'Up to 80 civilians dead' after US air strikes in Afghanistan

English (US)  July 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

Witnesses claim a village in British-run Helmand was bombed for three hours after the Taliban attempted to ambush a US-Afghan army convoy

By Jason Burke
Sunday July 1, 2007

Air strikes in the British-controlled Helmand province of Afghanistan may have killed civilians, coalition troops said yesterday as local people claimed that between 50 and 80 people, many of them women and children, had died.

[More:]

In the latest of a series of attacks causing significant civilian casualties in recent weeks, more than 200 were killed by coalition troops in Afghanistan in June, far more than are believed to have been killed by Taliban militants.

The bombardment, which witnesses said lasted up to three hours, in the Gereshk district late on Friday followed an attempted ambush by the Taliban on a joint US-Afghan military convoy. According to Mohammad Hussein, the provincial police chief, the militants fled into a nearby village for cover. Planes then targeted the village of Hyderabad. Mohammad Khan, a resident of the village, said seven members of his family, including his brother and five of his brother's children, were killed.

'I brought three of my wounded relatives to Gereshk hospital for treatment,' he told the Associated Press news agency by phone. The villagers were yesterday burying a 'lot of dead bodies', Khan said.

He spoke as American forces in Iraq also found themselves heavily criticised over civilian deaths when eight people died, apparently caught in crossfire from a gunfight between insurgents and soldiers in Baghdad's Sadr City yesterday. But residents, police and hospital officials said eight civilians were killed in their homes and angrily accused US forces of firing blindly on innocent people. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the raids and demanded an explanation for the assault on a district where he has barred American operations in the past.

In Afghanistan, the civilian deaths caused by US and Nato-led troops have infuriated local people and prompted President Hamid Karzai to publicly condemn foreign forces for careless 'use of extreme force' and for viewing Afghan lives as 'cheap'. The increasingly fragile President has urged restraint and better co-ordination of military operations with the Afghan government, while also blaming the Taliban for using civilians as human shields.

Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, raised the issue of civilian casualties on a four-hour visit to Afghanistan on Friday on which he met the senior Nato commander there, the American General Dan McNeill.

Senior British soldiers have previously expressed concerns that McNeill, who took command of the 32,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan only recently, was 'a fan' of the massive use of air power to defeat insurgents and that his favoured tactics could be counter-productive.

'Every civilian dead means five new Taliban,' said one British officer who has recently returned from Helmand. 'It's a tough call when the enemy are hiding in villages, but you have to be very, very careful,' he added.

The American general has been dubbed 'Bomber McNeill' by his critics.

But Nato has 'never killed and will never intentionally kill innocent civilians', its secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, told a conference in Macedonia on Friday. 'The majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan have been caused by Taliban suicide bombs and roadside bombs.'

US Air Force Major John Thomas said that, after a long skirmish and under constant fire from the Taliban, troops of Isaf (the International Security Assistance Force), called for close air force support during an operation in Helmand, where the Taliban have been resurgent this year.

'All enemy positions were destroyed, but after friendly forces surveyed the area, there were reports of some possible civilian deaths,' Thomas said.

'The remains of some people who appeared to be civilians were found among enemy fighters in a trench line,' he added. The level of violence has soared in Afghanistan, with more than 2,800 people - mostly Taliban fighters - killed in fighting this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures issued in the last few days by Western military and Afghan officials.

A count by the United Nations and an umbrella organisation of Afghan and international aid groups shows the number of civilians killed by international forces was slightly greater than the number killed by insurgents in the first half of the year.

In Helmand's Sangin district, Nato-led and Afghan troops clashed with Taliban fighters on Friday, leaving 15 of the militants dead, said Ezatullah Khan, a district chief. Helmand is the primary area of operations for the British troops deployed in Afghanistan.

There were no casualties among Nato and Afghan troops, the official said.

More than 3,000 British troops have been deployed in Helmand to combat both the Taliban and the drugs trade. Also in the south, two suspected Taliban members were killed while trying to place a homemade bomb on the side of a road in Zhari district of Kandahar province on Friday, said Ghulam Rasool, the district's police chief.

Three children were also killed on Friday and another wounded when an old rocket they were playing with exploded in Zabul province in the south, said General Yaqoub Khan, the provincial police chief.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk

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    Hamastan and Red Zoneistan

    English (US)  July 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

    The Roving Eye:
    Comment by Pepe Escobar

    Tony Blair is no more. The now-former British prime minister, a neo-con soulmate, was destroyed by the war on Iraq. Before tendering his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II, maybe with echoes of Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" ringing in is mind, Blair at least had the decency to apologize publicly for the times he has "fallen short". No words to that effect will ever emanate from George W Bush's White House.

    The relentless destruction of Iraq is mirrored by similar devastation in Gaza. Twelve years of US-imposed, United Nations-approved sanctions literally destroyed Iraqi society. Western sanctions are meant to do the same to Palestinian society. In Iraq, "shock and awe" was the coup de grace. Gaza has suffered myriad smaller "shock and awes" for years. In Iraq, the real blowback will only manifest itself when the "sanctions generation" - who grew up seething in anger, sickness and deprivation - starts deploying its anger with the help of new technologies. The current stage, though gruesome, is just an apprenticeship.

    [More:]

    Young Americans - 17-29 years old - want the end of the war on Iraq, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. Some Americans still insist on the vapid question "Can we win?" (no, no one can). Most Americans can only mobilize themselves toward "collective causes" such as the well-being in the slammer of Paris Hilton or the paternity of the daughter of dead Bunny Anna Nicole Smith. As for the bulk of humanity, they're just trying to dodge stray bullets or postpone their drowning in the flood of a liquid world, observed absentmindedly by a few hyper-capitalists at the top of their post-mod ziggurats.

    Hot fun in the summer
    Summer in Baghdad means temperatures bordering 50 degrees Celsius - of course with non-existent air-con; there's only one hour of electricity a day in the Red Zone. There's also a widespread outburst of typhoid due to water pollution and the extreme heat.

    At least 20, most of the time about 50 bodies a day, every day, victims of torture or summary execution, continue to show up. There's no more fishing in the Tigris because of the inflation of cadavers. More than 250 Iraqi journalists have been killed - or executed - since "shock and awe".

    Any remaining US credibility with the Shi'ite street - already improbable to start with - has turned to ashes. The US military continues to harass Sadr City virtually on a daily basis. After an aborted attack on the crucial Shi'ite shrine in the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad, the Mahdi Army controls the neighborhood. Muqtada al-Sadr is lying low and sewing up trans-sectarian support.

    There are insistent rumors in Shi'ite neighborhoods in Baghdad that the recent repeat bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra - as well as the bombing of the Khillani shrine to Imam Mahdi's second deputy - were US black ops. Shi'ites suspect that the Washington/Green Zone axis badly wants the return of the Ba'athists, and they believe that the bombing of the Askariya shrine's twin minarets was undertaken under supervision of former security agents of Saddam Hussein.

    Meanwhile, the recent joint US/Badr Corps offensive against Salafi-jihadis in Baquba turned out to be another farce. Salafi-jihadis relocated and counterattacked -- in Baghdad. Dozens of thousands of Baquba's 300,000-plus population - a Sunni majority - became refugees for nothing.

    The powerful Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars denounced this mini-surge as "barbaric acts". But these "barbaric acts" are just snapshots of what the Bush administration - helped by faithful Blair - managed to create: the world's second-biggest failed state, only behind Sudan, according to the 2007 Failed States Index compiled by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace.

    Planet Gaza is in the house
    The relentless destruction of Iraq is mirrored by similar devastation in Gaza. Twelve years of US-imposed, United Nations-approved sanctions literally destroyed Iraqi society. Western sanctions are meant to do the same to Palestinian society.

    In Iraq, "shock and awe" was the coup de grace. Gaza has suffered myriad smaller "shock and awes" for years. In Iraq, the real blowback will only manifest itself when the "sanctions generation" - who grew up seething in anger, sickness and deprivation - starts deploying its anger with the help of new technologies. The current stage, though gruesome, is just an apprenticeship.

    Worse: it's in fact irrelevant, as far as imperial strategy is concerned. Blowback is already factored. The Bush White House's ends justify the means. These include the largest US Embassy on the planet, the military mega-bases as the "eyes and ears" of the Middle East-Central Asia "arc of instability" and, it is hoped, an Iraqi oil law to legalize the plunder of Iraq's wealth.

    As much as Washington invented a civil war in Iraq, it has also invented a civil war in Gaza. With crucial interference, among others, of US Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, a notorious neo-con, Fatah militias were trained by the US, the so-called Fatah Badr Brigade was nurtured by Jordanian intelligence, and all these unsavory characters were dropped into Gaza to destroy the popularly elected Hamas government.

    The US in fact killed the Saudi-sponsored Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas (and the Saudis have not uttered a single peep). Blowback in this case was fast (Hamas prevailed, at least for now). Anyway, Israel's ends - no possibility of Palestinian union - have been achieved. And once again, using the same old divide-and-rule methods; let's sit back and watch all those Arabs killing one another.

    Gaza is a gulag. The West Bank is a series of unconnected ghettoes. Baghdad is now a gulag. Iraq has been reduced to a series of unconnectable ghettoes. Palestinian land is being stolen. Iraqi oil will be stolen. "Terrorist" Gaza has been already downgraded to Hamastan. The Red Zone - that is, real Baghdad - is actually Red Zoneistan.

    US-Israeli-approved Fatah may get some crumbs in the West Bank. Blair - not popular on the Arab street - will be the West's "peace envoy" to seal the deal. No wonder London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi, in an editorial, stressed that the only possible reception for Blair's next visit to Palestine should be embodied by tomatoes and rotten eggs.

    Planet Gaza is a technical model of repression developed by Israeli know-how, implemented by the Pentagon in Iraq, and then redeveloped for reapplication in Gaza. It may, and it will, be deployed in other parts of the world that do not "behave".

    Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.


    Asia Times

    1083 words posted in American Empire, Iraq war, , Western AsiaLeave a comment

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      Ismail Haniyeh: Yasser Arafat Was a Fighter - His Life a Struggle

      English (US)  July 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


      Photo Fady Adwan for © PalestineFreeVoice June 20 2007 -
      Ismail Haniyeh in Yasser Arafats home

      By Hiyam Noir , PalestineFreeVoice
      June 30, 2007

      Ismail Haniyeh: "Yasser Arafat was respected because he never acted like Mahmoud Abbas - Yasser Arafat lived with the struggle, side by side during his whole life."

      On Saturday along with several other Palestinian officials,the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, payed a visit of respect to the residence of the late Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat.

      [More:]

      During a press conference in Gaza City, Haniyeh said "The visit to Yasser Arafat's home is to emphasize that this home and its possessions have not been harmed, as it has been claimed."

      Hamas fighters have falsely been accused by Fateh supporting medias, of desecrating the home of the former president, during the Hamas cleaning of Gaza Strip from Fateh traitors and Israeli collaborators two weeks ago.

      "The home of the Arafath family is safe, and nothing is missing," says Haniyeh - "it will remain in custody as its owners left it."

      Ismail Haniyeh made a phone-call to Arafat's widow, Suha, currently in Tunisia. Haniyeh assured her that her home is being protected and Suha will receive a video of the residence, proving that the property remains unchanged. Haniyeh expressed his admiration for the late President Arafat and the founder of Hamas, Ahmad Yasin. He said "both men cared about Palestinian unity, and they supported the Palestinian righteous and noble resistance in the battle for freedom.
      PalestineFreeVoice

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        Tehran, Caracas Strengthen Ties

        English (US)  July 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


        Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is visiting Iran for the third time during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is scheduled to hold talks with senior Iranian officials.

        TEHRAN, July 1--Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a meeting with his visiting Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez on Sunday said imperialism is facing a strong wave of opposition in a majority of the world regions, and added that victory is close due to the shaky pillars of the world arrogance.

        [More:]

        Ahmadinejad pointed to Iran's policy for developing relations with independent countries, and stressed that Tehran and Caracas seek to bolster cooperation in the different sectors in a bid to lay the required grounds for the development of Iran's relations with the independent states in Latin America.

        He also viewed expansion of ties and boosting of cooperation among the world free and independent nations as necessary, and underlined that independent countries can pave the way for the progress and welfare of their nations through assisting each other.

        The president further referred to the ample potentials existing in Latin America, and cited establishment of joint trade companies, arrangement of fairs to display manufactured goods and products and reinvigoration of a joint investment fund as among possible ways for the Latino states to develop ties with other countries, specially Iran.

        For his part, Venezuelan president briefed Ahmadinejad about the latest conditions in Latin American, and stressed that cooperation among independent countries, including Iran and Venezuela, plays an effective role in defeating imperialistic policies and rescuing nations.

        Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that cooperation between independent countries such as Iran and Venezuela could play an effective role "in defeating imperialistic policies and deliverance of nations."

        Chavez predicted that Iran's resistance against the US would eventually be successful.

        Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez are to take part in a ceremony to break the ground for construction of a joint methanol complex on Monday.

        The National Petrochemical Company (NPC), the methanol complex will annually produce one million tons of methanols with the cooperation of the National Petrochemical Industries Company of Iran and the Venezuelan Petrochemical Company.

        The complex lies in the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone.

        After establishing Iran-Venezuela joint petrochemical company, the two countries will construct a methanol unit in the southern area of Assalouyeh, Iran, and another one in industrial zone of Zigma in Venezuela.

        The two sides will benefit from establishing the methanol units including easy access to the markets of Latin America and Brazil as well as Pakistan and India.

        Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh and a number of officials active in petrochemical and oil sectors will accompany Ahmadinejad and Chavez at the ceremony of breaking ground for methanol project.

        Chavez, who is visiting Iran for the third time during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was welcomed at Tehran Mehrabad International Airport by Minister of Industries and Mines Alireza Tahmasbi.

        The Venezuelan president's current visit is the last leg of a tour that has taken him to Russia and Belarus.

        He is scheduled to hold talks with senior Iranian officials, during his official two-day visit, on bilateral ties and key regional and international developments.

        Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is visiting Iran for the third time during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is scheduled to hold talks with senior Iranian officials.

        Al Alam

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          From Riyadh to Kabul: "Abu Henry" and the Mysterious Silence

          English (US)  July 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )

          By Robert Fisk

          "Abu Henry" says we may have to remain in Afghanistan for decades to protect Afghans from the Taliban. Our ambassador in Kabul--Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, KCMG, LVO, to be precise--apparently sees no contradiction in this extraordinary prediction.

          The Taliban are themselves mostly Afghans, and the idea that the British Army is in Afghanistan to protect the locals from each other is a truly colonial proposition. It's what we said about the Northern Irish in 1969. Anyway, I thought we destroyed the Taliban in 2001. Wasn't that the idea at the time? Isn't that what Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara, our new man in the Middle East--who will grace us with his first visit next month--said back then?

          [More:]

          Abu Henry--and I am indebted to one of the Saudi government's house magazines for telling me that this is how he "is affectionately called by his Saudi friends"--left Riyadh in some haste, a "surprise" as he put it, since he expected to spend another year there. And presumably, he has not been able to take the Cowper-Coles family's pet falcons--Nour and Alwaleed--with him to Kabul. But before he left, Abu Henry had some warm praise for the notoriously third-rate intelligence services in the kingdom. "I've been hugely impressed by the way in which the Saudi Arabian authorities have tackled and contained what was (sic) a serious terrorist threat," he announced. "They've shrunk the pool of support for terrorism ... "

          No word, of course, of the Saudis' habit of chopping off the heads of "criminals" after grotesquely unfair trials. In an unprecedented year for executions, the kingdom's swordsmen--the job is sometimes passed on father to son as was once the case in Britain--managed to hack off 100 heads by the middle of this month. But then again, you'd have to avoid any such references when British investment in Saudi Arabia is worth at least £6b. That, no doubt, is one reason why Abu Henry boasted to his Saudi friends--according to the same government magazine--that in Riyadh "we've been proud of our visa policy, where 95 per cent of Saudis applying for a visa before 9am on a workday obtain their visas by 2pm the same working day". Phew. Now that is something. The Saudis, you may remember, provided 14 of the 19 killers of 11 September, 2001; quite a record for a little kingdom, and one which in other circumstances--had the murderers been from Chad, say, or Mali--would not have been rewarde
          d with quite so generous a visa policy.

          And no word from Abu Henry, of course, about that other little matter of the alleged bribery of Saudi officials by the British BAE Systems arms group. Here, however, there is much more to say--courtesy, I admit at once, of a delightfully written article by Michael Peel in the Financial Times last February. In the paper, Peel describes how Robert Wardle, director of the Serious Fraud Office, had "much to ponder" after three London meetings with Cowper-Coles, "Britain's urbane ambassador to Saudi Arabia". Mr Wardle, it seems, was "coming around to the view" that he might have to scrap his enquiry since it could damage "national security". Wardle told Peel that "the matter was difficult and really I found it very helpful to have, as it were, the ambassador flesh out the position. It helped my understanding of the risks and very much helped me to make my decision to discontinue the investigation".

          Abu Henry, it seems, "told how the probe might cause Riyadh to cancel security and intelligence co-operation, potentially depriving London of access to vital surveillance of terror suspects during the haj pilgrimage to Mecca... The ambassador had even suggested (that) persisting with the SFO probe could endanger lives in Britain". According to a person "closely involved in the events", wrote Peel--and I suspect the "person" was probably Wardle--Cowper-Coles "didn't overelaborate, but he spelt out in very clear terms, in specifics, what he believed the consequences would be ... including that people could die". Two days later, the bribery investigation was scrapped.

          So no wonder the Saudis affectionately called him "Abu Henry".

          Given some of his remarks during a recent visit to Oxford, however, Abu Henry must himself have been surprised that he could persuade Lord Blair of the wisdom of dumping that all-important bribery investigation. Among academics, he did not hide his cynicism of our former prime minister, complaining that despite exhaustive Foreign Office briefing notes and proposed speeches, Blair scarcely seemed to read them and sometimes used only a single line from their contents.

          But then again, I guess that's what diplomacy is all about, persuading here, pleading there, trying to get what you want by a few off-the-record comments to officials of the Serious Fraud Office, even to journalists I have no doubt.

          Indeed, I remember way back in the late 1970s--when I was Middle East correspondent for The Lond Times--how a British diplomat in Cairo tried to persuade me to fire my local "stringer", an Egyptian Coptic woman who also worked as a correspondent for the Associated Press and who provided a competent coverage of the country when I was in Beirut. "She isn't much good," he said, and suggested I hire a young Englishwoman whom he knew and who--so I later heard--had close contacts in the Foreign Office.

          I refused this spooky proposal. Indeed, I told The Times that I thought it was outrageous that a British diplomat should have tried to engineer the sacking of our part-timer in Cairo. The Times's foreign editor agreed.

          But it just shows what diplomats can get up to.

          And the name of that young British diplomat in Cairo back in the late 1970s? Why, Sherard Cowper-Coles, of course.

          Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk's new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.

          Counterpunch

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            Ultra Orthodox anti-gay bomber caught at gay pride parade

            English (US)  July 1st, 2007 by admin ( Email )


            Gay pride demonstrators were arrested

            By Israel Insider staff

            JERUSALEM, Palesttine _ Despite a last-minute effort to cancel the gay pride parade via a High Court petition, the parade in Jerusalem went ahead as planned, starting at 5 pm.

            [More:]

            There were some rough protests, and 20 Orthodox demonstrators were arrested, some roughed up by police.

            But the raucus demonstration didn't stop the gay paraders from completing their brief walk through west Jerusalem, down King David Street to Liberty Bell Park.

            Police arrested a 32-year-old ultra-Orthodox man who was planning to set off a homemade explosive devise to scare people away from attending Thursday's scheduled gay pride parade in Jerusalem, said Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby.

            The man, who was a resident of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim, was arrested when Jerusalem police caught him with the device.

            A group of 500 ultra-Orthodox men, settlers and right wing activists demonstrated against the parade at the entrance of Jerusalem.

            Earlier, protesters set fire to trash cans, disturbing traffic.

            Jerusalem police have been preparing for the hotly protested parade, planning to send out 7,000 police officers to regulate the expected 5,000-strong crowd.

            Israeli rescue services are also preparing for an "unprecedented operation." According to a statement, they are preparing 200 medics, 45 ambulances, 11 mobile intensive care units as well as a field command center.

            In a last-ditch effort to get the parade cancelled, two activists, Yaakov Sternberg and Itamar Ben-Gvir, petitioned the High Court of Justice Thursday to stop the parade on the charge that it would violate the city's fire safety regulations due to a current firefighters' strike.

            The court was expected to ruled Thursday that the parade will be held as planned.

            Jerusalem Police chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco told the court that the march could still proceed despite the firefighters' strike because police had other means in case of an emergency.

            According to prominent gay community leader and Jerusalem City Council member Saar Netanel, if the court does cancel the parade, it will be promptly rescheduled.

            "I'm certain that the Israel Police will find a solution to the firefighters' strike. It is in the police's interest that the parade be held today as scheduled," he said.

            "The firefighters issue will not prevent the pride and tolerance parade from taking place."

            Israel Insider

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              Israel tries to blackmail illegally detained, democratically elected Palestinians officials: Resign posts to be released

              English (US)  June 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


              Hamas ministers in Israeli jails (MaanImages)

              NABLUS, Palestine _ Palestinian sources said on Saturday that investigators from the Israeli interior intelligence service, Shin Bet, stated that the detained Palestinian ministers, Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members and mayors must resign from their posts before they can be released.

              [More:]

              The Israeli military court said that the Palestinian officials must sign a written obligation to resign, as a precondition for their release.

              The Nafha society for prisoners' rights said in a statement, "This is an obnoxious measure intended to strip the Palestinian Legislative Council members of their posts."

              PLC members described the act as a desperate attempt to eradicate the Palestinian legitimacy, steal the Palestinian right to choose political representatives and impose Israeli will on the Palestinian people.

              The PLC members were also quoted as saying that they will never accept such a trade-off, even if they are forced to spend a lifetime in Israeli jails. The officials added that such a bargain would mean surrendering the confidence placed in them by the Palestinian people.

              Maan News

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                Hamas against foreign troops

                English (US)  June 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                The armed wing of Hamas has rejected calls by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for the deployment of international troops in the Gaza Strip, vowing to attack them like other "occupation forces".

                [More:]

                The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement on Saturday: "We will only receive these forces with shells and rockets."

                In talks on Friday with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, Abbas had called for deployment of international forces into Gaza where Hamas routed his forces on June 15.

                Early elections

                Abbas had said that the deployment of foreign troops was necessary to provide security for early parliamentary and presidential elections that he plans to organise in the coming months.

                Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, said
                talks about elections at the present time will not solve the crisis facing Palestinians.

                Hamad did however say that Hamas has no issues with holding elections if all Palestinian factions agree to it.

                France backs Abbas

                Meanwhile, France threw its unconditional support behind Abbas and said it hoped the crisis in Gaza would help reignite the stalled peace process.

                "The refusal by the US, EU et al to deal with Hamas reflects their disrespect for the wishes of the Palestinian people" -- Elise, Bemidji, US

                "At this time we are standing alongside the Palestinian Authority, the only representative of the Palestinian people," Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said after talks with the visiting Abbas.

                Kouchner did not say what role Hamas might play in any peace steps but Abbas appeared in no mood to talk to the Islamic movement.

                "What happened in Gaza is a bloody and ferocious coup d'etat against Palestinian legitimacy," Abbas told reporters following an earlier meeting on Friday with Sarkozy.

                "What I heard from president Sarkozy is support for a political solution on the basis of international legitimacy, the Arab initiative, and [US] President [George] Bush's vision," he said.

                France announced this week it was releasing $15 million in funds for the Palestinian Authority and Kouchner said he believed the Israelis were shortly set to transfer "at least" $300 million to Abbas's new government.

                Israel agreed last Sunday to hand over some of the Palestinian tax revenues it had collected but then withheld after Hamas won elections in 2006. However, details of the transfer have yet to be fully worked out.


                Source: Al Jazeera and Agencies

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                  Saudi king snubs Abbas

                  English (US)  June 30th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                  Jordan: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has skipped a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on a visit to Jordan, Al Jazeera reported on Friday.

                  Abbas was reportedly kept waiting at a palace room for a telephone call that never came. Al Jazeera said the move appeared "deliberate".

                  The move comes days after Abbas dissolved the unity government set up under the Saudi deal and accused Hamas of attempting to assassinate him.

                  An official close to Abbas said the meeting was postponed "due to lack of time as both leaders had busy schedules".

                  The official said Abbas would meet Abdullah in Saudi Arabia "in the few coming weeks" but gave no details.

                  King Abdullah has urged Abbas's Fatah faction and rival Hamas to enter into talks, saying that infighting was only benefiting the Israelis.

                  Gulf News

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                    Hamas is prepared to begin unconditional talks with Fatah, advisor says

                    English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                    Ahmad Yousef

                    GAZA, Palestine _ Hamas is prepared to enter into dialogue with Fatah, Ismail Haniyeh's political advisor, Ahmad Yousef, declared on Friday, although only if there are no conditions attached.

                    "We, Hamas, are ready to open the door of negotiations with Fatah, without any conditions," Yousef said. "And in turn, they must also not do so. The situation of division must not remain between the two parties."

                    [More:]

                    Yousef also questioned how and why Fatah members have conducted unconditional negotiations with Israel while insisting on laying down conditions regarding negotiations with Hamas. Such criticism may have been directed at the Palestinian presidency and President Mahmoud Abbas.

                    Yousef accused such parties within Fatah of following an external agenda. "The continuation of some members of Fatah to not debate with Hamas assures their determination to help external agendas and not help their own country and people," Yousef said.

                    Nevertheless, Yousef declared that some foreign, Arab and Islamic countries are mediating and trying to make contacts with all involved parties in order find an exit to the current Hamas-Fatah division in the Palestinian territories.

                    Regarding President Abbas' decision to establish an inquiry into the events in Gaza two weeks ago, Yousef was accommodating.

                    "Hamas has already accepted to have a committee investigating what is happening in Gaza," he said. "Hamas will observe the results of the committee. The committee might claim that Fatah apologizes."

                    "What Hamas has done was not against the Fatah movement," Yousef continued. "It was against an internal trend inside Fatah that was working for the benefit of external agendas. The documents that were found in Gaza, at the security services' locations by Hamas, declare the extent to which Fatah was involved in some Israeli and American trends."

                    On the basis of these charges, Yousef declared that Hamas has "saved" the Palestinians from a worse fate.

                    "Therefore, Hamas saved the situation and saved hundreds of citizens' lives, that could have been lost if Hamas didn't interfere. Those documents uncover the intent to take over more than 10,000 lives," Yousef said.

                    Yousef added that some members of the Fatah movement not only knew about Hamas' plans but supported them. "Many Fatah leaders had agreed to Hamas' actions in secret and in public," Yousef said. "Hani Al-Hassan, the Palestinian president's advisor, assured this fact."

                    Yousef also assured that Hamas does not plan to keep control of the Palestinian security services' locations in Gaza. The only reason they stay in them is to secure them from being robbed, he claimed.

                    He also denied that Hamas members violated the houses or private property of the late Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, or the current president, Mahmoud Abbas. "Hamas never entered Arafat's house, and what was stolen was mostly restored," Yousef asserted.

                    Regarding the issue of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinian fighters – including members of Hamas' armed wing – a year ago, Yousef declared that negotiations over his release, as part of a prisoner exchange deal, are ongoing. He said that some European countries, including Norway, tried to mediate his release but Hamas rejected this mediation, declaring Egypt as the only acceptable mediator.
                    AA

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                      Taking the Piss Envoy

                      English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                      By Gilad Atzmon

                      What a great day for peace enthusiasts! A new envoy to the Middle East has been appointed for the Quartet, and it’s no other than the former British PM, Tony Blair. Blair, the man who gave the Israelis the green light to flatten Beirut. Blair, the man who started an illegal war in Iraq. Blair, a man who, according to the Geneva Conventions, is to be held personally responsible for more than 700,000 dead in Iraq for failing to 'protect civilian populations against certain consequences of war’[1]. A man who is supposed to be charged for genocide at The Hague. That’s right, a man who should end his life behind bars is now becoming a peace envoy.

                      [More:]

                      Maybe it isn’t such a bad idea. Seemingly, his partner from Washington may have sussed it all out. It is rather possible that when peace is at stake, it is actually the warmongers, the bloodthirsty criminals, the men who know no mercy and compassion who may provide the goods. At the end of the day, a rapist may know more about sex abuse than an innocent detached judge. We should never forget that for the Bushman, even Sharon, the mass killer from Sabra and Shatila was nothing less than a 'Man of Peace’.

                      Who knows the truth of such complicated matters? It is rather possible that Bush is correct. It is feasible that pouring blood in such a vast quantity may have qualified Blair to be a peacemaker. Yet, there is a slight problem here. Just a marginal issue that should be addressed before Blair lands in Gaza International Docks or Ramallah’s busy Heliport. The democratically elected Hamas, the party who was voted by the Palestinian people isn’t really happy with the new envoy. If I could have a word with him, I would say, "You see Mr Blair, as things stand it is actually Hamas you have to talk to. And what about the Lebanese, did you think about them Mr Blair? Will they welcome to their country the man who just less than a year ago enthusiastically approved the total destruction of their country’s infrastructure, capital and southern regions."

                      "Thus, I have a little suggestion for you, Mr. Blair. Just before you become a dove, just on your way to your first peace mission, pop over to The Hague for a few days, put yourself on trail. Prove to us and our brothers in the region that you are indeed a man of harmony and peace. You shouldn’t be too worried, you always believed in what you were doing. You always claimed to believe that liberating the Iraqi people was the right thing to do. You believed as well that destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure would bring stability to the region. You believed that dismissing the democratically elected Palestinian Government was an act of humanism."

                      Don’t cave in, Mr. Ex-PM, you can have your two closest friends beside you. You will probably appoint Lord Goldsmith to fight your legal battle. He’d be on your side, when it comes down to it, he was the man who gave you the legal approval to start your 'little’ illegal war. You shouldn’t worry about money either. Lord Levy, your No 1 Fundraiser will take care of the costs. Now when your New Labour’s under-the-table trading with those giving loans so that they could be nominated peers has become public knowledge, there is nothing to be afraid of."

                      I am sure that by the time our dearly beloved, newly born dove will be vindicated by the international court of Justice, he will be far more effective as a peace maker. He may even be the first to bridge the gap between the foes in the region. This is an opportunity we cannot miss and even if he fails this shouldn’t be a major concern, Baba Bush can always appoint him as the new Iraqi Prime Minister. I do not think Blair will be missed but he will be remembered.

                      A further thought struck me while I was summoning up my words to Mr Blair: if it is true that he is really the new Middle East Peace Envoy, then I would like to apply for an appropriate roll for myself. I am hoping to become the Chief Rabbi of Britain.

                      [1]Geneva Convention, PART II-GENERAL PROTECTION OF POPULATIONS AGAINST CERTAIN CONSEQUENCES OF WAR, article 13-The provisions of Part II cover the whole of the populations of the countries in conflict, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, nationality, religion or political opinion, and are intended to alleviate the sufferings caused by war.

                      Uruknet

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                        Israeli troops kill Fatah fighter

                        English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                        Abu Mazen, who does not appear to be brighter than the desert sun, has not yet grasped the fact that the Zio-Americans will use him to disarm the resistance, make land/resources concessions to the Jewish state, and crush the Palestinian people's dream for freedom and self determination, and when they finally realize that nothing can ever stop the human soul's quest for freedom and justice, and Abu Mazen is no longer useful to them or he stops cooperating with them, they will throw him to the wolves -- or to the poison-meister, as they did with Arafat.


                        Israeli troops continued their large-scale military raid in Nablus on Friday

                        Israeli troops have killed a Palestinian from the Fatah movement on the second day of a large-scale military raid targeting armed loyalists of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

                        The Israeli raid signalled Tel Aviv would continue to pursue Fatah fighters despite its pledges to bolster Abbas as he tries to stabilise his hold in the West Bank after Hamas movement seized control of the Gaza Strip two weeks ago.

                        [More:]


                        An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers had shot the Palestinian on Friday as he fled from the troops in a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.

                        Officials of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah said the man, who was 28, had belonged to their group.

                        They said Israeli soldiers shot the man as he fled arrest. Medics also confirmed he had been killed.

                        In response to Friday's killing, Allah Sanakeh, a spokesman for the group, said al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades would not honour a decree by Abbas that armed groups hand over their weapons.

                        Sanakeh said the Brigades needed to continue to respond to Israeli raids.

                        Disarmament

                        Abbas had said he would no longer permit Palestinians to bear illegal weapons, though it was not clear how he intended to implement the decision.

                        The Israeli raid signalled Tel Aviv would continue to pursue Fatah fighters despite its pledges to bolster Abbas as he tries to stabilise his hold in the West Bank after Hamas movement seized control of the Gaza Strip two weeks ago.

                        Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, has accused Israel of trying to undermine Abbas's Western-backed emergency cabinet by conducting the raid despite the Palestinian leader's vow to take his own steps to disarm gunmen.

                        Fighting

                        Israel launched the raid in the Nablus area on Thursday, sending in 50 armoured vehicles.

                        The Israeli army imposed a curfew on the city centre and searched houses for Palestinians suspected of involvement in violence against Israel.

                        In fighting on Thursday, Israel fired rubber coated steel bullets that injured seven Palestinians, and five Israeli soldiers were also wounded in the violence, Israeli and Palestinian security sources said.

                        Israel has also renewed raids against Hamas strongholds in Gaza.

                        Twelve Palestinians were killed in the raids, including a 12-year-old boy, in the coastal area on Wednesday.


                        Source: Agencies

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                          Lebanese troops fire on refugees

                          English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                          At least two civilians were killed while trying to re-enter Nahr al-Bared refugee camp

                          Lebanese troops have fired at Palestinian civilians demanding to return to their homes at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, killing at least two protesters and wounding 50 others, witnesses and hospital sources said.

                          [More:]


                          The military says soldiers fired into the air to prevent demonstrators from approaching the camp

                          The army said soldiers opened fire on Friday to stop the refugees from re-entering the camp because it was too dangerous to return.

                          Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon has been the scene of nearly six weeks of fighting between the army and Fatah al-Islam fighters.

                          Witnesses said soldiers first fired into the air as hundreds of refugees, including women and children, tried to storm an army checkpoint and head to the besieged camp.

                          Nayla Moawad, Lebanese social affairs minister, said soldiers warned the protesting refugees that they would be used by Fatah al-Islam as "human shields" if they entered the camp.

                          Casualties

                          When the crowd did not disperse and attacked soldiers with stones and sticks, the troops fired automatic rifles at the protest, inflicting the casualties.

                          Moawad said: "I think the people who are protesting, either they are very naive or are being manipulated because they know very well they cannot go back there - it's dangerous for their lives, it's dangerous for their children and even professionals cannot go over there."

                          Witnesses said the protesters had started to march from the nearby Beddawi camp, where they had sought refuge after the battles began on May 20.

                          The displaced refugees were impatient at the time they had had to spend at the overcrowded Beddawi in difficult circumstances, and said they were determined to return home despite continued fighting.

                          Rula Amin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Lebanon, said: "Anger and frustration are growing with each hot summer day … not only from those who are homeless but also from those who are hosting them."

                          However, no time frame has been announced for when the refugees can return home.

                          Elias al-Murr, Lebanon's defence minister, claimed victory against the armed group inside the camp more than a week ago.

                          But the army says that Nahr al-Bared remains a closed military zone as it tries to force the Fatah al-Islam fighters holed up inside to surrender.

                          The social affairs minister said: "We are very adamant when we promise that they are there [at Beddawi] temporarily. They will come back to their camp and we will rebuild what was destroyed."

                          Destruction

                          Security forces are barred from entering Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps by a 1969 Arab agreement.


                          Protestors rushed dozens of injured to hospital

                          Much of the camp, originally home to 40,000 refugees, has been destroyed, while mines and booby traps litter its buildings and alleys.

                          A military source said Fatah al-Islam snipers killed two soldiers in sporadic fighting on Friday, raising the death toll to 203 since the start of the battles.

                          The clashes are part of Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.

                          At least 86 soldiers, 75 Fatah al-Islam fighters and 42 civilians have died in the fighting - mainly at the camp but also in surrounding areas.

                          Murr has said 300 Fatah al-Islam fighters have been killed or wounded and 40 arrested. Among those held are four Australians, two Danes and one Belgian.

                          A group of Muslim Palestinian leaders said it was suspending its weeks-old mediation effort to broker a peaceful end to the standoff, warning that the situation in the camp and for the displaced refugees was deteriorating.

                          Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

                          581 words posted in Western Asia, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                            Bush cites Israel as model for Iraq

                            English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                            By Jennifer Loven

                            NEWPORT, R.I. - President Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq Thursday, saying the U.S. goal there is not to eliminate attacks but to enable a democracy that can function despite violence.

                            [More:]

                            With his Iraq policies under increasing fire from the American public and lawmakers from both parties, Bush went to the U.S. Naval War College here to declare progress. As the president pleaded for patience, his top national security aide went to Capitol Hill to meet with Republican critics.

                            Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a lengthy floor speech earlier this week contending that Bush's war strategy won't have time to work and that U.S. troops should start leaving now.

                            National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley met with Lugar and others including GOP Sen. John Warner of Virginia. Hadley wouldn't discuss the meetings, but Warner said a defense policy bill that is expected to attract several war-related amendments in July was a main topic.

                            The White House thought it had until an expected September assessment by military commanders to deal with political fallout on the unpopular war.

                            But criticism is mounting now. A majority of senators now believe that troops should start coming home within the next few months. And House Republicans want to revive the independent Iraq Study Group to give the nation new options.

                            Bush sought in his speech to put the brakes on these efforts. He said that success in Iraq would usher in "a dawn of a Middle East where leaders are at peace with their own people, where children enjoy the opportunities their parents only dreamed of and where America has new allies in the cause of freedom."

                            He characterized the fight in Iraq, where tensions between Shiite and Sunni factions have kept the country in a cycle of violence, as primarily against al-Qaida forces and their use of grisly suicide attacks and car bombings.

                            "They understand that sensational images are the best way to overwhelm the quiet progress on the ground," Bush said.

                            Still, he laid out in some of his plainest terms yet how to define when the U.S. presence in Iraq has achieved its goals.

                            "Our success in Iraq must not be measured by the enemy's ability to get a car bombing in the evening news," he said. "No matter how good the security, terrorists will always be able to explode a bomb on a crowded street."

                            He suggested Israel as a model.

                            There, Bush said, "Terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq."

                            It was likely to be controversial — and possibly even explosive — for Bush to set out Israel as a model for a Muslim Middle Eastern nation. Israel has been locked for decades in an intractable dispute with Palestinians in the neighboring occupied territories, a conflict that is viewed as a major recruiting tool for Islamic extremist groups like al-Qaida.

                            What America is aiming for in Iraq, Bush said, is "the rise of a government that can protect its people, deliver basic services for all its citizens and function as a democracy even amid violence."

                            The president ordered 21,500 additional U.S. combat troops to Iraq in January, as an effort to increase security in Baghdad and nearby Anbar Province. With those troops finally all deployed, Bush on Thursday ticked through the details of operations in several areas, declaring with the aid of maps and charts on screens that flanked him that progress already is being made in many places.

                            He said that sectarian murders, after spiking in May, are now down substantially from January levels. Car bombings and suicide attacks continue, but are down in May and June. He cited "astonishing signs of normalcy" such as soccer matches and crowded markets.

                            "The fight has been tough — it's a tough fight and it's going to remain difficult," he said. "We lost some good men and women and even as our troops are showing some success in cornering and trapping al-Qaida, they face a lot of challenges."

                            The president asked lawmakers and the public to give the effort a chance.

                            "It's a well-conceived plan by smart military people," he said. "And we owe them the time, and we own them the support they need to succeed."

                            Afterward, Bush took a few questions, including one from a woman who asked "with all due respect" how much the president listens to military officers when making decisions about the war. "A lot," he replied.

                            Outside, about 100 anti-war protesters held signs saying "Shame," "Impeach," and "War is never the answer." It was Bush's first presidential visit to Rhode Island, a heavily Democratic state where opinion polls show he is unpopular.

                            The president spent time privately after his speech with families of soldiers killed in Iraq.

                            http://news.yahoo.com

                            837 words posted in American Empire1 comment

                            1 response(s) to Bush cites Israel as model for Iraq

                            1. Kali [Visitor] says:

                              Bush is a demon. How can he possibily think to site a nation that receives 3 billion+ a year from the US government to murder and isolate brown skinned people to a nation that has been the victim of UN sanctions since 1991?

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                            Fatah leader: Hamas’s military act in Gaza aborted Dahalan’s malicious plan

                            English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                            GAZA, Palestine -- Former Palestinian Authorityu justice minister and Fatah political leader Justice Nahedh Al-Rayyes has opined that the ongoing frenzied arrest campaigns against Hamas’s cadres at the hands of PA security forces loyal to Abbas will widen the broad popularity of Hamas in the West Bank.

                            The Fatah leader also described Hamas’s military acts in Gaza Strip as a "preemptive" step to abort the "malicious" plan of Mohammed Dahalan and his treason trend to attack Hamas and finish it off in Gaza Strip.

                            [More:]

                            "Hamas didn’t wish the battle, and tried to avoid it on many occasions, but it was forced into it as the PA chief’s headquarters in Gaza city was transformed by Dahalan and his group into a small operation room to prepare for the final attack on Hamas which we all anticipated will occur", affirmed Al-Rayyes.

                            He also expressed disappointment over Abbas’s "unconstitutional" decrees that, he added, suspended articles of the PA basic law, describing such decrees as "unprecedented" steps with the aim to end the entire Palestinian democracy.

                            Hamas’s option in the West Bank:
                            Dr. Ismael Redwan, the spokesman of Hamas Movement in Gaza Strip, affirmed that the ongoing violence at the hands of Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank was meant to divide the Palestinian arena and to push it in the quagmire of civil war exactly as they (Abbas’s forces) attempted to do in Gaza Strip before their defeat.

                            In a statement he made to the Palestine Information Center, Redwan explained that Hamas Movement had warned of such practices long time ago, and opted to suppress it wounds for the sake of Palestinian unity, but, he added, the hooligans trespassed all red lines.

                            "Hamas isn’t weak in the West Bank as others would like to think, but Hamas doesn’t want to fight Fatah faction or the PA security apparatuses as Hamas knows very well that its battle is only against the Zionist enemy", the Hamas’s official furthermore explained.

                            In this regard, Redwan urged "prudent" political leaders in Fatah faction to bridle elements of the mutiny trend within their faction, and to stop their violent acts against the Palestinian people and Hamas’s cadres.

                            Hundreds of Hamas’s cadres and tens of Hamas-affiliated social institutions were destroyed and torched at the hands of Abbas’s forces in different parts of the West Bank over the past two weeks.

                            A number of duly elected municipal councils dominated by Hamas were also coercively dissolved by Fatah vandals and Abbas’s security forces and replaced by "illegitimate" Fatah figures.

                            Moreover, Redwan reiterated his Movement’s call for national dialogue with Fatah based on the national constants of the Palestinian people that, he said, couldn’t be abandoned at all cost.

                            He also welcomed the Arab League decision of forming a fact finding committee to probe Gaza events, affirming Hamas’s readiness to cooperate with the committee with the aim to unveil the truth.

                            Uruknet

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                              Twilight Zone / Zakariya Zubeidi presents

                              English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                              By Gideon Levy

                              It was a strange encounter: It began with the strains of a violin and ended with sounds of gunshots. Between the music - played for us by 9-year-old Mohammed, Zakariya Zubeidi's nephew, on a violin brought to him by Israeli peace activist Wafa Yunis - and the sounds of shooting that led to the hasty exit from the room of the five armed men, several hours passed. During that time Zubeidi described the new situation, as it looks to him from the alleys of the Jenin refugee camp.

                              As usual, he did not come alone. But the sight of his armed entourage stunned us for a moment. Several bearded men entered the room with camouflage uniforms, flak jackets, machine guns and pistols. That is exactly how the members of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, the Hamas military wing in Gaza, look. But this bearded group belongs to the secular Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.

                              [More:]

                              A public relations whiz, Zubeidi brought in his religious friends from their days together renovating the Bank Leumi branch in Haifa's Paris Square in 1998: three "ultra-Orthodox" brothers from neighboring Al-Yamun, all wanted by the Israeli military, and several friends who looked like "Hardalniks" - ultra-Orthodox nationalist Jews. A few looked more like Vizhnitz Hasids in Purim costume than Fatah fighters. Originally from Hamas, they, like their commander, think that organization has misused religion and caused critical harm to the Palestinian people and its resistance movement.

                              The Hamas offices in the Jenin refugee camp were set on fire last week by Zubeidi's fighters. About 30 Hamas activists in the city were arrested by the Palestinian Authority. In the context of the emergency situation declared by the PA, Hamas activists are forbidden to demonstrate or to walk around armed in the streets of Jenin. The rearguard battle to rescue the West Bank from Hamas will be conducted by people like Zubeidi.

                              The three pious brothers usually make sure not to hang around with each other so that they won't be killed or caught together. Sheikh Ra'ed, 35, has been wanted for five years; Sheikh Iyad, 32, for three years; and Sheikh Abu-Sayyaf, 28, the youngest of the brothers, has been wanted for four years. Two of them grew up in Hamas, two of them have red beards, two of them are fathers.

                              "These friends," says Zubeidi, introducing his men, "are more religious than Hamas. Does Hamas say that we are heretics? There are religious people in Fatah, but they don't mix religion and politics. Hamas only used religion for its own purposes. Hamas is not a religious movement. Religion forbids people to kill each other, forbids kidnapping, destruction, theft and arson, and Hamas killed and burned and stole and kidnapped."

                              Zubeidi also came this time armed with a silver-colored Smith & Wesson pistol and a Nokia N80, the last word in cellular phones. Pictures of the crushed body of Samih al-Madhoun, the most important of the men assassinated by Hamas in Gaza, flickers on his cell-phone screen.

                              Who is to blame for what happened?

