election depended on how the Arab parties performed.

                                                                                                                                                    Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, has along with the former Likud MP Uzi Landau helped to lend Mr Lieberman an air of establishment respectability by joining his campaign. Mr Ayalon stopped short this week of saying that the "loyalty test" for Israeli Arabs – under which they would pledge allegiance to the Jewish state and agree to take part in civilian national service – was a precondition for joining other parties in a coalition. He said that it would be "very important" in any talks with potential partners after Tuesday's poll.

                                                                                                                                                    He said the loyalty test was a "response" to the fundamental criticisms of Israel levelled over the past 20 to 25 years by "some in the Arab community, basically its leaders, who are the ones inciting the population".

                                                                                                                                                    Avigdor Lieberman: In his own words

                                                                                                                                                    "If it were up to me I would notify the Palestinian Authority that tomorrow at 10 in the morning we would bomb all their places of business in Ramallah."

                                                                                                                                                    "World War Two ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in [the Knesset]."

                                                                                                                                                    "We'll move the border. We won't have to pay for their unemployment, or health, or education. We won't have to subsidise them any longer."

                                                                                                                                                    "When there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important."

                                                                                                                                                    "A real victory can be achieved only by breaking the will and motivation of Hamas to fight us, as was done to the Japanese in the last days of World War Two."

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                                                                                                                                                      WATCH: British Mandate-era arms cache found in Hod Hasharon synagogue

                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  February 6th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                      By Noa Kocharek and Yuval Goren, Haaretz Correspondents

                                                                                                                                                      Two Israeli curators on Thursday stumled upon an arms cache dating back to the British Mandate at a Synagogue in Hod Hasharon.

                                                                                                                                                      The weapons, which included grenades and bullet casings, were apparently stored in the building by the Hagannah Jewish militia.

                                                                                                                                                      Simcha Klein and Aviva Even-Hen, curators of the museum dedicated to the history of Hod Hasharon, found the arms while they were tidying rooms in the synagogue, which was crammed full of documents, pictures and old maps dating back to the beginning of the Zionist enterprise.

                                                                                                                                                      "While searching the rooms, we came across one small tin box that contained grenades, and another that contained dozens of bullet casings," Klein said. "We then called the police, and sappers came and removed the weapons from the building."

                                                                                                                                                      The curator added that she hoped that the museum would be able to display the munitions as an historic exhibit

                                                                                                                                                      Klein said that during the British Mandate, the synagogue used to serve as a shelter from Arab rioters, and therefore has long and narrow windows, and slits for firing. These slits apparently made the synagogue an ideal location for stashing the weapons.

                                                                                                                                                      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1061955.html

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                                                                                                                                                        Let Netanyahu win

                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  February 6th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                        Haaretz

                                                                                                                                                        Netanyahu would offer something else. First, he is a faithful representative of an authentic "Israeli" view - an almost complete distrust of Arabs and the chance of reaching peace with them, mixed with condescension and dehumanization. Second, he will finally arouse the world's rage towards us, including that of the new U.S. administration. Sadly, this may be the only chance for the kind of dramatic change that is needed.

                                                                                                                                                        By Gideon Levy

                                                                                                                                                        Benjamin Netanyahu will apparently be Israel's next prime minister. There is, however, something encouraging about that fact. Netanyahu's election will free Israel from the burden of deception: If he can establish a right-wing government, the veil will be lifted and the nation's true face revealed to its citizens and the rest of the world, including Arab countries. Together with the world, we will see which direction we are facing and who we really are. The masquerade that has gone on for several years will finally come to an end.

                                                                                                                                                        Netanyahu's election is likely to bring the curtain down on the great fraud - the best show in town - the lie of "negotiations" and the injustice of the "peace process." Israel consistently claimed these acts proved the nation was focused on peace and the end of the occupation. All the while, it did everything it could to further entrench the occupation and distance any chance of a potential agreement.

                                                                                                                                                        [More:]


                                                                                                                                                        For 16 years, we have been enamored with the peace process. We talk and talk, babble and prattle, and generally feel great about ourselves; meanwhile the settlements expand endlessly and Israel turns to the use of force at every possible opportunity, aside from a unilateral disengagement which did nothing to advance the cause of peace.

                                                                                                                                                        With the election of a prime ministerial candidate who speaks of "economic peace," the naked truth will finally emerge. If, however, Tzipi Livni or Ehud Barak are elected, the self-delusion will simply continue. Livni herself is enamored with futile, useless and cowardly negotiations, and Barak has long abandoned the brave efforts he made in the past. The election of either will only perpetuate the vacuum. The world, including Washington, will breathe a sigh of relief that for once, Israel has elected a leadership that will pursue peace. But there is no chance of that happening.

                                                                                                                                                        The record of each of these candidates, and the positions they have championed until now, proves that what has been will continue to be. Livni and Barak will rush to every photo opportunity with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan. The Americans and Europeans will be pleased, but nothing will come out of it other than the sowing of a few more illusions. We will move from war to war, uprising to uprising, settlement to settlement, and the world will continue to delude itself into thinking an agreement is within reach. Hamas will grow stronger, Abbas weaker and the last chance for peace will be irretrievably lost.

                                                                                                                                                        Netanyahu would offer something else. First, he is a faithful representative of an authentic "Israeli" view - an almost complete distrust of Arabs and the chance of reaching peace with them, mixed with condescension and dehumanization. Second, he will finally arouse the world's rage towards us, including that of the new U.S. administration. Sadly, this may be the only chance for the kind of dramatic change that is needed.

                                                                                                                                                        The Palestinian Authority, another mendacious facade, will finally collapse, and Israel will face the non-partner it has wanted and sought all these years. The world may not rush to embrace Netanyahu as it would the "moderates" - Livni or Barak, who have led Israel to more unnecessary wars than Netanyahu, the "extremist" - while the real difference between them is almost non-existent.

