Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has consistently led the way in telling the story of what's really going on in Iraq and Iran. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to him about America's Hitler, Bush's Vietnam, and how the US press failed the First Amendment.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Once again, he said that he is only interested in civilian nuclear power instead of atomic weapons. How much does the West really know about the nuclear program in Iran?
Seymour Hersh: A lot. And it's been underestimated how much the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knows. If you follow what (IAEA head Mohamed) ElBaradei and the various reports have been saying, the Iranians have claimed to be enriching uranium to higher than a 4 percent purity, which is the amount you need to run a peaceful nuclear reactor. But the IAEA's best guess is that they are at 3.67 percent or something. The Iranians are not even doing what they claim to be doing. The IAEA has been saying all along that they've been making progress but basically, Iran is nowhere. Of course the US and Israel are going to say you have to look at the worst case scenario, but there isn't enough evidence to justify a bombing raid.
The real thing in the mind of this president 9Geroge W. Bush) is he wants to reshape the Middle East and make it a model. He absolutely believes it. I always thought Henry Kissinger was a disaster because he lies like most people breathe and you can't have that in public life. But if it were Kissinger this time around, I'd actually be relieved because I'd know that the madness would be tied to some oil deal. But in this case, what you see is what you get. This guy believes he's doing God's work -- Sermour Hersh
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is this just another case of exaggerating the danger in preparation for an invasion like we saw in 2002 and 2003 prior to the Iraq War?
Hersh: We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we've had about 20 of them. Khrushchev and Mao and of course Stalin, and for a little while Gadhafi was our Hitler. And now we have this guy Ahmadinejad. The reality is, he's not nearly as powerful inside the country as we like to think he is. The Revolutionary Guards have direct control over the missile program and if there is a weapons program, they would be the ones running it. Not Ahmadinejad.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where does this feeling of urgency that the US has with Iran come from?
Hersh: Pressure from the White House. That's just their game.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What interest does the White House have in moving us to the brink with Tehran?
Hersh: You have to ask yourself what interest we had 40 years ago for going to war in Vietnam. You'd think that in this country with so many smart people, that we can't possibly do the same dumb thing again. I have this theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover things for themselves.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even after Iraq? Aren't there strategic reasons for getting so deeply involved in the Middle East?
Hersh: Oh no. We're going to build democracy. The real thing in the mind of this president is he wants to reshape the Middle East and make it a model. He absolutely believes it. I always thought Henry Kissinger was a disaster because he lies like most people breathe and you can't have that in public life. But if it were Kissinger this time around, I'd actually be relieved because I'd know that the madness would be tied to some oil deal. But in this case, what you see is what you get. This guy believes he's doing God's work.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So what are the options in Iraq?
Hersh: There are two very clear options: Option A) Get everybody out by midnight tonight. Option B) Get everybody out by midnight tomorrow. The fuel that keeps the war going is us.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of people have been saying that the US presence there is a big part of the problem. Is anyone in the White House listening?
Hersh: No. The president is still talking about the "Surge" (eds. The "Surge" refers to President Bush's commitment of 20,000 additional troops to Iraq in the spring of 2007 in an attempt to improve security in the country.) as if it's going to unite the country. But the Surge was a con game of putting additional troops in there. We've basically Balkanized the place, building walls and walling off Sunnis from Shiites. And in Anbar Province, where there has been success, all of the Shiites are gone. They've simply split.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is that why there has been a drop in violence there?
Hersh: I think that's a much better reason than the fact that there are a couple more soldiers on the ground.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So what are the lessons of the Surge?
Hersh: The Surge means basically that, in some way, the president has accepted ethnic cleansing, whether he's talking about it or not. When he first announced the Surge in January, he described it as a way to bring the parties together. He's not saying that any more. I think he now understands that ethnic cleansing is what is going to happen. You're going to have a Kurdistan. You're going to have a Sunni area that we're going to have to support forever. And you're going to have the Shiites in the South.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the US is over four years into a war that is likely going to end in a disaster. How valid are the comparisons with Vietnam?
Hersh: The validity is that the US is fighting a guerrilla war and doesn't know the culture. But the difference is that at a certain point, because of Congressional and public opposition, the Vietnam War was no longer tenable. But these guys now don't care. They see it but they don't care.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If the Iraq war does end up as a defeat for the US, will it leave as deep a wound as the Vietnam War did?
Hersh: Much worse. Vietnam was a tactical mistake. This is strategic. How do you repair damages with whole cultures? On the home front, though, we'll rationalize it away. Don't worry about that. Again, there's no learning curve. No learning curve at all. We'll be ready to fight another stupid war in another two decades.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Of course, preventing that is partially the job of the media. Have reporters been doing a better job recently than they did in the run-up to the Iraq War?
Hersh: Oh yeah. They've done a better job since. But back then, they blew it. When you have a guy like Bush who's going to move the infamous Doomsday Clock forward, and he's going to put everybody in jeopardy and he's secretive and he doesn't tell Congress anything and he's inured to what we write. In such a case, we (journalists) become more important. The First Amendment failed and the American press failed the Constitution. We were jingoistic. And that was a terrible failing. I'm asked the question all the time: What happened to my old paper, the New York Times? And I now say, they stink. They missed it. They missed the biggest story of the time and they're going to have to live with it.
Interview conducted by Charles Hawley and David Gordon Smith
This entry was posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 08:38:06 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Har Homa is a hideously designed illegal settlement built on stolen Palestinian land. The hillside was once covered with green, carefully tended Palestinian-owned orchards. The Israeli government brought in bulldozers, destroyed the orchards, stripped the rest of the vegetation and shaved off the top of the hill to flatten it for illegal settlers. The Zionists refer to this community built on stolen land as "a neighborhood" of Jerusalem.
By Anshel Pfeffer Har Homa
Strategic-Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman threw down a clear challenge to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday when he said that his Yisrael Beiteinu party’s mission was to “make sure that nothing comes out of the Annapolis process”.
Mr Lieberman announced his position during a tour of Har Homa in Jerusalem, where building tenders caused tensions last week between the Israeli and United States governments.
There were no strategic affairs to discuss during Mr Lieberman’s visit to the southern Jerusalem neighbourhood across the 1967 Green Line. Flanked by members of his party, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and a large media entourage, Mr Leiberman held a photo-op next to the hillside where 305 flats are due to be built. The tenders caused angry responses from the Palestinians and was criticised by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
This afforded Mr Lieberman, who has come under fire from the right-wing for sitting in a government engaged in a controversial diplomatic process with the Palestinians, a chance to burnish his hard-line credentials.
Standing in a valley between Har Homa and the Palestinian village of Um Tubba, he said: “We hope that not only will 300 flats be built here, but 3,000. There is total consensus over the building here and it is the inalienable right of every Jew to live here.” Referring to US criticism, he said that “this doesn’t harm confidence on the Palestinian side, it bolsters the Jews’ confidence in our right to be here”.
Mr Lieberman appeared unconcerned about the talks with the Palestinian Authority that had resumed the same day in Jerusalem in a distinctly frosty atmosphere.
“I hope the next meeting will be cancelled,” he said. “That’s what we are in the government for. Our mission is to stop the Annapolis process and I can confidently assure you that nothing will come out of it.”
Mr Olmert cannot afford to fire Mr Lieberman, one of his deputies, despite such statements. Without Yisrael Beiteinu and the right-wing Shas party in his coalition, Mr Olmert would be forced to call elections at a time when his ruling Kadima party is still deeply unpopular with voters.
This entry was posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 01:39:11 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Olmert insists Tehran poses a major threat to Israel and the West [AFP]
An Israeli minister has criticised what he calls misguided US intelligence-gathering on Iran's nuclear programme, saying that the assessment could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state.
The harshest criticism yet of a US intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms, came on Saturday.
Avi Dichter, Israel's public security minister, also suggested that Israel could no longer trust the US intelligence.
He said faulty intelligence could issue false information about Palestinian security forces' cracking down on armed groups.
The Palestinian action is required as part of a US-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.
Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognise Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to a regional war.
He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbours, known in Israel as Yom Kippur since the war started on the Jewish holy day.
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
"Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analysing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, had refuted the US intelligence report that came earlier this month, saying that Iran continues its activities to attain components necessary to produce nuclear weapons.
Tehran still poses a major threat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.
Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and has backed the US in its international efforts to exert pressure on Iran to stop the programme.
Israel considers Iran a significant threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile programme and repeated calls by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, to wipe Israel off the map.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.
"A misconception by the world's leading superpower is not just an internal American occurrence," Dichter said.
This entry was posted on Dec 16, 2007 at 12:35:04 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has failed to convince the United States that Iran's nuclear programme poses a serious and immediate threat, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Saturday, following publication of a U.S. intelligence report.
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter criticised the U.S. report, published on December 3, that said Iran had put its nuclear weapon programme on hold. He added that a U.S. "misconception" could lead to a regional war.
"We need to admit that Israel did not succeed in convincing the U.S.-leadership on the fact that an Iranian (nuclear) weapon threat is immediate and significant," Dichter, a former director of Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency, said in a speech near Tel Aviv.
"It seems that what we put before them, how we presented it, wasn't persuasive enough," he said. "It's important for Israel to keep trying to convince with facts and intelligence data."
Israel, which is thought to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, believes Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010 and says an Iranian nuclear weapon would threaten Israel's existence.
Israel holds regular bilateral discussions with Washington on regional issues, including Iran.
Dichter warned the entire Middle East could be caught off guard by an Iranian atomic bomb, as Israel had been surprised by a 1973 war, known in the Jewish state as the Yom Kippur War.
"We must not let a misconception develop in the United States. Such a misconception may lead to a regional Yom Kippur, where Israel is just one of the countries threatened," Dichter said.
Last week Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "The U.S. report has created exaggerated debate ... Nothing has changed. Iran was and still is dangerous."
(Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
This entry was posted on Dec 15, 2007 at 11:11:57 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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GAZA, Palestine - Ma'an - Hamas reiterated its refusal to acknowledge the state of Israel on Saturday, as crowds took to the streets of Gaza to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the movement.
More than 200,000 Palestinians rallied Saturday in Gaza City to mark the Hamas movement's 20th anniversary, where the Ismail Haniyeh, the defacto prime minister of the Hamas government, said that whoever declares he will never recognize Israel earns "the people's love." The crowd chanted: "We will never recognize Israel."
In a fiery speech, Haniyeh cited the achievements of Hamas and "the resistance" throughout the region. He cited Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005, and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He also listed Afghanistan and Iraq against the U.S.-led forces.
Hamas supporters were joined by members of Islamic Jihad, members of the leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and members of the Popular resistance Committees in Katiba Square in Gaza City.
Marches in support of Hamas took place in different parts of the Gaza Strip from the early morning.
Haniyeh said that the celebrations come during a time of hardship for Palestinians. He also asserted that the only way to liberate Palestine is through continued resistance.
"This crowd shows that they trust in God and adhere to national principles by saying no to the recognition of Israel. Those who work politically with honesty and integrity increase their popularity and this is Hamas," he said.
He added that any dialogue between Hamas and Fatah should not be based conditions, saying: "Hamas will not accept any conditions and all issues should be put on the table."
Haniyeh also announced that he has received a detailed report on the events of the festival anniversary of the death of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, which left seven dead and scores injured when police opened fire on the crowds.
He said there will be a press conference to make public the results of the investigation into the incident and that the government will abide by all the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
He also talked about Palestinian resistance activities, saying that in 2000 they managed to bring about the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and in 2005 Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza as a result of attacks by the resistance brigades.
In a televised message from Damascus, Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal said: "Our people are able to launch a third and fourth uprising until the dawn of victory arrives."
Meshal repeated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not have a mandate to negotiate with Israel. He stressed that contrary to claims by Abbas and his associates, Hamas has not weakened in the six months since its takeover in the Gaza Strip.
Prominent Hamas leader Usama Al-Mazini also addressed the crowd gathered in Gaza City, saying "We are now celebrating the founding of Hamas and still Palestinians are under attack in an immoral war. Those who are betting on the fall of Hamas will face opposition."
"The rights of the Palestinian people are non-negotiable. Twenty years since the founding of Hamas despite the siege and assassinations, Hamas is getting stronger," Al-Mazini added.
He reiterated his movement's acceptance of unconditional dialogue with Fatah, calling on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to give an answer to this.
Mazini added that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will not be released until all Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli jails.
This entry was posted on Dec 15, 2007 at 07:59:31 pm and is filed under Human Rights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Lebanon 1983 - 1984 and 2006 elin o'Hara slavick
This essay serves as the introduction to Bomb After Bomb: A violent Cartography, a collection of drawings illustrating the history of bombing by elin o'Hara slavick. o'Hara slavick is a professor of art at the University of North Carolina. More of her visionary work can be viewed on her website. AC / JSCher visionary work can be viewed on her website. AC / JSC
By Howard Zinn
Perhaps it is fitting that elin o'Hara slavick's extraordinary evocation of bombings by the United States government be preceded by some words from a bombardier who flew bombing missions for the U.S. Air Corps in the second World War. At least one of her drawings is based on a bombing I participated in near the very end of the war--the destruction of the French seaside resort of Royan, on the Atlantic coast.
Amchitka Island, Alaska, USA
1965 - 1971 elin o'Hara slavick
As I look at her drawings, I become painfully aware of how ignorant I was, when I dropped those bombs on France and on cities in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, of the effects of those bombings on human beings. Not because she shows us bloody corpses, amputated limbs, skin shredded by napalm. She does not do that. But her drawings, in ways that I cannot comprehend, compel me to envision such scenes.
I am stunned by the thought that we, the "civilized" nations, have bombed cities and countrysides and islands for a hundred years. Yet, here in the United States, which is responsible for most of that, the public, as was true of me, does not understand--I mean really understand--what bombs do to people. That failure of imagination, I believe, is critical to explaining why we still have wars, why we accept bombing as a common accompaniment to our foreign policies, without horror or disgust.
We in this country, unlike people in Europe or Japan or Africa or the Middle East, or the Caribbean, have not had the experience of being bombed. That is why, when the Twin Towers in New York exploded on September 11, there was such shock and disbelief. This turned quickly, under the impact of government propaganda, into a callous approval of bombing Afghanistan, and a failure to see that the corpses of Afghans were the counterparts of those in Manhattan.
We might think that at least those individuals in the U.S. Air Force who dropped bombs on civilian populations were aware of what terror they were inflicting, but as one of those I can testify that this is not so. Bombing from five miles high, I and my fellow crew members could not see what was happening on the ground. We could not hear screams or see blood, could not see torn bodies, crushed limbs. Is it any wonder we see fliers going out on mission after mission, apparently unmoved by thoughts of what they have wrought.
It was not until after the war, when I read John Hersey's interviews with Japanese survivors of Hiroshima, who described what they had endured, that I became aware, in excruciating detail, of what my bombs had done. I then looked further. I learned of the firebombing of Tokyo in March of 1945, in which perhaps a hundred thousand people died. I learned about the bombing of Dresden, and the creation of a firestorm which cost the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 residents of that city. I learned of the bombing of Hamburg and Frankfurt and other cities in Europe.
We know now that perhaps 600,000 civilians--men, women, and children-died in the bombings of Europe. And an equal number died in the bombings of Japan. What could possibly justify such carnage? Winning the war against Fascism? Yes, we "won". But what did we win? Was it a new world? Had we done away with Fascism in the world, with racism, with militarism, with hunger and disease? Despite the noble words of the United Nations charter about ending "the scourge of war" - had we done away with war?
As horrifying as the loss of life was, the acceptance of justifications for the killing of innocent people continued after World War II. The United States bombed Korea, with at least a million civilian deaths, and then Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, with another million or two million lives taken. "Communism" was the justification. But what did those millions of victims know of "communism" or "capitalism" or any of the abstractions which cover up mass murder?
We have had enough experience, with the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders, with the bombings carried out by the Allies, with the torture stories coming out of Iraq, to know that ordinary people with ordinary consciences will allow their instincts for decency to be overcome by the compulsion to obey authority. It is time therefore, to educate the coming generation in disobedience to authority, to help them understand that institutions like governments and corporations are cold to anything but self-interest, that the interests of powerful entities run counter to the interests of most people.
This clash of interest between governments and citizens is camouflaged by phrases that pretend that everyone in the nation has a common interest, and so wars are waged and bombs dropped for "national security", "national defense", "and national interest".
Patriotism is defined as obedience to government, obscuring the difference between the government and the people. Thus, soldiers are led to believe that "we are fighting for our country" when in fact they are fighting for the government - an artificial entity different from the people of the country - and indeed are following policies dangerous to its own people.
My own reflections on my experiences as a bombardier, and my research on the wars of the United States have led me to certain conclusions about war and the dropping of bombs that accompany modern warfare.
One: The means of waging war (demolition bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, nuclear weapons, napalm) have become so horrendous in their effects on human beings that no political end-- however laudable, the existence of no enemy -- however vicious, can justify war.
Two: The horrors of the means are certain, the achievement of the ends always uncertain.
Three: When you bomb a country ruled by a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant.
Four: War poisons the soul of everyone who engages in it, so that the most ordinary of people become capable of terrible acts.
Five: Since the ratio of civilian deaths to military deaths in war has risen sharply with each subsequent war of the past century (10% civilian deaths in World War I,50% in World War II, 70% in Vietnam, 80-90% in Afghanistan and Iraq) and since a significant percentage of these civilians are children, then war is inevitably a war against children.
Six: We cannot claim that there is a moral distinction between a government which bombs and kills innocent people and a terrorist organization which does the same. The argument is made that deaths in the first case are accidental, while in the second case they are deliberate. However, it does not matter that the pilot dropping the bombs does not "intend" to kill innocent people -- that he does so is inevitable, for it is the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate. Even if the bombing equipment is so sophisticated that the pilot can target a house, a vehicle, there is never certainty about who is in the house or who is in the vehicle.
Seven: War, and the bombing that accompanies war, are the ultimate terrorism, for governments can command means of destruction on a far greater scale than any terrorist group.
These considerations lead me to conclude that if we care about human life, about justice, about the equal right of all children to exist, we must, in defiance of whatever we are told by those in authority, pledge ourselves to oppose all wars.
If the drawings of elin o'Hara slavick and the words that accompany them cause us to think about war, perhaps in ways we never did before, they will have made a powerful contribution towards a peaceful world.
Howard Zinn's most recent book is A Power Government's Cannot Suppress.
This entry was posted on Dec 15, 2007 at 06:50:37 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Ramzy Baroud
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's speech on December 6th - in which he tried to 'explain' his Mormon faith - was met with a mostly sympathetic reception at George Bush Library in Texas.
The speech has been long anticipated, not so much for its relevance to the pressing debate on the defining role of religion in American politics, and how this undermines the very meaning of secular democracy. It was awaited simply because Romney belongs to the wrong faith. Recent polls indicate that one out of every three Republicans will not vote for Romney because he is a Mormon.
The whole affair has done much to reveal the hypocrisy of institutional democracy in the United States. While every presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, has unreservedly uttered lip service to democratic ideals, very few have dared push the boundaries by actually explaining their personal views on what separation of church and state means.
Given the Republicans' reservations on Romney and the fact that the religious vote has long been shown to be a formidable factor in determining who claims the throne of the Oval Office, one can easily deduce that religion is hardly a personal matter in the American political milieu. Imagine, for instance, the sort of chances a presidential candidate would have as a dedicated atheist, or worse, as a devout Muslim.
It might be a long time - if ever - before the possibility of a Muslim candidate representing a major party is put to the test. But one need not wait that long to appreciate the narrow-mindedness of the media and politicians, and how this influences public opinion.
While the urgency of 'responding' to Islamic fundamentalism has been consistently highlighted in the ongoing presidential campaign, very little has been said about Christian, Jewish or other religious fundamentalisms. Rarely has a candidate with the exception of Democrat Dennis Kucinich dared to examine the relationship between Christian fundamentalism and the Iraq war, or Jewish fundamentalism and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Religious fanaticism and fundamentalism are rarely discussed as perilous phenomena in their own right; if it's not 'Islamic' it simply doesn't count.
Such short-sightedness has wide-ranging and deeply harmful implications. All that a volunteer for Senator Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign needed to do to temporarily disrupt the recent gains of Barack Obama's campaign was to distribute an email suggesting that Obama was a Muslim intent on 'destroying' the United Sates. As laughable as this may sound, one cannot underestimate the impact that such rumours have on voters filled with fear and disdain for everything Muslim. Of course, Christian fundamentalist President George W. Bush's wholesale destruction of a Muslim country, Iraq, is not a mere rumour. That this is not considered noteworthy is most telling. Chances are Obama will do his utmost to distance himself from the rumour as he has done in the past - which could reinvigorate the old accusation that he spent time studying at a Muslim school. Obama previously responded by vowing to respond severely to Muslim terrorism, going so far as to say he would bomb Pakistan if necessary. Whether he will upgrade further his hostile language to show his worthiness to lead America is yet to be seen.
Although Islam and Muslims were hardly relevant to Romney's speech, Naomi Schaefer Riley of the conservative Wall Street Journal couldn't prevent herself from shoving Islam into the picture, predictably in an unfavorable light. In her article, 'What Iowans Should Know About Mormons' (December 7), Riley cites a recent Pew poll which shows that "only 53% of Americans have a favourable opinion of Mormons." She then observes: "That's roughly the same percentage who feel that way toward Muslims. By contrast, more than three-quarters of Americans have a favorable opinion of Jews and Catholics."
Riley then gets to her main and vindictive point: "Whatever the validity of such judgments, one has to wonder: Why does a faith professed by the 9/11 hijackers rank alongside that of a peaceful, productive, highly educated religious group founded within our own borders?"
Not only did Riley isolate 9/11 from the pre and post 9/11 contexts (again conveniently neglecting the fact that nearly a million Iraqis were killed by those who mostly profess the Christian faith), she also implicitly indicated that Mormonism is everything that Islam is not. The latter religion is thus hostile, unproductive, backward and alien.
Riley was hardly satisfied with selectively linking a religion professed by over a billion people of all colors and ethnicities worldwide - including millions of Americans - to a few hijackers. She used the rest of her inadequate 'analysis' to inappropriately bring Islam to a discussion from which it should have been entirely spared.
One can understand the urge of the faithful of any religion to make preferences for presidential candidates on the basis of their faith. One can thus also understand why politicians cater to the religious sensibilities of their constituents, even if this means resorting to untruths. But one cannot in any way sympathize with the mainstream media perceived largely as 'liberal' for failing to realign the debate by bringing it back to its proper boundaries: that of equitable democracy vs religious prejudices, looking at Romney as a man who can do good, or bad for America rather than a man who professes a 'wacky' or 'cult-like' faith.
It's odd that in the first decade of the 21st century, the media still validates the same religious thoughtlessness that had prevailed in America when Catholic John F. Kennedy made his famous statement in 1960 asserting that the Pope would not sway his presidency. Indeed, the media should have chastised the entire debate which ranks potential presidents based on whose God is best, or whether comparative religion should be discussed at all. Needless to say mediocre journalism like that of Riley should have never made it to print in the first place.
Ramzy Baroud teaches mass communication at Curtin University of Technology and is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle. He is also the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
This entry was posted on Dec 15, 2007 at 06:36:40 pm and is filed under Religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Matt Kelley
The U.S. military paid a Florida company nearly $32 million to build barracks and offices for Iraqi army units even though nothing was ever built, Pentagon investigators reported.
The project had to be abandoned because the Iraqi Defense Ministry couldn’t obtain rights to the land where the headquarters was to be built, according to a report released this month by the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General. Contracting records show the buildings would have housed one brigade and three battalions of the Iraqi military in Ramadi, a hotbed of the Sunni Muslim insurgency and capital of Anbar province.
Still, the Air Force agency overseeing the project paid contractor Ellis Environmental Group $31.9 million of the $34.2 million obligated for the project, the report said.
An Air Force spokesman, Michael Hawkins, said in an e-mail that Air Force auditors are reviewing the contract. Although the inspector general’s report said the Air Force was considering suing the contractor, Hawkins said any talk of a lawsuit was premature until the Air Force audit is complete.
Ellis Environmental Group spokesman Steve Brownstein said the work was reassigned to Ellis World Alliance Corp., a related company. Bob Smith, of Ellis World Alliance headquarters in Gainesville, Fla., said contracting rules barred any official comment.
The Ramadi construction contract is one of many problems Pentagon investigators cited in this month’s report on the military’s oversight of $5.2 billion Congress approved in 2005 to help train and equip the Iraqi military and police.
The report said the military didn’t keep adequate records of equipment for the Iraqis ranging from generators and garbage trucks to thousands of guns and grenade launchers. Separately, the U.S. has launched a criminal investigation into allegations that weapons it bought for the Iraqis ended up in the hands of insurgent and terrorist groups.
The Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment near San Antonio manages construction contracts for the Iraqi military assistance program.
In May 2006, the Air Force center awarded the Ramadi project to Ellis Environmental Group, according to federal contracting records.
The inspector general’s report said vouchers provided by the contractor don’t show purchased materials. But Hawkins said the Air Force had documentation on about $15 million worth of equipment and supplies meant for the Ramadi headquarters. That gear is in storage and available for other projects in Iraq, Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the contractor set up a camp for construction workers, performed design and engineering work and had begun building roads and an airstrip before the project was halted.
Government investigators have repeatedly faulted U.S. oversight of contracting in Iraq, and more than two dozen people have been charged with corruption related to the war and rebuilding effort.
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Rahma is now six but was only a few months old
when her father was taken to Guantanamo Bay
By Mohamed Vall in Khartoum, Sudan
Adil Hassan Hamad can scarcely believe he is back with his family in Sudan, because only days ago he was still in the US's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
"I am very, very happy and not believing this," Adil tells Al Jazeera, "That I am here with my family - even now I feel this could all be taken away at any moment."
One man's return from Guantanamo
In 2002, Adil and another man, Salim Mahmoud Adam, were picked up from their homes in Peshawar, Pakistan, by Pakistani troops and were later handed over to the US.
Most of his children were babies when their father, who was then working as the director of a hospital in Afghanistan, was taken to Guantanamo.
His daughter, Rahma, now six, was only a few months old when he was taken and now her father seems like a stranger.
"She knows I am her father," says Adil, balancing Rahma on his knee and holding her close. "But she's not used to me."
"Like a cage"
Since his release from Guantanamo, family, friends and neighbours have come to Adil's home in Khartoum to greet a man many thought they might never see again.
Adil recounts stories of torture, interrogation and solitary confinement when speaks of his time in the prison.
"The cell was all made of iron on iron. You don't see anyone or hear anything," he says.
"It was a boring and miserable life... psychologically very tiresome. It was like a cage ... like an animal living in a cage."
Among those present to celebrate Adil's return is Assim al-Haj, brother of Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman imprisoned in Guantanamo six years ago.
He listens to Adil's story of his release from the prison, but knows that his brother's health is deteriorating in captivity.
"Injustice and abuse"
More than 750 people have been held in Guantanamo since January 2002 and only three have been formally charged.
Despite international criticism, there are few
signs the US will close the prison [GALLO/GETTY]
Even with the recent releases, over 270 detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay.
The US supreme court has reviewed the legal status of Guantanamo prisoners on several occasions and found in favour of the inmates - that they should be allowed to have the legality of their detention examined by US courts.
The US administration, which argues that since the base is outside the country rights under the US constitution do not apply, has avoided following this judgment.
Amnesty International, the UK-based human rights group, has called Guantanamo "a symbol of injustice and abuse" and called on the US government to close the down the prison "in a transparent manner which fully respects the human rights of those detained and brings to fair trial all those who are accused of recognisable crimes".
But though the US has drawn international criticism for holding foreign nationals captive in Guantanamo, there are few signs that the US has any plans to close the prison.
Adil and Salim were two of 15 people, the rest Afghan, recently released by the US. Neither have ever been told why they were imprisoned.
This entry was posted on Dec 15, 2007 at 12:39:42 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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To the ire of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia resume efforts to re-establish Palestinian national unity, reports Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah
By Khaled Amayrech
Palestinian national unity was broken following the mid-June bloody showdown between Hamas and Fatah, which ended with Hamas defeating Fatah and taking over the Gaza Strip.
This week, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal met with top Saudi officials and updated them on the latest efforts to end the rift between the two largest Palestinian political movements.
According to Hamas officials in Gaza, Meshaal presented to the Saudi leadership "a comprehensive package of proposals" that would rectify the current state of division. The proposals include a willingness on Hamas's part to hand over "security headquarters" and "a number of civilian ministries" in the Gaza Strip to Fatah, which would be followed by the creation of a national unity government based on the Saudi-mediated Mecca Accord as well as the National Reconciliation Document.
Meshaal reportedly asked the Saudi leadership to exert pressure on Fatah's leadership, especially Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Riyadh last week and briefed Saudi King Abdullah on developments pertaining to the Annapolis conference.
Similarly, Egypt has asked both Hamas and Fatah to dispatch delegations to Cairo after the Eid Al-Adha holiday -- which comes 18 December -- in an effort to end the inter- Palestinian schism. It is not certain if Egyptian and Saudi efforts are being coordinated.
While careful not to appear as favouring either side, Saudi Arabia and Egypt last week allowed thousands of Palestinian pilgrims from the Gaza Strip to travel directly to Mecca without coordinating first with the Ramallah government. The measure infuriated the PA (and Israel), with one unnamed PA official quoted as saying, "Egypt stabbed us in the back."
The PA, which had invested much effort in organising the pilgrims' trip to Saudi Arabia in a bid to improve Abbas's status, hoped that the Saudi and Egyptian governments would shun and boycott the Hamas Gaza Strip government, possibly accelerating its demise.
It remains uncertain if rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas is possible under current circumstances. Fatah-dominated security forces continue to carry out an open-ended "inquisition" against Hamas in the West Bank. Thousands of Hamas members and supporters have been arrested, with many reportedly tortured by PA security interrogators.
Moreover, the PA government has recently closed hundreds of charities with alleged affiliation to Hamas in an apparent effort to stem the movement's popular appeal. Similarly, hundreds of teachers and public servants suspected of being members of Hamas have been fired from their jobs or transferred to other jobs of secondary importance.
For its part, Israel has warned Abbas that the re-establishment of a national unity government with Hamas will lead to the severance of relations between Israel and the PA. Similarly, the Bush administration would likely be unhappy if Abbas decided to re-institute a political partnership with Hamas, an organisation the US believes should be isolated and weakened.
Some observers in the occupied Palestinian territories are convinced that Abbas will not embark on any concrete reconciliatory steps with Hamas until he adjudges with certainty that Israel is not really serious about reaching an equitable peace settlement with the Palestinians based on UN resolutions. According to Palestinian columnist Hani Al-Masri, Abbas is already coming to the conclusion that Annapolis was a failure.
"He no longer speaks about the Annapolis conference in an enthusiastic tone. And I think that Abbas has come to the realisation that the chances of successful peace talks with Israel are very slim as long as Palestinian national disunity persists."
In reality, the Palestinian leader didn't have to wait long to find out that Annapolis was yet another deception. This week, the Israeli government announced plans to build more than 300 Jewish settler units in the Har-Homa settlement, adjacent to the predominantly Christian-Arab town of Beit Sahur. On Wednesday 12 December, Israeli media reported that hundreds of additional settler units were to be built in the West Bank.
Such plans fly in the face of varied Israeli undertakings -- in Annapolis and as a point on the "roadmap" -- to freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank. Enraged by new settlement activities, the PA urged Washington and the EU, as well as Arab states, to pressure Israel into shelving plans for further settlement expansion. Israel, however, has argued that "Har-Homa" is not part of the West Bank but part of Jerusalem, which the Zionist establishment views as its undivided capital.
As to the hundreds of other settler units being built throughout the West Bank, the Israeli government has told Washington that these had been planned long before the Annapolis conference.
Meanwhile, the PA appears helpless as to how to react to these deceptive tactics on the part of the Israeli government. Initially, some PA officials remarked that President Abbas wouldn't agree to conduct business as usual with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert if Israel didn't stop its settlement expansion. However, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is increasingly finding himself in a precarious position vis-à-vis the Fatah movement, said the PA wouldn't shun talks with Israel despite new settlement plans.
Abbas was scheduled to meet with Olmert in West Jerusalem Wednesday to discuss implementing the roadmap. Abbas will ask Olmert to freeze settlement activities. Olmert is likely to respond that a settlement-building freeze, especially in the vicinity of Jerusalem, would cause his government to collapse.
Though Israeli-Palestinian talks appear to be leading nowhere, Abbas is unlikely to agree to go back to the status-quo ante with Hamas -- to re-establish a government of national unity with the Islamic movement. Al-Masri told Al-Ahram Weekly that Abbas now feels in a better position to extract serious concessions from Hamas, given the latter's hermetic isolation in Gaza and the humanitarian and economic catastrophe unfolding in the Strip thanks to Israel's callous blockade.
"Hamas is now in a weaker position. They want to end this situation desperately and they are worried that Israel might decide to escalate its aggressions against Gaza in order to foil any possible rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas," he said.
Fatah is convinced that time is working in its favour. According to Hamas political leader Hussein Abu Kweik, whose wife and three children were killed by the Israeli army in 2002, "Fatah insists that any dialogue with Hamas be conditional on the handing over by Hamas of the security headquarters." He added that while "contacts" between Fatah and Hamas were established in the West Bank, it was too early to speak of any impending agreement.
Abu Kweik accused the PA leadership in Ramallah of evading and ignoring Hamas's demands for restructuring and reforming the security apparatus based on national and professional considerations. Today, the overwhelming majority of PA security cadres and officers are affiliated with the Fatah group; a condition Hamas says must be changed if national unity is to succeed.
An additional reason that may make Abbas unenthusiastic about moving towards Hamas is the realisation that such a step would cause him to lose the "breathing space" he acquired following the rift with Hamas. This is why it is likely that Abbas will insist that any new modus vivendi between Fatah and Hamas must give him a complete freedom to negotiate a possible peace agreement with Israel.
Hamas already agreed to entrust the "negotiation file" with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, the main problem lies with Israel's rejection of the main Palestinian demand: namely, ending the occupation that started in 1967 and resolving the refugee issue pursuant UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
If the deadlock with Israel continues, it may occur that Abbas will resign, in which case a less moderate Palestinian leadership would be elected. This is at least the prevailing impression in Ramallah and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. The other alternative would be the dismantling or collapse of the entire PA, which would return everything to point zero.
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A crisis meeting indicates that Israel faces a strategic emergency following a US intelligence report that sees no threat in Iran, writes Saleh Al-Naami
Clockwise from top left: Ahmadinejad; Bush; Gates; Levni, Olmert and Barak at an Israeli cabinet meeting
By Saleh Al Naami
The mobile phone of Dr Shlomo Segev, private physician of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, rang at around 6pm last Wednesday. It was Olmert's private secretary, asking Segev to postpone the appointment scheduled in Olmert's home, and in the presence of his wife, to schedule an operation to remove the cancerous prostate tumour Olmert suffers from. This appointment was cancelled due to an important security development -- at that time Olmert was heading an emergency meeting of the heads of the security and intelligence agencies and representatives of the Israeli atomic energy agency, as well as propaganda experts and the ministers of foreign affairs and defence. On the agenda were the claims of an American intelligence report stating that Iran had, since 2003, halted development of its nuclear arms programme. Those attending the meeting agreed that the report was a resounding blow for Israel, and some described it as a "major intelligence and diplomatic failure".
During this meeting, Olmert's tone was sharp and decisive. He directed the heads of intelligence agencies and representatives of the nuclear energy agency to "employ all of Israel's abilities and intelligence capacity to show that the American report interpreted intelligence information incorrectly". Israeli journalist Ben Kasbit, who has close ties with the intelligence agencies, says that the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, promised Olmert during the meeting that his agency would aim to prove to the world that in addition to the nuclear arms programme discontinued in 2003 and the nuclear programme for peaceful purposes that Iran is still developing, a third, secret programme exists that Iran has successfully hidden until now. Dagan promised that his agency would cooperate with others in an attempt to prove that the Iranians are trying through this secret programme to acquire military nuclear abilities without the outside world knowing.
As for propaganda, it was decided during this meeting that a relentless campaign would be waged against the American report, but not by official Israeli agencies. It was agreed during the meeting that on official military and political levels in Israel it is prohibited to appear as though Israel wants to push the American administration towards military confrontation with Iran at any price. It was thus decided that this campaign would be undertaken by Israeli propaganda experts in cooperation with retired generals, atomic energy experts, and retired heads of intelligence agencies, and in coordination with the heads of Jewish groups in the United States and all American parties that have criticised the report.
Although the basis of the propaganda campaign against the report has not been announced, a week since its commencement one can see the mechanisms used to meet its goals, and they appear contradictory and weak. Participants in the Israeli propaganda campaign have doubts about the professionalism of the report, claiming that the Americans have interpreted intelligence information incorrectly and incompletely. They also doubt the motivations of the 16 top officials in American intelligence agencies who crafted the report, many of the campaigners claiming that they issued the report based on the lessons of the war on Iraq, when the American administration justified its war on information offered by American intelligence claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction while this information was later proven wrong. Those running the Israeli campaign claim that the authors of the report wanted to prevent President Bush from waging war against Iran through publicly undermining the reasons for going to war.
Yet the Israeli propagandists contradict themselves in also claiming that the report was issued with the encouragement of Bush himself, seeking justification to not wage war against Iran since it is clearly impossible for him to do so following the report's issue. So as to add a personal character to the intelligence report, Olmert's government has allowed the leaking of a report issued by researchers in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs that claims that Bush has decided not to wage war against Iran due to his present weakness. The Israeli media had previously embellished the issue with appropriate quotes taken from a number of top Israeli officials praising Bush's determination to put an end to Tehran's nuclear programme.
Yet these Israeli propaganda efforts have not succeeded in convincing most of the Israeli media. All of the intelligence affairs commentators in Israeli newspapers, such as Ronin Bregman, Yossi Melman, Amir Oren and others, stress that the American report relied on exactly the same intelligence information available to Israel, and that the Israeli intelligence agencies do not possess any information American intelligence agencies don't have. These commentators also stress that top officials in Israeli intelligence agencies know well that they can't refute the professionalism of American intelligence agencies.
Israel has been extremely embarrassed on political and security levels by the American report because it shows Israel -- and particularly its intelligence agencies -- as a party seeking to involve Washington in a confrontation with Tehran without justification. Yet Israel has not only lost diplomatically, and in terms of media coverage. The report has also been a blow to the Israeli strategy of raising the slogan that "a nuclear Iran is a threat to world peace and security."
While Israel's bet on the Bush administration thwarting Iran's nuclear programme through military action has failed since the report's appearance, Tel Aviv realises that even the next American president won't be able to resort to a military option in confronting Iran after this report. At the same time, Tel Aviv also realises that its ability to convince the world's nations to impose strict economic sanctions on Tehran has weakened, despite the promise of Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to continue efforts to place further pressure on Tehran. Tel Aviv knows that many of the world's countries that have economic and commercial relations with Tehran have breathed a sigh of relief following the report, because it allows them to resist Washington's attempts to recruit them into an alliance against Iran.
Yet Israel's predicament following the publication of the American report does not stop here. According to decision- makers in Tel Aviv, Iran constitutes a strategic threat to Israel even without nuclear arms. According to General Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israeli minister of infrastructure, Iran possesses a massive arsenal of ballistic missiles that could cover all of Israel. Tsevi Bareil, a well-known Israeli researcher and writer, states that the American report has caused Tel Aviv to lose "an important strategic wealth", and that Israel will find it difficult to continue marketing the stereotype it tried to spread about Iran in order to sustain on its policies in the region. For example, it will now be difficult for Israel to demand that Syria cut its relations with Iran as a condition for resuming peace negotiations. Roni Daniel, military commentator for Israeli television Channel Two, holds that the report is a harsh blow to Israel's attempts to grow closer to Arab states -- particularly Gulf States -- because it undermines Israel's argument that the Iranian threat forms a common denominator between them, creating groundwork for cooperation and mutual understanding, and even an alliance based on shared interests.
Yet most terrifying to Israeli circles is the fact that the American report paves the way for a new stage in relations between Tehran and Washington. Tel Aviv watched with extreme worry as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the recent Gulf summit. Strategic circles in Tel Aviv claim that Ahmadinejad's attendance would not happened without a green light from Washington. At the same time, these circles worryingly point to intensified meetings between Iranian and American diplomats in Baghdad on the invitation of Nuri Al-Maliki's government with the aim of decreasing levels of violence in Iraq. Similarly, Tel Aviv is pointing to agreement on the new president of Lebanon, claiming that it indicates that a new stage of relations between the two parties is about to ensue. In general, decision-makers in Israel hold that the American report is a diplomatic gain for Iran.
In addition, the report represents a blow to the credibility of Israeli intelligence agencies that have continued to portray themselves as offering indisputable intelligence information. This development is an extremely negative one for Israel because the West -- and in particular Washington -- has often made decisions on the basis of intelligence provided by Israel. Doubt over the credibility of Israeli intelligence agencies has reached the point of Yossi Melman, intelligence correspondent for the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, accusing Israeli agencies of "cooking up" intelligence information to serve the personal interests of Israeli leaders. Melman has urged his government to respond to the suggestion of the former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy, to engage in dialogue with Iran.
It appears, however, that decision- makers in Israel remain intent on a confrontational policy. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted in an interview with Channel Two last Friday that Israel was now alone confronting Iran. Whether this declaration is prelude to unilateral action remains to be seen.
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In the Gulf, Defense Secretary Gates has a hard time defending the US line that a nuclear Iran is a nightmare while a nuclear Israel is just fine, reports Rasha Saad
By Rasha Saad
UN and Iranian nuclear officials began a new round of talks Monday, this time to probe the source of traces of weapons-grade uranium found at a university in Tehran.
Monday's talks follow an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report last month that stated Iran had been generally truthful about its past uranium enrichment activities.
The IAEA's mandate obliges it to investigate national nuclear activities and probe all possible nuclear proliferation risks. It is believed that Monday was the first time the university incident was discussed.
Meanwhile, Iran has met a key IAEA demand and handed over long-sought blueprints on how to mould uranium metal into the shape of warheads, which Tehran said were obtained from black market nuclear arms dealers.
Neither these significant developments in Iran's dealings with the IAEA nor a recent US intelligence report stating that Iran halted atomic weapons development in 2003 stemmed US pressure on the Islamic Republic.
This week Washington announced that it is still pushing for a new, third level of sanctions against Iran. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US and its allies were finalising a new UN Security Council resolution "that could then be sent to the council to be voted on sometime in the next several weeks."
Despite the continued standoff, Washington's policies towards Iran were challenged at a conference on regional security held in the Bahraini capital, Manama, Friday. While Iran refrained -- at the last minute -- from attending the conference, it was the focus of the event.
Gulf countries loudly signalled their opposition to any military option against Iran. "We want the military factor to be eliminated," Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Abdul-Rahman Al-Attiyah told the conference. "What we care for in the GCC is finding solutions that enhance security and stability... and [we] believe in dialogue as a way to solve the crisis," he said.
Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani went further, calling on Washington to engage Tehran directly in dialogue to reach a solution. "Direct talks do not mean agreeing [from the start] with the other party," he told delegates, among them US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
In fact, GCC leaders were answering Gates's own speech in which he stressed the danger of Iran's nuclear programme and pointed to Iran as the prime source of chaos in the region. "Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents -- Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. We must keep all our options open," Gates told the conference.