                              Zubeidi: "Hamas is to blame. Abu Mazen [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] has a policy: He opposes the intifada and wants peace with the Israelis. Hamas talks about resistance and does nothing. They do not oppose the occupation. They're busy only with opposing Abu Mazen. That is their resistance. They felt that they had some power in Gaza, and said: Let's bring down the PA and take it by force. What they did in Gaza has happened many times in the Arab world, but not under occupation."

                              But how did Gaza fall so easily?

                              "Abu Mazen had several plans; if one failed he would try the second. He said: No problem. They want to take [Gaza] by force, we'll give it to them. I'll give Gaza to Hamas, I'll say they took Gaza by force and I'll remove Hamas from the PA and the parliament. That's what happened. Gaza is closed - let Hamas do what it wants there. Now Abu Mazen can go to the world and say: We want peace, on the West Bank everything will work out, and nobody will talk to [the deposed Hamas prime minister] Ismail Haniyeh and his people. Nobody will help them, they won't be able to leave, and they will receive food and drink only with the approval of Abu Mazen.

                              "Now all the Hamas missiles have stopped. They're afraid to fire a single missile. Abu Mazen taught them a lesson: He finished Hamas. He killed two birds with one stone: He got rid of his people in Gaza, who were corrupt, and he received international support. Hamas has destroyed the intifada. People in the West Bank saw what happened in Gaza and don't want any more resistance. I have no trouble with dismantling the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, but on condition that I see that there are genuine peace negotiations."

                              Is Gaza a lost cause as far as Fatah is concerned?

                              "We haven't given up Gaza. Gaza belongs to the PA. The salaries, the food - everything via the PA. Everything can by done by fax. Someone want a passport? He'll get it by fax. What will the Hamas people do to us there? The Arab countries don't recognize their prime minister, the Europeans don't agree, and even Iran said he must resign. So how can you survive? You have the weapons, but in another month or two, Fatah will be stronger than Hamas."

                              Your commanders fled.

                              "Our leadership in Gaza received money in order to beat Hamas, and stole it along with the weapons. Everyone feathered his own nest. They didn't stand alongside the soldiers. I'm a leader - if I'm not in front, I'm not a leader. There are two types of leaders. Ahmed Hilis remained with the real Fatah in Gaza. He's a leader. [Mohammed] Dahlan, [Rashid] Abu Shabak and [Samir] Masharawi fled. Nor did they prepare an army that would fight, because they never fought alongside them. Just like you [Israel] in Lebanon: Your defense minister has never used a pistol. Jibril Rajoub did not steal money, Mohammed Dahlan did. That's the difference between the West Bank and Gaza. Now we have to dismiss all those who fled Gaza."

                              You recently received Dahlan in the camp.

                              "My brother and I against my cousin, and my cousin and I against the stranger."

                              And what will happen from now on?

                              "Now the intifada is over. We will live with Israel amicably for five or six years. Afterward the Palestinian people will wake up from what happened. It will take years until the deep scars heal. We have to hope that Israel will leave all the cities, release prisoners, and hand over the money. If Abu Mazen doesn't make progress with peace, we haven't accomplished a thing. If we see that Abu Mazen is not succeeding, we can destroy him as a leader by means of terror attacks, exactly as Hamas destroyed [Yasser] Arafat through its attacks."

                              Mahmoud Al-Zahar [Hamas leader in Gaza] said this week that after Gaza will come the turn of the West Bank.

                              "People here on the West Bank know who Hamas is. They succeeded military, but not in real terms. If they hold elections today in Gaza, Hamas will not win. Nor will Fatah. The independents will win. In order for Hamas to do in the West Bank what it did in Gaza, the Israelis have to help it as they did in Gaza. Do you think Israel didn't help Hamas in Gaza? It allowed all the weapons to enter Gaza and closed its eyes."

                              Why would Israel do that?

                              "In order to tell the Arab world and the West that the Islamic organizations have taken control. What happened is to Israel's benefit, isn't it? The Israelis planned it together with the Americans."

                              Maybe the time has come for your generation to come to power.

                              "No. That's impossible. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Iz al-Din al-Qassam and the Al-Quds Brigades are soldiers who are willing to die on the chessboard. They are protecting the politics on top. That's how it is in the world. Has it ever been different in the world? It's impossible."

                              Zubeidi's religious friends lay their heavy rifles down, and sit around the table in the apartment where the meeting is taking place. They have a polished appearance. Most of the time they are busy transferring ringtones of speeches and Koran verses on their cell phones. Zubeidi brought the men with him, just as Shimon Peres used to bring Arab representatives in keffiyehs to his meetings with the Socialist International.

                              Sheikh Ra'ed: "Hamas has besmirched religion. They distorted religion entirely when they killed and burned our people. We have come to prove that you can be religious without being Hamas. The men who threw people from the 15th floor - they aren't Muslims. In Islam there are laws even regarding the slaughter of a cow. Islam is a religion of mercy and forgiveness. Even the Israelis should know that we are opposed not to your religion, but to your occupation. People in Europe are now saying: Look at Islam. It throws people from the 15th floor. What is happening in Lebanon is Islam and what is happening in Iraq is Islam. Everything in the name of Islam. A person who lives in France and supports the Palestinian people is saying: 'Is this the people to whom you want to give a state?' We've lost a great deal because of what happened in Gaza."

                              Sheikh Iyad: "If two groups fight between themselves, you have to help one. That's clear. When Hamas threw someone down in the name of religion, they acted against religion. Now we are demanding that West Bank-Hamas help us to operate against Gaza-Hamas. The PA embraced them, gave them jobs, now they have to help the PA. Do you think everyone with a beard is Hamas? We're arresting Hamas in the West Bank to help our brothers in Gaza. That's what Allah says."

                              Sheikh Adnan: "I have a problem with those who stockpiled weapons and didn't fire a single shot against the occupation. They aimed these weapons they collected against the Palestinian people. According to law, the weapons are illegal."

                              Zubeidi: "The weapons of the resistance and the weapons of the PA are legal. All the rest are illegal and must be collected. We discovered that the weapons of Hamas are not the weapons of resistance and not the weapons of the PA. Hamas are members of our people. It's true that they made a mistake, but we won't kill them. We won't kidnap them, we won't burn them, we won't throw them from the 15th floor. We will help the PA to arrest them legally. Hamas used religion and we in the West Bank will say to them: You are a nonreligious party. True religion can be found among us."

                              Sheikh Adnan: "The ugly face of Hamas was revealed. The veil was removed and the ugly face was revealed. Hamas helped the occupation. The Israelis are saying thank you to those who killed Samih al-Madhoun. He was a wanted man for five years, until Hamas assassinated him."

                              What if Hamas tries to take over the West Bank as well?

                              Zubeidi: "We will fight them to the finish. The Al-Aqsa brigades are protecting the Palestinian people from the occupation. Hamas has carried out an occupation of the people, an occupation of religion, of culture and of the law. If Hamas comes here to kill our people and to do what they did in Gaza, we'll fight them. We've arrested the Hamas members in Jenin. Anyone who does not oppose what Hamas did in Gaza is a partner, and therefore will stay in prison."

                              Hamas compare you with the South Lebanon Army (SLA).

                              "Until now we've been on the road, in the camp and in the cities fighting the Israel Defense Forces soldiers who enter. The SLA, [Antoine] Lahad's army, killed the Lebanese and the Palestinian people together with the Israeli army. We didn't sit in the jeeps of the Border Police and take Hamas to jail. We didn't ride Merkava tanks and enter Hamas homes. If the occupation wants to enter the Muqata [government compound in Ramallah] to arrest Hamas members - we will help Hamas leave."

                              On the Hamas-controlled Al-Aqsa channel they attacked you this week for your connections with Tali Fahima.

                              "Tali Fahima sat in an Israeli prison longer than Zahar. He sat for eight months and she sat for three and half years, and she is still under restrictions: She is not allowed to pick up the phone to the Palestinian people. Fahima is more [a symbol of] resistance than Zahar. Fahima lit two torches, one in honor of Sheikh Mahmoud who was killed and one in my honor. Zahar lit one torch and burned the entire Palestinian people."

                              When we went outside for a stroll in the alleys we suddenly heard a whirring sound coming from above. One of the men looked upset: It's a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), he said. Zubeidi: "It's the neighbors' washing machine."

                              Afterward, lunch was suddenly interrupted: The sound of shooting - nobody knew who was involved - sent the entire group running outside, alert and tense, aiming their rifles at the street, leaving us behind with a plate of abandoned stuffed grape leaves and the like.

                              Haaretz

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                                VP of European Parliament to Blair and Western Powers: "Pressure Israeli government to open all Gaza borders immediately"

                                English (US)  June 29th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                PRESS RELEASE
                                LUISA MORGANTINI MEP
                                Vice President of the European Parliament
                                Rome, 28 June 2007

                                Wrecking of humanity in Rafah - thousands of Palestinians stuck without humanitarian assistance

                                "While Israel carries on with its criminal air raids on the Gaza Strip, which have killed 14 people and injured about 50 people in the last two days, and Hamas is not able to stop the rocket bombardments on Sderot, fortunately without victims, another shameful tragedy is taking place at Rafah", declared Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament.

                                "4000 Palestinians: elderly and ill people, children, women and men are currently stuck at the Rafah border crossing, the southern border of the Gaza strip with Egypt. They are waiting under the burning sun, 42 C° degrees, without money and with scarce water and food".

                                [More:]


                                These 4000 people do not receive any humanitarian aid, any assistance from international organizations or from the Egyptian government.

                                The hygienic and logistical situation is completely improper, especially considering that in the group there are a lot of ill people, who are coming back from Egyptian Hospitals, trying to go back to their homes.

                                Those who can afford it spend their nights in very expensive hotels, others are completely abandoned and they have not even the means to buy medicines.

                                After Israel's withdrawal from the Strip in September 2005, the border was controlled by the Palestinian National Authority with the support of about 70 European observers.

                                Since June 2006, when the Israeli soldier, Ghilad Shalit, was kidnapped in Gaza, Israel has authorised the opening of the border for only 74 days out of 335.

                                After the recent inter-Palestinian clashes, that have resulted in victory for Hamas in Gaza, Israel has decided to make the crisis even worse, through indiscriminate raids on the Strip and through the closure of the border crossing both for people and commercial goods.

                                "This situation has to stop, but Egypt declares itself ready to re-open the borders - the only way out to the rest of the world for the million and a half Palestinians living in Gaza - only when the Europeans in charge of supervision return.

                                Thus, completely ignoring, just like Israel or the international community, that there are thousands of people who live in desperate conditions for the last two weeks".

                                "I call on the European Union and the whole international community not to stay static in front of the Palestinian population which has been wounded for the hundredth time. I call on them to put pressure on the Israeli government instead, to immediately re-open all the border crossing points at the Gaza Strip, in which Palestinian civilians are arbitrarily and unilaterally imprisoned and forced to survive with no food, nor water and with a health service on the verge of collapse.

                                Finally, I believe that the endorsement of this appeal by the new elected Special Envoy of the Quartet, Tony Blair, would be a significant signal, a first step to give credibility to his role towards the Palestinian and Arab population, sceptical to the neutrality of one of the main promoters of the Iraqi disaster and strong supporter of an aggressive US foreign policy."

                                "The solution to the Palestinian tragedy, which is not just a humanitarian matter, lies in the end of the Israeli military occupation; nevertheless we must act now on daily living conditions", Luisa Morgantini concludes.

                                Further information: Luisa Morgantini 0039 348 39 21 465 or Office in BXL ph. +32 2 28 45151

                                luisa.morgantini@europarl.eruropa.eu

                                558 words posted in Human Rights, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                  Fatah leader slammed over statements released on Al-Jazeera

                                  English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                  By George Rishmawi

                                  Senior Fatah leader, Hani Al-Hassan, one of the founders of the movement and member of the central committee of Fatah was harshly slammed by other Fatah officials and leaders following an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera satellite channel during which he accused a group of Fatah leaders of being part of a plan set by an American general aimed at destroying Hamas.

                                  [More:]

                                  Al-Hassan, who was the senior advisor for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said what happened in Gaza is a defeat for General Keith Dayton’s plan, and not a defeat for Fatah.

                                  Dayton has been stationed in Jerusalem after Hamas won the Palestinian Parliamentary elections in January 2006, in bid to destroy Hamas.

                                  Al-Hassan accused some of Fatah leaders, hinting to Mohammad Dahlan, of being followers of the Americans and the Israelis and that they have received money from the United States to crack on Hamas.

                                  Palestinian media sources said that Abbas dismissed Al-Hassan from his post as his advisor over his comments.

                                  On the other hand, Fatah leader Samir Mashharawi in the West Bank harshly slammed Al-Hassan saying that he has collaborated with Hamas to carry out a coup, referring to Hamas’ military control over the Gaza Strip after clashes with Fatah and the Palestinian Security forces in early June.

                                  Mashharawi added that Fatah has information that Al-Hassan has informed the head of Hamas’ politburo Khaled Masha’al of a possible crack down on Hamas one month ago, and asked them to act to prevent this crack down.

                                  Hussein Al-Sheikh, secretary General of Fatah in the West Bank told a press conference that Al-Hassan does not represent Fatah and demanded President Abbas of taking legal measures against him.

                                  Al-Hassan also said that Hamas was not expected to sit and wait for Dayton’s plan to be implemented but added that they have pushed the envelop too far. He said that 95 percent of Fatah was not part of Dayton’s plan and that they will never accept to be part of such a plan.

                                  Al-Hassan also affirmed the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and slammed Hamas’ military control over the Gaza Strip and called for dialogue between Fatah and Hamas and the other Palestinian factions in order to raise the level of the Palestinian demands making use of the “Israeli and American defeat,” in the region.

                                  IMEMC

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                                    Hamas: “Abbas is becoming a mini-dictator”

                                    English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                    Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, stated that the recent decrees issued by President Mahmoud Abbas regarding dissolving the armed groups, are transforming his into a “mini dictator” in this area as he ordered the arrest of dozens of Hamas members in addition to ordering the arrest of Fateh members who oppose him, according to the Hamas statement.

                                    [More:]

                                    The statement accused Abbas of ordering his loyal security forces to arrest members of Hamas and other Islamic groups, and that those members are being interrogated and tortured.

                                    Hamas added that when Abbas ordered that all “armed militias should be dissolved, his security forces continue to arrest Hamas supporters in the West Bank”.

                                    The official spokesperson of Hamas in the West Bank issued the following statement;

                                    “We repeatedly warned that these decrees aim at collapsing the Palestinian democracy, and trying to use the momentum in order to impose political and legal facts on the ground, facts that come through alliances, on the regional and international levels, with the American plans in the region”.

                                    “These decrees are demanding the clean weapons, the weapons of resistance, to be withdrawn, while the real militias and real assailants keep their weapons and direct them against their people, these weapons that they want to remove are the weapons that are resisting the occupation in Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah and everywhere in the occupied West Bank”.

                                    Hamas also slammed the Sharm Al Sheikh Summit, in Egypt, which brought together president Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and said that the results of this summit were implemented on the ground when the army killed on Wednesday thirteen Palestinians in an invasion to the Gaza Strip.

                                    Furthermore, Hamas added that it is willing to hold talks with president Abbas but “not before he cancels all of his recent decrees, and not before he adopts “the clean resistance”.

                                    The movement also accused security forces loyal to Fateh, of carrying repeated attacks in order to create further clashes.

                                    IMEMC

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                                      Zionist occupation forces kidnap three civilians in Bethehem invasion

                                      English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                      Three civilians kidnapped as Zionist army invades Bethlehem city

                                      By Ghassan Bannoura

                                      The Israeli army invaded several parts of Bethlehem city, located in the southern part of the West Bank, and kidnapped three civilians on Thursday morning.

                                      [More:]

                                      Palestinian sources reported that troops surrounded and searched the house of Abd Al Nasser Salhab. Salhab then was kidnapped by the invading troops and taken to an unknown detention camp.

                                      In Deheisha refugee camp in the southern part of Bethlehem, soldiers attacked the house of Yousif Al Mughrabi, 24, and abducted him.

                                      Mohamed Za'ul was taken to unknown detention camp when Israeli soldiers attacked and searched his home in Hussan village, west of Bethlehem city.
                                      IMEMC

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                                        Israeli army forces women to strip at Bethlehem checkpoint

                                        English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                        By Nissren Abu Ghazalah

                                        "It seems that there are plans to topple the honor of Palestinian girls in the clutches of the Israeli intelligence through blackmail at checkpoints and military crossings, and I don’t doubt that inside the inspection rooms there are cameras video taping girls undressing."

                                        [More:]

                                        These were the words of Manal, a young Palestinian lady from Bethlehem, in the southern part of the West Bank. She is describing what happened to her last weekend at the Israeli military crossing known as 300 located at the entrance of Bethlehem. This checkpoint cuts Bethlehem from its sister city, Jerusalem.

                                        Manal witnessed a new episode of racist Israeli methods, and this will not be the last time. She said, "I arrived with one of my friends to the Bethlehem checkpoint, and after crossing several inspection points, we waited a little while, and while we were waiting, a group of female university students came out from one of the side rooms in tears. When we asked them why they were crying, they replied that they had been forced to strip naked during inspection. "

                                        Manal continued: "I can not describe what happened to the students! They were forced to strip naked collectively in one of the rooms after women soldiers intimidated them." She added, "The female soldier asked me and my friend to enter the room for inspection, but we refused. She said that we can enter separately to be strip searched, and when we refused again she screamed at us and called us all kind of swear words. Then we got detained inside one of the rooms at the checkpoint, and after a number of phone calls to human rights organizations my friend and I were allowed to leave the checkpoint."

                                        Manal added that "On this particular day men were not inspected, but only women. This confirms that the Israeli authorities had serious intentions to humiliating us". The young Palestinian lady also noted that, "if there were security reasons for this inspection, why not search all the people? Anyhow, don't the Israeli authorities refuse to grant permission for Palestinians who have security records to cross at this checkpoint? Apart from this we had already entered a number of checkpoints unscathed before this strip search; all these factors raise suspicions".

                                        Manal also stressed that stopping people at the Bethlehem checkpoint and only letting them go through after passing inspection procedures is normal, but forcing women to strip search is a new phenomenon in Bethlehem. This causes real fears among women that this procedure will become normal in the future.

                                        Jamal Zahalka, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament received complaints about this matter. He responded by filing an investigation letter to the Israeli Security Minister Ehud Barak. Zahalka commented on the Israeli soldiers' demeaning act by saying, "There is no end to the moral degradation of the occupation, he who forces women to strip has sunk to the lowest morals level. He is a lowlife. We must stop this shameful action immediately."

                                        Translated by Ghassan Bannoura – IMEMC News Room
                                        category jerusalem | human rights | news report

                                        IMEMC

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                                          Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades reject decree of President Abbas

                                          English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                          Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades refuse to dissolve or to disarm and reject the truce in the West Bank

                                          Bethlehem - The Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades have announced that they have rejected the presidential decree regarding the disbanding of militia in the occupied Palestinian territories.

                                          [More:]

                                          The spokesman of the brigades, Abu Oday, told Ma'an that, following consultations with the brigades' leaders in the West Bank, they have issued the following declaration:

                                          First: the rejection of the dissolution of the brigades, "because they are a resistance group, and are defending the country and the dignity of the people".

                                          Second: the refusal to disarm the group, "because it is a legitimate arm of resistance, and is the only weapon to remain to defend the Intifada ["Uprising"]."

                                          Third: the rejection of the description of the brigades as 'militias', "which defame the Palestinians, and it is nonsense to describe the only remaining armed wing as a militia."

                                          Fourth: the brigades support the presidents' decision to withdraw illegal arms used in the lawlessness, and announce that they stand with the security forces to stop the state of disorder.

                                          Fifth: the brigades will "do their best" to aid the security forces, "and will be honored to stand beside the security forces to defend the country."

                                          Sixth: the brigades will not be complacent before the crimes of the occupation, "and will retaliate for the crimes committed [by the occupying Israeli military], especially in the recent days in the [Gaza] Strip, Nablus and Jenin.

                                          Seventh: the brigades reject the connection established between themselves and the current state of lawlessness, and confirm that they "were created to confront the occupation and its aggression against the Palestinian people".

                                          Eighth: the brigades will not be committed to a truce with the Israelis, as long as the occupation continues the crimes and incursions against Palestinians and their cities.

                                          Maan News

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                                            Violent Israeli incursion into Nablus, 8 soldiers reportedly injured

                                            English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                            Nablus - Ma'an - Eight Israeli soldiers were moderately injured in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday morning after explosive devices were hurled at the Israeli patrols, Israeli sources reported. In the ongoing incursion, at least four Palestinians have been arrested and numerous Palestinian houses have been transformed into military bases, eyewitnesses have reported.

                                            [More:]

                                            The Israeli army also took control of local radio stations in order to issue orders to the local inhabitants over the airwaves.

                                            Israeli sources added that Palestinian activists threw four explosive devices towards Israeli patrols in the Al-Qasaba (old city) neighbourhood, injuring eight soldiers, who were transferred to Israeli hospitals.

                                            For their part, Palestinian security sources said that the military operation in the city is still ongoing since it began in the early morning. Fierce clashes continue between the Israeli forces, who are stationed in the old city of Nablus, and Palestinian fighters.

                                            The Palestinian sources added that the Israeli forces conducted an arrest campaign and imposed a curfew on the area. They are also monitoring the entrances of the Nablus hospitals.

                                            Heavy Israeli forces invaded the city on Wednesday evening amidst heavy gunfire. Our Nablus correspondent stated that the Israeli forces also blew up the electricity transformer which supplies power to Amman Street in Nablus.

                                            The Al-Buraq Army, which is affiliated to Fatah, and the Al-Quds Brigades, who are the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, also claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive device next to an Israeli patrol and clashing with Israeli troops near Rafidia hospital on Thursday morning.

                                            Eyewitnesses told our correspondent in Nablus that the Israeli forces transformed dozens of Palestinian homes into military posts and observation towers. The Israeli forces also carried out house-to-house searches.

                                            Eyewitnesses affirmed that several homes were stormed in the Habalah and Qasaba neighbourhoods, and four Palestinians were arrested.

                                            Palestinian sources added that the Israeli forces ransacked the home of Ahmad Tbouq, a former activist who was killed by the Israelis. They arrested all the residents before then detonating an explosive in the house. The Israeli forces also invaded the Sirrisi and Hirzallah neighbourhoods of the city.

                                            Palestinian sources added that the Israeli forces broke into home of the Al-Asaly family in the Rafidia neighbourhood of west Nablus and arrested a young man after searching the house.

                                            The Israeli forces also took control of the frequencies of local radio stations in Nablus and used them to give orders to the local residents.

                                            Nablus TV said that the Israeli forces transmitted the curfew order through the local stations. The TV station called this Israeli practise "illegal" and a violation of the freedom of press. The station called on the international community and humanitarian organizations to exert pressure on the Israelis to stop their violations which damage the freedom of press.

                                            PNI and Fatah condemn invasion

                                            The secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative and former information minister, Dr. Mustafa Al Barghouthi, condemned the Israeli attack on Nablus, criticising in particular the siege placed on Rafidia and other hospitals by the Israeli forces.

                                            He added that the Israeli forces have turned more than 30 Palestinian homes into military bases and terrified women and children.

                                            He also pointed out that this incursion into Nablus prevents students from taking their final school exams. It also exacerbates the poor economic situation in Nablus, he said.

                                            Fatah spokesman Jamal Nazzal also condemned the invasion, saying that it called "the credibility of the Israeli government into question."

                                            Considering President Abbas decreed on 26 June that all Palestinian armed groups lay down their weapons – which Nazzal points out was a "very controversial and unpopular [decision] in the Palestinian territories" – Nazzal questions Israel's motives.

                                            Contrary to the Israeli government's stated intentions of bolstering Abbas and his emergency government, "Israel's reaction to the decision [of Abbas'] is harmful, inconsiderate, and is obviously intended to "weaken Abbas's leadership," Nazzal charges in a press statement.

                                            Nazzal adds that the Israeli army's actions in Nablus on Thursday demonstrate "that the military carry out the most important decision-making in Israel, thereby completely ignoring the decisions of the political leadership of Israel."

                                            Maan Mews

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                                              Hamas critical of Blair envoy role

                                              English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                              Hamas has condemned the appointment of Tony Blair as Middle East envoy after stepping down as Britain’s prime minister amid Israeli and some Palestinian support.

                                              [More:]

                                              The Islamic movement which seized control of the Gaza Strip 12 days ago, criticised Blair's new role on Wednesday saying it was "not acceptable to Hamas nor to the Palestinians".

                                              Blair will act as special envoy of the Quartet - the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia - which seeks to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

                                              The post has been vacant since James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank chairman, left in frustration in May 2006.

                                              'Not a man of peace'

                                              In Gaza, Hamas voiced its concerns on the outgoing prime minister's new role.

                                              "Blair, who supported the American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, may not be a man of peace," Fawzi Barhum, the Hamas spokesman told AFP in Gaza.

                                              "His appointment is not acceptable to Hamas nor to the Palestinians. He will not do anything to support the Palestinian interests but will do everything to support the Israeli occupation," he said.

                                              On a trip to Amman, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, greeted news of the appointment of Blair and pledged to work with Blair towards achieving peace, an official said.

                                              "President Abbas welcomes the nomination of Mr Blair as envoy of the quartet," Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said.

                                              "The president, who was consulted on the matter, has given the assurance that he will work with Mr Blair to arrive at a peaceful solution on the basis of two states," Erakat said.

                                              He also said that Abbas was confident Blair’s appointment "will help boost the institutions of the Palestinian Authority and aid economic growth" .

                                              'Capable man'

                                              Meanwhile, George Bush, the American president, welcomed his closest ally to his new post.

                                              "I am pleased that this capable man has agreed to continue his work for peace in the Middle East," Bush said in a statement.

                                              "Tony will help Palestinians develop the political and economic institutions they will need for a democratic, sovereign state able to provide for its people and live in peace and security with Israel," Bush said.

                                              Reaction from Russia was more guarded with Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, saying that Moscow would support Blair's appointment if the other members of the quartet were in favour.

                                              "If the whole of the quartet is in favour, we are going to welcome Tony Blair's contribution to efforts to normalise the situation in the Palestinian territories," Lavrov said.

                                              In Paris, Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president applauded the appointment of Blair, lauding his "qualities as a statesman and his knowledge of the region".

                                              Meanwhile back home, Gordon Brown, Britain's new prime minister, said he was "delighted", adding that his predecessor was "exceptionally well placed" to take on the role.

                                              Source: Agencies

                                              466 words posted in Human Rights, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                The successor of Lord Balfour.......

                                                English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                By Raja Chemayel, aka Sherlock Hommos aka Eng. Moustafa Rosenbloom

                                                The philharmonic, philanthropic
                                                Quartet
                                                wants to appoint Mr.Tony Blair
                                                as chief Peace-Mediator-Negotiator.

                                                And I wonder if Tony would not fix it
                                                in 45 minutes....

                                                it is like asking a plumber to repair the TV set
                                                or
                                                asking a pedophile to baby-sit
                                                or
                                                asking the mouse to guard a piece of cheese
                                                or
                                                simply asking the successor of Lord Balfour
                                                to bring justice to Palestine!

                                                Sherlock Hommos
                                                a historian without any amnesia
                                                27Th of June 2007
                                                the day Blair will try to stop lying.....

                                                http://frustratedarabdiary.blogspot.com

                                                96 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                  13,129: "We think the price is worth it" -- US government

                                                  English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                  June 27, 2007

                                                  By markfromireland

                                                  THIRTEEN THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-NINE MALFORMED CHILDREN have been born in Iraq in the last five years. Their deformities have been caused by American Depleted Uranium munitions used in the American led 1991 "Desert Storm" war with Iraq launched after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The war saw heavy use of depleted uranium rounds by American and British forces and was followed by a punitive sanctions regime enforced by the United Nations primarily at America’s behest. The sanctions included preventing Iraq from importing drugs for the treatment of cancers and birth defects. The current war on Iraq was launched on the pretext that Iraq was failing to comply with sanctions and had weapons of mass destruction.

                                                  Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

                                                  Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

                                                  We think the price is worth it

                                                  [More:]

                                                  Does "peace" mean that your aunt does not weep as she talks of how the young couples she serves ask her after the X-Ray, "Well, is it a child or is it a monster?"

                                                  And how she curses the Americans who littered our land with Uranium munitions and then denied us the cancer drugs. Because we needed to be "contained."

                                                  We sand niggers who had been abandoned to the tyrant you had supported for years needed to be "contained."

                                                  According to the green zone government Ministry of Health, the numbers of maimed children born with defects in Iraq after the United States used over 940,000 depleted uranium rounds in the war with Iraq in 1991 in the last 5 years is 13,129.

                                                  The report from Al Melaf gives the statistics from a Ministry of Health briefing on the number of children born with birth defects since 2001 as 13,129 in total.

                                                  The number of deformed children born last year was more than 1,919.

                                                  Ninewa (Nineveh) province, has the highest number of children born maimed as 411.

                                                  Baghdad is next with 372 children born distorted.

                                                  Basra has seen the birth of 300 distorted children .

                                                  Between 30 to 40 children per month are born with defects attributed to their mothers inhalation of radioactive dust from depleted uranium rounds. The American army used depleted uranium during the last war and this was confirmed by a German team who visited Iraq recently and were able to obtain a missile which proved after checking that the American forces used depleted uranium.

                                                  Readers will recall that Albright was Secretary of State (Foreign Minister) under President Clinton. They may also recall that current American Senator and presidential candidate Senator Hilary Clinton was a willing participant in the Clinton "two for the price of one." electioneering which helped bring her husband to the White House.

                                                  I have been unable to find any expression of concern by Senator Clinton either for the fate of the children affected by DU or the sanctions regime which denied cancer and other drugs to treat those children or even any expression of concern about the health of American soldiers in that war affected by DU dust. I did however find plenty of coverage of her remarks about how she would not withdraw American troops from Iraq.

                                                  Senator Clinton’s campaign recently launched an campaign advertisement in which her concern for ex-President Clinton’s health was highlighted.

                                                  A video report Paying The Price: Killing The Children Of Iraq on this topic can be viewed at this link:
                                                  http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2333396680121832595&hl=en-CA

                                                  The report lasts 1 hr 15 min 4 sec the film was made before America launched the current war on Iraq.

                                                  Note to Americans: They don’t hate you for your freedoms. They hate you for starving, maiming, and murdering their children.

                                                  Uruknet

                                                  645 words posted in Iraq war, American Empire1 comment

                                                  1 response(s) to 13,129: "We think the price is worth it" -- US government

                                                  1. L.A. Steel [Visitor] Email says:

                                                    I ran an excellent program on cable television
                                                    on this subject for five days straight,over a
                                                    year ago,entitled "Beyond Treason"
                                                    produced by Joyce Reily. For a copy of the
                                                    DVD go to Beyondtreason.com or ThePowerHour.com
                                                    Joyce is a U.S Army nurse and does a daily talk
                                                    show that concentrates on Veteran issues, the
                                                    Gulf War Syndrome,and effects of depleted
                                                    uranium. It is also causing cancer in many
                                                    of our soldiers and birth defects in their
                                                    children. The government refuses to acknowledge
                                                    their disease as related to DU however, all
                                                    medical evidence proves DU is the cause.

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                                                  New documents link Kissinger to two 1970s coups

                                                  English (US)  June 28th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                  Release of CIA’s ‘Family Jewels’ provides insight into political juggernaut and Bush Administration adviser Henry Kissinger.

                                                  By Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane

                                                  Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger pushed for the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and allowed arms to be moved to Ankara for an attack on that island in reaction to a coup sponsored by the Greek junta, according to documents and intelligence officers with close knowledge of the event.

                                                  “The implication is that the US government was dealing directly with General Evren and circumventing the [democratically elected] Turkish government,” the former CIA officer said. “This was authorized by Kissinger, because they were nervous about Ecevit, who was a Social Democrat.”

                                                  [More:]

                                                  Nearly 700 pages of highly classified Central Intelligence Agency reports from the 1970's, known collectively as the "Family Jewels," are slated for public release today.

                                                  However, the National Security Archive had previously obtained four related documents through the Freedom of Information Act and made them public Friday.

                                                  “In all the world the things that hurt us the most are the CIA business and Turkey aid,” Kissinger declares in one of those documents, a White House memorandum of a conversation from Feb. 20, 1975. On the surface, the comment seems innocuous, but the context as well as the time period suggests Kissinger had abetted illegal financial aid and arms support to Turkey for its 1974 Cyprus invasion.

                                                  In July and August of 1974, Turkey staged a military invasion of the island nation of Cyprus, taking over nearly a third of the island and creating a divide between the south and north. Most historians consider that Kissinger – then Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford – not only knew about the planned attack on Cyprus, but encouraged it.

                                                  Some Greek Cypriots believed then, and still believe, that the invasion was a deliberate plot on the part of Britain and the US to maintain their influence on the island, which was particularly important as a listening post in the Eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the October 1973 War between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

                                                  According to columnist Christopher Hitchens, author of the book The Trial of Henry Kissinger, "At the time, many Greeks believed that the significant thing was that [Prime Minister Bulent] Ecevit had been a pupil of Kissinger's at Harvard."

                                                  Several intelligence sources, who wished to remain anonymous to maintain the security of their identity, confirmed to RAW STORY that Kissinger both pushed for the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and allowed arms to be moved to Ankara.

                                                  However, a former CIA officer who was working in Turkey at the time, suggests that Kissinger's statement in the memorandum about Turkish aid likely means the Ford administration, following Kissinger’s advice, conducted business under the table with right-wing ultra-nationalist General Kenan Evren, who later dissolved Parliament and became the dictator of Turkey in a 1980 coup.

                                                  “The implication is that the US government was dealing directly with General Evren and circumventing the [democratically elected] Turkish government,” the former CIA officer said. “This was authorized by Kissinger, because they were nervous about Ecevit, who was a Social Democrat.”

                                                  “We technically cut off military aid for them,” the officer added, referring to an arms embargo passed by Congress after the invasion. “Technically… technically, but this would imply that the military and/or probably CIA aid continued even after the aid was cut off by Congress. This may substantively be what led to the overthrow eventually of Ecevit.”

                                                  According to the former CIA officer, Turkey’s democratically elected President Ecevit had good relations with the Johnson administration, but the Nixon administration, where Kissinger served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, had issues with Ecevit.

                                                  “I don't remember now what all the issues were,” the source said. “But I remember that the White House did not like Ecevit.”

                                                  Kissinger could not be reached for comment Monday.

                                                  Kissinger, Rumsfeld, and Cheney, then and now

                                                  Though no longer a government official, Kissinger remains a powerful force in Washington – particularly within the Bush Administration. Dr. Kissinger was the first choice by President Bush to lead a blue ribbon investigation into the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, he resigned shortly after the 9/11 Family Steering Committee had a private meeting with him at his Kissinger and Associates Inc. New York office and asked him point blank if he had any clients by the name of Bin Laden.

                                                  According to Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband Richard in the attacks and who was present as part of the 12-member 9/11 Family Steering Committee during the private meeting, the White House seems to have overlooked Dr. Kissinger's apparent conflict of interest.

                                                  "We had the meeting with him... the whole Steering Committee, all 12 of us. Because we are basically doing our due diligence and asking for his client list to be released to see if there was a conflict of interest between his client list and potential areas of investigation," said Gabrielle during a Tuesday morning phone conversation, recounting the events of December 12, 2002. "We went back and forth with him, discussing his client list... asking him who was on it, if there were conflicts and so forth," she continued.

                                                  "Lorie [Van Auken] asked, do you have any Saudi clients on your list? And he got a blank look. Then Lorie asked, do you have any clients by the name of Bin Laden? And he was stuttering and mumbling, and finally said he would maybe, possibly consider releasing the client list to an attorney but not for the public."

                                                  Dr. Kissinger did not reveal his client list but withdrew his name the next day without public explanation.

                                                  In Bob Woodward’s State of Denial, Kissinger says he met regularly with Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to offer advice about the war in Iraq. “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy,” Kissinger said.

                                                  Cheney, along with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, first came to prominence during the administration of President Ford. Rumsfeld had served in various posts under Nixon before being sent to Europe as the US ambassador to NATO in 1973, a period that included the Cyprus coup. When Ford became president on August 9, 1974, immediately preceding the second wave of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Rumsfeld returned to Washington to serve as his chief of staff, while Cheney became deputy assistant to the president.

                                                  Rumsfeld and Cheney gained increasing influence under Ford, reaching their apex of power in November 1975 with a shakeup that saw Rumsfeld installed as Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney as White House chief of staff, and George H.W. Bush replacing William Colby as CIA director.

                                                  Together, Rumsfeld and Cheney created a bubble not unlike the one that has enveloped President George W. Bush’s White House, surrounding Ford with a close knit group of advisors who worked to head off any possibility of openness about past misdeeds and to turn the administration sharply to the right.

                                                  The aid to Turkey referenced in Kissinger’s cryptic remark was precisely the subject of Congressional oversight on the Executive Branch in 1974-75. In a foreshadowing of how Iran Contra would play out a decade later, the White House violated both US and international law in providing arms and financing to the Turks for the Cyprus invasion.

                                                  The CIA, through various spokespeople, would not comment on how much additional information with regard to Kissinger, the attack on Cyprus, and the events leading up to the 1980 coup in Turkey with US support would be part of the declassified documents to come out this week. The only thing the agency would say is that “this was a different CIA at a different time,” and “people need to remember that.”

                                                  The Chile Coup

                                                  Around the time of President Nixon's resignation in August 1974, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh started hearing accounts of illegal foreign and domestic CIA activities. On December 20, 1974, Hersh confronted CIA Director William Colby and received confirmation of everything he had learned. Two days later, Hersh went public with the story.

                                                  The Family Jewels were described in a New York Times front page article titled “Huge C.I.A. Operation Reported in U.S. Against Antiwar Forces, Other Dissidents in Nixon Years.” According to Hersh, James Schlesinger, who served briefly as CIA director in 1973, had ordered the report in response to the crimes collectively known as Watergate.

                                                  Hersh's article stated, “An extensive investigation by the New York Times has established that intelligence files on at least 10,000 American citizens were maintained by a special unit of the C.I.A. that was reporting directly to Richard Helms, then the Director of Central Intelligence and now the Ambassador to Iran.”

                                                  Then-CIA director William Colby's initial impulse was to reveal everything in order to give the CIA a clean slate, but President Ford and Kissinger disagreed. By January 3, 1975 when Colby was summoned to the White House for a briefing, they had decided to keep the lid on by forming a blue ribbon commission under Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.

                                                  The "memorandum of conversation" document released by the National Security Archive, dated January 4, 1975, transcribes portions of a follow-up meeting between Ford and Kissinger the next day.

                                                  Kissinger complains to President Ford about Colby's urge to come clean, saying, "You will end up with a CIA that does only reporting, and not operations ... He has turned over to the FBI the whole of his operation."

                                                  Former CIA Director Helms "said all these stories are just the tip of the iceberg,” Kissinger continues, adding “If they come out, blood will flow." After offering a few examples, Kissinger concludes by remarking mysteriously, "The Chilean thing -- that is not in any report. That is sort of blackmail on me."

                                                  The meaning of this remark is far from clear, suggesting as it does that the 693 pages of the Family Jewels were only "the tip of the iceberg" and that among what was left out was a "Chilean thing" that Kissinger perceived as having the potential for blackmail on himself.

                                                  It has been known since the revelations of the 70's that prior to Chile's 1970 presidential elections, President Richard Nixon, Kissinger and Helms actively pursued ways to head off the victory of leftist Salvador Allende, including sponsoring an abortive military coup.

                                                  "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people,” Kissinger famously said at the time.

                                                  After Allende was democratically elected and became president, the US put economic pressure on Chile and encouraged further military plots -- a two-pronged strategy similar to that currently being employed against Iran -- while Kissinger a continued to press for stronger action.

                                                  The CIA's Directorate of Operations was particularly active in Chile in 1972-73, the period leading up to Allende's violent overthrow in September 1973 in a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. Following the coup, Kissinger strongly supported the new authoritarian government.

                                                  After Helms left the CIA in 1973 to become ambassador to Iran, he offered a series of vague denials when asked about CIA involvement in Chile. Among Helms' claims were "that the CIA hadn't given money directly to Allende's opponents, that the CIA didn't try to fix the vote in the Chilean Congress because investigation had shown it couldn't be arranged, that the CIA didn't try to overthrow the Chilean government because the Agency failed to find anyone who could really do it."

                                                  In 1977, Helms was convicted of perjury for his statements and given a two-year suspended sentence and a fine that was paid by his friends from the CIA. As with the more recent perjury of Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby's concerning the outing of a CIA officer, Helms' had lies served the purpose of protecting his superiors, notably Kissinger.

                                                  However, in Prelude to Terror, historian Joseph Trento offers a somewhat different account of Helms' actions, suggesting a deeper Kissinger involvement.

                                                  "From Iran, Helms heard enough about the criminal investigation to issue a threat through his old colleague Tom Braden,” Trento writes. “Braden remembered Helms saying, 'If I am going to be charged, then I will reveal Kissinger's role in these operations.'" Trento adds in a footnote that "Helms himself confided to old friend and CIA colleague (from Iran) Tom Braden that he would resort to [revealing embarrassing state secrets] and 'bring down Henry Kissinger' in the process."

                                                  Even apart from Trento's assertions, Kissinger's concern with "the Chilean thing -- that is not in any report" hints at involvement in the 1973 coup. But if Trento's claims are accurate, Kissinger might also have been referring to a threat by Helms to bring him down, both in his remark that "Helms said all these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. If they come out, blood will flow," and in his cryptic description of "the Chilean thing" as "sort of blackmail on me."

                                                  The Raw Story

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                                                    Brothers-in-Arms: The Triumph of US/Israeli Policy in Palestine

                                                    English (US)  June 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                    By JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN

                                                    Contrary to the many claims that the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip represents the failure of US and Israeli policies in Palestine, the violent civil infighting that has dominated the Gaza Strip over much of the last year and a half and that led directly to the Hamas coup of June 2007, marks yet another major foreign policy victory for the occupiers. Hamas will never be allowed to remain in power in Gaza so we must fear for the future of that tiny, desperately overcrowded strip of land and its 1.4 million inhabitants; additionally, Abbas ­in order to maintain his role as "Good Guy"- will have to accede to the dictates of Israel and the United States or suffer the same fate as his predecessor, Yassir Arafat.

                                                    Who will stand up for a "terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel"? The line has been beaten into our heads with every mention of the word "Hamas" for years. We should not expect a change in the behavior of the American public or of other western audiences until, when Israel is mentioned, we immediately say to ourselves, "a terrorist state that seeks the destruction of Palestine." Seeks and is succeeding in it.

                                                    [More:]

                                                    Western nations are standing by in silence as the deadly siege of Gaza and the dismemberment of the West Bank continue unabated. What we are witnessing in full view each day are unprecedented steps taken by the world's only superpower and its favorite client state, Israel, to ensure the death of a nation. While friction between the two key political factions in the occupied Palestinian territories has long undermined the smooth functioning of internal affairs, it was the direct, cynical involvement of US and Israeli policy-makers in these affairs that guaranteed the breakdown of internal stability and paved the way for the Hamas "coup" in Gaza.

                                                    Media reports have been careful to leave out important facts leading up to the coup such as that Hamas was the legitimate, democratically elected ruling party in the Palestinian territories following the January 2006 Palestine Legislative Council elections; that it was the US-Israeli dismissal of those election results that fueled the civil infighting between Hamas and Fatah; that obvious US backing of Fatah against Hamas helped create popular mistrust of Fatah increasing Hamas' popularity in Gaza and leading directly to Hamas' takeover of the Fatah military apparatus in the Gaza Strip. In other words, there were real and understandable reasons for the coup. But in the end, Hamas' seizure of the power it should have had in the first place ends up serving the interests not only of Mahmoud Abbas and the warlord Muhammad Dahlan. It also provides the perfect opportunity for US-Israeli policy in the region to move forward with even fewer objections, if that is possible to imagine, than have heretofore been made. Who will stand up for a "terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel"? The line has been beaten into our heads with every mention of the word "Hamas" for years. We should not expect a change in the behavior of the American public or of other western audiences until, when Israel is mentioned, we immediately say to ourselves, "a terrorist state that seeks the destruction of Palestine." Seeks and is succeeding in it.

                                                    II.

                                                    Watching the barbarous killing between brothers in Gaza, a power struggle between rival factions seething in frenzy like the great prison in which they thrive, Israeli and American political analysts can rest their cases with confidence. Across the spectrum of debate, these experts can expect vindication by the media juries who, in sanctimonious indignation at the brutality meted out by partisans of Fatah or Hamas, have assembled all the "evidence" they need to justify our righteous war against Muslim-Arab terrorists and their internecine blood feuds.

                                                    That the US has temporarily chosen a weak, compliant leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and the power thirsty warlord, Muhammad Dahlan, to back during the bitter strife between key Palestinian factions testifies not to a belief that one side is trustworthy and deserves our support, but rather to the ease with which the Americans and their clients pick and choose their pawns in their bitter regional cockfights. Today's statesmen were yesterday terrorists, their titles dependent on the needs of the superpower and its clients: yesterday Fatah was on the US State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations and its leader, Yassir Arafat, was a declared "terrorist," "irrelevant," and exiled in his presidential compound in Ramallah until his mysterious death. Fatah's military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades is still listed as a foreign terrorist organization. Neither of these factors apparently bothers the current leadership which understands that power and prestige are most easily acquired and unchallenged when bequeathed from above.

                                                    Truth be told, the Abbas/Dahlan alliance elicits far greater contempt in the eyes of the masters than the more independent and genuine resistance faction headed by Hamas. The numerous meetings and photo-ops between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas, and US President George Bush and Abbas, are little more than tactical stunts to make it look as though genuine negotiations are taking place. In fact, Abbas has been repeatedly by-passed and shunned when Israeli and US negotiators make the real policy decisions; decisions that remain one-sided and dismissive of any demands-other than those that are entirely self-serving-that Abbas and his entourage have made. The arms and funding channeled through Abbas' Fatah (for his clique represents only one of the many spin-off Fatahs that emerged during the second Intifada) signify little more than the conduit through which US-Israeli policies can be secured. For all the claims about US backing of Fatah, neither Abbas nor Dahlan have yet to benefit on the ground from this "support". Indeed, the ease with which Hamas was able to wrest control of Gaza indicates just how little US support for Fatah was worth there. Nevertheless, the same pipeline of support for "Fatah" has done a great deal to bolster perceived US and Israeli national security interests in the same region.