                                                                                                                                                        Lifting the veil will lead to a crisis situation, which unfortunately is the only one that can bring about change. We must hope that both Kadima and Labor do not join a Netanyahu government (regrettably, another futile hope), as Israel's exposure will then be that much starker. A government composed of Netanyahu, Shas and Avigdor Lieberman will not, of course, have to deal with an opposition of Netanyahu, Shas and Avigdor Lieberman, and may therefore behave differently once in power than one might expect. Have we mentioned Menachem Begin?

                                                                                                                                                        But even if Netanyahu is the same old Netanyahu, this will be an opportunity to place the right's policies under the microscope. Let's see him stand before Barack Obama and speak of the grotesque idea of "economic peace," or wage foreign or security policies according to his stated positions. Let's see him answer just what exactly his vision is for 20 to 30 years down the road.

                                                                                                                                                        In due course, his anticipated failure may just hasten an alternative route, on condition that Kadima and Labor do not join the government and bring us another year of fraud. The lemons may yet yield lemonade - maybe the establishment of a right-wing government will remove all of the masks for good. The alternative, known and expected by all, is far more ambiguous, dangerous and threatening.

                                                                                                                                                        So let Netanyahu win. There is no alternative at this point anyway.

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                                                                                                                                                          Poll: 57% of Palestinians see Hamas strengthened by Gaza war

                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                          3 February 2009

                                                                                                                                                          NABLUS -- Fifty-seven percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza believe that Hamas is stronger now than it was before the Israeli offensive in December and January, a new opinion poll suggests.

                                                                                                                                                          The poll, released on Wednesday by researchers at An-Najah National University in the West Bank city of Nablus, was conducted between 1 and 2 February with a sample size of 1361 people in the West Bank and Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                          Other key findings of the poll:

                                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                                          39.9% of respondents supported military operations by Palestinian resistance factions even after agreeing on a truce.

                                                                                                                                                          As to whom the funds for rebuilding the Gaza Strip should be given, 19.8% said that the Palestinian Authority should be in charge of these funds, 18.1% said Hamas, 22.3% said a national committee from all Palestinian factions, and 21.1% said the UNRWA should be in charge.

                                                                                                                                                          45.8% of respondents believed that the funds donated to the Gaza Strip are being distributed with according to factional biases.

                                                                                                                                                          34.9% of respondents believed that aid to the Gaza Strip reaches the people who deserve it most.

                                                                                                                                                          47.5% of respondents believed that after the war on Gaza there is a genuine desire among the concerned parties to end the current Palestinian division.

                                                                                                                                                          54.4% of respondents believed that after the war on Gaza, the Palestinian parties (Fatah, Hamas, Jihad, the left, etc) are capable of ending the current Palestinian division.

                                                                                                                                                          23.7% of respondents said that those who hinder the Palestinian dialogue are members of Hamas and Fatah; 15.7 % blamed Hamas; 10.9% blamed Fatah.

                                                                                                                                                          60% of respondents believed that after the war on Gaza the Palestinian public is ready to support a national reconciliation.

                                                                                                                                                          54.4% of respondents believed that Fatah is concerned with a national reconciliation on the bases of the top national Palestinian interests.

                                                                                                                                                          48.6% of respondents believed that Hamas is concerned with a national reconciliation on the basis of national Palestinian interests.

                                                                                                                                                          48.9% of respondents believed that Fatah movement participated in widening the internal Palestinian rift.

                                                                                                                                                          62.8% of respondents believed that Hamas movement participated in widening the internal Palestinian rift.

                                                                                                                                                          56.9% of respondents believed that the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip increased the possibility of the separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                          24% of respondents believed that the new American administration under Obama is serious in its endeavors to achieve peace in the Middle East.

                                                                                                                                                          64.3% of respondents saw that Hamas should accept a truce for a year and a half.

                                                                                                                                                          34.1% of respondents believed that Israel is the main beneficiary of a truce between Israel and Hamas; 17.1% said the beneficiary is Hamas and 43% said that the beneficiary is the citizens of the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                          31.6% of respondents believed that Hamas emerged victorious from the last war; 13.4 % said the victorious side is Israel.

                                                                                                                                                          51.7% of respondents supported allowing Arab troops to enter the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                          26.7% of respondents supported allowing Arab troops to enter the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                          66.3% of respondents supported allowing international troops to enter the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                          21% of respondents supported allowing international troops to enter the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                          68.3% of respondents judged media coverage of the war on Gaza as “good.”

                                                                                                                                                          79% of respondents said that they will participate in the coming presidential elections. From among those who said they will participate, 31.9% said that they will give their votes to Fatah's candidate; 23.5% said they will give their votes to Hamas' candidate.

                                                                                                                                                          79.4% of respondents said that they will participate in the coming legislative elections. From among those who said they will participate, 31.4% said that they will give their votes to Fatah's candidates; 24.6% said they will give their votes to Hamas' candidates.

                                                                                                                                                          If PLC elections were held, 29.7% of respondents would expect Fatah to win; 33.3% Hamas to win.

                                                                                                                                                          51.9% of respondents believed that there are horizons for a Palestinian National reconciliation.

                                                                                                                                                          50.7% of respondents believed that Hamas movement assaults Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                          48.8% of respondents believed that the Palestinian Authority arrests Hamas activists in the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                          55% of respondents expressed fear for their lives under the present circumstances.

                                                                                                                                                          59.3% of respondents said that they are pessimistic of the general Palestinian situation at this stage.

                                                                                                                                                          53.9% of respondents said that they neither feel safe for themselves nor for their families and properties under the current circumstances.


                                                                                                                                                          Maan News

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                                                                                                                                                            An open letter to Turkey's prime minister, from Hamas

                                                                                                                                                            English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                            Peres, Erdogan [Ma'anImages]

                                                                                                                                                            Feb. 1, 2009

                                                                                                                                                            Your Excellency,
                                                                                                                                                            Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
                                                                                                                                                            Republic of Turkey

                                                                                                                                                            We have emerged from beneath a barrage of death and destruction as a stronger nation, one that is honored to count Turkey among its friends. We are proud in particular of your personal dedication to the cause of truth and justice.