Gates also reiterated US support for stronger sanctions on Iran, saying the United States and the international community must "continue and intensify economic, financial and diplomatic pressures on Iran" until they suspend uranium enrichment activities and agree to comprehensive site inspections. "Let's continue to work together to take the peaceful but effective measures necessary to bring a long-term change of policies in Tehran," he added.
Gates urged Gulf states to shift their focus from bilateral military ties with the United States towards multilateral security cooperation. Specifically, he called for a collective regional air and missile defence system, as well as shared monitoring of waters in the region for terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking and smuggling.
Yet Gates did not receive the response he may have hoped for. Several delegates from Gulf countries attending the conference said the US was hypocritical for supporting Israeli nuclear weapons and questioned Washington's refusal to meet with Iran to discuss the Islamic state's nuclear activities.
"Not considering Israel a threat to security in the region is considered a biased policy that is based on a double standard," said Al-Attiyah.
Bahraini Minister of Labour Majeed Al-Alawi also asked Gates whether he thought the "Zionist [Israeli] nuclear weapon" a threat to the region. Gates paused, and answered tersely: "No, I do not." Asked if that was a double standard in light of Washington's pressure on Iran, Gates again said "No," and described Tel Aviv as more responsible than Tehran.
"I think Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbours. It has not shipped weapons into a place like Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians covertly," said Gates. "So I think that there are significant differences in terms of both the history and behaviour of the Iranian and Israeli governments."
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad countered Gates's comparison of Iran and Israel. "We can't really compare Iran with Israel. Iran is our neighbour, and we shouldn't really look at it as an enemy," he said. "Israel for 50 years has taken land, is expelling the Palestinians, and interferes under the guise of security, blaming the other party," Hamad added.
Iraq's National Security Adviser Mouaffak Al-Rubaie, while criticising Saudi Arabia and Iran for "settling scores" on Iraqi soil, called on Gulf states to form a regional security pact that would include Iran. "It is extremely important to have regional reconciliation rather than having this heightened sectarian tension," he told conference delegates.
Tehran's sudden decision Friday morning not to attend the meeting caught most participants unawares, however, and prompted much speculation amongst diplomats and in the media. Statements by the official IRNA news agency that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki backed out "due to his hectic and intense schedule" sounded unconvincing to many.
The Gulf News newspaper speculated that Iran's conspicuous absence from the Manama Dialogue was in reaction to the refusal of conference organisers -- the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) -- to extend an invitation to the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS).
The IPIS last December organised in Tehran a conference examining revisionist theories of the Jewish holocaust, attended by participants from 30 countries, including several from Europe. Some attendees argued that the Jewish holocaust was either fabricated or exaggerated.
"The Iranian Foreign Ministry had informed the organisers that it wanted the IPIS to attend the summit, but the IISS refused, prompting the Foreign Ministry to cancel its anticipated participation. The Iranians made it clear that they would take part in the conference only if IPIS was also invited," an undisclosed source told the Gulf News.
Meanwhile, Iran succeeded this week in finalising a long-awaited multi-billion-dollar oil contract with China for the development of the Yadavaran oilfield in southwest Iran. The deal is one of the biggest foreign contracts ever signed by Iran, which holds the world's second-largest oil and gas reserves.
The signing of the contract was regarded as another challenge to US attempts to pressure European and Asian countries into cutting their business ties with Iran as a means of leverage amid the nuclear standoff.
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While the Western propaganda machine primes the public for war on Iran, it is Tel Aviv and Washington that author the worst atrocities, writes Haim Bresheeth*
By Haim Bresheeth
So as the war drums are beating again in the political jungle that "the West" has become, Russia's Vladimir Putin manages to perceive the danger in this new global hysteria better than more democratic leaders in Europe and the US. His comparison of the sanction- wielders against Iran to "maniacs with razor blades" slashing all about them is apt if somewhat limited; if only we were facing maniacs with razors -- those maniacs have every conceivable weapon that man has ever created, including nuclear bombs waiting to be directed at Iranian targets. The fire of this particular, well-orchestrated hysteria was stoked, as usual, in Washington, but the script was written in Tel Aviv, it seems. It is almost a year now since the public campaign for a war on Iran has been launched by Israel, with many of its politicians, generals and pundits hammering the message incessantly -- Iran is dangerous because it is about to get nuclear weapons. Well, Israel should know, shouldn't it?
For more than three decades, Israel has defied the international community, by illegally and covertly producing hundreds of nuclear weapons -- reportedly between 300 and 400 devices. For even longer, it has been producing chemical and biological weapons based on research in a secret lab in Nes Ziona, near Tel Aviv. Those facts are no secret -- one can find them in any defence publication dealing with the Middle East, and The Sunday Times has brought the story to world readers through the evidence of Israel's courageous whistle-blower, Mordechai Vanunu. Despite this knowledge, the Western powers are, yet again, hell-bent on a search for weapons of mass destruction where all know they do not exist.
The open hypocrisy has now reached new heights: Iran, a country which has not attacked another, or occupied it, is now being treated as a terrorist state when it tries to develop nuclear energy facilities, because, in the fullness of time (10 years, according to most sources) it may also be able to develop nuclear weapons as a result of mastering this technology. At the same time, Israel, a country that has nuclear weapons, does not even pretend to develop nuclear facilities for peaceful means, and has spent 40 years illegally occupying parts of four different Arab countries, as well as controlling the whole of Palestine, oppressing its people in every possible way, is not even under investigation for any of those crimes! Israel is totally free to bomb just about anywhere it chooses, kill just about anyone it wishes, destroy the whole infrastructure of Lebanon, murdering more than 1000 people, yet we have heard not a single voice in the Western democracies speak out against such atrocities. On the contrary, it is the other side -- always the other side -- that is blamed. A few examples will serve the point.
When Israel kills someone in Gaza by shooting a missile haphazardly at them in a crowded street that in itself seems to be good enough proof of their alleged crimes. What ingenious and efficient justice this has become: there is no need for judicial enquiries, trials and incarceration. The supposedly guilty will be killed, and the killing itself seals their guilt and confirms it. Should not all nations adopt such a simplified, admirably efficient system of control? And it is not just individuals that this form of justice is meted out against but also states: if someone based in Lebanon happens to harm an Israeli soldier or two, as was the case in summer 2006, then the whole country is guilty. The proof is not in the pudding this time but in the bombing -- if Israel has destroyed Lebanon, it must have been because Lebanon was guilty. So the US and the UK spent their time supporting this massacre and orgy of destruction instead of doing all they could to bring it to an end. If one is looking for weapons of mass destruction, one has to go no further than Israel; that is where the maniacs are wielding their razors, not in Tehran.
Now, every jurist will tell you that the law has to be applied to all without distinction, or it cannot rule at all, yet international law is allowed to be flaunted by some, while applied to others who have not broken it with venom and hysteria. Have we learnt nothing from the last four and a half years in Iraq? It seems that we haven't. It seems that the whole war- mongering propaganda machine is churning out its poisonous messages yet again, building up to the "inevitable" attack on Iran, a disaster that will make Iraq look like a peaceful picnic -- another chapter in the long line of "disaster-capitalism" projects described so aptly by Naomi Klein in her recent book. As the weapons of the West, and its destructive energies are wielded against another Muslim country, this murderous campaign will further prove to millions of Muslims that the Western project is an Orientalist, anti- Arab, anti-Muslim venture; an application of the Huntingtonian thesis of "clash of civilisations". The main beneficiary of such razor wielding is not the West in its folly, but the forces of destabilisation -- Al-Qaeda and its related organisations, fed by the hatred that such one-sided policies and actions breed in the Middle East and beyond.
Not only do such actions lead to short-term policies and long-term disasters, but they also produce a climate of disregard for the due process of law, nationally and internationally, further weakening a global system that is seen to be unjust, unequal and destructive, without clearly pointing towards any viable alternative. It is not Iran that makes the world an unsafe place. It is the group of maniacs with their nuclear razor, flailing about in anti-Muslim rage. While most of us may strongly disagree with their actions, unless we can stop them this time we shall all suffer the results.
* The writer is an academic living and working in London and co-editor of The Gulf War and the New World Order .
This entry was posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 02:43:48 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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The idea of a Jews-only state of Israel is retrograde and will vanish. The only way forward is for Israel to be a state of all its citizens, writes Galal Nassar
By Galal Nassar
Debate over the Jewish state, its borders and its demographic composition, is likely to pick up pace as Palestinian-Israeli negotiations proceed, in keeping with the Annapolis final statement, over the next few months. I have already received numerous reactions to last week's article, in which I discussed the borders of the Jewish state. This is a topic that needs to be reconsidered in light of the intricate fabric of religions and ethnicities in the region. History is part of reality in the region and mustn't be given a backseat in any final settlement just because the Arabs lack political clout today.
Since it was created, Israel has boasted of being a democratic country, an oasis of democracy surrounded by military or monarchical dictatorships. Israel claims to be a pluralistic state, one that combines the Sephardim with the Ashkenazi, one that welcomes Jewish immigration from across the world. Jerusalem, we're told, is open to all religions. And Islamic and Christian sanctities are looked after, apparently, by a secular state that believes in freedom of worship. Muslims may have a claim to the above ground part of Al-Aqsa Mosque, but Israel has rights to the underground Solomon's Temple, so goes the argument.
Interestingly, the Palestinian National Charter offers more than that. Since its creation, the Palestine Liberation Organisation has called for a secular, pluralistic state in which all citizens have the right to live equally, regardless of race, religion or sect. Israel doesn't recognise that principle, for it wants to remain a purely Jewish state, one devoid of Arabs, Muslims or Christians. The pluralistic, secular image that Israel projects to the West is sheer propaganda, as well as its claim that its neighbours want to throw it into the sea.
Before the Annapolis conference, Israel made its recognition of a would-be Palestinian state conditional on the latter's recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state". In his opening speech, President Bush stated that Israel was the national state of the Jews, in line with the partition plan of 1948. The aim of that remark is to defend the Zionist entity in the long run, for right now Israel is having trouble with its expansionist policies -- especially holding on to the land it has occupied since 1967.
For their part, the Arabs refuse to recognise Israel until it pulls back from the occupied territories. The Madrid and Oslo meetings made this clear. And the Arab Peace Initiative reiterated the need to exchange land for peace: full withdrawal for full normalisation. So Israel's colonialist tendencies and expansionist policies cannot go on forever. Resistance is still going strong and the Arab boycott has not run its course. Rejection is still the position Arab nations maintain, regardless of what their governments think or do.
Israel wants to be recognised as a Jewish state for several reasons. First, Israel wants to expel the 1948 Arabs from Israel. There is one million Arabs living in Israel now and by 2050 their number will surpass that of the Jews, even with Jewish immigration running at the current rate. In the long term, there will be a majority of Arabs in Israel, not counting Arab Jews. Once this happens, Israel's identity, as well as its legitimacy, will be at stake. Once Israeli Arabs become the majority they will shed their second-class identity and become first-class -- or ordinary -- citizens. This is why Israel wants to get rid of them, perhaps to swap them for the 750,000 or so Israelis living in Palestinian areas.
Second, Israel wants to resolve the problem of the 1948 and 1967 refugees, now living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere. Israel claims that refugee camps are a breeding ground for terror, providing recruits for organisations such as Hizbullah and Hamas. Israel wants the refugees to understand, once and for all, that they are not going to be permitted to return to their homes and land, for what they used to call home is to be a purely Jewish territory, out of bounds for Muslims and Christians. Israel wants the identity of its citizens to be subsumed by their creed.
Third, Israel wants to bring in additional immigrants. There are eight million Jews living around the world, including American Jews. Should they all come to live in Israel, the latter would have a population of 14 million people, which would reduce some of the imbalance it feels versus Muslims and Arabs (there are 350 million Arabs in the region and 1.25 billion Muslims worldwide). Since the 1973 War, and especially since the Lebanon war of 2006, the Arabs have become credible military foes. And with Islamic fervour rising in faraway places, including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Central Asia, Israel is seeking security in numbers.
Fourth, Israel wants to back its messianic ideals with geopolitical feats. It is hoping to divide the region into sectarian states: Sunni, Shia, Copt, Turkomen, Kurd, etc. If it succeeds in doing so, Israel would cease to be an aberration, for all its neighbours would become sectarian states as well.
For all its pluralistic rhetoric, the US seems to favour regional sectarianism. But what about Levantine Christians? Will they join the Arab nationalist state, or would they have to form their own Christian state? What about Lebanon? Would it assume an Arab, Maronite, Sunni or Shia identity? How about Yemen? Would it become a Zayidi or Shaffiyi state? What about Sudan, would it become an Arab, black, Muslim, Christian or animistic state? And what about the Maghreb countries? Would they become Arab, or Berber?
The US is up in arms against Iran, accusing it of involvement in terror. It is vilifying the Sudanese government and trying to take the south away from it. It is opposing the rule of the Islamic Courts in Somalia and backing Ethiopian incursions into that country. And yet, it backs military rule in Pakistan. The US is adopting democracy as a slogan in the "Greater Middle East", but it is worried about the Islamists taking office in Turkey and Morocco. The US is still opposed to the admission of Turkey into the EU, simply because Turkey has a different culture and religion. Yet it wouldn't mind Israel joining the EU. There is no difference between the neo-conservatives and the neo- Zionists. Both are fundamentalist groups with messianic callings.
The Jewish state, just as any other theocracy, has no future. For one thing, Judaism doesn't come in one colour. There are orthodox and liberal Jews, oriental and occidental Jews, Arab and Western Jews, rational and text-abiding Jews. Any Judaism on which the new legitimacy of the Zionist entity would be founded would eventually fade away, as did the myths of the "promised land" and a "light unto nations". Israel's fate is not going to differ much from that of the racist regime of South Africa.
Israel's best option is to become a secular state and live in peace with its neighbours. Israel's leaders and their friends in the White House and in Congress need to acknowledge this fact. They need to state their position on the borders of Israel, which must be defined in keeping with UN resolutions. Israel can pull out of all the areas it occupied in 1967 and live in peace thereafter. Israel can become a state for all its citizens, irrespective of religion and race. Should this happen, the US would have achieved its primary strategic goal in the Middle East: it would have guaranteed the security of Israel.
This entry was posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 02:38:57 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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"The world is watching, yet nothing is being done" -- Amer Abdelhadi, journalist
By Gideon Levy
"We have to make you do a little sports," the Shin Bet interrogator said, launching four successive days of questioning accompanied by brutal physical torture. The result: Luwaii Ashqar can no longer stand on his feet. He sits in his wheelchair, dressed in a fashionable quasi-military suit, super-elegant, new Caterpillar-brand shoes on his paralyzed feet.
"I love this color," he says about his uniform. "It's the color of the soldiers who came to arrest me for the interrogation that did all this to me."
His smile is captivating, his Hebrew rich and incisive. He is a young man whose world fell apart. He entered prison sound of body and mind and emerged a broken man. For four days and four nights nonstop, he says, he was interrogated and subjected to torture of the most brutal kind. The result is the person we see before us in the wheelchair, in the elegant home high in the village of Saida, north of Tul Karm, which was placed at his disposal by a friend after he was released from Israeli prison a month ago.
Was there a judgment by the High Court of Justice? There was. It banned precisely the types of torture he underwent: the "banana posture," the "shabah" (body stretching with hands tied to a chair), "invisible" blows and the "frog posture" (being forced to stand for hours on the toes in a crouching position) - all the way to a vicious kick to his chest that bent his body backward while he was tied to a chair with his arms and legs, and which was the probable cause of the partial paralysis of his legs.
Throwing up with the vomit entering his nostrils, losing consciousness and being given only saltwater to drink, relieving himself in his pants, not sleeping or resting - all of that for four consecutive days and nights.
What does the interrogator Maimon tell his children when he goes home? What do Eldad and Sagiv tell their wives about their daily labors before they turn in? That they tortured another helpless prisoner until they turned him into a cripple? That they beat this charming young man brutally and that at the end of the interrogation he was tried for only marginal offenses? And where is the Supreme Court, which in 1999 prohibited precisely the chain of torture that Luwaii Sati Ashqar, 30, who was married three years ago, underwent in the Kishon detention facility?
Ashqar is not alone. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has just issued a new report containing the testimonies of nine torture victims (English version: http://www.stoptorture.org.il/eng/ ). As the authors of the shocking report say, the testimonies "paint a dismal picture in which can be discerned various categories of secret-keeping collaborators, who, in keeping silent, protect the [Shin Bet] system of torture." ...
On the wall is a picture, a fine drawing of a kneeling prisoner, his head between his knees. The caption: "I am in the darkness of the prison, living on your memory. I am far from you, lying in my bed, my spirit cruising your land all night. God will release all the prisoners, the strong will triumph."
Ashqar is sitting in his wheelchair, his left leg completely enclosed in a cast, his right leg shaking nonstop. When he tries to get up and lean on his crutches, he threatens to topple over. "I was married in 2004, and I started to work in aluminum in the village to provide for my new household. On April 22, 2005, at 2:30 A.M., the soldiers came and started to throw grenades and to shout for everyone in the house to go outside. They blindfolded me with whatever they use and handcuffed me. I was taken in a jeep to prison and I was examined by an army doctor. He looked over my body - no operations, doesn't take medication, no illnesses. Again I was taken in a military jeep, this time to Kishon. 'Yehuda, incoming,' the warder said and transferred me to the interrogation office. They opened my eyes: Good morning. An excellent morning. One of the interrogators, Maimon, told me: I am responsible for your file. What file? The one you were arrested for. This is the major, and this tall guy is the colonel, this is Sagiv and this is Eldad. Eight interrogators.
"They said: We have no time, it will soon be our Passover and you have to finish everything in a short time. Finish what? You have to tell us what you have. I don't have anything to tell you. I begged. They said: We know all that nonsense. We are talking about security. Plans for terrorist attacks at Passover. I said: I don't understand what you are talking about. They said: The suicide bomber was at your place. What suicide bomber?
"After two hours of talking they said to me: If you don't give everything you have, we will have to take it by a different way. What is the different way? Did you hear of a military interrogation? You might leave here with your body battered or crippled. I was taken to a military interrogation. Here you pray to God that you will die, they said, but we won't give you that. We will let you die only after you spill out what we are looking for. He gave me a prison uniform and I told him that if I was going to die, I preferred my own clothes.
"They sat me down on a square chair without a back, which was attached to the floor and had sharp metal ends [sticking up]. My legs were tied to the legs of the chair with metal cuffs and my hands were tied behind my back with metal cuffs. One interrogator sat behind me and the other in front of me. The interrogator opposite me said: We have to give you a little sports, so you will be able to hold out in the military interrogation. The sports was that they pushed me backward by the chest, a backward somersault, and I would hold myself so my bones would not break. After a minute or two I would automatically fall on the floor, but the interrogator behind me would put his foot on my chest and press, and the interrogator in front would grab my hands and pull and pull behind the chair. They kept on like that until I don't know what happened to me, heat in every part of my body, puking everything I had in my stomach and it would go into my nostrils. I would wake up when they poured water on my face. When I woke up, we went back to the same situation. It went on like this 15-20 times an hour.
"After that they made me crouch on my toes, not letting me lean on the back of my foot. I was in that position for 40-50 minutes, maybe an hour - that was my estimate - until I felt my soles swelling and they turned blue and there was tremendous pain. After that, stand up, and they tied my hands and pressed as hard as they could on the metal handcuffs until the metal dug into my hand. Here are the signs, you can still see them. Because of the pressure, the key of the handcuffs didn't always work and they would bring huge metal scissors, like they use in construction, and tear off the handcuffs and then bring new ones, to go on. The color of my hands changed to blue, and when they opened [the handcuffs] my hands shook. The interrogator stood on the table and pulled me with a chain of handcuffs. When I fell, they pulled me by the hair.
"I would cry, beg, shout, and they came back to me with words, that it was impossible to stop, only after you start talking about what we want. I said to them: Tell me what you want. Tell me I am responsible for the attack on the Pentagon, I am ready to confess to everything, just tell me what. I want to end this death."
"There were always four interrogators and two rotated every four hours, day and night. The new ones would tell me they were stronger than the ones before, that the ones before were a joke, we are the strong ones. And that was true. The new ones tied me and started to beat me all over my body. One interrogator pressed hard on my testicles and on my feet with his shoes. When they slapped me and I tried to pull back, the major would say: What are you doing? If you move back, I will break your nose, and if you move forward I will rip off your ear. Be strong and take it sportingly, because you are a soldier and a fighter. They broke this tooth."
Ashqar suddenly stops talking. He turns pale and his face is covered with beads of perspiration. His father, Sati, quickly wipes his face with a damp cloth. "Every time I try to remember I get dizzy, even when I am alone." Quiet descends in the room. It will take Ashqar another few minutes to pull himself together.
"I was taken into detention on Friday morning, and that was the last light of day I saw before the interrogation. I came out for the first time on Monday night or before dawn on Tuesday morning. On those long days I sat in a chair and did not even go to the toilet. So you won't kill yourself, they said. I urinated in my clothes, and a terrible stench started. For four days I didn't eat anything. They told me: If we give you something to eat, something will happen to your stomach and your intestines. Maybe they will explode under the pressure of the food when we push you backward. You will drink only half a cup of saltwater. That is what they gave me every time after they bent me and I vomited. Why with salt? I asked. Give me without salt. No, so nothing will happen in your stomach and intestines. I would drink it and vomit.
"On Monday evening, they told me that five witnesses had testified that Luwaii had transported a wanted man. I told them that there was a famous wanted man named Luwaii Sadi, but my name is Luwaii Sati, and maybe they had mixed us up. He said to me: Are you saying the Shin Bet is that stupid? We know exactly what we're doing, and it is all correct. I said: Put me on trial for whatever you want. He said: Ya'allah, sports again. He pushes me backward in the chair. I will help you become a story in Palestinian history. He is talking to me and my head is down below. He pushes strongly with his leg and presses on my chest. I felt something like an explosion in my body. Like something broke. After that I don't know what happened. I woke up and they were pouring water on my face. Again they pushed me backward and again I fainted.
"He said to me: Stand on your feet. I felt that my legs were cold, like pins and needles in the legs. I said: I can't. He said: Now you are paralyzed. I said: I guess I am. He said: That is what we promised you and that is what you want."
"I discovered I had a wound in the back and it was bleeding - because of the sharp chair - and one of my bones was protruding. Because of the blood and because of the urine of four days there was such a stench that the interrogator could not come close to me. He said: Why do you stink like that? I told him: That is your perfume. A warder took me to the shower and threw me on the floor and said to me: Ya'allah, you have two minutes to shower. I looked at the faucet up above and I could not reach it. I pulled down my pants and the underpants stayed in place. I tried to pull them down - I could do it in front but behind it was stuck to my back. The two minutes went by and the warder started to pound on the door. Time's up. I told him: Give me another two minutes, I can't reach the faucet. He came in and asked: What do you have on your back? I said: I don't know.
"He called the interrogator and said: Come and see the prisoner. The interrogator came and asked: What do you have, Luwaii? I said: I don't know what I have on my back, I can't pull the underpants down and I can't reach the faucet. He said: Ya'allah, we will go up and finish the story and take you to the doctor.
"Two warders took me in a Prisons Service vehicle to Rambam [Medical Center in Haifa]. In emergency, my hands and feet were tied and a Russian doctor asked me: What hurts you? I told him: My whole body hurts from the interrogation. The Druze warder said: Shut up. The doctor turned me on the side and stuck a finger into my ass. I asked him: What are you doing? He said: I am checking whether you have hemorrhoids. Why didn't you ask me first? I am a professional, he said. I said: What about the wound on the back? He put ointment there and dressed it. After 10 minutes I was taken back to interrogation. Again I was tied to the square chair. The bandage fell off and the wound started to bleed again. After that, they stopped the military interrogation."
He was interrogated for another two months, but without physical torture. He was told that his wife had been arrested because of him - a complete fabrication - and he was given a lie detector test ("the falsehoods machine," in his Hebrew). For two weeks he was placed in a cell with stool pigeons. In the end, he was indicted on only two counts, in Prosecution File 2157/05: assisting a wanted person to hide and using a forged document. No ticking and no bomb. Ashqar was sentenced to 26 months in prison and was released a month ago. In the meantime, his younger brother, Osaimar, disappeared. Soldiers came to the house looking for him, but he was not there. His family has not seen him since: He told them that he was not willing to undergo what Luwaii did.
Luwaii is now looking for a way to get medical treatment in Israel or abroad, after his physician told him that he would not be able to get rehabilitation in the West Bank. His lawyer told him that the Shin Bet will almost certainly prevent him from going anywhere.
This is the response received by Haaretz from the Shin Bet:
Luwaii Ashqar was arrested in April 2005, after serious suspicions were raised against him concerning his involvement in terrorism, including possession of weapons and assistance to wanted individuals - terror activists from Islamic Jihad.
One of the suspicions was that he had provided accommodation, ahead of a terrorist act, for Sirhan Sarhan, the perpetrator of the attack in Kibbutz Metzer, who murdered Revital Ohayon and her two children, Noam and Matan, of blessed memory.
The suspect was tried and convicted in a plea bargain, and sentenced to 14 months in prison and another 14 months in prison stemming from a pending conditional sentence, so that all told he was sentenced to 26 months in prison. In addition, he received a 28-month suspended sentence.
His interrogation was carried out according to the rules and directives, with constant review of the interrogation process.
During the interrogation, the above-named put forward medical complaints, which were examined and treated by the appropriate medical authorities, including an examination he underwent in hospital.
It should be noted that during the interrogation he did not cite medical complaints of the same seriousness as those mentioned in the query.
Complaints relating to his interrogation, from, among other sources, the Committee Against Torture and the Red Cross, were referred to the State Prosecutor's Office for examination, which ordered an examination by the Ombudsman of Interogees' Complaints.
The examination of the complaints did not turn up any excesses in the interrogation, and in the wake of this, the official in charge of the OIC in the State Prosecutor's Office decided to close the examination file.
This entry was posted on Dec 14, 2007 at 11:03:27 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
Lord have mercy on their souls. Eventually, their inner inner-being will punish them for transgressing another child of God in such a heartless way.
Peace on Earth to men of Goodwill. To the others, I leave them to each other.
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According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) Weekly Report, in the week of the 6th to 12th of December, 2007, 8 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, 21 were wounded, and 28 were abducted by Israeli forces.
Five of the eight killed this week were killed during an Israeli invasion of the southern Gaza Strip. Five of those injured were journalists, covering a non-violent demonstration in the West Bank, and one was an international human rights activist.
Israeli attacks in the West Bank:
Israeli forces conducted 22 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and abducted 21 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, during those incursions. Israeli troops positioned at checkpoints in the West Bank abducted 7 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a girl. Thus, the number of Palestinians arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 2,553.
In addition, Israeli forces raided a number of media institutions in Nablus, confiscated equipment and closed one of the institutions.
Israeli forces have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians to and from Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been denied access to the city. Israeli forces have established many checkpoints around and inside the city. Restrictions of the movement of Palestinian civilians often escalate on Fridays to prevent them from praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli forces often violently beat Palestinian civilians who attempt to bypass checkpoints and enter the city.
Israeli occupying forces continued to maintain nearly 700 checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank, in addition to increasing restrictions at several existing checkpoints. On Thursday and Saturday, 6 and 8 December 2007, Israeli forces troops positioned at Hawara and Za’tara checkpoints, south of Nablus, imposed additional restrictions on the movement through the two checkpoints and conducted prolonged checking on Palestinian civilians. On Saturday evening, Israeli forces closed Hawara checkpoint. On Sunday morning, 9 December 2007, Israeli forces imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians to and from Nablus.
Israeli settlement activities:
Israeli forces have continued settlement activities and Israeli settlers living in the West Bank in violation of international humanitarian law have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.
On 6 December 2007, Israeli settlers from “Sousia” settlement, south of Hebron, uprooted 32 olive trees from a tract of agricultural land belonging to Yasser Radhi al-Nawaj’a in Kherbat Sousia area, south of Hebron.
On 7 December 2007, dozens of Israeli settlers, accompanied by Israeli forces troops, arrived at al-Jumjoma Mount near bypass road #60, northeast of Hebron. They set up 3 tents and raised the Israeli flag. They remained in the area until night, when the Israeli police eventually evacuated them.
On Tuesday morning, 11 December 2007, Israeli forces demolished a house in the old town of Jerusalem claiming that it was built without a license.
Israeli Annexation Wall
Israeli forces have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside West Bank territory. During the reporting period, Israeli forces used force against peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilian in protest to the construction of the Wall in Bal’ein village, west of Ramallah, and al-Ma’sara village, south of Bethlehem.
Following the Friday Prayer on 7 December 2007, scores of Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders demonstrated in Bal’ein village, west of Ramallah, in protest to the construction of the Wall. Israeli forces troops had placed barbwires in the area to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the Wall. The demonstrators attempted to move forward. Immediately, Israeli forces troops fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators, and violently beat them. As a result, 3 demonstrators and a journalist sustained bruises.
Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:
Israeli forces killed 8 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip this week. On 6 December 2007, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian civilian while he was hunting birds near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Jabalya.
On 7 December 2007, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian farmer in Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis.
On 11 December 2007, Israeli forces killed 5 Palestinians, including one civilian, during a wide scale offensive on the southern Gaza Strip. Nine Palestinians were also wounded. According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at midnight, Israeli forces heavy military vehicles moved into al-Fukhari areas in the southeast of Khan Yunis. Israeli forces troops raided a number of houses and transformed them into military sites. A few hours later, Israeli forces troops ordered through megaphones Palestinians aged 15-50 to get out of houses and gather on a yard in the area. Israeli forces troops took a number of those civilians to military sites, but released most of them in the evening.
On the same day, an Israeli air strike killed a member of the Palestinian resistance and wounded 3 others in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.
In addition, Israeli forces have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world and a humanitarian crisis has emerged. The number of patients who died due to the denial of their access to medical treatment increased to 15. Israeli occupation forces have banned the flow of some medicines, furniture, electrical appliances and cigarettes into the Gaza Strip, and have decreased the amounts of some goods allowed into the Gaza Strip, such as fruits, milk and some dairy products.
Also, during the invasion of the southern Gaza Strip, Israeli forces razed 133 dunums of agricultural land in Khan Yunis, and transformed a number of houses into military sites.
The PCHR condemned the ongoing attacks and siege, and called on the international community to intervene.
This entry was posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 09:10:27 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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An Israeli air raid in Gaza City has killed at least three people. Another two people were injured in the attack on a car, according to Palestinian medical officials.
An Israeli aircraft hit the Zeitoun neighbourhood of the city on Thursday, sources said.
One of the people killed was identified as a member of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli army confirmed the attack saying it was aimed at a group that "was responsible for firing rockets against Israel".
The car was obliterated by the blast, and rescue workers extracted a dismembered body. Hamas police officers kept people away from the car.
Thursday's deaths brought the number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2000 to 5,976, the vast majority of them Palestinians, according to a count by the AFP news agency.
This entry was posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 08:28:23 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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While the illegal Israeli Occupation Forces continue their daily killing and kidnapping of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and their lockdown of Gaza where Israel has cut fuel and electricity, blocked entry and exit, and 1.5 million people have run out of medical supplies, and are running out of food, a new survey shows American Jews are losing interest in Israel.
By Shmuel Roser
American Jews are losing interest in Israel, according to figures released Tuesday in the American Jewish Committee 2007 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. Figures showed that 69 percent of Jewish Americans agreed with the statement "Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew" in 2007, compared to 74 percent last year and 79 percent in 2005.
The survey illustrated continued opposition to the war in Iraq by U.S. Jews, although a third recognized that increased military activity known as "the surge" had a positive effect. In 2006, 66 percent agreed with the statement that "Iraq will never become a stable democracy." This year 76 percent maintain this view.
Almost 60 percent of participants expressed deep concern about Iran's nuclear program, and 7 percent said they were not at all concerned. However, the number of Jews in favor of military action against Iran decreased from 38 percent in 2006 to to 35 percent this year, and the number of opponents grew from 54 percent to 57 percent.
The Annapolis conference did not change the opinions of U.S. Jews regarding the prospect of peace. This year, 55 percent said they did not believe peace is possible, down one percent from 56 percent last year.
On the question of whether Israel should be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem, 58 percent said no and 36 percent said yes, showing an increase in opponents since 2006. The majority still believed that "The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel".
Survey results showed that according to U.S. Jews, the war in Iraq is not the most pressing problem facing the U.S., as 23 percent prioritized economy and employment before health care (19 percent) and the war (16 percent). The trend among Jews was markedly different from the priorities of the general population, as a CBS News/New York Times Poll found that 25 percent put Iraq first, while economy and employment got only 12 percent.
In the realm of politics, surveyed Jews expressed significant support for Hillary Clinton as the next president, while Republican voters favored Giuliani.
The number of Jewish Conservatives decreased from 33 percent to 29 percent, showing a drop from 2005. However the figures for this section were seen as inconclusive as they have wavered unpredictably since 2001.
Jews who said they were synagogue members decreased from 53 percent in 2006 to 50 percent this year showing a clear downward trend over the last three years: from 57 percent in 2005, to 53 percent in 2006 to 50 percent this year.
This entry was posted on Dec 13, 2007 at 03:34:32 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Al-Dhari says the resistance has chosen not to engage
al-Sahwa militias to avoid internicine fighting
By Ahmed Janabi
Sheikh Harith Al Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, is arguably one of the most influential Iraqi Sunni leaders today.
His unequivocal opposition to the US-led occupation and criticism of the Nouri al-Maliki government attracted threats against his life and forced him into exile.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, al-Dhari says the slight improvement in the security situation in Iraq "is due to a decision by the Iraqi government to reign in its death squads".
He concedes that the "resistance has temporarily" retreated in the face of US-funded al-Sahwa (Awakening Council) militias "but that the resistance is regrouping and will bounce back".
Al-Dhari, who hails from a family reputed for leading the nationalist resistance against British occupation in the 1920s, says that the American presence has allowed other powers, particularly Iran to meddle in the country's affairs.
Al-Dhari sees no end to the woes of his country without an end to the US-led occupation.
AJ: How do you view the recent US and Iraqi reports about the improved security situation?
Al-Dari: Yes, we can say the security situation has slightly improved. The reason for that lies in the fact that George Bush needs to present some sort of success to his people, and it is the same with the current Iraqi government. Both have realised that the tense situation in Iraq would do them no good. Hence, the Iraqi government ordered its death squads to halt their attacks on people. That's all.
What is your evidence that the government operated those “death squads”?
We will reveal the evidence at the right time. However, the fact that those squads are the armed wings of ruling parties like the Islamic Supreme Council is evidence that the government backed them. The fact that they targeted neighbourhoods and specific people who oppose Nouri al-Maliki, should tell us something.
There are hundreds of witnesses who spoke to media about squads active during curfew hours and using police cars and equipment. How many people claimed their relatives were taken by men dressed in police uniforms and nobody saw them later on? We believe those are clear evidence of government support to the death squads which terrorised our people.
How do you explain the security situation improving in areas like al-Anbar governorate and a lull in Iraqi resistance operations?
Al-Qaeda fighters have committed grave mistakes in Iraq; mistakes that were enough to create a backlash against them and initiate what has become known as “al-Sahwa” [The Awakening Council], where the US military and the Iraqi government offer three-month contracts to fund the greed of some tribal leaders, who in their turn arm and fund needy tribesmen to fight al-Qaeda.
The al-Sahwa phenomenon has been presented to people as tribal forces fighting al-Qaeda. But as they are US funded, the tribesmen have been instructed to fight the Iraqi resistance as well. That is why resistance attacks against US forces have eased a bit.
Some al-Sahwa leaders like Ahmad Abu Risha and Hamid al-Hayes have bluntly said that they are against anyone carrying a gun, although al-Sahwa fighters themselves comprise the private militias.
I think the resistance has chosen to back off and not engage al-Sahwa militias to avoid internicine fighting. They are regrouping now and for sure will bounce back.
How serious is Iranian influence in Iraq?
The US occupation is responsible for letting others meddle in Iraq’s issues. There are many parties who stick their noses in our business one of whom is Israel, which works undercover in Iraq.
The other party is Iran. Iran’s influence is cancerous. It meddles in every aspect of life in Iraq. Its influence on Iraq’s ruling parties is not a secret. The Al-Daawa party of al-Maliki, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [headed by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim], and Iraqi Kurdish parties are ruling parties and all of them were either funded by or established in Iran.
These parties are the pillars of a government formed under the occupation, so if the occupation goes all its allies will go with it.
Iran nowadays has the upper hand in determining who rules Iraq. Economically, Iranian goods have been flooding Iraqi markets. We have documented evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are working actively in Iraq through their Jaish al-Quds (The Army of Jerusalem) militia. Senior officers of the militia are based in the offices of pro-Iranian political parties.
Other regional parties are also involved in meddling in Iraq’s issues but to a much less extent. But the US-led occupation remains the main irritant.
As a US withdrawal appears unlikely in the near future is their any alternative to save Iraq from bloodshed and chaos?
Based on what I said, we strongly believe that Iraq’s ordeal will not end unless the occupation ends.
American leaders disappoint us. We hoped they would behave in a more responsible way after the failure of the political process they started in Iraq. We expected them to review the process to let all Iraqis participate and stop the bloodshed.
But sadly what happened was the opposite. We saw Bush and al-Maliki signing a non-binding agreement where the appointed Iraqi ruler signed over control of his country to Bush and in return the US president committed to provide the necessary support that the current Iraqi government needs.
This means Bush and those he supports do not have the intention to rectify things. Hence we must get rid of the occupation which is the cause of Iraq’s misery and pain. It acts as a cover and fuel for outsiders to meddle.
Despite their presence in the parliament and government, Iraq’s Sunni Muslims have always complained they have been denied full participation in the political process. Why is that?
Our main concern lies in the fact that the elections were built on fallacies when they lied and deceived the world that the Shia population comprises the majority in Iraq. The number of Sunni Arabs is not less than the number of Shia Arab in Iraq, but the US and its allies in Iraq plotted against them for obvious reasons to deny them their actual size.
Three years ago, while the US was occupying Iraq, the ministry of planning under Dr Mahdi al-Hafid issued a statistic stating than Iraq’s Sunni Arabs are 42% and Shia are 40%.
The occupiers have publically forged information to bring their collaborators to power. They said to us "you are only 20 per cent of the population and your representation should match that figure".
How are we to accept that? We have been eliminated from the political process on purpose.
It is no secret we did not support some Sunni parties joining the political process, but to be fair to them, the al-Tawafuq bloc, the biggest Sunni Arab bloc in the parliament, have made a valid point when they withdrew from the government and suspended their participation in the political process unless their demands are met.
We have seen their demands, all of them were fair, but al-Maliki did not meet any of them. One of them was not even Sunni-specific -- the demand for the release of all Iraqi prisoners held without charges. Al-Maliki just does not want to give Sunni parties any credit.
You have been touring the Arab world and met many Arab heads of state. Are they satisfied with the situation in Iraq?
I have sensed dissatisfaction among Arab leaders with the situation in Iraq, but none of them have showed a willingness to act.
Al Jazeera Al Jazeera
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The pullout means Russia can now move troops around the country without notifying Nato
Russia has withdrawn from a key Cold War treaty setting limits on troops and weapons across Europe, but said there were no immediate plans for a major military build-up.
Moscow's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty was suspended from midnight in Moscow on Tuesday (2100 GMT), the Russian foreign ministry said.
In a statement, the ministry said: "Such a step has been caused by the exceptional circumstances connected to the content of the treaty which concern the security of Russia and demand that we take immediate measures."
Russian troops can now be moved around the country without notifying Nato.
Nato members said they "deeply regret" the decision.
"Nato allies deeply regret that the Russian Federation has proceeded with its intention to unilaterally 'suspend' implementation of CFE Treaty obligations," the organisation said in a statement.
"Nato allies... want to resolve the current impasse and preserve the benefits of this landmark treaty. They have therefore chosen not to respond in kind at this stage."
It said Nato members would meet treaty obligations regarding exchange of military information at a scheduled meeting in Vienna on Friday which Russia has said it will not attend.
Restoring military might
Signed in 1990 and modified in 1999, the CFE places precise limits on the stationing of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia's Ural mountains.
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, who has made a priority of restoring Russian military might, signed a decree ordering Moscow's suspension of the treaty last month.
The foreign ministry said that Russia was no longer "constrained by the limitations placed on arms deployments on its flanks".
However, it said: "We have no current plans to accumulate massive armaments on our neighbours' borders."
In theory, Russia can return to the treaty at anytime, but analysts say that is unlikely, given mounting East-West distrust.
The demise of the CFE comes on top of tensions around US plans to install a missile-defence shield in Nato members Poland and the Czech Republic.
Russia has also threatened to leave another major treaty, the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
At the heart of Russia's complaints regarding the CFE is Nato's failure to ratify the amended 1999 version of the treaty, taking into account the huge changes wrought by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Nato countries say they cannot ratify the 1999 version because Russian troop presence in the ex-Soviet states of Georgia and Moldova violates the treaty, a charge Moscow rejects.
In addition, Moscow has been pushing for changes to CFE limits on moving troops to the European western flank of the vast country.
Anatoly Antonov, a director at the foreign ministry, said: "Imagine that President Bush cannot move his forces from California to the New York region. It's ridiculous."
Observers said the long list of problems made the CFE unlikely to get back on track.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst, said: "The treaty is dead."
"It is practically inevitable that Russia will begin moving weapons west, primarily to borders of Baltic states."
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Peace Protest: Thousands of Hungarian demonstrators form a glowing peace sign in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Too few Americans, Hedges argues, have taken action against war AP photo / Bela Szandelszky
By Chris Hedges
The refusal to pay my taxes if we go to war with Iran, and the portion of my taxes spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if we do not cut off funding for these two conflicts, is not a means. It is an end. I do not know if my refusal, and the refusal of others, will be effective in halting these wars. All I know is that it is worth doing. The alternative, a complacency bred from cynicism and despair, is worse. Refusing to actively resist injustice and flagrant violations of international law, refusing to attempt to turn back the tide of American tyranny, is surrender. It is the death of hope.
Acts of resistance are moral acts. They begin because people of conscience can no longer tolerate abuse and despotism. They are carried out not because they are effective but because they are right. Those who begin these acts are few in number and dismissed by the cynics who hide their fear behind their worldliness. Resistance is about affirming life in a world awash in death. It is the supreme act of faith, the highest form of spirituality. We remember and honor the names of those who, solitary when they began, defied their age. Henry David Thoreau. Jane Adams. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Mahatma Gandhi. Milovan Djilas. Andrei Sakharov. Martin Luther King. Václav Havel. Nelson Mandela. It is time to join them. They sacrificed their security and comfort, often spent time in jail and in some cases were killed. They understood that to live in the fullest sense of the word, to exist as free and independent human beings, meant to defy authority. When the dissident Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was taken from his cell in a Nazi prison to the gallows, his last words were ”this is for me the end, but also the beginning.”
Bonhoeffer, who returned to Germany from Union Theological Seminary in New York to fight the Nazis, knew that most of the citizens in his nation were complicit through their silence in a vast enterprise of death. He affirmed what we all must affirm. It did not mean he avoided death. It did not mean that he, as a distinct individual, survived. But he understood that his resistance, and even his death, was an act of love. He fought for the sanctity of life. He gave, even to those who did not join him, another narrative. His defiance condemned his executioners.
"Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence,” Thoreau wrote in ”Civil Disobedience” after going to jail for refusing to pay his taxes during the Mexican-American War. “A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”
Those who recognize the injustice of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a war with Iran, who concede that these wars are not only a violation of international law but under the post-Nuremberg laws are defined as criminal wars of aggression, yet do nothing, have forfeited their rights as citizens. By allowing the status quo to go unchallenged they become agents of injustice. To do nothing is to do something. They practice a faux morality. They vent against war on the Internet or among themselves but do not resist. They take refuge in the conception of themselves as moderates. They stand on what they insist is the middle ground without realizing that the middle ground has shifted under us, that the old paradigm of left and right, liberal and conservative, is meaningless in a world where, to quote Immanuel Kant, those in power have embraced “a radical evil.”
"I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate,” King wrote from another era as he sat inside a Birmingham jail. “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
This lukewarm acceptance, this failure to act, is the worst form of moral cowardice. It cripples and destroys us. When Dante enters the “city of woes” in the “Inferno” he hears the cries of “those whose lives earned neither honor nor bad fame,” those rejected by heaven and hell, those who dedicated their lives solely to the pursuit of happiness. These are all the “good” people, the ones who never made a fuss, who filled their lives with vain and empty pursuits, harmless no doubt, to amuse themselves, who never took a stand for anything, never risked anything, who went along. They never looked too hard at their lives, never felt the need, never wanted to look.
We face a crisis. Our democratic institutions are being dismantled. We are headed for a state of perpetual war. We are paralyzed by fear. We will be stripped, if we do not resist, of our few remaining rights. To resist, while there is still time, is not only the highest form of spirituality but the highest form of patriotism. It is, if you care about what is worth protecting in this country, a moral imperative. There are hundreds of thousands who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This number would be dwarfed by a war with Iran, which could ignite a regional inferno in the Middle East. Not a lot is being asked of us. Compare our potential sacrifices with what is being inflicted on and demanded of those trapped in the violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and soon, perhaps, Iran. Courage, as Aristotle wrote, is the highest of human virtues because without it we are unlikely to practice any other virtue. Once we find courage we find freedom.
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Speak up, Ms. Speaker: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi fields questions about Iraq at a press conference on Capitol Hill last April. AP photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta
By Robert Scheer
When the CIA destroyed those prisoner interrogation videotapes, was it also destroying the truth about 9/11? After all, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the basic narrative of what happened on that day—and the definition of the enemy in this war on terror that George W. Bush launched in response to the tragedy—comes from the CIA’s account of what those prisoners told their torturers. The commission was never allowed to interview the prisoners, or speak with those who did, and was instead forced to rely on what the CIA was willing to relay.
On the matter of the existence of the tapes, we know the CIA lied, not only to the 9/11 Commission but to Congress as well. Given that the Bush administration has for six years refused those prisoners any sort of public legal exposure, why should we believe what we’ve been told about what may turn out to be the most important transformative event in our nation’s history? On the basis of what the CIA claimed the tortured prisoners said, President Bush launched a “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT), an endless war that threatens to bankrupt our society both financially and morally.
How important to the 9/11 Commission Report were those “key witnesses”? Check out the disclaimer on Page 146 about the commission’s sourcing of the main elements laid out in its narrative:
Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. ... Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses ... is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogation took place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.
Videos were made of those “sensitive” interrogations, which were accurately described as “torture” by one of the agents involved, John Kiriakou, in an interview with ABC News. Yet when the 9/11 Commission and federal judges specifically asked for such tapes, they were destroyed by the CIA, which then denied their existence.
Of course our president claims he knew nothing about this whitewash, and he may be speaking the truth, since plausible deniability seems to be the defining leadership style of our commander in chief. But what about those congressional leaders who were briefed on the torture program as early as 2002? That includes Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, who has specialized in heartfelt speeches condemning torturers in faraway places like China.
Pelosi press aide Brendan Daly told me that The Washington Post report on her CIA briefing was “overblown” because Pelosi, then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, thought the techniques described, which the CIA insists included waterboarding, were merely planned and not yet in use. Pelosi claimed that “several months later” her successor as the ranking Democrat, Jane Harman, D-Calif., was advised that the techniques “had in fact been employed.” Harman wrote a classified letter to the CIA in protest, and Pelosi “concurred.” Neither went public with her concerns.
Harman told The Washington Post, “I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything.” The “Gang of Four” is an insider reference to the top members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and not to the thugs who ran Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution.
Not only did the congressional Gang of Four fail to inform the public about the use of torture by our government, but it also kept the 9/11 Commission in the dark. Pelosi testified before the commission on May 22, 2003, but uttered not a word of caution about the methods used. However, more than two years later, on Nov. 16, 2005, Pelosi stated correctly that on the basis of her “many years on the intelligence committee,” she knew that “[t]he quality of intelligence that is collected by torture is ... uncorroborated and it is worthless.”
Having admired Pelosi for decades, I hope I am missing something here. If she and the others in the know have another version of these events it’s time to come clean. As matters now stand, they not only concealed torture but, more significantly, they abetted the waterboarding of our democracy.
This entry was posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 05:34:41 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
Upstanding member of Congress? Not.
Par for the course? Yup.
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Olmert's government has made made it clear it is not convinced by NIE report
By Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst
Since the publication of the NIE findings on Iran's nuclear programme, US officials and generals have been assuring Israel that Iran remains a strategic threat.
Instead of being relieved, not to say trigger happy, by the overarching consensus of the US intelligence community that discounts Iranian nuclear danger, Israel is bombed out.
The government of Ehud Olmert, Israeli's prime minister, made it clear it is not convinced by the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate report and that it will prove them wrong through evidence of its own.
Awaiting Israel's revelations, its neoconservative and evangelical allies have expressed their doubts about the honesty and intentions of the report's authors and accused them of politicising the intelligence to fit their political agenda.
Some referred to them as state department moles in the intelligence community.
It is not the absence of a "smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud" that's upsetting those "bomb first, verify later" ideologues. Rather it's how the new findings pulled the rugs from under their war plans.
You can be sure Israel and its US lobbyists will continue to fight nail and tooth as they are pulled away from the brink and in line with America's strategy in the Middle East.
Considering military options is hardly plausible after the NIE report, they will adapt to the new US strategy. But they are not going to do so without a fight.
Doubting the doubters
It's hardly smart for Israel and its US spokespersons to doubt the intentions and professionalism of all 16 braches of the US intelligence, especially when they dare question conventional wisdom.
The CIA and its sister agencies are in the business of probing foreign disinformation and doubting their adversaries' pronounced policies. The only sure thing about national intelligence estimates is that it's not entirely sure.
So when intelligence agencies go out on a limb to make daring and almost categorical statements that could eventually be verified or vilified, you can be sure they are sure.
It would have been convenient for the analysts to caution against Iranian nuclear danger than declaring with high confidence that Iran has halted its nuclear programme back in 2003 and had no plans to renew it.
By pre-empting pre-emptive strike against Iran, the intelligence community is making sure the Iraq debacle is not repeated on the basis of Israeli type hype and disinformation.
Doubting the doubters' doubters
It's no secret Israel has an agenda and lobbies Washington to adopt it as its own. Nor is it news that Israel's intelligence sharing with its US ally is, at best, selective and driven by its own, not US, national interests.
Hyping the intelligence about an Iraq nuclear threat prior to the invasion is only a recent example of Israel's disinformation. Iran is another. Syria is a third and so on and so forth.
Israel collects and analyses intelligence through the prisms of a neighbouring garrison state, the US benefits from the great and diverse resources of its empire.
Strategic threat, Iranian or any other, is a combination of capacity and intention. It follows that the war option against Iran that has neither the capacity nor the intention to develop nuclear weapons is a war crime in the making.
So if the NIE opens a window of opportunity to deal with the outstanding issues with Iran without the pressure of time, why rush to sanctions and force?
Because Israel's scepticism goes beyond the conclusions of the NIE report, which it probably knew all along. Its outcry pre-empts potential policy change by putting the breaks on easing the pressures and sanctions against Tehran.
Scepticism beyond intelligence
Israel's political and military establishments reckon relaxation of Western pressure against Iran, especially abandoning the threat of military action in favour of diplomatic pressure, is simply naive.
They worry not only about the consensus of the 16 intelligence agencies, but mostly about the emerging consensus among leading figures and branches of US government against another war.
Israel reckons a strategic change is in the offing and worry that the new intelligence paves the way towards US policy revision that aims to change Tehran's policies not its regime, through carrots not sticks, using its Arab and Muslim allies, not Israel.
Hawks like Robert Gates, US secretary of defence, and his top brass, admirals Mullen and Fallon, chief of staff and head of the general command, respectively, as well as the hardliners at the helm of US intelligence, Mike McConnell (NIE) and (CIA) General Hayden, are anything but soft on Iran.
Like the political leadership in the state department, including Secretary Rice and her deputy Negroponte, as well as the leadership of congress, Pelosi and Reid do not support war or military strikes that would lead to war with Iran.
In light of what they see as "encouraging" signs from the battle field, they would like to stop the bleeding in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of embarking on another bloody and protracted Gulf war.
Eventually, they reckon the US agenda is better served by transforming a costly military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan to cheaper long-term domination.
Washington is hopeful Iran will continue to be "helpful" by stopping arms smuggling and restraining its anti occupation allies. The December 18th meeting between US and Iranian officials over Iraq is expected to lead to more co-ordination.
That's not to say Washington no longer sees Iran as a regional threat. Since the NIE findings, the Bush administration would not shut up about Iran's threat to regional stability.
It spearheaded a Nato call for a third round of sanctions against Iran despite the NIE findings and even though the UN Security Council is not about to punish Iran after it presumably halted a nuclear weapon programme over the last four years.
The urgency has dissipated when the threat was downgraded from imminent to potential.
Washington conservatives see many potential threats around the world from North Korea to Venezuela but do not advocate bombing them.
This is a major blow to Israel and its hyper neoconservative pundits who favour using force against Iran. For them, President Bush's all-options-are-on-the-table policy alludes to threat of force, not the long forsaken diplomacy.
Such policy revision is particularly worrisome for the Olmert government and its US pundits because it takes aim at the greater Middle East.
Offsetting the war rhetoric by hyping diplomatic rhetoric after Annapolis puts pressure on Israel to behave less aggressively towards the Palestinians by, for example, stopping construction around occupied East Jerusalem.
The invitation extended to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, to speak at the Gulf summit in Doha in the beginning of December has lit red lights in Tel Aviv, which reckons overtures towards Tehran undermine sanctions against it.
Israel worries such an environment is conducive to US diplomatic pressure to de-occupy Palestinian lands while ignoring its strategic concerns about regional threats.
The louder Israel's indignation regarding the new intelligence revelations, the less Secretary Rice and President Bush will be able, if willing, to put pressure on Israel in the coming weeks.
Source: Al Jazeera
This entry was posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 10:20:08 am and is filed under American Empire, Iran. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Al-Rubaie said no nationalist Iraqi could accept permanent foreign forces or bases in Iraq
Iraq's national security adviser has said the United States will never be allowed to have permanent military bases on its soil.
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie's comments came as Iraq formally asked the UN to renew the mandate of US-led forces for a year, saying the mandate would not be extended beyond 2008 and could be revoked sooner at Iraq's request.
Al-Rubaie acknowledged that the US was still needed for security, economic and political support.
"But I say one thing, permanent forces or bases in Iraq for any foreign forces is a red line that cannot be accepted by any nationalist Iraqi," he told Al Arabiya television.
About 160,000 US troops are in Iraq under a United Nations mandate enacted after the US-led invasion in 2003.
The US has repeatedly denied seeking permanent bases in Iraq or that the US deployment was open-ended.
But in November leaders of the two countries signed a deal setting the ground rules for friendly long-term ties.
Under the "declaration of principles" the two sides will determine how many US troops will remain in Iraq and the legal framework that will govern their presence in the country.
The US says Iraq has become less violent in recent months after additional troop deployment.
Washington plans to withdraw more than 20,000 troops by June next year.
This entry was posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 10:06:48 am and is filed under Iraq war, American Indian, Indigenous Peoples, Tribes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Workers at Afaq TV pick up the pieces [Ma'anImages]
NABLUS, Palestine– Israeli forces ransacked Palestinian media offices in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday morning, witnesses said Soldiers seized computers and transmission equipment from the offices of Afaq TV on the pretext that the station supports ‘terrorism.’
Suhair Khalaf, the director of Ar-Ruwad in Nablus, told Ma'an that the Israeli attack was the third of its kind in Nablus, part of what he sees as an Israeli effort to prevent broadcast of the crimes committed by the Israeli army.
According to Salih Qandilo, a transmission worker at Afaq TV, the Israeli forces raided the station's office at 1:30am local time and beat him.
The soldiers informed him that the Israeli military ordered the station closed "because the station supports Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other organizations."
Israeli forces stormed the office of An-Najah media, confiscating three computers. They also raided the Ar-Ruwad media office affiliated to the Al-Quds daily newspaper, confiscating eight computers.
Suhair Khalaf, the director of Ar-Ruwad in Nablus, told Ma'an that the Israeli attack was the third of its kind in Nablus, part of what he sees as an Israeli effort to prevent broadcast of the crimes committed by the Israeli army.
The Palestinian ministry of information condemned the attacks. The ministry's director for the Northern West Bank, Majid Kittana, called on the international community to intervene and stop Israeli attacks on Palestinian media.
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Israel's recent military incursion into the Gaza Strip has cast a pall over the peace process
Palestinian negotiators have called on Israel to completely halt further settlement construction on occupied land.
The Palestinians forcefully argued for the settelement freeze at their first meeting with Israeli conterparts in Jerusalam since the two sides launched a US-backed peace initiative last month in the American city of Annapolis.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian negotiator, said on Wednesday: "We demanded a complete halt to the settlement building ... We have agreed to meet again, nothing else."
The Palestinians have said that newly announced Israeli plans to build more than 300 apartments in the Har Homa neighbourhood threatened to undermine the talks.
Settlement expansion in Har Homa, known to the Palestinians as Abu Ghneim, just north of Bethlehem, in 1997 led to a collapse in peace talks at that time.
Previously, some Palestinian officials called for a boycott of the meeting after Israel issued a tender for about 300 new homes near Jerusalem on land it annexed - a move not internationally recognised - during the 1967 Middle East war.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said his delegation "introduced the issue of Har Homa and expressed our outrage".
He said: "If you want to restore the credibility of the peace process, the Israeli government must revoke this order."
Erekat said the Israelis raised concerns about security issues, including ongoing rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Israel pledged at the Annapolis meeting in November to end settlement activity, but maintains that the building plan, which provoked rare criticism from Washington, is legal.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said on Monday she hoped the building plan would not "cloud" peace talks.
Palestinians have also accused Israel of attempting to sabotage the peace process after a military operation in Gaza killed at least six Palestinians and left 15 wounded.
The incident on Monday was Israel's largest incursion into the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control of the territory in June.
Israel sought to play down the incident, which saw tanks and bulldozers move more than 2km into the enclave, as a routine operation "against the terror infrastructure" in Gaza.
But Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenaz, Israel's army chief, said daily strikes against Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip were having an impact but a big military offensive was becoming more likely.
Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv on security issues, Ashkenaz said though the daily Israeli incursions into Gaza were hurting the Palestinian fighters, the raids would not stop attacks against Israel entirely.
He said: "We are operating in Gaza on a daily basis. Yesterday we returned from a broad operation ... this brings a reduction in the ground threat and the firing of rockets but does not stop it."
"We will come to the point where we will have to carry out the big operation."
This entry was posted on Dec 12, 2007 at 09:36:15 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Nadim Rouhana
The Annapolis peace talks regard me as an interloper in my own land. Israel 's deputy prime minister, Avigdor Lieberman, argues that I should "take [my] bundles and get lost." Henry Kissinger thinks I ought to be summarily swapped from inside Israel to the would-be Palestinian state.
I am a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship--one of 1.4 million. I am
also a social psychologist trained and working in the United States .
In late November, on behalf of Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for
Applied Social Research, I polled Palestinian citizens of Israel
regarding their reactions to the Annapolis conference and their views
about our future, and how they would be affected by Middle East peace
During Israel 's establishment, three-quarters of a million
Palestinians were driven from their homes or fled in fear. They remain refugees to this day, scattered throughout the West Bank and Gaza , the Arab world and beyond. We Palestinian citizens of Israel are among the minority who managed to remain on our land. Like many
Mexican-Americans, we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us.
We have been struggling ever since against a system that subjects us to separate and unequal treatment because we are Palestinian
Arabs--Christian, Muslim and Druze--not Jewish. More than twenty
Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews.
The Palestinian Authority is under intense pressure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is not a matter of semantics. If Israel's demand is granted, the inequality that we face as Palestinians--roughly 20 percent of Israel 's population--will become permanent.
The United States, despite being settled by Christian Europeans
fleeing religious persecution, has struggled for decades to make clear that it is not a "Christian nation." It is in a similar vein that Israel 's indigenous Palestinian population rejects the efforts of Israel and the United States to seal our fate as a permanent underclass in our own homeland.
We are referred to by leading Israeli politicians as a "demographic
problem." In response, many in Israel , including the deputy prime
minister, are proposing land swaps: Palestinian land in the occupied
territories with Israeli settlers on it would fall under Israel 's
sovereignty, while land in Israel with Palestinian citizens would fall under Palestinian authority.
This may seem like an even trade. But there is one problem: no one
asked us what we think of this solution. Imagine the hue and cry were a prominent American politician to propose redrawing the map of the
United States so as to exclude as many Mexican-Americans as possible,
for the explicit purpose of preserving white political power. Such a
demagogue would rightly be denounced as a bigot. Yet this sort of
hyper-segregation and ethnic supremacy is precisely what Israeli and
American officials are considering for many Palestinian citizens of
Israel -- and hoping to coerce Palestinan leaders into accepting.
Looking across the Green Line, we realize that Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas has no mandate to negotiate a deal that will
affect our future. We did not elect him. Why would we give up the
rights we have battled to secure in our homeland to live inside an
embryonic Palestine that we fear will be more like a bantustan than a
sovereign state? Even if we put aside our attachment to our homeland,
Israel has crushed the West Bank economy--to say nothing of Gaza
's--and imprisoned its people behind a barrier. There is little allure to life in such grim circumstances, especially since there is the real prospect of further Israeli sanctions, which could make a bad situation worse.
In the poll I just conducted, nearly three-quarters of Israel 's
Palestinian citizens rejected the idea of the Palestinian Authority
making territorial concessions that involve them, and 65.6 percent
maintained that the PA also lacked the mandate to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Nearly 80 percent declared that it lacks the mandate to relinquish the right of Palestinian refugees--affirmed in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 and reaffirmed many times--to return to their homes and properties inside Israel .
Palestinians inside Israel have developed a history and identity after nearly sixty years of hard work and struggle. We are not simply pawns to be shuffled to the other side of the board. We expect no more and no less than the right to equality in the land of our ancestors. Israeli Jews have now built a nation, and have the right to live here in peace.
But Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic, nor can it find the
security it seeks by continuing to deny our rights, nor those of
Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, nor
those of Palestinian refugees. It is time for us to share this land in a true democracy, one that honors and respects the rights of both
peoples as equals.
Nadim Rouhana is Henry Hart Rice Professor of Conflict Analysis at
George Mason University and heads the Haifa-based Mada al-Carmel, the
Arab Center for Applied Social Research.
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Israeli occupation forces in a major new invasion of the Gaza Strip had left nine dead and dozens wounded, including journalists and soldiers.
Kamal Mussa, from the Palestinian European hospital in Gaza told IMEMC that the army is using unconventional ammunition which is leading to severe burns and critical wounds.
Not satisfied with having isolated Gaza through checkpoint closures and the refusal to allow people, medical supplies or food to enter the densely population, small coastal area, the Zionist army under the leadership of hardline former Israeli Prime Minister and current Minister of "Defence" Ehud Barak launched his promised major offensive early Tuesday morning after weeks of continuous air attacks on resistance fighters.
Israeli army tanks, armoured cars and bulldozers have moved more than 2km into the Gaza Strip, the largest incursion into the territory since the Hamas movement took full control in June.
Four Palestinian resistance fighters, from the Islamic Jihad faction were killed when Israeli artillery shelled areas of Khan Younis and Rafah city located in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli ground forces invaded parts of Kahn Younis shortly after, Palestinian resistance fired RPG rockets at the invading forces injuring four soldiers, according to Israeli sources.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli air strikes killed two Palestinians in Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic Jihad movement issued a press release earlier on Tuesday stating that one of its men had been killed .The fighter was shot and killed during clashes with under-cover Israeli forces near the agricultural college, north of Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. They identified the fighter as Husam Zaki Nashwan, 26.
Later in the day, the Salah Al Deen brigade, the armed wing of the popular resistance committee in Gaza, stated that one of its men was killed when an invading Israeli tank opened fire at him and his comrades. In addition to the death, another five were injured. Palestinian medical sources say they are still receiving injured persons from the attacks on the southern part of the costal region, among them wounded journalists..
Kamal Mussa, from the Palestinian European hospital in Gaza told IMEMC that the army is using unconventional ammunition which is leading to severe burns and critical wounds.
Kamal Mussa, from the Palestinian European hospital in Gaza told IMEMC that the army is using unconventional ammunition which is leading to severe burns and critical wounds.
On Tuesday evening one Palestinian was killed and two others were injured during further Israeli shelling of the city of Khan Younis. In addition eyewitnesses reported that the Israeli army had kidnapped 70 civilians during searches of Palestinian homes in Al Foukhari village near Khan Younis.
However, an Israeli military spokeswoman sought to play down the offensive near the town of Rafah saying it was a routine operation "against the terror infrastructure" in Gaza.
The raid came the day before Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, were due to hold their first talks since the long-stalled peace process was relaunched at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland last month.
George Bush, US president, has said that he wants an agreement on Palestinian statehood by the end of 2008, but big gaps remain on key issues and further clashes could complicate talks.
The violence came a day after Olmert pledged to "forge a historic path" towards a final accord with the Palestinians in the first formal peace talks in seven years.
He warned that if Israel tries to maintain control over Palestinian territories, its future as a Jewish state is in jeopardy.
Olmert told a business conference on Monday that the stakes are high for Israel.
Answering critics who reject concessions to the Palestinians, Olmert said creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel is vital.
Sources: Al Jazeera, International Middle East Media Center, Maan New Agnecy
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In Meetings, Spy Panels' Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say
By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 9, 2007; A01
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort. The CIA last week admitted that videotape of an interrogation of one of the waterboarded detainees was destroyed in 2005 against the advice of Justice Department and White House officials, provoking allegations that its actions were illegal and the destruction was a coverup.
Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.
With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).
Individual lawmakers' recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."
Congressional officials say the groups' ability to challenge the practices was hampered by strict rules of secrecy that prohibited them from being able to take notes or consult legal experts or members of their own staffs. And while various officials have described the briefings as detailed and graphic, it is unclear precisely what members were told about waterboarding and how it is conducted. Several officials familiar with the briefings also recalled that the meetings were marked by an atmosphere of deep concern about the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack.
"In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic," said one U.S. official present during the early briefings. "But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, 'We don't care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.' "
Only after information about the practice began to leak in news accounts in 2005 -- by which time the CIA had already abandoned waterboarding -- did doubts about its legality among individual lawmakers evolve into more widespread dissent. The opposition reached a boiling point this past October, when Democratic lawmakers condemned the practice during Michael B. Mukasey's confirmation hearings for attorney general.
GOP lawmakers and Bush administration officials have previously said members of Congress were well informed and were supportive of the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques. But the details of who in Congress knew what, and when, about waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning that is the most extreme and widely condemned interrogation technique -- have not previously been disclosed.
U.S. law requires the CIA to inform Congress of covert activities and allows the briefings to be limited in certain highly sensitive cases to a "Gang of Eight," including the four top congressional leaders of both parties as well as the four senior intelligence committee members. In this case, most briefings about detainee programs were limited to the "Gang of Four," the top Republican and Democrat on the two committees. A few staff members were permitted to attend some of the briefings.
That decision reflected the White House's decision that the "enhanced interrogation" program would be treated as one of the nation's top secrets for fear of warning al-Qaeda members about what they might expect, said U.S. officials familiar with the decision. Critics have since said the administration's motivation was at least partly to hide from view an embarrassing practice that the CIA considered vital but outsiders would almost certainly condemn as abhorrent.
Information about the use of waterboarding nonetheless began to seep out after a furious internal debate among military lawyers and policymakers over its legality and morality. Once it became public, other members of Congress -- beyond the four that interacted regularly with the CIA on its most sensitive activities -- insisted on being briefed on it, and the circle of those in the know widened.
In September 2006, the CIA for the first time briefed all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, producing some heated exchanges with CIA officials, including Director Michael V. Hayden. The CIA director said during a television interview two months ago that he had informed congressional overseers of "all aspects of the detention and interrogation program." He said the "rich dialogue" with Congress led him to propose a new interrogation program that President Bush formally announced over the summer
"I can't describe that program to you," Hayden said. "But I would suggest to you that it would be wrong to assume that the program of the past is necessarily the program moving forward into the future."
Waterboarding Used on at Least 3
Waterboarding as an interrogation technique has its roots in some of history's worst totalitarian nations, from Nazi Germany and the Spanish Inquisition to North Korea and Iraq. In the United States, the technique was first used five decades ago as a training tool to give U.S. troops a realistic sense of what they could expect if captured by the Soviet Union or the armies of Southeast Asia. The U.S. military has officially regarded the tactic as torture since the Spanish-American War.
In general, the technique involves strapping a prisoner to a board or other flat surface, and then raising his feet above the level of his head. A cloth is then placed over the subject's mouth and nose, and water is poured over his face to make the prisoner believe he is drowning.
U.S. officials knowledgeable about the CIA's use of the technique say it was used on three individuals -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein Abu Zubaida, a senior al-Qaeda member and Osama bin Laden associate captured in Pakistan in March 2002; and a third detainee who has not been publicly identified.
Abu Zubaida, the first of the "high-value" detainees in CIA custody, was subjected to harsh interrogation methods beginning in spring 2002 after he refused to cooperate with questioners, the officials said. CIA briefers gave the four intelligence committee members limited information about Abu Zubaida's detention in spring 2002, but offered a more detailed account of its interrogation practices in September of that year, said officials with direct knowledge of the briefings.
The CIA provided another briefing the following month, and then about 28 additional briefings over five years, said three U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge of the meetings. During these sessions, the agency provided information about the techniques it was using as well as the information it collected.
Lawmakers have varied recollections about the topics covered in the briefings.
Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. Graham left the Senate intelligence committee in January 2003, and was replaced by Rockefeller. "Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object," Graham said in an interview. He said he now believes the techniques constituted torture and were illegal.
Pelosi declined to comment directly on her reaction to the classified briefings. But a congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter said the California lawmaker did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation. The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.
Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the committee's top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program. Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA's program because of strict rules of secrecy.
"When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath -- one of secrecy," she said. "I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything."
Roberts declined to comment on his participation in the briefings. Rockefeller also declined to talk about the briefings, but the West Virginia Democrat's public statements show him leading the push in 2005 for expanded congressional oversight and an investigation of CIA interrogation practices. "I proposed without success, both in committee and on the Senate floor, that the committee undertake an investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation activities," Rockefeller said in a statement Friday.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former Vietnam War prisoner who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, took an early interest in the program even though he was not a member of the intelligence committee, and spoke out against waterboarding in private conversations with White House officials in late 2005 before denouncing it publicly.
In May 2007, four months after Democrats regained control of Congress and well after the CIA had forsworn further waterboarding, four senators submitted written objections to the CIA's use of that tactic and other, still unspecified "enhanced" techniques in two classified letters to Hayden last spring, shortly after receiving a classified hearing on the topic. One letter was sent on May 1 by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A similar letter was sent May 10 by a bipartisan group of three senators: Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
In a rare public statement last month that broached the subject of his classified objections, Feingold complained about administration claims of congressional support, saying that it was "not the case" that lawmakers briefed on the CIA's program "have approved it or consented to it."
Staff writers Josh White and Walter Pincus and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
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Only 153 of the assembly's 255 delegates took part in the session debating the new constitution [AFP]
Bolivia's national assembly has approved a new constitution which would give the country's indigenous people greater autonomy and let the president run for re-election indefinitely.
The vote on Sunday, after a 15-hour session, was boycotted by Bolivia's main opposition party.
After the document was approved, Evo Morales, Bolivia's president, called it "a great happiness for the indigenous and popular movement".
However, opposition is stiff in the country's low-lying and richer eastern states where protests and strikes have been staged.
Only 153 of the assembly's 255 delegates - most from the ruling Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS) - joined the session.
Seven delegates from the National Unity party were almost the only opposition presence.
Hundreds of changes
More than 400 changes to the constitution were approved on Sunday.
But in an apparently political move that will make it easier to get the entire text ratified in the assembly early next year, one article dealing with the definition of unproductive land holdings was left to be put to a national referendum.
After that article has been approved, the assembly will vote again, before another referendum is required on the full constitution.
Roman Loayza, head of the MAS delegates in the assembly, said: "We're coming to a happy ending. We're managing to approve the new constitution the Bolivian people are asking for."
The assembly's work was stalled for months because of the fear of violence against delegates, but two weeks ago it met under military guard in Sucre and approved an outline of the constitution in a vote boycotted by the opposition.
Three people died in protests after the vote causing Sunday's assembly to be moved to Oruro, 230km south of La Paz.
Miners guard session
Miners loyal to Morales guarded the university auditorium where the session was being held, exploding small dynamite charges occasionally to intimidate any potential anti-assembly protesters.
Morales says that the changes will redress centuries of discrimination by a political class dominated by a European-descended elite.
It will hand 62 per cent of the population more control of their traditional lands and turn the bicameral legislature into a one-house body.
Morales became Bolivia's first leader of indigenous descent in January 2006, ending the political dominance of a mainly white economic elite.
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By Jeff Halper
One may well think that the struggle inside the Jewish community of Israel is between those of the political right, who want to maintain the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank so as to “redeem” the Greater Land of Israel as a Jewish country, and those of the left who seek a two-state solution with the Palestinians and are thus willing to relinquish enough of the “territories”, if not at all, in order that a viable Palestinian state may emerge.
This is not really the case. Polls and the make-up of the Israeli government suggest that perhaps a quarter of Israeli Jews fall into the first group, the die-hards, while not more than 10 per cent support a full withdrawal from the occupied territories. (Virtually no Israeli Jews use the term “occupation”).
The vast majority of Israeli Jews, stretching from the liberal Meretz party through Labour, Kadima and into the “liberal” wing of the Likud, excepting only the religious parties and the extreme right-wing led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the current minister of strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, share a broad consensus: both for security reasons and because of Israel’s “facts on the ground,” the Arabs (as we Israelis call the Palestinians) will have to settle for a truncated mini-state on no more than 15 to 20 percent of the country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
What’s more, it’s agreed that the decision whether to relinquish any territory and how much is an exclusively Israeli decision. Our power, our all-encompassing concern for security and the plain fact that the Palestinians just don’t count (except as a nuisance factor) limit any peace process to, at best, a willingness to grant them a tiny Bantustan on four or five cantons, all encircled by Israeli settlements and the military.
This is, of course, completely unacceptable to the Palestinians which raises a fundamental problem. In any genuine negotiations leading to just, sustainable and mutually agreed-upon accord, Israel would have to give up much more than it is willing to. For Israel, negotiations must take place once in a while, if only to project an image of it as a country seeking peace — Annapolis being merely the latest charade — but they can never lead to any real breakthrough because two-thirds of the Jewish public supports a permanent Israeli presence in the occupied territories, civilian and military, that forecloses a viable Palestinian state.
How, then, does Israel retain its major settlements, a “greater” Jerusalem and control over territory and borders without appearing intransigent? How can it maintain its image as the only seeker of peace and the victim of Arab terrorism, effectively concealing its own violence and, indeed, the very fact of occupation in order to shift the blame to the Palestinians?
The answer for the past 40 years of occupation is the status quo, delay, while quietly expanding the settlements and strengthening its grip on the West Bank and Gaza.
The end result, toward which Israel has been progressing deliberately and systematically since 1967, can only be called apartheid, which means “separation” in Afrikaner, precisely the term Israel uses to describe its policy (hafrada in Hebrew). And it is apartheid in the strict sense of the term: one population separating itself from the rest, then dominating permanently and institutionally through a political regime like an expanded Israel locking the Palestinians into dependent and impoverished cantons.
The overriding question for the Israeli government, then, is not how to reach peace. If peace and security were truly the issue, Israel could have had that 20 years ago if it had conceded the 22 percent of the country required for a viable Palestinian state. Today, when Israel’s control is infinitely stronger, why, asks the Israeli Jewish public and the government it elects, should we concede anything significant?
We enjoy peace with Egypt and Jordan, and Syria is dying to negotiate. We have relations with most Arab and Muslim states. We enjoy the absolute and uncritical support of the world’s only superpower, supported by a compliant Europe. Terrorism is under control, the conflict has been made manageable, Israel’s economy is booming. What, ask Israelis, is wrong with this picture?
No, the issue for Israel is rather how to transform its occupation from what the world considers a temporary situation to a permanent political fact accepted by the international community, de facto if need be or, if apartheid can be finessed in the form of a two-state solution, then formally.
And here’s the dilemma and the source of debate within the Israeli government: Does Israel continue with the strategy that has served it so well these past 40 years, delaying or prolonging negotiations so as to maintain the status quo, all the while strengthening its hold over the Palestinian territories? Or, at this unique but fleeting moment in history when George Bush is still in office, does it try to nail it all down, forcing upon the Palestinians a “transitional state” that requires final issues be decided through negotiations?
Olmert, following Sharon, is pushing for the latter. Netanyahu, Lieberman, the right-wing (including many in Olmert’s own party) and, significantly, Labour Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, always a military hawk, are resisting out of fear that even a process of pretend negotiations might get out of hand, creating expectations of Israel. Better, they say, to stay with the tried-and-true policy of status quo which can, if cleverly managed, extend indefinitely.
Besides, Bush is a lame duck, and no pressure will be put on Israel until June 2009, at least six months after the next U.S. president is inaugurated, Democrat or Republican. We’re just fine until then; why rock the boat? The only tricky time for Israel is the two years in the middle of a presidential term. We can weather that. Annapolis? We’ll try cautiously for apartheid, hoping that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], prodded by Quartet envoy Tony Blair, will play the role of collaborator. If that doesn’t work, well, status quo is always a reliable default.
In the meantime, as long as the Israeli public enjoys peace and quiet and a good economy, and as long as it remains convinced that security requires Israel to retain control of the territories, no pressure will come from the home front for any meaningful change of policy.
Given this political landscape in Israel, in the territories and abroad, it’s hard for Israeli leaders to conceal their ebullient feeling that, whether formally or not, “we’ve won.”
Jeff Halper is the coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). firstname.lastname@example.org. A longer version of this article originally appeared online at tikkun.org.
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By Yuval Yoaz and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents
Author Sami Michael, president of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said upon the release of the organization's annual report that racism was so rife it was damaging civil liberty in Israel.
"Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy," Michael said. The publication coincides with Human Rights Week, which begins Sunday.
The report's key points include a 26-percent rise in the number of racist incidents against Arabs and twice as many Jews reporting a feeling of hate toward Arabs.
"We are a society under supervision under a democratic regime whose institutions are being undermined and which confers a different status to residents in the center of the country and in the periphery," Michael said.
According to the June 2007 Democracy Index of the Israel Democracy Institute, for example, only half the public believes that Jews and Arabs must have full equal rights.
Among Jewish respondents, 55 percent support the idea that the state should encourage Arab emigration from Israel and 78 percent oppose the inclusion of Arab political parties in the government. According to a Haifa University study, 74 percent of Jewish youths in Israel think that Arabs are "unclean."
The ACRI says that bills introduced in the Knesset contribute to delegitimize the country's Arab citizens, such as ones that would link the right to vote and receive state allowances to military or national service.
They also include bills that require ministers and MKs to swear allegiance to a Jewish state and those that set aside 13 percent of all state lands owned by the Jewish National Fund for Jews only.
"Arab citizens are frequently subject to ridicule at the airports," the report states.
It says that Arab citizens "are subject to 'racial profiling' that classifies them as a security threat. The government also threatens the freedom of expression of Arab journalists by brandishing the whip of economic boycott and ending the publication of government announcements in newspapers that criticize its policy."
Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said that the report "did not take us by surprise and neither should anyone be surprised by it. Its results are the natural consequence of a racist campaign led by political and military leaders, as well as the result of the anti-Arab racist policies implemented by consecutive governments."
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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks Saturday Dec. 8, 2007, at the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies) security conference in Manama, Bahrain. Persian Gulf nations must demand that Iran come clean about its past nuclear ambitions and openly vow to not develop such weapons in the future, Gates said. He faces opposition from Gulf nations despite Tehran's decision to skip the international summit here focused on regional security in the Gulf.
By Sebastian Abbot
MANAMA, Bahrain -- Gulf Arab countries challenged Defense Secretary Robert Gates on American policies toward Iran and Israel Saturday, after he urged them to force Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.
Several delegates at the regional security conference in Bahrain said U.S. was hypocritical for supporting Israeli nuclear weapons, and questioned Washington's refusal to meet with Iran to discuss the Islamic state's nuclear activities.
"Not considering Israel a threat to security in the region is considered a biased policy that is based on a double standard," said Abdul-Rahman al-Attiyah, the secretary general of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
Experts have long maintained Israel has nuclear weapons, although the Jewish state refuses to confirm or deny it.
The dissent from Gulf Arab delegates highlights fissures between the United States and its Sunni Muslim allies, despite their wariness of Shiite Iran's growing influence.
Iran decided at the last minute to skip Saturday's meeting, the second day of the conference.
During his speech, Gates stressed the danger of Iran's nuclear program, despite a new U.S. intelligence report earlier this week that said Tehran halted atomic weapons development in 2003 and hasn't resumed it since.
The report was a dramatic reversal from a previous report claiming Iran restarted the program in 2005.
Soon after Gates' speech, the defense secretary was challenged by Bahraini Minister of Labor Majeed al-Alawi, who wanted to know whether Gates thought "the Zionist (Israeli) nuclear weapon is a threat to the region."
Gates paused, and answered tersely: "No, I do not."
Asked if U.S. acceptance of that was a double standard in light of Washington's pressure on Iran, Gates again said "no," and described the government in Jerusalem as more responsible than the one in Tehran.
"I think Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors. It has not shipped weapons into a place like Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians covertly," said Gates. "So I think that there are significant differences in terms of both the history and the behavior of the Iranian and Israeli governments."
The U.S. and many of its allies have passed two rounds of U.N. sanctions on Tehran over concerns Iran could use uranium enrichment to secretly develop nuclear arms. Iran has spurned the international community, saying its program is only peaceful.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani countered Gates' comparison of Iran and Israel.
"We can't really compare Iran with Israel. Iran is our neighbor, and we shouldn't really look at it as an enemy," said Sheik Hamad. "I think Israel through 50 years has taken land, kicking out the Palestinians, and interferes under the excuse of security, blaming the other party."
U.S. support for Israel is very unpopular in the Middle East, even among closely allied Gulf states, and Washington's unconditional support for Israeli nuclear development has complicated its push against Iran.
Sheik Hamad also called on the U.S. to hold direct talks with Iran over its nuclear activities. After major Arab countries recently attended the Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis, the U.S. should show the same initiative with Iran, he said.
"As an Arab (country), we went to the United States ... to make a dialogue with the Israelis, so why doesn't the United States do a dialogue with Iran?" said Sheik Hamad. "I think that is the only way ... they can understand each other in the matter."
The U.S. has refused to hold direct talks with the Iranians until they suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was originally scheduled to attend the conference in Manama, which was organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, but Tehran canceled at the last minute.
Maamoun Fandy, senior fellow for Gulf security at IISS, said many Gulf countries are wary of high-level direct talks between the U.S. and Iran because of fears that a deal between the two could go against their interests.
Qatar's position, he said, suggests there is "a rift within the GCC over both Iran and their relationship with America."
Fandy said the recent U.S. intelligence report further complicated the issue, leaving many in the region wondering where the U.S. conflict with Iran is heading.
"The release of the National Intelligence Estimate seemed to have undermined the previous hawkish position, so people here don't know what the Americans are up to," said Fandy.
Associated Press Writer Reem Khalifa contributed to this report.
This entry was posted on Dec 09, 2007 at 11:47:46 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Israel trying to sabotage Iran's nuclear program
A report says the Zionists are to present 'hardcore evidence' on Iran's nuclear plans to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a bid to defuse the negative impact the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has had on US dreams of attacking Iran, the Israeli intelligence community plans to present the US with 'evidence', hoping to reverse the effect of the report.
According to The Jerusalem Post, US Navy Admiral Michael Mullen will visit Israel on Monday.
The NIE report issued by US spy agencies on December 3 confirmed that Iran's nuclear program is not aimed at producing nuclear weaponry.
Political pundits believe the Zionist regime will not stop leveling threadbare accusations against Tehran until a case is made for the approval of a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
This is while the Islamic Republic asserts its peaceful nuclear plans and has even demanded a US apology over claims that Tehran is carrying out a covert nuclear weapons program.
The NIE report that has infuriated warmongering Zionists and Washington officials has only confirmed previous reports issued by the UN nuclear watchdog stating that Iran has not produced nuclear arms.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 05:20:08 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Iranian Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari
Iran has halted all its oil deals in dollars following the recent OPEC proposal to trade crude in non-dollar currencies.
"The dollar is no longer a reliable currency, considering its devaluation and the resulting loss suffered by oil exporters," said Iranian Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari.
"Iran proposed in the last OPEC summit that member states use a reliable currency in their oil transactions to prevent further losses," he said, adding that the organization will come to a decision on the issue in the Vienna meeting on February 2.
Meanwhile, the organization decided to keep oil output unchanged at the Abu Dhabi summit on December 5, arguing that there was enough oil in the market to meet winter fuel demand.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 05:09:22 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
It was also reported recently (overseas; not in the u.s.) that Israel has asked to receive its billions in u.s. funding in Euros, not dollars, so as not to incur any exchange rate losses. -J
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Palestinian medical workers help treat victims of Israeli atrocities.
The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) led by President Mahmoud Abbas has cut off the salaries of more than 1000 health ministry workers in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza's civil servants union said on Saturday that PA cut off salaries of the health sector employees this week.
The move means that the Fatah-dominated PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and non-elected Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has cut off the salaries of more than 3000 people since June.
The union called the PA's decision a crime against "angels of mercy" who rescue and treat the sick and injured regardless of political affiliation, maannews agency reported.
The Gaza Strip's health sector is already in crisis as a result of Israeli sanctions.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, supplies of more 91 essential medicines, such as children's antibiotics have already run out in Gaza.
The Fatah-led government has also cut off the salaries of other public sector employees in Gaza, including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The Gaza Strip civil servants union said that the PA's move to cut off salaries "goes in tandem" with the Israeli sanctions, and could deprive the Gaza Strip of qualified doctors and nurses at a time when they are critically needed.
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By Keith Olbermann
Thursday 06 December 2007
Full text of Keith's Special Comment
Finally, as promised, a Special Comment about the president's cataclysmic deception about Iran.
There are few choices more terrifying than the one Mr. Bush has left us with tonight.
We have either a president who is too dishonest to restrain himself from invoking World War Three about Iran at least six weeks after he had to have known that the analogy would be fantastic, irresponsible hyperbole - or we have a president too transcendently stupid not to have asked - at what now appears to have been a series of opportunities to do so - whether the fairy tales he either created or was fed, were still even remotely plausible.