                                                    III.

                                                    Once again the pictures on our television screens in our newspapers are intended to suffice for missing substance; the context of empire is invisible or deliberately obscured ­in Palestine as in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. If the takeover of Gaza by Hamas was unanticipated, its success was a gift of immeasurable value to the overlords; a welcome but unforeseen consequence of fueling divisions among a weakened and oppressed people, undermining any steps toward positive change. Abbas and his underlings have foolishly offered up Palestine cut in two to the occupation regime that worked so hard to end the charade of a single Palestine to begin with. This was a coup for Israel in its on-going quest for regional hegemony, and a triumph for America's "War on Terror." For all the talk about a one-, two- or bi-national state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, the reality is that no state solution for Palestine is on the near or distant horizon. Palestine is a series of disconnected pieces whose division into still smaller parts continues month after month.

                                                    Those fretting about a "Hamastan" in the Gaza Strip ought to be worried not about its viability or longevity or about whether or not Islamic law and social mores will be imposed. Hamas' presence in Gaza will be but a short-lived, transitory phenomenon entirely at the mercy of the US-backed Israeli military which has not left Gaza alone for a single day since Hamas' coming to power despite a yearlong ceasefire called by its leaders and scrupulously observed. Those concerned about a Hamas-controlled Gaza ought instead to be wondering how they are going to justify Hamas' destruction within the Strip and all the suffering, chaos and death that will ensue over the shameful silence of the international community.

                                                    IV.

                                                    Claims that Hamas' "victory" in the Gaza Strip is a sign that the Bush Doctrine in Palestine has failed are misguided. While no one can foresee all of the events that might take place in a region as volatile as the Middle East, Hamas' takeover in Gaza will ultimately benefit Israel and the United States. It will benefit Israel by giving it a free hand to destroy Hamas, permanently sever the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and re-"negotiate" with its newly appointed "partners" the remaining islands of economically unviable territory that will soon be entirely encircled by a concrete and barbed-wire wall, cut off from their supplies of water and fertile land, and separated internally by "Arab-free" roads. It will benefit Israel and the United States by assuring another compliant puppet regime adjacent to Jordan, friendly to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and hostile to Hizbullah, Syria and Iran, even as the fault lines harden. It has already benefited both Israel and the United States by reassuring them that their tactics for undermining indigenous experiments in democracy have once again proven effective; that the people who have dared to defy those tactics learn quickly how painful it is to advocate or practice popular sovereignty and the rule of law.

                                                    Mahmoud Abbas has already learned how well complicity and collaboration are rewarded. Having dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, dissolved the national unity government, declared a new, 'legitimate' government under his rule and appointed his friends to work beside him, he recently stepped into the limelight with an address on Palestine TV, broadcast in the US on C-SPAN, by announcing how he would further "enhance democracy." This would begin by no longer speaking to "murderers," by which he meant Hamas.

                                                    Clearly, his membership application into the club of the Good Guys has been, for the time being, approved.

                                                    Jennifer Loewenstein is the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a member of the board of the Israeli Coalition against House Demolitions-USA branch, founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and a freelance journalist. She can be reached at: amadea311@earthlink.net

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                                                      Can the Arab World be Turned into Gaza's Jailers? Divide and Rule, Israeli-Style

                                                      English (US)  June 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                      By JONATHAN COOK

                                                      NAZARETH, Palestine _ The boycott by Israel and the international community of the Palestinian Authority finally blew up in their faces with Hamas' recent bloody takeover of Gaza. Or so argues Gideon Levy, one of the saner voices still to be found in Israel. "Starving, drying up and blocking aid do not sear the consciousness and do not weaken political movements. On the contrary Reality has refuted the chorus of experts and commentators who preached [on] behalf of the boycott policy. This daft notion that it is possible to topple an elected government by applying pressure on a helpless population suffered a complete failure."

                                                      [More:]

                                                      But has Levy got it wrong? The faces of Israeli and American politicians, including Ehud Olmert and George Bush, appear soot-free. On the contrary. Over the past fortnight they have been looking and sounding even more smug than usual.

                                                      The problem with Levy's analysis is that it assumes that Israel and the US wanted sanctions to bring about the fall of Hamas, either by giving Fatah the upper hand so that it could deal a knockout blow to the Palestinian government, or by inciting ordinary Palestinians to rise up and demand that their earlier electoral decision be reversed and Fatah reinstalled. In short, Levy, like most observers, assumes that the policy was designed to enforce regime change.

                                                      But what if that was not the point of the sanctions? And if so, what goals were Israel and the US pursuing?

                                                      The parallels between Iraq and Gaza may be instructive. After all, Iraq is the West's only other recent experiment in imposing sanctions to starve a nation. And we all know where it led: to an even deeper entrenchment of Saddam Hussein's rule.

                                                      True, the circumstances in Iraq and Gaza are different: most Iraqis wanted Saddam out but had no way to effect change, while most Gazans wanted Hamas in and made it happen by voting for them in last year's elections. Nevertheless, it may be that the US and Israel drew a different lesson from the sanctions experience in Iraq.

                                                      Whether intended or not, sanctions proved a very effective tool for destroying the internal bonds that held Iraqi society together. Destitution and hunger are powerful incentives to turn on one's neighbour as well as one's enemy. A society where resources -- food, medicines, water and electricity -- are in short supply is also a society where everyone looks out for himself. It is a society that, with a little prompting, can easily be made to tear itself apart.

                                                      And that is precisely what the Americans began to engineer after their "shock and awe' invasion of 2003. Contrary to previous US interventions abroad, Saddam was not toppled and replaced with another strongman -- one more to the West's liking. Instead of regime change, we were given regime overthrow. Or as Daniel Pipes, one of the neoconservative ideologues of the attack on Iraq, expressed it, the goal was "limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition's responsibility nor its burden."

                                                      In place of Saddam, the Americans created a safe haven known as the Green Zone from which its occupation regime could loosely police the country and oversee the theft of Iraq's oil, while also sitting back and watching a sectarian civil war between the Sunni and Shia populations spiral out of control and decimate the Iraqi population.

                                                      What did Washington hope to achieve? Pipes offers a clue: "When Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims [that is, US occupation forces and their allies] are less likely to be hurt. Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one." In other words, enabling a civil war in Iraq was far preferable to allowing Iraqis to unite and mount an effective resistance to the US occupation. After all, Iraqi deaths -- at least 650,000 of them, according to the last realistic count -- are as good as worthless, while US soldiers' lives cost votes back home.

                                                      For the neocon cabal behind the Iraq invasion, civil war was seen to have two beneficial outcomes.

                                                      First, it eroded the solidarity of ordinary Iraqis, depleting their energies and making them less likely to join or support the resistance to the occupation. The insurgency has remained a terrible irritation to US forces but not the fatal blow it might have been were the Sunni and Shia to fight side by side. As a result, the theft of Iraq's resources has been made easier.

                                                      And second, in the longer term, civil war is making inevitable a slow process of communal partition and ethnic cleansing. Four million Iraqis are reported to have been forced either to leave the country or flee their homes. Iraq is being broken up into small ethnic and religious fiefdoms that will be easier to manage and manipulate.

                                                      Is this the model for Gaza now and the West Bank later?

                                                      It is worth recalling that neither Israel nor the US pushed for an easing of the sanctions on the Palestinian Authority after the national unity government of Hamas and Fatah was formed earlier this year. In fact, the US and Israel could barely conceal their panic at the development. The moment the Mecca agreement was signed, reports of US efforts to train and arm Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas became a newspaper staple.

                                                      The cumulative effect of US support for Fatah, as well as Israel's continuing arrests of Hamas legislators in the West Bank, was to strain already tense relations between Hamas and Fatah to breaking point. When Hamas learnt that Abbas' security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, with US encouragement, was preparing to carry out a coup against them in Gaza, they got the first shot in.

                                                      Did Fatah really believe it could pull off a coup in Gaza, given the evident weakness of its forces there, or was the rumour little more than American and Israeli spin, designed to undermine Hamas' faith in Fatah and doom the unity government? Were Abbas and Dahlan really hoping to topple Hamas, or were they the useful idiots needed by the US and Israel? These are questions that may have to be settled by the historians.

                                                      But with the fingerprints of Elliott Abrams, one of the more durable neocons in the Bush administration, to be found all over this episode, we can surmise that what Washington and Israel are intending for the Palestinians will have strong echoes of what has unfolded in Iraq.

                                                      By engineering the destruction of the unity government, Israel and the US have ensured that there is no danger of a new Palestinian consensus emerging, one that might have cornered Israel into peace talks. A unity government might have found a formula offering Israel:

                                                      * limited recognition inside the pre-1967 borders in return for recognition of a Palestinian state and the territorial integrity of the West Bank and Gaza;

                                                      * a long-term ceasefire in return for Israel ending its campaign of constant violence and violations of Palestinian sovereignty;

                                                      * and a commitment to honour past agreements in return for Israel's abiding by UN resolutions and accepting a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.

                                                      After decades of Israeli bad faith, and the growing rancour between Fatah and Hamas, the chances of them finding common ground on which to make such an offer, it must be admitted, would have been slight. But now they are non-existent.

                                                      That is exactly how Israel wants it, because it has no interest in meaningful peace talks with the Palestinians or in a final agreement. It wants only to impose solutions that suit Israel's interests, which are securing the maximum amount of land for an exclusive Jewish state and leaving the Palestinians so weak and divided that they will never be able to mount a serious challenge to Israel's dictates.

                                                      Instead, Hamas' dismal authority over the prison camp called Gaza and Fatah's bastard governance of the ghettoes called the West Bank offer a model more satisfying for Israel and the US -- and one not unlike Iraq. A sort of sheriff's divide and rule in the Wild West.

                                                      Just as in Iraq, Israel and the US have made sure that no Palestinian strongman arises to replace Yasser Arafat. Just as in Iraq, they are encouraging civil war as an alternative to resistance to occupation, as Palestine's resources -- land, not oil -- are stolen. Just as in Iraq, they are causing a permanent and irreversible partition, in this case between the West Bank and Gaza, to create more easily managed territorial ghettoes. And just as in Iraq, the likely reaction is an even greater extremism from the Palestinians that will undermine their cause in the eyes of the international community.

                                                      Where will this lead the Palestinians next?

                                                      Israel is already pulling the strings of Fatah with a new adeptness since the latter's humiliation in Gaza. Abbas is currently basking in Israeli munificence for his rogue West Bank regime, including the decision to release a substantial chunk of the $700 million tax monies owed to the Palestinians (including those of Gaza, of course) and withheld for years by Israel. The price, according to the Israeli media, was a commitment from Abbas not to contemplate re-entering a unity government with Hamas.

                                                      The goal will be to increase the strains between Hamas and Fatah to breaking point in the West Bank, but ensure that Fatah wins the confrontation there. Fatah is already militarily stronger and with generous patronage from Israel and the US -- including arms and training, and possibly the return fo the Badr Brigade currently holed up in Jordan -- it should be able to rout Hamas. The difference in status between Gaza and the West Bank that has been long desired by Israel will be complete.

                                                      The Palestinian people have already been carved up into a multitude of constituencies. There are the Palestinians under occupation, those living as second-class citizens of Israel, those allowed to remain "residents" of Jerusalem, and those dispersed to camps across the Middle East. Even within these groups, there are a host of sub-identities: refugees and non-refugees; refugees included as citizens in their host state and those excluded; occupied Palestinians living under the control of the Palestinian Authority and those under Israel's military government; and so on.

                                                      Now, Israel has entrenched maybe the most significant division of all: the absolute and irreversible separation of Gaza and the West Bank. What applies to one will no longer be true for the other. Each will be a separate case; their fates will no longer be tied. One will be, as Israelis like to call it, Hamastan, and other Fatahland, with separate governments and different treatment from Israel and the international community.

                                                      The reasons why Israel prefers this arrangement are manifold.

                                                      First, Gaza can now be written off by the international community as a basket case. The Israeli media is currently awash with patronising commentary from the political and security establishments about how to help avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the possibility of air drops of aid over the Gaza "security fence" -- as though Gaza were Pakistan after an earthquake. From past experience, and the current menacing sounds from Israel's new Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, those food packages will quickly turn into bombs if Gaza does not keep quiet.

                                                      As Israeli and US officials have been phrasing it, there is a new "clarity" in the situation. In a Hamastan, Gaza's militants and civilians can be targeted by Israel with little discrimination and no outcry from the international community. Israel will hope that message from Gaza will not be lost on West Bank Palestinians as they decide who to give their support to, Fatah or Hamas.

                                                      Second, at their meeting last week Olmert and Bush revived talk of Palestinian statehood. According to Olmert, Bush "wants to realize, while he is in office, the dream of creating a Palestinian state". Both are keen to make quick progress, a sure sign of mischief in the making. Certainly, they know they are now under no pressure to create the single viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza once promised by President Bush. An embattled Abbas will not be calling for the inclusion of Gaza in his ghetto-fiefdom.

                                                      Third, the separation of Gaza from the West Bank may be used to inject new life into Olmert's shopworn convergence plan -- if he can dress it up new clothes. Convergence, which required a very limited withdrawal from those areas of the West Bank heavily populated with Palestinians while Israel annexed most of its illegal colonies and kept the Jordan Valley, was officially ditched last summer after Israel's humiliation by Hizbullah.

                                                      Why seek to revive convergence? Because it is the key to Israel securing the expanded Jewish fortress state that is its only sure protection from the rapid demographic growth of the Palestinians, soon to outnumber Jews in the Holy Land, and Israel's fears that it may then be compared to apartheid South Africa.

                                                      If the occupation continues unchanged, Israel's security establishment has long been warning, the Palestinians will eventually wake up to the only practical response: to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, Israel's clever ruse to make the Palestinian leadership responsible for suppressing Palestinian resistance to the occupation, thereby forcing Israel to pick up the bill for the occupation rather than Europe. The next stage would be an anti-apartheid struggle for one state in historic Palestine.

                                                      For this reason, demographic separation from the Palestinians has been the logic of every major Israeli policy initiative since -- and including -- Oslo. Convergence requires no loss of Israel's control over Palestinian lives, ensured through the all but finished grid of walls, settlements, bypass roads and checkpoints, only a repackaging of their occupation as statehood.

                                                      The biggest objection in Israel to Olmert's plan -- as well as to the related Gaza disengagement -- was the concern that, once the army had unilaterally withdrawn from the Palestinian ghettoes, the Palestinians would be free to launch terror attacks, including sending rockets out of their prisons into Israel. Most Israelis, of course, never consider the role of the occupation in prompting such attacks.

                                                      But Olmert may believe he has found a way to silence his domestic critics. For the first time he seems genuinely keen to get his Arab neighbours involved in the establishment of a Palestinian "state". As he headed off to the Sharm el-Sheikh summit with Egypt, Jordan and Abbas this week, Olmert said he wanted to "jointly work to create the platform that may lead to a new beginning between us and the Palestinians".

                                                      Did he mean partnership? A source in the Prime Minister's Office explained to the Jerusalem Post why the three nations and Abbas were meeting. "These are the four parties directly impacted by what is happening right now, and what is needed is a different level of cooperation between them." Another spokesman bewailed the failure so far to get the Saudis on board.

                                                      This appears to mark a sea change in Israeli thinking. Until now Tel Aviv has regarded the Palestinians as a domestic problem -- after all, they are sitting on land that rightfully, at least if the Bible is to be believed, belongs to the Jews. Any attempt at internationalising the conflict has therefore been strenuously resisted.

                                                      But now the Israeli Prime Minister's Office is talking openly about getting the Arab world more directly involved, not only in its usual role as a mediator with the Palestinians, nor even in simply securing the borders against smuggling, but also in policing the territories. Israel hopes that Egypt, in particular, is as concerned as Tel Aviv by the emergence of a Hamastan on its borders, and may be enticed to use the same repressive policies against Gaza's Islamists as it does against its own.

                                                      Similarly, Olmert's chief political rival, Binyamin Netanyahu of Likud, has mentioned not only Egyptian involvement in Gaza but even a Jordanian military presence in the West Bank. The "moderate" Arab regimes, as Washington likes to call them, are being seen as the key to developing new ideas about Palestinian "autonomy" and regional "confederation". As long as Israel has a quisling in the West Bank and a beyond-the-pale government in Gaza, it may believe it can corner the Arab world into backing such a "peace plan".

                                                      What will it mean in practice? Possibly, as Zvi Barel of Haaretz speculates, we will see the emergence of half a dozen Palestinian governments in charge of the ghettoes of Gaza, Ramallah, Jenin, Jericho, and Hebron. Each may be encouraged to compete for patronage and aid from the "moderate" Arab regimes but on condition that Israel and the US are satisfied with these Palestinian governments' performance.

                                                      In other words, Israel looks as if it is dusting off yet another blueprint for how to manage the Palestinians and their irritating obsession with sovereignty. Last time, under Oslo, the Palestinians were put in charge of policing the occupation on Israel's behalf. This time, as the Palestinians are sealed into their separate prisons masquerading as a state, Israel may believe that it can find a new jailer for the Palestinians -- the Arab world.

                                                      Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is www.jkcook.net


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                                                        Israel kills 10, wounds 20 Palestinisn in renewed Gaza strikes

                                                        English (US)  June 27th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                        Twenty Palestinians, including seven in critical condition, have been taken to hospital [Reuters]

                                                        Israeli attacks have killed 10 Palestinians, including three members of the same family, and wounded 20 others, Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh reports.

                                                        [More:]


                                                        The army's incursion into Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Yunis, the biggest raid on the strip since the Hamas takeover two weeks ago, is ongoing, Odeh and medics confirmed on Wednesday.

                                                        Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled into both areas in overnight incursions - sparking clashes with Palestinian fighters.

                                                        Medics said there were three fighters from the Hamas movement and Islamic Jihad - including a local leader - among the dead

                                                        The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said Raid Faanuna was killed in an air strike "during a mission" east of Gaza City.

                                                        The refusal by the US, EU et al to deal with Hamas reflects their disrespect for the wishes of the Palestinian people"-- Elise, Bemidji, US

                                                        The Israeli military has denied carrying out any air strikes.

                                                        Witnesses said they saw an Apache helicopter flying low and heard heavy shooting and periodic explosions as Israeli soldiers patrolled rooftops and Palestinian fighters ran through the streets.

                                                        Diaa Abu Dhakar, another Al-Quds Brigades fighter, was killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Khan Yunis - where seven more Palestinians were wounded as clashes flared

                                                        Twenty Palestinians, including seven in critical condition, were taken to hospital in Gaza City.

                                                        In the south, two fighters form the Al-Quds Brigades and Hamas's armed Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades were killed in the fighting. Another two Palestinians were wounded.

                                                        Conflicting reports

                                                        The Israeli army said the activity was against "terror threats" in Gaza, where Hamas fighters overran security forces loyal to Abbas on June 15.

                                                        News agencies reported conflicting accounts of the attacks, recording a combination of land incursions and an air strike.


                                                        Raid Faanuna, leader of the Al-Quds Brigades, was found burnt in his car

                                                        The Israeli army denied carrying out an air assault, but confirmed land offensives

                                                        An Israeli army spokesman said: "There is activity in the northern Gaza Strip and the southern Gaza Strip, in the area of Gaza City and the area of Khan Yunis."

                                                        Israel pulled its forces and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but has not stopped air strikes and other attacks against armed groups.

                                                        Representatives of the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - met in Jerusalem on Tuesday for talks aimed at boosting progress in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority following Hamas's Gaza takeover.

                                                        Related:
                                                        Israeli jets pound Gaza (24 Jun 2007)
                                                        Israeli tanks enter Gaza (19 Jun 2007)

                                                        Jazeera

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                                                          ISRAEL’S HISTORY OF CONCOCTED WARS OF EXPANSIONISM: PREPARING FOR THE FINAL CONFRONTATION

                                                          English (US)  June 26th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                          By Lamian Laraan

                                                          It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Israel is preparing itself in a big way for war. Recent reports suggest that this war will be against Hamas, Hizbollah and Syria. Naturally, al Qaeda’s name has also been thrown in for good measure. Significantly, Iran hasn’t been mentioned in terms of war directly between Israel and Iran, at least not in the same context as a war against Hamas, Hizbollah and Syria, though the Israeli Air Force has been training hard separately from Israeli ground and naval forces for long range missions.

                                                          [More:]

                                                          This has lead to speculation that a joint Israel/US operation is in the offing, hence the long range air force training, while the war against Hamas, Hizbollah and Syria will ostensibly be what they will term as a ‘defensive’ war as they respond to Hamas, Hizbollah and Syrian attacks that are in fact retaliatory after the Israeli/US attack on Iran – in short; planned escalation to achieve an end.

                                                          Ilan Pappe wrote:

                                                          “Clashes with Palestinian militias provided the perfect context and pretext for implementing the ideological vision of an ethnically cleansed Palestine. The Zionist policy was first based on retaliation against Palestinian attacks in February 1947, and it transformed into an initiative to ethnically cleanse the country as a whole in March 1948”. (1)

                                                          Over the last sixty odd years, nothing at all has changed! The Zionists still attack the Arab peoples based on what they tell the world is a ‘defensive retaliation’. The attacks on both the Gaza and Lebanon in June and August 2006 were based on three of their soldiers being captured yet it is abundantly clear that these attacks on the Gazan people and the people of Lebanon, particularly in the south, were meticulously planned long before their soldiers were captured. According to World Tribune piece the Israelis are simply waiting for the next casus belli to make their move: “Israeli military intelligence has projected that a major attack could come from any of five adversaries in the Middle East. Officials said such a strike could spark a war as early as July 2007.”

                                                          Naturally, if there is no casus belli forthcoming then one could always rely on the Zionists to concoct one. The difference this time is that this war really could be the war to end all wars!

                                                          ENDNOTE
                                                          (1) Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. (Oxford: Oneworld Publications Ltd., 2007.) p. xii.

                                                          http://lataan.blogspot.com/

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                                                            The United States of Israel: Marines to train at new Israeli combat center

                                                            English (US)  June 25th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                            Soldiers from the Israeli Occupation Forces take part in urban warfare training May 28 at the Urban Warfare Training Center. Built by the Army Corps of Engineers and funded largely from U.S. military aid, the training center will eventually be used by U.S. soldiers and Marines on their way to Iraq.

                                                            By Barbara Opall-Rome

                                                            BALADIA CITY, Israel — In a new, elaborate training center in the Negev desert, Israeli troops — and someday, U.S. Marines and soldiers — are preparing for the wide range of urban scenarios they may confront.

                                                            [More:]

                                                            Here, at Israel’s new National Urban Training Center, the Israeli Defense Force’s Ground Forces Command is preparing forces to fight in four theaters: Gaza, Lebanon, the West Bank and Syria.

                                                            Built by the Army Corps of Engineers and funded largely from U.S. military aid, the 7.4-square-mile generic city — balad, in Arabic, means village — consists of 1,100 basic modules that can be reconfigured by mission planners to represent specific towns.

                                                            It’s a much smaller, IDF-tailored version of the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center, the sprawling 100,000-acre simulated microcosm of the Middle East used to train infantry brigade task forces deployed in the region. And while Baladia City won’t feature all the pyrotechnic bells and whistles of the Fort Polk, La., facility, it will offer the same high-fidelity simulated battlefield technologies, force identification and location systems, and debriefing capabilities, officers here said.

                                                            “Combat units from platoon up to brigade level will train in an environment that simulates the real urban battle,” said Brig. Gen. Uzi Moskovich, commander of the NUTC and its adjacent National Ground Training Center, Israel’s downsized version of the Army’s force-on-force training facility at Fort Irwin, Calif. “Enemy forces will fight according to their respective combat doctrines, and the civilian population will behave in ways typical of their particular community, religion and culture.”

                                                            Moskovich said Baladia City would eventually host Army and Marine Corps units for training before they head to Iraq.

                                                            “This is something developed by us in cooperation with the U.S. Army; we intend for it to become a valuable center of knowledge that will also benefit our American allies and other friends,” he said.

                                                            An Israeli budget official said total Baladia City program costs came in at less than $45 million, a small fraction of Washington’s investment in the JRTC. As a frame of reference, he estimated each weeklong brigade-size exercise at a few thousand dollars, while major drills at JRTC could run into the millions.

                                                            “In terms of cost versus effectiveness, this is the best investment we’ve made in the army in the past 10 years,” said Moskovich, who also commands the IDF’s Gaza division. “This facility will be unique in the world, even with regard to the U.S. Army. It’s not the size, but the added value of the different terrains, the fine-tuning of the cultural environments and the debriefing capabilities.”
                                                            Lessons from Lebanon

                                                            Located at the Tze’elim training base less than nine miles east of Rafah, a terrorist-ridden smugglers’ haven that straddles the Gaza-Egyptian border, Baladia naturally resembles the sandy, arid terrain of the Palestinian coastal strip. At the moment, however, Lebanon and Syria are the highest-priority threat theaters, and creative engineering is required to transform the area into what IDF officers here call “Hezbollahland.”

                                                            “We have the capabilities to create a realistic representation of where we’re most likely to fight,” Moskovich said. “Give me 70 or 80 tractors for a month, and I’ll re-create the hills and topography of a Lebanese village. It won’t be identical, but it will be enough to provide the type of realistic training our forces require. It might not be politically correct, but we’re not pretending here. What looks like a mosque is a mosque. And our people will impersonate Arabs, not the Swiss. We need them to act the way our enemies are likely to fight on their own home turf.”

                                                            During a late-May visit, IDF planners were busy transforming large portions of Baladia City into Bint Jbeil, a Hezbollah stronghold from which extremist Shiite forces extracted a heavy price on IDF ground troops in last summer’s Lebanon War.

                                                            The area now features a city center, complete with shops, a grand mosque, hospital and an old casbah quarter built with 5-foot-thick walls. It even has a cemetery that doubles as a soccer field, depending on operational scenario.

                                                            Hundreds of soldiers, most of them 19- and 20-year-old women, graduates of Arabic language and cultural programs, are play-acting civilians and enemy fighters. Others serve as representatives of the Red Cross, other humanitarian aid organizations and the international media.

                                                            Designed according to lessons from the recent Lebanon War, side streets and main passageways will bristle with improvised explosive devices, while snipers will man the rooftops of multistory apartment buildings positioned throughout the town. Of course, IDF soldiers will have to contend with underground bunkers and the so-called nature reserves, those foliage-camouflaged, often remotely activated Katyusha rocket launching sites that confounded Israeli airpower and ground forces up until the last day of the war.

                                                            “The threat can come from anywhere,” said the director of the tactical training center’s urban warfare branch, a lieutenant colonel, who asked that his name not be used. “We learned from Lebanon that anti-tank missiles and rockets can be launched from windows of residential buildings or from public places, like schools and community centers.”
                                                            The MALI

                                                            Known by its Hebrew acronym MALI, the Baladia City NUTC features 472 structures, 1,200 doorways, 2,500 windows, multiple elevator shafts, and four miles of paved streets and semi-paved roads. For added realism, charred automobiles and burned tires litter the roadways. In the near future, planners will add donkeys, sheep, dogs and other live animals that often provide early warning of approaching Israeli troops.

                                                            Besides conquering and controlling a city, infantry will practice rescue operations, logistics crews will train in weapon storage, and entire battalions and brigades will drill combined air-land precision operations with the Israeli air force.

                                                            “In urban warfare, the first lesson is that things take time,” the lieutenant colonel said. “If the troops need half a day to advance five to 10 meters, so be it. The key is to conquer the city in a methodically selective and surgical manner so that harm to uninvolved civilians is kept to a minimum.”

                                                            Aside from meticulous mission planning, troops and especially commanders must maintain a continuously high level of situational awareness. To this end, significant attention will focus on selecting homes on the outskirts of town best suited to serve as forward command posts.

                                                            Ideally, the urban warfare director said, such homes should be located on an elevation that is clear of vegetation and not completely isolated, but with very few neighbors. Moreover, family members must not play any type of prominent role in the local community.

                                                            “Determining a forward command location ... can often make or break the entire battle,” the officer said. “The battalion commander must always be in the front; he has to have the benefit of being close to the fight. As for brigade commanders, it’s a matter of judgment. At times, he may need to remain further in the rear. But here, we urge them to be as forward deployed as possible. Remember, what you see here during the day doesn’t even resemble what it looks like at night.”

                                                            In the coming months, Baladia City will be integrated into the army’s Tzayad, or Hunter, secure digital network. The facility also will be enveloped by cameras, illuminator locators, a public address system, controlled street lights and an elaborate audio system that simulates helicopters, mortar rounds, muezzin prayer calls and 20 other distinct sounds.

                                                            Maj. Miki Winkler, director of the tactical training center that manages all Baladia City communications and debriefings, said commanders will view all activity in hyper-speed, where one minute of battle translates into one second of after-action review: “Everything is recorded. Every person is a stand-alone sensor and every floor of every building is an illuminator.”

                                                            Principal contractors include Israel’s state-owned Rafael and San Diego-based Cubic Defense Applications, provider of the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, a lightweight, wireless vest that contains laser detectors to track and record soldier performance. Cubic also will provide, under a Pentagon Foreign Military Sales contract, PC-based range instrumentation and an infrared system for indoor/outdoor tracking, said Jan Stevens, the company’s corporate communications manager.
                                                            Out-of-the-box thinking

                                                            Moskovich hopes to declare Baladia City initially operational by the end of July or early August, with full capability scheduled for Jan. 1 — not bad, he said, for a complex, bilateral program that began with “out-of-the-box” thinking by a midlevel officer just five years ago.

                                                            “We broke ground in March 2005, but it all started with one of our battalion commanders, who made us realize we had to provide a better answer to the unique challenges of urban warfare,” Moskovich said.

                                                            IDF officers credit Amir Baram, then a lieutenant colonel commanding the 890 Battalion, with changing the nature of the nation’s ground force tactical training program. At the time, in March 2002, Baram was assigned a key role in taking over Nablus, a hotbed of Palestinian terrorism behind a string of suicide bombings that triggered Defensive Shield, Israel’s largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.

                                                            With nowhere to train his forces in the type of house-to-house warfare needed for the mission, Baram turned to a prominent Israeli real estate developer, who allowed the battalion to drill at night at an unfinished residential complex.

                                                            “They drilled on real structures, with entryways, windows and elevator shafts,” said Uri Dori, a retired IDF brigade commander. “It must have helped, because the battle in Nablus is now considered practically a textbook example of successful urban warfare.”

                                                            Two combat battalions and one supporting battalion took part in that 17-day siege, first controlling the city’s Balata refugee camp and then systematically pushing the terrorists into the casbah, where they were simultaneously attacked from multiple directions.

                                                            Fighting in the casbah took an entire weekend, with troops circumventing explosives-rigged alleyways and “breaking the geometry by literally bursting through walls, penetrating in zigzag, wormlike fashion,” noted Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Nablus division commander at the time.

                                                            The result, Kochavi said, was 74 armed terrorists killed, 155 civilians injured and 480 taken prisoner, as opposed to two Israelis killed and 19 injured. Palestinian officials and humanitarian organizations dispute these statistics, maintaining that several hundred civilians were injured or killed in the Nablus siege.

                                                            Since last summer, Baladia City has hosted 85 drills using what Moskovich calls “stupid buildings.” But after everything comes online in January, the commander says he’ll fix his sights on two new growth areas: developing a home-based Red Team and developing the city’s environs for ingressive training.

                                                            “Most of the casualties we suffered in Lebanon were at the contours of built-up areas,” he said. “When our units entered villages, most of them knew what to do. But what we learned is that urban warfare actually begins two to three kilometers from the outskirts of the city itself.”

                                                            As for Baladia City’s dedicated opposing force, Moskovich said the role-playing force already constitutes the beginnings of a home-based Red Team.

                                                            “There’s almost a weekly struggle to provide the opposing forces,” he said. “Right now, we have two blue sides, which puts the training conductor in a bind, since he’s obligated to both sides and has to satisfy their respective drill requirements.”

                                                            Moskovich estimates it would cost $100,000 a year to maintain a professional opposing force, with its own uniforms, vehicles, weapons and pyrotechnics: “I’m not talking about a brigade or even a battalion. I’ll be more than happy with a reinforced company.”

                                                            Recent developments in Syria may make it necessary to give Moskovich more than that. Syria is developing specialized infantry battalions trained in the type of guerrilla warfare waged so successfully by Hezbollah in last summer’s war, a military intelligence source said.

                                                            And with the “reasonable likelihood” of another war on Israel’s northern front — perhaps by summer’s end, according to some intelligence estimates here — that Red Team force may not come soon enough.

                                                            Marine Corps Times

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                                                              Gaza and Hamas: The West Chooses Fatah, But Palestinians Don't

                                                              English (US)  June 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                              By Saree Makdisi

                                                              In the west, there's a huge sense of relief. The Hamas-led government that has been causing everyone so much trouble has been isolated in Gaza, and a new government has been appointed in the West Bank by the "moderate," peace-loving Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

                                                              So why then do Palestinians not share in the relief?

                                                              [More:]

                                                              Well, for one thing, the old government had been democratically elected; now it has been dismissed out of hand by presidential fiat. There's also the fact that the new prime minister appointed by Abbas--Salam Fayyad--has the support of the West, but his election list won only 2% of the votes in the same election that swept Hamas to victory. Fayyad and Abbas have the support of Israel, but it is no secret that they lack the backing of their own people.

                                                              There is a reason the people threw out Abbas' Fatah party in last year's election. Palestinians see the leading Fatah politicians as unimaginative, self-serving and corrupt, satisfied with the emoluments of power.

                                                              Worse yet, Palestinians came to realize that the so-called peace process championed by Abbas (and by Yasser Arafat before him) had led to the permanent institutionalization--rather than the termination--of Israel's 4-decade-old military occupation of their land. Why should they feel otherwise? There are today twice as many settlers in the occupied territories as there were when Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat first shook hands in the White House Rose Garden. Israel has divided the West Bank into besieged cantons, worked diligently to increase the number of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem (while stripping Palestinian Jerusalemites of their residency rights in the city) and turned Gaza into a virtual prison.

                                                              People voted for Hamas last year not because they approved of the party's sloganeering, not because they wanted to live in an Islamic state, not because they support attacks on Israeli civilians, but because Hamas was untainted by Fatah's complacency and corruption, untainted by its willingness to continue pandering to Israel. Fatah leaders were viewed as mere policemen of the perpetual occupation, and the Palestinian Authority had willingly taken on the role of administering the population on behalf of the Israelis. Hamas offered an alternative.

                                                              Here in the U.S., Hamas is routinely demonized, known primarily for its attacks on civilians. Depictions of Hamas portray its "rejectionism" as an end in itself rather than as a refusal to go along with a political process that has proved catastrophic for Palestinians on the ground.

                                                              Has Hamas done unspeakable things? Yes, but so has Fatah, and so too has Israel (on a much larger scale). There are no saints in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

                                                              Palestinians, frankly, see a lot of hypocrisy in the West's anti-Hamas stance. Since last year's election, for example, the West has denied aid to the Hamas government, arguing, among other things, that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel. But that's absurd; after all, Israel does not recognize Palestine either. Hamas is accused of not abiding by previous agreements. But Israel's suspension of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority, and its refusal to implement a Gaza-West Bank road link agreement brokered by the U.S. in November 2005, are practical, rather than merely rhetorical, violations of previous agreements, causing infinitely more damage to ordinary people. Hamas is accused of mixing religion and politics, but no one has explained why its version of that mixture is any worse than Israel's--or why a Jewish state is acceptable but a Muslim one is not.

                                                              I am a secular humanist, and I personally find religiously identified political movements--and states--unappealing, to say the least.

                                                              But let's be honest. Hamas did not run into Western opposition because of its Islamic ideology but because of its opposition to (and resistance to) the Israeli occupation.

                                                              A genuine peace based on the two-state solution would require an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of a territorially contiguous, truly independent Palestinian state.

                                                              But that is not happening. Fatah seems to have given up, its leaders preferring to rest comfortably with the power they already have. Ironically, it is Hamas that is taking the stands that would be prerequisites for a true two-state peace plan: refusing to go along with the permanent breakup of Palestine and not accepting the sacrifice of control over borders, airspace, water, taxes and even the population registry to Israel.

                                                              Embracing the "moderation" of Abbas allows the Palestinian Authority to resume servicing the occupation on Israel's behalf, for now. In the long run, though, the two-state solution is finished because Fatah is either unable or unwilling to stop the ongoing dismemberment of the territory once intended for a Palestinian state.

                                                              The only realistic choice remaining will be the one between a single democratic, secular state offering equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians--or permanent apartheid.

                                                              Saree Makdisi, a professor of English at UCLA, is the author of Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (University of Chicago Press, 2003). He can be reached at: makdisi@humnet.ucla.edu

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                                                                Israel's refusal to enter peace talks shows its unwillingness for peace, Barghouthi says

                                                                English (US)  June 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                Mustapha Barghouti

                                                                RAMALLAH,Palestine - Former Palestinian information minister and head of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, has declared that the Israeli insistence on refusing to enter into Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in order to find a solution assures their unwillingness to have peace.

                                                                [More:]

                                                                According to Barghouthi, Israel intends to limit its contacts with the Palestinians, and only with the Palestinian Authority. Israel intends to transform the PA into a purely functional authority that only concerns itself with social issues and not political ones, such as ending the Israeli occupation and removing the "apartheid wall", Barghouthi said.

                                                                He added that the fact that the Israeli authorities are refusing to release all the Palestinians' rightful tax monies means that they are trying to blackmail the Palestinian political position.

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                                                                  How can Blair possibly be given this job?

                                                                  English (US)  June 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                  Here is a politician who has failed in everything he has ever tried to do in the Middle East


                                                                  Blair shares a laugh with Olmert (MaanImages)

                                                                  By Robert Fisk

                                                                  I suppose that astonishment is not the word for it. Stupefaction comes to mind. I simply could not believe my ears in Beirut when a phone call told me that Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara was going to create "Palestine". I checked the date - no, it was not 1 April - but I remain overwhelmed that this vain, deceitful man, this proven liar, a trumped-up lawyer who has the blood of thousands of Arab men, women and children on his hands is really contemplating being "our" Middle East envoy.

                                                                  [More:]

                                                                  Can this really be true? I had always assumed that Balfour, Sykes and Picot were the epitome of Middle Eastern hubris. But Blair? That this ex-prime minister, this man who took his country into the sands of Iraq, should actually believe that he has a role in the region - he whose own preposterous envoy, Lord Levy, made so many secret trips there to absolutely no avail - is now going to sully his hands (and, I fear, our lives) in the world's last colonial war is simply overwhelming.

                                                                  Of course, he'll be in touch with Mahmoud Abbas, will try to marginalise Hamas, will talk endlessly about "moderates"; and we'll have to listen to him pontificating about morality, how he's absolutely and completely confident that he's doing the right thing (and this, remember, is the same man who postponed a ceasefire in Lebanon last year in order to share George Bush's ridiculous hope of an Israeli victory over Hizbollah) in bringing peace to the Middle East...

                                                                  Not once - ever - has he apologised. Not once has he said he was sorry for what he did in our name. Yet Lord Blair actually believes - in what must be a record act of self-indulgence for a man who cooked up the fake evidence of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" - that he can do good in the Middle East.

                                                                  For here is a man who is totally discredited in the region - a politician who has signally failed in everything he ever tried to do in the Middle East - now believing that he is the right man to lead the Quartet to patch up "Palestine".

                                                                  In the hunt for quislings to do our bidding - ie accept even less of Mandate Palestine than Arafat would stomach - I suppose Blair has his uses. His unique blend of ruthlessness and dishonesty will no doubt go down quite well with our local Arab dictators.

                                                                  And I have a suspicion - always assuming this extraordinary story is not untrue - that Blair will be able to tour around Damascus, even Tehran, in his hunt for "peace", thus paving the way for an American exit strategy in Iraq. But "Palestine"?

                                                                  The Palestinians held elections - real, copper-bottomed ones, the democratic variety - and Hamas won. But Blair will presumably not be able to talk to Hamas. He'll need to talk only to Abbas's flunkies, to negotiate with an administration described so accurately this week by my old colleague Rami Khoury as a "government of the imagination".

                                                                  The Americans are talking - and here I am quoting the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack - about an envoy who can work "with the Palestinians in the Palestinian system" to develop institutions for a "well-governed state". Oh yes, I can see how that would appeal to Lord Blair. He likes well-governed states, lots of "terror laws", plenty of security - though I'm still a bit puzzled about what the "Palestinian system" is meant to be.

                                                                  It was James Wolfensohn who was originally "our" Middle East envoy, a former World Bank president who left in frustration because he could neither reconstruct Gaza nor work with a "peace process" that was being eroded with every new Jewish settlement and every Qassam rocket fired into Israel. Does Blair think he can do better? What honeyed words will we hear?

                                                                  I bet he doesn't mention the Israeli wall which is taking so much extra land from the Palestinians. It will be a "security barrier" or a "fence" (like the famous Berlin "fence" which was actually called a "security barrier" by those generous East German Vopo cops of the time).

                                                                  There will be appeals for restraint "on all sides", endless calls for "moderation", none at all for justice (which is all the people of the Middle East have been pleading for over the past 100 years).

                                                                  And Israel likes Lord Blair. Indeed, Blair's slippery use of language is likely to appeal to Ehud Olmert, whose government continues to take Arab land for Jews and Jews only as he waits to discover a Palestinian with whom he can "negotiate", Mahmoud Abbas now having the prestige of a rabbit after his forces were crushed in Gaza.

                                                                  Which of "Palestine"'s two prime ministers will Blair talk to? Why, the one with a collar and tie, of course, who works for Mr Abbas, who will demand more "security", tougher laws, less democracy.

                                                                  I have never been able to figure out why the Middle East draws the Balfours and the Sykeses and the Blairs into its maw. Once, our favourite trouble-shooter was James Baker - who worked for George W's father until the Israelis got tired of him - and before that we had a whole list of UN Secretary Generals who visited the region, frowned and warned of serious consequences if peace did not soon come.

                                                                  I recall another man with Blair's pomposity, a certain Kurt Waldheim, who - no longer the UN's boss - actually believed he could be an "envoy" for peace in the Middle East, despite his little wartime career as an intelligence officer for the Wehrmacht's Army Group "E".

                                                                  His visits - especially to the late King Hussein - came to nothing, of course. But Waldheim's ability to draw a curtain over his wartime past does have one thing in common with Blair. For Waldheim steadfastly, pointedly, repeatedly, refused to acknowledge - ever - that he had ever done anything wrong. Now who does that remind you of?

                                                                  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for the British Independent newspaper. This article was first published at: http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/article2697832.ece
                                                                  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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                                                                    Haniyeh: Fatah "rebels" were planning to overthrow Hamas since the 2006 PLC elections

                                                                    English (US)  June 24th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                    Haniyeh before his speech Sunday (MaanImages)

                                                                    GAZA, Palestince _ In a press conference in Gaza, the deposed prime minister Ismail Haniyeh has given more explanations about the "pressures" exerted on Hamas, and the "rebellion" planned against Hamas since they won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006.

                                                                    [More:]

                                                                    Haniyeh said: "We have faced a series of rebellions against us: our privileges were discharged, and obstacles were put in our way over the last few months. This trend is connected to Fatah, which has been supplied with money and all the necessary equipment to bring Hamas down."

                                                                    This rebellious trend, Haniyeh alleged, considered all the Palestinian unity agreements, especially the Mecca agreement, as an "armistice" only, and not a permanent agreement.

                                                                    Haniyeh revealed that he had sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, ahead of the recent violent incidents in the strip, warning him of the dangerous situation in the Palestinian territories. In the letter, Haniyeh notified Abbas that leading members of the security services were holding secret meetings and preparing special troops from within the National Security services. Haniyeh cautioned Abbas that this situation threatened the Palestinian political system.

                                                                    During his speech, Haniyeh also demanded that the money that Israel is planning to release to the Palestinian emergency government – headed by Abbas' new prime minister Salam Fayyad – be rather given to all Palestinian inhabitants. "This money is legitimately the Palestinians'," he said. "We demand it be fairly distributed to all the inhabitants without any exception".

                                                                    Maan News

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                                                                      'We are under siege': Conal Urquhart reports from Bir Zeit University on the West Bank, where moves to discuss an academic boycott of Israel have been welcomed

                                                                      English (US)  June 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                      Lisa Taraki, dean of graduate studies at Bir Zeit University, is puzzled by the uproar caused by the University and College Union's decision to discuss a boycott of Israeli academics.

                                                                      "There has been a great hue and cry about the academic freedom of Israelis as if the academic freedom of Palestinians is of no consequence. The Israelis are not interested in academic freedom, they are interested in the protection of their own privileges," she said.

                                                                      [More:]

                                                                      She has taught at the institution for 30 years and cannot remember a time when Israel did anything but try to suppress Palestinian education.

                                                                      "We have been under siege for more than 30 years. In spite of this we have managed to build a credible institution," she said.

                                                                      Bir Zeit was founded as a girls' school in 1924, but started offering degrees 50 years later. The university's students became regular protesters against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the small peaceful countryside campus was often showered with stones and sprayed with tear gas as the army tried to crack down on peaceful dissent.

                                                                      Ms Taraki said that until the 1990s, the university was regularly closed by military order. "Bir Zeit was always a target for the army.
                                                                      "There would be a demonstration against the occupation, the army would come and there would be clashes. They would close the university, for a few weeks, a few months and on one occasion four years. The president was exiled for 19 years because the army accused him of inciting students," she said.

                                                                      "When the university was closed we did our best to continue. We held classes in Ramallah and Jerusalem. Thousands of students were arrested or put under town arrest or house arrest. So we would try and teach them in their homes or towns. For some, degrees took 10 years to complete."

                                                                      Bir Zeit sits on a hill above terraced valleys full of olive trees, outside Ramallah. It is much smaller than its Israeli counterparts but it has a similar buzz on its public spaces as students move between lectures or eat lunch in the sun.