                                                                                                                                                            We recognize the burden you bear in maintaining a balanced approach to our plight while respecting Turkey's strategic relations with our occupiers.

                                                                                                                                                            Yet despite these challenges, your voice rose above the confusion and inaction of the international community to declare what common men knew - that Israeli actions were savage crimes against humanity; and that no nation perpetrating such horror could claim a seat at the table of the United Nations.

                                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                                            Few leaders were bold enough to move beyond the futility of words and stand in favor of just action. We appreciate deeply the efforts of Mr. Ahmet Davutoglu to seek solutions as he traveled between Damascus, Cairo and the cities of Europe.

                                                                                                                                                            Your own courageous decision at DAVOS to withdraw from an iniquitous debate is a testament to the principled leadership this region's citizens demand. We also welcome the heartfelt spirit of solidarity behind the willingness to contribute resources if called upon to do so.

                                                                                                                                                            Beyond politics, your family's dedication to humanitarian assistance is a model for all politicians to emulate. Mrs. Emine Erdogan's initiative to organize a summit for our people's support touched all levels of society in Palestine. And your own direction of TIKA to not only raise awareness, but deliver 330 tons of food and medicine, medical supplies and thousands of blankets, as well as five ambulances and nine generators helped alleviate the torment of our injured and destitute.

                                                                                                                                                            These efforts, and the humanity you displayed while visiting our countrymen as they were cared for in Turkey's medical centers, bear witness to your valor and resolve to stand by your brothers and sisters during their darkest hours.

                                                                                                                                                            Turkey's hospitals, and those of other sympathetic nations, were filled in a matter of weeks - weeks during which the Israeli onslaught deprived almost 1,400 families of their loved ones, maimed 5,500 innocents and demolished tens of thousands of homes.

                                                                                                                                                            And throughout this time, the occupiers of our land listened to no voice but their own, expediting the construction of settlements in the West Bank while keeping the world distracted in Gaza, tightening their grip on our economy, energy and ports and stalling, again, all efforts to establish hope for peace in our troubled region.

                                                                                                                                                            The scale of destruction will take decades to rebuild; and there are no signs the Israelis intend to alleviate the misery they have caused. The borders remain virtually closed, food and fuel continue to be scarce, and no equipment or parts can enter Gaza to maintain or mend the industrial plants, power stations or wastewater pumping stations that still flood raw sewage into populated areas, farmland and the ocean.

                                                                                                                                                            Mr. Prime Minister, you have stressed that Hamas is a reflection of the will of the people of Palestine; and we intend to serve our compatriots within the scope of our mandate. We will honor elections in 2010, when the people shall vote again; and we shall honor the outcome of their wishes.

                                                                                                                                                            Yet despite the fact that January 2009 was to be the month of Palestinian presidential elections, Mahmoud Abbass continues to hold that position.

                                                                                                                                                            The Israelis with the support of members of America's administration machinate to exclude the elected government not only from negotiations but even from receiving aid on behalf of our people, moves that we see as a shameful effort to divide Palestinians while paying lip service to their unity.

                                                                                                                                                            Mr. Prime Minister, you have always been a man of principle, yet in recent weeks you have proven to be a man of unparalleled integrity among leaders of Muslim countries. Where some nations were unsure of how to proceed, you spoke as a man of conscience not of politics. For that, we salute you.

                                                                                                                                                            In the weeks to come, we pray you will navigate the treacherous political waters to come; and we hope your voice shall once again be heard. We hope the international community, with your guidance, will finally realize that the exclusion of a democratically elected government from any discussions may satisfy some egos, but will not eliminate its presence on the ground.

                                                                                                                                                            We thank you, without condition or expectation, for being a man of honor.

                                                                                                                                                            If politicians will not recognize a true honest broker, be sure that Allah does. May He have mercy on us all; and may He always guide you to path of righteousness.

                                                                                                                                                            Your Brother,

                                                                                                                                                            Dr. Ahmed Yousef
                                                                                                                                                            Deputy Foreign Minister
                                                                                                                                                            Government of Palestine

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                                                                                                                                                              14,000 homes, 68 government buildings, 31 NGOs destroyed leaving 600,000 tons of rubble in Gaza

                                                                                                                                                              English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                              Feb. 5, 2009

                                                                                                                                                              GAZA – At least 600,000 tons of rubble will need to be cleared before Gaza can be reconstructed, estimated UNDP in a report released Wednesday.

                                                                                                                                                              The document estimated that 14,000 homes, totaling 2.6 percent of all homes were completely destroyed and 20 percent have sustained light to heavy damage from the fighting.

                                                                                                                                                              Also hit were 68 government buildings and 31 NGO complexes or buildings were completely or partially destroyed.

                                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                                              The UNDP called removing the rubble “an ultimate priority,” and noted that the program is hoping for 25 million US dollars will be allocated to removing the rubble.

                                                                                                                                                              The program estimated that the project will provide 200,000 days of work for the unemployed in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                              Dangerous work

                                                                                                                                                              The program also noted that among the debris are unexploded ordinances, and said an immediate identification and safe removal program must begin as soon as possible.

                                                                                                                                                              Coupled with the training for debris removal crews will be public awareness campaigns over military equipment left behind by Israelis and rigged houses set up by resistance fighters.

                                                                                                                                                              Maan News

                                                                                                                                                              164 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                Boxed In On Capitol Hill: Occupied Territory

                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                By RUSSELL MOKHIBER

                                                                                                                                                                Yesterday, Rayburn 2203 felt a bit like Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                                Or the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                                It was occupied territory.

                                                                                                                                                                Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was doing what he could to lob a shell at the occupier.