A pathological presidential liar, or an idiot-in-chief. It is the nightmare scenario of political science fiction: A critical juncture in our history and, contained in either answer, a president manifestly unfit to serve, and behind him in the vice presidency: an unapologetic war-monger who has long been seeing a world visible only to himself.
After Ms. Perino's announcement from the White House late last night, the timeline is inescapable and clear.
In August the president was told by his hand-picked Major Domo of intelligence Mike McConnell, a flinty, high-strung-looking, worrying-warrior who will always see more clouds than silver linings, that what "everybody thought" about Iran might be, in essence, crap.
Yet on October 17th the President said of Iran and its president Ahmadinejad:
"I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War Three, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon."
And as he said that, Mr. Bush knew that at bare minimum there was a strong chance that his rhetoric was nothing more than words with which to scare the Iranians.
Or was it, Sir, to scare the Americans?
Does Iran not really fit into the equation here? Have you just scribbled it into the fill-in-the-blank on the same template you used, to scare us about Iraq?
In August, any commander-in-chief still able-minded or uncorrupted or both, Sir, would have invoked the quality the job most requires: mental flexibility.
A bright man, or an honest man, would have realized no later than the McConnell briefing that the only true danger about Iran was the damage that could be done by an unhinged, irrational Chicken Little of a president, shooting his mouth off, backed up by only his own hysteria and his own delusions of omniscience.
Not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Bush.
The Chicken Little of presidents is the one, Sir, that you see in the mirror.
And the mind reels at the thought of a vice president fully briefed on the revised Intel as long as two weeks ago - briefed on the fact that Iran abandoned its pursuit of this imminent threat four years ago - who never bothered to mention it to his boss.
It is nearly forgotten today, but throughout much of Ronald Reagan's presidency it was widely believed that he was little more than a front-man for some never-viewed, behind-the-scenes, string-puller.
Today, as evidenced by this latest remarkable, historic malfeasance, it is inescapable, that Dick Cheney is either this president's evil ventriloquist, or he thinks he is.
What servant of any of the 42 previous presidents could possibly withhold information of this urgency and gravity, and wind up back at his desk the next morning, instead of winding up before a Congressional investigation - or a criminal one?
Mr. Bush - if you can still hear us - if you did not previously agree to this scenario in which Dick Cheney is the actual detective and you're Remington Steele - you must disenthrall yourself: Mr. Cheney has usurped your constitutional powers, cut you out of the information loop, and led you down the path to an unprecedented presidency in which the facts are optional, the Intel is valued less than the hunch, and the assistant runs the store.
The problem is, Sir, your assistant is robbing you - and your country - blind.
Not merely in monetary terms, Mr. Bush, but more importantly of the traditions and righteousness for which we have stood, at great risk, for centuries: Honesty, Law, Moral Force.
Mr. Cheney has helped, Sir, to make your Administration into the kind our ancestors saw in the 1860's and 1870's and 1880's - the ones that abandoned Reconstruction, and sent this country marching backwards into the pit of American Apartheid.
Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland ...
Presidents who will be remembered only in a blur of failure, Mr. Bush.
Presidents who will be remembered only as functions of those who opposed them - the opponents whom history proved right.
Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland ... Bush.
Would that we could let this president off the hook by seeing him only as marionette or moron.
But a study of the mutation of his language about Iran proves that though he may not be very good at it, he is, himself, still a manipulative, Machiavellian, snake-oil salesman.
The Bushian etymology was tracked by Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post's website.
It is staggering.
March 31st: "Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon ..."
June 5th: "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons ..."
June 19th: "Consequences to the Iranian government if they continue to pursue a nuclear weapon ..."
July 12th: "The same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons ..."
August 6th: "This is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon ..."
Notice a pattern?
Trying to develop, build or pursue a nuclear weapon.
Then, sometime between August 6th and August 9th, those terms are suddenly swapped out, so subtly that only in retrospect can we see that somebody has warned the president, not only that he has gone out too far on the limb of terror - but there may not even be a tree there ...
McConnell, or someone, must have briefed him then.
August 9th: "They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program ..."
August 28th: "Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons ..."
October 4th: "You should not have the know-how on how to make a (nuclear) weapon ..."
October 17th: "Until they suspend and/or make it clear that they, that their statements aren't real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon."
Before August 9th, it's: Trying to develop, build or pursue a nuclear weapon.
After August 9th, it's: Desire, pursuit, want ... knowledge, technology, know-how to enrich uranium.
And we are to believe, Mr. Bush, that the National Intelligence Estimate this week talks of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program in 2003 ...
And you talked of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program on October 17th ...
And that's just a coincidence?
And we are to believe, Mr. Bush, that nobody told you any of this until last week?
Your insistence that you were not briefed on the NIE until last week might be legally true - something like "what the definition of is is" - but with the subject matter being not interns but the threat of nuclear war.
Legally, it might save you from some war crimes trial ... but ethically, it is a lie.
It is indefensible.
You have been yelling threats into a phone for nearly four months, after the guy on the other end had already hung up.
You, Mr. Bush, are a bald-faced liar.
And more over, you have just revealed that John Bolton, and Norman Podhoretz, and the Wall Street Journal Editorial board, are also bald-faced liars.
We are to believe that the Intel community, or maybe the State Department, cooked the raw intelligence about Iran, falsely diminished the Iranian nuclear threat, to make you look bad?
And you proceeded to let them make you look bad?
You not only knew all of this about Iran, in early August ...
But you also knew ... it was ... accurate.
And instead of sharing this good news with the people you have obviously forgotten you represent ...
You merely fine-tuned your terrorizing of those people, to legally cover your own backside ...
While you filled the factual gap with sadistic visions of - as you phrased it on August 28th: a quote "nuclear holocaust" - and, as you phrased it on October 17th, quote: "World War Three."
My comments, Mr. Bush, are often dismissed as simple repetitions of the phrase "George Bush has no business being president."
Well, guess what?
Tonight: hanged by your own words ... convicted by your own deliberate lies ...
You, sir, have no business ... being president.
Good night, and good luck.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 11:11:49 am and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Hammoudi Samir Haj Moussa, Rashidiyye refugee camp: Aged just 11 when he was struck by a cluster bomb explosion, Hammoudi Samir Haj Moussa's tragedy is particularly dramatic. Hammoudi suffered third-degree burns and his legs were so badly injured that they had to be amputated. The conditions in which he was struck remain uncertain: some say the explosion happened when his father and he drove over a cluster bomblet on a motorcycle trip to fetch food; others say father and son picked up a cluster bomb believing they could sell it to make some extra money for household expenses.
Arab and global efforts to boycott Israel keep Serene Assir hopeful
For decades now Israel has sought to portray itself and been portrayed in the West as an "enlightened democracy". Part of the way this works is through normalisation -- a strategy that streamlines Israeli cultural, academic and financial ties to the rest of the world. Normalisation enforces presence, and thereby empathy, even when the basis for such empathy is, to say the least, ill-informed. In addition, it automatically alienates Palestine, which continues to be the target of systematic elimination. In other words, the more "normal" Israel's relations with the rest of the world, the more likely it is that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians will continue, and the illusion of democracy in the world's only remaining racist state. Support for Israel and its policies is declining, as the sustained practices of racial discrimination, state terrorism, annexation of land and war crimes have all been widely exposed -- even despite the frenzied efforts of various interested parties to deny or justify such practices, invoking historical anti-Semitism and the Holocaust to this end. And as campaigners the world over, and especially Arab campaigners, have learned, preventing normalisation requires the combined efforts of civil society the world over, as it did in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The Palestinian role in consolidating such efforts has always been central.
It was on the basis of this notion that the Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel, jointly convened by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI), launched the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) on 22 November. Islah Jad of the PACBI, an expert on women's and cultural studies at Birzeit University, was among the coordinators of the campaign; she was also among over 300 activists who gathered in Ramallah for the same purpose last week. The conference's stated goal was to discuss ways "to promote all forms of boycott against Israel among Palestinian community organisations, unions, as well as political, academic and cultural institutions," according to a press statement. Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly about the goals of the BDS, Jad elaborated, "through systematic follow-up as well as articulate, powerful arguments, the academic and cultural boycott has primarily targeted [Israel's] false image, revealing the true face of the state of Israel as a colonial oppressor." Inside the occupied territories, the BDS campaign is calling for collective efforts to strengthen dignity and the culture of economic self- reliance, raising awareness of the means to conduct an effective consumer boycott, including an investigation of how Israeli products enter the occupied territories, popular mobilisation to prevent their distribution, particularly where Palestinian alternatives exist, and ways in which Palestinian companies might support national production and endorse employment of Palestinians.
All of which is even more significant in the light of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on the West Bank and Gaza following the legislative election of Hamas in January 2006. Not only does this constitute the first time in history that an occupied people have been subjected to economic sanctions; it has also intensified existing economic duress, embodied in worsening poverty and unemployment. Illustratively enough, 80 per cent of Gaza residents today are unemployed, and the rate may increase further due to sanctions and fuel cuts. But it is in culture and academia that the BDS are expected to strike hardest. "Because the 'normalisation strategy' targets very select groups of public opinion makers, such as intellectuals, union leaders, youth, women, artists, media professionals [and so on]," Jad told the Weekly, "it is important for each sector to realise the ways in which they are targeted and pushed -- or seduced -- to adopt normalisation." Through the conception and enforcement of a solid culture of boycott among educators and major social players, Palestinian civil society is engaged as a whole. In Palestine the concept of resistance, she added, has suffered from reductionism, equated in many instances with its armed form. This reduction has marginalised the majority of the Palestinians, both in the occupied territories and abroad, leaving them fragmented and often disaffected. But in Jad's words, "civil resistance can never be defeated: how can tanks and machine guns defeat the determination and the will of a dignified, well-organised people aspiring for freedom?"
No doubt a stronger cultural and academic boycott led by Palestinians will only enhance the existing international boycott campaign. Of those present at the Ramallah conference last week, a great many attendees were activists from across the world, including Britain, Norway and Spain. According to the public statement issued following the conference, a number of victories have already been secured, such as the British University and College Union May 2007 vote to campaign for a boycott of Israel until it abides by United Nations resolutions, and the June 2007 call for boycott, divestment and sanctions by the ANC-led South African Anti-Occupation Coalition. In Switzerland, the organisers of the July 2006 round of the Locarno Film Festival dropped the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a co-sponsor in protest of its bombing of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. In the Arab world, meanwhile, there is a need to intensify what American University in Cairo (AUC) professor Sherif Elmusa describes as the "hard boycott. In the Arab world, there ought to be no normalisation whatsoever," he told the Weekly. "There used to be formal mechanisms to monitor and enforce the boycott of Israel; ever since, certain states including Egypt and Jordan have broken the boycott. However, at the popular level, there continues to be zero- tolerance among Arabs of Israel's practices against the Palestinians. Leaders in civil society, and that includes academics, ought to step in to fill the gap created by the governments, in response to the needs and feelings at the grassroots level." As is the case with the rest of Egypt's academic and cultural circles, at AUC there is a particularly vibrant culture of opposition to normalisation in the student community. Though the university once joined the international boycott against South Africa, today its position appears to be unclear on Israel's policies -- policies which are at least as criminal as those practised in South Africa up until the fall of the apartheid regime. Discontinuity between students and administration is regretable.
No doubt strengthened in its resolve by its geographical position in the heart of the Arab world, the student body, which has long been active in organising activities in support of the Palestinians including yearly trips to Palestinian refugee camps, was outraged to hear of the participation of seven Israeli scientists in an academic conference at AUC in the summer of 2006. "We were not told of the event at the time: we found out about it by chance later on. As president of the Student Union at the time, I was disappointed by the lack of transparency," said Seif Abu Zeid, former AUC Student Union president and current supporter of a boycott of Israel at AUC. "We have the support of some of the faculty in a push for a resolution condemning Israel's policy of apartheid. We cannot have official academic interaction, at an Egypt-based university, with Israel." Meanwhile, Abu Zeid was quick to emphasise the ethics-based drive behind the campaign. "We are not against Jews: we are against apartheid. This opposition must take precedence now, as Israeli crimes of discrimination and apartheid need to be effectively opposed." The future of the global campaign to boycott Israel remains to be seen. Critics of the boycott strategy, even in the ranks of those who in principle take a sympathetic stance towards the Palestinians' plight, have often remarked that economically the boycott is ineffective so long as Western governments shower Israel with economic and military assistance. However, it stands to reason that if the potential of civil society-led boycotts is to be dismissed in this way, then there will be a loss of confidence in the potential of civil society as a whole, one which therefore needs to be rebuilt. Thus supporters of the global campaign urge all those who ethically find fault with apartheid, forced annexation, state terrorism, aggression, discrimination and systematic military violence to reconsider their position in the global context -- or risk complicity by remaining silent in the face of the active complicity of their governments.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 08:54:59 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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December 8 marks the 27th year of John Lennon's passing.
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It's not that Israel's borders are porous. They don't exist at all, writes Galal Nassar
By Galal Nassar
Perhaps seeking to distract attention from the crisis facing his government, or hoping to exploit the weakness of the Arab regional system, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is asking the Arabs to recognise Israel. Unfortunately, such a move may be a prelude to ethnic cleansing in Palestine.
"Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild beasts, we would not set about the task in the fashion of Europeans of the fifth century. We would not take spear and lance and go out singly in pursuit of bears; we would organise a large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a melinite bomb into their midst -- Theodore Hertzel, the father of Zionism
Zionist ideas are a mixture of racism that exists in symbiotic relation with Western imperialism -- something made clear in Theodore Hertzl's book The Jewish State. Hertzl ignored the fact that Palestine was already inhabited by a people with an extensive history, something he sees as a minor hurdle. "Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild beasts, we would not set about the task in the fashion of Europeans of the fifth century. We would not take spear and lance and go out singly in pursuit of bears; we would organise a large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a melinite bomb into their midst," he writes. It was on the basis of such formulations that the Basel Conference endorsed Zionism as its strategy in 1897.
In 1911, notes historian Walter Laqueur, Zionist leaders were wondering if they could persuade Palestinian Arabs to settle in neighbouring Arab countries, buying land with the money they get for selling their land in Palestine. The Zionists actually thought of buying land to settle Palestinians outside the country. And yet when Balfour issued his declaration in 1917, the number of Zionists did not exceed 45.8 per cent of Palestine's inhabitants.
During the peace conference in Paris in 1919, US president Wilson sent two envoys, Henry King and Charles Crane, to explore the situation in Palestine. After a tour lasting from 10 June to 18 August 1919, the two men submitted a report saying that Arab citizens were unanimously opposed to the Balfour Declaration and wanted unity with Syria. Should the peace conference reject that option, the Arabs said they would prefer an American to a British or a French mandate. President Wilson ignored the report, endorsing instead the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine under a British mandate.
In his memoirs Chaim Weizmann says that Britain had promised that Palestine would become a Jewish state by 1935, though by that year Zionists comprised just 28 per cent of Palestine's inhabitants, and owned only four per cent of the land, including the state property given to them by the Mandate authorities. The Palestinian people, meanwhile, continued to resist British immigration policies and tried to stop the sale of land to Jews.
The partitioning of Palestine was first recommended in 1937. A British committee suggested that the Zionists should take control of a portion of the land inhabited by 325,000 Arabs, who owned 75 per cent of Palestine. The Arab-controlled section would also host 10,000 Zionist settlers. The committee also proposed a population swap. In other words, the Arabs would be displaced, voluntarily or involuntarily, from their homes to provide a racially pure Zionist entity. The Arab revolution of 1936-37 foiled the plan.
In 1940 Joseph Weitz, who was in charge of setting up Zionist colonies in Palestine, declared that there was no place in the country for two nations, proposing the displacement of the Arabs. Neither the Americans nor the British were shocked by his assertions. US President Hoover favoured the deportation of Palestinian Arabs to Iraq. The British Labour Party also spoke in favour of such a move.
As soon as the British mandate ended in 1948, Chaim Weizmann sent a cable to president Truman calling for immediate recognition of the new state. The Americans obliged. It took the US administration 11 minutes to recognise the new state.
The 1948 war led to the displacement of 65 per cent of the Arab inhabitants, and yet the Arabs still constituted 11 per cent of the inhabitants in 1949. Today, and despite the immigration of millions of Jews to Israel after its creation, Arab Israelis comprise 20 per cent of the entire population. It has been 110 years since the Basel Conference laid the foundation of a Zionist state. But the Palestinians are still demanding their rights and ethnic cleansing remains a distant Israeli dream.
Now Israel wants the Palestinians, and eventually all Arabs, to recognise Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. That is the demand it makes at every gathering addressing Palestinian rights. The fact that Israel has to voice this demand so often is extraordinary. Countries recognise one another in a routine manner. They do so without references to the "right to exist" and without noting their being Islamic, Christian, or even secular countries. So why does Israel repeat itself in this fashion? What does a Jewish state entail?
Apparently, Israel wants Jews and only Jews to live on the "land of Israel". In other words, non- Jewish sovereignty is out of the question in all, or even part, of Palestine. But without recognising a non-Jewish sovereignty on at least a section of the historic land of Palestine, diplomatic and political efforts are pointless. Israel wants non-Jews to be second class citizens and it treats Israeli Arabs accordingly. This is the main reason Israel has no constitution so far. A Jewish state is one that remains open to immigration by Jews living abroad, and we all know that such immigration would take place at the expense of the Palestinians.
So how about Israel's "right to exist"? This right is accorded to states that exist within recognised borders. So when Israel demands recognition of its "right to exist", one has to start wondering about its final borders. How can you recognise a country that has no clear borders? Once Israel draws borders it will imply an admission that what lies within them belongs to all its citizens, including non-Jews. It would thus be abandoning its Zionist ideals. So far, it has been reluctant to do so.
Israel is demanding recognition of its "right to exist" and yet it is in no mood to discuss borders. Yet since 1947 Israel's borders have changed repeatedly. Which are the ones it wants recognised?
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 08:03:34 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Young Palestinian relatives of Hamas militant Eyad Aziz grieve during his funeral. Yesterday dawn, two Palestinians were killed and four injured as Israeli tanks fired shells towards a group of Hamas militants on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Since the meeting in Annapolis, 22 Palestinians had been killed during Israeli attacks on the occupied territories
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By Saed Bannoura
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) Weekly Report, in the week of the 29th of November to 5th of December, 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, 22 were wounded, and 56 were abducted by Israeli forces.
18 of the victims are members of the military wing of Hamas and were killed by missiles and tanks shells. In addition to the killed and wounded, Israeli forces have continued to impose a total siege on the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, and have cut off fuel supplies and electricity to Gaza. The number of patients who died due to the denial of their access to medical treatment increased to 13.
Israeli attacks in the West Bank:
Israeli Forces conducted 19 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Israeli troops positioned at checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 2 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children. 4 Palestinian civilians were wounded Israeli Forces used force to disperse a peaceful demonstration organized in protest of the construction of the Wall.
On December 2nd, Israeli Forces killed a Palestinian civilian near Ramallah, when they deliberately fired at him when he was having a picnic together with 2 of his relatives.
On 5 December 2007, an Israeli undercover unit shot dead a member of the Palestinian National Security Forces in Bethlehem. An Israeli spokesman claimed that the Israeli military operation in Bethlehem was “aimed at arresting wanted Palestinians, but Israeli Forces troops were fired at by militants and they returned fire.” He further claimed that Israeli Forces initiated an investigation into the incident.
But according to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:15, a vehicle of the Palestinin Customs Department was patrolling on Hebron – Bethlehem road, southeast of Bethlehem. A civilian van with a Palestinian registration plate chased the vehicle and demanded the driver to stop, but he proceeded towards the Palestinian security compound. Members of the Palestinian National Security Forces positioned in the area attempted to stop the suspicious van. Immediately, Israeli troops inside the van opened fire at members of the National Security Forces, wounding Mohammed Khalil Suleiman Salah, 36, with 4 gunshots to the head, the abdomen and the right thigh. He died at Beit Jala Hospital an hour later. Soon after, Israeli military vehicles moved into the town, and Israeli troops opened fire at Palestinian security sites, houses and shops. They withdrew from the town at approximately 17:30 that same evening.
During the reporting period, Israeli Forces conducted at least 19 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those incursions, Israeli Forces arrested 56 Palestinian civilians, including a child. Thus, the number of Palestinians arrested by Israeli Forces in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 2,525. During the reporting period, Israeli Forces transformed 3 Palestinian houses into military sites.
Israeli Forces have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians to and from Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been denied access to the city. Israeli Forces have established many checkpoints around and inside the city. Restrictions of the movement of Palestinian civilians often escalate on Fridays to prevent them from praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli Annexation Wall:
Israeli Forces have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside West Bank territory. During the reporting period, Israeli Forces used force against peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilian in protest to the construction of the Wall in Bil’in village, west of Ramallah.
Following the Friday Prayer on 30 November 2007, scores of Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders demonstrated in Bil’in village, west of Ramallah, to protest the construction of the Wall. Israeli Forces troops had placed barbwires in the area to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the Wall. The demonstrators attempted to move forward. Immediately, Israeli Forces troops fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators, and violently beat them. As a result, 4 Palestinian civilians were wounded by rubber-coated bullets and tear gas canisters.
Israeli settler attacks:
Israeli Forces have continued settlement activities in the West Bank in violation of international humanitarian law, and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.
At approximately 12:00 on Thursday, 29 November 2007, at least 10 Israeli settlers from “Ma’oun” settlement, south of Hebron, closed the road that links Yatta town with Kherbat Touba areas with rocks and sand.Israeli troops were present in the area, but did not intervene to prevent the settlers from closing the road.
Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:
Israeli forces killed 18 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip this week. All were members of the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas). 17 others were wounded by Israeli forces in 7 separate attacks throughout the Gaza Strip.Israeli Forces conducted 2 incursions into Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip, and Wadi al-Salqa in the central Gaza Strip. During those incursions, Israeli Forces wounded and arrested a Palestinian civilian, and arrested his two sons.On Saturday, December 1st, at approximately 00:50, Israeli warplanes fired 3 missiles at a number of fighters from the ‘Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas), who were stationed on agricultural land in ‘Abassan village, east of Khan Yunis, hundreds of meters away from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Ten minutes later, Israeli warplanes fired 2 additional missiles at another group of militants in the east of ‘Abassan village. As a result if the two air strikes, 5 fighters were killed.On Monday, December 3rd, in another incident, at approximately 22:30, an Israeli infantry unit moved nearly 600 meters into Wadi al-Salqa village, east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Israeli troops besieged and fired at a house belonging to Mousa ‘Abdul Karim Abu Meghassib, 42. He was wounded by a gunshot to the right thigh. Israeli Forces troops then raided the house and arrested Abu Meghassib and his two sons: Bassem, 18; and Jamal, 17. Abu Meghassib’s wife claimed that Israeli Forces troops stole some jewelry from the house. A neighboring house was also damaged.In addition to the various airstrikes and invasions this week, Israeli Forces also decided a new reduction in the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip, which already suffers from serious shortages in fuel. It is noted that this decision preempted a pending decision by the Israeli High Court on a petition submitted by PCHR and several human rights organizations against the Israeli Forces decision on 25 October 2007 to reduce the fuel and electricity supplies to the Strip. The Israeli High Court held a session on 30 November to review the petition and it rejected the petition.
Statistics indicate that the Strip’s fuel supply was reduced by more than 50% since the Israeli Forces decision was issued on 25 October 2007. Gasoline supplies dropped 90,000 liters a day (73% decrease); benzene supplies dropped to 25,000 liters a day (67% decrease); whereas natural gas supplies dropped to 100 tons (56% decrease). The daily fuel needs of the Gaza Strip are 350,000 liters of gasoline, 120,000 liters of benzene, and 350 tons of natural gas.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:49:13 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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US-supported Iraqi leaders are drafting a long-term US-Iraq pact that many see as opening the door to permanent occupation, writes Salah Hemeid
By Salah Hemeid
On 26 November, US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki signed a "declaration of principles" that will set the agenda for the future relationship between the US and Iraq. The cooperation pact indicates that Washington will maintain a "long-term" presence in Iraq, pledging to protect the government in Baghdad from internal coups and foreign enemies.
Public disclosure of the proposed arrangement came at a time when Washington has been trying to showcase recent "improvements" in security in Iraq following the deployment of an additional 30,000 US troops at the beginning of 2007 and the launching of a new "counterinsurgency" strategy. Under this two-tier approach, the American army used force and enlisted tribal sheikhs and war-weary citizens, mostly in Sunni areas, to combat extremist insurgents, especially Al-Qaeda and Shia Al-Mahdi Army militants.
Few details have been unveiled and the full pact, including the size of the US occupying force, remains to be worked out by 31 July 2008.
According to the "declaration" released by the White House, the military, economic and diplomatic agreement would be to "support the Iraqi government in contributing to the international fight against terrorism by confronting terrorists such as Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, other terrorist groups, as well as all other outlaw groups, such as criminal remnants of the former regime; and to provide security assurances to the Iraqi government to deter any external aggression and to ensure the integrity of Iraq's territory."
In return, Iraq committed itself to establish "a long-term enduring relationship" with America and pledged itself to "encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq", which is widely believed to be a reference to American business in rebuilding the war-devastated nation, and especially it's badly damaged and vast oil industry.
With no timetable for the withdrawal of US troops made in the bilateral declaration, the agreement was immediately seen as a move to perpetuate the nearly five-year-old US occupation of Iraq, especially given that the US military has already built scores of bases all around the country.
Reliable Iraqi sources say that US military bases already constructed, or under construction, are large enough to accommodate some 100,000 American soldiers if the US command decides to keep them in Iraq. Sources say that the bases, mostly expansions of bases of the former Iraqi army, are buffered by broad swathes of land, fortified with heavy weaponry and remote-controlled electronic devices. The primary function of these bases will be to suppress internal opposition to the Iraqi government, but US air strength and special forces in these bases will also have rapid deployment capabilities for reaching points outside Iraq at need.
A report in The Washington Post on 22 May 2005 disclosed that four of these major bases were being constructed around existing airfields to ensure supply lines and troop mobility. It named the four as Tallil in the south, Al-Asad in the western desert region, Balad north of Baghdad, and Irbil in the northern Kurdish region. Al-Asad, for example, which can accommodate some 17,000 troops and workers, is described as a bustling American town, replete with a Burger King, Pizza Hut, a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.
The White House has denied that the US aims to perpetuate its military presence in Iraq. "We do not seek permanent bases in Iraq," spokeswoman Dana Perino said after the announcement of the bilateral agreement. But General Douglas Lute, assistant to President Bush for Iraq and Afghanistan, said the issue would be part of negotiations to decide the future of US-Iraq relations. "That's another dimension of continuing US support to the government of Iraq, and will certainly be a key item for negotiation next year," he told reporters in a recent press briefing.
Iraqi officials, however, told Al-Ahram Weekly that an understanding between the Iraqi government and the US administration and American officials has already been reached about a long term US presence in Iraq that might include the presence of some 50-70,000 soldiers across Iraq for years to come. "There is a sort of consensus (within the Shia-Kurdish controlled government) that a form of American long term presence is in Iraq's interests," one official said on condition of anonymity.
It is unclear, however, how key Iraqi political groups will react to such a long-term presence once an agreement is reached. Iraq's present constitution states that international treaties and agreements must be ratified by a two- thirds majority in parliament.
So far, the main Sunni groups -- notably, the Iraqi Accord Front -- and the Shia Al-Sadr movement have declared their objection to the Maliki-Bush understanding. Both can muster enough support among other members of parliament to torpedo the ratification of any final US-Iraq agreement. They can also use the issue to mobilise disgruntled public opinion against the government and the US occupation.
US-supported Kurdish forces will likely welcome any such agreement, as will Maliki's Al-Dawa Party. It remains to be seen, however, if the main pro-Iranian Shia group, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), will endorse an extended American presence. SCIRI's leader, Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, was received in Washington last month to discuss the plan with President Bush.
Moreoever, the Bush administration, or its successor, has to convince US Congress to ratify any such an agreement. The 2008 Defense Appropriations Act -- which Bush signed into law in mid-November -- bars the administration from setting up permanent bases in Iraq, or from controlling Iraqi oil. The 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which has passed the House and Senate and is expected to arrive to the president in the next few weeks, contains similar restrictions.
Yet Congress, especially in light of hysteria about Iran, can likely be convinced that long-term US military presence would serve US strategic interests in the Gulf region. It may also be argued by the US administration that the "agreement" is not -- and perhaps would not hold the force of -- a treaty, and therefore would not be subject to Congressional oversight. Much resides in the language adopted. The agreement could avoid any reference to troops or bases and paint the "new relationship" as one of cooperation between fully "sovereign" and independent states with common interests.
Such cooperation agreements have been signed before. In 1991, the US military was expelled from the Philippines, but by building bases for the country extended its stay indefinitely. US-operated bases in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf States function under a similar pretence of national government control.
Given deep suspicions among many Arabs about American goals in Iraq, US military bases will certainly be seen as an attempt to make permanent the occupation. A ring of US military bases throughout the region makes sense if US strategy is to protect Israel and command the region's energy resources as the best way to contain America's chief economic rivals, the European Union and China.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:47:17 am and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Avi Dichter, the Israeli internal security minister, has cancelled a trip to Britain over fears that he could be arrested for war crimes at the behest of pro-Palestinian groups.
Dichter, a former director of the Shin Bet domestic spy service, was to have taken part in a London conference on Middle East .
"The minister was told that there was a good chance he could be at risk of arrest," Mati Gill, Dichter's chief of staff, said on Thursday.
The minister called off his visit on the advice of Israel's foreign and justice ministries.
"This incident has not marred our bilateral ties, but it is a shame that an opportunity for Dichter to share from his experience has gone to waste," Gill said.
Dichter was one of the planners of the assassination of Saleh Shehada, a Hamas commander, in 2002.
Shehada, and 14 Palestianian civilians, were killed by an Israeli air strike.
Doron Almog, an Israeli ex-general involved in the Shehada assassination, narrowly avoided arrested when in London in 2005.
He avoided arrest by returning to Israel after being warned that a British magistrate had ordered his detention.
A federal judge in the US threw out private war crimes proceedings against Dichter in 2005.
Israel has come under international censure for its handling of a Palestinian revolt that erupted in 2000. Israel says its methods are an appropriate response to armed fighters who operate in crowded Palestinian areas and use tactics like suicide bombings.
After Almog's near-arrest, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, asked British judicial authorities to review laws allowing magistrates to issue such arrest warrants.
Livni repeated the request during a visit by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, last month, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.
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Annapolis could mark the beginning of the end for Mahmoud Abbas, writes Saleh Al Naami
By Al-Naami from Gaza
Anyone following the commentary filling Palestinian newspapers funded by the Salam Fayyad government can hardly fail to have missed the change in the direction espoused by these papers -- which typically promote the views of the Palestinian Authority (PA) -- since the Annapolis meeting.
The majority of columnists and opinion writers are now warning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against accepting American- Israeli proposals that will deepen rifts in Palestine's body politic. Writers and members of the elite connected to the PA who previously defended the attendance of the leadership at the meeting with enthusiasm now express embarrassment over Israel's interpretation of what was agreed in Annapolis. Statements such as that made by the Israel premier Ehud Olmert that the end of 2008 is not an obligatory date for Israel to complete negotiations with the PA, or by Olmert's deputy, Avigdor Lieberman, who said even the end of 2008 may not be an appropriate date for ending the conflict, have undermined Abbas's credibility and ruined his attempts to frame the Annapolis meeting as a Palestinian success.
Observations by Israeli human rights organisations following the Annapolis meeting further complicate the picture. They have noted that Olmert's government continues not only to encourage settlement construction but consistently fails to take action against settlers who build without permits from the Israeli army authorities.
Meanwhile, the suffering of Palestinians in the West Bank, where the Fayyad government is in charge, continues unabated. Assassinations, arrests, restrictions on movement and settler attacks against Palestinians continue at pre-Annapolis levels. More damaging to Abbas's credibility is that Israel's interpretation of what took place at Annapolis has not stopped his security forces from continuing the policy of "complementary" work, joining the Israeli army to quash resistance in the West Bank, particularly by Hamas.
Ghassan Al-Khatib, who held several ministerial positions in previous Abbas governments, says that many Palestinians now see Abbas's security agencies as playing the same as Antoine Lahad's pro-Israeli South Lebanese Army during Israel's occupation of South Lebanon.
Further diminishing the margins for manoeuvre available to Abbas and his advisors is the fact that the American administration, in order to appease Israel, has withdrawn a non-binding resolution proposal from the UN Security Council supporting the outcome of the Annapolis meeting. The withdrawal of the proposal is being interpreted as further evidence of US bias towards Israel and of Washington's inability to monitor, let alone arbitrate, the implementation of understandings reached in Annapolis.
The stresses are being felt within Fatah itself, with some of its leaders publicly speaking out against Annapolis.
Sources close to the movement told Al-Ahram Weekly that a group of leaders within Fatah is waiting for an opportunity to meet with Abu Mazen and urge him to resume dialogue with Hamas. They believe Abbas miscalculated that his hard stance against Hamas would convince Israel and Washington to grant him political gains, arguing that Israel will remain inflexible until the Palestinians unite.
There is a growing conviction among Fatah leaders, say sources, that Abbas's political life is reaching an end, speeded on by the public perception that Annapolis was an out and out failure. Many anticipate that the Palestinian president will submit his resignation, and want to see differences with Hamas settled before this happens.
Hamas itself expects that the fallout from Annapolis will be an intensification of Israeli hostility towards resistance in the Gaza Strip, with some predicting that a wide-scale Israeli military campaign will accompany a tightening of the siege.
Prominent Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya warns that the movement will adopt unprecedented ways of protesting against the continued siege. "Palestinians will not stay patient as they are slowly strangled by the siege," he told the Weekly. "We are capable of undertaking actions that will make international and regional forces realise how much they erred in supporting the siege of our people."
Nehad Al-Sheikh Khalil, a writer and researcher specialising in Palestinian domestic affairs, sees the main problem facing Abbas post- Annapolis as Olmert's return to the "non-sacred schedules" employed by former Israeli premiere Yitzhak Rabin to wriggle out of Israel's obligations under the Oslo Accords.
"Following Annapolis Palestinian public opinion is increasingly convinced that we are on the threshold of a new catastrophe [Nakba], granting legitimacy to Israeli plans for mass population transfers now that Bush has characterised Palestine as the national homeland of the Jews," he told the Weekly.
Khalil points to the growing conviction among Palestinians that a new stage in the struggle to save Jerusalem and affirm the right of return of refugees is becoming inevitable. Such a conviction, he believes, could take the form of tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees marching to the Erez crossing, which leads to Israel, to demand the implementation of Security Council Resolution 194 calling for the return of refugees and underlining their determination to return to the areas from which their families were driven.
Khalil stresses that the Annapolis meeting has served only to harm Abbas's political agenda and his rejection of the militarisation of armed resistance against the occupation at a time when even those close to him realise that its outcome will help Israel not only establish settlements as facts on the ground but also improve Tel Aviv's international standing without Israel showing any flexibility towards the Palestinians.
Widening Palestinian divisions was always one of the goals of Tel Aviv and Washington at Annapolis. Ironically, Israel's selective reading of the meeting's joint declaration of intentions may yet prompt Palestinians to heal these rifts.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:42:29 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
I also came across the two articles you just posted by Saleh Al Naami about Annapolis. I note some contradiction between the two though.
The very title of the first seems to indicate there was only one goal, Iran.
Here is the relevant cite:
"Professor Dan Shiftan, head of the Israeli National Security Studies Centre and a well-known specialist in American-Israeli relations, published an article in Haaretz newspaper on the eve of the Annapolis meeting stressing that it had absolutely no relation to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Shiftan wrote that the meeting was held in order to help President Bush create the necessary conditions for striking Iran. He further wrote that the Annapolis meeting must be viewed as a purely American-Israeli affair, with no input by the Palestinians or Arabs, and that Israel's goal in participating was to help Bush confront Iran. Shiftan mocked statements issued by Arab and Palestinian leaders describing the meeting as a "window of opportunity"."
While in the second the author acknowledges that the meeting had other "real" goals:
"Widening Palestinian divisions was always one of the goals of Tel Aviv and Washington at Annapolis."
I also saw acknowledgement of this difference of opinion in recent WaPo articles by David Ignatius. Here is an example from November 28, 2007:
"The Saudis came because they are worried about the rise of Iran and the radicals. But it would be a mistake to see Annapolis simply as a pretext for a new anti-Iranian front. "There is a feeling that all of us are exhausted by this," one Saudi explained. "To have stability in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue must be resolved."
"The Syrians came because Annapolis explicitly signaled that their issues are on the table, too. The schedule of yesterday's events specifically mentioned "Israel-Syria" and "Future Separate Tracks Between Israel and Neighbors." Some leading Israeli politicians, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, would like to start negotiations with Syria tomorrow. Damascus, by its presence in Annapolis, showed that it may be ready to play.
"Sometimes, the things that matter are the ones right in front of your nose, and that's the case with Annapolis. Critics talked for months about how the conference wouldn't happen and wouldn't matter anyway. Well, it did, and it does. A peace process, with all its ambiguity and occasional sophistry, is underway."
Obviously, it's been a long running question whether Bush will authorize a strike against Iran while he still has time in office. It was Fareed Zakaria who first raised the question for me whether Annapolis was really about bringing the Arabs, et al. together against Iran, who was not invited. The Israeli strike against Syria serves, for me, as a potential calculus-changing event. Prior to that strike, which could presage an analogous strike against Iran, I had thought that Bush had instructed Israel after 911 that the US would take the lead against Iran. But when the Israelis hit Syria with but little condemnation, the thought came that maybe the same could be done against Iran without too much blowback and that now Israel would take the lead. Imagine an Israeli strike this Christmas as a present from Israel to the US and the world.
The just-released NIE can then be construed as a form of shifting of the burden to Israel, given Saleh Al-Naami's point that:
"Israel holds that the point of no return is Iran's success in developing scientific, technological and human capacities for the production of nuclear arms, even if the weapons themselves are not produced. Were such a point reached, Israeli officials believe there is no benefit in bombing Iranian nuclear facilities, as Iran would exploit its scientific, technological and human capacities to develop its nuclear programme anew. The Americans, however, hold that the point of no return is Iran's success in producing nuclear arms."
Just a thought.
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While the world watched the Arabs, Annapolis was for Israel and the US to prepare the ground for attacking Iran, writes Saleh Al-Naami
By Saleh Al Naami
At 8.45 last Wednesday morning (Nov. 28), when most of the Arab delegation members to the Annapolis meeting were still in their hotel rooms, American President George W Bush met alone with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Bush's White House office. According to most commentators in Israel, this very early meeting was the most important event related to the Annapolis meeting because it was entirely devoted to discussing Iran's nuclear programme. Spokespersons for Olmert have affirmed that the meeting addressed means of coordination between the two allies to confront Iranian nuclear activities. Although both parties have kept quiet on the outcome of the meeting, Israeli sources have indicated that it was devoted to answering the follow question: To what degree can bets be placed on economic sanctions thwarting Iranian nuclear ambitions, and if the answer indicates an insufficient likelihood of success, what kind of military mobilisation can meet this goal? This important meeting suggested to many that Israeli and American enthusiasm for the Annapolis meeting was essentially because it provided an opportunity for Israel and the United States to address the Iranian issue.
Israeli sources have indicated that President Bush showed great interest during the meeting in discussing ways to confront Iran's nuclear ambitions. One week prior to the Annapolis meeting, Shaul Mofaz, who is responsible for coordinating Israeli strategic relations with the United States, transmitted "decisive" strategic information confirming Iran's intentions and efforts to produce nuclear arms.
Professor Dan Shiftan, head of the Israeli National Security Studies Centre and a well-known specialist in American-Israeli relations, published an article in Haaretz newspaper on the eve of the Annapolis meeting stressing that it had absolutely no relation to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Shiftan wrote that the meeting was held in order to help President Bush create the necessary conditions for striking Iran. He further wrote that the Annapolis meeting must be viewed as a purely American-Israeli affair, with no input by the Palestinians or Arabs, and that Israel's goal in participating was to help Bush confront Iran. Shiftan mocked statements issued by Arab and Palestinian leaders describing the meeting as a "window of opportunity".
The ruling Israeli elite believes that Iran's possession of nuclear arms forms an "existential threat to Israel" that Tel Aviv must invest all of its capacity to divert. Ephraim Sneh, a leader in the Israeli Labour Party and former deputy defence minister, said, "if Iran succeeds in developing nuclear arms, it won't need to use them against Israel. It will be enough for the Jewish public in Israel to know that Ahmadinejad has acquired nuclear capacities for most of the Jews to leave Israel."
Israel and the US believe that it is better to undermine Iran's nuclear programme through the use of economic sanctions, but Israel at least is vocal in saying that should sanctions fail to meet their goal, military force must be used. Yet Israel prefers that Washington take on the onus of military activity against Iran should the effect of economic sanctions prove limited, on the argument that Iran's nuclear programme "threatens global security and not Israel's alone," as Olmert often says.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni holds that the Annapolis meeting will drive more states to join American efforts in increasing economic pressures on Iran. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Mejli Wehbi said that the US has informed China and Russia that regardless of whether a resolution is issued by the UN Security Council calling for increased economic sanctions on Iran, the American administration and the European Union will impose sanctions on Iran without being instructed by the council.
Wehbi has indicated that the EU is now waiting for Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana to submit his report on ways of dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, suggesting also that an increasing number of European states support imposing strict economic sanctions on Iran, including Germany, France and the UK. He further suggests that these sanctions are expected to create popular Iranian reaction against the policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Former Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom calls for investing in the atmosphere produced by the Annapolis meeting so as to enlist a growing number of states to confront Iran economically. So as to highlight the importance of economic sanctions, Shalom points out that the decision made by the governors of several American states to impose sanctions on American companies cooperating economically with Iran has had a strong influence on worsening the quality of services in a number of sectors of life in Iran.
According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, shortly before the Annapolis meeting the Israelis hoped to exploit it to convince European states to agree to a new bundle of extreme sanctions against Iran and to cancel agreements worth $22 billion granted annually to European companies trading with Iran. With regard to communications made on the eve of the Annapolis meeting, Tel Aviv and Washington circulated proposals to impose sanctions on banks dealing with Iran, in addition to pressure placed on European companies to not renew oil infrastructure in Iran, along with a long chain of other economic measures that will directly affect the Iranian economy, as understood by American and Israeli experts.
Yet much of the ruling elite in Israel holds that economic sanctions may not succeed in dissuading Iran from continuing its nuclear programme. Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence, has said that in addition to doubts over the ability of Israel and the United States to convince world states to participate in economic sanctions against Iran, even if they do it is doubtful that Iran's leadership can be convinced to give up on the nuclear path.
Opinion within Israel that the military option is the sole option capable of halting Iran's nuclear programme is gaining ground. As mentioned above, Tel Aviv prefers that Washington undertake the mission militarily. Yet despite the congruence of Israeli and American views on the dangers of Iranian nuclear ambitions, there are differences between the two regarding the conditions required for using military force. Israeli sources have suggested that this point in particular was discussed in the recent Olmert-Bush meeting. Israel holds that the point of no return is Iran's success in developing scientific, technological and human capacities for the production of nuclear arms, even if the weapons themselves are not produced. Were such a point reached, Israeli officials believe there is no benefit in bombing Iranian nuclear facilities, as Iran would exploit its scientific, technological and human capacities to develop its nuclear programme anew. The Americans, however, hold that the point of no return is Iran's success in producing nuclear arms.