                                                                      The air of normality is deceptive. Many students have to spend more than half their day travelling to ensure they do not miss classes, and at every checkpoint there is the possibility, particularly for male students, that they will be randomly arrested.

                                                                      "I have postgraduate students from Hebron. They leave their homes at 8am to get here in time for a 2pm class. The class finishes at 5pm and they get home around 10pm. The journey should only be one hour each way," said Ms Taraki.

                                                                      Undergraduates stay close to the university if they can, which adds an extra financial burden, but most students are restricted to going to the university closest to them. Students from Gaza are banned from going to the West Bank although there are many subjects that are not taught at Gazan universities.

                                                                      "Bir Zeit used to have a very diverse student body with students from all over the West Bank and Gaza. Now most students come from the immediate area. This means the national character of the university is compromised. We do not want it be a local institution," said Ms Taraki.

                                                                      The restriction on movement means that universities cannot act as cultural centres as the majority of the population do not have the time and freedom to travel from one city to the next to hear a lecture or see a film. Even short journeys of 40 minutes require a special permit from the Israeli army, which can take hours to acquire.

                                                                      As a result of the wars of 1948 and 1967 and 40 years of Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, there is a large Palestinian diaspora all over the world. Many of the buildings in these areas were funded by expatriate Palestinians and the diaspora is a potential pool of students and teachers for Bir Zeit.

                                                                      However, Israel is reluctant to allow expatriate Palestinians to return if only for a short time.

                                                                      Many are denied entry at the airport, while others are restricted to a three-month tourist visa, which can only be renewed by leaving and re-entering Israel - at which point they could be denied entry.

                                                                      An annual course at Bir Zeit for expatriate Palestinians in Palestinian culture and Arabic is normally attended by only half the
                                                                      students who subscribed for the course because of Israeli border restrictions.

                                                                      Omar Qassis, a 22-year-old sociology student, said that the main problem for him was movement and the threat of arrest.

                                                                      "Thirteen of my friends have been arrested. I was locked up for ten days after I was arrested at a checkpoint on the way to my final exams in 2005. I was told I was a suspect but nothing else," he said.

                                                                      "On the fourth day, I was brought to court where the judge was told they had nothing against me but they wanted to detain me while they continued their checks. I was then released on the tenth day but I had missed my exams and had to do another term."

                                                                      The idea of a boycott of Israeli institutions is broadly supported by Palestinians, who are grateful that people in the international community are taking an interest in their plight.

                                                                      Mira Dabit, 22, a student of psychology and sociology, said: "Everything else has failed. United Nations resolutions. Negotiation. A boycott is a last resort but it gets people talking about our situation and gives the world a chance to find out what is going on."
                                                                      Ms Taraki has little time for the complaints from her Israeli counterparts about the prospect of a boycott. "Where have these presidents been for the last three decades when our academic freedom has been trampled on every day? The claim that Israeli academics are at the forefront of disputing government policy is very hollow indeed. There has been a handful of academics who have supported the Palestinians but only a handful," she said.

                                                                      The main benefit of a boycott is not that it will provide equality of suffering but that it will provoke debate, she says.

                                                                      "We are hopeful that during this year of discussion we will be able to speak at British universities and explain how we have been boycotted and besieged for the last 30 years," said Ms Taraki.

                                                                      http://education.guardian.co.uk

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                                                                        The Light at the End of the Gaza-Ramallah Tunnel

                                                                        English (US)  June 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                        By Omar Barghouti

                                                                        When I saw some of the images coming out of the infighting in Gaza last week, I suppressed my anguish and steaming anger, recalling the wise, almost prophetic, words of the great Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, who wrote:

                                                                        "The central problem is this: How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? Only as they discover themselves to be 'hosts' of the oppressor can they contribute to the midwifery of their liberating pedagogy. As long as they live in the duality in which to be is to be like, and to be like is to be like the oppressor, this contribution is impossible. The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical discovery that both
                                                                        they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization."

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        Apparently, neither of the two warring factions succeeded in transcending the being "like the oppressor" part.

                                                                        The lightening success of Hamas in forcefully taking over the supposed symbols of Palestinian power in Gaza cannot and ought not obscure the fact that, given the overbearing presence of Israel's military occupation, the bloody clash between the Islamist group and its secular counterpart, Fatah, and irrespective of motives, has descended into a feud between two slaves fighting over the crumbs thrown to them, whenever they behave, by their common colonial master.

                                                                        There is no doubt that a faction within Fatah -- overtly funded, trained and steered by the US and Israel -- is the primary suspect behind the flare-up of this bloody internecine strife, which many observers view as a thinly veiled attempt to destabilize Hamas's democratically-elected government, coercing it into accepting Israeli dictates that it had so far balked from.
                                                                        Furthermore, any decent legal expert will readily admit that the so-called "emergency government," declared by the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, in response to Hamas's take-over in Gaza, violates several articles in the Basic Law, the equivalent of the PA's constitution.

                                                                        While the corruption, lawlessness, profiteering and even betrayal of sections of Fatah have been known and well documented for some time now, the brutal, reckless and in some cases criminal tactics used by armed groups within Hamas were fresh reminders to neutral bystanders who were willing to give the group the benefit of the doubt that it, too, contains a strong, power-hungry faction that is
                                                                        eager to sacrifice principles and human rights to reach its political objectives. Hamas cannot be exonerated from the accusation that, by participating in the legislative and municipal elections according to laws and parameters set by the Oslo agreements, it has already contributed to
                                                                        legitimizing the products of those agreements and forsaken its claim to being a resistance movement that is primarily dedicated to realizing the main tenets of the Palestinian national program of liberation and self-determination. On top of that, and unlike the far more sophisticated and responsible Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas, in the last year and a half of ruling at various levels, has revealed its inherent tendency, like all Islamist movements, to impose its exclusionary ideological and social order, and to dismiss and whenever possible suppress diverse views and cultural outlooks that conflict with that order.

                                                                        In the short term, the political vacuum that will
                                                                        inevitably result from the growing rift between Ramallah and Gaza and the steady collapse of the PA structures and remaining authority on the ground is most likely to be filled by an all-out Israeli reoccupation of the entire West Bank and Gaza. This would announce the official death of the so-called Oslo peace process, which actually collapsed long ago under the weight of Israel's incessantly expanding colonies, apartheid wall -- declared
                                                                        illegal by the International Court of Justice -- and
                                                                        intricate apparatus of oppression and humiliation of the Palestinians under its control.

                                                                        Such a scenario may either lead to threatening the very survival of the Palestinian national movement and the completion of the well-underway disintegration of Palestinian society or trigger a renaissance of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. For the latter to occur, however, two difficult but realistic conditions must be met: first, Palestinian structural democratization and political reform and resetting
                                                                        Palestinian national priorities; and second, a critical review and revamping of the Palestinian resistance strategy, both from moral and pragmatic perspectives. Both are urgently called for, to realign the Palestinian struggle with the international social movement and to put the question of Palestine back on the world's agenda as
                                                                        essentially a morally and politically justifiable and viable liberation struggle that can -- again -- capture the imagination and support of progressives and freedom lovers the world over.

                                                                        In order to counter Israel's dual strategy of, on the one hand, fragmenting, ghettoizing, and dispossessing Palestinians, and, on the other hand, reducing the conflict to a dispute over a partial set of Palestinian rights, the PLO must be resuscitated and remodeled to embody the claims, creative energies, and national frameworks of the three main segments of the Palestinian people: Palestinians in the OPT, Palestinian refugees, and
                                                                        Palestinian citizens of Israel. The PLO's grassroots
                                                                        organizations need to be rebuilt from the bottom up with mass participation, and they must be ruled by unfettered democracy and proportional epresentation. This process must entail a well-planned transfer of power from the withering PA back to a rejuvenated PLO, including the entire spectrum of the Palestinian political movement.

                                                                        As to resistance strategies, one cannot and should not strictly separate means from ends. If the struggle for freedom in Algeria, Northern Ireland and South Africa taught us anything, it is this fact. Irrespective of the right of Palestinians to resist foreign occupation by all means, as granted in international law, we have a moral duty to avoid tactics that indiscriminately target innocent civilians and inevitably corrupt our own humanity. Concurrently, and with full deference to the first principle, we have a political obligation to select
                                                                        methods that maximize our gains. Given the ongoing
                                                                        nihilistic abuse and utter futility of Palestinian armed resistance, the uniquely harsh geo-political context of the Palestinian resistance movement, and the de facto fragmentation of the Palestinian people and isolation of its resistance core from potential sources of supply and logistical support, civil resistance that has the potential of engaging and mobilizing the Palestinian grassroots seems not only morally but also pragmatically preferable.

                                                                        The young Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, modeled after the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, has already shown ample evidence that it has the potential of unifying Palestinians and international solidarity movements in a resistance strategy that is moral, effective and sustainable. In the last few years alone, many mainstream and influential groups and institutions have heeded
                                                                        Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel. These include the British University and College Union (UCU); Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; the Church of England; the Presbyterian Church (USA); top British architects led by Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP); the National Union of Journalists in the UK; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario; and dozens of celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger, among many others.

                                                                        The intensification of Israel's colonial and racist
                                                                        oppression of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, with unprecedented impunity was the main trigger for the spreading boycott. With its wanton destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, willful killing of civilians, particularly children, apartheid wall, Jews-only colonies and roads, incessant confiscation of land and water resources, and horrific denial of freedom of movement to millions under occupation, Israel has shown the
                                                                        international community its total disregard to
                                                                        international law and fundamental human rights.

                                                                        This latest dose of American -- Israeli-inspired --
                                                                        "constructive chaos" in the occupied Palestinian territory may well wreak havoc on US-Israeli policy in the region. With the imminent dissipation of the illusion that a national Palestinian sovereignty can be established under the overall colonial hegemony of Israel, many Palestinians are now seriously questioning the wisdom of the two-state mantra and considering to repose their plight as one for
                                                                        equal humanity and full emancipation, within the framework of a unitary, democratic state solution in historic Palestine. After almost three decades of "searing into the consciousness" of Palestinians that only a two-state solution can deliver any of their demands, the US and Israel are harvesting what they sowed: the collapse of any semblance of independence and integrity of the PA -- which
                                                                        was all along charged with relieving Israel's colonial burdens vs. the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank and Gaza -- and the mounting Palestinian discontent with, if not yet revolt against, the game of unilateral Palestinian compromise leading only to insatiable Israeli demands for further compromise, with the simultaneous loss of land, resources, freedoms and the bleak -- and real -- prospects
                                                                        of social breakdown.

                                                                        The demise of the two-state solution should not be
                                                                        mourned. Besides having passed its expiry date, it was never a moral solution to start with. In the best-case scenario, if UN Resolution 242 were meticulously implemented, it would have addressed most of the legitimate rights of less than a third of the Palestinian people over less than a fifth of their ancestral land. More than two thirds of the Palestinians, refugees plus the Palestinian citizens of Israel, have been maliciously and shortsightedly expunged out of the definition of the Palestinians.

                                                                        It is now clearer than ever that the two-state solution -- other than being only a disguise for continued Israeli occupation and a mechanism to permanently divide the people of Palestine into three disconnected segments -- was primarily intended to induce Palestinians to give up the inalienable right of their refugees to return to their homes and lands from which they were ethnically cleansed by Zionists during the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe).

                                                                        A secular, democratic state solution is increasingly being perceived by Palestinians and people of conscience around the world as the moral alternative to Israeli apartheid and colonial rule. Such a solution, which promises unequivocal equality in citizenship, as well as individual and communal rights, both to Palestinians (refugees included) and to Israeli Jews, is the most appropriate for
                                                                        ethically reconciling the ostensibly irreconcilable: the inalienable, UN-sanctioned rights of the indigenous people of Palestine to self-determination, repatriation, and equality in accordance with international law and the
                                                                        acquired and internationally recognized rights of Israeli Jews to coexist in the land of Palestine -- as equals, not colonial masters.

                                                                        Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political analyst.

                                                                        Electronic Intifada

                                                                        --
                                                                        The Electronic Intifada (EI) is a
                                                                        not-for-profit, independent publication committed to
                                                                        comprehensive public education on the question of
                                                                        Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the
                                                                        economic, political, legal, and human dimensions of
                                                                        Israel's 39-year occupation of Palestinian territories.

                                                                        EI, found at http://electronicIntifada.net provides a needed supplement to mainstream commercial media
                                                                        representations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
                                                                        More information about our work can be found at
                                                                        http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/aboutEI.shtml

                                                                        To find out about other EI/eIraq lists available, see:
                                                                        http://electronicintifada.net/cgi-bin/kebab/mail.cgi

                                                                        1826 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                          Engage with Hamas, we earned our support

                                                                          English (US)  June 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                          Ahmed Yousef (Maan Image)

                                                                          By Ahmed Yousef

                                                                          GAZA CITY (June 20, 2007) - The Palestinian National Authority apparently joins the list of elected governments targeted or toppled over the past century by interventionism: nations that had the courage to take American rhetoric at face value and elect whomever they choose.

                                                                          Hamas's actions to secure Gaza from the horrific recent violence of the Palestinian contras have been out of self-defence. The assassinations of Hamas officials and supporters, attempts on the life of the elected prime minister, and kidnappings and bombings by some in President Mahmoud Abbas's paramilitary groups had to stop.

                                                                          [More:]

                                                                          No doubt some in Washington persist in the fiction that the United States is following a 'road map' to democracy for Palestinians, just as others believe the Iraq war has been a sincere exercise in nation-building.

                                                                          Neoconservative strategists have miscalculated, however, and Hamas is stronger than ever. For the first time in months, Gaza is secure. This may be a momentary peace as Israel prepares an attempt to retake parts of Gaza. Yet neither blunt force nor U.S. subterfuge will extinguish Palestinian aspirations for self-governance, free from outside interference.

                                                                          Hamas's actions to secure Gaza from the horrific recent violence of the Palestinian contras have been out of self-defence. The assassinations of Hamas officials and supporters, attempts on the life of the elected prime minister, and kidnappings and bombings by some in President Mahmoud Abbas's paramilitary groups had to stop.

                                                                          The PA has a clear legal right, indeed an obligation, to prevent this violence, by force if necessary, and to protect the Palestinian people. It is not Hamas that has "outlawed" the government. When has an elected party with a voting majority ever resorted to banning the government to get its way?

                                                                          The success of the Reform and Change Bloc (the last electoral campaign group of Hamas) is neither a chimera nor a momentary lapse in reason on the part of the electorate. Rather, it is the result of four decades of hard work in Palestinian society. It reflects the trust of the people.

                                                                          Those who collaborate with the occupiers to void the electoral process will not succeed. Abbas's "state of emergency" and his U.S. and Israeli arms will not prevail in Gaza or quench the thirst for political freedom in the West Bank.

                                                                          Some critics raise the red flag of 'al-Qaeda' and say that Hamas and parliament are a stalking horse for Salafi Jihadists. I defy them to demonstrate one instance in which Hamas's military structure has struck against any force outside the theatre of the occupation. The struggle has always been against the Israeli agenda of ethnic cleansing and conquest.

                                                                          Hamas is a movement of Palestinian liberation and nationalism - Islamist, yes, but in the sea of contending faiths that is the homeland, where is the sin in loving one's creed? Likewise, those who demean resistance to the occupation as little more than a proxy for Iran, Syria or Hezbollah are ignorant of history.

                                                                          The long-suffering Palestinians have gratefully accepted assistance from neighbours both near and far, Arab and Western, Muslim or otherwise. Slighting the generosity of those who sympathize with the Palestinians is hypocritical given America's billions of annual aid dollars for Israel, money that has only purchased tragedy.

                                                                          Palestinians want, on their terms, the same thing Western societies want: self-determination, modernity, access to markets and their own economic power, and freedom for civil society to evolve. Those who warn of "failed states" and "Hamastan" as a breeding ground for terrorism forget where blame for failure belongs -- at the feet of the American administration, which has chosen to isolate, rather than deal with, the elected government.

                                                                          The Bush administration never intended to honour the outcome of fair and transparent elections in the occupied territories. The embargo, designed to punish the electorate for its choice, was the first step toward crushing new democratic institutions. The second has been to find collaborators for the American agenda and to supply them with advisers, funds and weapons for their campaign of destabilization.

                                                                          The final step will be to truncate Gaza from any proposed Palestinian state and make it a de facto prison for all "undesirable" aspects of Palestinian nationalism. This will culminate in provocations designed to trigger a military response from Israel, which will "justify" a war on Gazans. This would be tragic for all concerned, and the international community, especially the Arab League, must not allow such an outcome.

                                                                          What can be salvaged from the wreckage of the multiparty system? Those who have dissolved the government and joined with the occupiers are embraced by the Bush and Olmert administrations, which have released Palestinian tax revenue and taken other steps to shore up the Abbas government's legitimacy and proclaim it the future of a Palestine shorn of troublesome Gaza.

                                                                          Yet it remains that Hamas has a world in common with Fatah and other parties, and they all share the same goals - the end of occupation; the release of political prisoners; the right of return for all Palestinians; and freedom to be a nation equal among nations, secure in its own borders and at peace.

                                                                          For more than 60 years, Palestinians have resisted walls and checkpoints intended to divide them. Now they must resist the poisonous inducements to fight one another, and resume a unified front against the occupation. We urge the Bush administration not to repeat the mistakes that have become hallmarks of its actions in the Middle East. Allow the Palestinian people to chart their own course, free from the influence of those who seek little more than to perpetuate the status quo. The alternative is unacceptable.
                                                                          Maan News

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                                                                            Abbas' unelected "emergency government" annuls all passports issued in Gaza

                                                                            English (US)  June 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                            RAMALLAH, Palestine _ The Palestinian emergency government on Wednesday annulled all the Palestinian passports which were issued in the Gaza Strip. The new cabinet called on all countries to accept only passports which were issued in Ramallah by the emergency government.

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            This decision was ratified in the second session of the emergency government in Ramallah, in the central West Bank.

                                                                            The government also declared the Executive Force illegal and invalidated the appointments of the 3,500 members to the force, which Hamas founded in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                            The Palestinian minister of information, Riyad Al Maliki, said that the emergency government discussed a long-term security plan to impose law and order in the Palestinian territories.

                                                                            He added that the Hamas-affiliated detainees who proved that they were not involved in any violation of the law have been released.

                                                                            Maan News

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                                                                              An ominous sign: Israel "allowing" foreigners out of Gaza

                                                                              English (US)  June 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                              With Zionist tanks stalking the Gaza border, Zionist plans for a 20,000-man Gaza invasion, and Zionist promises to crush Hamas, Zionist officials are eager to get "foreigners" out of Gaza so that there will be no witnesses to the coming Zionist massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

                                                                              Related: Israel plans slaughter in Gaza

                                                                              Israel is allowing all foreign nationals to leave Hamas-controlled Gaza and enter Israel, an Israeli military spokesman says. !--more-->

                                                                              More than 100 foreigners have left Gaza since Hamas seized full control there last week, Dror said. He did not specify their nationalities.

                                                                              Three buses carrying foreigners left the Erez crossing from Gaza into Israel.

                                                                              On Tuesday, the Russian government said it planned to evacuate 120 Russian nationals from Gaza, according to a report from the Interfax news agency.

                                                                              The report said the Russians were mostly women married to Palestinian men.

                                                                              http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au

                                                                              145 words posted in Human Rights, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                From Nakba to Gaza: Palestine at the friction point

                                                                                English (US)  June 20th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                By Mazin Qumsiyeh

                                                                                What is the state of affairs of Palestine and Palestinians today? How did we arrive at a situation where Palestinian blood is spilled by other Palestinians and where the Gaza strip (a desert strip that is less than 2% of Palestine) with 1.5 million human beings (most refugees)is now completely cut off from the rest of the world which if not fixed soon will result in a calamity beyond description. And will Israel use the media focus on Gaza to carry out its planned ethnic cleansing of the Negev (42,000
                                                                                Palestinian citizens of Israel slated to lose their homes [1])?

                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                In the US there has been countless shallow commentaries and as many simply defamatory ones that are devoid from any connection to reality. Neocons,
                                                                                Zionist pundits like Thomas Friedman, stooges and collaborators like Fouad Ajami etc are given ample space on pages of major newspapers while we,
                                                                                Palestinians as Edward Said rightly pointed out are even prevented from telling our own narrative. In this assay I try to survey the political landscape and examine the various players (Israel, US, other countries, Palestinians in and out of factions, and finally the peace movement) and their roles and interests. I also wanted to ensure that our own
                                                                                responsibility as peace activists is examined in light of monumental changes that impact not only the lives of people in Western Asia but people everywhere.

                                                                                ISRAEL

                                                                                Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated in May 2004 just before putting in motion his plans for Gaza: "I believe we must change the current situation, a situation which necessarily leads to a political vacuum. It is clear to me that . dozens of political initiatives will be drawn up often, from all over the world. Today, we are already forced to repel such initiatives, which share the idea that Israel must reach an agreement while terror is still going on." His right hand man at the time, Dov Weisglass, clarified it in October 2004: "The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process ... Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda". Sharon also noted once: "You don't simply bundle people [Palestinians] onto trucks and drive them away. I prefer to advocate a positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a
                                                                                positive way will induce people to leave." The Gaza strip was the first test site for these strategies (which some Israeli leaders openly stated will finish the job started in 1948).

                                                                                Uri Avnery stated "What happens when one and a half million human beings are imprisoned in a tiny, arid territory, cut off from their compatriots and from any contact with the outside world, starved by an economic blockade and unable to feed their families? Some months ago, I described this situation as a sociological experiment set up by Israel, the United States and the European Union. The population of the Gaza Strip as guinea pigs" [2].

                                                                                Akiva Elder more bluntly explained in Haaretz last week that the outcome of this experiment was precisely what Sharon and Dov Weissglass planned for
                                                                                with their misnamed "disengagement" from Gaza [3].

                                                                                A famous Israeli general once said, "Once we have settled the land, all the [Palestinian] Arabs will be able to do is run around like drugged roaches in
                                                                                a bottle." Presumably the trapped "roaches" are now turning on each other as planned in the one bottle. The few other bottles in the West Bank are next. The Amnesty International Report published recently summarizes these conditions in very mild and neutral language (the title for example reads "Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank" when what is happening in the West Bank is worse than the worst days of Apartheid in South Africa) [4].

                                                                                THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

                                                                                A confidential report to the UN by its envoy for the Middle East peace process, Alvaro De Soto, was leaked last week and published in the Guardian Newspaper. In it De Soto states candidly: "The US clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, so much so that, a week before Mecca, the US envoy declared twice in an envoys meeting in Washington how much 'I
                                                                                like this violence', referring to the near-civil war that was erupting in Gaza in which civilians were being regularly killed and injured" [5].

                                                                                The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was planned by neocon Zionists well before they got power in the White house [6]. A similar attack on Iran by the same
                                                                                cabal using American blood as canon fodder is in the works now [7]. As the original lies about Iraq were exposed one after another (WMD, terror connections etc), a new one was instigated: advancing democracy in the Middle East. Bush himself in 2005 cited upcoming elections in Lebanon and Palestine as prove of this. Problem was that both had elections many times before and had a history of democratic participation before the war on Iraq.

                                                                                A more serious problem for the administration besides being exposed as liars was that people elected those that the Israelis did not want (and hence the US had to oppose). Hizballah in Lebanon was by 2006 a powerful political party with members in key government positions. The early 2006 elections for the Palestinian Authority (that has no authority) was
                                                                                supported by all parties concerned including the US neocon administration.

                                                                                But the election produced a clear but undesirable winner: Hamas. Within the US administration, mobilization was done quickly (and not even secretly) to foster dissent and mayhem. The clearest form of this is the program instituted by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams (a neocon Jewish Zionist). The program involved propping up elements within Fatah who were accommodating to Israeli needs and fixations (e.g. Mohammed Dahlan, an ambitious war lord who liked to dress well and surround himself with US trained mercenaries) [8].

                                                                                Of course like in other US plans to reshape the world to suit the lobby in Washington, things do not work out as planned. This is as true in Gaza today as it is in Iraq. Part of this follows from the fact that those who fight for foreign interests do not fight with strong or fanatic convictions and tend to abandon their posts quickly. Those who believe they are resisting colonial occupation tend to be more emotionally committed. Zionism occupied the executive and legislative branches of the US government also succeed in winning many battles against secular Arab democrats, leftists, and pan Arab nationalists. The decisive battle/turning point was the 1967 war when US supported Israel tripled the lands it occupied. These losses by progressive voices were compounded by US hegemony on the United
                                                                                Nations that prevented application of International law let alone UN Resolutions (the US also vetoed over 40 UN Security Council resolutions on Palestine since 1967). These combinations of factors let to the perhaps unintended consequence of growing the only remaining ideological alternative: that of a resurgent political Islamic movement. In a sense the
                                                                                winners of the battles were not Israel and the US but instead the battles laid the seeds for Hizballah (established 1982) and Hamas (established 1987).

                                                                                Robert Fisk sums up US policy sarcastically: "Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote....So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticize Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say - as we are already saying of the Iraqis - that
                                                                                they don't deserve our sacrifice and our love. How do we deal with a coup d'état by an elected government?" [9].

                                                                                President Carter confirmed what De Soto, Fisk, and others knew: the US and Israel are working hand in glove to divide Palestinians in a classic divide
                                                                                and conquer strategy of other colonial powers [10].

                                                                                OTHER REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS

                                                                                Neo-con Zionists in the US articulated why Iraq, Syria, and Iran were on their target list even before they came to power. Their reason was to strengthen Israel's regional power. Syria and more so Iran got wind of this game early on in the Bush dministration. Syria tried to straddle the fence and played game with the US (e.g. taking "rendered" suspects from the CIA to do torture and provide intelligence). Iran was in a stronger position that seemed to get only stronger as US forces were stretched thin in Iraq and
                                                                                Afghanistan. Iran's position got stronger also with each mistake, blunder, atrocity and disaster that the US (influenced by the Zionist lobby) did in Iraq and beyond (from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamou to Bagram to Somalia and Dusseldorf). And since the US funds Israel to the tune of billions every year to continue occupying and attacking Palestinians and Lebanese people, Iran felt emboldened to send in meager supplies for those groups being shot at. This was true at least for Hizballah (it is not clear that Iran gave any weapons or money to Hamas, both deny it).

                                                                                Then there is the European Union, a collection of states that helped establish Israel. Most of their leadership refuses to push for implementation of international law because of many reasons including:

                                                                                1) the persistent Zionist propaganda that links guilt over the Jewish holocaust with support for Israel (a state whose founders not only profited from but collaborated with Nazi Germany).

                                                                                2) US pressure and the presence of the looming NATO (elephant in the room)

                                                                                3) Desire to keep Israeli Jews from returning to Europe (essentially anti-Semitism)

                                                                                4) In the case of some leaders like Tony Blair desire to keep conflict going to market weapons.

                                                                                Russia and China both look at the situation with fear and disdain for US imperial power in this critical part of the world but both have internal and other more pressing issues to tend to than worry about the fate of a few million Palestinians and a few million Israelis. Israel got lots of points with China by transferring to it US military technology in the process making billions of dollars and undermining US security. Many elite Russians are probably privately happy that Israel took in 1 million Russians in the
                                                                                1990s (most moving for economic reasons, 40% were not even Jewish). But then also many Russians (likely including Putin) were furious at the Russian Zionist tycoons who took control of significant financial resources of Russia (including some natural resources) and then moved the money (and jobs) elsewhere. Thus, we note Russia's more balanced language vis a vis Palestine and Lebanon.

                                                                                PALESTINIANS (factions and those unaffiliated with factions)

                                                                                It is hard for the written word to express what people in Gaza (and Palestinians in general) have endured in the past 75 years. If one looks at
                                                                                agriculture, geography (mix Mediterranean and desert habitats), language, culture, mix of religions and other aspects of Palestine, the closest country would be Tunisia. If there was no colonial intervention, Palestine would be like Tunisia today and Gaza would be like the attractive oasis tourist attractions in the South.

                                                                                But our fate as Palestinians was different. No other population has endured so much for so long. The mayhem is not new to this desert strip at the
                                                                                Southwestern corner of Palestine. It started in the strip with the terrorism by the Hagannah, Stern, and Lehi gangs in the 1930. Between 1947 to 1949, the population of Gaza tripled due to the influx of Palestinian refugees from the coastal strip of Palestine that was unilaterally declared a Jewish state. Some were pushed out to walk for miles in the desert and many sick, old, and young perished in the journey. Some tried to infiltrate back to their villages and were summarily shot on site by orders of Ben Gurion's government. Some started to resist and thus their sprawling refugee camps were attacked viciously. In that era (early 1950s), Israel
                                                                                set up the notorious unit 101 of its army (a unit headed by a young ambitious and ruthless officer by the name of Ariel Sharon whose mandate was to make sure more "Arabs" are killed than "Jews". The era of collective punishment was in full fledge operation.

                                                                                Israeli commandoes would demolish many homes and kill many civilians in any area near the border that "infiltrators" or fighters would be deemed to have
                                                                                come from. In 1956, Israel occupied Gaza until the US President ordered them to get out and they did. In 1967, Israel occupied the Gaza strip with its 2/3rd population being Palestinian refugees and 1/3rd native Gazans.

                                                                                This occupation has impoverished the strip in a deliberate policy of economic de-development [11]. Sharon came back to Gaza and intensified his strategy of the iron fist. In the early 1970s, he succeeded in keeping the lid on rebellion by massive assaults on neighborhoods were any resistance sprung. This was the classic colonial strategy of mass destruction to "pacify" the population. But further uprisings would come about every decade of the 4 decades Gaza suffered under the occupation. Thus, three generations of Gaza residents (2/3rd of whom are refugees) suffered 75 years of colonial war making.

                                                                                Mahmoud Abbas was pushing Arafat into accepting a two state solution and renouncing armed resistance from the 1970s. Other Fatah leaders had different opinions. That strand was led by people like Abu Jihad who was assassinated by Israel (Israel never attempted assassination of Abbas). Abu Jihad argued that Fatah needs to stick to its original mandate and bylaws.

                                                                                Fatah (Fth) is the reverse of the acronym of the name of that group: Harakat Ta7rir Falastini (Palestine Liberation Movement). After the death of so many leading Fatah fighters and the relocation of those remaining to Tunisia (where those who were resistant were assassinated by the Israeli Mossad), Arafat agreed to try the program advocated by Abbas: engagement and negotiations with the US and Israel. Contacts with both were done in the mid 1980s and culminated in Arafat cajoling and pushing other Palestinians to relent. In 1988, the gutted PLO (now slimmed of many leading groups and factions) agreed to accept UN resolutions like 242 and 338 and essentially abandon the other UN resolutions and the UN Charter (e.g. on rights of self determination). This process accelerated after the US showed its might in the first Gulf war and bullied other countries in the region and beyond to succumb to its dictates (i.e. to Israeli occupied foreign policy). Arafat and Abbas were rewarded by Oslo accords that gave them authority over municipal affairs of the occupied areas but no real authority or sovereignty. Yet, this came with lots of privileges and I myself remember vividly that in the early and mid 1990s, while most of us Palestinians got further and further restrictions, there were thousands of "VIP passes"
                                                                                issued by Israel to Fatah officials. To be fair there were also independents and members of other factions who decided to join this trend and so it was not just Fatah members. More importantly, many Fatah members including leading ones and original founders of the movement refused the perks (and some outside of Palestine who refused to go back in under the Oslo
                                                                                arrangements). Indeed much reflection is needed here. The power acquired while limited also corrupted many. Meanwhile, Israeli colonization accelerated. In the seven years of what some Israelis considered hopeful years (1993-2000), the population of colonial settlers living on Palestinian lands doubled. It was also these years that stripped Palestinians of
                                                                                sustainable economy (agriculture, industry etc) and replaced it with an economy dependent on Israel (including Israeli building projects such as Settlements, barriers etc).

                                                                                Everything changed when Arafat distanced himself from Abbas and rejected the so-called generous offer made at Camp David (an offer of making the occupation permanent and relegating Palestinians to Bantustans while rejecting basic human rights like the right of refugees to return). Yet Arafat's administration continued to negotiate after words and the parties
                                                                                came close until Barak withdrew his negotiation team in Taba and called for new Israeli elections. With Sharon in power, Israel dropped the pretenses of negotiations. Arafat was isolated and pressured. He appointed Abbas a Prime Minister and was pushed constantly to give the Prime Minister the authorities especially on security matters (an "empowered prime minister" was the phrase used) and keep the presidency a ceremonial post analogous to that of Israel's president. Ironically, now the US claims the Palestinian Authority President (now Abbas) is the one with the power. But such shifts in US interpretation of Palestinian law is not unusual, it merely emphasizes the hypocrisy of the US's foreign policy (i.e. Israel's policies).

                                                                                On some things, the law is very clear. The sacking of the "Prime Minister" by Abbas creates a new set of problems and issues that have to be dealt with. According to the Palestinian Basic laws (amended 2003)[12], the President cannot appoint a new Prime Minister who is not from the majority party and such an emergency prime minister can govern for three weeks and then it must be approved by the legislative council (extended to a maximum of five weeks in exceptional circumstances, article 66). The president can issue decrees in exceptional circumstances but only while he legislative council is not in session and the President must go to the council for
                                                                                authorizing this at the next meeting (article 43). But such decrees do not apply to creating cabinet, in either case, the cabinet and the Prime Minister cannot operate without Council approval (articles 68 and 69). Hamas has a majority in the legislative council so none of this is possible without Hamas approval! The law does state that the president has the "right to refer the Prime Minister to investigation as a result of crimes committed by him during, or due to his performance of his duties, in
                                                                                accordance with the provision of law (article 76). Abbas did not choose to do that. The law also stipulates (article 110) that "The President of the
                                                                                National Authority may declare a state of emergency by a decree when there is a threat to national security caused by war, invasion, armed insurrection, or at a time of natural disaster for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days (and) The emergency state may be extended for another period of thirty (30) days after the approval of two thirds of the Legislative Council Members." So under the best of circumstances, Abbas can continue what he is doing for 30 days since again he has no majority in the Legislative Council.

                                                                                Alternatively one can take the earlier provisions of the basic laws and thus conclude as Virginia Tilley did that "It does not help that the United States, an obedient Europe, and legless Arab states have trotted up to anoint it as the sole legitimate authority. Nor does it help to pretend that Hamas -- a broad movement with popular legitimacy -- will simply disappear through decrees from Abbas and some nice political theatre. It is not clear how long this flimsy diplomatic pretense can hold up to scrutiny by a skeptical world. Nor is it clear what political costs foreign governments will have to absorb if they try to play along with it -- especially when the
                                                                                now-traumatized Palestinian people, in the territories and in Diaspora, begin protesting their government's being hijacked by anti-democratic
                                                                                figureheads for Israeli and US agendas."[13]

                                                                                In either case, what happens to a unity government (Fatah-Hamas Mecca agreement) approved by the Legislative Council when both sides to the
                                                                                agreement violate it and have two governments neither approved by the Council? This is what we now have: Hamas in the Gaza canton, Fatah in the West Bank cantons, both operating outside of the basic laws. Their "authority" is mostly in the eyes of their die-hard older supporters who are themselves prisoners in the cantons administered and controlled on all fronts (including borders, air, water, fuel, and electricity) by Israeli occupation forces.

                                                                                Does it really matter whether the Palestinian "authority" without authority is in the hand of its "President" or "Prime Minister"? These terms are used in sovereign nations and Palestine is certainly not sovereign! Everyone needs to be reminded of this rather inconvenient truth especially those Palestinians who seem to like titles ("president", "cabinet minister", "Prime Minister" etc). Can it get more absurd than a "Minister of Transportation" having to get permission from Israeli occupation authorities to move from one Palestinian town to another. Can it get more absurd than a Palestinian "President" seeking permission from Israeli authorities for every bulletproof vest worn by his guards? What besides egos and semblance of authority would let the prisoners in a concentration camp continue the charade of electing their representatives to deal with the prison guards?

                                                                                Many Palestinians who are not with titles or positions have called for ending this charade of authority with out authority, a government that does
                                                                                not govern, a president who only can preside over submission or "Ministers" who can minister nothing other than a few employees acting as intermediaries
                                                                                between the occupied people and the occupation authorities.

                                                                                Neither Fatah nor Hamas are monolithic movements. Both have bad elements in them including thugs and clean and nationalistic elements. Both have leadership figures who may disagree with each other and even fight for control within the movement. Both operate within the prison and prism of the occupation and thus have no freedoms. The same can be said for smaller factions like PFLP and DFLP. My own observations is that the younger generations (in their 20s and 30s) are far more pragmatic and practical (and yet even more principled) than my or older generations. Many in the older generations are wed to sloganism of their past, reluctant to admit their failures, reluctant to learn lessons based on the facts of history, and generally less amenable to sitting down with those whose views are different
                                                                                to come to common ground. Understandably, with life so difficult inside historic Palestine and in refugee camps, most Palestinians focus on their own lives, their own needs, etc. The fragmentation of Palestinian polity was actually an intentional Zionist program going back for decades (classic
                                                                                colonial attitude of divide and conquer). But we must take responsibility for countering that program and creating unity in the Palestinian body politic. Further, have been excluded from decision making over the past two decades. There are Palestinian inside and outside the occupied areas who are beginning to get together for positive and proactive actions and thus refusing factionalism. A good example from inside Palestine is the Palestinian civil society call to action that include boycotts, divestment
                                                                                and sanctions [14] and from outside of Palestine, the US Palestine popular national conference [15].

                                                                                OTHER SEGMENTS OF HUMANITY AND FINAL THOUGHTS

                                                                                There are countless groups that identify themselves as peace and justice movements. Some are real and informed, some real and misinformed, and some fake ones. Distinguishing between them is not always easy. Sometimes there are leaders of those movements who make such distinctions easier by their positions or statements. Most of the time, it is their actions or lack thereof that distinguish them. Tikkun for example rejects outright the basic human right of refugees to return to their homes and lands. And
                                                                                occasionally its editor, Rabbi Lerner slips into outright racism. For example: "There is something in the culture of the Palestinians, or of the Arab world, or of the Muslim world (you tell me which, I'm not sure) that is too tolerant of violence, and too willing to excuse it, whether it be in the disgusting violence of Sunnis vs. Shias that took place in the Iraq/Iran war and in the current civil war in Iraq, in Lebanon, and now the struggle in Palestine" [16].

                                                                                There are others who are real but misinformed / misguided. These are usually identifiable by their ineffectiveness. You find them both on the fringe
                                                                                left and fringe right. I am sure many readers would recognize ultra left groups that issue grandiose rhetorical statements about US and Israeli
                                                                                imperialism, about the failure of others in the peace movement, and about a thousand other things. Yet, any objective consultant can review their record of practical productivity and be very disappointed. Statements do not liberate people, direct actions do. Even if one sticks with educational projects only, one should ask the question that are the targets of our educational projects and are we succeeding in reaching out to them? One group may issue red lines and points of unity and then stagnate and do
                                                                                nothing to advance knowledge of the masses of what is going on. Another may develop principles but then follow-up with practical and specific programs
                                                                                to achieve results. There are several examples of the latter category:
                                                                                1) The Wheels of Justice bus tour that spoke at hundreds of colleges and universities and over 200 Middle and High Schools (see ttp://justicewheels.org)
                                                                                2) http://IfAmericansKnew.org
                                                                                3) Somerville Divestment Project (http://www.divestmentproject.org/) which
                                                                                used city ballots for boycotts and for the right of return to advance education (imagine if we had hundreds of cities doing this)
                                                                                4) Stop the Wall Campaign http://www.stopthewall.org/
                                                                                5) International Solidarity Movement http://www.palsolidarity.org/
                                                                                6) and many, many more.

                                                                                These and hundreds of other examples illustrate that to succeed we only need to use our deductive reasoning to build proactive and creative programs to
                                                                                arrive at freedom and democracy by collective action. It is not just Palestinians but Israelis and Americans who need to reclaim the narrative of
                                                                                reason rather than blind ideology. For many Palestinians, it was their loyalty to one faction or another that blinded them from seeing the faults
                                                                                in these actions. The majority of Palestinians do not belong to any factions. Yet, most of us were willing to be far too passive and wait for the leadership of various factions to give us some direction or to give us diagnosis of the failure of other factions. We seemed to forget the history
                                                                                of humanity where all major positive changes occur by the people. This in fact is the only rational and desired definition of democracy (Latin meaning
                                                                                "people power" not people elections). As the Arabic saying goes "God does not change what is in a people (i.e. their destiny) unless they change what is within themselves." And what is within ourselves that we need to change?

                                                                                I think each of us knows with intuition but tends to project onto others what we fear exists within us: power. Ironically, outwardly inflated egos mask personal insecurity and a lack of belief in ourselves. Those with real power are those who are with power over themselves: openly recognizing our
                                                                                human frailties/limitations and honestly and openly sharing humanity with others.

                                                                                Many take the religious texts of the Islamic - Judeo - Christian traditions as commanding us to have dominion over the earth and its inhabitants instead of feeling a (small) part of the universe. These notions of human superiority are even worse when they are limited to a subset of humanity by developing
                                                                                notions of "chosenness" (God's chosen people) and "manifest destiny" for a particular religious or other community. Another aspect of our psychology
                                                                                is a sense of tribalism (stronger in some communities than others especially those who lived as minorities or in exile). This tribalism tends to exaggerate a group's own historical contributions to humanity but also (and perhaps more psychologically meaningful) exaggerate episodes of suffering by the community. One could state that the competition to claim superior background/history and "group" victim hood blinds one to the victim hood of others and to their contribution to humanity. But I would say it is even
                                                                                more problematical than that: it avoids connecting with the rest of humanity. That is taking on the suffering of all humans as one's own and the accomplishments of all humans as one's own. From a biological perspective (my background in Zoology and medical genetics), it would seem that emotion and not logic would prevent a Jew from recognizing the Nakba
                                                                                (ethnic cleansing of Palestine) or a Palestinian from recognizing the Nazi horrors for what these things are truly: a blot on all humanity. There is
                                                                                equally no reason why I as a Palestinian American should have more pride in Edward Said or other Palestinian geniuses than I do for Albert Einstein. I should also feel the same shame for what fellow human beings do whether that human being happens to be a Palestinian, Israeli, German or American.
                                                                                Genetically, we are all one pool. Logically this can be argued successfully. But emotionally this is hard for most humans. Most humans base their actions on perceptions or imaginations rather than on facts,
                                                                                figures, and logic. Further, as Socrates recognized (and he was executed for it), most people live an unexamined life (which is no life at all). Doing
                                                                                little inquiries and accepting the dogmas of the past. The famed rational Philosopher Baruch (renamed himself Benedictine) Spinoza argued similar
                                                                                points and he was excommunicated by the Jewish community of Amsterdam in the 17th century. Those who stand against traditional mythology suffer ridicule,
                                                                                exile, banishment or death. That was the fate of most prophets of old. Their teachings were then taken and modified/corrupted to serve the mediocre
                                                                                worldly powers rather than the divine (which is in all of us). The teachings of Jesus of "love your enemies" thus became forgotten when the Roman empire adopted their version of Christianity slaughtering so many people in the process. This Constantinian Christianity also led to the Crusades and to the colonization that decimated so many native people around the world. Jewish Theologian Marc Ellis points out that a similarly destructive (psychologically and physically) Constantinian Judaism evolved and is now known as political Zionism [17].

                                                                                Philosophers argued that laws are moral if they are universal (apply everywhere). By definition, there is no morality in rules that are claimed to apply to a subset of humanity. And when laws are there like the right of people to live on their lands freely are trampled simply because they are not Jews (e.g. right of refugees to return), then clearly these are immoral rules. On a practical level, when rules and human rights are selectively applied, then the only thing left is "might makes right." Israel and the US
                                                                                have been operating with that latter principle for 60 years now in Western Asia. The fruits of it do not look promising. The alternative for justice and peace is not an Israeli "win" but perpetual conflict. We may yet get the neocon self-fulfilling prophesy of a birth of Constantinian Islam in response to a revived Constantinian Christianity (a new US imperial hegemony in Western Asia) and Constantinian Judaism (Zionism).

                                                                                We could argue that actions of individuals do not reflect on the religious doctrine. We could also argue that individuals whether living in dictatorships or so called democracies (but ruled by money and corporations) are not responsible for what their political leaders do. But individuals hold a huge responsibility not only by virtue of paying taxes but also by the fact that silence is complicity. Individuals are the ones who make
                                                                                history. We should not shy away from looking into the motivations of those who perpetuate such heinous acts as killing a civilian whether by dropping bombs from F-16s, suicide bombings, or execution. But we should not shy away from looking in the mirror more. We will then begin to dissolve the biggest obstacles to having what we all claim we want. Those obstacles are within us. Examples of such obstacles are our persistent failure to really love fellow human beings (hating bad deeds but not hating the evil doers),
                                                                                developing teamwork that is positive and mobilizing. Sure, we can work together easily with family members or with people from the same village when there is a project or an issue that directly impacts us. But how many of us work to develop the needed skills for effective teamwork?

                                                                                The road forward has been very clear. I think Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe had it right in his recent commentary on the situation. It is worth quoting at length from his article: "Standing idle while the American-Israeli vision of strangling the Strip to death, cleansing half of the West bank from its indigenous population and threatening the rest of the Palestinians -- inside Israel and in the other
                                                                                parts of the West Bank -- with transfer, is not an option. It is tantamount to "decent" people's silence during the Holocaust."