                                                                                                                                                                Holding a hearing, as it were, about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                                Kucinich invited his colleagues, but only one showed up – Congressman Brian Baird (D-Washington.)

                                                                                                                                                                Maybe the others were fearful of disproportionate retaliation?

                                                                                                                                                                Or collateral damage?

                                                                                                                                                                The room was packed with more than 100 people – by appearances, mostly peace activists.

                                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                Andrew Whitley, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) and Samer Badawi, director of United Palestinian Appeal, both spoke eloquently about the humanitarian crisis – the need to deliver to the more than one million Gazans food, clothing, medicines, medical care, shelter – you name it, they need it.

                                                                                                                                                                Kucinich tried to keep the discussion to the humanitarian crisis, but Badawi and the people in the room kept bringing Kucinich back down to the reality of the Israeli occupation.

                                                                                                                                                                Eugene Bird, of the Council for the National Interest, quoted a former UN official as saying – "If the people of Gaza were free, there would be no need for charity."

                                                                                                                                                                Badawi made a similar point – five thousand dollars for clothes, or ten thousand dollars for water, or twenty thousand dollars for food just doesn't cut it.

                                                                                                                                                                The United States has to change its policy to the Middle East and stop the Israeli occupation.

                                                                                                                                                                It was a fascinating 90 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                And here's the thing.

                                                                                                                                                                Not one television camera.

                                                                                                                                                                Not one.

                                                                                                                                                                Now, I pride myself on being a student of the Washington press corps.

                                                                                                                                                                Can't tell you how many times I've seen citizen groups call press conferences at the National Press Club.

                                                                                                                                                                And no reporters show up.

                                                                                                                                                                Not one.

                                                                                                                                                                Often, I show up just to show support and to sympathize.

                                                                                                                                                                These citizen groups do all the right things.

                                                                                                                                                                They call all the reporters.

                                                                                                                                                                They put their event on the Reuters and Associated Press daybooks. (Those are the wire service calendars that reporters look to early every morning to see what's happening and to plan their days.)

                                                                                                                                                                And still, no coverage.

                                                                                                                                                                But here's the deal about the Kucinich hearing on Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                                Kucinich's office didn't even notify the press.

                                                                                                                                                                There was no press release.

                                                                                                                                                                The Reuters and Associated Press daybooks were not notified.

                                                                                                                                                                Maybe had C-Span been notified, they would have covered it.

                                                                                                                                                                Maybe Al-Jazeera would have covered it.

                                                                                                                                                                Maybe even some American television reporters would have covered it.

                                                                                                                                                                After all, it was a rare event – a hearing on Palestine right smack dab in the middle of occupied territory.

                                                                                                                                                                They could have covered it the way they cover Haley's comet.

                                                                                                                                                                So, during the question period, I ask Kucinich – Dennis, why didn't you notify the media?

                                                                                                                                                                Kucinich looks surprised, turns to his press secretary, Nathan White.

                                                                                                                                                                "Didn't we put out a press release?" Kucinich asks.

                                                                                                                                                                White says there was no press release.

                                                                                                                                                                The daybooks were not notified.

                                                                                                                                                                "We wanted to get the word out person to person – by word of mouth."

                                                                                                                                                                White says I should see him after the event.

                                                                                                                                                                A woman from Code Pink stands up and tries to sympathize with Kucinich.

                                                                                                                                                                She says she understands the pressure that AIPAC must be putting on members of Congress who raise any question in the occupied territory that is Capitol Hill.

                                                                                                                                                                Kucinich responds by saying that the power of AIPAC was "outside the scope of the meeting."

                                                                                                                                                                Citizens in the audience wanted to know – what if Netanyahu gets elected as prime minister on February 10 and seeks to fulfill his promise to eradicate Hamas?

                                                                                                                                                                "He will have to first talk to President Obama and Secretary Clinton," Kucinich says.

                                                                                                                                                                Kucinich said that he doubted that they would allow a renewed Israeli attack on Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                                The crowd is skeptical.

                                                                                                                                                                Afterward, I track down White – Kucinich's press guy.

                                                                                                                                                                He says his office didn't alert the press because they didn't want the meeting to become "a show."

                                                                                                                                                                Okay, so Kucinich is boxed in.

                                                                                                                                                                But then, so are we.

                                                                                                                                                                Time to break out, no?

                                                                                                                                                                Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.

                                                                                                                                                                counterpunch.org

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                                                                                                                                                                  The Other Side of Gaza

                                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                                  'The real horror of Gaza was its utterly mindless disproportionalism.'

                                                                                                                                                                  By Shafiq Morton - Cape Town

                                                                                                                                                                  The Israelis invaded Gaza the day I went on leave. My Blackberry started buzzing with messages, and did not let up for 22 days. One of my contacts in Gaza City SMSed me on the first night of bombing: “WE R NOT ALONE. ALLAH + US. 3 YEARS SIEGE. WE STILL STRONG.”

                                                                                                                                                                  I have kept those messages. Some are angry, some are desperate and some are heart-rending. All in the upper-case, they tell the story of Gaza in terse electronic shorthand: “SLM. 22 MASJIED DESTROY. 2,100 HOUSES DESTROY. 4,000 BUILDING DESTROY”.

                                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                  Or, “SLM…BRKG NEWS…DIS A.M. 6 CHILDREN MARTYR” was a disturbing message that woke me from a deep sleep at 3 am one morning.

                                                                                                                                                                  As I was on leave, it was a strange feeling. I’d be on the beach with sand between my toes, and the Blackberry would vibrate and remind me of Gaza. I did a few radio and TV commentaries, but with the luxury of no impending deadlines, was able to spend time observing the disturbing events from a distance.

                                                                                                                                                                  There were several things about “Operation Cast Lead” that struck me immediately. Anger in the Arab street stood out in sharp contrast to the coyness of its leaders in capitals such as Riyadh, Cairo, Damascus and ‘Amman. Protest in the capitals of Europe also contradicted the EU’s deference towards Israel.