At the same time, the calculations of some circles within the American administration regarding military action against Iran differ from Israel's. There is strong opinion within the American administration that any military action against Iran will have negative ramifications on American interests, including the threat for tens of thousands of American soldiers in Iraq who will become easy targets for Iran. American army leaders in Iraq are thus at the head of opposition to military activity against Iran.
Yet this does not mean that President Bush has decided not to direct military action against the Islamic Republic. And this is what has made Israelis decide to convince him of military mobilisation against Tehran as soon as possible. Some in Israel hold that when Bush and Olmert stressed the necessity of confronting "forces of extremism and darkness" in their speeches at the Annapolis meeting, they essentially intended to prepare global public opinion for military action against Iran.
Yet there are numerous indicators that confirm that the Israelis are prepared to strike Iran's nuclear facilities themselves should deterrent economic sanctions against Iran not be imposed or should Washington not undertake the mission of military action itself. Shortly before the Annapolis conference, Maariv indicated that the Israeli army was undergoing intense training in preparation for a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. According to the newspaper, the Israeli air force is undergoing long-distance air training, including long-distance attack flying and re-fuelling while in flight.
Yet this is not all. The Israeli government has entrusted the head of the Israeli air force, General Eliezer Shkedi, to develop a mechanism for coordinating between the various aspects of the Israeli military to prepare for the issuance of instructions for military action beyond the country's borders -- meaning a strike on Iran. At the same time, Olmert's government has entrusted the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, with responsibility for presenting strategic evaluations regarding Iran's nuclear programme. Dagan is taking this mission seriously, and Mossad recently published advertisements in the Israeli press to recruit Israeli youth who know Farsi, which has been interpreted as a step towards planting agents in Iran to garner the necessary intelligence.
Former deputy defence minister Sneh holds that prior to military action against Iran, two primary conditions must be met. The first is successful protection of Israel's interior from missiles and shells, thousands of which Iran may fire at Israeli cities. The second is the provision of budgets to provide fortification against chemical weapons by developing the "Hits" anti-missile programme.
Yet there are those who have doubts over the extent to which the Annapolis meeting will help Israel to forge the conditions that would permit a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Yoel Marcus, senior commentator for Haaretz newspaper, holds that there are many material and other obstacles in the way of a strike on these facilities. Marcus points out that Iran benefited from Israel bombing Iraq's atomic reactor in 1981 by building its nuclear facilities in various areas distant from each other, and constructing them deep underground. The Iranians intentionally separated the areas in which facilities are found according to stages in the atomic cycle, whereby there is not one facility that brings together all the stages of the nuclear programme. This way, if one of the facilities is bombed, only the stage for which this facility was built would be affected.
There are also those in Israel who warn against exaggerating the betting on post-Annapolis events. Shlomo Ben Ami, former Israeli foreign minister, claims that the sole means to halting Iran's nuclear programme is through political approaches, and suggests that Israel will also be asked to dispose of its nuclear weapons. "The best way to put an end to Iran's strategy in creating a lack of stability in the region is through comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace, after which would come international funding for building a system of peace and security in a Middle East free of nuclear weapons," he wrote in Yediot Aharonot newspaper following the conference.
This entry was posted on Dec 08, 2007 at 07:40:55 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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"Five Reasons to Bomb iran Now"
By Michael Freund
Have America and Israel suddenly gone soft on Iran's nefarious nuclear-weapons program? Despite sanctions and UN Security Council resolutions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gleefully pressing forward with his efforts to build a bomb, which Israeli military intelligence now believes he will succeed in doing by 2009.
Indeed, just last Friday, the would-be Hitler of Persia boasted about how Teheran had "defied" Western opposition, and was now "moving toward the peaks of success step by step."
Yet even as Iran continues to progress down the dangerous road to an atomic arsenal, the tough talk emanating from Washington and Jerusalem in recent months has suddenly and inexplicably melted away.
And this should have us all very, very worried.
It was just last month that US President George W. Bush declared at an October 17 press conference that, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Bush's statement was followed four days later by an equally emphatic Vice President Dick Cheney, who told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions."
Now, though, something appears to have changed. Various reports in recent days seem to indicate that US policy may have taken a sharp and terribly treacherous U-turn in the direction of acquiescence.
According to the Britain's Sunday Telegraph, the US Defense Department has begun updating its deterrence policy based on the assumption that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons.
The paper quoted a Pentagon adviser as saying that while "military strikes [against Iran's nuclear facilities] might set the program back a couple of years… current thinking is that it is just not worth the risks."
Similarly, Admiral William Fallon, head of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, told the Financial Times last week (Nov. 12) that a preemptive attack against Iranian nuclear installations is not "in the offing."
And, as Reuters reported, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is said to have instructed cabinet officials to draft proposals for how to deal with "the day after" Iran obtains the bomb.
WHAT IS going on here? Are we really prepared to allow the tyrant of Teheran to threaten our very existence? It is possible, of course, that these reports are merely part of the overall game-plan, and that they are aimed at lulling the Iranians into a false sense of security prior to a surprise attack on their nuclear installations.
Alternatively, it might reflect the shifting political realities in the US, where public opinion, goaded on by the mainstream liberal media, has turned against the war in neighboring Iraq.
But whatever the reality of the situation is, one thing should be clear: Iran can not and must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.
This is not an issue with shades of grey - it is about as black and white as they come.
And here are five good reasons why:
1. An Iranian nuclear arsenal would transform the strategic dynamic of the entire Middle East, shifting the balance of power squarely in the direction of radical Shi'ite fundamentalism.
An atomic Iran will be able to threaten the region and the world with nuclear blackmail and destruction, and they will use that leverage to further their fanatical and revolutionary aims.
2. A nuclear-armed Iran will pose an existential threat to Israel, and ultimately to the West too. Iranian leaders have repeatedly and explicitly promised to wipe Israel off the map and to strike at the United States.
Teheran has been backing up its words with actions by steadily improving its ballistic missile capability. The Shihab-3 missile, with a range of 1,200 km, can hit all of Israel as well as US military targets in the Middle East. Iran is busy developing the Shihab-4, with a range of 2,000 km, that will put parts of Europe within striking distance. Teheran is also striving to build even longer-range intercontinental missiles that can hit the US as well. All of these weapons have the ability to deliver atomic warheads.
3. If Iran goes nuclear, it will inevitably tilt the neighboring Arab states further in the direction of extremism, as they seek to mollify the nuclear-armed ayatollahs. Whatever limited chances there might be of drawing at least some Arab states into the moderate camp are likely to be stymied rather quickly.
4. Failure to take action against Teheran will trigger a region-wide nuclear arms race, as countries throughout the Middle East will seek to achieve strategic and military parity.
A number of states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have already announced plans to build their own nuclear power plants, and others will undoubtedly do so as well out of fear of being left behind. Permitting Iran to go nuclear essentially paves the way to a Middle East that will be brimming with atomic weapons.
5. If Iran were to develop "the bomb," what is to stop them from putting it into the hands of one of the myriad anti-Israel and anti-American terrorist groups that they support, such as Hizbullah or Islamic Jihad? Do we really want to take a chance that terrorists might at last be able to get their hands on nuclear weapons? This is not some "neocon nightmare scenario" or "warmonger wishful-thinking."
It is the cold, hard reality staring us all squarely in the face, unless Washington or Jerusalem takes military action, and soon.
CRITICS ARGUE that an attack on Iran would be logistically difficult, politically dangerous, and would result in some very serious consequences.
But as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the New York Times (November 9), "The choice is not between the world as it is today and the use of force. The choice is between the use of force and Iran with nuclear weapons." And when looked at in those terms, it becomes quite obvious that there really is no choice at all: the US and/or Israel must bomb Iran. They must act to remove the nuclear sword from the hand of the Persian executioner.
And they should do so now - before it is too late.
This entry was posted on Dec 07, 2007 at 02:29:27 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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You have made it a precondition to any engagement with us that we accept certain conditions. Yet you don't apply the same preconditions to the Israelis. You don't require of them recognition of Palestinian rights or a renunciation of the terrible violence that they daily invoke on us.
By Dr. Ahmad Yousuf - Senior Political Advisor
Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Gaza
The Honourable Secretary of State
Ms. Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice,
I am writing to you in light of the conference in Annapolis to fulfill our obligations to the Palestinian voters who have overwhelmingly legitimized our governance. Your administration cannot want peace more than the Palestinian people want and need peace. However, peace initiatives and conferences are ineffectual if the basic ingredients for success are not present. Meaningful steps toward a resolution cannot take place while the legitimacy of the elected government in Palestine continues to be ignored by your administration. Not only is the policy to isolate Hamas unethical it is ineffectual as well. Your administration ignores the realities on the ground. The Change and Reform Party, the name of the new political party we formed for the Palestinian elections, won an overwhelming majority in the occupied territories. To pretend otherwise is not only futile but detrimental to US interests in the region for many years to come and likely to add to the anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. You cannot preach about exporting democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and ignore the democratic process in Palestine.
Many people make the mistake of presuming that we have some ideological aversion to making peace. Quite the opposite; we have consistently offered dialogue with the U.S. and the E.U. to try and resolve the very issues that you are trying to deal with in Annapolis. Our conflict with the Israelis is a grievance-based conflict. We want to end the occupation of our land and the systematic human rights abuses that our people suffer from daily. We do not have any ideological problems with living side by side with Christians and Jews. When we have not been occupied we have successfully done this for thousands of years. However, they can not live in peace and security in a land that was usurped. Indeed if you asked a Jewish person where they would have been safest to live over the last two millennia, with Arabs or Europeans, the answer would be obvious. Nor do we have any ideological arguments with the West. We are not anti-American, anti-European or anti-anyone. The root of the problem which neither Israel nor the US is willing to acknowledge, let alone address, is the dispossession of the Palestinian people upon the creation in their homeland of Israel in 1948.
It would come as no surprise to us if this letter were to be met with dismissal, in keeping with this administration’s policy of not dealing with “terrorists”, despite the fact that we entered the democratic process and held a unilateral ceasefire of our own for over two years. But how do you think the Arab and Muslim worlds react to this American hypocrisy? Even our growing ranks of western supporters complain about U.S. narrow-mindedness and the bullying of its allies to tow the American line. The State of Department should be looking for new solutions instead of reinforcing old stereotypes. On a personal note we found it amusing that a black person empathizes with Israeli deaths on the one hand and Palestinian segregation on the other if media reports are accurate. It is a military occupation, Ms. Rice. Their citizens face insecurity and death because that is the situation they have created for themselves. We do not beg you to recognize us. Our party is the legitimately elected party in the occupied territories. You owe it to your sense of fairness to engage meaningfully with all relevant parties to the conflict.
The conference is faulty in its inception. It was conceived in a vacuum and hastily announced for political expediency. In addition, it ignores the inherent weaknesses of the negotiating parties involved. Furthermore, despite your efforts the conference has not secured the key Arab support you were hoping for. Arab leaders are leery of committing to an American initiative that exhibits no fundamental change from the past. Annapolis’ failure will have negative consequences for those Arab states that supported it further destabilizing the region.
Our skepticism is based on experience. You know that despite every call for restraint by the U.S. over the last twenty years the Israelis have continued to expand and develop their vast network of towns and roads on Palestinian land. While you sat and talked in Annapolis the sound of cranes and bulldozers were echoing across the West Bank as those networks continue to grow. It is therefore hard to imagine an Israeli government bent on a peaceful withdrawal from our land. We can only presume that they are paying lip-service to your request to participate, seeing it as a delaying tactic to talk about peace with no real intention to deliver.
Meanwhile the entire Palestinian people are being punished for having the temerity to hold a free and fair election and choosing us as their government. It is hard to get across the appalling level of privation that the Palestinian people and in particular the 1.3 million Palestinians who live in Gaza currently suffer from. Our isolation is complete, confining us in a ghetto (worse than the Jewish ghettos of Warsaw) where our sewage, power and water systems have been destroyed, all normal supplies constrained and even humanitarian aid withheld. Many people have not been paid for nearly two years, over 75% are unemployed and now the Israelis are threatening to cut off fuel and power supplies and to invade us once again.
You have made it a precondition to any engagement with us that we accept certain conditions. Yet you don't apply the same preconditions to the Israelis. You don't require of them recognition of Palestinian rights or a renunciation of the terrible violence that they daily invoke on us. Nor do you require that they comply with previous agreements or the settlement building would long since have stopped.
Your predecessor General Collin Powell stated that the U.S. has to find a way to engage with Hamas because it won the Palestinian elections and it continues to enjoy support among a large portion of the Palestinian people. He did not make that statement because he is less of an American or less committed to the service of America. He simply practiced at home what you are preaching about democracy abroad.
If you were even-handed in this conflict, if you engaged with us openly then the chances of peace would dramatically increase. As it is, you are setting yourself up for failure and with that failure will come more pain and anguish for the Palestinian people, a further colonization of our lands and a blank space in history for the Bush administration's role in making peace in the Middle East.
In the meantime, the people will hold steadfast to their rights and national constants. The internationally sanctioned resistance will not be quashed until the occupier packs its bags and leaves. And the aspiration of a free and independent Palestinian state is realized.
-Dr Ahmad Yousuf is a Senior Political Advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza; he is the top advisor to deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Hanyieh.
This entry was posted on Dec 07, 2007 at 09:33:01 am and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Agency admits recording "harsh" interrogations in 2002 but destroying videos later.
The CIA has admitted destroying video tapes showing what is described as the "harsh interrogation" of al-Qaeda suspects.
The interrogations of two suspects were taped in 2002 and the tapes were destroyed in 2005, after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq surfaced.
Michael Hayden, the CIA director, told his staff on Thursday that the tapes were destroyed so identities of interrogators would not be compromised.
Scrutiny and scandal
But Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the CIA must have realised the tapes would be trouble after the Abu Ghraib scandal, when leaked pictures of US forces abusing Iraqi prisoners surfaced in 2004, causing an international outcry.
The destruction also came amid scrutiny over the agency's "rendition" programme, where suspects were allegedly detained and interrogated in secret locations outside the US.
Hayden said congressional intelligence committee leaders were informed of the existence of the tapes and the CIA's intention to destroy them.
He added that the agency's internal watchdog had watched the tapes in 2003 and verified that the interrogation practices recorded were legal.
But Bishara said the methods were actually torture and the fact that the CIA had had the tapes but did not surrender them when the US commission to look into the 9/11 attacks and congress asked for such information, raised questions about whether the CIA obstructed justice.
Members of the commission and congress have expressed surprise at the existence of the tapes, saying that the CIA had repeatedly said that it did not record the interrogation of detainees.
Hayden's revelation appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt the New York Times, which informed the CIA on Wednesday evening that it planned to publish in Friday's newspaper a story about the destruction of the tapes.
Hayden said he was informing staff because the press had learnt about the destruction of the tapes.
Bishara said the intelligence community appeared to be "cleaning house", with the revelation about the tapes coming on the heels of a report saying Iran halted its nuclear programme in 2003.
Hayden's revelation comes a day after the US congress agreed to ban techniques such as waterboarding – where a detainee undergoes similar conditions as drowning – a method of interrogation believed to be filmed on the tapes.
He said the CIA began taping the interrogations as an internal check on the programme after George Bush, the US president, authorised the use of harsh questioning methods.
The methods included waterboarding, government officials said.
"The agency was determined that it proceed in accord with established legal and policy guidelines. So, on its own, CIA began to videotape interrogations," Hayden said in a written message to CIA employees.
The CIA - headed at the time by Porter Goss - also decided to destroy the tapes in "the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them", Hayden wrote, adding that videotaping of the interrogations stopped in 2002.
"The tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the programme, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and its sympathisers," Hayden's message said.
The CIA says it only taped the interrogation of the first two suspects it held, one of whom was Abu Zubaydah, who told CIA interrogators about alleged September 11 accomplice Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bush said in 2006.
Al-Shibh was captured and interrogated and, together with Zubaydah's information, he led to the 2003 capture of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
The suspected senior al-Qaeda operative held at the Guantanamo prison has claimed to be behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
Meanwhile, witness testimony has been heard for the first time since the US began prosecuting Guantanamo suspects.
A US major testified that Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, was driving a car that contained two small rockets when he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001.
The hearing will determine whether Hamdan, who says he is not an al-Qaeda member or fighter, an "unlawful enemy combatant" who should be tried before a military tribunal.
This entry was posted on Dec 06, 2007 at 11:09:03 pm and is filed under American Empire, Human Rights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Bob Cesca
Knowledge has been the president's enemy ever since his skull failed to completely fuse, leaving him with a spongy head and a brain that's susceptible to bruising. His other lifelong enemy, by the way, is a fork without a protective wine cork pressed onto its dangerous, eye-poking tines. I'm joking about the skull thing.
But now it appears as if having the knowledge to be able to build a nuclear bomb is enough to let slip the neocon jagoffs of war -- whether or not a nuclear weapon is actually being constructed. President Bush during Tuesday's press conference:
"Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Knowledge. That's the cause now. So let's say, just for argument's sake, that this new policy of smoking out knowledge is for real and not just the administration's political escape pod after the NIE proved the hawks to be full of hawky shit. The foreign policy of the United States, therefore, will be to threaten war against any nation that has the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb regardless of intent, materials or an actual, you know, nuclear weapons program.
The problem with this policy is... this.
Don't click that goddamn link! It takes you to an evildoer website called The Google where you'll find search results for the phrase "how to build an atomic bomb." When you click on those links, you'll learn about how to build a nuclear weapon from the knowledge supplied by such subversive organizations as UC Berkley, Cosmos Magazine and Amazon.com.
It doesn't matter, ultimately, how much knowledge you attain via The Google. Realistically, you'd need tens of millions of dollars; centrifuges; radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium; delicious yellow cake; various important-looking scientists (I recommend Germans -- they're really sciency); missile launching gadgets; rocket fuel; helmets; radiation suits; protective eyewear; and all varieties of other fancy-shmancy resources in order to build an actual bomb.
In addition, you'd also need to be savvy and sneaky enough to engage in this Herculean task without being detected by the United Nations' IAEA inspectors who are very smart and tenacious. If you manage to dodge them, you'll still be in plain view of dozens of spy satellites aimed at every square inch of your crappy square of desert. Or you could be stymied by an array of undercover nonproliferation intelligence operatives like, for instance, Valerie Plame-Wilson (before she was deliberately outted by Karl Rove and the Bush White House).
Altogether, building a nuclear weapon seems like a massive pain in the ass, which is probably why there are only nine countries in the entire history of the world that have successfully constructed one, and it's probably why Iran -- with its pathetic economy and spazzy, bearded-Jamie-Farr president -- shut down its weapons program four years ago.
In stark contrast to actually building a weapon, attaining the knowledge to build one is the easiest part and therefore the most common.
Why else would President Bush cite knowledge as the qualifier? Knowledge is also the simplest justification to lie about due to the fact that it's so insanely difficult disprove. Oh, and it's a perfect fit for rallying the president's dingus base -- they hate anything that has to do with knownin' shit.
As such, it appears to be a policy that's been brewing in the White House for much longer than a week, which begs the question: what did the president know about Iran suspending its weapons program and when did he know it?
During Tuesday's news conference, the president said that he was first briefed on the NIE last Wednesday, November 28. This was a gigantic lie. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley inadvertently and preemptively debunked it on Monday when he said that the president was briefed much earlier -- perhaps as early as August or September -- about the content of the NIE. Then we have this from the president:
"In August, I think it was John Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was."
JOHN MIKE: Yo Bushie! I have some new information but I'm not telling. Bye!
THE PRESIDENT: Joke's on you, John Mike. I didn't wanna know anyway. Eh-eh-eh.
Obviously, Mike McConnell briefed the president and told him that Iran very likely ended its program in 2003. But the president thinks we're as spongy-skulled as he is so most of us will buy this raft of shitola. The cynical politics of Karl Rove lives on and on.
Furthermore, Seymour Hersh told CNN on Tuesday that the president mentioned the NIE findings to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert on November 26.
And flash back to a little more than a year ago when Hersh wrote in the New Yorker (via TPM) that the administration was aware of and resistant to a top secret CIA report which corresponded precisely with the findings of this new NIE. Yet the White House continued to push for war in Iran for an entire year anyway. Hersh:
"They're not looking for a smoking gun," the [senior intelligence] official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. "They're looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission."
"The knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon" qualifies as both "comfortable" as and "less than a smoking gun," so it was added to the list of justifications -- justifications which included various other abandoned or debunked reasons for attacking Iran.
Back in October, the president remarked with a big smirky grin stretched diagonally across his spongy skull about the possibility of World War III if Iran attained the knowledge to build a weapon. The obnoxious, grinning hyperbole of the phrase "World War III" nearly eclipsed the fact that the president officially announced knowledge as the policy that day. Tuesday he reaffirmed it, and lied all the way through.
In the case of Iraq lies, the Bush Republicans reached the bottom of the bogus justification slag heap when Rick Santorum announced that he found the Iraqi WMD -- WMD that were chemically expired because they predated the first Gulf War -- but he found the WMD anyway. And then he was laughed out of office.
The administration has reached a similar point of desperation with this ridiculous knowledge argument, especially now that it's an on-the-record fact that Iran isn't developing a nuclear weapon. Then again, much like he did with Iraq, President Bush was lying, President Bush is lying, and President Bush will lie again about his approach to Iran. At least, after seven years, you and I have the knowledge to catch him doing it.
This entry was posted on Dec 06, 2007 at 09:07:22 am and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Bush previously said that Iran's nuclear ambitions could bring about a third world war [AFP]
By Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst
"Dishonest", "misleading", "lying" and "spinning" are just some of the measured adjectives used in the mainstream US media to characterise George Bush, the president, and Stephen Hadley, his national security adviser, after they embraced the damning National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) summary report on Iran as proof of the effectiveness and success of the administration's Tehran policy.
The NIE judges "with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme", and that "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005".
NIE report: Iran Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities
It further said that "...Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs". And that "this NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons".
The White House seems to have known of much of this and more for some time, but chose to escalate the war rhetoric against Tehran.
Depending on which version of the story one believes, the White House knew about the "discovery" any time between last spring and summer.
Even when new intelligence compelled the National Intelligence Board (NIB) to make a 180-degree change in its estimate, rendering the Iranian threat anything but imminent, administration officials continued to speak of the threat of Iran's nuclear weapons programme until hours before its publication.
The White House sent its third carrier into the Gulf transforming its "crisis management" mode with Iran into direct "confrontation management" and sealing the war scenario against Tehran when the decision comes down.
President Bush also warned during a news conference on October 17 that an Iranian nuclear bomb could lead to "world war three" and asked Congress to pass the highest defence budget in the history of the country, mostly under the guise of an imminent Iranian threat that he knew did not exist.
In a repeat of the dreadful and misleading escalation against Iraq prior to its 2003 invasion, the Bush administration escalated the war rhetoric against Tehran even though it knew with high confidence that it had no programme, no capability and, with moderate confidence, no intention of developing a nuclear weapons programme.
The leading presidential candidates followed suit.
Rudy Giuliani claimed: "As we all know, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and they're threatening to use them."
Likewise, Senator John McCain insisted: "There's no doubt that [Iran is] moving forward with the acquisition of a nuclear weapon."
And Hillary Clinton, before giving the president another vote of confidence to go to war, insisted that "Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism."
To the surprise of many Western observers, it turns out that the policies of the Iranian and Iraqi leaders were based on realistic "cost and benefit" grounds, not the irrational behaviour Washington accused them of as dangerous and unpredictable crazies.
On the other hand, the Bush administration's war policies towards Iraq and Iran have proven to be hardly cost and benefit driven even when calculating the oil and strategic interests.
Worse, the Bush administration lost all credibility when it went on to intimidate its allies and foes alike to punish Iran. It also attacked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Mohamed ElBaradai, its director, for being soft on Iran, knowing all too well that they have been right all along.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of sate, told ElBaradei that his body was not "in the business of diplomacy".
ElBaradei, to his credit, has long believed Iran possessed no nuclear weapons programme and made a deal under which it would answer long-standing questions about its nuclear activities.
According to Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bush knew about the new information regarding Iran's nuclear programme, because he and his deputy on the committee were also informed, albeit in a more general manner, by the intelligence community.
Gary Sick, a US-based Iran expert, estimates that the president might have known some nine months ago, when according to him the Iranian deputy defence minister defected to the West.
On November 14, Mike McConnell, NIE director, told the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars that he was not going to make his report public. Which begs the question, why has the White House allowed the publication of this embarrassing report?
Two possible scenarios have surfaced since the publication:
First, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, insisted on it. The Pentagon finances most of the programmes and departments that contribute to the NIE database.
Unlike the 2005 pro-war Rumsfeld, Gates does not want another Middle Eastern war as he told Congress recently, especially in light of the debacle in Iraq.
Second, it seems that congressional leaders who oppose Bush's Iran policy insisted that it be publicised after hearing or reading some of its preliminary conclusions.
In an election year, any such news is good news for the Democrats.
By default or by design?
Some believe that the Bush administration, famous for its political discipline, is none the less using the NIE in a clever, even if desperate, attempt to climb down from the hysterical "Carthage must be destroyed" line.
After all, how many times can you mention world war three without eventually having to start it?
Now that it is out, the new estimate could neutralise the neo-conservative fringe, and let the administration out of a rhetorical corner.
The White House announcement of the president's Middle East trip at the beginning of next year, following the attendance this week by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the Iranian president, at the Gulf co-operation summit, underlines the desire to relax tensions in the region following Annapolis and the relative "improvements" of the Iraq situation.
Today and in light of the NIE findings, some observers believe the central issue for the US and Iran is no longer the nuclear question but rather the future of Iraq.
The US understands that it "needs Iran for the endgame in Iraq", while for Iran, the recent developments in Iraq encourage it to make a deal with Washington before the latter strikes a deal with its adversaries.
Now that the new estimate is out, something has got to give.
First, international and domestic pressure will build up against a pre-emptive strike and, my guess, at least two permanent members will stand against another UN Security Council resolution punishing Iran, despite its civilian programme that contradicts past resolutions.
Second, the NIE publication might pave the way to bilateral negotiations between the US and Iran without stiff preconditions in order to relax the tensions in the Gulf with the participation of Iran's Arab neighbours, as well as its European allies.
Now that the nuclear roadblock is out of the way, Washington will find it ever more necessary and ever more enticing to talk to Iran about a "helpful" and perhaps beneficial role for itself and Iraq in the Gulf.
Either way, the White House will certainly face more questions and inquiries regarding the discrepancies of timings and policies; as more insiders come clean on US policy towards Iran. Americans would want to know what Bush and Co knew, when did they know it and what have they done or not done about it?
As so many commentators have said the morning after Bush and Hadley embraced the NIE report, the central question begging for an answer revolves around how corrupt politics have lead to dangerous policies.
This entry was posted on Dec 05, 2007 at 10:41:02 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
And what do you think of the very popular view by a leading Israeli analyst Obadiah Shoher? He argues (here, for example, www. samsonblinded.org/blog/america-arranges-a-peace-deal-with-iran.htm ) that the Bush Administration made a deal with Iran: nuclear program in exchange for curtailing the Iranian support for Iraqi terrorists. His story seems plausible, isn't it?
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GAZA, Palestine _ Israeli artillery killed three Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya on Wednesday morning, medical sources said.
Ambulance crews found the three bodies, and two others wounded, near the Ash-Shayma school in Beit Lahiya. The dead and injured were taken to Kamal Udwan hospital.
The two dead men were identified as Muhammad Subih, and Iyad Aziz. Ali Subih was left in a coma and died in the hospital. All three men, were activists with Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades.
Muawiya Hassanein, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said the Israeli forces once again used illegal weapons such as cluser bombs and nail-filled shells in Wednesday's attack.
Hamas calls on Arab states to oppose Israeli escalation in Gaza
Hamas called on the Arab states that attended the Annapolis summit to denounce the Israeli escalation on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning.
Israeli airstrikes have become a daily occurrence in Gaza, with two more Hamas activists killed on Wednesday morning. Israel has also cut off most fuel supplies to the coastal territory.
A Hamas statement called the escalation a "US-Israeli political decision," and accused the West Bank-based Palestinian caretaker government, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, of colluding with the Israeli occupation to intensify the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas also called on armed Palestinian factions to be prepared to respond to Israel's atrocities.
This entry was posted on Dec 05, 2007 at 09:23:42 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Saed Bannoura
According to eyewitnesses, a group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian child in Tuba’ village, near Hebron, and stole his donkey after pelting him with stones.
The incident took place on Saturday, just after a protest in which Israeli, international and Palestinian peace activists marched in opposition to ongoing settler violence in the area.
Villagers attempted to intervene on the child’s behalf, asking the Israeli police to retrieve the donkey that was stolen from the boy, but they were unsuccessful.
Then, Israeli activists with the peace initiative Ta’ayush attempted to march to the nearby Havot Ma’on settlement, where the attackers had taken the donkey. They were blocked at the entrance to the settlement by Israeli police.
Children from the village of Tuba’ are forced to take a long and circuitous route to reach their school in neighboring at-Tuwani village in order to avoid attacks by the settlers from Havot Ma’on settlement.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 10:56:34 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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BETHLEHEM, Palestine _ Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed Palestinian man in the village of At-Tira, near Ramallah on Sunday, witnesses said.
Thirty-one-year-old Firas Qasqas from the village of Battir, near Bethlehem, died of his wounds on Monday in a Ramallah hospital, his family said. He was visiting his brother-in-law in At-Tira at the time of the shooting.
Qasqas's brother-in-law Jamil said that they were out for an evening walk when Israeli forces attacked them: "Firas visited me to congratulate me on the new house. After we had dinner, we went out for a walk in the fields not far away from my residence. My little brother joined us. All of a sudden, seven Israeli soldiers surprised us shooting randomly at us."
"I found shelter behind the rocks along with my brother, but Firas was shot in his thigh and stomach. Then I stood up and shouted at the Israeli soldiers asking for help, but they only watched us before I went to the neighboring houses and asked local residents to help us take Firas to hospital," he said.
Jamil stressed that he and his brother-in-law were walking in an open field, with no Israeli military bases or settlements nearby.
Medical officials said the body was transferred from a Ramallah to the village of Battir, where he is to be buried.
Qasqas is survived by his wife and three young daughters.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 10:48:44 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
If you want to see true devils on this land , one should go and watch the cruel Israelis whose hands do not shake while killing anyone, and making a family support-less, making children orphan. I sometimes feel very surprised what kind of upbringing , what kind of religious study make them feel comfortable in stealing others land, harassing innocent people and killing anyone anytime. A true shame on this earth.
The following is a typically disgusting reply to a letter of protest we sent to the Israeli Embassy in London. We will of course reply and continue to fight for Justice for the memmory and family of Firas Qasqas Friends of Battir, Thank you for your email. I am a little unsure as to what you want. I assume you are simply writing on principle, since your “we therefore demand” does not include anything specific. However, could you please provide me with more information about this case, and where you received this information. I have no doubt that you are lobbying in good faith, but many of the complaints we receive are based on half-truths and downright lies from third sources. For one thing, I am most suspicious that you believe Mr Qasqas to have been randomly shot for no reason. The IDF does not arbitrarily shoot people. If, however, the law has been broken, the transgressor will be bought to justice (as has happened in the past). Thank you, Robin Hamilton-Taylor Public Affairs Embassy of Israel Tel: 020 7957 9505 http://london.mfa.gov.il Fax: 020 7957 5555 Subject: Re The murder of Feras Mousa Qasqas From Luton Friends of Battir Dave Barnes Secretary To Ambassador Zvi Heifetz Embassy of Israel 2 Palace Gardens London W8 4QB Tel 020 7957 9500 Fax 020 7957 9555 9 Dec 2007 Re The Murder of Feras Mousa Qasqas from Battir On Sunday 2nd Dec 2007 Israeli soldiers near Ramallah shot Feras Mousa Qasqas. Feras was unarmed and posed no threat to Israel and yet was shot twice and left to bleed to death. Feras is survived by his wife and their three children for whom life will never be the same again. We the undersigned are supporters of a twinning link between the village of Battir and Luton town. We have been campaigning for a year and a half to develop close friendships and ties with this Palestinian village and treat any injury to them as an assault on us. We are fully aware of the brutal nature of Israel ’s occupation of Palestinian land and recognise that such killings are far from exceptional. We will however promise you that we will pursue this matter to seek justice for the family of Feras Mousa Qasqas as if it was a murder that took place in Luton . We therefore demand that all those responsible for the murder of Feras Mousa Qasqas are brought to justice for this crime.
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By Jamal Juma', The Electronic Intifada, 2 December 2007
Last Tuesday's demonstrations, which brought thousands onto the streets of Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkarem, Nablus and Gaza in defiance of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) attempt to silence the peoples' voice, represented a crucial moment for Palestine.
Our demonstration, which was supported by the Popular Committees of the Refugee Camps and over 150 civil society organizations and representatives, called for the upholding of the fundamental principles of our struggle: the right of the refugees to return, the right to Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and the right to our land. We were refusing the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as this would legitimize the Zionist ideology of colonialism, racism and ethnic cleansing, and effectively exonerate Israel from the crimes of the Nakba, waiving the right of return. Such recognition would justify and reinforce the Israeli system of apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The Palestine that we are fighting for is one which upholds the fundamental principles of our national rights and equality, and which respects the democratic right of the people to express their views in protest on the streets. The PA has shown that they do not share this vision. On Tuesday they attempted to prevent the people from asserting their rights, first by banning demonstrations and then by attacking us with tear gas, batons and military jeeps.
The departure of the occupation from our land and the right of the refugees to return is non-negotiable, as is the question of Jerusalem. For the oppressed and occupied, ongoing struggle and resistance using all necessary means is not only our right, it is our obligation in front of all those that have sacrificed before us and the future generation that has the right to live in freedom. It is our only tool to ensure that "negotiations" talk about how to achieve our rights and not how to abandon them step by step. Yet for the first time in the sixty years of our struggle, those who claim to represent us at a national level are no longer talking about resistance to the attacks of the occupiers. Instead, they are disingenuously opening up negotiations relying on the US, the occupation's most ardent backer, to act as an "honest broker."
Tuesday's actions were important in themselves as an expression of the voices raised against Annapolis, but also because by defying the ban on demonstrations, the popular committees, representatives of civil society and political parties threw down a powerful challenge to the Palestinian leadership: as the pressure for normalization grows, so the grassroots anti-normalization movement is growing. In the last month, the One Voice initiative, an attempt to coerce Palestinians into denying their own rights while recognizing their occupiers, was defeated by grassroots activists. Last week, Ramallah hosted a conference strategizing to beat the occupation through boycott, divestment and sanctions. Palestinians from within the Green Line voiced their powerful opposition to recognition of a Jewish state on their lands in a unanimous decision made by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the senior representative body of Palestinian citizens in Israel. The demonstrations on Tuesday were not an isolated protest; they were part of a wide popular movement against concessions on basic principles, and against an apparent acceptance on the part of the Palestinian leadership of the isolation of Palestinians within the Green Line, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and in the Diaspora from each other. At the Cyprus conference in October, Palestinians inside Israel called Palestinians from all over their homeland and the diaspora together to build unified strategies and follow up mechanisms, as a powerful counterpoint to Israeli bantustanization.
In Annapolis, the Authority did not raise the issue of Palestinians within the Green Line, nor the right of return, nor the criminal siege of Gaza. The Wall caging Palestinians in the West Bank into ghettos was not on the agenda. Those appointed to rule the West Bank bantustans showed that they were not even representing the Palestinians there when they brutally repressed our protests. In this so-called "peace process," only a tiny portion of Palestinians are represented: they are laying the ground for an outcome that the Palestinian people cannot and will not accept.
The so-called "peace process" demands not only that the PA clamp down on armed resistance: it is also becoming clear that it will require the repression of all of us who reject the abandonment of our rights. The Palestinian people who are confronting the Israeli occupation day after day have not been consulted or informed about the negotiations: they only are to feel the batons when they disagree and call out for their rights. Tuesday was a testing ground to determine whether the PA will be able to make the Palestinian people swallow a second Oslo, further compromising our rights.
The gulf between the PA and the Palestinian people is becoming increasingly obvious. Indeed the whole range of Palestinian political and social forces joined in condemning the repression on Tuesday. The choice for the PA is clear: either to go along with the dictates of the US and the occupation; or to radically alter their course, to return to the people and remember that they are leaders of the Palestinian national struggle. The grassroots movement against normalization with the occupiers will continue to grow. Resistance will continue as the Palestinian people assert their fundamental rights.
Jamal Juma' is coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 08:40:42 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
In the United States of America
On Sunday, December 2, 2007, Venezuelan voters once again exercised their rights in an overwhelming display of the country’s vibrant democratic system. Though a set of proposed constitutional reforms were not accepted by voters – less than 2 percent separated the “Yes” and “No” options – the results are another step in the longstanding democratic debate started by President Hugo Chávez on how to shape a new and better Venezuela.
The manner in which the referendum was carried out and its result speaks to both to the legitimacy and independence of Venezuela’s electoral authority, the National Electoral Council, and the strengthening of the 1999 Constitution. It is now irrefutable that Venezuela’s elections are free, fair and fully transparent. Moreover, it is finally clear that the 1999 Constitution and the principles that underpin it – including participatory democracy, a social economy and equality for all Venezuelans – are now widely accepted as representing the new Venezuela that is being created.
Regardless, both the U.S. government and the media consistently attacked Venezuela’s electoral system and democracy in the months leading up to the referendum. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times dedicated over 11,000 words in 18 op-eds or editorials to attacking Venezuela just in the last month. Meanwhile, on Friday, November 30, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino called into question Venezuela’s electoral system, while on December 3 Undersecretary of State Nicolas Burns and National Security Council spokesperson Gordon Johndroe expressed their happiness with the result instead of issuing an apology and recognizing the transparency of the electoral system and Venezuela’s vibrant participatory democracy.
These statements serve as evidence of a clear double standard in which Venezuela’s electoral system is judged not on how effectively it serves voters, but rather on whether the final results it emits agree with U.S. policy.
Moreover, in various statements U.S. officials tried to claim that the result of the referendum was somehow linked to a perceived disapproval of the Venezuelan government. This opinion is clear expression of U.S. interventionism in Venezuelan affairs, and stands in stark contrast to that taken by other governments and international observers. The 100-120 observers – which came from 39 countries – verified the legitimacy of the CNE and the results of referendum, while various countries and institutions, including the OAS, congratulated Venezuela for an exemplar electoral process. Additionally, Venezuelan opposition groups also recognized, for the first time, the transparency of the electoral system and CNE handling of the election.
Since 1998, Venezuelans have been called to cast their votes 12 times. In addition, the Venezuelan people have become engaged citizens, participating in debates and discussions on everything from local water usage to how Venezuela can establish the foundations for a more equitable and efficient government. The process of the referendum demonstrates the full and irrefutable democratic character and agenda of the government of President Chávez, as well as the insistence of the government to submit to public debate and approval the discussion of how to best fulfill and deepen the principles of the 1999 Constitution.
Washington DC, December 3, 2007
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Venezuelans have rejected constitutional changes proposed by Hugo Chavez, the president, in a close-run referendum, the National Electoral Council has declared.
Chavez conceded defeat in a live broadcast on Monday, having narrowly lost the vote on the changes which included the removing limits on the number of terms he could stay in office.
The electoral authority announced early on Monday the "No" camp had won 51 per cent of the vote compared to the pro-Chavez "Yes" camp's 49 per cent.
It said the result could not be reversed with the number of uncounted votes remaining and declared Chavez the loser.
It was the first victory for a against the populist president after nine years of electoral defeats.
Opponents claimed the defeat of the constitutional changes "a victory for Venezuelan democracy".
"He wanted to turn Venezuela from a democracy to a socialist state in which he would have almost full power," Adolfo Taylhardat, an opposition politician, said.
Chavez's 69 proposed changes would have allowed him to control Venezuela's foreign currency reserves, appoint regional elected officials and censor the media if he declares an emergency.
It would also have allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely.
Opposition parties, business lobbies and the Roman Catholic Church were among the opponents who lined up against Chavez, calling the proposed changes authoritarian.
"This was a photo finish," Chavez said immediately after the vote, adding that his respect for the results proved that, unlike past Venezuelan governments, he respects the will of the people.
He said he would "continue in the battle to build socialism" and told his supporters: "Don't feel sad".
Chavez publicly congratulated the opposition and urged restraint from both sides.
"I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory," he said. "You won it. I wouldn't have wanted that Pyrrhic victory."
Tensions had surged in recent weeks as university students led protests and occasionally clashed with police and pro-Chavez supporters.
George Ciccariello, an expert on Venezuela with the University of California at Berkeley in the US, said there had been "a great deal of disinformation" about Chavez's campaign prior to the vote.
"There were rumors, there was pamphleteering, there was printing false copies of the reform proposal.
"That said, though, Chavez really took a hit on this in terms of his moderate supporters not turning up to vote."
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By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.
The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.
The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”
Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.
But the new estimate declares with “high confidence” that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt “was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”
The estimate does not say when American intelligence agencies learned that the weapons program had been halted, but a statement issued by Donald Kerr, the principal director of national intelligence, said the document was being made public “since our understanding of Iran’s capabilities has changed.”
Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.” The administration called new attention to the threat posed by Iran earlier this year when President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.
Yet at the same time officials were airing these dire warnings about the Iranian threat, analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency were secretly concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons work halted years ago and that international pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran was working.
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, portrayed the assessment as “directly challenging some of this administration’s alarming rhetoric about the threat posed by Iran.” He said he hoped the administration “appropriately adjusts its rhetoric and policy,” and called for a “a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.”
But the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quickly issued a statement describing the N.I.E. as containing positive news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes.
“It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,” Mr. Hadley said. “It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”
“The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically — without the use of force — as the administration has been trying to do,” Mr. Hadley said.
The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program — an estimate that led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq, although most of the report’s conclusions turned out to be wrong.
Intelligence officials said that the specter of the botched 2002 N.I.E. hung over their deliberations over the Iran assessment, leading them to treat the document with particular caution.
“We felt that we needed to scrub all the assessments and sources to make sure we weren’t misleading ourselves,” said one senior intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
This entry was posted on Dec 03, 2007 at 06:30:23 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By Amira Hass
Original Hebrew: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/928977.html
Khaled rarely takes his children to the village of his birth in the western part of the West Bank, south of Qalqilya. It`s hard for him to sit on the roof of his parents` home and from there look out at the family land (about 500 meters away) without being able to reach it. This land had always been a kind of insurance; security for a continuing income, where all the brothers and sisters worked and from which they all benefited. It guaranteed respite from the urban crowd and was also a kind of savings and security for a time of need - sickness, heaven forbid; or higher education for the grandchildren. It was always possible to sell a dunam or to build on it in order to realize a dream.
Between the roof and the promise, between him and the 20 dunams that remained in the family`s possession, was the separation fence, an ugly scar of high fencing, barbed wire, and wide strips of exposed earth where a row of trees had been uprooted and whose absence remains painful like the stump of a missing limb.
The roof of his childhood home is Khaled`s Mount Nevo. He sees the promised land so close and cannot reach it. Staff of the Civil Authority take care to create lengthy, complicated bureaucratic procedures for Palestinians to try to gain periodic entrance permits to reach the private lands beyond the fence. By the time the processes are understood, they change, and the criteria become yet more restricted.
The result: parents get entrance permits to their land, but they can`t work the land alone. Children and grandchildren can get permits but not as members of the family, only as hired workers. Such permits are limited to a small number of days, and they are not suited to those who have regular jobs elsewhere. Moreover, the very necessity of requesting a permit to reach the family property - all that only if you can prove you have a justifiable reason for wanting to be on your own land - is so infuriating that they give up without trying.