                                                                                We should not tire from mentioning the alternative in the 21st century: BDS -- Boycott, Divestment
                                                                                and Sanctions -- as an emergency measure -- far more effective and far less violent -- in opposing the present destruction of Palestine. And at the same
                                                                                time talk openly, convincingly and efficiently, of creating the geography of peace. A geography in which abnormal phenomena such as the imprisonment of
                                                                                small portion of the land would disappear. There will be no more, in the vision we should push forward, a human prison camp called the Gaza strip where some armed inmates are easily pitted against each other by a callous warden. Instead that area would return to be an organic part of an Eastern Mediterranean country that has always offered the best as a meeting point between East and West. Never before, in the light of the Gaza tragedy, has the twofold strategy of BDS and a one state solution, shined so clearly as
                                                                                the only alternative forward. If any of us are members in Palestine solidarity groups, Arab-Jewish dialogue circles or part of civil society's effort to bring peace and reconciliation to Palestine -- this is a time to put aside all the false strategies of coexistence, road maps and two states solutions. They have been and still are sweet music to the ears of the Israeli demolition team that threatens to destroy what is left of Palestine. Beware especially of Diet Zionists or Cloest Zionists, who recently joined
                                                                                the campaign, in Britain and elsewhere against the BDS effort. Like those enlightened pundits who used liberal organs in the United Kingdom, such as The Guardian, to explain to us at length how dangerous is the proposed academic boycott on Israel. They have never expended so much time, energy or words on the occupation itself as they did in the service of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine"[18].

                                                                                Karma Nabulsi also stated succinctly the route to solving the conundrum "The people of Palestine must finally be allowed to determine their own fate. The
                                                                                drivers of violence in Gaza are clearly external. When all Palestinians can vote for sovereign rule, peace will be within reach"[19].

                                                                                But having a road/direction is not sufficient unless each and every one of us takes on responsibility to move towards that purpose (i.e. methods of locomotion). Blessed are those who not only discover the correct road (a moral life) but know they can propel themselves along it without waiting for
                                                                                "leaders". They are the ones who connect with their humanity, a purpose driven life, rather than a life of reactions to base animal instincts of seeking food, sex, and shelter and avoiding immediate dangers. This purpose driven life is what Philosophers and Prophets have always tried to show us.

                                                                                Footnotes
                                                                                1) 42 thousand Arab homes in Negev threatened with destruction http://www.imemc.org/article/49025
                                                                                2) Uri Avnery, "Crocodile Tears," Gush Shalom, June 16, 2007
                                                                                3) Sharon's dream By Akiva Eldar
                                                                                http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/871983.html
                                                                                4) Amnesty International Report: "Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank" http://www.amnesty.org/resources/Israel_Report0706/
                                                                                5) Confidential UN envoy report leaked to the Guardian (PDF File) http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2007/06/12/DeSotoReport.pdf
                                                                                6) http://www.qumsiyeh.org/connectingthedotsiraqpalestine/
                                                                                7) Lying Us Into War, Again by Charley Reese. The drumbeat for war against Iran has begun again, led by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, and the usual pro-Israel crowd. Lieberman seems to be under the impression that the U.S. can bomb Iran and not get into a full-fledged war. http://www.antiwar.com/reese/?articleid=11144
                                                                                8) For details on US involvement, see
                                                                                http://conflictsforum.org/2007/elliot-abrams-uncivil-war/ and
                                                                                http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7030.shtml
                                                                                9) Robert Fisk
                                                                                http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/article2663743.ece
                                                                                10) Carter blasts US policy on Palestinians By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer, Tue Jun 19, 7:41 PM ET
                                                                                http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070619/ap_on_re_eu/carter_us_palestinians
                                                                                11) see Dr. Sara Roy's book "The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development"
                                                                                12) Palestinian Basic Laws http://www.usaid.gov/wbg/misc/ Amended_Basic_Law_2003_English.pdf
                                                                                13) Whose Coup, Exactly? by Virginia Tilley, The Electronic Intifada, 18 June 2007
                                                                                http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7038.shtml
                                                                                14) see http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.php?id=66_0_1_10_M11
                                                                                15) see e.g. http://www.palestineconference.org
                                                                                16) http://files.tikkun.org/current/article.php?story=20070616224228533
                                                                                17) Marc Ellis "Out of the Ashes"
                                                                                18) Ilan Pappe: Towards a Geography of Peace: Whither Gaza?
                                                                                http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7036.shtml
                                                                                19) Karma Nabulsi http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2105288,00.html

                                                                                Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
                                                                                http://qumsiyeh.org
                                                                                http://justicewheels.org
                                                                                http://endtheoccupation.org
                                                                                http://academicsforjustice.org
                                                                                http://pac-national.org

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                                                                                  Seymour Hersh: The General - Bush knew about Abu Graib

                                                                                  English (US)  June 19th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                  How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties


                                                                                  Taguba knew his report would make him unpopular: “If I lie, I lose. And, if I tell the truth, I lose.” Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark.

                                                                                  By Seymour M. Hersh

                                                                                  On the afternoon of May 6, 2004, Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba was summoned to meet, for the first time, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in his Pentagon conference room. Rumsfeld and his senior staff were to testify the next day, in televised hearings before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees, about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq. The previous week, revelations about Abu Ghraib, including photographs showing prisoners stripped, abused, and sexually humiliated, had appeared on CBS and in The New Yorker. In response, Administration officials had insisted that only a few low-ranking soldiers were involved and that America did not torture prisoners. They emphasized that the Army itself had uncovered the scandal.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  If there was a redeeming aspect to the affair, it was in the thoroughness and the passion of the Army’s initial investigation. The inquiry had begun in January, and was led by General Taguba, who was stationed in Kuwait at the time. Taguba filed his report in March. In it he found:

                                                                                  Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees . . . systemic and illegal abuse.

                                                                                  Taguba was met at the door of the conference room by an old friend, Lieutenant General Bantz J. Craddock, who was Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant. Craddock’s daughter had been a babysitter for Taguba’s two children when the officers served together years earlier at Fort Stewart, Georgia. But that afternoon, Taguba recalled, “Craddock just said, very coldly, ‘Wait here.’ ” In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were “only Iraqis.” Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.

                                                                                  “Here...comes...that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”

                                                                                  In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”

                                                                                  Rumsfeld was particularly concerned about how the classified report had become public. “General,” he asked, “who do you think leaked the report?” Taguba responded that perhaps a senior military leader who knew about the investigation had done so. “It was just my speculation,” he recalled. “Rumsfeld didn’t say anything.” (I did not meet Taguba until mid-2006 and obtained his report elsewhere.) Rumsfeld also complained about not being given the information he needed. “Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.” As Rumsfeld spoke, Taguba said, “He’s looking at me. It was a statement.”

                                                                                  At best, Taguba said, “Rumsfeld was in denial.” Taguba had submitted more than a dozen copies of his report through several channels at the Pentagon and to the Central Command headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, which ran the war in Iraq. By the time he walked into Rumsfeld’s conference room, he had spent weeks briefing senior military leaders on the report, but he received no indication that any of them, with the exception of General Schoomaker, had actually read it. (Schoomaker later sent Taguba a note praising his honesty and leadership.) When Taguba urged one lieutenant general to look at the photographs, he rebuffed him, saying, “I don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?”

                                                                                  Taguba also knew that senior officials in Rumsfeld’s office and elsewhere in the Pentagon had been given a graphic account of the pictures from Abu Ghraib, and told of their potential strategic significance, within days of the first complaint. On January 13, 2004, a military policeman named Joseph Darby gave the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) a CD full of images of abuse. Two days later, General Craddock and Vice-Admiral Timothy Keating, the director of the Joint Staff of the J.C.S., were e-mailed a summary of the abuses depicted on the CD. It said that approximately ten soldiers were shown, involved in acts that included:

                                                                                  Having male detainees pose nude while female guards pointed at their genitals; having female detainees exposing themselves to the guards; having detainees perform indecent acts with each other; and guards physically assaulting detainees by beating and dragging them with choker chains.

                                                                                  Taguba said, “You didn’t need to ‘see’ anything—just take the secure e-mail traffic at face value.”

                                                                                  I learned from Taguba that the first wave of materials included descriptions of the sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees. Several of these images, including one of an Iraqi woman detainee baring her breasts, have since surfaced; others have not. (Taguba’s report noted that photographs and videos were being held by the C.I.D. because of ongoing criminal investigations and their “extremely sensitive nature.”) Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it. Such images would have added an even more inflammatory element to the outcry over Abu Ghraib. “It’s bad enough that there were photographs of Arab men wearing women’s panties,” Taguba said.

                                                                                  On January 20th, the chief of staff at Central Command sent another e-mail to Admiral Keating, copied to General Craddock and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq. The chief of staff wrote, “Sir: update on alleged detainee abuse per our discussion. DID IT REALLY HAPPEN? Yes, currently have 4 confessions implicating perhaps 10 soldiers. DO PHOTOS EXIST? Yes. A CD with approx 100 photos and a video—CID has these in their possession.”

                                                                                  In subsequent testimony, General Myers, the J.C.S. chairman, acknowledged, without mentioning the e-mails, that in January information about the photographs had been given “to me and the Secretary up through the chain of command. . . . And the general nature of the photos, about nudity, some mock sexual acts and other abuse, was described.”

                                                                                  Nevertheless, Rumsfeld, in his appearances before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees on May 7th, claimed to have had no idea of the extensive abuse. “It breaks our hearts that in fact someone didn’t say, ‘Wait, look, this is terrible. We need to do something,’ ” Rumsfeld told the congressmen. “I wish we had known more, sooner, and been able to tell you more sooner, but we didn’t.”

                                                                                  Rumsfeld told the legislators that, when stories about the Taguba report appeared, “it was not yet in the Pentagon, to my knowledge.” As for the photographs, Rumsfeld told the senators, “I say no one in the Pentagon had seen them”; at the House hearing, he said, “I didn’t see them until last night at 7:30.” Asked specifically when he had been made aware of the photographs, Rumsfeld said:

                                                                                  There were rumors of photographs in a criminal prosecution chain back sometime after January 13th . . . I don’t remember precisely when, but sometime in that period of January, February, March. . . . The legal part of it was proceeding along fine. What wasn’t proceeding along fine is the fact that the President didn’t know, and you didn’t know, and I didn’t know.

                                                                                  “And, as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are,” Rumsfeld said.

                                                                                  Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials.

                                                                                  “The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”

                                                                                  In response to detailed queries about this article, Colonel Gary Keck, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an e-mail, “The department did not promulgate interrogation policies or guidelines that directed, sanctioned, or encouraged abuse.” He added, “When there have been abuses, those violations are taken seriously, acted upon promptly, investigated thoroughly, and the wrongdoers are held accountable.” Regarding early warnings about Abu Ghraib, Colonel Keck said, “Former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has stated publicly under oath that he and other senior leaders were not provided pictures from Abu Ghraib until shortly before their release.” (Rumsfeld, through an aide, declined to answer questions, as did General Craddock. Other senior commanders did not respond to requests for comment.)

                                                                                  During the next two years, Taguba assiduously avoided the press, telling his relatives not to talk about his work. Friends and family had been inundated with telephone calls and visitors, and, Taguba said, “I didn’t want them to be involved.” Taguba retired in January, 2007, after thirty-four years of active service, and finally agreed to talk to me about his investigation of Abu Ghraib and what he believed were the serious misrepresentations by officials that followed. “From what I knew, troops just don’t take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups,” Taguba told me. His orders were clear, however: he was to investigate only the military police at Abu Ghraib, and not those above them in the chain of command. “These M.P. troops were not that creative,” he said. “Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority. I was limited to a box.”

                                                                                  General Taguba is a slight man with a friendly demeanor and an unfailingly polite correctness. “I came from a poor family and had to work hard,” he said. “It was always shine the shoes on Saturday morning for church, and wash the car on Saturday for church. And Saturday also for mowing the lawn and doing yard jobs for church.”

                                                                                  His father, Tomas, was born in the Philippines and was drafted into the Philippine Scouts in early 1942, at the height of the Japanese attack on the joint American-Filipino force led by General Douglas MacArthur. Tomas was captured by the Japanese on the Bataan peninsula in April, 1942, and endured the Bataan Death March, which took thousands of American and Filipino lives. Tomas escaped and joined the underground resistance to the Japanese before returning to the American Army, in July, 1945.

                                                                                  Taguba’s mother, Maria, spent much of the Second World War living across the street from a Japanese-run prisoner-of-war camp in Manila. Taguba remembers her vivid accounts of prisoners who were bayonetted arbitrarily or whose fingernails were pulled out. Antonio, the eldest son (he has six siblings), was born in Manila in 1950. Maria and Tomas were devout Catholics, and their children were taught respect and, Taguba recalls, “above all, integrity in how you lived your life and practiced your religion.”

                                                                                  In 1961, the family moved to Hawaii, where Tomas retired from the military and took a civilian job in logistics, preparing units for deployment to Vietnam. A year after they arrived, Antonio became a U.S. citizen. By then, as a sixth grader, he was delivering newspapers, serving as an altar boy, and doing well in school. He went to Idaho State University, in Pocatello, with help from the Army R.O.T.C., and graduated in 1972. As a newly commissioned second lieutenant, he was five feet six inches tall and weighed a hundred and twenty pounds. His Army service began immediately: he led troops at the platoon, company, battalion, and brigade levels at bases in South Korea, Germany, and across America. (He married in 1981, and has two grown children.) In 1986, Taguba, then a major, was selected to attend the College of Naval Command and Staff at the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island. While there, he wrote an analysis of Soviet ground-attack planning that became required reading at the school. He was promoted, ahead of his peers, to become a colonel and then a general. On the way, Taguba earned three master’s degrees—in public administration, international relations, and national-security studies.

                                                                                  “I’ll talk to you about discrimination,” he said one morning, while discussing, without bitterness, his early years as an Army officer. “Let’s talk about being refused to be served at a restaurant in public. Let’s talk about having to do things two times, and being accused of not speaking English well, and having to pay myself for my three master’s degrees because the Army didn’t think I was smart enough. So what? Just work your ass off. So what? The hard work paid off.”

                                                                                  Taguba had joined the Army knowing little about his father’s military experience. “He saw the ravages and brutality of war, but he wasn’t about to brag about his exploits,” Taguba said. “He didn’t say anything until 1997, and it took me two years to rebuild his records and show that he was authorized for an award.” On Tomas’s eightieth birthday, he was awarded the Bronze Star and a prisoner-of-war medal in a ceremony at Schofield Barracks, in Hawaii. “My father never laughed,” Taguba said. But the day he got his medal “he smiled—he had a big-ass smile on his face. I’d never seen him look so proud. He was a bent man with carpal-tunnel syndrome, but at the end of the medal ceremony he stood himself up and saluted. I cried, and everyone in my family burst into tears.”

                                                                                  Richard Armitage, a former Navy counter-insurgency officer who served as Deputy Secretary of State in the first Bush term, recalled meeting Taguba, then a lieutenant colonel, in South Korea in the early nineteen-nineties. “I was told to keep an eye on this young guy—‘He’s going to be a general,’ ” Armitage said. “Taguba was discreet and low key—not a sprinter but a marathoner.”

                                                                                  At the time, Taguba was working for Major General Mike Myatt, a marine who was the officer in charge of strategic talks with the South Koreans, on behalf of the American military. “I needed an executive assistant with brains and integrity,” Myatt, who is now retired and living in San Francisco, told me. After interviewing a number of young officers, he chose Taguba. “He was ethical and he knew his stuff,” Myatt said. “We really became close, and I’d trust him with my life. We talked about military strategy and policy, and the moral aspect of war—the importance of not losing the moral high ground.” Myatt followed Taguba’s involvement in the Abu Ghraib inquiry, and said, “I was so proud of him. I told him, ‘Tony, you’ve maintained yourself, and your integrity.’ ”

                                                                                  Taguba got a different message, however, from other officers, among them General John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command. A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. Abizaid’s driver and his interpreter, who also served as a bodyguard, were in front. Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”

                                                                                  “I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”

                                                                                  THE INVESTIGATION

                                                                                  Taguba was given the job of investigating Abu Ghraib because of circumstance: the senior officer of the 800th Military Police Brigade, to which the soldiers in the photographs belonged, was a one-star general; Army regulations required that the head of the inquiry be senior to the commander of the unit being investigated, and Taguba, a two-star general, was available. “It was as simple as that,” he said. He vividly remembers his first thought upon seeing the photographs in late January of 2004: “Unbelievable! What were these people doing?” There was an immediate second thought: “This is big.”

                                                                                  Taguba decided to keep the photographs from most of the interrogators and researchers on his staff of twenty-three officers. “I didn’t want them to prejudge the soldiers they were investigating, so I put the photos in a safe,” he told me. “Anyone who wanted to see them had to have a need-to-know and go through me.” His decision to keep the staff in the background was also intended to insure that none of them suffered damage to his or her career because of involvement in the inquiry. “I knew it was going to be very sensitive because of the gravity of what was in front of us,” he said.

                                                                                  The team spent much of February, 2004, in Iraq. Taguba was overwhelmed by the scale of the wrongdoing. “These were people who were taken off the streets and put in jail—teen-agers and old men and women,” he said. “I kept on asking these questions of the officers I interviewed: ‘You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you do something to stop it?’ ”

                                                                                  Taguba’s assignment was limited to investigating the 800th M.P.s, but he quickly found signs of the involvement of military intelligence—both the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas, which worked closely with the M.P.s, and what were called “other government agencies,” or O.G.A.s, a euphemism for the C.I.A. and special-operations units operating undercover in Iraq. Some of the earliest evidence involved Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Jordan, whose name was mentioned in interviews with several M.P.s. For the first three weeks of the investigation, Jordan was nowhere to be found, despite repeated requests. When the investigators finally located him, he asked whether he needed to shave his beard before being interviewed—Taguba suspected that he had been dressing as a civilian. “When I asked him about his assignment, he says, ‘I’m a liaison officer for intelligence from Army headquarters in Iraq.’ ” But in the course of three or four interviews with Jordan, Taguba said, he began to suspect that the lieutenant colonel had been more intimately involved in the interrogation process—some of it brutal—for “high value” detainees.

                                                                                  “Jordan denied everything, and yet he had the authority to enter the prison’s ‘hard site’ ”—where the most important detainees were held—“carrying a carbine and an M9 pistol, which is against regulations,” Taguba said. Jordan had also led a squad of military policemen in a shoot-out inside the hard site with a detainee from Syria who had managed to obtain a gun. (A lawyer for Jordan disputed these allegations; in the shoot-out, he said, Jordan was “just another gun on the extraction team” and not the leader. He noted that Jordan was not a trained interrogator.)

                                                                                  Taguba said that Jordan’s “record reflected an extensive intelligence background.” He also had reason to believe that Jordan was not reporting through the chain of command. But Taguba’s narrowly focussed mission constrained the questions he could ask. “I suspected that somebody was giving them guidance, but I could not print that,” Taguba said.

                                                                                  “After all Jordan’s evasiveness and misleading responses, his rights were read to him,” Taguba went on. Jordan subsequently became the only officer facing trial on criminal charges in connection with Abu Ghraib and is scheduled to be court-martialled in late August. (Seven M.P.s were convicted of charges that included dereliction of duty, maltreatment, and assault; one defendant, Specialist Charles Graner, was sentenced to ten years in prison.) Last month, a military judge ruled that Jordan, who is still assigned to the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, had not been appropriately advised of his rights during his interviews with Taguba, undermining the Army’s allegation that he lied during the Taguba inquiry. Six other charges remain, including failure to obey an order or regulation; cruelty and maltreatment; and false swearing and obstruction of justice. (His lawyer said, “The evidence clearly shows that he is innocent.”)

                                                                                  Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003—when much of the abuse took place—Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”

                                                                                  Taguba learned that in August, 2003, as the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was gaining force, the Pentagon had ordered Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantánamo, to Iraq. His mission was to survey the prison system there and to find ways to improve the flow of intelligence. The core of Miller’s recommendations, as summarized in the Taguba report, was that the military police at Abu Ghraib should become part of the interrogation process: they should work closely with interrogators and intelligence officers in “setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.”

                                                                                  Taguba concluded that Miller’s approach was not consistent with Army doctrine, which gave military police the overriding mission of making sure that the prisons were secure and orderly. His report cited testimony that interrogators and other intelligence personnel were encouraging the abuse of detainees. “Loosen this guy up for us,” one M.P. said he was told by a member of military intelligence. “Make sure he has a bad night.”

                                                                                  The M.P.s, Taguba said, “were being literally exploited by the military interrogators. My view is that those kids”—even the soldiers in the photographs—“were poorly led, not trained, and had not been given any standard operating procedures on how they should guard the detainees.”

                                                                                  Surprisingly, given Taguba’s findings, Miller was the officer chosen to restore order at Abu Ghraib. In April, 2004, a month after the report was filed, he was reassigned there as the deputy commander for detainee operations. “Miller called in the spring and asked to meet with me to discuss Abu Ghraib, but I waited for him and we never did meet,” Taguba recounted. Miller later told Taguba that he’d been ordered to Washington to meet with Rumsfeld before travelling to Iraq, but he never attempted to reschedule the meeting.

                                                                                  If they had spoken, Taguba said, he would have reminded Miller that at Abu Ghraib, unlike at Guantánamo, very few prisoners were affiliated with any terrorist group. Taguba had seen classified documents revealing that there were only “one or two” suspected Al Qaeda prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Most of the detainees had nothing to do with the insurgency. A few of them were common criminals.

                                                                                  Taguba had known Miller for years. “We served together in Korea and in the Pentagon, and his wife and mine used to go shopping together,” Taguba said. But, after his report became public, “Miller didn’t talk to me. He didn’t say a word when I passed him in the hallway.”

                                                                                  Despite the subsequent public furor over Abu Ghraib, neither the House nor the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings led to a serious effort to determine whether the scandal was a result of a high-level interrogation policy that encouraged abuse. At the House Committee hearing on May 7, 2004, a freshman Democratic congressman, Kendrick Meek, of Florida, asked Rumsfeld if it was time for him to resign. Rumsfeld replied, “I would resign in a minute if I thought that I couldn’t be effective. . . . I have to wrestle with that.” But, he added, “I’m certainly not going to resign because some people are trying to make a political issue out of it.” (Rumsfeld stayed in office for the next two and a half years, until the day after the 2006 congressional elections.) When I spoke to Meek recently, he said, “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything, and what he was giving us was hard to believe.”

                                                                                  Later that month, Rumsfeld appeared before a closed hearing of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which votes on the funds for all secret operations in the military. Representative David Obey, of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat at the hearing, told me that he had been angry when a fellow subcommittee member “made the comment that ‘Abu Ghraib was the price of defending democracy.’ I said that wasn’t the way I saw it, and that I didn’t want to see some corporal made into a scapegoat. This could not have happened without people in the upper echelon of the Administration giving signals. I just didn’t see how this was not systemic.”

                                                                                  Obey asked Rumsfeld a series of pointed questions. Taguba attended the closed hearing with Rumsfeld and recalled him bristling at Obey’s inquiries. “I don’t know what happened!” Rumsfeld told Obey. “Maybe you want to ask General Taguba.”

                                                                                  Taguba got a chance to answer questions on May 11th, when he was summoned to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Under-Secretary Stephen Cambone sat beside him. (Cambone was Rumsfeld’s point man on interrogation policy.) Cambone, too, told the committee that he hadn’t known about the specific abuses at Abu Ghraib until he saw Taguba’s report, “when I was exposed to some of those photographs.”

                                                                                  Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, tried to focus on whether Abu Ghraib was the consequence of a larger detainee policy. “These acts of abuse were not the spontaneous actions of lower-ranking enlisted personnel,” Levin said. “These attempts to extract information from prisoners by abusive and degrading methods were clearly planned and suggested by others.” The senators repeatedly asked about General Miller’s trip to Iraq in 2003. Did the “Gitmo-izing” of Abu Ghraib—especially the model of using the M.P.s in “setting the conditions” for interrogations—lead to the abuses?

                                                                                  Cambone confirmed that Miller had been sent to Iraq with his approval, but insisted that the senators were “misreading General Miller’s intent.” Questioned on that point by Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, Cambone said, “I don’t know that I was being told, and I don’t know that General Miller said that there should be that kind of activity that you are ascribing to his recommendation.”

                                                                                  Reed then asked Taguba, “Was it clear from your reading of the [Miller] report that one of the major recommendations was to use guards to condition these prisoners?” Taguba replied, “Yes, sir. That was recommended on the report.”

                                                                                  At another point, after Taguba confirmed that military intelligence had taken control of the M.P.s following Miller’s visit, Levin questioned Cambone:

                                                                                  LEVIN: Do you disagree with what the general just said?
                                                                                  CAMBONE: Yes, sir.
                                                                                  LEVIN: Pardon?
                                                                                  CAMBONE: I do.

                                                                                  Taguba, looking back on his testimony, said, “That’s the reason I wasn’t in their camp—because I kept on contradicting them. I wasn’t about to lie to the committee. I knew I was already in a losing proposition. If I lie, I lose. And, if I tell the truth, I lose.”

                                                                                  Taguba had been scheduled to rotate to the Third Army’s headquarters, at Fort McPherson, Georgia, in June of 2004. He was instead ordered back to the Pentagon, to work in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. “It was a lateral assignment,” Taguba said, with a smile and a shrug. “I didn’t quibble. If you’re going to do that to me, well, O.K. We all serve at the pleasure of the President.” A retired four-star Army general later told Taguba that he had been sent to the job in the Pentagon so that he could “be watched.” Taguba realized that his career was at a dead end.

                                                                                  Later in 2004, Taguba encountered Rumsfeld and one of his senior press aides, Lawrence Di Rita, in the Pentagon Athletic Center. Taguba was getting dressed after a workout. “I was tying my shoes,” Taguba recalled. “I looked up, and there they were.” Rumsfeld, who was putting his clothes into a locker, recognized Taguba and said, “Hello, General.” Di Rita, who was standing beside Rumsfeld, said sarcastically, “See what you started, General? See what you started?”

                                                                                  Di Rita, who is now an official with Bank of America, recalled running into Taguba in the locker room but not his words. “Sounds like my brand of humor,” he said, in an e-mail. “A comment like that would have been in an attempt to lighten the mood for General Taguba.” (Di Rita added that Taguba had “my personal respect and admiration” and that of Rumsfeld. “He did a terrific job under difficult circumstances.”) However, Taguba was troubled by the encounter, and later told a colleague, “I’m now the problem.”

                                                                                  DENIABILITY

                                                                                  A dozen government investigations have been conducted into Abu Ghraib and detainee abuse. A few of them picked up on matters raised by Taguba’s report, but none followed through on the question of ultimate responsibility. Military investigators were precluded from looking into the role of Rumsfeld and other civilian leaders in the Pentagon; the result was that none found any high-level intelligence involvement in the abuse.

                                                                                  An independent panel headed by James R. Schlesinger, a former Secretary of Defense, did conclude that there was “institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels” for Abu Ghraib, but cleared Rumsfeld of any direct responsibility. In an August, 2004, report, the Schlesinger panel endorsed Rumsfeld’s complaints, citing “the reluctance to move bad news up the chain of command” as the most important factor in Washington’s failure to understand the significance of Abu Ghraib. “Given the magnitude of this problem, the Secretary of Defense and other senior DoD officials need a more effective information pipeline to inform them of high-profile incidents,” the report said. Schlesinger and his colleagues apparently were unaware of the early e-mail messages that had informed the Pentagon of Abu Ghraib.

                                                                                  The official inquiries consistently provided the public with less information about abuses than outside studies conducted by human-rights groups. In one case, in November, 2004, an Army investigation, by Brigadier General Richard Formica, into the treatment of detainees at Camp Nama, a Special Forces detention center at Baghdad International Airport, concluded that detainees who reported being sodomized or beaten were seeking sympathy and better treatment, and thus were not credible. For example, Army doctors had initially noted that a complaining detainee’s wounds were “consistent with the history [of abuse] he provided. . . . The doctor did find scars on his wrists and noted what he believed to be an anal fissure.” Formica had the detainee reëxamined two days later, by another doctor, who found “no fissure, and no scarring. . . . As a result, I did not find medical evidence of the sodomy.” In the case of a detainee who died in custody, Formica noted that there had been bruising to the “shoulders, chest, hip, and knees” but added, “It is not unusual for detainees to have minor bruising, cuts and scrapes.” In July, 2006, however, Human Rights Watch issued a fifty-three-page report on the “serious mistreatment” of detainees at Camp Nama and two other sites, largely based on witness accounts from Special Forces interrogators and others who served there.

                                                                                  Formica, asked to comment, wrote in an e-mail, “I conducted a thorough investigation . . . and stand by my report.” He said that “several issues” he discovered “were corrected.” His assignment, Formica noted, was to investigate a unit, and not to conduct “a systematic analysis of Special Operations activities.”

                                                                                  The Army also protected General Miller. Since 2002, F.B.I. agents at Guantánamo had been telling their superiors that their military counterparts were abusing detainees. The F.B.I. complaints were ignored until after Abu Ghraib. When an investigation was opened, in December, 2004, General Craddock, Rumsfeld’s former military aide, was in charge of the Army’s Southern Command, with jurisdiction over Guantánamo—he had been promoted a few months after Taguba’s visit to Rumsfeld’s office. Craddock appointed Air Force Lieutenant General Randall M. Schmidt, a straight-talking fighter pilot, to investigate the charges, which included alleged abuses during Miller’s tenure.

                                                                                  “I followed the bread-crumb trail,” Schmidt, who retired last year, told me. “I found some things that didn’t seem right. For lack of a camera, you could have seen in Guantánamo what was seen at Abu Ghraib.”

                                                                                  Schmidt found that Miller, with the encouragement of Rumsfeld, had focussed great attention on the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was believed to be the so-called “twentieth hijacker.” Qahtani was interrogated “for twenty hours a day for at least fifty-four days,” Schmidt told investigators from the Army Inspector General’s office, who were reviewing his findings. “I mean, here’s this guy manacled, chained down, dogs brought in, put in his face, told to growl, show teeth, and that kind of stuff. And you can imagine the fear.”

                                                                                  At Guantánamo, Schmidt told the investigators, Miller “was responsible for the conduct of interrogations that I found to be abusive and degrading. The intent of those might have been to be abusive and degrading to get the information they needed. . . . Did the means justify the ends? That’s fine. . . . He was responsible.”

                                                                                  Schmidt formally recommended that Miller be “held accountable” and “admonished.” Craddock rejected this recommendation and absolved Miller of any responsibility for the mistreatment of the prisoners. The Inspector General inquiry endorsed Craddock’s action. “I was open with them,” Schmidt told me, referring to the I.G. investigators. “I told them, ‘I’ll do anything to help you get the truth.’ ” But when he read their final report, he said, “I didn’t recognize the five hours of interviews with me.”

                                                                                  Schmidt learned of Craddock’s reversal the day before they were to meet with Rumsfeld, in July, 2005. Rumsfeld was in frequent contact with Miller about the progress of Qahtani’s interrogation, and personally approved the most severe interrogation tactics. (“This wasn’t just daily business, when the Secretary of Defense is personally involved,” Schmidt told the Army investigators.) Nonetheless, Schmidt was impressed by Rumsfeld’s demonstrative surprise, dismay, and concern upon being told of the abuse. “He was going, ‘My God! Did I authorize putting a bra and underwear on this guy’s head and telling him all his buddies knew he was a homosexual?’ ”

                                                                                  Schmidt was convinced. “I got to tell you that I never got the feeling that Secretary Rumsfeld was trying to hide anything,” he told me. “He got very frustrated. He’s a control guy, and this had gotten out of control. He got pissed.”

                                                                                  Rumsfeld’s response to Schmidt was similar to his expressed surprise over Taguba’s Abu Ghraib report. “Rummy did what we called ‘case law’ policy—verbal and not in writing,” Taguba said. “What he’s really saying is that if this decision comes back to haunt me I’ll deny it.”

                                                                                  Taguba eventually concluded that there was a reason for the evasions and stonewalling by Rumsfeld and his aides. At the time he filed his report, in March of 2004, Taguba said, “I knew there was C.I.A. involvement, but I was oblivious of what else was happening” in terms of covert military-intelligence operations. Later that summer, however, he learned that the C.I.A. had serious concerns about the abusive interrogation techniques that military-intelligence operatives were using on high-value detainees. In one secret memorandum, dated June 2, 2003, General George Casey, Jr., then the director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, issued a warning to General Michael DeLong, at the Central Command:

                                                                                  CIA has advised that the techniques the military forces are using to interrogate high value detainees (HVDs) . . . are more aggressive than the techniques used by CIA who is [sic] interviewing the same HVDs.

                                                                                  DeLong replied to Casey that the techniques in use were “doctrinally appropriate techniques,” in accordance with Army regulations and Rumsfeld’s direction.

                                                                                  THE TASK FORCE

                                                                                  Abu Ghraib had opened the door on the issue of the treatment of detainees, and from the beginning the Administration feared that the publicity would expose more secret operations and practices. Shortly after September 11th, Rumsfeld, with the support of President Bush, had set up military task forces whose main target was the senior leadership of Al Qaeda. Their essential tactic was seizing and interrogating terrorists and suspected terrorists; they also had authority from the President to kill certain high-value targets on sight. The most secret task-force operations were categorized as Special Access Programs, or S.A.P.s.

                                                                                  The military task forces were under the control of the Joint Special Operations Command, the branch of the Special Operations Command that is responsible for counterterrorism. One of Miller’s unacknowledged missions had been to bring the J.S.O.C.’s “strategic interrogation” techniques to Abu Ghraib. In special cases, the task forces could bypass the chain of command and deal directly with Rumsfeld’s office. A former senior intelligence official told me that the White House was also briefed on task-force operations.

                                                                                  The former senior intelligence official said that when the images of Abu Ghraib were published, there were some in the Pentagon and the White House who “didn’t think the photographs were that bad”—in that they put the focus on enlisted soldiers, rather than on secret task-force operations. Referring to the task-force members, he said, “Guys on the inside ask me, ‘What’s the difference between shooting a guy on the street, or in his bed, or in a prison?’ ” A Pentagon consultant on the war on terror also said that the “basic strategy was ‘prosecute the kids in the photographs but protect the big picture.’ ”

                                                                                  A recently retired C.I.A. officer, who served more than fifteen years in the clandestine service, told me that the task-force teams “had full authority to whack—to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’ ” the phrase for political assassination. “It was surrealistic what these guys were doing,” the retired operative added. “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the chief of station.”

                                                                                  J.S.O.C.’s special status undermined military discipline. Richard Armitage, the former Deputy Secretary of State, told me that, on his visits to Iraq, he increasingly found that “the commanders would say one thing and the guys in the field would say, ‘I don’t care what he says. I’m going to do what I want.’ We’ve sacrificed the chain of command to the notion of Special Operations and GWOT”—the global war on terrorism. “You’re painting on a canvas so big that it’s hard to comprehend,” Armitage said.

                                                                                  Thomas W. O’Connell, who resigned this spring after nearly four years as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, defended the task forces. He blamed the criticisms on the resentment of the rest of the military: “From my observation, the operations run by Special Ops units are extraordinarily open in terms of interagency visibility to embassies and C.I.A. stations—even to the point where there’s been a question of security.” O’Connell said that he dropped in unannounced to Special Operations interrogation centers in Iraq, “and the treatment of detainees was aboveboard.” He added, “If people want to say we’ve got a serious problem with Special Operations, let them say it on the record.”

                                                                                  Representative Obey told me that he had been troubled, before the Iraq war, by the Administration’s decision to run clandestine operations from the Pentagon, saying that he “found some of the things they were doing to be disquieting.” At the time, his Republican colleagues blocked his attempts to have the House Appropriations Committee investigate these activities. “One of the things that bugs me is that Congress has failed in its oversight abilities,” Obey said. Early last year, at his urging, his subcommittee began demanding a classified quarterly report on the operations, but Obey said that he has no reason to believe that the reports are complete.

                                                                                  A former high-level Defense Department official said that, when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Senator John Warner, then the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was warned “to back off” on the investigation, because “it would spill over to more important things.” A spokesman for Warner acknowledged that there had been pressure on the Senator, but said that Warner had stood up to it—insisting on putting Rumsfeld under oath for his May 7th testimony, for example, to the Secretary’s great displeasure.

                                                                                  An aggressive congressional inquiry into Abu Ghraib could have provoked unwanted questions about what the Pentagon was doing, in Iraq and elsewhere, and under what authority. By law, the President must make a formal finding authorizing a C.I.A. covert operation, and inform the senior leadership of the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees. However, the Bush Administration unilaterally determined after 9/11 that intelligence operations conducted by the military—including the Pentagon’s covert task forces—for the purposes of “preparing the battlefield” could be authorized by the President, as Commander-in-Chief, without telling Congress.

                                                                                  There was coördination between the C.I.A. and the task forces, but also tension. The C.I.A. officers, who were under pressure to produce better intelligence in the field, wanted explicit legal authority before aggressively interrogating high-value targets. A finding would give operatives some legal protection for questionable actions, but the White House was reluctant to put what it wanted in writing.

                                                                                  A recently retired high-level C.I.A. official, who served during this period and was involved in the drafting of findings, described to me the bitter disagreements between the White House and the agency over the issue. “The problem is what constituted approval,” the retired C.I.A. official said. “My people fought about this all the time. Why should we put our people on the firing line somewhere down the road? If you want me to kill Joe Smith, just tell me to kill Joe Smith. If I was the Vice-President or the President, I’d say, ‘This guy Smith is a bad guy and it’s in the interest of the United States for this guy to be killed.’ They don’t say that. Instead, George”—George Tenet, the director of the C.I.A. until mid-2004—“goes to the White House and is told, ‘You guys are professionals. You know how important it is. We know you’ll get the intelligence.’ George would come back and say to us, ‘Do what you gotta do.’ ”

                                                                                  Bill Harlow, a spokesman for Tenet, depicted as “absurd” the notion that the C.I.A. director told his agents to operate outside official guidelines. He added, in an e-mailed statement, “The intelligence community insists that its officers not exceed the very explicit authorities granted.” In his recently published memoir, however, Tenet acknowledged that there had been a struggle “to get clear guidance” in terms of how far to go during high-value-detainee interrogations.

                                                                                  The Pentagon consultant said in an interview late last year that “the C.I.A. never got the exact language it wanted.” The findings, when promulgated by the White House, were “very calibrated” to minimize political risk, and limited to a few countries; later, they were expanded, turning several nations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia into free-fire zones with regard to high-value targets. I was told by the former senior intelligence official and a government consultant that after the existence of secret C.I.A. prisons in Europe was revealed, in the Washington Post, in late 2005, the Administration responded with a new detainee center in Mauritania. After a new government friendly to the U.S. took power, in a bloodless coup d’état in August, 2005, they said, it was much easier for the intelligence community to mask secret flights there.

                                                                                  “The dirt and secrets are in the back channel,” the former senior intelligence officer noted. “All this open business—sitting in staff meetings, etc., etc.—is the Potemkin Village stuff. And the good guys—like Taguba—are gone.”

                                                                                  In some cases, the secret operations remained unaccountable. In an April, 2005, memorandum, a C.I.D. officer—his name was redacted—complained to C.I.D. headquarters, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, about the impossibility of investigating military members of a Special Access Program suspected of prisoner abuse:

                                                                                  [C.I.D.] has been unable to thoroughly investigate . . . due to the suspects and witnesses involvement in Special Access Programs (SAP) and/or the security classification of the unit they were assigned to during the offense under investigation. Attempts by Special Agents . . . to be “read on” to these programs has [sic] been unsuccessful.

                                                                                  The C.I.D. officer wrote that “fake names were used” by members of the task force; he also told investigators that the unit had a “major computer malfunction which resulted in them losing 70 per cent of their files; therefore, they can’t find the cases we need to review.”

                                                                                  The officer concluded that the investigation “does not need to be reopened. Hell, even if we reopened it we wouldn’t get any more information than we already have.”

                                                                                  CONSEQUENCES

                                                                                  Rumsfeld was vague, in his appearances before Congress, about when he had informed the President about Abu Ghraib, saying that it could have been late January or early February. He explained that he routinely met with the President “once or twice a week . . . and I don’t keep notes about what I do.” He did remember that in mid-March he and General Myers were “meeting with the President and discussed the reports that we had obviously heard” about Abu Ghraib.

                                                                                  Whether the President was told about Abu Ghraib in January (when e-mails informed the Pentagon of the seriousness of the abuses and of the existence of photographs) or in March (when Taguba filed his report), Bush made no known effort to forcefully address the treatment of prisoners before the scandal became public, or to reëvaluate the training of military police and interrogators, or the practices of the task forces that he had authorized. Instead, Bush acquiesced in the prosecution of a few lower-level soldiers. The President’s failure to act decisively resonated through the military chain of command: aggressive prosecution of crimes against detainees was not conducive to a successful career.

                                                                                  In January of 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. “This is your Vice,” he told Taguba. “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” No pleasantries were exchanged, although the two generals had known each other for years, and, Taguba said, “He offered no reason.” (A spokesperson for Cody said, “Conversations regarding general officer management are considered private personnel discussions. General Cody has great respect for Major General Taguba as an officer, leader, and American patriot.”)

                                                                                  “They always shoot the messenger,” Taguba told me. “To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.”

                                                                                  Taguba went on, “There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff”—the explicit images—“was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.” He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.

                                                                                  “From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
                                                                                  New Yorker

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                                                                                    Revealed: Bush's Presidential Signing Statements Have Been Used to Nullify Laws

                                                                                    English (US)  June 19th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                    By Brian Beutler, Media Consortium

                                                                                    Well, it's official: President Bush doesn't much respect the laws Congress passes. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report -- commissioned by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and released today -- confirms that Bush's use of presidential signing statements are, in fact, utterly without precedent.

                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                    Though they've been used by American presidents for about 200 years, signing statements -- edicts issued by the president to declare his intent to construe a provision within a law differently than Congress does -- are Constitutionally questionable. But George W. Bush's use of them far exceeds his predecessors', both in number and in severity, and he has consistently used them to flout the will of the legislative branch.

                                                                                    Though the GAO report makes no claims about the legitimacy of Bush's statements or of the use of statements in general, it indicates that, in practice, the statements have the effect of nullifying the law in question in about 30 percent of cases. The issues are important: They include accounting for Iraq war funding and security measures for the border patrol.

                                                                                    And that's just from the GAO's inquiry into the 11 signing statements Bush issued against appropriations acts in 2006, which constituted objections to 160 different provisions. Bush has released more than 100 signing statements in his presidency, taking exception to hundreds of provisions of the law.

                                                                                    The report was conducted fairly simply. GAO officials surveyed 19 of last year's 160 objections to determine how the statements had impacted the implementation of laws. According to the report: "We contacted the relevant agencies and asked them how they were executing the provisions. After evaluating the responses we received, we determined that agencies failed to execute six provisions as enacted."

                                                                                    Alongside the failures of law, the reports also list the rationales that the president used to strike down the provisions. For instance, GAO found that, by citing the Unitary Executive Theory, Bush allowed the Department of Defense to exclude "costs for any other contingency operations, such as those in Iraq" as Congress had mandated.

                                                                                    Indeed, it's the Unitary Executive Theory -- another Constitutionally dubious concept -- that has made Bush's use of signing statements especially damaging. Last year, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) inserted a provision into the Department of Defense emergency supplemental bill that would have criminalized the use of torture by U.S. military interrogators. In order to protect the measure's effectiveness, McCain included a provision that aimed to stop all interference by the President, save for a veto of the entire package. "The provisions of this section," it read, "shall not be superseded, except by a provision of law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act which specifically repeals, modifies, or supersedes the provisions of this section."

                                                                                    But upon signing the law, President Bush declared his intent to interpret the law "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power."

                                                                                    Supplying much of the jurisprudential weight to the president's practice has been Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who has written widely in support of the statements. In particular -- as The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage has reported -- in his dissent against the court's decision in the case of Hamdan vs. Donald Rumsfeld to block Guantanamo Bay military tribunals, Scalia wrote that "in its discussion of legislative history the court wholly ignores the president's signing statement, which explicitly set forth his understanding that the [Detainee Treatment Act] ousted jurisdiction over pending cases."

                                                                                    Scalia appears to have laid out his philosophy on signing statements in a 1986 memo, wherein he wrote, "Since the president's approval is just as important as that of the House or Senate, it seems to follow that the president's understanding of the bill should be just as important as that of Congress."

                                                                                    In 2006, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced legislation that would have forbidden federal courts from legitimating presidential signing statements and allowed Congress to bring up the question of their constitutionality before the Supreme Court. But the bill never made it to the Senate floor and expired at the end of the 109th Congress.

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                                                                                      Pope Benedict Argues Catholic Church 'Purified' Indigenous Peoples

                                                                                      English (US)  June 19th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                      Opinion

                                                                                      By David A. Love, The Black Commentator

                                                                                      During his recent trip to Latin America, Pope Benedict XVI offended millions when he arrogantly suggested that Catholicism had purified indigenous populations, and called the resurgence of indigenous religions a step backward. He also said the native populations were longing for Christianity, and had welcomed the Catholic priests at the time of European conquest.

                                                                                      He tried to clean it up afterwards by noting the, "sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous populations whose human and basic rights often were trampled," but the damage was done.

                                                                                      The Pope seems to have selective amnesia when it comes to the Church and its horrendous history of human rights disasters against people of color.

                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                      This happens at a time when Catholicism is becoming an increasingly southern religion and an increasingly brown religion. Roughly half of Catholics are in Latin America. Not only is the Pope out of step with the needs and everyday realities of the Third World, he is not speaking their language, and not owning up to the sins of the past.

                                                                                      Religious institutions have excused, aided and abetted crimes throughout history. Indeed, the church has much to atone for. There are three bulls (edicts, or executive orders, if you will) issued by the Papacy with which we should concern ourselves. The Dum Diversas, issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452, authorized King Alfonso V of Portugal to reduce any "Saracens (Muslims) and pagans and any other unbelievers" to perpetual slavery, thereby ushering in the West African slave trade.

                                                                                      The Romanus Pontifex, also issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1455, sanctioned the seizure of non-Christian lands, and encouraged the enslavement of non-Christian people in Africa and the Americas. Specifically, it gave the green light to "invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed," all for profit, and in the name of Jesus Christ.

                                                                                      The Inter Caetera, signed by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, states, "... we (the Papacy) command you (Spain) ... to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents and dwellers therein in the Catholic faith, and train them in good morals." This papal law sanctioned and paved the way for European colonization and Catholic missions in the New World.

                                                                                      These three edicts opened the floodgates for everything that followed, the raping, pillaging, kidnapping, genocide and enslavement of millions. They established the groundwork for the global slave trade of the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Age of Imperialism. Speaking of organized crime, at this time I'm reminded of a famous line from the movie The Godfather, referring to the drug trade: "In my city, we'd keep the traffic in the Dark People, the Coloreds -- they're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls."