                                                                                                                                                                  And in the United States – a country renowned for Zionist lobby groups such as the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and 80 million pro-Israeli evangelicals – the hush of President George Bush was conspicuous.

                                                                                                                                                                  But for the first time, I saw the Israeli hasbara press corps (whose job it is to spin Israeli policy) under serious Jewish scrutiny. Western media houses faithfully lapped up the memos issued by the National Information Directorate, but usually staid intellectuals such as Avi Shlaim and Henry Siegman were not letting them off the hook.

                                                                                                                                                                  This was something I’d not seen before.

                                                                                                                                                                  Avli Shlaim, an Oxford professor of International Relations, wrote in The Guardian (7 January) that the Palestinians were being blamed for their own misfortunes. The Gaza assault was simply a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, he said.

                                                                                                                                                                  Gaza was a “uniquely cruel case of de-development” and a classic instance of colonial exploitation. He added that the idea of establishing a “Greater Israel” beyond the 1967 Green Line was one of the most “prolonged and brutal occupations of modern times”.

                                                                                                                                                                  Avli Shlaim, who once proudly served in the Israeli military, is not known to be regularly given to such public indignation.

                                                                                                                                                                  Henry Siegman, professor at the University of London, an ordained orthodox Rabbi, former director of the American Jewish Congress, Director of the Middle East Report and the Synagogue Council of America, penned a scathing critique in the London Review of Books (January 29) bluntly entitled “Israel’s Lies”.

                                                                                                                                                                  He slammed Western governments for unconditionally accepting the Israeli hasbara that Hamas was responsible for the violence. “Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce…” he wrote, saying that Israel had not released, but increased, its stranglehold on Gaza during the truce.

                                                                                                                                                                  Siegman’s criticisms are interesting. He has traditionally been regarded as a proponent of “moral equivelance” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But here he was, openly slamming the disproportionate nature of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                                  Even in South Africa, unexpected voices spoke out. Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer, who was happy to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary last year, rebutted the Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation’s support for “Operation Cast Lead”.

                                                                                                                                                                  So did former chief justice, Arthur Chaskalson – as did a group of over 130 concerned Jews.

                                                                                                                                                                  Indeed, one wonders just how many people must have been appalled at Israel’s endeavours to explain away the horrendous toll of civilian casualties in Gaza. Their inference, that Hamas was part of an international jihadi network and was using women and children as shields, was amateurish in the extreme.

                                                                                                                                                                  I don’t know how many times Hamas spokesmen have said that their fight is for Palestinian rights, and that their struggle is a local one. Exporting resistance has never been on the agenda. But I wonder who in Tel Aviv has ever been listening?

                                                                                                                                                                  Undeniably the real horror of Gaza was its utterly mindless disproportionalism. Less than 20 Israelis have died at the hands of home-made rockets fired from Gaza since 2001, but some 5,000 Palestinians have perished in Gaza and the West Bank in the same period.

                                                                                                                                                                  I don’t condone killing on any side (and kill figures are always obscene) but there is a point to be made.

                                                                                                                                                                  Then there was the Kafka-esque scenario of the “victim” possessing F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, tanks, troops, artillery and over a million kilograms of “state-of-the-art” explosives. This is while the “perpetrator” had old-fashioned AK 47’s, handguns, Molotov cocktails and hand-made rockets without homing devices.

                                                                                                                                                                  This disproportionality was reflected in Israeli and Palestinian versions of events. The hasbara corps would argue with passion that the 500 or so tunnels dug under the border fence in Rafah were used exclusively for arms smuggling. The Gazans would reply that without these tunnels, they would have starved to death during the blockade.

                                                                                                                                                                  “These tunnels are for business. We use them to bring in petrol, food, clothes and building material. How do you think we survived the Israeli blockade since 2006?” I was told by a Gazan on the phone.

                                                                                                                                                                  That “Operation Cast Lead” was as much about Israeli politics (as anything else) was strongly evident. Yet it was hardly mentioned in the media. Dubbed “Molten Lead” by Gush Shalom’s Uri Avneri, there was an inherent cynicism about the Gaza operation. For it revealed the moral decrepitude of Israeli domestic politics.

                                                                                                                                                                  Whilst Gaza 2008 was the ultimate attempt to destroy the Palestinian political process, its catalyst was the Israeli electorate. The ruling Kadima party – an uneasy coalition of Likudniks and Labourites led by a former Sharon apparatchik, Ehud Olmert – was facing ignominious defeat at the polls scheduled for this month.

                                                                                                                                                                  Smelling victory, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu – a Teflon version of Sharon if there ever was one – had said his first act as Prime Minister would be to smash Hamas. Strong leaders win elections in Israel, and so Kadima had to do something in response to Netanyahu’s jibes.

                                                                                                                                                                  Or as Haidar ‘Eid, a Gazan political analyst told me: “Israeli elections are won through Palestinian blood.”

                                                                                                                                                                  But I think that the raison d’etre for “Operation Cast Lead” goes a lot deeper than Israeli elections. It goes beyond the politics of sidelining Hamas, a democratically elected government crudely regarded by the US and Israel as “terrorist” – and uniquely capable of threatening world peace (according to them) with fertiliser-powered rockets.

                                                                                                                                                                  In other words, the rank fear of an Islamist regime living cheek-by-jowl with Israel is an issue – but it’s certainly not the only one. There’s the question of economics too.

                                                                                                                                                                  In 2002 I was told by a member of the Islamic Movement that a truly “sustainable society” was the ultimate Palestinian ideal. “Economics is our way to liberation. Self-sufficiency is what we want,” he said.

                                                                                                                                                                  I still have the notes – and the Arabic phrase – in one of my notebooks. My observation then was that the Israelis would not like to hear this. Little did I know those six years ago how “Operation Cast Lead” was going to prove me right.