In the West Bank there are about two million Khaleds. In every village and city many families have land that Israel prevents them from reaching, like land in area C (60% of the West Bank), by means of the separation barrier, security roads of Jewish settlements, settlements built on part of the land that blocks access to the land that hasn`t been confiscated, roads that are forbidden to Palestinian travel, closed military areas, army camps, or army road blocks.
Every Palestinian has their own Mount Nevo, from which they see the land, which has as much emotional as material value, being taken away from them. When a fire breaks out, as has happened more than once on the land of Kafin, it`s impossible to reach it and put out the fire in time. If one wants to grow vegetables, it`s impossible to irrigate them because the well is in the part of the private land that has been confiscated for the use of the nearby settlement, as was the case with Abu Fahmi from Dir Istiya. And when settlers occupy the land, it`s impossible to get rid of them, as was the case with the land belonging to the Kadan family from El Bireh when youths from Bet El turned their private property into a place of worship. The Civil Administration did remove the settlers from this intrusion, but in any case the army does not allow the Palestinians to come there. The result is the same: the land cannot be used.
The Israeli government is praised for its vision of two states for two peoples, apparently adopted by its leaders and brought by them to Annapolis. But Israel refuses to commit to a time table for implementing the vision. Meanwhile, its faithful messengers in the army and in the Civil authority and the settlers as well hold ongoing one-sided negotiations on the fate and shape of the future Palestinian state. They are doing everything to ensure that millions of dunams of land, the land reserve of the future Palestinian state, will not be returned to its lawful owners. They cause more and more land to be seen as abandoned land or what is known in Israeli Orwellian as absentee property, that is, land that the state of the Jewish people has learned to pronounce as being state owned in practice.
This entry was posted on Dec 02, 2007 at 11:00:37 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Islamic Jihad leader: Hamas and Fatah to meet in Cairo
GAZA, Palestine _ Islamic Jihad leader Khalid al-Batsh revealed to Ma'an on Sunday that there will be talks in Cairo between all Palestinian factions including Hamas and Fatah rivals in attempts to bring to an end the interim inter-Palestinian crisis.
He added that Islamic Jihad is exerting every effort to bring about dialogue in Cairo and Mecca, aimed at ending the political stalemate in the Palestinian territories.
He said Islamic Jihad is in the centre of the political spectrum between both Hamas and Fatah, despite the clashes with Hamas forces which have resulted in the deaths of some Islamic Jihad members.
This is the full interview with Khalid Al-Batsh:
Q: After six months of Hamas' control over the Gaza Strip, is there any progress towards dialogue to end this state of emergency?
A: Islamic Jihad has always announced its opposition to the conflict and we consider its outcome unacceptable. Consequently, we demand the resumption of dialogue so as to change this bitter situation and unite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under one Palestinian government which serves the Palestinian interests. To achieve this, both Hamas and Fatah have to stop sedition campaigns and halt night attacks against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian people can not remain hostages of rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. We have to end this state of division in order to counter the major danger of the Israeli occupation.
Q: Do we expect Arab countries such as Egypt, which previously patronized this dialogue, to play a role again?
A: Before we talk about Egypt, we have to pinpoint that Islamic Jihad is conducting ongoing high level contact between Hamas and Fatah to end the crisis.
These efforts are always enhanced by the Popular and the Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine among other factions. We realize that real dialogue can only be held in Cairo and Mecca, because Egypt and Saudi Arabia have played major roles in the past to reconcile between Hamas and Fatah. However, Islamic Jihad should take the initiative and take the first step towards dialogue.
I believe countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia will play a significant role in reconciliation, and we might see, in the near future, meetings in Cairo between the Palestinian factions aimed at ending the state of division in the Palestinian political arena.
Q: The Annapolis conference is over, and you were worried about its results. What are you afraid of now after the conference?
A: First of all, the conference gave the Palestinians nothing. When we said it was not expected to be beneficial to the Palestinians, some said it would give them a state. There was no state declared neither was the embargo lifted. The Arab peace initiative, which Islamic Jihad had rejected, was not accredited either. The conference might have been an opportunity for economic relations between Israel and the Arab states.
We were included in the conference's front page, but when it came to reality, the conference discussed issues such as attacking Iran, Hezbollah and Syria in addition to preparing to invade the Gaza Strip.
Q: What is your stance towards the Fatah-Hamas dispute?
Frankly speaking, we do not side with one party against the other. We are against one government in the Gaza Strip and another in the West Bank, because this is against the interests of the Palestinian people. Consequently, we reject the practices of the Hamas-affiliated police forces in the Gaza Strip and those of the Fatah-affiliated police in Ramallah. We are part of the solution, but not part of the crisis.
Q: There have been several problems between you and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, then things calmed down. Have you reached an agreement?
The troubles with Hamas in the Gaza Strip harmed us as we lost many of our loved ones. However, we endeavored to contain the crisis and hoped it would not be repeated again. We reached agreement banning confrontations as we preach the same Islamic ideology and we do not wish to control ministries or security services. We have a joint scheme, which is resistance which we endeavor to keep away from in-fighting.
This entry was posted on Dec 02, 2007 at 10:11:24 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Olmert says Israel will make "an effort" to hold talks speedily but "no commitment" to the deadline [AFP]
Less than a week after agreeing to work towards a peace deal with Palestinians by December 2008, the Israeli prime minister has told his cabinet that he will not be bound by the deadline.
"We will make an effort to hold speedy negotiations in the hope we may conclude by the end of 2008, but certainly there is no commitment for a firm timetable for their completion," Ehud Olmert said at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Launching the first formal peace talks in seven years at the Middle East conference in the American city of Annapolis last week, Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, agreed to try to reach a deal on creating a Palestinian state by the end of next year.
Speaking at the first cabinet meeting since Annapolis, however, Olmert urged caution.
In an apparent hint to right-wing coalition partners that he was not planning concessions without a reciprocal move from the Palestinians, Olmert said any progress on peace would depend on adhering to commitments under a stalled US peace "road map".
"The most important thing in the joint statement is that ... any agreement that we reach in the future will be dependent on completion of all road map commitments.
"In other words, Israel will not have to implement any commitment which emanates from the agreement before all the road map commitments have been met," he said.
UN draft withdrawn
Olmert's comments came after the US withdrew a draft United Nations resolution endorsing action agreed to at Annapolis.
Although Israel apparently had no problems with the uncontroversial text, it said a resolution was inappropriate.
Analysts suggested it was worried a formal resolution would get the UN too involved in Middle East conflict resolution efforts.
The 2003 US road map provides benchmarks that include a freeze of Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, as well as a Palestinian crackdown on armed groups.
Both sides accuse the other of not meeting those benchmarks.
Israel has said it will release about 430 Palestinian prisoners on Monday as part of efforts to bolster Abbas against political rivals Hamas which seized the Gaza Strip in June and rejected the Annapolis talks and agreement.
On Sunday, Israeli artillery fire killed one Palestinian fighter and wounded five others in the Gaza Strip, Hamas said.
Hours earlier, three Israeli soldiers were injured by a mortar.
The Israeli military confirmed that it had fired on "suspicious silhouettes approaching the security barrier" and that three of its soldiers "were lightly wounded … by a mortar round fired from the Gaza Strip".
Israel regularly launches raids into Gaza to try to stop rockets from being fired at Israeli towns and said on Sunday it had stepped up attacks in the coastal strip in the past week.
A statement said Ehud Barak, the defence minister, had told ministers he had authorised more military action in Gaza, including the targeting of "manned military Hamas targets".
Barak said Israel had killed 22 fighters in the past week.
Israel also reduced the amount of fuel allowed into the coastal strip last month.
The move - which Israeli said was in response to the rocket salvoes - has left most Gaza petrol stations closed and brought traffic almost to a halt.
Mahmoud al-Khuzundar, the chairman of the society of petrol company owners, said on Sunday that "cooking gas will run out within days and cars will stop within hours".
This entry was posted on Dec 02, 2007 at 09:08:54 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
Just one small problem with this analysis - it's a total fabrication. There was no deadline; there was merely the agreement to try to reach an agreement by the end of next year.
Actually, there are lots more problems with this absurd article; basically, it's absurd in its entirety.
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Chavez says the constitutional changes are vital
to his "21st century socialism"
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, will face his stiffest challenge in years when voters decide whether to approve constitutional changes that would greatly expand his powers.
An emboldened opposition and recent violent clashes during street protests have created fears of a potentially volatile dispute if Sunday's vote is close.
Chavez has warned opponents he will not tolerate attempts to stir up violence, and threatened to cut off all oil exports if the US interferes in the referendum.
Reiterating a threat made on Saturday, he said: "There will be no oil for anyone, and the price per barrel will go up to $200 dollars."
The United States remains the number one buyer of Venezuelan oil.
Chavez says the changes are vital for his plans for "21st century socialism," and labels those who resist it pawns of the US president.
While the government has touted polls showing Chavez ahead, other surveys cited by the opposition have indicated strong resistance, which would present a challenge for a leader who won re-election last year with 63 per cent of the vote.
Luis Vicente Leon, a pollster, said tracking polls by his firm Datanalisis in the past week show the vote is too close to predict.
Which side wins will depend largely on turnout among Chavez's supporters and opponents, he said.
"Chavez is a very popular president still and he is counting on his own personal appeal to get the vote out in his favour"
Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera
Send us your views
"If he wins by a very small margin, that's a scenario filled with conflict," Leon said.
"In a country where there are high levels of mistrust between the camps, it's obvious the opposition ... would think it was fraud."
The opposition has called for close monitoring of the results, raising tensions ahead of a vote on changes that would extend presidential terms from six to seven years, create new forms of communal property, and let Chavez seek re-election in 2012 and beyond.
About 100 electoral observers from 39 countries in Latin America, Europe and the US are on hand, plus hundreds of Venezuelan observers, the National Electoral Council said.
Chavez has accused his opponents of plotting to discredit the legitimate results of what he says will be a "knockout" at the polls, saying his enemies enjoy support from Washington.
Manuel Rosales, a Venezuelan opposition leader and the governor of Zulia state, recalled before a crowd of supporters on Friday night that he conceded defeat in the 2006 presidential race and urged Chavez to do the same and "recognize the will of the people".
On Saturday, Chavez lashed out at Spain, threatening to seize Venezuela's Spanish-owned banks, unless the Spanish king apologises for telling him to "shut up" earlier this month.
"Spanish companies go away, we really don't need them," he said during a news conference at the presidential palace.
The United States is the number one buyer
of Venezuelan oil [AFP]
Some 140,000 soldiers and reservists were to be posted to maintain security during the vote, the defence ministry said.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, with university students lead protests and at times clashed with police and Chavista groups.
On Monday, one man was shot dead while trying to get through a road blocked by protesters.
Chavez, who has become Latin America's most outspoken antagonist of Washington since he was elected in 1998, has sought to capitalise on his personal popularity ahead of the vote.
He is seen by many supporters as a champion of the poor who has redistributed more oil wealth than any other leader in memory.
Opponents, including Roman Catholic leaders, press freedom groups, human rights groups and prominent business leaders, fear the reforms would grant Chavez unchecked power and threaten basic rights.
The changes would grant Chavez direct control over the Central Bank, allow his government to detain citizens without charge during a state of emergency, and empower the president to redraw the country's political map and handpick provincial and municipal leaders.
Other proposed changes - such as shortening the workday from eight hours to six, creating a social security fund for millions of informal labourers and promoting communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds - have been welcomed by suuporters.
This entry was posted on Dec 01, 2007 at 09:59:47 pm and is filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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In its latest trick, Israel is using the idea of a Palestinian state to ethnically cleanse itself and to keep its illegal settlements, marvels Saleh Al-Naami
Dismissed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh speaks at the beginning of a meeting of the sacked government at his office in Gaza; Palestinian youth demonstrate in support of their leader Mahmoud Abbas, near the Kalandia checkpoint; US President George W Bush shakes hands with Palestinian President Abbas; Palestinian demonstrators with chained hands protest in Gaza (photos: AFP)
The Israeli vice premier and minister of strategic threats (officially strategic affairs) Avigdor Lieberman doesn't let any opportunity pass without mentioning that the positions of the extreme right Israel Beituna Party that he heads have come to form a central "national" consensus in Israel. Lieberman does not conceal his relief that more parties and political movements in Israel have begun to adopt his party's position calling for the implementation of a land swap between Israel and a Palestinian state. In such a swap, the Palestinian leadership is supposed to agree to Israel annexing the major settlement conglomerations in the West Bank in return for annexing to a Palestinian state some of the residential areas in Israel in which the Palestinians live.
Lieberman has stressed that through this proposal Israel would achieve two strategic goals -- ridding itself of the Palestinian demographic burden within Israel, and at the same time wrenching agreement from the Palestinian leadership to annex settlement conglomerations in the West Bank to Israel. As Lieberman has clarified, the proposal is not a peace plan but rather a security plan, for he is concerned with the establishment of a Palestinian state on the condition that it contribute to solving Israel's demographic "problem". He fears Israel turning into a "bi-national" state if the natural growth of Palestinians within Israel continues as its current high rate.
More parties and political forces, both on the right and left, have become enthused over this idea of swapping land. Ephraim Sneh, a leader in the Labour Party and former Israeli deputy defence minister, holds that swapping land is the best solution to guaranteeing that "Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state". Even Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni has noted on more than one occasion that she is enthusiastic about the idea.
The idea of swapping land was first introduced during the Camp David II meeting in late 1999, when former US President Bill Clinton suggested that the Jewish settlement conglomerations remain under Israeli sovereignty while part of the resident-free Israeli area Halwasa be annexed to the Gaza Strip. This proposal was rejected by late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.
On the eve of the Annapolis conference, talk of land swapping increased, becoming a primary component of all the proposals put forth by Israeli officials. Yet no one in Israel is now proposing that Palestinians receive the Halwasa area; they are only offering some of the areas within Israel in which Palestinians reside to be exchanged for settlement conglomerations. The idea is fervently supported among researchers and the military elite in Tel Aviv. Gideon Begher, a professor of geography at Tel Aviv University, says that the idea of swapping land is alone capable of guaranteeing a Jewish majority while at the same time increasing the area of Jewish settlement. Begher says that swapping land between Israel and the Palestinian state would mean that Israel would rid itself of 200,000 Palestinians living within it.
Yet a close look at the map of the regions Israel is prepared to concede to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in exchange for settlement conglomerations shows that they include the city of Um Al-Faham and a group of towns and villages around it. This city is considered the stronghold of the Islamist movement in Israel under the leadership of Sheikh Raed Salah. The Israeli security agencies have concurred that this movement forms a "strategic threat" to Israel because it is an overtly religious movement and the one most extreme in its rejection of the "Jewish state". It calls for the boycott of Israel's "political institutions", defence of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and support of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in their struggle against the occupation.
From another perspective, the idea of swapping land is completely in keeping with Israel's demand that the PA acknowledge it as a Jewish state. As the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said, this acknowledgement would mean that the PA agreed that settlement of the conflict must ensure a continued Jewish majority in Israel, and would oblige the PA to give up implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they migrated from. It would also necessarily decrease the Palestinian presence within Israel.
Yet beyond the enthusiasm of officials and the elite in Israel for the idea of a land swap, what is the position of the PA? The Palestinian stance on this issue is hazy and sometimes contradictory. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Palestinian negotiations delegation Ahmed Qurei have announced that they reject the idea of swapping land. Yet the Israeli officials who have communicated with PA representatives affirm that the PA has indicated preliminary agreement to the idea. On 22 November, Israeli television Channel 2 revealed that in the discussions held between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations on the eve of travelling to the Annapolis conference, it had been agreed that the idea of a land swap between the two parties should be a part of the permanent solution to the conflict. The station added that the understanding between the two sides regarding a Palestinian state included a paragraph stating the "establishment of an unarmed Palestinian state whose borders are those determined by 1967 maps, with agreement on the borders' details based on security needs, demographic developments, and humanitarian requirements, which will open the door to a swapping of land at a 1:1 ratio, with preservation of the settlement blocs within Israel".
But what about the opinion of the Palestinians within Israel, who will be the primary victims of this idea of a land swap? Israeli Knesset member Jamal Zehalqa holds that the insistence of Israeli officials in proposing this idea aims to weaken the Palestinian minority within Israel and do away with its political role, marginalising its effect on decision-making circles in Tel Aviv. "We absolutely cannot accept this deal," he told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Can we accept exchanging Jerusalem for Um Al-Faham?" Zehalqa added that if they were insistent on the idea, then its basis should be a return to the 1947 borders, which would mean that Israel would withdraw from expansive areas in the Galilee and Triangle regions, which would be annexed to a Palestinian state.
Wadi Al-Awaadeh, editor-in-chief of the website arabs48.com that covers developments among the Palestinian minority within Israel, says that he rejects the principle of equating himself as a Palestinian citizen living within Israel with settlers. "We are the landowners; we were born and raised on our land," he told the Weekly. "Merely proposing this idea is an indication of Israel's racism, for it is prepared to divest citizenship from us as Arabs merely to grant legitimacy to the annexations of angry settlers." Al-Awaadeh pointed out an extremely important point, that Israel only proposes transferring land that Palestinian citizens live on, without transferring the agricultural land they own or other land the occupation authorities previously confiscated. "What about the social connections between people here?" he asked. "When they want to annex Um Al-Faham city to a Palestinian state, how can communications continue between the residents of this city and their relatives in other cities and residential areas that remain within Israel?"
Abdul-Hakm Mufid, a Palestinian academic who lives in Um Al-Faham, says that with regard to the principle he has no objection to living under the rule of a Palestinian state or any other Arab rule, but that he notes that the Israelis wanted to get rid of the demographic "burden" that the Palestinian minority creates. "Since the Zionist movement began to implement its settlement endeavour, it has stuck to the rule that control must be taken of the largest area of land with the smallest number of Arabs," he told the Weekly. "This rule has driven the Israeli leadership to propose the idea of swapping land."
There is no dispute between Mufid, Al-Awaadeh, and Zehalqa that the PA is responsible to a large degree for Israel daring to propose this idea they describe as "racist". "Despite the reassurances of Abu Mazen that the idea will be rejected, I hear other voices within the PA supporting the idea," said Zehalqa. Al-Awaadeh and Mufid hold that the PA is considered the "full partner" of Israel in its attempts to deny the Palestinians their rights.
Shalom Dichter, general director of the Sikway organisation, one concerned with dialogue between Jews and Palestinians within Israel, holds that the idea of swapping land and including it within the settlement to the conflict between the Palestinian people and Israel will destroy relations between Israel and the Palestinian minority living within it. "This will lead to transforming the dream of political peace into a civil nightmare," he says. "The insistence of Israeli officials in proposing such ideas to get rid of Palestinian citizens because of their ethnic affiliation casts doubt on the extent to which officials and the drafters of political plans in Israel understand the essence of the concept of citizenship as the basic humanitarian building block of a state," he continues.
In sum, Israel wants to employ a potential Palestinian state to implement a "demographic and geographic transfer" through which it could rid itself of the greatest number possible of the Palestinians and their descendants who remained on territory claimed by Israel in 1948.
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Serene Assir joins the Axis of Evil
Standing before a mixed but mainly Egyptian audience of at least 500, Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed mixes self- mockery with ridicule of global racism: "Arabs, we're the new black. Finally we get the lack of respect we deserve." The audience explodes into laughter, enthralled, as they identify with the politicised stand-up craze from Hollywood: Axis of Evil Comedy Tour.
Held at the Sawy Culture Wheel, the show is part of a Middle East tour covering Cairo, Amman, Dubai and Beirut and sponsored by Showtime Arabia. In Egypt it is presented by Ahmed who, energetic yet composed, instantly holds the attention of a predominantly young audience of bilinguals aware of the tension of being an Arab in the West. Recounting anecdotes based on personal experience, Ahmed pokes fun at his name, noting how common it is in Egypt as he points up the terror it inspires at United States and European airports, where it instantly raises the suspicion that its bearer is affiliated to Al-Qaeda. "I hate flying because my name's on nine lists," he says. "I Googled my name and it matches the name of a guy in the Middle East who's a terrorist. I think he's in the Middle East Googling me, going, 'There is this guy in America, man.' People go up to him to tell him, 'Hey man, you're so funny, tell me a joke.' 'I'm not the comedian! I'm a terrorist! You want me to prove it to you?'"
Then he goes on to introduce the cast members: Aron Kader (or Haroun Abu Khudeir) and Maz Jobrani, of Palestinian and Iranian origin, respectively, among others. He also describes the crew's name, Axis of Evil, as a response to US President George W Bush's 2002 characterisation of Iran, Syria and North Korea. "We looked for a North Korean, but we didn't find anyone," says Ahmed. Instead, Wonho Chung, from South Korea comes on stage, appearing timid and speaking only Korean to begin with. Encouraged by applause, Chung takes the microphone and gets ready to say something -- only to break into song in Arabic, followed by jokes in a hybrid of the Jordanian and Egyptian dialects (in honour of the Egyptian audience), which describe his experiences growing up in Amman.
For his part Kader, whose Palestinian father is from Shafat just south of Jerusalem and whose mother is a Mormon from the US, makes fun of how Palestinian events will always at some point feature a rendition of the dabka -- performing a warped version of the dance. Kader's humour is less pointedly political than Ahmed's and by spending most of his act making fun of male-female relations and the differences between how the two genders communicate, he manages to make it somewhat more universal. It seems he can't resist pulling a post-11 September mood joke though, suggesting that he will name his son Al, so that said son can be called Al "Kaidah", and his daughter, well -- Darth.
Finally Jobrani, who comes on stage to perform the highly energetic finale, combines charged politics with elements of the absurd. "There are Iranians in the US who don't want to be associated with Iran," he says. "They choose to call themselves Persian. 'I am Perrrrsian, like the cat, soft, you can pat me, miaoo.'" Particularly with an imminent strike on Iran, and with the historically tense Egyptian-Iranian relations, his presence on stage in Egypt is dramatic in its own way -- and he acknowledges this. He makes a point of differentiating between Iranians and Arabs, a difference which he points out many Americans ignore. Then he jumps back into the realm of the absurd by mimicking the difference in how Arabs and Iranians speak English. Absurd though his mimicry may be, the placement of the jokes in today's context is subtle and deeply striking.
In all, it appears that there is more than one goal that the Axis of Evil are seeking collectively to fulfil. Perhaps the key concept underlying their shows is the search for intercultural communication. "Like food, or music, comedy is a way to reach out and establish universality," Ahmed told Al-Ahram Weekly. By playing so heavily with stereotypes and images, the show also tactically deconstructs them, supplanting them with a new understanding of who the people with origins in the Middle East region really are.
"Americans have a very limited understanding of what happens beyond their borders. Very few of them even travel," he added.
Indeed, by performing in the Arab world, Axis of Evil are working to challenge that very lack of awareness. Showtime Arabia is documenting the shows and their journey, and the film will be aired in the US. "It's an interesting message," show-goer and teaching assistant at Misr International University Mahitab Khalil told the Weekly. "They want to show us Arabs to the Americans; they want to show them how hard we can laugh and enjoy ourselves."
But at a deeper level, a process of self-exploration is also going on, admittedly in different ways, among the Axis of Evil cast members. "For us, it's therapeutic to perform," Kader said. "We laugh at our own reality. That's why we find audiences are receptive -- because it's their reality too." Kader believes strongly in overt politically critical humour, while Ahmed feels he mustn't lose sight of the key purpose of his craft, which is entertainment. In this sense, the group's search for new comedians in the Arab world bore fruit through a series of auditions held in the various cities along their route, featuring budding stars aged as young as 12. "We found several who were good, and one who was a gem," said Ahmed, sad that so much talent is so often untapped in times as trying as these for the Arab world.
But for Kader, criticism emanates from a sense of responsibility. Speaking to the Weekly, he by no means appeared unaware of the risks involved. "People who go out there and are pro-war, they never get into trouble," he said, with his near- constant smile briefly fading. "It's all the anti-war people -- Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Gandhi -- it's these people who get shot down."
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Foreign Terror Suspects Tell of Torture
By Craig Whitlock
Saturday, December 1, 2007; A01
AMMAN, Jordan -- Over the past seven years, an imposing building on the outskirts of this city has served as a secret holding cell for the CIA.
The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan's powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA's behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.
In most of the cases, the spy center served as a covert way station for CIA prisoners captured in other countries. It was a place where they could be hidden after being arrested and kept for a few days or several months before being moved on to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or CIA prisons elsewhere in the world.
Others were arrested while transiting through Jordan, including two detained during stopovers at Amman's international airport. Another prisoner, a microbiology student captured in Pakistan in the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has not been seen since he was flown to Amman on a CIA plane six years ago.
The most recent case to come to light involved a Palestinian detainee, Marwan al-Jabour, who was transferred to Jordan last year from a CIA-run secret prison, then released several weeks later in the Gaza Strip.
The General Intelligence Department, or GID, is perhaps the CIA's most trusted partner in the Arab world. The Jordanian agency has received money, training and equipment from the CIA for decades and even has a public English-language Web site. The relationship has deepened in recent years, with U.S. officials praising their Jordanian counterparts for the depth of their knowledge regarding al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic networks.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, however, the GID was attractive for another reason, according to former U.S. counterterrorism officials and Jordanian human rights advocates. Its interrogators had a reputation for persuading tight-lipped suspects to talk, even if that meant using abusive tactics that could violate U.S. or international law.
"I was kidnapped, not knowing anything of my fate, with continuous torture and interrogation for the whole of two years," Al-Haj Abdu Ali Sharqawi, a Guantanamo prisoner from Yemen, recounted in a written account of his experiences in Jordanian custody. "When I told them the truth, I was tortured and beaten."
Sharqawi was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, in February 2002 in a joint Pakistani-U.S. operation. Although the Guantanamo Bay prison had just opened, the CIA flew him instead to Amman, where he was imprisoned for 19 months, according to his account and flight records. He was later taken to another CIA-run secret prison, his statement says, before he was finally moved to Guantanamo in February 2004.
Sharqawi said he was threatened with sexual abuse and electrocution while in Jordan. He also said he was hidden from officials of the International Committee for the Red Cross during their visits to inspect Jordanian prisons.
"I was told that if I wanted to leave with permanent disability both mental and physical, that that could be arranged," Sharqawi said in his April 2006 statement, which was released by a London-based attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, who represents Guantanamo inmates. "They said they had all the facilities of Jordan to achieve that. I was told that I had to talk, I had to tell them everything."
Bush administration officials have said they do not hand over terrorism suspects to countries that are likely to abuse them. For several years, however, the State Department has cited widespread allegations of torture by Jordan's security agencies in its annual report cards on human rights.
Independent monitors have become increasingly critical of Jordan's record. Since 2006, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued reports on abuses in Jordan, often singling out the General Intelligence Department.
Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the "grilled chicken," in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten.
In a report released in January 2007, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator for torture, found that "the practice of torture is routine" at GID headquarters and concluded "that there is total impunity for torture and ill-treatment in the country."
Officials with the GID did not respond to a letter seeking an interview for this article. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also did not respond to interview requests.
The CIA declined to comment on its relationship with the GID but defended in general the covert transfer of terrorism suspects to other countries, a practice known as rendition.
"The United States does not transfer individuals to any country if it believes they will be tortured there," said Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman. "Setting aside the myths, rendition is, in fact, a lawful, effective tool that has been used over the years on a very limited scale, and is designed to take terrorists off the street."
'In Jordan, Nobody Asks'
Immediately after Sept. 11, the CIA had nowhere to hold terrorism suspects it had captured abroad. The military prison at Guantanamo did not open until January 2002. And it took the CIA until the spring of 2002 to get its own network of secret overseas prisons up and running.
Short on options, the CIA sought help from its counterparts in Jordan. Soon, CIA airplanes began carrying prisoners to Amman.
Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a Yemeni microbiology student, was captured in a U.S.-Pakistani operation in Karachi a few weeks after 9/11 on suspicion of helping to finance al-Qaeda operations. Witnesses reported seeing masked men take him aboard a Gulfstream V jet at the Karachi airport Oct. 24, 2001.
Records show that the plane was chartered by a CIA front company and that it flew directly to Amman. Mohammed has not been seen since. Amnesty International said it has asked the Jordanian government for information on his whereabouts but has not received an answer.
About the same time, Jamal Alawi Mari, another Yemeni citizen, was apprehended at his home in Karachi by Pakistani and U.S. agents. Records show that U.S. officials suspected him of working for Islamic charities that allegedly supported al-Qaeda.
Soon after, Mari was also flown by the CIA to Amman. "They never told me where I was going," he testified later before a U.S. military tribunal. "I found out later I was in Jordan."
Mari said he was imprisoned for four months in Jordan, out of sight of visiting Red Cross officials. In early 2002, he was taken to Guantanamo and remains imprisoned there.
Defense lawyers and human rights advocates in Amman said it wasn't a surprise that the CIA turned to Jordan's security agency for assistance.
"In America, people will ask about any breach of the law," said Younis Arab, a lawyer who has represented a CIA prisoner brought to Jordan. "Here in Jordan, nobody asks. So the Americans get the Jordanians to do the dirty work."
Other Jordanian lawyers cited unconfirmed reports that the CIA had transferred high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders to Jordan for interrogation. Although hard evidence is elusive, some former inmates have reported being detained in the same wing as Ramzi Binalshibh, a key planner in the Hamburg cell that carried out the Sept. 11 hijackings, said Abdulkareem al-Shureidah, an Amman lawyer.
"He was detained in Jordanian jails, definitely," Shureidah said of Binalshibh, who was kept in CIA custody in undisclosed locations from the time of his capture in Karachi in September 2002 until September 2006, when he was transferred to Guantanamo. "The U.S. brought all kinds of persons here from around the world."
Samieh Khreis, an Amman lawyer who has represented former Guantanamo inmates from Jordan, said testimony by former prisoners and others in Jordan reinforced a long-held suspicion that the CIA ran a satellite operation inside headquarters of the General Intelligence Department.
"Of course they had a jail here, a secret jail -- of course, no question," he said. "If they were to put me in that GID building over there, in my mind, it might as well be an American jail."
Khreis said the Jordanian spy service has a well-deserved reputation for using dubious tactics to force confessions. But he said the CIA sent prisoners to Amman primarily to take advantage of the GID's knowledge of Islamic radical groups.
"Torture is not the main reason," he said.
A Flat Denial
On June 26, 2006, just after 6 p.m., Nowak, the U.N. investigator, paid a surprise visit to GID headquarters in Amman.
The Jordanian government had previously agreed to give Nowak carte blanche to inspect any prison in the country, with no preconditions and unfettered access to inmates. As a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Jordan was eager to win Nowak's seal of approval. GID officials permitted Nowak to tour its prison wing. But they refused to allow him to speak with prisoners in private. When Nowak asked about allegations that the CIA had used the building as a proxy jail, department officials said the reports were untrue.
"The response was just very flat, a simple denial, 'We don't know anything about that,' " Nowak recalled in an interview.
In interviews with former GID prisoners, Nowak said, he heard repeated, credible reports of inmates being subjected to electric shocks, sleep deprivation and various forms of beatings, including farruj and falaqa.
He said several inmates reported that their chief tormentor was Col. Ali Birjak, head of the GID's counterterrorism unit and one of the officials who had denied cooperating with the CIA. Based on those interviews, Nowak recommended in his report that Birjak be investigated by Jordanian authorities on torture charges.
In a written response to Nowak's findings on Oct. 10, 2006, the Jordanian government called the torture allegations "untrue" and noted that they were lodged by people with criminal records.
"It is common for prisoners to make false allegations about torture in a pathetic attempt to evade punishment and to influence the court," the government wrote.
In interviews with The Washington Post, however, former prisoners of the GID gave similar accounts of physical abuse.
Masaad Omer Behari, a Sudanese citizen, spent 86 days in the department's custody in early 2003 after he was arrested during a stopover at Amman's international airport.
Behari said his interrogators wanted to know about his activities in Vienna, where he had lived for more than a decade. He had been asked many of the same questions previously by the FBI and Austrian security officials about an alleged plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Vienna in 1998, he said, though he had denied any role and was never charged.
While he was in custody in Amman, Behari said, guards meted out a combination of falaqa and farruj. They struck the soles of his feet with batons while he was handcuffed and hanging upside down, then doused him with cold water and forced him to walk over a salt-strewn floor.
"I thought they were going to kill me," he said. "I said my prayers, thinking I was going to die."
Researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.
This entry was posted on Dec 01, 2007 at 06:27:32 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Hamas said the dead men had been
on a night patrol [Reuters[
Five Hamas fighters killed in an Israeli air raid have been buried in the Gaza Strip.
Several other people were wounded in the attack near the town of Khan Younis early on Saturday morning.
The Israeli army has killed 11 people in Gaza since Tuesday, when the Annapolis peace initiative started in the United States.
Israel, which carries out regular assaults on Gaza against fighters launching homemade rockets into Israel, said they began the raid after identifying armed men near the border.
Hamas said the dead men, members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, its armed wing, had been on a night patrol.
Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel have increased since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June.
Israel responded by largely closing off the territory and its 1.5 million people from the outside world.
It began reducing fuel supplies to Gaza last month and plans to begin scaling back electricity from Sunday.
Israel's supreme court ruled on Friday that the Israeli government can continue cutting fuel supplies to residents of Gaza but must postpone the planned electricity cut.
The ruling was in response to a legal challenge from a coalition of human rights groups that claims the policy constitutes collective punishment.
Gaza is dependent on Israel for all of its fuel and about half its electricity.
In January 2006, Hamas were democraticaly elected following Palestinian parliamentary elections in which they took 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber.
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The US draft resolution was written after Bush, right, met Israeli and Palestinian leaders [AFP]
The United States has withdrawn a resolution it presented to the UN Security Council endorsing the relaunch of Middle East peace talks agreed in Annapolis, Maryland.
US officials did not give a reason for Friday's move but diplomats indicated that Israel, which is a close ally of Washington, did not want the UN involved in the process.
"We looked at this matter, talked about it and at the end of the day the secretary [of state Condoleezza Rice] believes that the positive results of Annapolis speak by themselves," Sean McCormack, US state department spokesman, said.
The US draft said the council "endorses the programme of action for negotiations and implementation of outstanding obligations ... agreed upon by the Israeli and Palestinian leadership at Annapolis, Maryland on November 27, 2007".
"It's not the proper venue," Daniel Carmon, Israel's deputy ambassador, said after Friday's council meeting.
"We feel that the appreciation of Annapolis has other means of being expressed than in a resolution."
Carmon said that the US had told Israel that the Palestinians also objected to the draft.
Another Israeli diplomat said his government considered the relaunch of the peace process to be solely a matter between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Friday that he did not know the details of the draft resolution but that he saw it as a sign of Wasington's seriousness.
"This means, if what we have learned is verified, that there are serious steps that speak to the existence of an American position supporting the negotiations," he said in Tunisia.
On Thursday, after the session at which the draft was submitted, Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to the UN, said Security Council members intended to discuss the text with the parties involved.
His comments appeared to suggest that Israel and the Palestinians had not been consulted before the text was drafted.
After the draft resolution was withdrawn, Riyad Mansour, UN permanent representative for Palestine, said: "We were supportive of a reaction of the Security Council to support what came out from Annapolis in any form."
George Bush, US president, brought together Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister and Abbas at Annapolis on Tuesday in a bid to restart the Middle East peace process.
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Bush's peace meeting is nothing but an empty orgy of rhetoric, writes Azmi Bishara
By Asmi Bishara
Bush's brilliant brainstorm to hold a meaningless, lustreless peace conference is like dry lightning, which brings not the prayed for rain. The US administration needed something to prove that its policy towards the Arab region was not a drastic failure. It came up with nothing better than to restage the Madrid peace conference that was engineered by James Baker, secretary of state under Bush's father. For some reason, Republicans regard the Bush Sr-Baker policy following the war in Kuwait a success story worthy of commemoration and emulation. So we have a conference, today, that has brought the Arabs to Washington, flushed with gratitude to the imperial grace for bestowing its attention again upon the Palestinian cause.
Over the years, Arab officialdom and its entourage has adopted such terms and concepts as "the peace process," "the process," "the priority [high or low] that the US administration has accorded to the Palestinian cause," "giving impetus to diplomatic efforts," and even "the Bush vision". What all these terms and concepts have in common is that they are disseminated as positive values, in their own right, for their purported ability to inspire hope and budge stagnant waters. Another common virtue is their ability to sideline substance and to promote the veneration of form (the "process" and "priority on the agenda"). They also presume the public's recurrent and total amnesia with respect to the very history of these terms, which their proponents never tire of repeating. As for people who venture to ask "But why?" and "To what end?" they are scoffed at as naïve and babbling children.
True, international conferences are historic events. But as Karl Marx observed with respect to Napoleon III, some historical events are repeated twice, once as tragedy and the second time as farce. Madrid set the scene for the formulation of negotiating tracks and the tragedy of Oslo, to which the Palestinian cause is still held hostage. With Annapolis, the curtains opened to farce. At first people thought that it was to be a conference, only to learn that it was to be an assembly. Then it was billed as a "meeting" and, finally, as an inauguration of a peace process, which is to say a negotiating process. But Madrid, too, turned out to be the inauguration of a negotiating process. How many negotiating process inaugurations can there be? How many times must pompous speeches, embellished with quotes from the Torah, inlaid with Quranic verses, bespangled with references to "our common father Abraham" and to the step- siblings Isaac and Ishmael, be delivered to specially prepared over air-conditioned halls crammed with delegations and journalists, all anticipating nothing, dying of boredom and passing their time pondering how they're going to recast the dullest, most innocuous ramblings into speeches that were "profound," "cohesive," "eloquent" or otherwise? What have the Arabs done from Madrid to the present day? They've negotiated. Why do we need another rhetoric orgy to introduce more of the same? Your guess is as good as mine. Of course, some say, or maintain (for those who think that the subject requires a soberer tongue that is not pressed into the cheek), that this time negotiations will be serious about creating a Palestinian state, that we are inaugurating a serious phase in the negotiations, that what we'll be seeing in the next eight months will make all the negotiations that have taken place up to now look like child's play. At least so the Palestinian negotiators promise themselves, even as Olmert counters this promise with the promise that he will not be bound to any timetable or deadline for concluding negotiations over a permanent solution.
The Palestinians and Israelis have reached no understanding with regard to the status of Jerusalem, borders or dismantling Israeli settlements. On the Palestinian right to return, on the other hand, they've made no small amount of headway -- towards the Palestinian and Arab official abnegation of the exercise of that right. This was done by turning a non-subject -- the Jewishness of the state of Israel -- into a negotiating issue on par with all the others, such as Jerusalem, the refugees, borders and settlements.
There is also a quasi consensus over Bush's "vision". Essentially the same as the earlier "Sharon vision", it is a formula for bartering away all once "non-negotiable" Palestinian rights in exchange for a Palestinian political entity to be governed after an age or two by a Palestinian elite after it does its part of fighting "terrorism". That political entity, to be termed a state, will not be territorially defined by pre-June 1967 boundaries. Its creation will not be accompanied by the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and by the dismantlement of major Israeli settlements. It will not exercise sovereignty over Arab Jerusalem although it may possibly be able to extend citizenship to Arabs in Jerusalem who may possibly be able to retain their residence there. There may also possibly be some provision for easy access to key holy sites. It is a rosy dream for those who dream of ruling a state, a nightmare for anyone who still clings to the justice of the Palestinian cause.
In all events, before this dream comes to pass, negotiators will have to gather and hammer it together. But first, America needs some fanfare: a Bush-Rice-Blair-Republican Party fete to celebrate their stunning success, at last, in getting a peace conference off the ground, while the Palestinians in Gaza, the Lebanese and the Iraqis are living a very real nightmare.
But the Annapolis meeting was not just borne of American yearning for a PR coup but also of the need to cater to the position of Arab moderates. These have toed the American line on all issues and on every occasion and have not once quibbled with Washington since the neo- conservatives stopped meddling in their domestic affairs. Now is the time for the US to reward them by offering something on the "peace process". But once again, they are going to Washington instead of making Washington come to them. Olmert offered no good-faith initiatives and he was supported in this by Israeli public opinion, the majority of which refuses to discuss final status issues, even if a 65 to 75 per cent majority supported Israeli attendance at Annapolis and negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians. Washington made no attempt to call Olmert on his lack of cooperativeness and eventually it became very awkward for "moderate" Arabs to even consider attending a conference that was supposedly being held, in part, to help them. Sure, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president could be heard, in Cairo, talking about the historic opportunity that should not be missed. But everyone knows that he is hostage to the negotiating process and to Israeli handouts, and that he would rather flee forward further into Israeli clutches than entertain the idea of returning to a Palestinian national unity government.
The foregoing leads to what had been accomplished in advance of the conference. This conference was built upon internal Palestinian discord and strife. Before the Fatah-Hamas rift, there was a freeze in the so-called peace process and Israel told the PA and its president that they had to stop even speaking with Hamas in order for Israel to agree to so much as talk with them. Israel has an inexhaustible font of conditions, not just for reaching an agreement with the PA but merely to deign to speak with it. The latest was that the PA had to cease any form of cooperation and parleying with Hamas, which is to say with the representatives of a huge portion of the Palestinian people.
This was the first accomplishment. And so well did the PA perform it that it received hundreds of pats on the back for its resolute stance against Hamas, the whole world summoned to Annapolis to bear false witness to negotiations that haven't begun and that offer no guarantees for success if and when they do. All this display just to bolster (or "empower" in political science jargon) the position of Palestinian moderates who must be so proud of themselves for having seized the "historic opportunity" that they can already hear the wings of history fluttering over Annapolis. How important a person can feel when he accepts Israeli conditions! How good the US and Israel (and Europe, which just wants to get it all over with) are at making the people they want feel important!
The second accomplishment is on the tip of everyone's tongue. Israel had announced on several occasions and through various spokespersons that the condition for talking with the Palestinians had been met. Now, for talks to make any progress, the Palestinians had to honour their commitments under the roadmap, which were to fight "terrorism" and dismantle the "terrorist infrastructure". By this Israel meant crushing the Palestinian resistance, beginning in the West Bank. This commitment under the roadmap had always been a bone of contention between Israel and Arafat, in large part because the Israeli style is to force the Palestinians to prove themselves and then tell them, "Let's wait and see." But Israel succeeded in prevailing upon the post-Arafat PA to accept this condition.
With these accomplishments harvested by Israel even before negotiations began, the Palestinian negotiator is weaker than ever. He's even weak in the eyes of Israeli public opinion as a consequence of the Palestinian rift and as a consequence of how dependent the PA leadership has become on Israel's good faith and the success of negotiations. When the Palestinians were more or less united, Israel required an internal Palestinian rift in order to talk. After the rift it claimed that the PA was too weak to control its field and could not be taken seriously enough to merit concessions of good faith.
But there was a third accomplishment: Arab disengagement from the Palestinian cause. The Arabs can see how weak the PA is and in whose hands the PA's decision-making powers reside. They share its weakness and so can understand it very well, which is why they grasp at any "pragmatic" solution that this weakness has made possible. They are not about to be "more Palestinian than the Palestinians," which is to say the Palestinian negotiator. True, they take advantage of every rut and bump in the negotiating process to proclaim how steadfast is the Palestinian side, and how it will not cave in easily. But ultimately, whether or not it came to them easily and whether or not they suffered pangs of conscience, they agreed to sell the cause down the river.