                                                                                      Despite the changing color of the church, there has been no pope from outside Europe in centuries, since the days of the African popes. And today, the current pope seems to want to perpetuate the paternalism and the racism of the past. The church is behind the times and out of step with the modern world and the needs of the poor. Its unhealthy view toward sexuality has destroyed the innocence of youth, through child abuse scandals. Its homophobia is callous and hypocritical. And its condemnation of reproductive freedom and contraception -- stemming from a vow of celibacy for priests and nuns that had more to do with preventing clergy from having heirs who would inherit church property, and less to do with spirituality -- is irresponsible, in light of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, home to the lion's share of AIDS cases.

                                                                                      In Brazil, Pentecostalismism is on the rise. There have been efforts to incorporate African rites and drums into Catholic services, in an effort to become more dynamic and more relevant. Yet, in the most African nation outside of Africa, and the world's largest Roman Catholic nation, there are only 11 Black bishops out of 400.

                                                                                      In Latin America, liberation theology remains influential. This school of theology, which focuses on social justice and political activism for the poor, challenges people in high places, and views Jesus as liberator of the oppressed, is rejected by the Vatican. In fact, Pope Benedict has devoted his career to eradicating liberation theology and its supporters, which he rejects as Marxist-inspired, and "a threat to the faith of the church."

                                                                                      What we are witnessing is the ancient struggle between imperial religion -- the arrogant manipulation of God to endorse the powerful, protect the rich and maintain the status quo -- and the use of faith as a force for social change. Look at the Christian Right's endorsement of Bush as "God's President," as he presides over the largest transfer of wealth in the nation's history, turns his back on New Orleans, appoints Christian Right attorneys to suppress the voting rights of African Americans, and sponsors the carnage taking place in Iraq. And on the other hand, remember Gandhi, who used Hindu spirituality and civil disobedience to liberate India from the British Empire. Remember Dr. King, who condemned Jim Crow segregation, poverty at home and an immoral war in Vietnam, as conservative Christians met him with brutality and death threats and moderate Christian clergy urged him to slow down. This is nothing new.

                                                                                      No longer can the great father on high dictate to the masses of colored children. Eradicating poverty, empowering the weak and seeking justice for all are the wave of the future. Glorifying a past that was a nightmare to many, and denying people their basic dignity and cultural self-determination, the Pope and other rusty, outdated institutions must get on the right side of justice, or find themselves relegated to the dustbin of history.

                                                                                      Black Commentator Columnist David A. Love is an attorney based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project and McClatchy-Tribune News Service. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention and Prisons (St. Martin's Press, 2000).

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                                                                                        A Moratorium Wired to Stop the War

                                                                                        English (US)  June 19th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                        By Jeremy Brecher & Brendan Smith

                                                                                        Though Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq by more than two to one, they don't seem to be expressing that disapproval to anyone but pollsters. A plan to establish a monthly Iraq Moratorium Day may provide a way for them to do so.

                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                        Refitting an idea from the Vietnam era to the age of the Internet, organizers of the Iraq Moratorium Day are inviting ordinary Americans to demand an end to the war in targeted activities in their local communities and viral activities online. The goal is a "monthly expression of determination to end the war."

                                                                                        The initiators, a handful of individuals from different corners of the antiwar movement, are asking people to make a simple pledge:

                                                                                        "I hereby make a commitment that on Friday, September 21, 2007, and the third Friday of every subsequent month I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq."

                                                                                        US Labor Against the War and Progressive Democrats of America have already signed on to the Moratorium effort. Individual supporters include some of the usual suspects in the antiwar movement--Susan Sarandon, Howard Zinn, Anne Wright, Tom Hayden and Eve Ensler, as well as Edwidge Danticat, Danny Glover and Gold Star dad Fernando Suarez de Solar. But the movement is also tapping unusual suspects like Adam Neiman, CEO of the fair-trade fashion house No Sweat, actress Mercedes Ruehl and the antiwar Freeway Blogger.

                                                                                        "We felt that it was critical to move beyond the periodic national demonstrations in Washington, DC, New York and/or San Francisco, and instead develop and advance an approach that encourages increasingly massive local actions that suggests, more than anything else, no more business-as-usual," said Bill Fletcher Jr., a Moratorium organizer who is former president of TransAfrica Forum. "The Iraq Moratorium will allow local actions integrally connected at a national level such that each effort is understood and felt to be part of a national movement without at the same time creating a new organization or coalition."

                                                                                        Moratorium activities will range from wearing black armbands to not buying gas; from writing letters to politicians and the media to vigils, rallies and teach-ins; from special religious services to music, art and cultural events; from film showings and lectures to student-initiated alternative classes.

                                                                                        Organizers will work with netroots activists to post video of Moratorium activities on the site and on YouTube and similar sites. Poetry about the war will be solicited, and website visitors will be asked to help choose the best to be included in an anthology. Working groups have been formed to spread the word in the blogosphere.

                                                                                        Poised to participate is Joseph DeLappe, an art professor at the University of Nevada who has become a minor sensation on YouTube for Dead in Iraq, an online memorial and protest. For the past fourteen months he has periodically logged on to America's Army, a Pentagon-funded online video game designed to lure new young recruits to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he refuses to play the game according to Pentagon rules.

                                                                                        Once online, DeLappe's avatar immediately drops his weapon and waits to die by the hand of one of the more than 10 million "virtual warriors" who play regularly. After he is killed, DeLappe begins typing in the name, age, service branch and the date of death of soldiers who have died in Iraq. His goal is to record each of the more than 3,500 US military deaths to date. DeLappe views the Internet as a logical place for Moratorium protests to unfold.

                                                                                        "The Moratorium project is important in that it creates an opportunity to involve individuals in actions, however small, in bringing an end to this war," DeLappe told The Nation. "I sense that people want to be involved yet are frustrated by traditional modes of protest that are more often than not ignored by the media and politicians. We must find creative ways to utilize the new modes of communication made possible through the Internet. The fact that so much of what is new and interesting on the net is, in fact, user-created (YouTube, flickr, etc.) provides a wellspring of unique opportunities for protest."

                                                                                        The Vietnam Moratorium

                                                                                        On April 29, 1969, a group of antiwar student body presidents and campus newspaper editors--led by David Hawk, a divinity student on leave from Union Theological Seminary active in Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign, who had recently refused military induction--met with top Nixon Administration officials Henry Kissinger and John Ehrlichman in the White House Situation Room. On their way out, the student leaders told the press, "We have to resume our efforts to stop the war, because these people aren't going to."

                                                                                        Meanwhile, Boston businessman Jerome Grossman proposed a series of short, monthly general strikes to "enable a broad segment of the American people to participate in a legal and traditional protest action which will have a painful effect upon all with power and influence."

                                                                                        Hawk and other activists quickly signed on to the idea of the escalating monthly actions, but to make them sound less confrontational they changed the label from a general strike to the Vietnam Moratorium. They opened an office in Washington and began tracking down hundreds of students leaders on summer vacation. Their plan was to roll out the first Moratorium on campuses October 15, then start recruiting in the surrounding communities for the second Moratorium a month later.

                                                                                        "Our strategy got blown out of the water, because it caught on like wildfire," Hawk said. Veteran peace activist Sidney Peck said the Moratorium "allowed people to express their opposition to the war in a way that was comfortable. It could be wearing an armband, it could be honking your horn, it could be leaving your lights on. No matter what your politics were, if you were against the war, here was a chance to express it."

                                                                                        The Moratorium won significant political support. Representative Morris Udall, who was running for Speaker of the House, told a Moratorium staffer who had asked for his endorsement, "I can do more if I'm Speaker, and I won't be Speaker if I do this." The next morning, Udall called the staffer back. "Look, I've thought about it overnight and haven't slept very much. What I said to you last night is fundamentally wrong. I ought to do what I think is the right thing to do, not what is...politically expedient. Use my name."

                                                                                        Millions of Americans in thousands of communities participated in the first Vietnam Moratorium Day. Everywhere it was different--candlelight processions, readings of the names of Americans killed in the war, church services, public meetings. White-coated doctors, dark-suited lawyers and young suburban mothers joined the protests. Life Magazine called it "a display without historical parallel, the largest expression of public dissent ever seen in this country."

                                                                                        A second Moratorium a month later coincided with a planned November 15 rally in Washington. Crowds estimated by the newspapers at 250,000 and by independent observers as nearly a million, streamed into Washington. Attorney General John Mitchell told his wife, "Looking out the Justice Department it looked like the Russian revolution."

                                                                                        By then, though, the leadership of the peace movement was splintering and the Moratorium movement was running out of steam. But in retrospect, some historians say it played a significant role in forestalling further escalation of the Vietnam War. Unbeknownst to those planning the Moratorium, Nixon was simultaneously planning Operation Duck Hook, which would include massive bombing of Hanoi, the mining of rivers and harbors, the bombing of dikes, a ground invasion of North Vietnam and perhaps even the use of nuclear weapons. According to Who Spoke Up?, a history of the anti-Vietnam War movement by Nancy Zaroulis and Gerald Sullivan, "The antiwar sentiment generated and aired in the fall of 1969 made it politically impossible for the President to proceed with his plan. As a result, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese and American lives were spared."

                                                                                        Macro Protest, Micro Protest

                                                                                        Since the US invasion of Iraq, except for a small corps of antiwar activists, efforts to bring demonstrators to the streets have consistently faltered. The Moratorium idea developed in recognition of the fact that the antiwar movement needs to adapt to the forms of self-expression that people find most congenial today--even if they are very different from the mass mobilizations that drew people in the past.

                                                                                        If people go to Amazon instead of the bookstore, Netflix instead of the movie theater and MySpace to meet new friends, perhaps the media and the antiwar movement shouldn't just be counting how many people show up at demonstrations in Washington, DC, to measure the scope of social protest.

                                                                                        Micro-resistance may well be the mobilization of the future, with people exploring new kinds of protest wherever they can, whether at the computer or on the local street corner. If so, the question for organizers is how to connect and amplify the thousands of antiwar micro-activities that go unnoticed every day.

                                                                                        The Iraq Moratorium could link and amplify the micro-protests as varied as Joseph DeLappe's online activism and the small but eloquent voice of Cameron Penny.

                                                                                        Penny, a 12-year-old poet from Michigan, likewise exemplifies the principle: "Cast down your protest where you may." A poem he wrote stunned the audience at a Poets Against the War reading in New York City:

                                                                                        If you are lucky in this life
                                                                                        A window will appear on a battlefield between two armies
                                                                                        And when the soldiers look into the window
                                                                                        They don't see their enemies
                                                                                        They see themselves as children
                                                                                        And they stop fighting
                                                                                        And go home and go to sleep
                                                                                        When they wake up, the land is well again.

                                                                                        Can a moratorium work today? The Iraq War, fought with a volunteer army, so far hasn't sparked the level of college protests students felt then, with the draft breathing down their necks. But opposition to presidential war policy is far more widespread now than in 1969, when Americans supported President Nixon's handling of the Vietnam war two to one.

                                                                                        To some, Penny's poem represents merely the innocent dreams of a child; DeLappe's actions may seem little more than a gesture of high-tech despair. But if the Moratorium can link a child poet's dream of peace, an artist's interference and a Pentagon war game, it might also open a virtual window on a very real battlefield.

                                                                                        The Nation

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                                                                                          Laboratory for a Fortressed World

                                                                                          English (US)  June 19th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                          By Naomi Klein

                                                                                          Gaza in the hands of Hamas, with masked militants sitting in the president's chair; the West Bank on the edge; Israeli army camps hastily assembled in the Golan Heights; a spy satellite over Iran and Syria; war with Hezbollah a hair trigger away; a scandal-plagued political class facing a total loss of public faith.

                                                                                          At a glance, things aren't going well for Israel. But here's a puzzle: Why, in the midst of such chaos and carnage, is the Israeli economy booming like it's 1999, with a roaring stock market and growth rates nearing China's?

                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                          Thomas Friedman recently offered his theory in the New York Times. Israel "nurtures and rewards individual imagination," and so its people are constantly spawning ingenious high-tech start-ups--no matter what messes their politicians are making. After perusing class projects by students in engineering and computer science at Ben Gurion University, Friedman made one of his famous fake-sense pronouncements: Israel "had discovered oil." This oil, apparently, is located in the minds of Israel's "young innovators and venture capitalists," who are too busy making megadeals with Google to be held back by politics.

                                                                                          Here's another theory: Israel's economy isn't booming despite the political chaos that devours the headlines but because of it. This phase of development dates back to the mid-'90s, when Israel was in the vanguard of the information revolution--the most tech-dependent economy in the world. After the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, Israel's economy was devastated, facing its worst year since 1953. Then came 9/11, and suddenly new profit vistas opened up for any company that claimed it could spot terrorists in crowds, seal borders from attack and extract confessions from closed-mouthed prisoners.

                                                                                          Within three years, large parts of Israel's tech economy had been radically repurposed. Put in Friedmanesque terms: Israel went from inventing the networking tools of the "flat world" to selling fences to an apartheid planet. Many of the country's most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel's status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of twenty-four-hour-a-day showroom--a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war. And the reason Israel is now enjoying supergrowth is that those companies are busily exporting that model to the world.

                                                                                          Discussions of Israel's military trade usually focus on the flow of weapons into the country--US-made Caterpillar bulldozers used to destroy homes in the West Bank and British companies supplying parts for F-16s. Overlooked is Israel's huge and expanding export business. Israel now sends $1.2 billion in "defense" products to the United States--up dramatically from $270 million in 1999. In 2006 Israel exported $3.4 billion in defense products--well over a billion more than it received in US military aid. That makes Israel the fourth-largest arms dealer in the world, overtaking Britain.

                                                                                          Much of this growth has been in the so-called "homeland security" sector. Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry. By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector will reach $1.2 billion--an increase of 20 percent. The key products and services are high-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems--precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.

                                                                                          And that is why the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region doesn't threaten the bottom line in Tel Aviv, and may actually boost it. Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the "global war on terror."

                                                                                          It's no coincidence that the class projects at Ben Gurion that so impressed Friedman have names like "Innovative Covariance Matrix for Point Target Detection in Hyperspectral Images" and "Algorithms for Obstacle Detection and Avoidance." Thirty homeland security companies were launched in Israel in the past six months alone, thanks in large part to lavish government subsidies that have transformed the Israeli army and the country's universities into incubators for security and weapons start-ups (something to keep in mind in the debates about the academic boycott).

                                                                                          Next week, the most established of these companies will travel to Europe for the Paris Air Show, the arms industry's equivalent of Fashion Week. One of the Israeli companies exhibiting is Suspect Detection Systems (SDS), which will be showcasing its Cogito1002, a white, sci-fi-looking security kiosk that asks air travelers to answer a series of computer-generated questions, tailored to their country of origin, while they hold their hand on a "biofeedback" sensor. The device reads the body's reactions to the questions, and certain responses flag the passenger as "suspect."

                                                                                          Like hundreds of other Israeli security start-ups, SDS boasts that it was founded by veterans of Israel's secret police and that its products were road-tested on Palestinians. Not only has the company tried out the biofeedback terminals at a West Bank checkpoint; it claims the "concept is supported and enhanced by knowledge acquired and assimilated from the analysis of thousands of case studies related to suicide bombers in Israel."

                                                                                          Another star of the Paris Air Show will be Israeli defense giant Elbit, which plans to showcase its Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned air vehicles. As recently as May, according to press reports, Israel used the drones on bombing missions in Gaza. Once tested in the territories, they are exported abroad: The Hermes has already been used at the Arizona-Mexico border; Cogito1002 terminals are being auditioned at an unnamed US airport; and Elbit, one of the companies behind Israel's "security barrier," has partnered with Boeing to construct the Department of Homeland Security's $2.5 billion "virtual" border fence around the United States.

                                                                                          Since Israel began its policy of sealing off the occupied territories with checkpoints and walls, human rights activists have often compared Gaza and the West Bank to open-air prisons. But in researching the explosion of Israel's homeland security sector, a topic I explore in greater detail in a forthcoming book (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism), it strikes me that they are something else too: laboratories where the terrifying tools of our security states are being field-tested. Palestinians--whether living in the West Bank or what the Israeli politicians are already calling "Hamasistan"--are no longer just targets. They are guinea pigs.

                                                                                          So in a way Friedman is right: Israel has struck oil. But the oil isn't the imagination of its techie entrepreneurs. The oil is the war on terror, the state of constant fear that creates a bottomless global demand for devices that watch, listen, contain and target "suspects." And fear, it turns out, is the ultimate renewable resource.

                                                                                          The Nation

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                                                                                            Hamas' Shock and Awe

                                                                                            English (US)  June 18th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                            By Sam Bahour

                                                                                            The recent overrunning of Gaza by Hamas militants was the equivalent to the United States’ Shock and Awe campaign in Iraq. Both campaigns were conducted outside the realm of international law and were violent and brutal, albeit each relative to their respective resources and internal contexts; both claimed to be ‘preemptive’ in nature; and both events placed the Palestinian people and struggle for national liberation in even a more precarious position.

                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                            Shock and Awe is a US invention in the same way that the US flavor of “shrink wrapped” democracy is a US creation. As the Bush Administration failed to export its understanding of democracy to Iraq via the US military, the US’s second regional blunder was trying to impose US democracy in occupied Palestine by using a proxy governing body called the Palestinian Authority. The US’s weapon of choice for Palestine was to dangle millions of dollars as bait, there for the taking if the Palestinian leadership showed total obedience. While US and other donor countries channeled billions of dollars to ‘promote’ democracy and ‘build’ Palestinian security forces, Hamas was busy learning the intricacies of the US game of military shock and awe and imposed democracy. During the last 17 months, Hamas attempted both, successfully: they won democratically held elections, as confirmed by election observer President Jimmy Carter, and then went on to overrun Gaza by brute force.

                                                                                            One thing Hamas did not do during this short time was govern. Correctly blaming their inability to govern on the Israeli and US-led economic blockade and the blatantly illegal Israeli policy of arresting Hamas-affiliated ministers and lawmakers, Hamas was given a free ride -- permitted to sit in the seat of authority without having to assume the full responsibility of governance. Instead of respecting the outcome of elections that one if its own past presidents monitored, the US allowed the Palestinian people to remain unable to define Hamas either as a legitimate governing body or as a failed experience. US meddling in other peoples internal affairs is the norm in the Middle East, but in Palestine, that norm was violently challenged last week in Gaza.

                                                                                            While Palestinian President Yasir Arafat was still alive, the US initiated the process of restructuring the Palestinian political system. The US forced Arafat to accept the creation of the position of prime minister, then they proceeded to demand that the bulk of the Palestinian President’s authority be transferred from President Arafat to the newly appointed Prime Minister. Then the US created a series of political hoops that Arafat would have to jump through to remain in the political game, of which the most relevant given today’s crisis was the restructuring of the Palestinian security forces. Millions of dollars and tons of equipment were dumped on the multitude of Palestinian security agencies and a high-profile US security ‘expert,’ U.S. Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, set up shop in Israel to make sure the Palestinian security forces were developing strategically, those same security agencies that were overrun in Gaza in a matter of hours. Then, Palestinians, under extreme pressure from the US, held legislative and municipal elections and when the results were not to the US’s liking, the Bush Administration mobilized the world to boycott the Palestinians -- people and government alike.

                                                                                            While all of this was going on, Israel maintained its hypocritical posture of the past 10 years -- talking peace while at the same time destroying any chances for a peaceful settlement. In the hopeful days of the Oslo Peace Accords, Israel accelerated its illegal Jewish-only settlement-building in the West Bank like never before. When a Jewish extremist assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Oslo framework was, for all intents and purposes, buried with him. To make sure the central Oslo principle of ‘land for peace’ would never be resurrected, Israel violently increased its attempts to bring about the collapse of Palestinian society via ‘targeted’ assassinations, home demolitions, uprooting of olive groves, over 500 military checkpoints, withholding $800 million in Palestinian tax revenues, nightly arrests, building of an internationally-proclaimed illegal separation wall on Palestinian lands, and on and on. This is the true context leading to the violence in Gaza. All of this -- and the international community watched, while continuing to fund the status quo and, all the while, referencing Israeli obligations in the already buried Oslo Peace Accords.

                                                                                            Thus, today’s events did not drop out of the sky unexpectedly. A 4-part mixture of 40 years of Israeli occupation, a US-led coup to collapse a democratically elected Palestinian government, a shift in internal Palestinian power-sharing after over 40 years of a single-party monopoly on authority, and most importantly, the international community’s failure to uphold its obligations under International Humanitarian Law – the Fourth Geneva Convention to be specific: All contributed to bringing us to where we are today.

                                                                                            The international community has a clear decision to make, and the decision must be made now. Will the community of nations bring about an abrupt end to the four-decade-old Israeli occupation that has caused so much death and destruction to both Palestinians and Israelis? To end the occupation today would mean to do the near impossible task of salvaging a sovereign Palestinian state on all of the land that was acquired by force by Israel in 1967. Barring this, the international community will likely continue to appease the Israeli occupiers, thereby forcing the Palestinians to revert back to calling for possibly the only remaining viable solution, the formal creation of one state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River for all its citizens.

                                                                                            Given the Israeli refusal, even today, to classify the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as “occupied lands” and the refusal to mark the Green Line (1949 Armistice Line) in most of the textbooks in their schools, all indications are that the Israelis have already decided that there is no room, on the ground, for another state between Israel and Jordan, although in cheap verbal discourse one may be led to believe that such a state already exists and that its citizens are squabbling over ministerial positions.

                                                                                            The US and Israel, drunk on power and addicted to war, have enlisted many in the region to do their dirty work. As the US and Israel try to distance themselves from their many colossal failures -- from Iraq to Palestine -- by engineering the creation of banana republics to serve their narrow self-interests, millions of common folk fall deeper into poverty and extremism.

                                                                                            Palestinians may be at a low point in their history and corrective action is undoubtedly on the horizon. The Palestinian people have a collective memory like that of an elephant, and as such the rampage and killings in Gaza by fellow Palestinians will not be legitimized or swept under the rug. Most likely, Hamas’ brutal actions in Gaza will mark the beginning of the end of Hamas as we know it today. With Hamas in the picture, or otherwise, the Palestinians will maintain a pluralistic society and political system that will continue to resist, as has been the case since the outset of this struggle, all foreign intervention in its internal affairs, be it Western, Iranian or Arab.

                                                                                            The present is volatile and the future is bleak, but one thing remains constant: When all the dust settles, there will still be an occupied and dispersed people -- the Palestinians -- and a colonial, military occupier -- Israel. No Shock and Awe campaign, from Hamas or Israel, and no imposed democracy, from Fatah or the US, will change this equation. Until Palestinians are free -- all Palestinians -- the world would be well advised, for all our sakes, not to turn its back on our just struggle.

                                                                                            Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in El-Bireh/Ramallah. He can be reached at sbahour@palnet.com.

                                                                                            1294 words posted in Human Rights, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                              Israel plans slaughter in Gaza

                                                                                              English (US)  June 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                              Published on Sunday, June 17, 2007 by the Sunday Times/UK

                                                                                              Israel Plans Attack on Gaza
                                                                                              By Uzi Mahnaimi

                                                                                              ISRAEL’s new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there.

                                                                                              According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas’s military capability in days.

                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                              The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings.

                                                                                              Barak, who is expected to become defence minister tomorrow, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armoured divisions and an infantry division, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets, against Hamas.

                                                                                              The Israeli forces would expect to be confronted by about 12,000 Hamas fighters with arms confiscated from the Fatah faction that they defeated in last week’s three-day civil war in Gaza.

                                                                                              Details of the plan emerged as Fatah forces in the West Bank stormed Hamas-run buildings, including the parliament in Ramallah, where they tried to seize the deputy speaker.

                                                                                              Israeli officials believe their forces would face even tougher resistance in Gaza than they encountered during last summer’s war against Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

                                                                                              A source close to Barak said that Israel could not tolerate an aggressive “Hamastan” on its border and an attack seemed unavoidable.

                                                                                              “The question is not if but how and when,” he said.

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                                                                                                Israel gears up for its "final solution" in Gaza

                                                                                                English (US)  June 17th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                Israel moves to 'isolate' Hamas


                                                                                                Gazans are stocking up on food, water and medicines amid fears that Israel will stop deliveries

                                                                                                An Israeli energy company has cut back fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip as Israel attempts to isolate the Hamas movement after it took control of the coastal territory.

                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                "We are still providing fuel for Gaza power stations, but not for smaller gas stations," a spokeswoman for Dor Alon, one of Israel's largest fuel companies, said on Sunday.

                                                                                                The announcement came as Ephrain Sneh, the deputy defence minister, told Israeli public radio that army units had taken up positions in the northern Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                "These are activities of a preventive character, for the moment we are not going on the offensive in the Gaza Strip," he said.

                                                                                                The troops were positioned on the sites of two former Jewish settlements that were dismantled in 2005.

                                                                                                Military planning

                                                                                                Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said: "We understand that the government has asked the Israeli army to do some scenario planning ... for if Israel were to deem it was in its interests to go into Gaza and attempt to take out Hamas."

                                                                                                "Apparently they are looking at scenarios that would deploy maybe 20,000 Israeli troops. But this is very much a contigency plan being worked out on the assumption that rocket attacks and weapons smuggling will continue."

                                                                                                Earlier, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's infrastructure minister whose office controls fuel supplies, called for a complete separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

                                                                                                "We should simply increase the isolation of Gaza," Ben-Eliezer told Israel's army radio. "I want to stop everything until we understand what is going on there."

                                                                                                Israeli media said that the cutting off of Dor Alon's supplies would mean that most vehicles in Gaza could grind to a halt within two weeks.

                                                                                                "For the moment we have fuel, but we don't know if this fuel will last for several days," Mahmud, who works at a petrol station in Gaza City, said. "The people are afraid that with an extended Israeli closure, it will run out."

                                                                                                Israel insisted that the company had cut off supplies to Gaza at the request of Mahmoud Abbas's government, but the Palestinian president's aides vigorously denied the charge.

                                                                                                Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Abbas, said he had asked Israel to allow fuel and raw materials to continue reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza.

                                                                                                "I have spoken to the Israelis about President Abbas's request to maintain the flow of food, medical supplies, fuel, electricity and water to Gaza," he said.

                                                                                                Food fears

                                                                                                Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Gaza Strip, said there was a panic situation in the territory because of reports that Israel would stop food supplies.

                                                                                                "Throughout the past two days we have seen people spend all that they have, all that they can spare ... to stock up on food supplies, extra water and fuel for the cars, and medicine they know or think they may need," she said.

                                                                                                "[Israel] won't be able to starve the Gaza Strip but things will become difficult. Already we have seen prices rising because of this fear and the depletion of resources."

                                                                                                Queues were reported outside bakeries and supermarkets across the territory.

                                                                                                "More and more people are coming, buying everything to store in their house," Samir Nasser, the owner of a small supermarket in western Gaza City, said. "They are afraid of a prolonged Israeli closure."

                                                                                                A senior official travelling with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, on a visit to the US insisted that Israel would ensure the delivery of essential supplies.

                                                                                                "There will not be a humanitarian crisis in Gaza," the official said.

                                                                                                Crossings closed

                                                                                                Other Gazans are attempting to leave the impoverished territory where 80 per cent of the population depends on aid of some sort.


                                                                                                Hundreds of Palestinians have headed for
                                                                                                the Erez crossing into Israel

                                                                                                About 500 Palestinians, mostly women, children and the elderly, had gathered at the Erez crossing with Israel on Sunday, sitting on suitcases in the baking sun without food or water, witnesses said.

                                                                                                An Israeli army spokesman said hundreds of Palestinians had approached the fence.

                                                                                                "They were pushed back by soldiers firing in the air. Israel has no intention of allowing Palestinians to pass through. Only those who have special status can cross," he said.

                                                                                                Fighters from Hamas's armed wing have set up a checkpoint about 700 metres away to prevent any more people reaching the crossing.

                                                                                                International relief agencies urged Israel to reopen the crossings into Gaza crossing to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

                                                                                                "The crossings remaining closed is not an option. The Gaza Strip is entirely dependent of the importation of not just aid, but also commercial trade," John Ging, the head of the Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza (UNRWA), told the AFP news agency.

                                                                                                Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                  The Wages of Corruption and Occupation: Welcome to "Palestine"

                                                                                                  English (US)  June 16th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                  HOW DO WE DEAL WITH A COUP D'ETAT BY AN ELECTED GOVERNMENT?

                                                                                                  By ROBERT FISK

                                                                                                  How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party - Hamas - and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today "Palestine" - and let's keep those quotation marks in place - has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

                                                                                                  Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.

                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                  No one asked - on our side - which particular Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds - and goes on building - vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of "Palestine" still left to negotiate over?

                                                                                                  And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the "moderate" (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word "occupation", who always referred to Israeli "redeployment" rather than "withdrawal", a "leader" we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn't vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic - which is how Hamas's bloody victory will be represented - but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas's Fatah and the rotten nature of the "Palestinian Authority".

                                                                                                  I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps - or variations of them - were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer "Palestine" EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?

                                                                                                  All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our "war on terror" in the wastelands of Helmand province).

                                                                                                  We love Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose torturers have not yet finished with the Muslim Brotherhood politicians recently arrested outside Cairo, whose presidency received the warm support of Mrs - yes Mrs - George W Bush - and whose succession will almost certainly pass to his son, Gamal.

                                                                                                  We adore Muammar Gaddafi, the crazed dictator of Libya whose werewolves have murdered his opponents abroad, whose plot to murder King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia preceded Tony Blair's recent visit to Tripoli - Colonel Gaddafi, it should be remembered, was called a "statesman" by Jack Straw for abandoning his non-existent nuclear ambitions - and whose "democracy" is perfectly acceptable to us because he is on our side in the "war on terror".

                                                                                                  Yes, and we love King Abdullah's unconstitutional monarchy in Jordan, and all the princes and emirs of the Gulf, especially those who are paid such vast bribes by our arms companies that even Scotland Yard has to close down its investigations on the orders of our prime minister - and yes, I can indeed see why he doesn't like our coverage of what he quaintly calls "the Middle East". If only the Arabs - and the Iranians - would support our kings and shahs and princes whose sons and daughters are educated at Oxford and Harvard, how much easier the "Middle East" would be to control.

                                                                                                  For that is what it is about - control - and that is why we hold out, and withdraw, favours from their leaders. Now Gaza belongs to Hamas, what will our own elected leaders do? Will our pontificators in the EU, the UN, Washington and Moscow now have to talk to these wretched, ungrateful people (fear not, for they will not be able to shake hands) or will they have to acknowledge the West Bank version of Palestine (Abbas, the safe pair of hands) while ignoring the elected, militarily successful Hamas in Gaza?

                                                                                                  It's easy, of course, to call down a curse on both their houses. But that's what we say about the whole Middle East. If only Bashar al-Assad wasn't President of Syria (heaven knows what the alternative would be) or if the cracked President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wasn't in control of Iran (even if he doesn't actually know one end of a nuclear missile from the other).

                                                                                                  If only Lebanon was a home-grown democracy like our own little back-lawn countries - Belgium, for example, or Luxembourg. But no, those pesky Middle Easterners vote for the wrong people, support the wrong people, love the wrong people, don't behave like us civilised Westerners.

                                                                                                  So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticise Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say - as we are already saying of the Iraqis - that they don't deserve our sacrifice and our love.

                                                                                                  How do we deal with a coup d'état by an elected government?

                                                                                                  Robert Fisk writes for the Independent.

                                                                                                  Counterpunch

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                                                                                                    Crocodile Tears

                                                                                                    English (US)  June 16th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                    Palestinian Hamas supporters hold a portrait of deposed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at a rally Hamas group where he spoke in Gaza City, Friday, June 15, 2007. MaanImages/Wissam Nassar

                                                                                                    Uri Avnery is the head of the Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom, and a former member of the Israeli Knesset.

                                                                                                    By Uri Avnery

                                                                                                    WHAT HAPPENS when one and a half million human beings are imprisoned in a tiny, arid territory, cut off from their compatriots and from y contact with the outside world, starved by an economic blockade and unable to feed their families?

                                                                                                    Some months ago, I described this situation as a sociological experiment set up by Israel, the United States and the European Union. The population of the Gaza Strip as guinea pigs.

                                                                                                    The American aim is clear. President Bush has chosen a local leader for every Muslim country, who will rule it under American protection and follow American orders. In Iraq, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, and also in Palestine.

                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                    This week, the experiment showed results. They proved that human beings react exactly like other animals: when too many of them are crowded into a small area in miserable conditions, they become aggressive, and even murderous. The organizers of the experiment in Jerusalem, Washington, Berlin, Oslo, Ottawa and other capitals could rub their hands in satisfaction.

                                                                                                    The subjects of the experiment reacted as foreseen. Many of them even died in the interests of science.

                                                                                                    But the experiment is not yet over. The scientists want to know what happens if the blockade is tightened still further.

                                                                                                    WHAT HAS caused the present explosion in the Gaza Strip?

                                                                                                    The timing of Hamas' decision to take over the Strip by force was not accidental. Hamas had many good reasons to avoid it. The organization is unable to feed the population. It has no interest in provoking the Egyptian regime, which is busy fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, the mother-organization of Hamas. Also, the organization has no interest in providing Israel with a pretext for tightening the blockade.

                                                                                                    But the Hamas leaders decided that they had no alternative but to destroy the armed organizations that are tied to Fatah and take their orders from President Mahmoud Abbas. The US has ordered Israel to supply these organizations with large quantities of weapons, in order to enable them to fight Hamas. The Israeli army chiefs did not like the idea, fearing that the arms might end up in the hands of Hamas (as is actually happening now). But our government obeyed American orders, as usual.

                                                                                                    The American aim is clear. President Bush has chosen a local leader for every Muslim country, who will rule it under American protection and follow American orders. In Iraq, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, and also in Palestine.

                                                                                                    Hamas believes that the man marked for this job in Gaza is Mohammed Dahlan. For years it has looked as if he was being groomed for this position.

                                                                                                    The American and Israeli media have been singing his praises, describing him as a strong, determined leader, "moderate" (i.e. obedient to American orders) and "pragmatic" (i.e. obedient to Israeli orders). And the more the Americans and Israelis lauded Dahlan, the more they undermined his standing among the Palestinians. Especially as Dahlan was away in Cairo, as if waiting for his men to receive the promised arms.

                                                                                                    In the eyes of Hamas, the attack on the Fatah strongholds in the Gaza Strip is a preventive war. The organizations of Abbas and Dahlan melted like snow in the Palestinian sun. Hamas has easily taken over the whole Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                    How could the American and Israeli generals miscalculate so badly? They are able to think only in strictly military terms: so-and-so many soldiers, so-and-so many machine guns. But in interior struggles in particular, quantitative calculations are secondary. The morale of the fighters and public sentiment are far more important. The members of the Fatah organizations do not know what they are fighting for. The Gaza population supports Hamas, because they believe that it is fighting the Israeli occupier. Their opponents look like collaborators of the occupation. The American statements about their intention of arming them with Israeli weapons have finally condemned them.

                                                                                                    That is not a matter of Islamic fundamentalism. In this respect all nations are the same: they hate collaborators of a foreign occupier, whether they are Norwegian (Quisling), French (Petain) or Palestinian.

                                                                                                    IN WASHINGTON and Jerusalem, politicians are bemoaning the "weakness of Mahmoud Abbas".

                                                                                                    They see now that the only person who could prevent anarchy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was Yasser Arafat. He had a natural authority. The masses adored him. Even his adversaries, like Hamas, respected him. He created several security apparatuses that competed with each other, in order to prevent any single apparatus from carrying out a coup-d'etat. Arafat was able to negotiate, sign a peace agreement and get his people to accept it.

                                                                                                    But Arafat was pilloried by Israel as a monster, imprisoned in the Mukata'ah and, in the end, murdered. The Palestinian public elected Mahmoud Abbas as his successor, hoping that he would get from the Americans and the Israelis what they had refused to give to Arafat.

                                                                                                    If the leaders in Washington and Jerusalem had indeed been interested in peace, they would have hastened to sign a peace agreement with Abbas, who had declared that he was ready to accept the same far-reaching compromise as Arafat. The Americans and the Israelis heaped on him all conceivable praise and rebuffed him on every concrete issue.

                                                                                                    They did not allow Abbas even the slightest and most miserable achievement. Ariel Sharon plucked his feathers and then sneered at him as "a featherless chicken". After the Palestinian public had patiently waited in vain for Bush to move, it voted for Hamas, in the desperate hope of achieving by violence what Abbas has been unable to achieve by diplomacy.

                                                                                                    The Israeli leaders, both military and political, were overjoyed. They were interested in undermining Abbas, because he enjoyed Bush's confidence and because his stated position made it harder to justify their refusal to enter substantive negotiations. They did everything to demolish Fatah. To ensure this, they arrested Marwan Barghouti, the only person capable of keeping Fatah together.

                                                                                                    The victory of Hamas suited their aims completely. With Hamas one does not have to talk, to offer withdrawal from the occupied territories and the dismantling of settlements. Hamas is that contemporary monster, a "terrorist" organization, and with terrorists there is nothing to discuss.

                                                                                                    SO WHY were people in Jerusalem not satisfied this week? And why did they decide "not to interfere"?

                                                                                                    True, the media and the politicians, who have helped for years to incite the Palestinian organizations against each other, showed their satisfaction and boasted "we told you so". Look how the Arabs kill each other. Ehud Barak was right, when he said years ago that our country is "a villa in the jungle".

                                                                                                    But behind the scenes, voices of embarrassment, even anxiety, could be heard.

                                                                                                    The turning of the Gaza Strip into Hamastan has created a situation for which our leaders were not ready. What to do now? To cut off Gaza altogether and let the people there starve to death? To establish contacts with Hamas? To occupy Gaza again, now that it has become one big tank trap? To ask the UN to station international troops there - and if so, how many countries would be crazy enough to risk their soldiers in this hell?

                                                                                                    Our government has worked for years to destroy Fatah, in order to avoid the need to negotiate an agreement that would inevitably lead to the withdrawal from the occupied territories and the settlements there. Now, when it seems that this aim has been achieved, they have no idea what to do about the Hamas victory.

                                                                                                    They comfort themselves with the thought that it cannot happen in the West Bank. There, Fatah reigns. There Hamas has no foothold. There our army has already arrested most of Hamas' political leaders. There Abbas is still in power.

                                                                                                    Thus speak the generals, with the generals' logic. But in the West Bank, too, Hamas did win a majority in the last elections. There, too, it is only a matter of time before the population loses its patience. They see the expansion of the settlements, the Wall, the incursions of our army, the targeted assassinations, the nightly arrests. They will explode.

                                                                                                    Successive Israeli governments have destroyed Fatah systematically, cut off the feet of Abbas and prepared the way for Hamas. They can't pretend to be surprised.

                                                                                                    WHAT TO DO? To go on boycotting Abbas or to provide him with arms, to enable him to fight for us against Hamas? To go on depriving him of any political achievement or to throw him some crumbs at long last? And anyway, isn't it too late?

                                                                                                    (And on the Syrian front: to go on paying lip service to peace while sabotaging all the efforts of Bashar Assad to start negotiations? To negotiate secretly, despite American objections? Or continue doing nothing at all?)

                                                                                                    At present, there is no policy, and no government which could determine a policy.

                                                                                                    So who will save us? Ehud Barak?

                                                                                                    Barak's victory in this week's Labor Party leadership run-off has turned him almost automatically into the next Minister of Defense. His strong personality and his experience as Chief of Staff and Prime Minister assure him of a dominant position in the restructured government. Olmert will deal with the area in which he is an unmatched master - party machinations. But Barak will have a decisive influence on policy.

                                                                                                    In the government of the two Ehuds, Ehud Barak will decide on matters of war and peace.

                                                                                                    Until now, practically all his actions have had negative results. He came very close to an agreement with Assad the father and escaped at the last moment. He withdrew the Israeli army from South Lebanon, but without speaking with Hizbullah, which took over. He compelled Arafat to come to Camp David, insulted him there and declared that we have no partner for peace. This dealt a death blow to the chances of peace, a blow which still paralyzes the Israeli public. He has boasted that his real intention was to "unmask" Arafat. He was more of a failed Napoleon than an Israeli de Gaulle.

                                                                                                    Will the Ethiopian change his skin, the leopard his spots? Hard to believe.

                                                                                                    IN THE dramas of William Shakespeare, there is frequently a comic interlude at tense moments. And not only there.

                                                                                                    Shimon Peres, the person who in 55 years of political activity had never won an election, did the impossible this week: he got elected President of Israel.

                                                                                                    Many years ago, I entitled an article about him "Mr. Sisyphus", because again and again he had almost reached the threshold of success, and success had evaded him. Now he might feel like thumbing his nose at the gods after reaching the summit, but - alas - without the boulder. The office of the president is devoid of content and jurisdiction. A hollow politician in a hollow position.

                                                                                                    Now everybody expects a flurry of activity at the president's palace. There will certainly be peace conferences, meetings of personalities, high-sounding declarations and illustrious plans. In short - much ado about nothing.

                                                                                                    The practical result is that Olmert's position has been strengthened. He has succeeded in installing Peres in the President's office and Barak in the Ministry of Defense. In the short term, Olmert's position is assured.

                                                                                                    And in the meantime, the experiment in Gaza continues, Hamas is taking over and the trio - Ehud 1, Ehud 2 and Shimon Peres are shedding crocodile tears.

                                                                                                    Maan News Agency

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                                                                                                      A SORDID GAME: BUSH DOCTRINE ROUTED IN GAZA

                                                                                                      English (US)  June 15th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                      By ALI ABUMINAH

                                                                                                      The dramatic rout of the US and Israeli-backed Palestinian militias in Gaza by forces loyal to Hamas represents a major setback to the Bush doctrine in Palestine.

                                                                                                      Ever since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in the occupied territories in January 2006, elements of the leadership of the long-dominant Fatah movement, including Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his advisors have conspired with Israel, the United States and the intelligence services of several Arab states to overthrow and weaken Hamas. This support has included funneling weapons and tens of millions of dollars to unaccountable militias, particularly the "Preventive Security Force" headed by Gaza warlord Mohammad Dahlan, a close ally of Israel and the United States and the Abbas-affiliated "Presidential Guard." US Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams -- who helped divert money to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s and who was convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal -- has spearheaded the effort to set up these Palestinian Contras. Abrams is also notorious for helping to cover up massacres and atrocities committed against civilians in El Salvador by US-backed militias and death squads.

                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                      Two recent revelations underscore the extent of the conspiracy: on 7 June, Ha'aretz reported that "senior Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip have asked Israel to allow them to receive large shipments of arms and ammunition from Arab countries, including Egypt." According to the Israeli newspaper, Fatah asked Israel for "armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing RPG rockets, thousands of hand grenades and millions of rounds of ammunition for small caliber weapons," all to be used against Hamas.

                                                                                                      From the moment of its election victory, Hamas acted pragmatically and with the intent to integrate itself into the existing political structure. It had observed for over a year a unilateral ceasefire with Israel and had halted the suicide attacks on Israeli civilians that had made it notorious. In a leaked confidential memo written in May and published by The Guardian this week senior UN envoy Alvaro de Soto confirmed that it was under pressure from the United States that Abbas refused Hamas' initial invitation to form a "national unity government." De Soto details that Abbas advisers actively aided and abetted the Israeli-US-European Union aid cutoff and siege of the Palestinians under occupation, which led to massively increased poverty for millions of people. These advisors engaged with the United States in a "plot" to "bring about the untimely demise of the [Palestinian Authority] government led by Hamas," de Soto wrote.

                                                                                                      Despite a bloody attempted coup against Hamas by the Dahlan-led forces in December and January, Hamas still agreed to join a "National Unity Government" with Fatah brokered by Saudi Arabia at the Mecca summit. Dahlan and Abbas' advisers were determined to sabotage this, continuing to amass weapons, and refusing to place their militias under the control of a neutral interior minister who eventually resigned in frustration.

                                                                                                      A setback for United States and Israel

                                                                                                      The core of US strategy in the Southwest and Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon is to establish puppet regimes that will fight America's enemies on its behalf. This strategy seems to be failing everywhere. The Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan. Despite its "surge" the US is no closer to putting down the resistance in Iraq and cannot even trust the Iraqi army it helped set up. The Lebanese army, which the US hopes to bolster as a counterweight to Hizballah, has performed poorly against a few hundred foreign fighters holed up in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (although it has caused death and devastation to many innocent Palestinian refugees).

                                                                                                      Now in Gaza, the latest blow.

                                                                                                      Israel's policy is a local version of the US strategy -- and it has also been tried and failed. For over two decades Israel relied on a proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army, to help it enforce the occupation of southern Lebanon. In 2000, as Israeli forces hastily withdrew, this militia collapsed just as quickly as Dahlan's forces and many of its members fled to Israel. Hamas is now referring to the rout of Dahlan's forces as a "second liberation of Gaza."

                                                                                                      A consistent element of Israeli strategy has been to attempt to circumvent Palestinian resistance by trying to create quisling leaderships. Into the 1970s, Israel still saw the PLO as representing true resistance. So it set up the collaborationist "village leagues" in the West Bank as an alternative. In 1976, it allowed municipal elections in the West Bank in an effort to give this alternative leadership some legitimacy. When PLO-affiliated candidates swept the board, Israel began to assassinate the PLO mayors with car bombs or force them into exile. Once some exiled PLO leaders, most notably Yasser Arafat, became willing subcontractors of the occupation (an arrangement formalized by the Oslo Accords), a new resistance force emerged in the form of Hamas. Israeli efforts to back Dahlan and Abbas, Arafat's successor, as quisling alternatives have now backfired spectacularly.

                                                                                                      In the wake of the Fatah collapse in Gaza, Ha'aretz reported that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert will advise President Bush that Gaza must be isolated from the West Bank. This can be seen as an attempt to shore up Abbas whose survival Israel sees as essential to maintaining the fiction that it does not directly rule millions of disenfranchised Palestinians. A total collapse of the Palestinian Authority would expose Israel's legal obligation, as the occupying power, to provide for the welfare of the Palestinians it rules.