                                                                                                                                                                  Yet when I came across an article written by Ottawa University economics professor, Michel Chossudovsky, I was still gob-smacked. According to him there were gas fields off the coast of Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                                  Chossudovsky is a well-respected academic; a man not given to wild speculation, conspiracy theory or rumour. He is a writer who quotes copious sources. And he wrote at globalresearch.ca’s website:

                                                                                                                                                                  “The military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves. This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline”.

                                                                                                                                                                  Citing the involvement of the British Gas Group and its partner, the Athens-based but Lebanese-owned Consolidated Contractors International Company, Chossudovsky says a 25-year exploration agreement was signed in 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

                                                                                                                                                                  According to the professor, 60% of Gaza’s offshore gas fields (worth 4 billion dollars) belong to Palestine.

                                                                                                                                                                  However, any prospect of drilling, exploitation and the building of pipelines were sidelined by the death of Yasser ‘Arafat, and the heavy hand of Ariel Sharon. When he took power in 2001 he stated that Israel would never buy energy from Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                                                  In 2003, the burly Israeli Prime Minister vetoed an initial agreement that would see British Gas supplying Israel with gas from Gaza. In 2006 British Gas was close to signing a deal to pump gas to Egypt when British Prime Minister Tony Blair stopped it.

                                                                                                                                                                  In 2007 the issue resurfaced again when Ehud Olmert proposed that Israel buy gas from the Palestinian Authority. This deal was scuppered when the Israeli security establishment alleged the Palestinian Authority would use its 1 billion dollar profits to buy arms.

                                                                                                                                                                  Further Israeli skulduggery to avoid honouring an energy contract with the Palestinians saw British Gas closing their offices in January 2008.

                                                                                                                                                                  But here, according to Chossudovsky, the plot thickens. For in June (when the six-month truce with Hamas was being negotiated) Ehud Barak was already planning “Operation Cast Lead”. And, at the same time, the Israeli government was calling on British Gas to return to Israel to enter into talks with it.

                                                                                                                                                                  Chossudovsky reports that as recently as November 2008, the Israeli Finance Ministry had approved of further energy talks with British Gas.

                                                                                                                                                                  So what does this mean for Gaza?

                                                                                                                                                                  It means a new chapter in the history of Palestinian disempowerment. For not only will Gaza’s residents have to confront their historic memories of stolen land and dispossessed towns and villages, but their children will also have to face the humiliating prospect of their natural resources – the very key to their economic independence – being pilfered from right under their noses.

                                                                                                                                                                  -Shafiq Morton is a Cape Town based photo-journalist, author and radio show host. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

                                                                                                                                                                  1689 words posted in Human Rights, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                    Revisiting Iran Revolution

                                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                                    'It was great watching Iranian students, bursting with revolutionary fervor and idealism.'

                                                                                                                                                                    By Aijaz Zaka Syed – Dubai

                                                                                                                                                                    Iran is celebrating 30 years of its Islamic revolution. Al-Jazeera English, the Middle East's favorite television network, has been running a great series based on interviews and first-person accounts to mark the occasion.

                                                                                                                                                                    I guess I had been too young and too far to follow the cataclysmic events in Iran three decades ago. However, growing up in India, one had had the opportunity of watching people who were affected by the revolution. Hyderabad, a citadel of Muslim culture in India, is home to a large Iranian population and has had close, historical relations with Persia. Many young Iranians studied in Indian universities and colleges.

                                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                    Even though one really didn't grasp the significance of the fall of a 2,500-year-old monarchy at the time, it was great watching Iranian students, bursting with revolutionary fervor and idealism, pitch for a new world order inspired by Islam, rather than one dictated by 'big Satan' or 'small Satan.'

                                                                                                                                                                    They would organize photo exhibitions of the anti-Shah movement or screening of Mustapha Akkad's classics like "Lion of the Desert" and "The Message." At times, they would turn to the heart-warming poetry of Iqbal, the great South Asian poet who wrote both in Urdu and Persian languages. Whoever thought revolution would be so much fun!

                                                                                                                                                                    Today, as Iran revisits the revolution, all those childhood memories and images have come flooding back. And one realizes with a shock that it's been three decades since those watershed events that left an imprint on many an impressionable mind at the time. How time flies! Perhaps 30 years are nothing in the history of nations. Besides, in these three decades, little has changed in Iran's relations with the West, especially the United States. It's as though time has stood still since 1979.

                                                                                                                                                                    America has yet to get over its humiliation after its man, Reza Shah Pahlavi, was booted out. It continues to see the Islamic Republic as the fount of all problems and woes in the Middle East.

                                                                                                                                                                    Under George W. Bush, this anti-Iran policy was taken to absurd lengths with the U.S. cowboy president condemning the country to the company of Iraq and North Korea. Iran has not been found wanting in reciprocating these sentiments. The superpower remains the Great Satan in the Islamic republic's eyes – at least in official rhetoric.

                                                                                                                                                                    The Iran-U.S. relationship serves as a case example for the rest of the Middle East. Islam's teachings urging resistance against oppression and injustice did play a seminal role in spawning the movement that brought down Shah's powerful but corrupt and totalitarian regime.

                                                                                                                                                                    But America cannot disown its own role in sowing the seeds of change. Washington's short-sighted policies, especially the CIA's role in bringing down the elected government of Prime Minister Mossadeq – the region's first - and propping up of the discredited monarch in the face of fierce popular opposition also paved the way for the rule of ayatollahs.

                                                                                                                                                                    The more the shah tried to force his fiercely proud, patriotic and religious people into the 'liberal' ways of the West the more they turned to their faith and ancient culture and values.

                                                                                                                                                                    While the Iranians identified with the Palestinians and Arabs, the shah was playing around with the Israelis. Savak, the dreaded secret service agency, was trained and aided by Israel's Mossad.