That this is the foundation that has been set for the Annapolis meeting is not to say that merely to sit around the table is to tacitly normalise relations with Israel. All the delegations that reported to Annapolis had attended Madrid in the past. Their participation did not necessarily lead to normalisation. It led to separate negotiating tracks, some of which have stalled. The only party that signed a peace agreement with Israel since Madrid was Jordan. The only party to have normalised its relations with Israel without a peace agreement was the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Apparently Syria decided to take part in Annapolis for fear that it would be left totally isolated in the Arab world if it did not. That it chose to participate offers no guarantee that the Golan Heights will be restored to it, even if that issue was listed on the Annapolis agenda. It had to be affixed to the agenda, because otherwise Syria could not accept to go. In the not so distant past, it would have taken only a quick assessment of how detrimental this inaugural ceremony will be to the Palestinian cause for Damascus to decide not to attend, whether Golan was mentioned on the agenda or not.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:17:36 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Despite avowing "optimism" in the countdown to the opening of the International Peace Conference in Annapolis, Maryland on Tuesday, when almost everyone else was openly pessimistic, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was destined to be disappointed. The Palestinians and the Israelis failed to agree on a joint accord that would have set a time frame for "peace negotiations" yet still representatives from 50 countries crossed the Atlantic to participate in a meeting the vast majority believe will fail to achieve any progress towards peace.
The Arab League's secretary-general announced the "death of the peace process" when Israel launched its bloody war on Lebanon last year, a ruthless assault that targeted and killed hundreds of innocent civilians and destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure. Shouldn't that have been a reminder of who exactly Abbas's peace partner is? So how is it that peace has been so suddenly resurrected?
Is Annapolis simply an exercise in listening to harmless proposals and ideas to "revive" the "peace process"? And why are Arab officials so keen to project an Arab consensus -- a euphemism for collective defeat -- by participating in a conference they have regularly predicted can end only in failure? Or is all the noise simply a strategy to deflect from the startling decision of Saudi Arabia and Syria to openly sit and talk with Israel? Israel clearly feels it is high time that the model of "moderate" Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan -- which have full diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv -- should be embraced by other Arab states, and at absolutely no cost to itself.
The Annapolis conference does, of course, carry a deeper and more disturbing significance. For judging by what was heard and seen in the American city the participants who represent 50 nations are making a statement, simply by their presence. And what they are saying is that the United Nations and its many resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are now irrelevant to the entire peace process. This gives the US and Israel freedom to act outside the boundaries of international law. It also further partitions the region into moderate states and those that are not: it is the latter that, in Washington and Tel Aviv's scheme of things, remain the obstacle to US and Israeli plans for the region, while the former are being softened up to accept a possible military attack on Iran. For it is Iran -- a country pursuing its right, in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency standards, to develop nuclear energy independently -- that is the invisible guest at a feast the purpose of which is to further isolate Tehran.
The media hype surrounding the Annapolis meeting has been pegged on the Middle East peace process. Statements on "a future Palestinian state" were invariably followed by the qualification "free of terror" and the importance of guaranteeing "Israeli security". Israeli occupation, land grabbing, illegal settlements, demolition of Palestinian property and houses and daily killing of Palestinian civilians were not mentioned in Annapolis. No one expected them to be.
Annapolis is a legacy that well suits US President George W Bush.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:11:04 pm and is filed under American Empire, Iran. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Disappointed in Annapolis, the Palestinians feel deceived once again, reports Khaled Amayreh from the West Bank
By Khaled Amayreh
Palestinians throughout the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have reacted to the American-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, with a heady combination of scepticism, ambivalence and anger.
The Palestinians used epithets like "another deception", "another lie", "another illusion" and "another Oslo" to describe the much-publicised Annapolis conference that they watched live on their television screens.
"Another Oslo" is a reference to the 1993 Oslo Agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which generated high hopes, euphoria and great expectations. These upbeat feelings were soon thwarted and eventually proved to be totally misplaced as Israel continued to consolidate its occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while pretending to seek peace.
In the southern West Bank town of Hebron, a Palestinian man was killed Tuesday afternoon when poorly-trained and utterly-undisciplined Palestinian police opened fire on a rally, organised by the Islamic Liberation Party, protesting against the Annapolis conference.
The usually non-violent group which calls for the reinstitution of the Islamic Caliphate that encompasses the entire Muslim world, is considered the second largest organised militant Islamic group in the West Bank after Hamas.
The group's spokesman in Hebron, Mohamed Jaabari, condemned the "cold-blooded murder" of the Palestinian man and accused the PA police of "emulating the Israeli occupation army in killing and repressing Palestinians".
"I don't see any difference. They are acting like the Israeli occupation army. They are traitors and quislings. This is why the Zionists and the Americans armed them and brought them here to kill us and silence our voices," said Jaabari.
Hebron's appointed governor, Hussein Al-Araj, blamed the organisers for the violence, saying "we told them not to organise any rally, but they chose to challenge us. They bear full responsibility for the consequences."
However, when asked why the police didn't use non-fatal methods to disperse the estimated 3,000 protesters, the governor sardonically said, "this is another problem."
Similarly, PA police, recently re-armed and equipped by the US, violently repressed protests against the Annapolis conference in Nablus, Bethlehem and Ramallah and a number of other localities in the West Bank.
Dozens of protesters and a number of reporters and cameramen were injured, some badly, when anti-riot police ganged up on protesters in the centre of Ramallah, beating the demonstrators with clubs and rifle-butts.
Earlier, the PA warned the media against covering any "anti-Annapolis protests" unless they get a permission beforehand. However, the local and international media apparently didn't heed the warning, infuriating PA security chiefs.
In Gaza, as many as 150,000 (organisers say a quarter of a million) people held rallies denouncing the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas for what Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar termed "using Jerusalem and the right of return as a bargaining chip".
"Let them go to a thousand conferences, we say in the name of our people that we haven't authorised anyone to sign any agreement or any document compromising or harming our inalienable rights. Anyone compromising our rights will be judged by history as a traitor."
Ahmed Bahr, deputy-speaker of the now virtually paralysed Palestinian Legislative Council addressed the huge multitude, saying that, "we will not let our people down, we will not compromise our national constants. We will not sell Jerusalem out, the right of return is a red line."
Speaker Aziz Duweik is imprisoned in Israel for running in elections under the banner of an illegal organisation --Hamas. Meanwhile, Mohamed Al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad leader, similarly lashed out at Arab leaders and representatives for attending the conference. "I don't know why they are trooping off to Annapolis. What has changed in Israel's attitudes and positions? Or, do they want to use this occasion to normalise relations with Israel?"
Interestingly, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas's faction, which controls the West Bank, failed to organise rallies supporting Annapolis. Insiders within Fatah intimated that the organisation was worried that such rallies would attract a few people compared to the anti-Annapolis rallies, and would therefore embarrass Fatah.
In fact, much of the indignation, disenchantment and frustration in the Palestinian street is not aimed at PA President Abbas per se as much as it is an expression of distrust of Israeli intentions.
"Abbas's speech is good and balanced. The problem is that he is being deceived by Israel and the US just as Yasser Arafat was deceived and cheated on by Israel and the US after the conclusion of the Oslo Agreement," explained a Palestinian teacher from Hebron after watching live speeches at Annapolis by US President George W Bush, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The teacher added that the Annapolis conference would be just another "big fiasco" because "Israel doesn't want peace and is not ready or willing to pay the price of peace."
"Israel wants a peace deal that looks very much like a Palestinian capitulation, a deal that would reflect Israeli victory over the Palestinians, not one based on human rights and international law. And, the US is not willing to put pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian rights. That is the crux of the matter."
Palestinian intellectuals generally hold the same views. Professor Ali Jerbawi, a prominent political scientist and leading expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, described the Annapolis conference as "theatrical".
"We are talking about a conference without guarantees, without legal references, without a timetable. It is a journey to the unknown. Bush is simply telling the occupier and the victim of occupation to sort it out before he leaves the White House by the end of 2008."
"I think in a certain sense we are becoming the Singapore of the Middle East as Palestine, our homeland, is being dwarfed into a mere city-state much like Singapore. But it is a Singapore of poverty, misery, roadblocks and despair."
Jerbawi predicted that the excitement of the Annapolis conference would just evaporate very soon just like the commotion that followed the Madrid conference and the Oslo Accords soon died out. "What we really need is to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and stop this foolishness of thwarting the Palestinian cause for the sake of establishing a state that has a name but has no substance.
"Abbas and his people should have realised this a long time ago. However, their immediate interests seem to blur their vision and make them see a distant mirage as real water."
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:03:13 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Syria bit the bullet and accepted Bush's invitation. Here's why, explains Sami Moubayed
There was much speculation in Syria on whether to attend the Annapolis conference or not. Reservations stemmed from an earlier no-mention of the occupied Golan Heights, tension in Syrian-US relations, US backing for the anti- Syrian regime in Beirut, and the latest Israeli air attack against Syria, which took place on 6 September 2007. The Syrians could not forget what had happened on 6 September, which apparently was done in compliance with the Americans. They also could not ignore that in December 2003, President Bush had said, "Syria is a weak country that just has to wait" until all other pending Middle East issues are solved.
The Syrians believe that Bush is unable to bring peace to the region, because of the problems on his hands in Iraq, and because, unlike president Bill Clinton; he is not interested in Arab-Israeli peace. President Bashar Al-Assad put forth his country's condition to attend: negotiations on the occupied Golan. The Americans said yes. If the Syrians were to attend, who would represent them in the United States? Would it be Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualim, his deputy Faysal Miqdad, or Ambassador Emad Mustafa? Sending Al-Moualim would give the conference too much importance, and the Syrians were really going there just to tell the world, "we did our part. We attended. But Annapolis led to nothing!"
Some in Syria wanted a complete boycott of Annapolis. According to the London-based Al-Hayat, the decision was taken only after a series of phone calls between Foreign Minister Al-Moualim and his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and Egypt. The British and French ambassadors to Damascus also visited the foreign minister. All of them reportedly wanted Syria to go to Maryland so as not to miss the chance, after four years of absence from the Washington arena, to make themselves heard in the US. On the other hand, the Iranians and Hamas wanted Syria to boycott the event, seeing it as nothing but a PR stunt for Bush. Significantly, expressing how the Syrians views the conference, the official Syria News said, 24 hours before the conference, that Al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad view Annapolis as doomed to failure.
But regardless of outcomes, the Syrians scored a goal when Golan was actually put on the conference agenda. So a three-man Syrian delegation arrived in Annapolis, headed by Faysal Miqdad, his country's ambassador to the United Nations from 2003 to 2006. Ahmed Salkini, a communications officer at the Syrian Embassy in the US, said, "we participate with the understanding that the Golan will be discussed. Syria continues to be committed to the Arab peace initiative as the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East." Al-Hayat quoted an unnamed Syrian source saying, "what we asked for was granted." Reportedly, the US Chargé d'Affaires to Syria Michael Corbin contacted a senior Foreign Ministry official on 24 November, giving him the final schedule for Annapolis. In a session called "Comprehensive Peace" the Syrian-Israeli track will be discussed, as well as the Lebanese- Israeli one.
The Syrians head off to Annapolis convinced that solutions cannot be reached -- for different reasons -- so long as President George W Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are in power in Washington and Tel Aviv. It would have been unwise not to attend, however, for this would have given the Americans justification to say, "the Syrians are not ready or interested in peace." Recently, Ambassador Emad Mustafa was quoted in Forward, Syria's English monthly: "He [Al-Assad] has come to a realisation, however, that it is almost impossible to do business with this US administration. He concluded that with this administration, contacts would be either minimal, or non-existent." But regardless, the Syrians want to maintain ties and even improve relations with the US administration. Again, Ambassador Mustafa explains: "He is not hostile -- not at all -- towards the US. He is keen to improve relations with Washington, a basic reason being the understanding that it is very difficult for any country in the world not to have good relations with the world superpower."
Last summer, Olmert made an initiative towards the Syrians in a interview with the Saudi channel Al-Arabiya. Olmert said: "I am ready to sit with you and talk about peace, not war. I will be happy if I could make peace with Syria. I do not want to wage war against Syria." This proposal was echoed by President Shimon Peres in September, who added, "we are ready for dialogue with Damascus." Back in July, President Al-Assad gave a speech in parliament in which he re-emphasised his country's willingness for peace, recalling that the basis of any Syrian cooperation would be the borders of 4 June, 1967. He also asked for guarantees, saying that from experience in the 1990s, Syria does not trust the Israelis. "We did not trust them before the 1990s and distrust them further now." Al-Assad asked for something similar to the agreement reached with the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, which promised to restore the Golan Heights in full to Syria.
Then came the Israeli air invasion, with US support, on 6 September 2007, which put a damper on Syrian hopes and shed serious doubt on Olmert's credibility. With that in mind, the Syrians went to Annapolis, almost convinced that it will lead to nothing. The Syrians believe that Olmert is in a difficult position because of the results of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in July-August 2006. Olmert understands that none of his declared objectives were met: Hizbullah was not crushed, and the two Israeli soldiers abducted in South Lebanon are still held by the Lebanese. The Israeli public holds him and his team accountable for the ill-fated Lebanon adventure. His Kadima-Labour cabinet was on the verge of collapse, arch-foe Ehud Barak was making a thundering political comeback, and the Winograd Report on the summer war made life all the more difficult for the Israeli prime minister. Olmert needed to divert attention fast from Israeli domestic affairs and find solutions to the tension in the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese crisis.
With such a defeat on his record, the Israeli prime minister cannot possibly deliver peace with the Syrians, who are viewed as the main backers of Hizbullah. Olmert needs to obtain his war medals to right the wrongs done to his image in Lebanon. Only after waging another war -- and either winning or at least not losing it -- can he project himself as a "peacemaker". That was the prevailing mood in Damascus this summer.
Then, something changed in Israel. Many started to say that only Syria can secure Israel's border with Lebanon. Making peace with the Syrians, the Israelis started thinking, seemed all the more logical since it automatically would mean peace with Hizbullah. And since Hizbullah cannot be crushed by force (as the results of last year's war proved) then the best solution would be to isolate and neutralise it by making peace with the Syrians. If they sign a peace pact, after all, they cannot continue supporting Hizbullah. In April 2007, US Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Damascus with a message to Al-Assad from Olmert. The Israeli press went into a frenzy revisiting the Syrian-Israeli peace track. The Syrians were, and still are, unimpressed by the Israeli conditions for peace, which included halting Syria's cooperation with Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran.
All of these recent events help explain why the Syrians are worried as they head off to Annapolis. Countries interested in peace don't go around flying into their neighbour's airspace without permission, especially when the two countries are in a state of war. They don't fire missiles into other countries' territory. The last time I checked, this was called war-making rather than peace-making. But despite all that, the Syrians have been committed to peace since Madrid and are willing to try Annapolis. But it's doubtful that Annapolis will lead to a breakthrough, with the likes of Bush and Olmert in power.
This entry was posted on Nov 30, 2007 at 09:48:39 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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US President George W Bush, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert... but, could this be a Camp David 2000 déjà-vu?
By Dina Ezzat
The dust may have settled in Annapolis, but not in the Middle East. Dina Ezzat examines the aftermath of a controversial peace meeting
Arab and Israeli delegates who took part in the Annapolis diplomatic fiesta should be coming down from the excitement of the world-observed event to the sad truth of reality on the ground: continued Israeli occupation of Arab territories faced by a mix of deep resentment and outright resistance.
The Israeli delegation, however, is coming back with a victory: photos and signs of nascent normalisation with Arab countries and promises, declared and undeclared, of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and member states of the Arab League. Over half of the Arab League's 22 states were represented, mostly at the foreign ministers level, in Annapolis.
The participation of Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal, in particular, is a success story for the Israelis, despite the fact that Saudi envoy Prince Bandar Bin Sultan turned up at the 1991 Madrid peace conference and that Saudi delegates were present at some rounds of talks launched as part of the Madrid process.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, whose organisation is in theory the custodian of the Arab boycott of Israel pending a comprehensive and final peace deal, was also there. Moussa, who said he was attending under the umbrella of the Arab Peace Initiative and a "no normalisation before peace" understanding, is the first of the six secretary-generals of the Arab organisation to sit down at the same table with Israeli negotiators.
Hamas and many Arab public quarters expressed shock and dismay at the wide Arab participation and declined to accept the rationale offered by Moussa's speech in Annapolis that this participation is designed to support the Palestinian delegation and to impress upon the international community that it must act to secure at least some preliminary Arab demands, especially a freeze on Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, Israeli and US officials praised the wide Arab participation, especially by countries with no diplomatic relations with Israel. In his opening ceremony speech, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed present Arab -- as well as Islamic -- delegations and demanded normal relations with them. The demand had been repeatedly pressed on the eve of Annapolis and was seconded by Bush's inaugural speech.
ISRAELI GAINS ABOUND: The Israeli delegation is also coming back with renewed US acknowledgement of Israel as a "Jewish state" and "homeland for the Jewish people", as affirmed three times by US President George W Bush in his inaugural speech Tuesday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warmly applauded the Bush speech. In his speech that followed he did not object to the characterisation of the "Jewish nature of Israel" nor its impact on the fate of 1948 Palestinians and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Sources in Annapolis tell Al-Ahram Weekly that only a constrained Arab rejection of such characterisation was offered in the closed meetings that followed the opening.
Also in the bag for the Israeli delegation coming back from Annapolis is a televised promise of Abbas that his authorities will do whatever it takes to combat all forms of "terrorism" against the state of Israel in line with the roadmap plan for peace. "Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the roadmap, as judged by the United States," read a joint statement adopted in Annapolis.
Abbas, who albeit referred to continued Israeli occupation as the main cause behind "terrorism", added with a nod to a proud Olmert and smiling Bush that any act of "terror", irrespective of its rationale, remains inexcusable though international law affirms the right to resist belligerent occupation by all means, including armed struggle.
An informed American think-tank analyst told the Weekly from Washington that the US administration reassured Olmert, over and over, that a Palestinian state would not come to life until Israel is sure that Palestinian leaders -- be it President Abbas or someone else -- would be able to properly run such a state in line with Israel's security agenda. Any future Palestinian state, Bush said in his opening speech, should be able to contribute to the security of its people, of Israel, and that of the entire region.
Meanwhile, US/international promises of involvement in advancing Palestinian/Arab-Israeli talks were traded for Arab promises to advance signs of normalisation with Israel, instead of waiting for the conclusion of a comprehensive peace as stipulated by the Arab Peace Initiative. "Arabs need to get off the fence and understand that normalisation is not a prize for Israel," Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister said in Annapolis.
In Annapolis too, the foreign minister of Bahrain said that a request made by his Israeli counterpart for diplomatic relations between Manama and Tel Aviv would be considered in the wake of Annapolis.
As such, the conditions set by Moussa -- and for that matter Al-Faisal -- on linking normalisation with a comprehensive peace deal were directly challenged in Annapolis -- despite the fact that both Arab diplomats declined to pause for cameras and handshake shots with Israeli officials. Moreover, statements made by Syrian officials suggesting that their delegation would firmly oppose any premature signs of normalisation were simply overruled.
Even more alarmingly, informed diplomatic sources told the Weekly that Olmert gained Palestinian and Arab assurances that only the symbolic return of a few hundred refugees would be included in a final status agreement. One source suggested that Canada is heavily involved in an accommodation plan for the majority of refugees that will be presented when the time is ripe.
Moreover, Arab diplomats privately said that several Arab capitals, including many those directly involved in the Arab-Israeli negotiations process, believe it "a waste of time" to dispute the "Jewish nature of Israel". As for East Jerusalem, Arabs are aware that as they were affirming their participation in Annapolis, the Israeli Knesset adopted a resolution stipulating that any change on the unified nature of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would require the approval of 80 -- up from 61 -- of the 120 Knesset members.
In Annapolis, Olmert declined to grant his host's wish to launch final status talks in Washington, DC -- not even an elementary negotiations round would be allowed -- only a ceremonial inauguration was granted by the Israeli prime minister. It is back in the Middle East, Olmert said, that negotiations would start, on a bilateral level. According to the Annapolis joint statement, the first session of negotiations shall take place on 12 December.
Indeed, the maximum that Olmert gave in Annapolis was to sit quietly while Abbas made his speech and demanded a negotiated deal on core issues, as perceived by the Palestinian side, including a reference to East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state "that will be open to West Jerusalem" and a reference to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 on the right of return, or to compensation, for Palestinian refugees of 1948.
Indeed, the joint statement of Annapolis does not make even a reference to an end of Israeli occupation of territories seized in 1967, or the land-for-peace principal that used to be the guideline of Arab-Israeli negotiations. The reference made in the statement to the loose 2008 deadline for the settlement of final status issues is as non-committal as it could be: "We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008."
The Israeli delegation, meanwhile, is coming back having made a loose promise to ease adverse conditions for Palestinians on the ground, though always in line with the Israeli security priorities that were re-acknowledged by the Annapolis meeting. In establishing those security priorities, Olmert said clearly that he would not exclude the liquidation of wanted Palestinian militants -- in other words, targeted assassinations -- nor would he eschew military intervention in principle. On the eve of Annapolis, Israeli occupation forces killed six Palestinians.
EMPTY ARAB HANDS: In contrast to the Israelis, Arab delegates are coming back with mere assurances of US/international support for Palestinian-Israeli final status talks, as well as possible negotiations on the Syrian/Lebanese tracks. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised to exert a similar level of effort to that in the lead up to Annapolis. Such promises, however, are not coupled with a commitment to intervene should Israel fail to live up to the requirements of peacemaking.
"However, we are coming back to a different political context. It is a context whereby the clinically dead Palestinian and Israeli negotiation process is coming back to life. We are now talking about final status negotiations," commented a senior Arab diplomat who participated in Annapolis.
In statements on the eve of and during Annapolis, Bush, Rice and every American diplomat stated in no uncertain terms that no imposition would be put on Israel to undertake measures deemed incompatible with its security priorities and "Jewish nature". Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli strategic interests minister, summed up Annapolis with remarkable candour: it was "a terrific cocktail party and a fantastic photo opportunity with no chance of a breakthrough".
One additional secured outcome for the Israeli delegation was restated US-Israeli agreement on the need to step up pressure on, and perhaps even opt for military action to halt, Iran's nuclear activities. Moreover, agreement was affirmed between Israel and the US, with the support of some Arab delegations, on the need for further regional cooperation to contain pro-Iranian groups, especially Hamas and Hizbullah, who joined Tehran this week in rejecting Annapolis as a futile exercise in submission.
If it can be called a success, Arabs are coming back with promises by the international community -- especially usually generous European donors -- that financial support would be promptly offered to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for "early state institutions building", with an unmistakable emphasis laid on bolstering -- and likely reforming -- the PA's security apparatus to ensure that it effectively implement the demands of Phase I of the 2003 roadmap plan: curtail Islamist militant resistance groups.
Palestinian/Arab demands of a total freeze on Israeli settlements, an end to changes on the ground in East Jerusalem, and a firm and detailed international commitment to a more comprehensive peace process, were all but overlooked in Annapolis. Meanwhile, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is worsening. An already suffocated and starved Gaza is under threat of collective punishment by Israel in its plans to deny the impoverished Strip significant power supplies within a few days.
Karen Abu Zayd, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said she hoped a high- stakes Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis would improve living conditions in Gaza. She added that the UN wanted to see a neutral body monitoring crossings in and out of the occupied Palestinian territories. "One thing we can say hopefully about Annapolis is that this is an internationalisation of the problem," she told a European Parliament committee. "Let us hope that something comes out of [Annapolis] to show that."
Abu Zayd described new Israeli restrictions on movement in the West Bank, requiring Palestinians, including UNRWA staff, to obtain crossing permits and to enter and leave East Jerusalem on foot through mechanised terminals, as "crippling".
Hamas, provoked by and critical of the decision of Abbas to go to Annapolis without prior consultations with its leaders or those of other "opposition" Palestinian factions, is qualifying the Annapolis meeting as an attempt to encroach on legitimate Palestinian rights, especially in relation to East Jerusalem and the fate of refugees. The Palestinian people are not forced to honour any commitments that Palestinian negotiators make in Annapolis, Hamas leaders said this week during meetings in Gaza.
Wider Arab public opinion is not particularly supportive of Annapolis or its outcome either. Extensive live coverage carried by Arab satellite channels and polls conducted by many Internet sites reflected hardly any hope that the Annapolis meeting would stem the misery of the daily lives of Palestinians, much less kick-start final status talks. Still, Abbas called it "an opportunity that might not occur again".
POST-ANNAPOLIS STRATEGY: In a report issued on the eve of Annapolis, the International Crisis Group (ICG) acknowledged the regional and international political difficulties that are likely to defy the chances of building on whatever political momentum the Annapolis meeting secured to advance the seven-year stalled negotiations process. "The process that [was] launched [in] Annapolis may not quite be do-or-die for the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, but at the very least it is do-or-barely-survive," argued the ICG report, entitled The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Annapolis and After.
"To maximise the chances of success and minimise the costs of failure, the Israelis and Palestinians need to seriously confront permanent status issues, while taking steps to improve the situation on the ground," argued the report. It added that the "US and other international actors need to adopt a more proactive role, proposing timely compromises as well as imposing accountability for both sides' actions." The report suggested, moreover, the need for "a different approach towards those [principally Syria and Hamas] whose exclusion jeopardises any progress."
"While virtually all attention has been given to [the Annapolis] gathering itself, what truly matters is what follows it," the ICG report stated. The "day after" Annapolis may bring the beginning of final status talks between Palestinians and Israelis, and may even bolster chances for wider Arab-Israeli talks. However, the report warns that failure to build on post-Annapolis momentum could effectively risk the entire Arab-Israeli peace process.
"The stakes are extremely high. Failure of this process could discredit both the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships while further undermining faith in negotiations," said Ezzeddine Choukri-Fischere, director of the ICG's Arab-Israeli Project, focussing on the peace process.
"Our report argues that Annapolis has been through a number of lives; it started as an institution-building conference, developed into a political conference that was supposed to [and eventually did] endorse an Israeli-Palestinian document, and then became a launching pad for permanent status negotiations between Israel and the [Palestinians]," said Choukri-Fischere.
"Now that we have Annapolis shaped as a launching pad for peace talks, we think it is important that a number of things happen in Annapolis and immediately after." According to Choukri-Fischere, the first requirement for a successful post- Annapolis process is to design a negotiation process that maximises the chances of success, ensuring "active involvement by the international community and the Arab world, and thinking of a fall- back strategy in case parties get stuck in bilateral talks."
Second, Choukri-Fischere argued that it is "of vital importance that Palestinian national dialogue starts without further delay". "It is unthinkable that we push for peace between Israel and only a part of the Palestinian political landscape, or -- as some would say -- between Israel and the Palestinians against other Palestinians," he argued. According to Choukri-Fischere, if Annapolis is perceived as an attempt to undermine Hamas the latter will have an interest in fighting it. "We want the opposite to happen. We want Hamas to have a stake in the success of peace talks after Annapolis," he said.
Finally, the ICG is calling for the substantive engagement of Syria on the basis that the ultimate objective is an Arab-Israeli peace, not merely an Israeli-Palestinian peace. "I am glad that the US administration has recently made changes in order to make room for Syrian participation. This is a good beginning and I hope both Syria and the US build on it," Choukri-Fischere said.
Choukri-Fischere added that post-Annapolis also requires inward Arab coordination: "The ICG is recommending to Arab states that they lay down a vision for the future: What will they do if Israel and the [Palestinians] make serious progress towards an agreement? What steps would they take towards Israel if the latter signed a permanent peace agreement? When and how would Arab states decide that their 'conditions' for normalisation are met?"
According to the ICG report, despite the many obstacles ahead, there remains at least some hope. "I think [we must] follow closely Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in the coming few months, and see what the dynamic is," Choukri-Fischere said. "In three or four months from now we will be able to detect how serious the parties are and how involved the partners are," he added.
DOWN TO REALITY: Judging by statements made at the opening ceremony in Annapolis, and by the language of letters of invitation forwarded by the US to Arab participants, including Palestinian participants, none of the criteria that the ICG suggested is necessary for progress is likely to be met. US involvement will not go beyond that of "facilitator", with an obvious bias towards Israel. Pressure on Olmert will be minimal, both from the US and the international community. Hamas will continue to be marginalised according to the wishes of Abbas and Olmert, each for different reasons.
Syria may emerge as the only possible progress out of Annapolis, as predicted by the ICG. "It is somewhat ironic, but at the end of the day it might be Syria, who was reluctant about taking part in the meeting, that would come out as the real winner of Annapolis," commented one Arab diplomat on condition of anonymity. According to this diplomat, if the Israelis feel they can make progress on the Syrian track -- which is embraced by the Israeli cabinet -- the Palestinian track may be put again on the backburner for an indefinite period.
Speaking to the Weekly as the Annapolis meetings were drawing to a close, Choukri-Fischere argued that the US-hosted peace conference offered "positive signs but an incomplete work". "We heard talk about the international intervention and about the follow-up mechanism. We saw Syria present and we heard that a meeting to be hosted by Russia [by the spring of] next year would follow up on the Palestinian-Israeli track and address more attention to the Syrian-Israeli track. These are good signs," he said. However, he hastened to add, "what matters now is to see that there is sufficient substance to these [gestures] which should not be [reduced to mere political] ornaments." Moreover, the director of the ICG peace project expressed worry over the continued marginalisation of Hamas, but added that this concern could be addressed through an endeavour to induce national Palestinian reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Arab peace process diplomats say that while the Americans are not blind to the many difficulties embedded in the Arab-Israeli struggle, they still want some progress, if only to cover up for miserable US failure in Afghanistan and Iraq. "When Bush went for his war on Iraq against the advice of those who called for a settlement of the Middle East situation first, he argued that the road to Jerusalem is through Baghdad. Today, it seems that he is taking the reverse road," commented one diplomat.
Indeed, for the Bush administration, a semblance of movement on the Palestinian-Israeli front could help gear up support for a potential military strike against Iran. "The most worrisome part is that it is not just Iran that qualifies for the US's 'extremists' list. Hamas and Hizbullah are also there, and this could mean an open confrontation between Hamas, which rejects Annapolis, and Abbas, who is very keen on Annapolis," commented one diplomat.
In this sense, commented the same diplomat, "the day after" Annapolis could be a day of Palestinian bloodshed, "and may even end the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, chaired by Abbas," and witness the rise of the resistance approach, as epitomised by "both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad". Were this to happen, the "difficulties" Bush predicted in his speech to lie ahead, may be of a wholly new order.
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That the Palestinians would be the losers at Annapolis was a foregone conclusion, writes Saleh Al-Naami
By Al Naami
Shaul Goldstein, leader of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank, had only praise for his prime minister, Ehud Olmert, after hearing the speeches of US President George W Bush, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Olmert at the Annapolis meeting on Tuesday. Speaking to Israeli television Channel 10, this stalwart of Israel's far right hailed the outcome of Annapolis as positive because it would allow settlements to expand in the West Bank. Goldstein's glee is in stark contrast to the feelings of most Palestinians who, reading the text of the speeches, could be left in no doubt that they are the losers.
The joint declaration read by President Bush at the start of his speech reiterated Israeli demands that the meeting would not issue a binding document of principles but instead a "declaration of intent". The statement underlined how far Abu Mazen had retreated from his earlier promises to the Palestinians that he would not go to Annapolis before agreeing on a declaration of principles that would address fundamental issues in the conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, five million Palestinian refugees and borders. The Palestinian negotiating team had also vowed not to travel to Annapolis until Olmert announced the freezing of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, a halt to construction of the apartheid, and the removal of military checkpoints around the West Bank.
As expected, the joint declaration failed to announce any deadline for the completion of negotiations. Bush promised to exert "great effort" to ensure that negotiations would end before his presidential term but failed to provide any details of the mechanisms that would make such a goal possible.
If Abu Mazen should be tempted to consider the Annapolis meeting, attended by representatives of 50 countries, as a success for the Palestinians on the grounds that the participating states will pressure Israel to adopt less intransigent positions, the joint statement, which stressed that negotiations between the two sides will be bilateral, with the American administration monopolising the role of adjudicator, must surely temper his optimism. The US administration, after all, has been monopolising the same role for 14 years.
More alarming, perhaps, is the fact that the declaration considers the roadmap the sole reference for the negotiating process, suggesting that talks between the two sides could continue indefinitely.
Bush may have stressed that both Israel and the Palestinians must fulfil their commitments outlined in the plan but the Americans and Israelis hold that these commitments must be successive. What this means in fact is that the PA must first fulfil its obligations and, if it succeeds, it will be the turn of Israel to meet its obligations. The PA then must succeed in the impossible task of disarming Palestinian resistance movements before Israel is obliged to lift a finger.
According to the Israeli media, both Bush and Olmert told Abu Mazen in their tripartite meeting that he must regain control of Gaza and halt the firing of missiles. It is a scenario that holds out the prospect of a Palestinian civil war.
Two months ago, Abu Mazen promised to work towards unifying the West Bank and Gaza. Now it seems the goal of unity is not to be pursued via dialogue with Hamas. Speaking to Israeli TV following Olmert's opening speech in Annapolis, Israeli deputy premier Avigdor Lieberman said that, "Abu Mazen and [Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad appeared more eager for Israel to reoccupy the Strip than the residents of Sederot [the settlement subjected to Palestinian shelling from Gaza]."
Difficult as it is to count the incidents of Palestinian failure at Annapolis, one of the most chilling moments came when Bush described Israel as the "national homeland of the Jews". The significance of the statement is not just that it presupposes the Palestinians will concede the right of return, it also paves the way for Israel "to expel the 1948 Palestinians", as Benny Alon, head of the Israeli Moledet Party, stated. Even Abdullah Abdullah, head of the political committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a close associate of Abu Mazen, thought the statement was "catastrophic".
"This means uprooting hundreds of thousands of our people from their land," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Hamas spokesman Salah Al-Bardaweil told the Weekly that Bush's statement was tantamount to a "new Balfour promise", while to Abdul-Sattar Qassem, professor of political science at An-Najah University, it represented an "attack on the collective consciousness of the Palestinians... They want us to protect the Israeli occupation and its institutions with American money."
Bush snubbed the Arab delegations that attended the meeting when he failed to make any reference to the 2002 Arab initiative, offering full normalisation with Israel in return for withdrawal to the 1967 borders, effectively draining their participation of any meaning. He then made matters worse by referring to his letter of guarantees sent to former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon as the most important reference point for the negotiations. The letter blocks the right of return, withdrawal to the 1967 borders and allows Israel to annex settlements built on occupied land. Syria, which was obliged to attend the meeting, was rewarded with no mention of the occupied Golan Heights in the speeches of either Bush or Olmert.
The subtexts to Bush's talk of "extremists" and the "forces of darkness", and Olmert's call for Arabs to participate with Israel in the war against fundamentalism, were clear to all, not least Dan Schueftan, head of the Israeli national security research centre. The Annapolis meeting, he said, had never been about resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but was convened to pave the way for an American strike against Iran in cooperation with the Arabs and Israel.
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Hamas says the sanctions are blackmail
Israel's highest court has upheld a government decision to reduce fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip, but postponed electricity cuts to the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israel cut down the amount of fuel oil, diesel and petrol arriving in Gaza last month, as part of economic sanctions ordered in response to the firing of Palestinian rockets.
The government said it would begin cutting power on December 2, officials said on Friday.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Western leaders warned Israel against imposing illegal "collective punishment" on Gaza's largely aid-dependent 1.5 million residents.
Human rights groups have appealed to Israel's high court to intervene.
However, the court ruling has found in favour of the government's argument that fuel supplies for vital activities such as running Gaza's only power plant would be maintained.
"We are convinced that, for now, there is no need to issue a stay ... especially as the [government] respondents undertook from the outset to ensure that the [fuel] reductions do not cause humanitarian harm," the panel of three justices wrote.
Israel's high court said in its ruling that it sought clarification on how, "given conditions in the Gaza Strip, it is possible to carry out the proposed [power] reductions without harming the population's vital humanitarian needs".
The court has in turn demanded extending deliberations on the proposed sanctions by at least 19 days.
Israel had planned to begin power cuts on Sunday, but Shlomo Dror, a senior defence ministry official, said the measure would be postponed.
"Clearly we cannot move on this until the high court has its final say," Dror told Reuters.
Israel's sanctions have coincided with the attendance of Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, and Abbas at US-sponsored talks at this week's in Annapolis, Maryland.
Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but continues to control all its imports.
Cutting utilities is preferable to mounting a bloody invasion to stop Palestinians firing makeshift short-range rockets, Israel claims.
Hamas has condemned the sanctions as "blackmail" and hinted that Gaza's privations could stoke Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Dror said that Israel reduced fuels supplied to Gaza by about 13 per cent, depending on type, last month. Palestinian officials disputed this, reporting fuel cuts of between 40 and 50 per cent.
According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, Gaza's population uses about 200 megawatts of electricity, of which 120 are provided directly from Israeli power lines, 17 are delivered from Egypt, and 65 are produced at the Palestinian plant.
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Australia's prime minister-elect has said that his country's 550 combat troops in Iraq will be withdrawn by the middle of next year.
"The combat force in Iraq, we would have home by around about the middle of next year," Kevin Rudd told a Melbourne radio station on Friday.
"We've not begun our discussions with the United States on that. We'll have a meeting with the United States ambassador before too long to set up the appropriate processes for discussing that."
Rudd won Saturday's elections by a landslide, beating John Howard, the prime minister who staunchly supported the US-led war in Iraq.
Rudd had promised to withdraw the battle group from Iraq if elected but said he would leave behind some Australian soldiers, including those providing security at Australia's embassy in Baghdad.
Australia has some 1,500 troops involved in Iraqi operations, but most are outside the country.
The withdrawal plan covers only the 550 combat troops deployed in the south of the war-torn country.
Iraq was a key point of difference between Rudd's centre-left Labor party and Howard's conservative coalition during the election, but in his victory speech Rudd moved to allay US concerns about the troop withdrawal, describing the US as a great ally.
Last of 'coalition'
Robert McCallum, the US ambassador, said Washington would work with Rudd on the plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq.
The withdrawal plan covers only the 550
combat troops deployed inside Iraq [EPA]
"It's a situation where Australia is determining how it is going to reposition forces and how it is going to deploy its resources in a new and different way, and we are looking forward to working with Mr Rudd in achieving that," McCallum said this week.
"There are going to be Australian troops left in Iraq as security forces that relate to the Australian embassy in Baghdad; there are naval forces and air forces that are offshore that relate to security issues," he added.
Howard was US President George Bush's last major partner in the "coalition of the willing" that once included former prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain; Jose Maria Aznar of Spain; Silvio Berlusconi of Italy; and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, has announced that the number of British troops in Iraq will be cut by more than half early next year.
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By Gulamhusein A. Abba
"The only matter to be negotiated at Anapolis and thereafter is how to evacuate the Israeli army and settlers in a humane and safe manner, what to do with the settlements and other assets that will have to be left behind by the Israelis in the occupied territories and how much reparation is to be paid by Israel to the Palestinians"
When Iraq occupied Kuwait there was no question of negotiations, concessions, painful sacrifices. Iraq was told bluntly to vacate the occupation. When it refused to comply, the international community, led by US, drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait by military force, chasing it almost to the gates of Baghdad, leaving behind killing fields full of burnt out vehicles and corpses littered all over. It was ghastly and tragic but nevertheless a victory for international law.
There exist clear boundary lines, recognized and accepted by the international community, between Israel and Palestinian territories. These were set out in the original 1947 UN resolution proposing the setting up of an Israeli state. This boundary was modified by what has come to be known as the Green Line which came into being as a result of the Armistice agreement accepted by the Palestinians and Israel. In 1967 Israel crossed these lines and occupied all of the Palestinian lands, including the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem (and the Golan Heights.)
International law is very clear on this. All land acquired through conquest must be returned by the occupier. There is no question of negotiations or concessions or sacrifices. All of the land has to be given back, unconditionally.
In any discussion about the "peace negotiations" that have now been initiated by the US between Israel and Palestine, two factors must be constantly borne in mind: Firstly, the Palestinians are the aggrieved victims and Israel the offending occupier. It is a travesty to treat the thief and the victim, the person wearing the boot and the one being crushed under it, on the same footing; Secondly, Israel will not be "giving" anything at all to the Palestinians. It will be merely returning to them what is rightfully theirs and which Israel took by force in 1967.
As for "concessions" and "giving", a major portion of their land was taken away from the Palestinians and given to the Jewish people to form Israel. Later the Palestinians gave even more land when they signed the Armistice agreement. Now they have a mere 22% of their original holding. What more is there for them to give? It is most unfair and the height of injustice to ask them to give even more.
Recognition by neighboring Arab states:
Undoubtedly recognition of Israel by the neighboring Arab countries is important to Israel. This is a separate matter. It does not in any way affect the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own, especially when it is sought on a mere 22% of the land they originally had. Clearly the recognition of Israel by the neighbouring Arab states, though of great strategic importance to Israel, cannot be a condition for the setting up of a Palestinian state. It is up to Israel to woo the Arab states. This should not be difficult. They have already said the would recognize Israel provided it withdrew to the boundaries existing prior to Israel's 1967 occupation of Palestinian territories.
Similarly, the question of refugees is a thorny one for Israel. But, this again, is a separate matter. It cannot be allowed to hold up the setting of an independent Palestinian state. It is a problem between Israel and the refugees and has to be solved according to international law on the subject.
Whenever the question of setting up a Palestinian state comes up, the bogey of Israel's security is raised! Israel has an army which is among the largest and most powerful in the world. It has nuclear arsenal. It has more than once not only repulsed attacks by the combined armies of all the neighboring Arab states but inflicted humiliating defeats on them. This coalition has now been weakened by two of them -- Egypt and Jordan -- signing peace agreements with Israel. And several Arab states, though not formally declaring their recognition of Israel, are doing flouring business with Israel. In addition it has the undying and unquestioned support and backing of the most powerful nation in the world -- the USA. And Israel is worried about its security consequent to the creation of a Palestinian state? A state that has no army, no arsenal, nuclear or otherwise, worth the name? What can be more ridiculous?
If anyone needs security guarantees, it is the envisaged Palestinian state.
It would be relevant to ask as to where those so concerned now about guaranteeing Israel's security were when Israel was being envisaged? Were guarantees of security of the Arab population in and around the areas which were to become Israel asked for from the Jewish leaders before moving to set up an Israeli state? Were any steps taken by the international community to safeguard their "security" when the state of Israel was being announced?
This question of "security" is a mere bogey raised to confuse issues and provide excuses to Israel for delaying the formation of a Palestinian state. Already claims are being made that no peace agreement can be reached unless the launching of mortars on Israel is completely stopped. It wants this stopped though it refuses to stop its grab of Palestinian land, stop the construction of the security wall, stop its incursions into Palestinian territories, stop its arrests and killings of Palestinians.
Israel knows very well that its security lies in ending its brutal 40 years plus occupation of West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, releasing the Palestinian prisoners it holds and helping set up, recognizing and developing sincere, friendly relations with a contiguous, viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state.
Settlements and settlers:
This is a difficult and thorny problem. But it is Israel alone that is responsible for it. It knowingly and deliberately built the settlements as a strategy for expansion. It was illegal to do so. Yet it went ahead and did it. In spite of pleas from the Palestinians, the international community did nothing to stop it. It is now totally unacceptable to allow Israel to use the "facts on the ground" that it created as an excuse to demand more land from the Palestinians.