                                                                                                      What now for the Palestinian under occupation?

                                                                                                      Abbas has declared a "state of emergency" and dismissed Ismail Haniyeh the Hamas prime minister as well as the "national unity government." The "state of emergency" is merely rhetorical. Whatever control he had in Gaza is gone and Israel is in complete control of the West Bank anyway.

                                                                                                      Haniyeh in a speech this evening carried live on Al-Jazeera rejected Abbas' "hasty" moves and alleged that they were the result of pressure from abroad. He issued 16 points, among them that the "unity government" represented the will of 96 percent of Palestinians under occupation freely expressed at the ballot box. He reaffirmed his movement's commitment to democracy and the existing political system and that Hamas would not impose changes on people's way of life. Haniyeh said the government would continue to function, would restore law and order and reaffirm Hamas' commitment to national unity and the Mecca agreement. He called on all Hamas members to observe a general amnesty assuring any captured fighters of their safety (this followed media reports of a handful of summary executions of Fatah fighters). He also emphasized that Hamas' fight was not with Fatah as a whole, but only with those elements who had been actively collaborating -- a clear allusion to Dahlan and other Abbas advisors. He portrayed Hamas' takeover as a last resort in the wake of escalating lawlessness and coup attempts by collaborators, listing many alleged crimes that had finally caused Hamas' patience to snap. Haniyeh emphasized the unity of Gaza and the West Bank as "inseparable parts of the Palestinian nation," and he repeated a call for the captors of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston to free him immediately.

                                                                                                      The contrast between Abbas' action and the Hamas response is striking. Abbas, perhaps pushed by the same coterie of advisors, seems to be escalating the confrontation and doing so when there is no reason to believe he can prevail. Hamas, while standing firm and from a position of strength, spoke in a language of conciliation, emphasizing time and again that Hamas has a problem with only a small group within Fatah, not its rank and file. Abbas, Dahlan and their backers must be surveying a sobering scene -- they may be tempted to try to take on Hamas in the West Bank, but the scale of their defeat in Gaza would have to give them pause.

                                                                                                      Both leaderships are hemmed in. Abbas appears to be entirely dependent on foreign and Israeli support and unable to take decisions independent of a corrupt, self-serving clique. Hamas, whatever intentions it has is likely to find itself under an even tighter siege in Gaza.

                                                                                                      Abbas, backed by Israel and the US, has called for a multinational force in Gaza. Hamas has rejected this, saying it would be viewed as an "occupying force." Indeed, they have reason to be suspicious: for decades Israel and the US blocked calls for an international protection force for Palestinians. The multinational force, Hamas fears, would not be there to protect Palestinians from their Israeli occupiers, but to perform the proxy role of protecting Israel's interests that Dahlan's forces are no longer able to carry out and to counter the resistance -- just as the multinational force was supposed to do in Lebanon after the July 2006 war.

                                                                                                      Wise leaders in Israel and the United States would recognize that Hamas is not a passing phenomenon, and that they can never create puppet leaders who will be able to compete against a popular resistance movement. But there are no signs of wisdom: the US has now asked Israel to "loosen its grip" in the West Bank to try to give Abbas a boost. Although the Bush doctrine has suffered a blow, the Palestinian people have not won any great victory. The sordid game at their expense continues.

                                                                                                      Ali Abunimah is cofounder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada, where this article originally appeared. He is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

                                                                                                      Counterpunch

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                                                                                                        US invasion has left Iraq's cultural heritage in ruins

                                                                                                        English (US)  June 15th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                        Sectarian violence is taking a terrible toll on Iraq's religious and cultural heritage

                                                                                                        By Afif Sarhan in Baghdad and Firas Al-Atraqchi in Damascus

                                                                                                        Iraq's archaeological and artistic culture is in danger of being wiped out due to a lack of protection and targeted assassinations, a group of archaeologists and artists have told Al Jazeera.

                                                                                                        [More:]


                                                                                                        According to figures from the ministry of culture, 18 archaeologists and researchers have been killed since late 2005.

                                                                                                        Fuad Rassi, an Iraqi archaeologist and professor of antiquities at Baghdad University, said: "We are unable to protect important historical sites and the remaining books and parchments documenting Iraq's culture have been stolen from local libraries."

                                                                                                        Rassi also said the intimidation and murder of archaeologists since the 2003 US-led invasion has impeded the country's research into, and preservation of, millennary culture.

                                                                                                        He said: "There aren't archaeologists remaining in Iraq because most of them have been killed and the others have fled from the violence. Our situation is getting critical in Iraq. Archaeologists and artists are being targeted by militias and insurgents."

                                                                                                        Bitter legacy

                                                                                                        In May 2003, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1483 which stressed "the need for respect for the archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious heritage of Iraq, and for the continued protection of archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious sites, museums, libraries, and monuments".

                                                                                                        But Lamia Al-Gailani-Werr, an Iraqi archaeologist and member of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and former adviser to the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, says the looting and destruction of Iraq's sites has continued despite international awareness.

                                                                                                        "The destruction of Iraq's heritage is leaving a bitter legacy for future generations," she told Al Jazeera previously.

                                                                                                        Meanwhile, Baghdad authorities are facing growing challenges as they pursue artifacts smugglers or provide protection to endangered sites.

                                                                                                        Iraq's ministry of culture says its employees are unable to continue their research or visit existing sites and excavations due to security risks.

                                                                                                        Mariam Muhammad, a senior official at the ministry, said: "We are seeing the history of Iraq being lost and because of violence we cannot move to afford protection. Professionals in the area are being killed on [a] daily basis and our employees are afraid to leave their homes."

                                                                                                        Haythem Abdel-Lattef, 56, an archaeologist who was working at the Babylon heritage sites south of Baghdad in 2006, chose to leave Iraq seven months ago after one of his sons was kidnapped.

                                                                                                        He said: "I received telephone calls which threatened me, saying that if I didn't flee Iraq within one week, they were going to kill my sons and wife. I packed and after two days I arrived in Jordan where I'm facing difficult financial conditions as I had to leave everything behind in Baghdad."

                                                                                                        After arriving in Jordan, he said he received word that two of his colleagues who had been excavating new sites near Babylon were killed.

                                                                                                        Artists, singers targeted

                                                                                                        The culture ministry's Muhammad said that in addition to the threat to Iraq's archaeological resources, many of Iraq's leading authors, artists and singers have been persecuted and killed - victims of the country's sectarian violence.

                                                                                                        In February 2007, the Iraqi Artist's Association said 75 singers had been killed between March 2003 and December 2006. The association also said 80 per cent of the country's singers had fled the country.

                                                                                                        But those that braved the bullets and continued to perform have often paid the price.

                                                                                                        In November, Youssef Jabry, 20, was beheaded for singing Western songs at parties and wedding receptions while popular comedian Walid Hassan, who often mocked post-invasion politics, was shot to death as he drove through Baghdad.

                                                                                                        In December, Muttashar Al-Soudani, Iraqi soap opera icon, was gunned down by unknown assailants as he collected his pension in Baghdad.

                                                                                                        In January, Wissam Abdallah, 25, an up-and-coming actor, was killed by unknown fighters.

                                                                                                        Betraying Islam

                                                                                                        Abdallah's mother, Salua Abdel-Kader, 48, told Al Jazeera her son was killed because he was "seen as a sinner" by Islamic factions which have gained power in post-war Iraq.

                                                                                                        He said: "I lost my son who was an actor because he was performing at the theatre and for this reason considered a betrayer of Islam."

                                                                                                        His murder and the pursuit of other actors and singers have sowed fear among the performing arts community in and around Baghdad.

                                                                                                        Abdel-Kader said: "Our lives have been inside the walls of our houses. The maximum entertainment that you can find today is going to your neighbour for a [cup of] tea and nowadays, even this diversion sometimes isn't possible because of the spread sectarian violence.

                                                                                                        "We cannot visit museums, theatres or libraries because art in Iraq today has been considered a sin by extremists."

                                                                                                        Graveyard for artists

                                                                                                        Since May 2007, three Baghdad artists were killed, including Khalil al-Zahawi, renowned Islamic calligrapher.

                                                                                                        A senior member of the Calligraphy and Arabesque Art Department at the Nineveh Institute of Fine Arts told Al Jazeera that he believed conditions in Iraq have made it a graveyard for artists and innovation.

                                                                                                        Speaking on the condition of anonymity because he has been threatened with death, he said Islamic extremism has forced many of his colleagues to either flee Iraq or go undercover.

                                                                                                        "Only Islamic art is permissible because the new Islamic groups like al-Qaeda feel there is no importance to us. Those of us who paint portraits, for example, are seen as sinners," he said in a small unfurnished apartment in Damascus.

                                                                                                        Those that cannot leave Iraq because of financial constraints find themselves going hungry - hungry and fearful that the next bullet or sword is destined for them."

                                                                                                        Assassinations

                                                                                                        One such Iraqi artist was condemned to death by Islamist groups for belonging to "a Zionist organisation".

                                                                                                        Maher Harbi, a Christian artist in northern Iraq, managed to survive two successive assassination attempts before fleeing to Syria.

                                                                                                        He had been a member of an association of Shia, Sunni, Christian and secular artists who met once every week to discuss holding ateliers and exhibits.

                                                                                                        But Mohammed Alban, a photographer for al-Sharqiya satellite channel, wasn't so lucky. His assassination led to the dissolution of the Mosul chapter of the artists' association in late 2006.

                                                                                                        Muhammad Khalid Lattif, actor and member of the Iraqi Artists Association who survived an assassination attempt, said: "Even if we work, how can we put in practice or expose our projects to Iraqis? There aren't places [to exhibit] because everywhere is under security and as soon as we reach to wherever the place is, we are going to be killed.

                                                                                                        "We will cry all together for this sad reality threatening our culture."

                                                                                                        Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                          Abbas appoints new Palestinian PM

                                                                                                          English (US)  June 15th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                          Salam Fayyad

                                                                                                          Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has appointed Salam Fayyad, an independent parliamentarian, as prime minister of an emergency government.

                                                                                                          [More:]


                                                                                                          Fayyad was finance minister in the unity government between Hamas and Fatah which Abbas sacked on Thursday following Hamas's virtual takeover of the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                          In Gaza, the looting of security force buildings loyal to Fatah continued and Hamas supporters celebrated as Ismail Haniya of Hamas ordered an end to reprisals.

                                                                                                          Before the announcement of Fayyad as his replacement, Haniya said he remained open to dialogue with Abbas.

                                                                                                          "I still stress that the door is open to restructure Palestinian relations on the basis of national values," he said.

                                                                                                          Hamas, now in apparent full-control of Gaza, declared clemency for all Fatah members and security forces on Friday, after seizing several senior officials, a spokesman for the group's military wing said.

                                                                                                          The commanders of the National Security Force and the Presidential Guard were among those that had been held by Hamas, Abu Obeideh said on Friday.

                                                                                                          He said dozens of security officers and party officials had already been released under the amnesty.

                                                                                                          Government 'sacked'

                                                                                                          Earlier Haniya said that the "unity government" would continue to function despite being sacked by Abbas.

                                                                                                          He called his dismissal and the declaration of a state of emergency on Thursday "hasty".

                                                                                                          Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said: "We know that he can carry on leading the government in the Gaza Strip with the Hamas ministers who are in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                          "We do not know how they will be able to fund the government, how they will bring in food and supplies or how they will be able to have any influence in the West Bank."

                                                                                                          Chaos

                                                                                                          Civilians poured into the presidential compound in Gaza City on Friday, hauling away fridges, satellite dishes, and doors, as Hamas fighters fired shots into the air in an attempt to disperse them.

                                                                                                          "This is our money, the money of the people and we are taking some of it," one looter said.

                                                                                                          But another resident nearby expressed concern at the chaos.

                                                                                                          "This is a coup," said Abu Khaled. "What we see today is an indicator of the future, chaos will prevail."

                                                                                                          Security force vehicles and weapons had already been taken by members of the armed men and some the compound's buildings were set on fire.

                                                                                                          Portraits of Abbas and his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat, lay on the ground as Hamas fighters showed reporters pools of blood where they said two of Abbas's guards shot themselves rather than surrender.

                                                                                                          A Fatah official said the guards were killed.

                                                                                                          Other armed men had their pictures taken sitting at Abbas's desk and in his bedroom.

                                                                                                          Foreign support

                                                                                                          With Gaza effectively under the control of Hamas, Israel and the United States were preparing to ease an embargo on the Palestinian Authority in order to channel funds to Abbas's Fatah-run West Bank administration.


                                                                                                          Haniya promises the government will
                                                                                                          continue to function in Gaza

                                                                                                          "If there will be an emergency government without participation of Hamas, then the funds can flow," a senior Israeli official said. "From our point of view, there isn't a Hamas government any more."

                                                                                                          Fatah and Hamas had formed a unity government in March in a deal brokered at Mecca in an effort to overcome their differences.

                                                                                                          The European Commission said on Friday it also fully supported Abbas and called for dialogue to end civil strife.

                                                                                                          An EU spokeswoman said: "We call on President Abbas, the legitimate president of all Palestinians, to [do] his utmost to resolve the situation through dialogue and to work towards national unity and reconciliation."

                                                                                                          The EU aimed to continue humanitarian aid to both the West Bank and Gaza, the spokeswoman said.

                                                                                                          Borders sealed

                                                                                                          Israel's military said on Friday that all crossings into the Gaza Strip had been closed after Hamas seized control of the territory.

                                                                                                          "The crossings are closed until further notice. There are constantly security assessments," an army spokeswoman said.

                                                                                                          The closure includes the Erez crossing - the route for travellers between the territory and Israel - and the Rafah border terminal with Egypt.

                                                                                                          Some 3,000 Palestinian travellers remain stranded in the El Arish area of Egypt due to the border closure, most of them anxious to go home and make contact with their families.

                                                                                                          Hamas has said that it plans to take control of the Rafah crossing, which was previously patrolled by Abbas' Presidential Guard.

                                                                                                          Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                            Mission accomplished: US-Israeli plan to boost Abbas & West Bank, leaving 1.5 million Palestinians to starve in Gaza

                                                                                                            English (US)  June 14th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                            U.S. wants to fast-track peace talks, boost Abbas standing

                                                                                                            By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies

                                                                                                            In the wake of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, United States said Thursday that the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush will now work to prevent the violence from spilling over to the West Bank. The U.S. therefore aims to accelerate the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to allow Abbas to present some achievements.

                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                            Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also intends to tell Bush that Hamas's coup d'etat must be contained in the Gaza Strip, and not allowed to occur in the West Bank as well, a government official told Haaretz on Thursday.

                                                                                                            The American administration is also interested in improving living conditions in the West Bank to demonstrate to the Palestinians that they are better off under Fatah than Hamas.

                                                                                                            Washington will urge Israel to reconsider loosening its military grip on the West Bank. Israel will also be requested to unfreeze the Palestinian tax funds it has been withholding from the PA. The money and further funding will help boost Abbas' new emergency government.

                                                                                                            Abbas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Bush are reportedly in favor of deploying multinational forces in the Strip to maintain order, as Hamas has consolidated near-absolute control of the area.

                                                                                                            Political sources in Jerusalem were skeptical Thursday of the prospect of deploying multinational forces in the Strip any time soon. Egypt has made it clear it does not intend to send troops. "No one will come there", a senior political official said.

                                                                                                            According to the source, the defense establishment shares Olmert's views that containing the situation in Gaza must be a priority.

                                                                                                            "The defense establishment agrees with the containment policy, as we are determined not to see last week's events repeated in the West Bank," the source said.

                                                                                                            "As we maintained it would from the outset, the idea of a Palestinian unity government has faltered. Now, we must deal with Hamas with great force," the official added.

                                                                                                            The events in Gaza have also affected Israel's negotiations with Palestinian officials over a possible prisoner exchange to free Gilad Shalit, the Israel Defense Forces soldier whom Hamas abducted last year. The source said that the negotiations, which are being conducted via Egyptian mediators, have suffered as a result of the recent fighting. "We hope, however, that the negotiations will become more intensive after the situation in the Strip stabilizes," he added.

                                                                                                            Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip will dominate Olmert's White House meeting with Bush, and in this context, Olmert will discuss the possibility of deploying a multinational force in Gaza with both Bush and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The security cabinet, however, has not yet decided on its stance regarding the deployment of such a force, and will address the issue only after Olmert returns.

                                                                                                            Regarding the Iranian threat, Olmert intends to suggest that Bush move to enforce harsher sanctions against the Islamic Republic, beyond those adopted by the UN Security Council. Among others, he will propose that Bush halt investment by American pension funds of in companies who deal with Iran, and will also suggest that Bush and like-minded allies bar Iranians from visiting Western countries.

                                                                                                            Iran has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction and is thought to be pursuing an ambitious nuclear weapons program.

                                                                                                            Olmert is also expected to brief Bush on his contact with Damascus, and on Syria's military efforts, which the defense establishment believes to be defensive at this point in time.

                                                                                                            Haaretz

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                                                                                                              Israelis kill four children, one adult, and injure others as world's attention is on Gaza

                                                                                                              English (US)  June 14th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                              Five Palestinians, including four children, killed by Israeli forces east of Rafah

                                                                                                              RAFAH, Palestine _ Palestinian medical sources have stated that five Palestinians, including four children, have been killed, while two others have been injured by fire from Israeli tanks, east of Rafah on Thursday afternoon.

                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                              RAF

                                                                                                              Ma'an's correspondent reports that Israeli tanks shot at citizens' houses, near the former Gaza International Airport, east of the city of Rafah. Four were killed instantly and their corpses transported to Abu Yousef An Najjar hospital.

                                                                                                              The fifth died shortly after being admitted to the European hospital.

                                                                                                              The casualties have not yet been identified.

                                                                                                              In the West Bank, Hashim Az Zubeidi, a member of the Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades, was shot in the chest by Israeli special forces who had infiltrated the northern city of Qalqilia. A second managed to escape an Israeli targeted assassination attempt in Tulkarem.

                                                                                                              Ma'an's reporter stated that Israeli forces entered Qalqilia early in the morning, and shot Az Zubeidi in the chest, before being transported to the Ramallah government hospital. He remains in critical condition.

                                                                                                              In Saida, north of Tulkarem, Israeli troops broke into the home of Oseimer Ashqar, but he was not home at the time.

                                                                                                              Maan News

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                                                                                                                Hamas defies Palestinian president

                                                                                                                English (US)  June 14th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                Hamas fighters have routed Fatah forces
                                                                                                                and taken control of Gaza

                                                                                                                The deposed Palestinian prime minister from Hamas has defied Mahmoud Abbas, the president from rival faction Fatah, calling his sacking and declaration of an emergency "hasty" and pledging that his government will continue to function.

                                                                                                                [More:]


                                                                                                                "The existing government will carry out its tasks," Ismail Haniya said in a news conference in the early hours of Friday. "We will continue … with a national unity government."

                                                                                                                Haniya said Abbas and his advisers did not consider "the consequences and its effects on the situation on the ground" in sacking Haniya's government and declaring a state of emergency.

                                                                                                                Imagined realities

                                                                                                                "President Mahmud Abbas took premature decisions that betray all agreements reached," he said.

                                                                                                                Hamas forces routed Fatah fighters in Gaza on Thursday, prompting Abbas, who is in Ramallah in the West Bank, to declare a state of emergency and dismiss Haniya's unity government made up of Fatah and Hamas representatives.

                                                                                                                Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh said both Abbas and Haniya spoke about "realities" that did not exist and are nearly impossible to enforce on the ground.

                                                                                                                Abbas's declaration of an emergency in Gaza would have little effect since his security forces were routed and the institutions of the Palestinian Authority were overrun by Hamas.

                                                                                                                And Haniya's assertion that his unity government would continue sounded hollow as Fatah loyalists form the majority of the sacked government.

                                                                                                                Haniya blamed the latest bout of violence on Fatah supporters, accusing them of "having committed crimes and having killed citizens for their political allegiance and have executed others after kidnapping them".

                                                                                                                No separate state

                                                                                                                Despite his forces overrunning their Fatah rivals and taking over the main security buildings in Gaza, Haniya said Hamas had no intention of declaring a separate Palestinian state in Gaza without the West Bank.

                                                                                                                "The Gaza Strip is an indivisible part of the homeland and its residents are an integral part of the Palestinian people. No to a state in the Gaza Strip only because the state is a whole that cannot be divided," Haniya said.

                                                                                                                "We will impose security firmly, decisively and legally," he said. "I call on the police and the [Hamas] executive force to impose law and order starting this moment, and to protect the compounds and private and public properties."

                                                                                                                He sounded a conciliatory note by calling on "my brothers in Hamas to declare a general amnesty and to guarantee people's lives".

                                                                                                                But Odeh said a quick reconciliation would be difficult as the core of the Palestinian Authority – the security apparatuses – had been undermined and Abbas had been humiliated further by having his house in Gaza seized by Hamas forces.

                                                                                                                Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                                  Palestinian President Abbas dissolves government and formally declares state of emergency

                                                                                                                  English (US)  June 14th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                  BETHLEHEM, Palestine _ Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas has issued a decree to dissolve the government and declare a state of emergency.

                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                  Media spokesman for President Abbas, Tayieb Abdur Rahim, read the decree and announced that Ismail Haniyeh had been dismissed accordingly.

                                                                                                                  In a statement televised on the Palestinian Satellite Channel, Rahim said that events in the Gaza Strip constituted "a military coup against Palestinian legitimacy, and is a clear violation of international law."

                                                                                                                  Reacting to the news, the Hamas movement stated that "the announcement is self-contradictory, as such a decree needs a mechanism in order for it to be implemented ".

                                                                                                                  In a telephone call with Ma'an, the spokesperson for the Hamas bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Salah Bardawil, said that "it is the right of the president to declaring this for one month, and in this case the government will form an emergency government. After this, he must go back to the PLC, in order to renew the state of emergency or to seek a new government."

                                                                                                                  Bardawil also stated that the Gaza Strip has now become more quiet and secure than ever before. "The obstacles which were made by a trend within the Fatah movement have been removed… Hamas has ended the battle with that current in Fatah, as neither Abbas nor other Fatah leaders were able to control that current. Someone should put an end to that. We have achieved this in a battle which lasted for two days only. Fatah and Abbas were not able and were not interested in controlling these influences within Fatah, which is why we fought this battle."

                                                                                                                  Maan News

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                                                                                                                    UN considers troops for Gaza

                                                                                                                    English (US)  June 13th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                    More than 70 people, mostly fighters, have been
                                                                                                                    killed in three days of factional fighting

                                                                                                                    The United Nations may send an international force to restore calm to te Gaza Strip wracked by deadly factional fighting.

                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                    "This is an idea we need to explore," Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said on Wednesday, adding that he had held preliminary discussions about the idea with members of the UN Security Council.

                                                                                                                    Ban said Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had raised the idea with him in a phone conversation on Tuesday and noted that Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, had also brought it up.

                                                                                                                    "I need to consider more in detail with the countries concerned," he said, including where to locate the force and what its mandate would be.

                                                                                                                    If you are in the Gaza Strip, you can also mail your opinions to:
                                                                                                                    gazacrisis@aljazeera.net

                                                                                                                    The European Union would consider participation in the international force in Gaza, although any decisions on deployment were still a long way off, the EU's foreign policy chief said on Wednesday.

                                                                                                                    "If we are asked, of course we will consider that possibility," Javier Solana told reporters in Brussels.

                                                                                                                    Israel had in the past resisted Palestinian calls for peacekeepers in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, saying their deployment would interfere with Israeli security measures.

                                                                                                                    But on Tuesday, Olmert said "serious consideration" should be given to deploying an international force in the Philadelphi Corridor along Gaza's border with Egypt.

                                                                                                                    A senior Israeli official added that government experts were exploring what such an international force might look like and what its mandate would entail but the government would only be prepared to accept a force with a strong mandate and sufficient firepower.

                                                                                                                    He added that Olmert's comments could lay the groundwork for Israel to retake the corridor itself, should Western powers balk at committing troops.

                                                                                                                    Palestinian forces

                                                                                                                    Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades:
                                                                                                                    - Armed wing of Hamas
                                                                                                                    - Estimated 15,000 members
                                                                                                                    -Well armed

                                                                                                                    Executive Force:
                                                                                                                    - Security force set up by Hamas in 2006
                                                                                                                    - Estimated 6,000 personnel
                                                                                                                    - Mainly drawn from armed wing of Hamas

                                                                                                                    Presidential Guards:
                                                                                                                    - Majority loyal to Fatah
                                                                                                                    - Up to 5,000 personnel
                                                                                                                    - Best equipped and trained security force
                                                                                                                    - US gave $43m to help restructure force

                                                                                                                    National Security Forces:
                                                                                                                    - Under direct command of president
                                                                                                                    - Includes military intelligence, naval police and Elite Force 17
                                                                                                                    - Up to 30,000 personnel

                                                                                                                    Police and Preventive Security:
                                                                                                                    - Under Hamas-led interior ministry
                                                                                                                    - Dominated by Fatah loyalists
                                                                                                                    - Estimated 30,000 personnel

                                                                                                                    Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades:
                                                                                                                    - Offshoot of Fatah faction
                                                                                                                    - Several thousand members
                                                                                                                    - Many work for the security services

                                                                                                                    Relief work suspended

                                                                                                                    Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) suspended all operations except emergency medical and food programmes in the Gaza Strip after two Palestinian employees were shot dead.

                                                                                                                    Christopher Gunness, UNRWA spokesman, said they appeared to have been caught in the crossfire in two separate incidents.

                                                                                                                    "In view of increased threats to our staff, UNRWA has no choice but to scale back its operations in Gaza with immediate effect," he said.

                                                                                                                    More than 70 people, mostly fighters, have been killed in three days of vicious gun battles between Hamas and Fatah amid fears of an all out civil war

                                                                                                                    On Wednesday, Hamas fighters launched a series of fierce assaults on Palestinian security force compounds across the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                    In Khan Yunis, the headquarters of the Preventive Security Force loyal to Abbas, leader of Fatah, was "totally destroyed" by an explosion.

                                                                                                                    Hamas fighters appeared to be gaining the upper hand as the fighting spread to the central and southern parts of the territory on Wednesday.

                                                                                                                    But the Fatah-dominated National Security Forces were ordered to remain in their positions and "defend the security headquarters with all your might".

                                                                                                                    Hamas fighters have also reportedly taken control of the coastal strip's main north-south road, putting them in position to cut off reinforcements to the security forces.

                                                                                                                    Hamas gaining ground

                                                                                                                    After tightening its control on the northern Gaza Strip early on Wednesday, the armed wing of Hamas demanded that the security forces in the area hand over their weapons by 16:00 GMT on Friday.

                                                                                                                    Dozens of security personnel have reportedly fled across the border into Egypt to escape the fighting.

                                                                                                                    About 40 pro-Fatah officers broke though the border fence at the Rafah crossing, handing over their weapons to Egyptian border officials, a security source said.

                                                                                                                    In what appeared to be another success for Hamas, hundreds of members of a clan linked with Fatah surrendered in Gaza City, witnesses said.

                                                                                                                    About 1,000 Palestinians marched through Gaza City on Wednesday urging the rival factions to "stop the killing".

                                                                                                                    The demonstration drew gunfire from armed men on nearby buildings killing at least one protester and injuring 14 others. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the shooting.

                                                                                                                    Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said some of the protesters fought with members of the rival factions on the street.

                                                                                                                    The fighting also spilled over into the previously calm West Bank as fighters from the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades stormed a building in Nablus used by a pro-Hamas television company.

                                                                                                                    Walid Batrawi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the West Bank, said at least 15 people working in the office were abducted and taken to a nearby refugee camp.

                                                                                                                    "This is an escalation that is alarming in the West Bank if it spreads to other areas," he said.

                                                                                                                    Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                                      35 Palestinians killed in Fateh-Hamas clashes in Gaza, 50 in two days

                                                                                                                      English (US)  June 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                      By Saed Bannoura

                                                                                                                      Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Tuesday at night that 35 residents were killed on Tuesday during internal clashes between Fateh and Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip, and that a total of 50 residents were killed and 180 were injured, including 20 in serious conditions, in two days.

                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                      The Gaza office of the Maan News Agency reported that 23 Palestinians were killed since evening hours during separate clashes that took place in various parts of Gaza. Bodies of 10 residents were moved to Kamal Adwan Hospital, and 13 bodies were moved to Al Shifa Hospital.

                                                                                                                      Also, medical sources reported that doctors might have to amputate the legs of some of the injured residents due to serious injuries to the knees.

                                                                                                                      Dr. Moawiya Abu Hassanen, head of the Emergency Unit at the Al Shifa Hospital, stated that 14 residents were killed on Tuesday at night during clashes between Fateh and Hamas gunmen that took place near the main headquarters of the Palestinian National Security in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                      12 of the casualties are members of the national security forces and two are members of Hamas; seventy Palestinians were injured during these clashes.

                                                                                                                      In Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, one resident was killed on Tuesday evening during Hamas-Fateh clashes, medical sources reported.

                                                                                                                      Meanwhile hundreds of National Security members deployed in the streets, while hundreds of members of the Hamas’ Al Qassam brigades, also deployed which caused further clashes.

                                                                                                                      On Tuesday noon, one security forces member and one member of Hamas were killed, and 14 residents were injured, during clashes that took place east Dir Al Balah, in the central part of the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                      The Al Qassam brigades declared the northern part of the Gaza Strip closed military zone after totally controlling it, the Maan agency added.

                                                                                                                      Hamas gunmen also attacked the house of one of Fateh leaders in Beit Lahia, and burnt the house.

                                                                                                                      The bloody clashes extended as the Egyptian security team failed to hold joint meetings with leaders of Hamas and Fateh as the two movements traded accusations.

                                                                                                                      Moreover, gunmen broke into the house of the former Foreign Minister, Dr. Nabil Shaath, and destroyed its property.

                                                                                                                      One house which belongs to a leader of the Al Qassam brigades was burnt in Al Shaty’ refugee camp.

                                                                                                                      Hamas gunmen also deployed in Khan Younis and installed roadblocks after uncovering the body of the Al Qassam members; Hamas held Fateh responsible for his death.

                                                                                                                      Qassam gunmen also broke into the office of Khan Younis governor and abducted three of his bodyguards.

                                                                                                                      Security sources in Khan Younis accused Hamas members of destroying a small police post which is in charge of the fishermen affairs in the Qeizan Al Najjar area.

                                                                                                                      Hamas and Fateh gunmen also exchanged fire near the Gaza European hospital after Hamas gunmen attempted to control a security post.

                                                                                                                      Several mortar shells were also fired at a security post in Khan Younis.

                                                                                                                      IMEMC

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                                                                                                                        Hamas "deeply condemns" fighting between "brothers"

                                                                                                                        English (US)  June 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                        BETHLEHEM, Palestine _ The Hamas movement in the West Bank issued a statement on Tuesday, condemning the fighting and urging those involved to practice restraint.

                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                        The statement said that the Hamas movement and all its members and groups deeply condemn the infighting and reject all forms of violence between "brothers".

                                                                                                                        Hamas said that events in the Gaza Strip are "a free service to the occupation," adding "we in the West Bank wish for the immediate cessation of the conflict and support all efforts to end the fighting.

                                                                                                                        "The Hamas movement urges its members and supporters to practice self-control, to not be dragged in actions and reactions and to be committed to the movement's instructions," read the statement.

                                                                                                                        It continued "we urge all good people to coordinate and cooperate in order to end the blood shed."

                                                                                                                        Maan News Agency

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                                                                                                                          Secret UN report condemns US for Middle East failures

                                                                                                                          English (US)  June 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          Envoy's damning verdict revealed as violence takes Gaza closer to civil war

                                                                                                                          Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem and Ian Williams in New York
                                                                                                                          Wednesday June 13, 2007
                                                                                                                          The Guardian

                                                                                                                          The highest ranking UN official in Israel has warned that American pressure has "pummelled into submission" the UN's role as an impartial Middle East negotiator in a damning confidential report.

                                                                                                                          The 53-page "End of Mission Report" by Alvaro de Soto, the UN's Middle East envoy, obtained by the Guardian, presents a devastating account of failed diplomacy and condemns the sweeping boycott of the Palestinian government. It is dated May 5 this year, just before Mr de Soto stepped down.

                                                                                                                          Read Alvaro de Soto's end of mission report at
                                                                                                                          http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2007/06/12/DeSotoReport.pdf

                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                          The revelations from inside the UN come after another day of escalating violence in Gaza, when at least 26 Palestinians were killed after Hamas fighters launched a major assault. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the rival Fatah group, warned he was facing an attempted coup.

                                                                                                                          Mr de Soto condemns Israel for setting unachievable preconditions for talks and the Palestinians for their violence. Western-led peace negotiations have become largely irrelevant, he says.

                                                                                                                          Mr de Soto is a Peruvian diplomat who worked for the UN for 25 years in El Salvador, Cyprus and Western Sahara. He says:

                                                                                                                          · The international boycott of the Palestinians, introduced after Hamas won elections last year, was "at best extremely short-sighted" and had "devastating consequences" for the Palestinian people

                                                                                                                          · Israel has adopted an "essentially rejectionist" stance towards the Palestinians

                                                                                                                          · The Quartet of Middle East negotiators - the US, the EU, Russia and the UN - has become a "side-show"

                                                                                                                          ·The Palestinian record of stopping violence against Israel is "patchy at best, reprehensible at worst"

                                                                                                                          Mr de Soto acknowledges in the report that he is its sole author. It was meant only for senior UN officials, and its wording is far more critical than the public pronouncements of UN diplomats. Last night, Mr de Soto, who is in New York, told the Guardian: "It is a confidential document and not intended for publication."

                                                                                                                          In January last year, the Quartet called on the newly elected Hamas government to commit to non-violence, recognise Israel and accept previous agreements. When Hamas refused to sign up to the principles, the international community halted direct funding to the Palestinian government and Israel started to freeze the monthly tax revenues that it had agreed to pass to the Palestinians. Several hundred million dollars remain frozen.

                                                                                                                          Mr de Soto, who had opposed the boycott, said this position "effectively transformed the Quartet from a negotiation-promoting foursome guided by a common document [the road map for peace] into a body that was all-but imposing sanctions on a freely elected government of a people under occupation as well as setting unattainable preconditions for dialogue".

                                                                                                                          The EU said yesterday that there was an imminent risk of civil war if fighting went on, and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urged support for Mr Abbas's efforts "to restore law and order".

                                                                                                                          In the heaviest day of fighting in Gaza for months, Hamas appeared to make its first concerted effort to seize power in Gaza. There was a wave of co-ordinated attacks, which appeared to overwhelm the larger but less effective Fatah force. "Decisiveness will be in the field," said Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Hamas military wing.

                                                                                                                          Fatah's central committee called an emergency meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank, and said it would suspend the activities of its ministers in the government. Fatah would pull out of the government if the fighting failed to stop, it said.

                                                                                                                          For the first time in several weeks, fighting spread to the West Bank when Fatah gunmen attacked a Hamas television studio in Ramallah and kidnapped a Hamas deputy cabinet minister from the city.

                                                                                                                          The day began with a rocket attack on the private house in Gaza of Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister and a Hamas leader. He was in the building but was not hurt. Fighting spread across Gaza City and within hours Hamas fighters issued warnings over loudspeakers calling on all Fatah security forces to pull out of their bases and return home. At about 2pm Hamas gunmen seized control of several small Fatah bases and one large base in northern Gaza, where there were heavy casualties when Hamas fighters fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at the compound.

                                                                                                                          Several Fatah officers complained that they had received no orders during the day. Mr Abbas tried calling for a truce, and later Fatah ordered its officers to fight back.

                                                                                                                          http://www.guardian.co.uk

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                                                                                                                            Fashion giant Benetton in Mapuche land fight

                                                                                                                            English (US)  June 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                            Luis Millan returned to the Patagonian land after being evicted, and said he would remain there until he dies

                                                                                                                            By Teresa Bo in Esquel, Argentina

                                                                                                                            A land dispute has pitted Argentine Mapuche Indians against fashion giant Benetton in Argentine Patagonia.

                                                                                                                            Exclusive report
                                                                                                                            Watch Teresa Bo's exclusive report from Patagonia

                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                            A dozen Mapuche Indians have taken up residence on more than 534 hectares of the disputed land, claiming that legally and historically it belongs to them.

                                                                                                                            Luis Millan, a 65-year-old Mapuche Indian, who moved on to the land, said: "For years we remained silent ... we were oppressed, but not any more... The law gives us the right to have this land, but nobody respects it.

                                                                                                                            "We are here to stay ... and I will only leave when I'm dead... My wife is buried in Mapuche land and I will be buried too."

                                                                                                                            The dispute started in 2002, when a Mapuche family was accused of settling illegally on the land and evicted. But Millan and other members of his community have returned despite the deprived conditions in which they have to live.

                                                                                                                            The Mapuches started building homes on the land, but stopped when the government intervened with a law that forbade them from modifying the landscape in any way.

                                                                                                                            The land was given to a group of British citizens in 1889 by the Argentine government without the approval of the Mapuche Indians who were living on the land.

                                                                                                                            In 1991, Benetton bought more than 970,000 hectares from a British company.

                                                                                                                            With that purchase, Italian company inherited a huge problem, a lawyer representing the Mapuches says.

                                                                                                                            Fernando Kosinsky said: "We have papers to prove that the land given to the British in 1889 was not measured correctly.

                                                                                                                            "They gave them [Benetton] 19,000 hectares more than they should have. We are asking Benetton to measure the land again so that whatever is outside the initial gift by the Argentine government is left for the Mapuches."

                                                                                                                            Constitutional right

                                                                                                                            The Argentine constitution guarantees indigenous communities the right to reclaim land they can prove historically belonged to them, but few have seen any benefits from the clause.

                                                                                                                            Kosinsky said that simply handing land over to the Mapuches uncontested could result in a number of consequences: "Giving the Mapuches a piece of land is like opening Pandora's Box.

                                                                                                                            "Most of the land was not measured correctly back in the 1800s. We should start reviewing the contracts of the past and give the Indians what belongs to them."


                                                                                                                            Lawyers have suggested reviewing historical
                                                                                                                            contracts and giving back land to the Indians

                                                                                                                            Reviewing land contracts is a double-edged sword for the Argentine government, especially in an area where landowners such as Ted Turner, the Benettons and other big players, have invested large sums in land ownership contracts.

                                                                                                                            So far, the law has ruled in favour of Benetton. But for Millan's son, Mauro, keeping the land is a way of ensuring their survival.

                                                                                                                            "For years, the Mapuches were persecuted and killed. The Argentinian government tried to exterminate us in the 1800s.

                                                                                                                            "During the military dictatorship we were not even able to perform our ceremonies. Now it's our time to fight back and we won't leave what the law calls Benetton's land. It's ours by right."

                                                                                                                            Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                              Alarm raised over child labour

                                                                                                                              English (US)  June 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                              ILO studies show adults can do all agricultural work
                                                                                                                              as well as, or better than, children

                                                                                                                              About 132 million children worldwide, some as young as five, are being forced to work in the agricultural sector, the UN's food agency says.

                                                                                                                              Launching a new initiative to mark the UN world day against child labour, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said child labourers were being deprived of education and poverty being made worse.

                                                                                                                              The statistics
                                                                                                                              --About 318 million children under 18 work in some form of economic activity
                                                                                                                              --An estimated 218 million children are in work defined as child labour
                                                                                                                              --And 216 million child labourers are engaged in hazardous activities
                                                                                                                              --More than 150 million children (70 per cent) work in agriculture
                                                                                                                              --Of those, 22,000 children die each year in agriculture-related incidents
                                                                                                                              --Agriculture ranks as one of the three most dangerous work activities, along with mining and construction
                                                                                                                              Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation

                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                              Jose Maria Sumpsi, FAO assistant director-general for agriculture and consumer protection, said on Tuesday: "It is simply unacceptable that every day 132 million children, five to 14 years of age, are forced to work the land, often in unhealthy and hazardous conditions."

                                                                                                                              The Rome-based agency said that out of the 218 million children who work in the world, 70 per cent are working in agriculture – which includes forestry, fisheries, and agricultural and livestock management.

                                                                                                                              Eve Crowley, from the FAO's gender, equity and rural employment division, said that 22,000 children die each year in agriculture-related incidents.

                                                                                                                              "Children are given dangerous tools and machinery that aren't appropriate for their age. In forestry, they climb tall trees to harvest palm wine or fruits where they can fall.

                                                                                                                              "They carry heavy loads which are too much for their small bodies to handle and they are also exposed to dangerous chemical products, be they pesticides or fertilisers, without the proper protective equipment.

                                                                                                                              "The simple truth is that children require fewer guarantees, are far easier to exploit and, most of all, are considerably cheaper" -- Jose Maria Sumpsi, FAO assistant director-general for agriculture and consumer protection

                                                                                                                              In Cameroon, child labour is cheap labour in cocoa plantations. Children collect and carry heavy loads of cocoa pods that harm the development of their bones, joints and muscles.

                                                                                                                              In Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast more than 150,000 children in 2002 were involved in the handling and application of pesticides on cocoa plantations.

                                                                                                                              "Children, biologically, are different to adults - their skin structure, their breathing speed, for example," Crowley said.

                                                                                                                              "All of these things have a huge impact on them. It can permanently affect their mental and physical well-being, and cause permanent handicaps in some cases."

                                                                                                                              Regular exposure to organic dust puts children at greater risk of developing allergic respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

                                                                                                                              Florina, 13, had to work with her mother on a farm in Romania.

                                                                                                                              She says: "I'm afraid of the tractor. When I feel it is getting closer my heart beats fast.

                                                                                                                              "And that dust... When the tractor comes, it brings up all the dust from the wheat. If you inhale the dust, you can cough all day."

                                                                                                                              Florina's mother says: "If the girl stays with me all day, then I earn around $8, but if she doesn't, I only get $7. I can't do all the work by myself, my husband is sick. There is no other solution than for her to continue coming to work with me."

                                                                                                                              Poverty

                                                                                                                              Sumpsi says the key to combating child labour is to reduce poverty.

                                                                                                                              "The true winning strategy against child labour is to reduce poverty in rural areas of the developing world, offering income opportunities, addressing health and safety in agriculture, improving pesticide management, and ensuring sustainable development,"he says.

                                                                                                                              "Child labour is also driven by unscrupulous employers who claim that children's nimble fingers are better for picking certain crops and a lack of schools in rural areas.

                                                                                                                              "But studies by the ILO [International Labour Organisation] in hazardous industries like glass production or diamond polishing have shown this not to be the case.

                                                                                                                              "In agriculture, as in other sectors, there is no work that an adult cannot do equally well, if not better, than a child.

                                                                                                                              "The simple truth is that children require fewer guarantees, are far easier to exploit and, most of all, are considerably cheaper."

                                                                                                                              Investing in children

                                                                                                                              Noé Silvestre Carneiro, president of the rural workers' union in Retirolandia, Brazil, said: "The situation for working children in this region is extremely dangerous.

                                                                                                                              "We have children who have been blinded because thorns from the sisal leaves went into their eyes. We have children who have lost a hand in the shredding machine.


                                                                                                                              The ILO has set a target to eliminate child
                                                                                                                              agricultural labour by 2016

                                                                                                                              "They work without any protective clothing. So the unions are very concerned. We are all committed ... to rescue the children from the exploitation, to put them into good schools so that they can have a better future."

                                                                                                                              When asked about the possibility of the eradication of child labour, Crowley said: "The elimination of child labour is definitely a major challenge.

                                                                                                                              "The ILO has set a target for itself to achieve this by 2016, and we're happy to say that on June 12, FAO, ILO, IFAD and a whole number of organisations have joined together to sign a declaration of intent to work together to achieve this target."

                                                                                                                              Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                                                Rocket hits Palestinian PM's home

                                                                                                                                English (US)  June 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                Hamas accused Fatah fighters of firing the rocket
                                                                                                                                at Ismail Haniya's home

                                                                                                                                A rocket-propelled grenade has been fired into the Palestinian prime minister's house, as factional fighting in the Gaza Strip intensified.
                                                                                                                                Ismail Haniya, who is a member of the Hamas party, was unharmed in the attack.

                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                The Palestinian presidency of Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday that the violence was part of a Hamas-led coup.

                                                                                                                                Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, accused Fatah of firing the rocket in an attempt to assassinate Haniya and vowed punishment "without mercy" of the perpetrators.

                                                                                                                                The grenade "penetrated the house and exploded", Barhoum said.

                                                                                                                                "Thank God there are no injuries," he added, confirming that Haniya was inside at the time but unharmed.

                                                                                                                                "Hamas has decided to punish the attackers and the killers and it will not be reluctant to punish them without any mercy."

                                                                                                                                It was the second time since Monday that Haniya had come under attack, a shooting at his office on Monday interrupted a cabinet meeting but caused no casualties.

                                                                                                                                Several mortar bombs also struck the president's compound in Gaza City, an officer in the Abbas's presidential guard said on Tuesday.

                                                                                                                                Fatah has threatened to quit the Palestinian unity government after Abbas accused Hamas officials of planning a coup.

                                                                                                                                "All information and events on the ground in Gaza confirm that there is a group in the Hamas movement, including political and military leaders, that are planning to carry out a coup against the Palestinian legitimacy," the president's office said in a statement.

                                                                                                                                The statement accused Hamas members of "believing they can control the Gaza Strip through force".

                                                                                                                                Abbas has called for an immediate ceasefire and for all parties to begin dialogue.

                                                                                                                                'New chapter'

                                                                                                                                "For the president to make such a declaration does signal a new chapter in this Hamas-Fatah violence," Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said.

                                                                                                                                "The situation does not seem to be reaching a solution, it seems to be heading further and further away from political dialogue."

                                                                                                                                Meanwhile, at a hospital in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis a gunbattle broke out between armed supporters of Hamas and Fatah.

                                                                                                                                Hamas fighters reportedly controlled the roof of the European Hospital and Fatah-allied security forces took up positions nearby.

                                                                                                                                "[Medical officials] are appealing to gunmen from all sides to steer away from medical services, institutions and ambulances and allow them to do their work," Nour Odeh said.

                                                                                                                                At least 18 people have been killed in internal fighting since Monday morning in some of the fiercest fighting since Hamas beat Fatah in elections 18 months ago.