                                                                                                                                                                    And the more force he used to suppress dissent and democratic and religious forces led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the stronger they became. The kind of mass protests Iran witnessed in those months and years, with young men and women throwing themselves before the marching tanks were never seen in the Middle East before and haven't been observed since.

                                                                                                                                                                    By identifying itself with the shah and protecting his loathed regime, America invited upon itself the wrath and anger of the Iranian people. In a way, the Americans were right in standing by the shah. After all, he was paying for implementing policies that were dictated by the Americans and the West.

                                                                                                                                                                    Even today, the West and Iran are not able to make peace with each other, because both find it difficult to let go of their unpleasant, shared past and come to terms with their present and future.

                                                                                                                                                                    The United States still hasn't forgotten how it had to leave Tehran in undignified haste after the 444-day long siege of the U.S. embassy by Iranian students. But more than the Americans, it's the Iranian people who have reasons to be unhappy with Washington.

                                                                                                                                                                    Iran continues to pay for the shah's crimes against his people and the U.S. excesses. Even though the majority of the Iranian population today was born after the revolution and is under 30 years old, the West's interventionist policies in the past as well as its current vilification of Iran have poisoned their view of the West. They blame all of their woes and international isolation on the United States – a view that is impossible to counter.

                                                                                                                                                                    The late shah had plenty of warts and flaws. However, what really proved his undoing was his unquestioning fealty and abject loyalty to Uncle Sam, often at the expense of his people's interests.

                                                                                                                                                                    So if anyone was responsible for the monarch's downfall and ignominious exit, it was Uncle Sam. Reza Shah's nemesis was his own mentor and master. There are many Reza Shahs in the Muslim world today. Similar tales of exploitation and victimization at the hands of big powers are galore.

                                                                                                                                                                    The United States has drawn no lessons from the Iran fiasco. Even though it claims to champion democracy and freedom, it continues to impose its own colonial agenda and writ on the Middle East against its people's will.

                                                                                                                                                                    The historical manipulation and maneuvering of Arab and Muslim states – from Palestine to Pakistan - while patronizing and pampering Israel continually fills and multiplies the ranks of America haters.

                                                                                                                                                                    I don't know if the new U.S. president could change this reprehensible history of his country's engagement with the Muslim world. Perhaps it's too much to ask for one term. But let's hope he'd at least give it a try.

                                                                                                                                                                    The hero's welcome Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan received back home after he gave an earful to Israel's President Shimon Peres in Davos and walked out of the World Economic Forum in protest over Gaza offers you an insight into how Muslims think.

                                                                                                                                                                    Having long suffered spineless wonders, Muslims are positively elated when they spot a courageous and self-respecting leader - a rarity for them - who is not afraid of confronting big bullies and saying it as it is. Men like Erdogan give them hope, restoring their dignity and confidence in themselves.

                                                                                                                                                                    If the West indeed wants things to change for the better in the Muslim world, it should encourage and engage leaders like Erdogan, rather than self-serving autocrats. For, as Santayana warned: "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it."

                                                                                                                                                                    - Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Write to him at aijaz@khaleejtimes.com.

                                                                                                                                                                    1173 words posted in IranLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                      Change the Lobby

                                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                                      Did Olmert, with one telephone, call turn around US foreign policy agenda? (AP)

                                                                                                                                                                      By Ramzy Baroud

                                                                                                                                                                      One cannot emphasize enough the stranglehold Israel's lobbying infrastructure has on US foreign policy. The events of recent weeks undoubtedly attest to this. "The special relationship" that has been historically fostered between the US and Israel in fact, is often a relationship of leverage, manipulation and intimidation, and often leads to the US supporting actions or resolutions that stand at complete odds with the interests of the American people.

                                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                      The promise of change echoed the world over as people from all corners anticipated the magic moment Obama could actually change the devastating reality in which we live today. But just weeks before his inauguration, Israel unleashed the most barbaric attacks on defenseless Palestinian civilians since 1948. Civil societies expressed outrage and called for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes and genocide. Other nations cut diplomatic ties completely with the Jewish state. But the man of change did absolutely nothing. For weeks he was completely silent. Even in his first days in office, Obama made no mention of the Israeli genocide in Gaza. So, what of this change that he promised? What kind of hold does Israel have to silence the President of the United States?

                                                                                                                                                                      Authors and professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, of University of Chicago and Harvard University respectively defined the Israel Lobby in their volume: The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.” What has been revealed in their work is that “The Lobby” is not a unitary organization, of a few, or many paid lobbyists who are pushing for a specific foreign policy agenda. Sure, you have that too, manifested in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – an organization that boasts of 60,000 active members, and who showers US congressmen with many millions of dollars in campaign contributions, all with one aim in mind, a pro-Israel, right or wrong agenda. But it’s much more complex than that.

                                                                                                                                                                      The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, less known than AIPAC is a powerful lobby conduit, for it supposedly represents 52 major Jewish organizations. Based in New York, the organization simply represents an uncompromisingly pro-Israel stance, which tends to advocate Israel’s suppression of Palestinians (as Israel’s right to defend itself), and advocates a pro-war agenda (as was the case before the Iraq war, and later against Syria and Iran.)

                                                                                                                                                                      These are but mere examples. What Mearsheimer and Walt describe as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations” is in fact a vast infrastructure that has penetrated every major organization and institution, governmental and otherwise, that could in some way influence, push for or advocate Israel’s interests.

                                                                                                                                                                      When AIPAC holds its annual conferences, countless members of the House and the Senate, the executive branch, top representatives of both parties, as well as hundreds of US ambassadors flock from all over the world in an unprecedented manner to vow their allegiance to Israel.

                                                                                                                                                                      With the passing of time, the strength of the lobby, and the level of influence of Israel’s “friends” in the Congress has grown immensely to the point that US allegiances actually jeopardize the interests of their own citizens. Even from an imperialistic viewpoint, the US has no particular interest in supporting Israel’s genocidal policies in Gaza, for example, considering the fact that the US is struggling to find any semblance of ‘stability’ in the region that is saturated with anti-American sentiment.