That Israel wants the land on which the major settlements are built is well known. But it has no right to demand it. If it is too proud to beg for it, the least it can do is request the Palestinians to let it have the land. It would then be up to the Palestinians to grant or refuse the request. It would be up to Israel to make an offer the Palestinians cannot refuse! Here again, the granting of such a request cannot be a condition for setting up a Palestinian state nor its refusal be an excuse for continuing the occupation.
Similarly, Israel needs water over which the Palestinians would have control after the creation of a Palestinian state. That is an unfortunate fact of life. It comes with the throw of the dice. After all Israel accepted the UN resolution proposing the setting up of Israel. The boundaries of the proposed Israeli state were clearly delineated. Israel's acceptance of the resolution implied the acceptance and honouring of the boundaries. If it had any concerns about water then, it should have insisted on that being a part of what was being offered to the Jewish people by the international community.
This, of course, does not bar them from requesting from the Palestinians concessions in regard to water. Israel cannot demand it and it certainly cannot insist that granting of these concessions be a condition for the setting up of a Palestinian state.
In fact, negotiations on this can be carried out in a fair and friendly manner only between two states that are negotiating on an equal footing. In other words, these negotiations, properly speaking, can be carried on only after the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.
What then is to be negotiated now?
The only matter to be negotiated at Annapolis and thereafter is how to evacuate the Israeli army and settlers in a humane and safe manner, what to do with the settlements and other assets that will have to be left behind by the Israelis in the occupied territories and how much reparation is to be paid by Israel to the Palestinians.
Gulamhusein A. Abba is a retired journalist and a semi-retired activist who continues to stand up for peace, justice and human rights. He lives in Danbury, Conn.
This entry was posted on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:11:02 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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(Photo via My Sideways World.)
By Christy Hardin Smith
Two top Kurdish leaders are a long way from the mountains of northern Iraq this week.
On Monday night, Omer Fattah Hussain was the toast of a dinner held at the 10,000-square-foot McLean mansion of Ed Rogers, a Reagan White House political director and current chairman of the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers. In an opulent living room just off an art-filled entryway with a curved double stairway, the deputy prime minister of the Iraqi Kurds’ autonomous region mingled with such luminaries as former assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle, former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and former White House press secretary Tony Snow.
Today, Hussain travels to Houston with Ashti Abdullah Hawrami, the Kurdish regional oil minister, to woo an even more important audience: U.S. oil companies.
After more than a year of political deadlock in Iraq over a national petroleum law, the Kurdistan Regional Government unanimously adopted its own petroleum legislation in August. In the past month, it has signed a dozen oil exploration contracts and hopes that foreign firms will ultimately invest $10 billion in the oil sector and bring 1 million barrels a day of new oil production from the Kurdish region over the next five years.
“Everyone is lining up . . . saying ‘I want a piece of this action,’ ” said Hawrami, who hopes to complete negotiations on two more deals in Houston.
Hawrami said the contracts posed no conflict with Iraq’s federal constitution. The Iraqi central government, however, is irate over the Kurdish contracts — and the State Department isn’t happy either. The Bush administration has been striving mightily over the past year to get a national petroleum law approved before international firms jump in….
Some of the recent signing activity may have begun when Dallas-based Hunt Oil, whose chief executive Ray L. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a major contributor to Bush’s campaigns, signed a contract in September. Smaller U.S. companies have followed suit….
Nope, no conflicts of interest here. What a cozy soiree laden with George Bush and Dick Cheney’s pals and confidentes attempting to sway policy interests in the most oil-rich portion of Iraq: Richard Perle and Scooter Libby, along with erstwhile Karl and Scooter talking head defender guy, Ed Rogers. Wow, those wingnut welfare gigs sure do pay off in cocktail weenies, don’t they? Ethics abound…talk about grooming the hands that cover your flanks, eh?
UPDATE: From John Anderson in the comments:
Yes, and guess who’s representing the Hunt Oil interests in the Kurdish autonomous region? Why, Baker Botts, of course. Hey, you don’t even have to follow the benjamins on this one, you just have to follow the Baker Botts [which happens to be one of the firms that represents Barbour, Griffith & Rogers] flag. My old magazine, The American Lawyer, reports the story today in its December issue.
Yes, as in James Baker. Everyone sing, “it’s a small world after all…” (If you haven’t read John’s book “Follow the Money,” you really should.)
This entry was posted on Nov 29, 2007 at 08:04:58 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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Sacco's work often portrays Israeli raids as particularly brutal [Fantagraphics]
By Omar Khalifa
"I had a difficult time finding a job in journalism ... One that remotely interested me ... One that addressed the need to do something inspiring...
"I never thought of it as a career path; never even thought of it as a hobby. It was a passion ... I would draw comics ... but still wanted to be a hard news reporter..."
As a result, Maltese cartoonist Joe Sacco, went to the West Bank and Gaza to spend time with Palestinians between 1991 and 1992. On his return to the US, he started writing and drawing the award-winning book, Palestine. With a special edition of the comic book released in November, Al Jazeera speaks to Sacco about his experiences, methodology, and the 15 years since the comic book's first release.
Q: What were you trying to do with Palestine?
I don't really know what I was trying to do, but I think my impetus for going was that I felt the American media had really misportrayed the situation [between Israel and the Palestinians] and I was really shocked by that.
I grew up thinking of Palestinians as terrorists, and it took a lot of time, and reading the right things, to understand the power dynamic in the Middle East was not what I had thought it was... And basically, it upset me enough that I wanted to go, and, in a small way, give the Palestinians a voice - a lens through which people could see their lives.
There are two ways in which Palestinians are portrayed - as terrorist and as victim.
There may be truth in certain situations for both descriptions, but Palestinians are also people going to school, who have families, have lives, invite you into their home, and think about their food.
I'm deeply saddened by what's going on there ... the same is true for Bosnia. I was appalled by what was going on and went to see what I could do. I was compelled to go and do these stories, as this was the only form of solidarity that I could offer from within me.
There are so many things in the Middle East that I'm interested in - Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria - but I feel that if I'm to pursue this course, I'll need to learn Arabic.
Q: What was your methodology in creating Palestine?
I wasn't sure what I was gong to be doing when I went to the Palestinian territories. I already had a minor career as a cartoonist and knew that was my direction.
I went thinking, well, I'll do a travelogue of my experience there, but I knew I'd be talking to people and taking notes, so when I got there, I felt the journalist impulse came to the fore, interviewing people, getting stories, looking at the occupation and needing to do something about it.
So I began looking at major aspects of occupation, finding people who had those experiences and finding people with something to say about it.
It became methodical, but there were certainly more random aspects to the book. I let myself be pulled in many ways, with the mindset: "What ever comes up, comes up."
I took photos purely for reference, and I had a sketch book with me but I found myself not really using it. My photos aren't good; I only use them to have an idea of what things looked like as I mainly wanted to talk to people.
The book has a very organic feel. So many of my adventures were random. I'd get into a taxi to a certain city, and I thought: "Let's see who comes up to me." Someone was always likely to approach me and I'd say to them: "I'm here to see how you live, what your lives are like."
More often, the Palestinians I met would say: "If you want to see something, follow me." People at that time appreciated your interest in them and their lives, and were less worried or paranoid like they are today.
Q: Do you think your work tried to reconcile the differences between Israelis and Palestinians?
I wasn't trying to reconcile the differences between Israelis and Palestinians. I wanted to show some of the small issues related to the occupation. In fact, I don't think I showed anything spectacular.
I heard torture stories that were unusually harsh, but I decided not to use those kinds of stories, and instead something less shocking, something more of an "everyman" experience.
I think it's the "everyman experience" that people can relate to. It's harder to imagine; harder to put yourself in the picture of someone who is being humiliated.
For the average Westerner, the hooding of a detainee, stress positions, sleep deprivation ... obviously all Americans know that goes on now, but those sorts of things go on in cells all over the world.
Showing physical trauma, psychologically, would make it more difficult to bond with the reader, which is what I ultimately wanted to do.
I'm more comfortable as a journalist talking about stories that were about the common man.
Q: Edward Said wrote the foreword for Palestine – how did that come about?
Out of the blue I received a book from him, Peace and its Discontents, with a nice note written about the Palestine release, when they were a series of comics. Allegedly his son had been reading them.
Some years later, when Palestine was released as a single volume, I was asked: "Who should we get to write an intro?"
I wrote to Edward Said, and said that I would be honoured if he could do it, understanding that he was unwell at the time and in fact, didn't expect him to say yes. When he did, I was overwhelmed.
Q: Ever thought about turning this book into a film?
I don't think the book, Palestine, can be made into a film. It's too episodic. I've been approached a few times, but nobody has come to me with a legitimate way of making [it a] film.
I like doing comics. It's the thing I'm good at and I get to work on it alone.
I am in 100 per cent control. I design the sets and lighting, I don't need millions of dollars to do it. I don't want a committee telling me how to produce it.
The great thing about my work, as a cartoonist, is that it's a one man show.
Biography: Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco was born in Malta. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. His comic book, Palestine, won an American Book Award in 1996, and his graphic novel, Safe Area: Goradze, about his time in Bosnia, won the Will Eisener Award for Best Original Graphic Novel in 2001.
Sacco is currently working on a comic book about the southern Gaza Strip called Footnotes in Gaza, due for release at the end of 2008.
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The occupation is not benign, wirtes Al Haq. It is aggressive. It is an accumulation of 40 years of violations of international law through which Israel has advanced a policy of control, isolation and annexation of Palestinian land, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people.
-- Al Haq is an independent human rights organization with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It is based in Ramallah, Palestine.
Over the past 40 years Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has aggressively targeted both the land and the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Not simply haphazard structures of concrete, steel and tarmac, Israel’s settlements and their accompanying maze of bypass roads, hundreds of checkpoints, other movement restrictions and the Annexation Wall, are ever-increasing monuments to the dispossession and subjugation of the Palestinian people, at the expense of their fundamental rights guaranteed under international law.
Supporting the physical infrastructure of the occupation is an invisible system of administrative restrictions and military dictates. Military orders serve as the arbitrary basis for land expropriation, property destruction and the exclusion of Palestinians from vast tracts of land, while a permit regime further restricts movement and stifles social, economic and cultural existence. Since the beginning of the occupation, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, thousands more killed in extrajudicial executions, and an estimated 115,000 forcibly displaced internally, while over six million Palestinians remain refugees, unable to return to their homeland.
The occupation is not benign. It is aggressive. It is an accumulation of 40 years of violations of international law through which Israel has advanced a policy of control, isolation and annexation of Palestinian land, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people. Ultimately, the occupation eviscerates not only their rights as individuals, but also their most fundamental right as a people - the right to self-determination.
On this, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the international community must not only clearly renounce its tacit acquiescence to Israel’s violations of international law, but also commit to concrete action to end these violations, and in doing so, end the occupation itself.
Transforming the Land, Targeting the People
Israel’s intention to annex Palestinian land became evident in the immediate aftermath of the June 1967 war. Approximately 30 settlements were established in the first 18 months of the occupation; 40 years later, there are some 149 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, housing more than 450,000 settlers. These settlements, including built-up areas, land reserves and non-developed areas within the settlements' boundaries control approximately 40 percent of the total land area of the occupied West Bank, the vast majority of which is off-limits to Palestinians.
In parallel to Israel’s settlement enterprise, the annexation of territory is further enabled by Israeli policies which isolate Palestinians from their land and each other, in particular through physical and administrative restrictions on their freedom of movement. Checkpoints, roadblocks, trenches, road gates, and other physical barriers prevent Palestinians from travelling freely within the West Bank. In July 2007, the UN recorded a total of 545 physical obstacles to Palestinian movement; they are accompanied by a pervasive permit system that limits the movement of Palestinians through certain checkpoints, and confines them to specific roads and areas of the OPT.
The most recent tool in Israel’s policy of territorial acquisition is the construction of the Annexation Wall in the West Bank. Begun in June 2002, the route of the Wall encroaches deep into the West Bank to surround major settlements housing over 80 percent of the settler population. Stretching over twice the length of the Green Line (the de facto border between Israel and the OPT), some 80 percent of the Wall will be built inside the West Bank. Already over 56 percent complete, once the structure is finished, approximately 10 percent of the West Bank will be isolated between the Green Line and the Wall, including both East Jerusalem and some of the most arable land in the northern West Bank, as well as some of the OPT’s most essential water resources.
The system effectively serves to fragment the West Bank and its population into isolated geographical units, an archipelago of land locked Palestinian islands in a sea of Israeli control, with movement between them heavily restricted. In recent years a number of these checkpoints, deep within the West Bank and along the route of the Wall, have developed into terminals similar to international border crossings, testifying to their intended permanence.
The interaction of Israel’s settlements, movement restrictions, Wall and permit system as harbingers of annexation has been most blatant in occupied East Jerusalem. Approximately two weeks after the end of the June 1967 war, the Israeli authorities announced the extension of their jurisdiction over East Jerusalem as well as a sizeable amount of the land of surrounding Palestinian villages. The Israeli-defined municipal borders of Jerusalem more than doubled through this de facto annexation. Approximately one-third of the illegally annexed land was expropriated to build 12 settlements, currently home to over 250,000 Israeli settlers. The majority of the remaining land was re-zoned so as to prevent Palestinian use, and in effect serves as a land reserve for further settlement construction and expansion. While Palestinians constitute over 50 percent of the population of East Jerusalem, through a complex intersection of physical and administrative measures, only 7.3 percent of the land therein is available for Palestinian construction, most of which is already built-up. Palestinian movement to and from the city is massively restricted, and further limited by the route of the Wall which encloses all settlements in and surrounding East Jerusalem, permanently sealing the city off from the rest of the West Bank.
A similar pattern of annexation is apparent in other areas of the West Bank, most notably in the Jordan Valley. This area, one of the most fertile in the OPT and thus a critical part of the fragile (and agricultural-dependant) Palestinian economy, forms approximately 25 percent of the West Bank. Israeli authorities established settlements in the region from the early days of the occupation, declaring it a closed military area, which enabled the effective confiscation and expropriation of much of the land in the area. At present, Israel controls an estimated 90 percent of the land, to which Palestinians are denied access and use. This denial has been implemented through an invisible Wall of permits, checkpoints and restricted access roads that allow Israel to exert total control over the movement of Palestinians to and from the Jordan Valley.
The consistent policy of the Israeli government has been that control over East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and the settlement ‘blocs’ will be retained by Israel in any negotiated solution. The current Israeli Prime Minister has himself stated that the Jordan Valley constitutes Israel’s “eastern border,” and that the route of the Wall, which incorporates the settlement ‘blocs’ and East Jerusalem, will be the basis of the future border of the state of Israel.
Despite its lack of contiguity with the West Bank, the Gaza Strip with its population of 1.5 million Palestinians is an integral part of the OPT. On 15 September 2005, Israel completed its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, removing some 8,000 Israeli settlers and its military forces from the Gaza Strip. The stated objective of the Disengagement Plan was, in its initial formulation, the removal of the "basis for claiming that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory," seeking to "dispel claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip." Further, trying to negate its occupation, the Israeli government has recently declared the Gaza Strip “hostile territory” and used this designation as the basis for the overt and indiscriminate punishment of the Palestinian civilian population therein. Despite these legal gymnastics, as long as Israel remains in effective control of the Gaza Strip – requiring only that it has the ability to make its authority felt within a reasonable time – it remains an occupying power. Israel's exclusive border control, maintenance of authority over the Palestinian population registry, and repeated and ongoing military operations in Gaza, ranging from shelling to large-scale ground invasions, clearly demonstrate that this remains the case.
An Unlawful Occupation
The sustained patterns of abuse perpetrated for the last 40 years against the Palestinian people, lead to the inevitable conclusion that the practices inherent in Israel’s prolonged occupation of the OPT are in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits, inter alia, an Occupying Power from transferring part of its civilian population into the occupied territory, and the confiscation or destruction of property except where required by imperative military necessity. The restrictions on Palestinian movement, and by extension on access to healthcare, education and employment, constitute clear violations of human rights, as do ill-treatment at checkpoints, arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial executions. These violations are not separate from the occupation but are at its core, intrinsic to its everyday existence in the lives of the Palestinian people. While these pervasive and systematic individual violations committed against Palestinian civilians through the occupation are enough to assert that the occupation itself is illegal, Israel’s policy in the OPT goes beyond disregarding binding human rights and humanitarian protections and extends to total contempt for general principles of international law, namely, the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
The illegality of the acquisition of territory by force is a foundation of international law that finds expression in the UN Charter and resolutions Security Council and General Assembly. It is recognised by the international community as a prohibition from which no derogation is permitted. As already noted, Israel intends to retain its settlements in the OPT in any negotiations, amounting to a declared intention to acquire territory by force in violation of international law.
Further, the retention of settlements and their associated infrastructure by Israel would not only amount to the illegal annexation of territory, but would also fragment the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, into isolated geographical units. When this is considered in parallel with the total isolation of the Gaza Strip, this makes a mockery of the idea of territorial contiguity in the OPT, and severely undermines any possibility of the meaningful exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable right to self-determination. In stifling the ability of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination, and other fundamental rights, Israel denies them the ability to shape their own future and live in dignity, further fuelling instability.
The Role of the International Community
The sustained denial by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, with the tacit acquiescence of the international community, fails not only to recognise the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to free themselves of oppressive occupation but further suggests such an aspiration is not worthy of international support. With the acquiescence of the international community, the meaningful exercise of the right to self-determination has been all but decimated by four decades of Israeli occupation. Rather than affirming the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, the international community has opted to seek to mitigate the disastrous effects of Israel’s illegal policies and practices in the OPT. In doing so, it has failed to meaningfully address the root causes of the conflict, voicing at best timid criticism devoid of concrete action and thereby serving only to feed despair and isolation, further removing international law as a reference point in the Palestinian struggle.
In 2006, in the wake of the democratic election of the Palestinian Legislative Council, this sense of isolation was heightened by the role that the international community played in actively undermining the Palestinian national institutions they championed only a decade before as key elements of the realisation of the Palestinian right to self-determination. The financial boycott of the Palestinian National Authority, already exercising substantially limited governance responsibilities, has rendered these institutions all but destitute. In such an atmosphere it is little surprise that disarray has become common currency. It is also notable that this is the first time in history that sanctions have been imposed on the victims of an oppressive regime rather than on the regime itself.
Now the international community has stumbled into another peace process, that similar to all past efforts, be they formal or informal, gives international legal norms little import, blindly assuming that peace can be realised without justice and accountability. In the context of a current global environment in which "security" concerns trump the rule of law, reason and democratic dissent, the Israeli authorities have increasing latitude to continue their unlawful practices in the OPT. Despite this ongoing pattern of violations, few remedies have been made available to Palestinians. This is compounded by the fact that those officials responsible enjoy undisputed immunity, in both Israel and abroad.
This systematic denial of justice is enabled by a deficit of enforcement from a seemingly indifferent international community. Rather, international leaders make diplomatic overtures which seek to realise a more benevolent occupation, without addressing the core of the problem - the occupation itself. In this respect the full implementation of international law must be taken as the unalterable core of any negotiated solution, and not simply treated as a disposable political afterthought.
The occupation was built by action, not words, at the expense of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. Action, and not only words, is therefore required to reaffirm these rights and in doing so end the occupation. The international community has the economic and diplomatic tools at its disposal to ensure Israel’s respect of international law, whether as the individual member states, regional organisations or as the United Nations. It is essential that these tools now be used, effectively and in accordance with international law. It is time to place, at this critical point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the imperatives of respect for the rule of law, human dignity and justice as the central narrative for achieving any negotiated solution. If any hope of a peace that is not devoid of meaning it to be achieved, the international community must stir from its complacency and rise to the defence of international law and the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
Al-Haq, PO Box 1413 - Ramallah, West Bank
Tel: +972 2 295 4646/9 Fax: +972 2 295 4903
email@example.com - http://www.alhaq.org
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BETHLEHEM, Palestine _ Amnesty International said on Saturday that if the Annapolis summit is to succeed the "grave human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law must be addressed."
A new Amnesty report, released shortly before the summit is due to begin next week, said that "measurable benchmarks should be laid down by the parties to the talks -- together with a clearly-defined mechanism for their implementation and including a regime of enforceable measures -- to ensure that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) comply with their obligations under international law and that the fundamental rights of both Palestinians and Israelis are respected."
Amnesty also called for the deployment of international human rights monitors in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), with a mandate to monitor and report publicly on compliance and on violations by either party of their commitments under international human rights and humanitarian law.
The international Quartet and the Middle Eastern countries involved in the Annapolis negotiations must ensure that international law and the Geneva Conventions are respected, according to Amnesty. "They should use these prerogatives as a positive force for change and insist that both the Israeli government and the PA adhere to their human rights and international humanitarian law commitments," the report said.
Amnesty International stressed that the most urgent issues to be addressed are those that impact daily on the human rights of millions of Palestinians and Israelis.
They called on both the Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups to immediately end unlawful killings and all other attacks on civilians, adding "the Israeli government and the PA must both bring to justice all perpetrators of such abuses -- regardless of their rank and seniority and political affiliation or backing."
The report also said the Israeli government should immediately lift the "regime of blockades and restrictions on the movement of people and goods in the OPT which have effectively paralyzed the Palestinian economy and denied any semblance of normal life to the 3.5 million Palestinian inhabitants."
"The Israeli government also should lift immediately the blockade it has imposed on the Gaza Strip and which has fuelled a humanitarian crisis, causing extreme and widespread poverty and food aid dependency, and the deaths of individuals in need of medical care unavailable in the Gaza Strip," the report added.
Amnesty called for the ceasing of all construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, including the 80 percent of the 700km separation wall built inside the occupied West Bank. "If a fence/wall is needed to protect Israelis' security, it should be positioned on the boundary between Israel and the OPT, not inside the OPT," the report said.
Israel must also begin preparations to relocate Israeli settlers from Palestinian territories back to Israel, according to Amnesty.
Amnesty also called on the Israeli authorities to stop destroying Palestinian homes and lands and to cancel outstanding demolition orders.
"The Israeli authorities should release Palestinians arbitrarily detained, notably more than 800 administrative detainees who are held without charge or trial, and should review the cases of some 300 Palestinian children, who have been trial or are awaiting trial by Israeli military courts without benefiting from the necessary procedures designed to protect children, in breach of the provisions stipulated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child," the report stipulated.
The Amnesty report said the international Quartet must insist the Israeli government end its unlawful appropriation of Palestinian land and natural resources in Palestinian territories.
According to the report, Israel has failed to abide by agreements to stop settlement expansion. "Under the 'Roadmap' agreement, the Israeli government undertook to freeze all settlement activity, including expansion for so-called "natural growth," and to dismantle all the settlement "outposts" established since 2001, but it has signally failed to do so." Instead, dozens of these "outposts" -- as well as some 150 settlements officially recognized by the Israeli government throughout the West Bank -- have been expanded. While the removal of some 8,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 was a positive step, it was offset by a larger increase in the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank."
The report also highlighted that the Israeli government has failed to fulfill its commitment made last month to the US administration in preparation for the Annapolis meeting to remove some of the 560 military checkpoints and blockades which impede the movement of Palestinians between towns and villages in the West Bank, and to allow access for Palestinian farmers now cut off from their land by special procedures or processes designed to protect children the construction of the separation wall.
"At the same time, the tightening by Israel of the blockade on the Gaza Strip continues to have devastating consequences for its 1.5 million inhabitants. With only rare exceptions, critically ill patients continue to be prevented from leaving Gaza, where the medical treatment they need is not available, and several have died as a result. The World Health Organization reported earlier this month a shortage of some essential drugs and a further deterioration in health among the inhabitants of Gaza, where hospitals are also affected by food shortages, including dairy products and meat. International aid agencies have expressed concern that Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip are severely hampering their ability to meet the humanitarian needs of the population -- 80 percent of whom are now forced to rely on international assistance," the report added.
"The international community must also demand the immediate lifting of the arbitrary and disproportionate blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza, which constitutes a form of collective punishment on the Palestinian inhabitants, including hundreds of thousands of children and others who bear no responsibility for the violence and who are living in a dire situation of enforced poverty," the report concluded.
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Israeli naval forces kill two Palestinian Police Officers in southern Gaza
Israeli naval forces on Wednesday afternoon killed two Palestinian Police Officers and injured five others in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, local sources reported.
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Israeli army kills Palestinian farmer in Rafah; death toll rises to six in 24 hours
A total of six Palestinians, a number including civilians and resistance fighters, have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in the last 24 hours.
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Israeli troops execute injured Palestinian in Gaza, eyewitnesses say
GAZA – Local residents in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip told Ma'an's correspondent that Israeli forces executed a Palestinian man after he was wounded in the Israeli air strike on Wednesday afternoon.
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Israeli Army Abducts Two Young Men From Azzun, Shoots Three Teenagers Critically Injuring One, and Assaults Human Rights Workers
Approximately 10 military vehicles invaded and took over the residential streets of Azzun Tuesday mid-afternoon, abducting two young men, terrorizing the residents, and shooting 3 teenagers with live ammunition. Residents report that over 200 Israeli soldiers, including Special Forces, entered the old city quarter around 2:45 pm from different directions, positioning themselves at various points on the narrow lanes, firing live bullets and throwing sound bombs while closing in on the home of the young man they sought. IOF foot soldiers entered first, followed about 30 minutes later by a series of military trucks and jeeps, as well as two undercover Palestinian minibuses with further special forces inside.
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IMEMC Photographer beaten and detained by PA (President Mahmoud Abbas's) Security forces
Palestinian Security forces on Tuesdaya assaulted and detained IMEMC’s Photographer and News Producer Ghassan Bannoura as he covered an anti-Annapolis demonstration in Bethlehem.
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Fifty-seven injured as PA (President Mahmoud Abbas's) security forces attack Hebron funeral
Fifty seven Palestinians were injured, several of them seriously, on Wednesday when Palestinian Authority security forces opened fire during a funeral for a civilian killed during Tuesday's anti-Annapolis protests in Hebron, eyewitnesses and medical sources reported.
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By MOHAMMED KHATIB
On the eve of the meeting intended to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians at Annapolis, Maryland, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israel will build no new West Bank settlements, but will not "strangle" existing Israel settlements. This means that construction in the 149 existing Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank that are strangling Palestinians, including the settlements on our village's land, will continue unchecked. Olmert's cynical announcement underlines our fear that Israel, with US support, will insist on retaining most West Bank settlements in the upcoming negotiations, locking Palestinians into a "separate but unequal" position.
When United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visited the Middle East a few weeks ago, people from our small village of Bil'in joined neighboring villages to send her a message. We protested peacefully against a West Bank highway near us that is reserved for Jewish Israeli settlers, and off-limits to Palestinians, though it was built on Palestinian land. Our banner read: "Condi, What would Rosa Parks do?"
We know that Dr. Rice experienced the bitter taste of discrimination growing up in the South during the US civil rights struggle. In Bil'in, we've drawn inspiration from the US civil rights movement as we've carried out a three year nonviolent resistance campaign against the discriminatory policies of Israel's military occupation.
We share Dr. Rice's admiration for the courage of Rosa Parks who was arrested in Alabama, Rice's home state, for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man. As Palestinians we aren't even allowed in buses on many roads in our own country, because 200 miles of the best West Bank roads are reserved for Israeli Jewish settlers.1 The color of Palestinian license plates is different from the licenses of Israelis. Palestinian plates are not allowed on most of the highways crisscrossing the West Bank, many of which were built with US government funding. Palestinians have been banned for five years now from Highway 443 where we protested.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are 561 physical obstacles and checkpoints inside the West Bank restricting Palestinian movement within the West Bank2, in comparison with only eight checkpoints which separate the West Bank from Israel proper. Nearly all the obstacles and checkpoints are located along the West Bank roads reserved for Israelis. This makes getting to the hospital, school and work or visiting relatives painstakingly difficult or impossible for us. This fragmentation of the West Bank has devastated our economy.
For Palestinians, accepting a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on just 22% of our historic homeland was already a dramatic compromise. But President Bush promised Israel in 2004 that in any negotiated agreement with the Palestinians Israel would retain its "already existing major population centers" in the West Bank.
However, all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. By annexing to Israel strategically located clusters of settlements, or "settlement blocs", and their highways which carve Palestinian areas into isolated enclaves, Israel will gain permanent control of our movement, borders, water, and cut us off from Jerusalem.
The Israeli organization Peace Now reported a few weeks ago that the population growth rate in the settlements is three times the growth rate within Israel.3 We're experiencing such rapid settlement construction around Bil'in and throughout the West Bank that I can't even find an accurate map of the West Bank for my son.
In 2001, Israeli developers began building settlement homes on land seized from Bil'in, calling them a neighborhood of the Modi'in Illit settlement bloc. Four years later, Israel's segregation wall separated Bil'in from 50% of our agricultural land under the pretext of protecting this new settlement. In response, we held over 200 nonviolent protests together with Israeli and international supporters.
Hundreds of us were injured and arrested. After our protests, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the wall's route in Bil'in must be changed to return around half of our seized land. Though we celebrated this success, Israel continues to build on our land that wasn't returned and plans to annex it as part of the Modi'in Illit settlement bloc.4
Israel has already de facto annexed the 10.2% of the West Bank that lies between the Green Line and the segregation wall, including the major settlement blocs and 80% of Israel's 450,000 settlers. The segregation wall, settlements and settlement roads carve Palestinian areas into isolated enclaves.
We pray that our children will not spend their lives under Israeli military occupation. We hope that the Annapolis meeting will bring our dreams of freedom closer to fulfillment. But we are concerned that if Israel is allowed to keep most of its settlements and the roads that connect them, then the existing system of "separate but unequal" will be cemented in place in a Palestinian state.
Mohammed Khatib is a leading member of Bilin's Popular Committee Against the Wall and the secretary of its village council.
 Forbidden roads: The discriminatory West Bank road regime, B'Tselem.
 OCHA Closure Update: October 2007, The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
 West Bank settlements 'expanding' BBC, 7 November 2007.
 One Palestinian Village Struggles Against Israel's Ever-Expanding "Settlements", Alternet, 26 September 2007.
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By JAMES PETRAS
On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which will influence the referendum this Sunday, December 2, 2007.
The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the Director of Central Intelligence, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled 'Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer' and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym 'HUMINT' (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government.
The Embassy-CIA's polls concede that 57 per cent of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted a 60 per cent abstention.
The US operatives emphasized their capacity to recruit former Chavez supporters among the social democrats (PODEMOS) and the former Minister of Defense Baduel, claiming to have reduced the 'yes' vote by 6 per cent from its original margin. Nevertheless the Embassy operatives concede that they have reached their ceiling, recognizing they cannot defeat the amendments via the electoral route.
The memo then recommends that Operation Pincer (OP) [Operación Tenaza] be operationalized. OP involves a two-pronged strategy of impeding the referendum, rejecting the outcome at the same time as calling for a 'no' vote. The run up to the referendum includes running phony polls, attacking electoral officials and running propaganda through the private media accusing the government of fraud and calling for a 'no' vote. Contradictions, the report emphasizes, are of no matter.
The CIA-Embassy reports internal division and recriminations among the opponents of the amendments including several defections from their 'umbrella group'. The key and most dangerous threats to democracy raised by the Embassy memo point to their success in mobilizing the private university students (backed by top administrators) to attack key government buildings including the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council. The Embassy is especially full of praise for the ex-Maoist 'Red Flag' group for its violent street fighting activity. Ironically, small Trotskyist sects and their trade unionists join the ex-Maoists in opposing the constitutional amendments. The Embassy, while discarding their 'Marxist rhetoric', perceives their opposition as fitting in with their overall strategy.
The ultimate objective of 'Operation Pincer' is to seize a territorial or institutional base with the 'massive support' of the defeated electoral minority within three or four days (presumably after the elections though this is not clear. JP) backed by an uprising by oppositionist military officers principally in the National Guard. The Embassy operative concede that the military plotters have run into serous problems as key intelligence operatives were detected, stores of arms were decommissioned and several plotters are under tight surveillance.
Apart from the deep involvement of the US, the primary organization of the Venezuelan business elite (FEDECAMARAS), as well as all the major private television, radio and newspaper outlets have been engaged in a campaign of fear and intimidation campaign. Food producers, wholesale and retail distributors have created artificial shortages of basic food items and have provoked large scale capital flight to sow chaos in the hopes of reaping a 'no' vote.
President Chavez Counter-Attacks
In a speech to pro-Chavez, pro-amendment nationalist business-people (Entrepreneurs for Venezuela EMPREVEN) Chavez warned the President of FEDECAMARAS that if he continues to threaten the government with a coup, he would nationalize all their business affiliates. With the exception of the Trotskyists and other sects, the vast majority of organized workers, peasants, small farmers, poor neighborhood councils, informal self-employed and public school students have mobilized and demonstrated in favor of the constitutional amendments.
The reason for the popular majority is found in a few of the key amendments: One article expedites land expropriation facilitating re-distribution to the landless and small producers. Chavez has already settled over 150,000 landless workers on 2 million acres of land. Another amendment provides universal social security coverage for the entire informal sector (street sellers, domestic workers, self-employed) amounting to 40 per cent of the labor force. Organized and unorganized workers' workweek will be reduced from 40 to 36 hours a week (Monday to Friday noon) with no reduction in pay. Open admission and universal free higher education will open greater educational opportunities for lower class students. Amendments will allow the government to by-pass current bureaucratic blockage of the socialization of strategic industries, thus creating greater employment and lower utility costs. Most important, an amendment will increase the power and budget of neighborhood councils to legislate and invest in their communities.
The electorate supporting the constitutional amendments is voting in favor of their socio-economic and class interests; the issue of extended re-election of the President is not high on their priorities: And that is the issue that the Right has focused on in calling Chavez a 'dictator' and the referendum a 'coup'.
With strong financial backing from the US Embassy ($8 million dollars in propaganda alone according to the Embassy memo) and the business elite and 'free time' by the right-wing media, the Right has organized a majority of the upper middle class students from the private universities, backed by the Catholic Church hierarchy, large swaths of the affluent middle class neighborhoods, entire sectors of the commercial, real estate and financial middle classes and apparently sectors of the military, especially officials in the National Guard. While the Right has control over the major private media, public television and radio back the constitutional reforms. While the Right has its followers among some generals and the National Guard, Chavez has the backing of the paratroops and legions of middle-rank officers and most other generals.
The outcome of the Referendum of December 2 is a major historical event first and foremost for Venezuela but also for the rest of the Americas. A positive vote (Vota 'Sí') will provide the legal framework for the democratization of the political system, the socialization of strategic economic sectors, empower the poor and provide the basis for a self-managed factory system. A negative vote (or a successful US-backed civil-military uprising) would reverse the most promising living experience of popular self-rule, of advanced social welfare and democratically based socialism. A reversal, especially a military dictated outcome, would lead to a blood bath, such as we have not seen since the days of the Indonesian Generals' Coup of 1966, which killed over a million workers and peasants or the Argentine Coup of 1976 in which over 30,000 Argentines were murdered by the US- backed Generals.
A decisive vote for 'Sí' will not end US military and political destabilization campaigns but it will certainly undermine and demoralize their collaborators. On December 2, 2007 the Venezuelans have a rendezvous with history.
James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This entry was posted on Nov 28, 2007 at 07:55:21 pm and is filed under American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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By JEFF HALPER
One may well think that the struggle inside the Jewish community of Israel is between those of the political right, who want to maintain the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank so as to "redeem" the Greater Land of Israel as a Jewish country, and those of the left who seek a two-state solution with the Palestinians and are thus willing to relinquish enough of the "territories", if not all, in order that a viable Palestinian state may emerge.
This is not really the case. Polls and the make-up of the Israeli government suggest that perhaps a quarter of Israeli Jews fall into the first group, the die-hards, while not more than 10 per cent support a full withdrawal from the occupied territories.
Negotiations must take place once in a while, if only to project an image of Israel as a country seeking peace--Annapolis being merely the latest charade--but they can never lead to any real breakthrough because two-thirds of the Jewish public support a permanent Israeli presence in the occupied territories, civilian and military, that forecloses a viable Palestinian state.
(Virtually no Israeli Jews use the term "occupation," which Israel denies it has.) The vast majority of Israeli Jews, stretching from the liberal Meretz party through Labour, Kadima and into the "liberal" wing of the Likud, excepting only the religious parties and the extreme right-wing led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the current minister of strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, share a broad consensus: for both security reasons and because of Israel's "facts on the ground", the Arabs (as we [Israelis] call the Palestinians) will have to settle for a truncated mini- state on no more than 15-20 per cent of the country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
What's more, it's agreed that the decision whether to relinquish any territory and how much is an exclusively Israeli decision. We may proffer to the Palestinians some kind of a "generous offer" if they behave themselves and it suits our purpose, but any initiative in the direction of "peace" must be unilateral. The Palestinians may indicate a preference, but the decision is ours and ours alone. Our power, our all-encompassing concern for security and the plain fact that the Arabs just don't count (except as a nuisance factor) limit any peace process to, at best, a willingness to grant them a tiny Bantustan on four or five cantons, all encircled by Israeli settlements and the military. Israeli control of the entire Land of Israel, whether for religious, national or security reasons, is a given, never to be compromised.
This is, of course, completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. That by itself doesn't matter, but it does raise a fundamental problem. In any genuine negotiations leading to just, sustainable and mutually agreed-upon agreement, Israel would have to give up much more than it is willing to do. Negotiations must take place once in a while, if only to project an image of Israel as a country seeking peace--Annapolis being merely the latest charade--but they can never lead to any real breakthrough because two-thirds of the Jewish public support a permanent Israeli presence in the occupied territories, civilian and military, that forecloses a viable Palestinian state. How, then, does Israel retain its major settlements, a "greater" Jerusalem and control over territory and borders without appearing intransigent? How can it maintain its image as the only seeker of peace and the victim of Arab terrorism, effectively concealing its own violence and, indeed, the very fact of occupation in order to shift the blame to the Palestinians?
The answer for the past 40 years of occupation is the status quo, delay, while quietly expanding the settlements and strengthening its grip on Judea and Samaria (again, we do not use the terms "occupation" or "occupied territories" in Israel, not to mention "Palestinian"). Just look at the run-up to Annapolis and the negotiations Israel is promising. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said recently that "Annapolis is a landmark on the path to negotiations and of the genuine effort to achieve the realization of the vision of two nations: the State of Israel--the nation of the Jewish people; and the Palestinian state--the nation of the Palestinian people". Sounds good, doesn't it? Now look at the pre-conditions Israel has imposed just in the two weeks before Annapolis:
Redefining Phase 1 of the Road Map. The first phase of the Road Map, the very basis of negotiations, calls for Israel to freeze its settlement construction. That is something Israel will obviously not do. So, on the basis of a letter former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received from President Bush in 2004--a fundamental change in American policy that nevertheless does not commit the other members of the Road Map "Quartet", Europe, Russia and the UN--Israel announced that it defines the areas considered "occupied" by the Quartet as only those areas falling outside its major settlement blocs and "greater" Jerusalem. Thus, unilaterally, Israel (and the US apparently) reduced the territory to be negotiated with the Palestinians from 22 per cent to a mere 15 per cent, and that truncated into fragmented cantons.
Requiring recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state." The Palestinians are required to formally recognize the state of Israel. They did so already in 1988 when they accepted the two-state solution, at the outset of the Oslo process and repeatedly over the past two decades. Now comes a fresh demand: that before any negotiations they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Not only does that introduce an entirely new element that Israel knows the Palestinians will not accept, but it prejudices the equal status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, a full 20 per cent of the Israeli population. This leads the way to transfer, to ethnic cleansing. Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, recently told a press conference that the future of Israel's Arab citizens is in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel itself.
Creating insurmountable political obstacles. Two weeks before Annapolis was to convene, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed a law that a majority of two-thirds would be required to approve any change in the status of Jerusalem, an impossible threshold.
Delayed implementation. OK, the Israeli government says, we'll negotiate. But the implementation of any agreement will wait on the complete cessation of any resistance on the part of the Palestinians. Given the fact that Israel views any resistance, armed or non-violent, as a form of terrorism, this erects yet another insurmountable obstacle before any peace process.
Declaring a "transitional" Palestinian state. If all else fails--actually negotiating with the Palestinians or relinquishing the occupation not being an option--the US, at Israel's behest, can manage to skip Phase 1 of the Road Map and go directly to Phase 2, which calls for a "transitional" Palestinian state before, in Phase 3, its actual borders, territory and sovereignty are agreed upon. This is the Palestinians' nightmare: being locked indefinitely in the limbo of a "transitional" state. For Israel it is ideal, since it offers the possibility of imposing borders and expanding into the Palestinian areas unilaterally yet, since its fait accompli is only "transitional," seeming to conform to the Road Map's requirement to decide the final issues through negotiations.
The end result, towards which Israel has been progressing deliberately and systematically since 1967, can only be called apartheid, which means "separation" in Afrikaner, precisely the term Israel uses to describe its policy (hafrada in Hebrew). And it is apartheid in the strict sense of the term: one population separating itself from the rest, then dominating them permanently and institutionally through a political regime like an expanded Israel locking the Palestinians into dependent and impoverished cantons. The overriding question for the Israeli government, then, is not how to reach peace. If peace and security were truly the issue, Israel could have had that 20 years ago if it would have conceded the 22 per cent of the country required for a viable Palestinian state. Today, when Israel's control is infinitely stronger, why, ask the Israeli Jewish public and the government it elects, should we concede anything significant? We enjoy peace with Egypt and Jordan, and Syria is dying to negotiate. We have relations with most Arab and Muslim states. We enjoy the absolute and uncritical support of the world's only superpower, supported by a compliant Europe. Terrorism is under control, the conflict has been made manageable, Israel's economy is booming. What, ask Israelis, is wrong with this picture?
No, the issue for Israel is rather how to transform its Occupation from what the world considers a temporary situation to a permanent political fact accepted by the international community, de facto if need be or, if apartheid can be finessed in the form of a two-state solution, then formally. And here's the dilemma, and the source of debate within the Israeli government: does Israel continue with the strategy that has served it so well these past 40 years, delaying or prolonging negotiations so as to maintain the status quo, all the while strengthening its hold over the Palestinian territories or, at this unique but fleeting moment in history when George Bush is still in office, does it try to nail it all down, forcing upon the Palestinians a transitional state within the framework of the Road Map?
Olmert, following Sharon, is pushing for the former. Netanyahu, Lieberman, the right-wing (including many in Olmert's own party) and, significantly, Labour Chairman and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, always a military hawk, are resisting out of fear that even a process of pretend negotiations might get out of hand, creating expectations on Israel. Better, they say, to stay with the tried-and-true policy of status quo which can, if cleverly managed, extend indefinitely. Besides, Bush is a lame duck, and no pressure will be put on Israel until June 2009, at least six months after the next American president is inaugurated, Democrat or Republican. We're just fine until then; why rock the boat? The only tricky time for Israel is the two years in the midst of a presidential term. We can weather that. Annapolis? We'll try cautiously for apartheid, hoping that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], prodded by Quartet envoy Tony Blair, will play the role of collaborator. If that doesn't work, well, status quo is always a reliable default.
In the meantime, as long as the Israeli public enjoys peace-and-quiet and a good economy, and as long as it remains convinced that security requires Israel to retain control of the territories, no pressure will come from the home front for any meaningful change of policy. Given this political landscape in Israel, in the territories and abroad, it's hard for Israeli leaders to conceal their ebullient feeling that, whether formally or not, "we've won".
Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a candidate, with the Palestinian peace activist Ghassan Andoni, for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This entry was posted on Nov 28, 2007 at 07:44:40 pm and is filed under Arts, Culture & Entertainment, American Empire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed, or leave a response (below) , or trackback from your own site .
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