                                                                                                                                                                      Consider what outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech in the Israeli southern town of Ashkelon on Jan 12, regarding how he influenced the US vote in the UN on a resolution pertaining to the Gaza war:

                                                                                                                                                                      "In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the Secretary of State wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favor," Olmert said.

                                                                                                                                                                      "I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

                                                                                                                                                                      "I told him the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favor."

                                                                                                                                                                      "She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favor."

                                                                                                                                                                      Imagine, Olmert is boasting how he, with one telephone call managed to completely turn around the entire US foreign policy agenda, no questions asked. This tells us that it’s not a give-and-take relationship.

                                                                                                                                                                      One can learn a valuable lesson in all of this. Within the United States there is a great apparatus that has been in motion for generations. It is beyond civil society, beyond individual citizens and citizen groups, it is perhaps even more powerful than ‘the man of change’ himself. And if we are truly to see some transformation in the way the US now rules the world, then this war-mongering machine must be dismantled.

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

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                                                                                                                                                                        Never Say You're Sorry: 100 Days

                                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  February 5th, 2009 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                        By Christopher Hayes

                                                                                                                                                                        Odds are you've never heard of Gary Gensler, the man President Obama has nominated to run the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). But it's slightly more likely you've heard of Brooksley Born, the woman who held that position under Clinton in the late 1990s. Amid the cascading financial crisis and cries of "Nobody could have predicted!" from many of those who were instrumental in bringing it about, Born has emerged as one of the rare voices that warned of the perils ahead. In 1997 she began to sound the alarm about the growth in the derivatives market, which, unlike traditional futures, were not traded on a regulated exchange. Born argued that derivatives should be brought under regulatory supervision, or they "could pose potentially serious dangers to our economy."

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                                                                                                                                                                        She proved prescient. These instruments, specifically credit default swaps, increased risk throughout the global financial system, eventually bringing down AIG, the world's largest insurance conglomerate. George Soros, economist Alan Blinder and many others now name the failure to regulate credit default swaps as one of the prime causes of the collapse.

                                                                                                                                                                        But in 1998 powerful voices close to the Clinton administration--Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan--argued that the derivatives market was just fine. They had allies among the Wall Street banks who were making money hand over fist in the unregulated, over-the-counter market.

                                                                                                                                                                        Then there was Phil Gramm, the mastermind behind the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which definitively kept derivatives unregulated. Attached to a massive omnibus bill during the lame-duck Congress in December 2000, while the nation's attention was captivated by Bush v. Gore, the CFMA passed overwhelmingly in both houses and was signed into law by President Clinton. But Gramm wasn't sneaking anything past the White House, which had hammered out the details in lengthy negotiations with the senator. And one of the men charged with shepherding the bill through Congress was none other than the Treasury's under secretary for domestic finance, Gary Gensler.

                                                                                                                                                                        Gensler was well qualified to dive into the arcana, having spent eighteen years at Goldman Sachs before taking a job at Treasury. When it came to derivatives, he shared the prevailing deregulatory ethos. (He declined to speak to me on the record for this column.) The New York Times editorial board found Obama's nomination of Gensler "troubling." Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over Gensler's nomination, released a statement saying that he is "concerned about the deregulatory orientation in this nominee's past." And fellow committee member Bernie Sanders issued this terse statement: "It is imperative that we not continue the same mistaken policies that got us into this mess in the first place. I have real concerns."

                                                                                                                                                                        In Gensler's defense, he did do regulatory penance. He worked for Senator Paul Sarbanes helping to craft Sarbanes-Oxley, and he wrote a book criticizing the mutual fund industry for the ways it rips off investors. But the fact remains: on the biggest issue of commodity futures regulation in the past decade, he was a star player on the team that got it exactly wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                        It's not just Gensler, of course: many on the Obama economic team, most notably Summers, director of the National Economic Council, facilitated the creation of the bubble economy and the deregulatory mayhem that brought us to this moment. Indeed, Summers, who has consolidated his power in the White House to the point that the press refers to him as Obama's "chief economic adviser," was a proponent of policies--from the lifting of capital controls in developing economies to the repeal of Glass-Steagall--that proved spectacularly misguided.

                                                                                                                                                                        So one might ask: why do these people keep getting plum jobs? Two reasons. The first is a simple rule about Washington, which is that membership in the establishment comes with lifetime tenure. Working inside the Beltway means never having to say you're sorry. If Henry Kissinger, international man of mystery cum war criminal, can flit around Washington and be fondly invoked in presidential debates as a sage of foreign relations--well then, everyone else, no matter what they've done, can as well.

                                                                                                                                                                        The second reason might be called the Gus Frerotte Principle. Frerotte is a 37-year-old NFL quarterback who played most recently for the Minnesota Vikings. For most of his career he's been a middling QB. Yet he's managed to last fifteen years in the NFL, playing for seven different teams. This year he landed the starting job with the Vikings. Frerotte's not alone. There's an entire class of journeymen NFL quarterbacks who despite never quite excelling manage to hang around the league for years getting job after job on team after team. Though this often causes fans to throw up their hands in frustration ("This guy again!"), the reason is fairly straightforward. Being an NFL quarterback is an exceedingly difficult, complicated job, with a very steep learning curve. When a coach is deciding between a known quantity like Frerotte and some promising but untested newcomer, the incentives all push toward Frerotte.

                                                                                                                                                                        Which brings us to Gensler. Running a regulatory body like the CFTC, like helming a pro football team, is complicated and difficult. So it's not surprising, particularly during a crisis, that there's a strong bias toward those like Gensler, Summers et al., who are "game tested." Of course, it would be far preferable to go with someone game-tested who got it right the first time--like Born. That said, having gotten things wrong in the past s