                                                                                                                                'Military zone'

                                                                                                                                The armed wing of Hamas has threatened to storm security headquarters controlled by Fatah unless they are vacated. The police force was exempt from the demand, although it is dominated by Fatah members it falls under the Hamas-led interior ministry.

                                                                                                                                Earlier the group had declared the central Gaza Strip a "closed military zone".

                                                                                                                                "Stay at home and you will be safe," the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades warned Fatah fighters in a radio announcement.

                                                                                                                                The factional fighting spread to the West Bank city of Ramallah as presidential guards stormed Hamas-controlled al-Aqsa Television and seized quipment, Palestinian security sources said.

                                                                                                                                The raid came after two television employees were abducted and their set on fire overnight. Palestine TV blamed Hamas for the raid.

                                                                                                                                Fighters also renewed rocket attacks on southern Israel, three Israelis in the town of Sderot were lightly injured, an Israeli medic said.

                                                                                                                                Israel launched an air strike into the northern Gaza Strip after the Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the attack.


                                                                                                                                Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

                                                                                                                                592 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                  Focus on 1967: Our rights have to be recognised

                                                                                                                                  English (US)  June 12th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                  Israel must recognise our basic entitlements if it is serious about peace, writes Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh

                                                                                                                                  By Ismail Haniyeh

                                                                                                                                  When the Israeli leaders launched their expansionist war in June 1967 they never envisaged that 40 years later they would still be haunted by the consequences. At the time, they were driven by one strategic objective: to end the conflict by seizing all that remained of Palestine and complete the process of ethnic cleansing that started in 1948. They did not realise the resolution of this conflict would take much more than military superiority.

                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                  The occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula was portrayed as the victory of David over Goliath. For the next two decades the Palestinian experience was drowned out by the clamour of Israeli hubris. The world paid little attention to the expropriation of Palestinian land, the apartheid regime established by the occupation and the systematic destruction of Palestinian livelihoods.

                                                                                                                                  It was only in 1987 that the world awoke to the reality of a popular Palestinian uprising - intifada. A new generation had come of age, thirsty for freedom and peace with dignity in their own land. The two decades since have confirmed that my people will not repeat the mistakes of 1948. They will remain rooted in their land, whatever the price, and pursue their legitimate right to resist the occupation. That right is supported by, for example, UN Resolutions 2955 and 3034, which affirm the "inalienable" right of all peoples to self-determination and the legitimacy of their struggle against foreign domination and subjugation "by all available means".

                                                                                                                                  Israel's fateful error was to underestimate the resolve of the Palestinians. Tens of thousands have been killed or wounded by the Israeli army since 1967. During 2006, the number of Palestinians killed reached 650. Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel - about 40% of the male population. Today three-quarters of the Palestinian people are displaced: there are 5 million Palestinian refugees throughout the world.

                                                                                                                                  With the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, we were told that things would get better. But life became more hellish as Israel accelerated settlement building and seizures of our land. Meanwhile, the world was fed the fallacy that Israel was defending its "threatened existence". In reality, it is Israel, through the prosecution of colonial war, that has threatened the Palestinians' right to live in their land. And when they were most needed, the world's most powerful states refused to ensure respect for the international law that "the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible".

                                                                                                                                  In contempt of the will of the international community, Israel continues to build its annexationist apartheid wall across the West Bank. Which western state would, in the 21st century, accept that its citizens be literally caged and locked into cantons?

                                                                                                                                  Undaunted by repression, my people have embraced democracy as a means of struggle and governance. Yet in response the world's most powerful democracies have imposed an economic blockade against my people, while Israel continues to kill, expropriate and destroy with impunity. The humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied West Bank and Gaza is clearly designed to subvert the elected government and create a client authority that concedes every wish of the occupier. There can be no exit from the impasse without sanctions being lifted and Israel's release of the hundreds of millions of dollars of our money it has seized.

                                                                                                                                  In the 1967 war, Israel conquered the land of Palestine but it did not conquer the people. And in its attempt to debase and dehumanise my people, Israel has debased and degraded itself before the family of nations. The 1967 war has over 40 years engendered successive wars and destabilisation of the Middle East. The increasing mistrust between the Arab-Muslim peoples and the western world is rooted in the conflict in Palestine.

                                                                                                                                  The first step to change this catastrophic climate is for the west to engage with the Palestinian National Unity government, which envisages the establishment of an independent state on all the Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967, the dismantling of all the settlements in the West Bank, the release of all 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the recognition of the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. If Israel is serious about peace, it has to recognise these basic rights of our people. The 1967 war remains an unfinished chapter. Nothing will stop our struggle for freedom and to have all our children reunited in a fully sovereign state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital.

                                                                                                                                  - Ismail Haniyeh is the Palestinian prime minister

                                                                                                                                  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2096394,00.html

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                                                                                                                                    Israel launches new spy satellite

                                                                                                                                    English (US)  June 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                    The Ofek 6, which was to replace the current spy satellite, failed two years ago

                                                                                                                                    Israel's military has launched a spy satellite towards space, the defence ministry said, and a senior official has suggested that it could be used to spy on Iran.

                                                                                                                                    [More:]


                                                                                                                                    The Ofek 7 satellite was "launched and successfully injected into orbit" early on Monday, the ministry said in a statement.

                                                                                                                                    Israel's Army Radio said its resolution was high enough to detect objects of 70cm on the ground.

                                                                                                                                    Haim Eshed, chief of the defence ministry's space programme, suggested that the satellite could be used to counter Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

                                                                                                                                    When asked if the Ofek 7 could be used to strike Iran, Eshed said: "Intelligence is intelligence and you can do with the intelligence what the leaders decide.

                                                                                                                                    "But this is definitely intelligence on the best level that it's possible to obtain from satellite systems."

                                                                                                                                    Four-year lifespan

                                                                                                                                    The satellite weighs 30kg, is 2.3m long and will operate for at least four years, Israel Radio reported.

                                                                                                                                    The launch was carried out at 2:40am (23:40 GMT), Israel Radio reported.

                                                                                                                                    Ofek 7 is to replace Ofek 5, which has been orbiting for almost five years.

                                                                                                                                    Ofek 5's life had to be extended when the launch of its planned replacement, Ofek 6, failed two years ago.

                                                                                                                                    Israel has labelled Iran as its most serious strategic threat.
                                                                                                                                    Source: Agencies

                                                                                                                                    Jazeera

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                                                                                                                                      106 Journalists Killed in Iraq: The War on Journalists

                                                                                                                                      English (US)  June 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                      By Patrick Cockburn

                                                                                                                                      Sahar al-Haideri, an Iraqi journalist, had received 13 death threats before she was murdered in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul last week. Her killing brings to 106 the number of journalists, almost all Iraqi, murdered in the country since the US invasion in 2003 along with 39 support staff.

                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                      Mrs al-Haideri, a 45-year- old mother of three who worked as a freelancer for many publications, knew she was likely to die but refused to stop working. "We know we will be killed soon," she told fellow journalists on the Journal Iraq online newspaper. She had even stopped using a nom de plume and wrote under own name with her picture. She said: "I was kidnapped and threatened while using a pen name, so I decided to write ... with my real name."

                                                                                                                                      Iraq has become the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, with Sunni insurgents routinely targeting journalists, twelve of whom were killed in May alone. The great majority of those murdered or kidnapped are Iraqis, while non-Iraqi journalists find it increasingly difficult and dangerous to operate there.

                                                                                                                                      The Ansar al-Sunna fundamentalist group claimed responsibility for killing Mrs al-Haideri, saying she "distorted the reputation of the mujahedin [fighters]." They had put her name on a death list, that included nine journalists, issued by the Islamic State of Iraq, the umbrella organization of extreme Jihadi and Salafi groups. The list was posted in several mosques in Mosul.

                                                                                                                                      "When she arrived at the area of the ambush the brothers rained her with bullets from their machineguns killing her instantly," Ansar al-Sunna said. It added that it had found the telephone numbers of policemen on her mobile phone, citing this as evidence that "she was an agent for the apostate police and the government of the apostate [Prime Minister, Nouri] al-Maliki."

                                                                                                                                      When colleagues called Mrs al-Haideri's phone after she was murdered it was answered by an insurgent who said "she went to hell".

                                                                                                                                      Mrs al-Haideri knew her home was being watched because two of the 13 death threats she received were contained in handwritten letters left at her house, she told the Iraqi Journalistic Freedom Observatory. The group said Mosul, a largely Sunni city with a Kurdish minority, had become the most dangerous city in Iraq for journalists, with 35 killed since 2003.

                                                                                                                                      The fundamentalist Sunni groups of the Islamic State of Iraq, which includes al-Qa'ida in Iraq, see all who are not actively on their side as enemies to be eliminated. They have even murdered low-level government employees such as garbage collectors and lorry drivers, claiming that they are supporters of the government. This has led to many Sunnis turning against al-Qa'ida on the grounds that it is preying on its own community.

                                                                                                                                      Mrs al-Haideri worked for media that try to fill the vacuum of information about developments in Iraq. Mrs al-Haideri was working for the Voices of Iraq, the Journal Iraq, the National Iraqi News Agency and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Iraqis generally rely on television, particularly al-Jazeera and Iraqi television channels, for their news and entertainment because of the dangers of going outside to buy a newspaper.

                                                                                                                                      Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                                        Court Rules in Favor of Enemy Combatant

                                                                                                                                        English (US)  June 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                        By Zinie Chen Sampson

                                                                                                                                        RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A divided panel from a conservative federal appeals court delivered a harsh rebuke to the Bush administration's anti-terrorism strategy Monday, ruling that U.S. residents cannot be locked up indefinitely as ``enemy combatants'' without being charged.

                                                                                                                                        ``Put simply, the Constitution does not allow the President to order the military to seize civilians residing within the United States and then detain them indefinitely without criminal process, and this is so even if he calls them 'enemy combatants,''' the court said.

                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                        The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government should charge Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident and the only suspected enemy combatant on American soil, or release him from military custody.

                                                                                                                                        The federal Military Commissions Act doesn't strip al-Marri of his constitutional right to challenge his accusers in court, the judges found in Monday's 2-1 decision.

                                                                                                                                        ``Put simply, the Constitution does not allow the President to order the military to seize civilians residing within the United States and then detain them indefinitely without criminal process, and this is so even if he calls them 'enemy combatants,''' the court said.

                                                                                                                                        Such detention ``would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution - and the country,'' Judge Diana G. Motz wrote in the majority opinion, which was joined by Judge Roger Gregory. Judge Henry E. Hudson, a federal judge in Richmond, dissented.

                                                                                                                                        ``This is a landmark victory for the rule of law and a defeat for unchecked executive power,'' al-Marri's lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, said in a statement. ``It affirms the basic constitutional rights of all individuals - citizens and immigrants - in the United States.''

                                                                                                                                        The government intends to ask the full 4th Circuit to hear the case, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

                                                                                                                                        ``The President has made clear that he intends to use all available tools at his disposal to protect Americans from further al-Qaida attack, including the capture and detention of al-Qaida agents who enter our borders,'' Boyd said in a statement.

                                                                                                                                        The court said its ruling doesn't mean al-Marri should be set free. Instead, he can be returned to the civilian court system and tried on criminal charges.

                                                                                                                                        The decision is the latest in a series of court rulings against the Bush administration's anti-terrorism program.

                                                                                                                                        Last August, a federal judge in Detroit said the government's domestic spying program violated constitutional rights to free speech and privacy, and the constitutional separation of powers. Five months later, the Bush administration announced it would allow judicial review of the spying program run by the National Security Agency.

                                                                                                                                        A year ago, the Supreme Court threw out Bush's system of military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, saying he had exceeded his authority and was in violation of international treaties. The Republican-led Congress then pushed through legislation authorizing war-crime trials for the detainees and denying them access to civilian courts.

                                                                                                                                        But last week, military judges barred the Pentagon from prosecuting two of the Guantanamo detainees because the government had failed to identify them as ``unlawful'' enemy combatants, as required by Congress. The decisions were a blow to efforts to begin prosecuting dozens of detainees the government regards as the nation's most dangerous terrorism suspects.

                                                                                                                                        Al-Marri has been held in solitary confinement in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., since June 2003. The Qatar native has been detained since his December 2001 arrest at his home in Peoria, Ill., where he moved with his wife and five children a day before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to study for a master's degree at Bradley University.

                                                                                                                                        Federal investigators found credit card numbers on al-Marri's laptop computer and charged him with credit card fraud. Upon further investigation, the government said, agents found evidence that al-Marri had links to al-Qaida terrorists and was a national security threat. Authorities shifted al-Marri's case from the criminal system and moved him to indefinite military detention.

                                                                                                                                        Al-Marri has denied the government's allegations and is seeking to challenge the government's evidence and cross-examine its witnesses in court. Hafetz said prosecutors haven't charged his client because they lack evidence, ``or the evidence they've obtained is through torture, unreliable or unacceptable in civilized society.''

                                                                                                                                        Al-Marri is currently the only U.S. resident held as an enemy combatant within the U.S.

                                                                                                                                        Jose Padilla, who is a U.S. citizen, had been held as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig for 3 years before he was hastily added to an existing case in Miami in November 2005, a few days before a U.S. Supreme Court deadline for Bush administration briefs on the question of the president's powers to continue holding him in military prison without charge.

                                                                                                                                        Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen captured in Afghanistan in 2001, was released to his family in Saudi Arabia in October 2004 after the Justice Department said he no longer posed a threat to the United States. As a condition of his release, he gave up U.S. citizenship.

                                                                                                                                        If the government's stance was upheld, civil liberties groups said, the Justice Department could use terrorism law to hold anyone indefinitely and strip them of the right to use civilian courts to challenge their detention.

                                                                                                                                        The Bush administration's attorneys had urged the federal appeals panel to dismiss al-Marri's challenge, arguing that the Military Commissions Act stripped the courts of jurisdiction to hear cases of detainees who are declared enemy combatants. They contended that Congress and the Supreme Court have given the president the authority to fight terrorism and prevent additional attacks on the nation.

                                                                                                                                        The court, however, said in Monday's opinion that the act doesn't apply to al-Marri, who wasn't captured outside the U.S., detained at Guantanamo Bay or in another country, and who has not received a combatant status review tribunal.

                                                                                                                                        ``The MCA was not intended to, and does not apply to aliens like al-Marri, who have legally entered, and are seized while legally residing in, the United States,'' the court said.

                                                                                                                                        The court also said the government failed to back up its argument that the Authorization for Use of Military Force, enacted by Congress immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, gives the president broad powers to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant. The act neither classifies certain civilians as enemy combatants, nor otherwise authorizes the government to detain people indefinitely, the court ruled.

                                                                                                                                        The case, which is expected to reach the Supreme Court, could help define how much authority the government has to indefinitely detain those accused of terrorism and to strip detainees of their rights to challenge the lawfulness or conditions of their detention.

                                                                                                                                        http://www.guardian.co.uk

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                                                                                                                                          The Great Pretender

                                                                                                                                          English (US)  June 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                          Editorial

                                                                                                                                          The legacy of the Bush Administration will be measured not just by the destruction it unleashed in Iraq but by the hatred of the United States that its other policies have ignited around the world. The June G-8 meeting of industrialized nations provided a chance to undo some of this damage and reassert American internationalism. Instead, the Administration chose to pursue a phony internationalism, wrapping its contempt for the concerns of other nations in a ribbon of false global goodwill. In this guise the Administration continued its earlier attacks on international law and cooperation--from its spurning of the Kyoto Protocol to its rejection of the International Criminal Court and its withdrawal from the antiballistic missile treaty.

                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                          The Administration's last-minute proposal on climate change, although a welcome admission of the problem, was a case in point. Recommending only vague, voluntary targets for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions, George W. Bush's initiative clashed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's call for mandatory UN-imposed caps. A "Trojan horse," according to Germany's environmental minister, Bush's plan would actually undermine international efforts to combat global warming.

                                                                                                                                          Similarly, Bush's call for $30 billion over the next five years to fight the global AIDS epidemic was intended to spur increased commitments from other wealthy nations. But although the United States leads the world in dollar contributions, Bush's expanded AIDS plan has all the flaws of his original one. Largely bypassing the multilateral Global Fund, Bush has created a parallel and redundant program that, against the international public health consensus, continues to insist on abstinence-only education and restrictions on needle exchange.

                                                                                                                                          The Administration's approach to Iran and nuclear nonproliferation is another case in point. The White House's support for the EU-3 talks and efforts to win UN Security Council sanctions against Iran may seem to be in the spirit of internationalist cooperation. But up close it looks more like an attempt to further Bush's commitment to regime change and domination of the Persian Gulf--the very policies that may be driving Iran's uranium-enrichment program. As long as the United States refuses to talk with Tehran about nuclear proliferation or to provide it with the security reassurances it needs, the White House sabotages the multilateral approach it now says it wants to champion.

                                                                                                                                          The White House's handling of Russia is further evidence of cynical internationalism. Putin's Russia may have become a semi-authoritarian state, but that's no reason to disregard Russia's legitimate concerns. Washington plans to install antimissile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, on top of its earlier expansion of NATO into former Soviet republics and the buildup of US bases in Central Asia. As we warned in these pages a year ago, this is an open invitation to a new cold war in Europe. Bush is rushing to deploy a technology that does not work against a threat that does not exist, all the while destroying what remains of arms control and disarmament. Russia's help is critical to resolving regional conflicts, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism. But this matters little to the Bush Administration.

                                                                                                                                          Intended to demonstrate "American leadership around the world," Bush's feint at internationalism only further exposes how deeply entrenched he is in unilateralism and US exceptionalism. Such "diplomacy" stands alongside Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo as hallmarks of America's eroding global leadership.

                                                                                                                                          The Nation

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                                                                                                                                            Ongoing Palestinian factional violence: at least 12 killed, over 60 injured

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  June 11th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                            GAZA, Palestine _ Despite the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which took effect from 11am on Monday morning, a series of violent confrontations have marred the truce, just hours after its inception.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                            Clashes broke out in the vicinity of Beit Hanoun Hospital, in the north of the Gaza Strip, on Monday afternoon. Reports said that at least four people were killed and some forty people injured, including many innocent bystanders; two of the injured were reported to be in a life-threatening condition. Forty people were reported to be receiving medical treatment in Beit Hanoun Hospital.

                                                                                                                                            The hospital's electricity generator was also hit, putting further lives in danger.

                                                                                                                                            Fatah offers ceasefire

                                                                                                                                            On Monday evening, the Fatah movement declared its readiness to cease their fire and to strive to end the fighting between Fatah and Hamas.

                                                                                                                                            The spokesman for the movement, Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, urged Hamas to adopt the same position in order to end this "dark chapter" and to put a stop to the inter-Palestinian bloodshed.

                                                                                                                                            In a press conference in Gaza City on Monday evening, Abu Khoussa said, "We are ready to shoulder our responsibilities and end the fighting in order to preserve the blood of Fatah and Hamas members as we are all in the same front against the Israeli occupation." He added: "This initiative by Fatah was informed to the Egyptian side and to a delegation from Islamic Jihad. It was presented to the Hamas movement and we are waiting for them to have the same position. We are ready to end this dark chapter."

                                                                                                                                            Hamas has still not declared its position in regard to this initiative.

                                                                                                                                            At the same time, the interior ministry's Executive Force declared a state of emergency and said that it had summoned all its members.

                                                                                                                                            In a statement, the EF said it would "not stand still" and would "defend itself, its members and all the Palestinian people".

                                                                                                                                            "We will pursue anybody who attacks the force or incites against the force," the statement said.

                                                                                                                                            Monday's fighting: 9 dead

                                                                                                                                            Palestinian medical sources announced that the secretary general of Fatah movement in the northern Gaza Strip region, along with his brother. Abu Al-Jidyan is a senior leader within the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa brigades. The two were killed in armed clashes which erupted near Jamal's home. The same sources stated that the Abu al-Jidyan's body arrived to hospital with his riddled with bullets.

                                                                                                                                            Palestinian security sources said that during the clashes near Beit Hanoun Hospital on Monday afternoon, Eid Al-Masri and his sons Faraj and Ibrahim were killed.

                                                                                                                                            A fourth victim of the fighting was named as Basil Daoud Al-Qafarna, 25, who worked in the Palestinian interior ministry's Executive Force, the same sources said.

                                                                                                                                            The Palestinian doctors' syndicate called on President Abbas to intervene and force the armed men to leave the hospital.

                                                                                                                                            In addition, Hamas' armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, accused Fatah fighters of executing one of their field leaders, Mazen Ajour in Shati' refugee camp in Gaza City.

                                                                                                                                            Earlier on Monday afternoon, Palestinian medical sources in Ash-Shifa' Hospital in Gaza City said that Palestinian intelligence officer Yasser Ghassoub Bakr from Shati' refugee camp, had died after being shot all over his body, including in the abdomen.

                                                                                                                                            The same sources added that two other bodies had arrived in the hospital, including 18-year-old Saddam Muhammad and that of one unidentified man.

                                                                                                                                            Other medical sources said that another man, Muhammad Mihjiz, was killed near Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya.

                                                                                                                                            That puts the death toll from Monday's Fatah-Hamas clashes at nine. Over 40 Gazans have been injured.

                                                                                                                                            Shooting at the PM's residence

                                                                                                                                            Earlier, medical sources also reported that gunmen fired at the prime minister's residence in Gaza City, causing extensive damage. Arsonists also set the house of Hamas member Mahmoud Ashour on fire.

                                                                                                                                            The government condemned the shooting at the prime minister's residence. A statement said, "Such criminal acts are witness to the tension of some people who want lawlessness and disorder to prevail." The statement added that those behind these acts would be brought to justice.

                                                                                                                                            Massn News

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                                                                                                                                              Israel attacks Gaza

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  June 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                              Israeli fighter jets launch three air strikes over Gaza causing vast destruction and horror among civilians

                                                                                                                                              GAZA – Ma'an – Israeli warplanes launched three air strikes over three locations of the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening.

                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                              One of the strikes targeted an Islamic Jihad research centre, another struck a blacksmith's workshop in the Sheikh Radwan area of Gaza City and the third hit shops near Karama towers in northern Gaza City.

                                                                                                                                              Ma'an's correspondent reported that "the attacks resulted in the demolition of the targets, as well as leaving vast destruction and mess in the area. The horror amongst the women, children and elderly in the area was profound."

                                                                                                                                              The strikes were launched a few hours after Palestinian fighters attacked an Israeli military base in Kisufim.

                                                                                                                                              Israeli forces invade Gaza from the north and south, cause widespread destruction and abduct local citizens

                                                                                                                                              RAFAH - Ma'an - Palestinian security sources said that the Israeli occupation forces, which penetrated Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, early on Sunday morning, have since withdrawn.

                                                                                                                                              The sources confirmed in a press statement that the operation, launched by the Israeli military, was conducted amidst intensive gunfire and caused vast destruction to local Palestinian farms and homes, but no casualties were reported.

                                                                                                                                              The Israeli army also concluded the invasion of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, after bulldozing the land in the area and launching a huge arrest campaign.

                                                                                                                                              Security sources said that the Israeli soldiers held 300 Palestinians between the ages of 16 and 40; 14 of whom were abducted by the Israeli forces and taken to an unknown destination.

                                                                                                                                              In a telephone call with Ma'an, Palestinian citizen, Hiba Harb, said that the Israeli soldiers raided her home and attacked her family members. Each family member was beaten by the soldiers, before they were forced into one room and banned from leaving for several hours.

                                                                                                                                              Harb added that the soldiers ransacked the house and stole money and gold.

                                                                                                                                              She also stated that the soldiers gathered more than fifty young men in her house before transporting them to an unknown direction.

                                                                                                                                              The sources said that the Israel forces left the area at 1am, after a 24 hour incursion.


                                                                                                                                              Maan News Agency

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                                                                                                                                                Focus on 1967 Occupation: Uri Averney: Forty Bad Years

                                                                                                                                                English (US)  June 10th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                <

                                                                                                                                                img src="http://www.thecornerreport.com/media/blogs/links/kibush40.jpg" alt="" title="" width="199" height="265" />
                                                                                                                                                Uri Avnery (Hebrew: אורי אבנרי, also transliterated Uri Avneri), born September 10, 1923 in Beckum, Germany as Helmut Ostermann), is a German Jewish-born Israeli journalist, left-wing peace activist, and former Knesset member, who was originally a member of the right-wing Revisionist Zionist movement. Avnery is the godfather of the Israeli peace movement and founder of Gush Shalom, www.gush-shalom.org</em>

                                                                                                                                                By Uri Avnery

                                                                                                                                                "REST HAS come to the tired / Repose to the toiler / A pale night covers / The fields of the Jezreel valley / Dew below and moon above / From Kibbutz Bet-Alfa to Moshav Nahalal…"

                                                                                                                                                This is what we sang when we were young. Now it is a TV nostalgia show, youngsters of the 50s singing pioneer songs.

                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                The thoughts wander. Who were the pioneers, the first to sing these songs?

                                                                                                                                                They came from rich homes in St. Petersburg, from some shtetl in Galicia, sons and daughters of university professors in Germany. They could have sailed to America, like most migrants at that time. But they were attracted to a remote eastern country, to a great national adventure. They lived in abject poverty, doing hard labor in the merciless sun that they were not accustomed to, and dreamed about a perfect human society.

                                                                                                                                                They were real idealists. It did not occur to them that they were hurting human beings of another people. The Arabs were to them a part of the romantic landscape. They believed in all innocence that they were bringing blessings and progress to all inhabitants of the country.

                                                                                                                                                As seen from today, four or five generations later, they look quite different. Their innocence is forgotten. It looks to many like rank hypocrisy, a cover for robbery and oppression.

                                                                                                                                                That is one of the results of 40 years of occupation. The current settlers claim to be the successors of those pioneers of the 20s and 30s. They say that they are today's pioneers. These violent, thieving thugs really expect us to view the pioneers of old as their spiritual forebears.

                                                                                                                                                When we add up all the damage that the occupation has done to us - to us too, and not only to the direct victims, the inhabitants of the occupied territories - let's not forget this. The occupation poisons the national memory. It soils not only the present, but also the past, not only in the eyes of the world, but also in our own eyes.

                                                                                                                                                IT IS ENOUGH to see what the occupation has done to the Jewish religion.

                                                                                                                                                In my childhood I was taught at home that Judaism was a humane religion, a "light unto the Gentiles". Judaism means to loathe violence, to value the spiritual above the powerful, to turn an enemy into a friend. A Jew is allowed to defend himself - "If somebody comes to kill you, kill him first", as the Talmudic injunction goes - but not as a lover of violence and the intoxication of power.

                                                                                                                                                What has remained of that?

                                                                                                                                                Concerned friends recently e-mailed me some hair-raising quotes from a statement by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader of the settlers and the entire religious Zionist camp. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the rabbi decreed that it is impermissible to have compassion with the civilian population of Gaza if that imperils Israeli soldiers. His son, Shmuel, interpreted this decree on behalf of his father: if the killing of 100 Arabs is not sufficient to stop the launching of Qassam rockets at Israel, then 1000 must be killed. And if that is not sufficient, then 10,000, and 100,000 and even a million. All this to stop the Qassams, which in all the years have not succeeded in killing a dozen Jews.

                                                                                                                                                What is the connection between this "religious" view and the God who (in Genesis 18) promised not to destroy Sodom if 10 righteous people could be found there?

                                                                                                                                                What is the difference between this moral perception and that of the Nazis who executed 10 hostages for every German soldier killed by the resistance?

                                                                                                                                                The rabbi's decree did not arouse any reaction. There was no outcry, neither from his flock nor from the general public. The number of rabbis who publicly support such methods has risen to the hundreds. Most of them come from the settlements. This is a "religious" outlook that grew up in the poisoned atmosphere of the occupation, a religion of occupation. It shames the Jewish religion, present and past.

                                                                                                                                                No wonder that a person with a strong religious conscience, Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Knesset and Head of the Jewish Agency, this week renounced Zionism and demanded to abolish the definition of Israel as a Jewish State.

                                                                                                                                                IT IS NO LONGER anything new to point out that the occupation is destroying the Israeli army.

                                                                                                                                                An army cannot fulfill its mission to defend the state against potential enemies when it has been engaged for decades as a colonial police force. One can give attractive names to a death-squad - Team Mango or Unit Peach - but it remains what it is: an instrument of brutal killing and oppression.

                                                                                                                                                An officer who today plans the Mafia-style killing of a "senior militant" by an undercover action in the Kasbah of Nablus, will not be able tomorrow to lead a tank battalion against a sophisticated enemy. An army that shoots stone-throwers, chases children in the alleys of Balata refugee camp or drops a one-ton bomb on a residential building cannot turn overnight into an efficient force on a modern battlefield in a war of last resort.

                                                                                                                                                No need to read this in the Winograd committee's report. It is enough to compare the commanders of 1967 - people like Yitzhak Rabin, Israel Tal, Ezer Weitzman, Dado Elazar and Matti Peled - with the corresponding figures of today. After 40 years of doing a contemptible job against a defenseless people, the army no longer attracts young people distinguished by original thinking and high motivation, by daring and resourcefulness. It attracts the mediocre of the mediocre.

                                                                                                                                                In the Six-day War we had a small, sophisticated army that defended the state from within the Green Line, once described by Abba Eban as the "Auschwitz borders". This army needed hardly six days to overcome four opposing armies. Since then, after the territory was enlarged and ideal "security borders" were achieved, the army has become much bigger and its budget many times more bloated. The results could be seen in the Second Lebanon War.

                                                                                                                                                From a military point of view, the occupation is a grave threat to the security of the state.

                                                                                                                                                THAT LEAVES THE SUPREME COURT.. Opinion polls have shown that the public derides the Knesset and scorns the government, but respects the Supreme Court as a bastion of democracy and a source of pride.

                                                                                                                                                Lately, it is becoming apparent that there was no solid basis for this. A moment after Chief Justice Aharon Barak retired from the Court, the entire judicial system started sinking into a morass of intrigues, mutual accusations and even slander. Not only in anonymous internet blogs, but also in the statements of the new Minister of Justice, the appointee of a Prime Minister dogged by personal corruption scandals.

                                                                                                                                                How has this happened?

                                                                                                                                                For many years now, the court has lived in a world of illusion. The judges have closed their eyes to their own doings. While believing that they are a pillar of liberalism and democracy, they have allowed extra-judicial executions. They have closed their eyes while torture has become routine. They have created mountains of sophistry arguing that the monstrous Wall is essential to security, trying to obscure the obvious fact that its main aim is the grabbing of land for the settlements.

                                                                                                                                                When the International Court published its simple, clear and indisputable opinion that the Wall violates international law and several conventions which have been signed by Israel too, our Supreme Court just disregarded it.

                                                                                                                                                A court that lies to itself in one sector cannot maintain its integrity in another. The "bastion of democracy" has been undermined, and may collapse entirely.

                                                                                                                                                In the meantime, the book of laws is besmirched with racist legislation - from the law that prevents Israeli citizens from living in Israel with Palestinian spouses, to the bill which received this week primary approval in the Knesset, and which allows 80 members of the Knesset to expulse a Knesset member for voicing, both in the Knesset or outside, criticism of cabinet ministers or senior army commanders.

                                                                                                                                                IT CANNOT BE DENIED: 40 years of occupation have changed the State of Israel beyond recognition.

                                                                                                                                                That is obvious in all spheres of life. All of them have been contaminated.

                                                                                                                                                18-year old youngsters, most of who have been brought up by decent parents as moral human beings, are drafted into the army, enter the brutal subculture of their units and receive an indoctrination that justifies every act of brutality against Arabs. Only a few rare individuals are able to withstand the pressure. After three years, the majority leave the army as tough men with blunted sensibilities. The brutality in our streets, the routine killings around the discotheques, the proliferation of rape and violence within the family - all these have undoubtedly been influenced by the day-to-day reality of the occupation. After all, it's the same people who are doing it.

                                                                                                                                                A policeman who is sent to Hebron and the Hawara checkpoint, who treats the inhabitants there as inferior creatures, who acts sadistically or condones the sadism of his comrades - will he turn into a different person when he returns the next day to Tel Aviv, Haifa or Shefa-Amr? Will he wake up the next morning, miraculously, as a devoted servant of his fellow-citizens in a democratic society?

                                                                                                                                                For years now, the security services, the police and the army have been lying about events in the occupied territories. Lying has become routine. Few journalists in the world now accept these statements unquestioningly. And when lying becomes the norm in one sector, the mendacity doesn't stop there. The liars of the army, the police and the other services have gotten used to lying about other matters, too.

                                                                                                                                                In the "territories", corruption has a ball. Military government officers take off their uniforms and get involved in shady businesses. Capitalist barons also profit from connections with them. Of course, this is not the only source of the corruption that has become a bane of the state, but it is surely a contributing factor.

                                                                                                                                                THE OCCUPATION CAUSES ROT, which then penetrates all the pores of the national organism.

                                                                                                                                                After 40 years, there is little similarity between the State of Israel as it is today and the state that the founders saw in their mind's eye: a model of social justice, equality and peace. The founders dreamed about a modern, enlightened, secular, liberal, socially progressive society with a flourishing economy benefiting all. Reality, as we known, has turned out very, very different.

                                                                                                                                                True, the occupation cannot be blamed for everything. Before 1967, too, the young state was far from perfect. But the public felt then that this was a temporary situation. Things could be corrected and improved. When the Israeli republic turned into a nascent Israeli empire, the dramatic deterioration started.

                                                                                                                                                AT THE end of the Six-Day War, the entire world saluted us. Little, brave David had won against Goliath. Now it is we who are seen as a heartless, brutal Goliath.

                                                                                                                                                The boycott against Israel announced by several foreign organizations must turn on a red light. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that every nation must behave with "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind". That was not only a matter of ethics but also of practical common sense. For us to maintain an occupation that violates international law is spitting in the eye of enlightened humanity.

                                                                                                                                                Israel arouses different expectations than the Congo or Sudan. But for years now, hundreds of millions of people see it almost daily in the form of occupation soldiers, armed to the teeth, abusing a helpless population. The accumulating effect is becoming clear now.

                                                                                                                                                One can treat the opinion of mankind with disdain, in the spirit of Stalin's question "How many divisions does the Pope have?" But that is stupid. International opinion can express itself in a thousand different ways. It influences the policy of governments and civil society. The attempts at boycott are only an early symptom.

                                                                                                                                                But beyond all the bad things the occupation has brought upon Israel, inside and outside, there is something that concerns each of us. Every human being wants to be proud of his country. The occupation deprives us of this.

                                                                                                                                                ON THE 40th ANNIVERSARY of the occupation of East Jerusalem, a foreign TV station wanted to interview me in the Muslim quarter of the Old City. We walked in the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross. The street was almost empty. The owners of the shops offering antiques, precious carpets and souvenirs stood in their doorways, radiating despair, and tried to lure us in.

                                                                                                                                                From time to time, small groups of tourists went past. Each group was accompanied by four security guards in white overalls, two in front and two behind. Every one of them was holding in his hand a loaded pistol, ready to open fire within a split second. That's how they walked in the street.

                                                                                                                                                That is the reality of "Jerusalem Reunited and Indivisible, the Capital of Israel for All Eternity", as the official slogan goes, 40 years after its "liberation".

                                                                                                                                                Gush Shalom

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                                                                                                                                                  FACTBOX: Security developments in Iraq, June 9

                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  June 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                  June 9 - Following are security developments in Iraq at 1945 GMT on Saturday:

                                                                                                                                                  * BAGHDAD - Police said they have found the bodies of 24 people around Baghdad in the past 24 hours.

                                                                                                                                                  * BAGHDAD - Police said they have found the body of Colonel Faris al-Duri in the Sunni al-Adhamiya district of northern Baghdad.

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - A suicide truck bomber killed 12 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 30 in an attack on an army checkpoint on a road between Jurf al-Sakhar and al-Iskandariya south of Baghdad.

                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - Four people were killed and seven wounded in a roadside bomb attack on a minibus in Baladiyat district in eastern Baghdad, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  * DIWANIYA - The body of a policeman was found shot in central Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  KIRKUK - Police said they found the bodies of three Iraqi soldiers -- shot, bound and tortured -- in southeastern Kirkuk.

                                                                                                                                                  TIKRIT - One U.S. soldier was shot dead while conducting operations in Diyala province, the U.S. military said.

                                                                                                                                                  BAQUBA - U.S. helicopters fired Hellfire missiles at a Shi'ite mosque in the volatile city of Baquba, north of Baghdad, after troops came under machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade fire from gunmen inside the building, the U.S. military said. It gave no casualty figures.

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - Six civilian detainees were killed and at least 50 wounded when mortars or rockets were fired into the U.S.-run Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

                                                                                                                                                  MOSUL - A roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded two others in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. A mortar round which landed nearby killed one civilian and wounded four others.

                                                                                                                                                  ZAAFARANIYA - A roadside bomb wounded three policemen in the Zaafaraniya district of southern Baghdad, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  FALLUJA - U.S. and Iraqi soldiers killed five suspected insurgents and detained another two during raids against the al Qaeda in Iraq network near Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. A teenage boy was wounded by a stray bullet, it said. Nine other suspected insurgents were detained in raids in Baghdad and Taji.

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - One suspected insurgent was killed and three detained during raids against a network suspected of bringing roadside bombs from Iran to Iraq, the U.S. military said.

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - Two people including a policeman were killed and eight others wounded in a car bomb attack on a police patrol in the al-Shaab neighbourhood in northern Baghdad, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - An armed group blew up the Sunni Fatah-Basha mosque in Bayaa in southern Baghdad on Friday, police said. There were no casualties, but the U.S. military said the mosque suffered substantial damage.

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded near a police patrol in Adhamiya in northern Baghdad, killing two policemen, the U.S. military said in a statement. A third was shot dead immediately after the explosion.

                                                                                                                                                  MOSUL - Seven people were killed in clashes between two groups of gunmen in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, on Friday, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  MOSUL - One policeman was killed and another wounded when gunmen attacked their patrol in central Mosul on Friday, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  BAGHDAD - The bodies of seven people were found in different areas of Baghdad on Friday, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  SAMARRA - Three people were killed and seven wounded in a mortar attack in a residential area of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, on Friday, police said.

                                                                                                                                                  Alternet

                                                                                                                                                  552 words posted in Iraq war, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                    40 Years of Lies: Believe It or Not in the Middle East

                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  June 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                    By ROBERT FISK

                                                                                                                                                    When I was a schoolboy, I loved a column which regularly appeared in British papers called "Ripley's Believe It or Not!". In a single rectangular box filled with naively drawn illustrations, Ripley - Bob Ripley - would try to astonish his readers with amazing facts:

                                                                                                                                                    "Believe It or Not, in California, an entire museum is dedicated to candy dispensers ... Believe It or Not, a County Kerry man possesses an orange that is 25 years old ... Believe It or Not, a weather researcher had his ashes scattered on the eve of Huricane Danielle 400 miles off the coast of Miama, Florida." Etc, etc, etc.

                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                    Incredibly, Ripley's column lives on, and there is even a collection of "Ripley Believe It or Not" museums in the United States.

                                                                                                                                                    The problem, of course, is that these are all extraordinary facts which will not offend anyone. There are no suicide bombers in Ripley, no Israeli air strikes ("Believe It or Not, 17,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon"), no major casualty tolls ("Believe It or Not, up to 650,000 Iraqis died in the four years following the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq"). See what I mean? Just a bit too close to the bone (or bones).

                                                                                                                                                    But I was reminded of dear old Ripley when I was prowling through the articles marking the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Memoirs there have been aplenty, but I think only the French press - in the shape of Le Monde Diplomatique - was prepared to confront a bit of "Believe It or Not".

                                                                                                                                                    It recalled vividly - and shamefully - how the world's newspapers covered the story of Egypt's "aggression" against Israel. In reality - Believe It or Not - it was Israel which attacked Egypt after Nasser closed the straits of Tiran and ordered UN troops out of Sinai and Gaza following his vituperative threats to destroy Israel. "The Egyptians attack Israel," France-Soir told its readers on 5 June 1967, a whopper so big that it later amended its headline to "It's Middle East War!".

                                                                                                                                                    Quite so. Next day, the socialist Le Populaire headlined its story "Attacked on all sides, Israel resists victoriously". On the same day, Le Figaro carried an article announcing that "the victory of the army of David is one of the greatest of all time". Believe It or Not, the Second World War - which might be counted one of the greatest of all time, had ended only 22 years earlier.

                                                                                                                                                    Johnny Hallyday, France's undie-able pop star, sang for 50,000 French supporters of Israel - for whom solidarity was expressed in the French press by Serge Gainsbourg, Juliette GrÈco, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, ValÈry Giscard d'Estaing and FranÁois Mitterand. Believe It or Not - and you can believe it - Mitterand once received the coveted Francisque medal from PÈtain's Vichy collaborationists.

                                                                                                                                                    Only the president of France, General de Gaulle, moved into political isolation by telling a press conference several months later that Israel "is organising, on the territories which it has taken, an occupation which cannot work without oppression, repression and expulsions - and if there appears resistance to this, it will in turn be called 'terrorism'". This accurate prophecy earned reproof from the Nouvel Observateur - to the effect that "Gaullist France has no friends; it has only interests". And Believe It or Not, with the exception of one small Christian paper, there was in the entire French press one missing word: Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                                    I owe it to the academic Anicet MobÈ Fansiama to remind me this week that - Believe It or Not - Congolese troops from Belgium's immensely wealthy African colony scored enormous victories over Italian troops in Africa during the Second World War, capturing 15,000 prisoners, including nine generals. Called "the Public Force" - a name which happily excluded the fact that these heroes were black Congolese - the army mobilised 13,000 soldiers and civilians to fight Vichy French colonies in Africa and deployed in the Middle East - where they were positioned to defend Palestine - as well as in Somalia, Madagascar, India and Burma.

                                                                                                                                                    Vast numbers of British and American troops passed through the Congo as its wealth was transferred to the war chests of the United States and Britain.

                                                                                                                                                    A US base was built at Kinshasa to move oil to Allied troops fighting in the Middle East.

                                                                                                                                                    But - Believe It or Not - when Congolese trade unions, whose members were requisitioned to perform hard labour inside Belgium's colony by carrying agricultural and industrial goods and military equipment, often on their backs, demanded higher salaries, the Belgian authorities confronted their demonstrations with rifle fire, shooting down 50 of their men.

                                                                                                                                                    At least 3,000 political prisoners were deported for hard labour to a remote district of Congo. Thus were those who gave their blood for Allied victory repaid. Or rather not repaid. The four billion Belgian francs which was owed back to the Congo - about £500m in today's money - was never handed over. Believe It or Not.

                                                                                                                                                    So let's relax and return to Ripley reality. "Believe It or Not, Russell Parsons of Hurricane, West Virginia, has his funeral and cremation instructions tattooed on his arm! ... Believe It or Not, in April 2007 (yes, these are new Ripleys) a group of animal lovers paid nearly $3,400 to buy 300 lobsters from a Maine fish market - then set them free back into the ocean! ... Believe It or Not, in a hospital waiting room, 70 per cent of people suffer from broken bones, 75 per cent are fatigued, 80 per cent have fevers. What percentage of people must have all four ailments?" Believe It or Not, I don't know. And oh yes, "Geta, Emperor of Rome AD189-212, insisted upon alternative meals. A typical menu: partridge (perdix), peacock (pavo), leek (porrum), beans (phaseoli), peach (persica), plum (pruna) and melon (pepone)."

                                                                                                                                                    I guess after that, you just have to throw up.

                                                                                                                                                    Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk's new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.

                                                                                                                                                    Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                                                      ISRAELI-US INTRIGUE (3): Syria rejects reports of Israeli peace offer

                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  June 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                      Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

                                                                                                                                                      By John Smith

                                                                                                                                                      Syrian officials in London rejected on Friday morning reports that Israel had invited the country to enter into peace negotiations.

                                                                                                                                                      Quoting the Qatari newspaper Al Sharq, Israeli radio reported a London-based Syrian diplomat as indicating that after purportedly suffering a defeat in the latest war in Lebanon, Israel is incapable of functioning as a real partner in any immediate peace negations.

                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                      The diplomat did indicate, however, that Syria is willing to renew peace talks with the Israeli administration.

                                                                                                                                                      The Syrian statement comes after reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had, in secret meetings between representatives of the two countries, indicated that he was willing to cede the Golan Heights to Syria should Damascus distance itself from Iran and negotiate a peace treaty with Israel.

                                                                                                                                                      Israel unilaterally annexed the contested Golan Heights in 1981. While there have been various rounds of negotiation between the two states, a settlement has yet to be reached.

                                                                                                                                                      IMEMC

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                                                                                                                                                        ISRAELI-US INTRIGUE (2): Syria "ready" for peace talks,"anonymous" source saysIs

                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  June 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                        We would like to resume peace negotiations with Israel, Syrian official says day after Olmert said he did not want to go to war with Damascus. 'Our position is the same; we're closely following (Israeli) statements,' official adds

                                                                                                                                                        Damascus would like to resume peace negotiations with Israel, a Syrian official said on Thursday, a day after Israel said it did not want to go to war with its arch-foe.

                                                                                                                                                        "Our position is the same. We are ready to resume peace negotiations, we would like to take action for peace. We're closely following (the Israeli) statements," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

                                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                                        Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted by his office as saying on Wednesday that his country "does not want a war with Syria."

                                                                                                                                                        Speaking after a powerful security cabinet meeting that focused on Damascus, Olmert said the message had been passed to Syria through various diplomatic channels.

                                                                                                                                                        But the Syrian official said he doubted Israel's desire for peace, adding: "We don't have much hope of things changing."

                                                                                                                                                        On Wednesday, the United States and Israel said after high-level talks in Washington that the time might not be ripe for Israel to resume peace talks with Syria, which broke off seven years ago.

                                                                                                                                                        Olmert has for the moment rejected overtures by Syrian President Bashar Assad to restart peace talks, saying Damascus had to first stop supporting terror groups like Hizbullah and Palestinian movement Hamas.

                                                                                                                                                        Olmert is expected to discuss the Syrian issue with US President George W. Bush when the two leaders meet in Washington on June 19.

                                                                                                                                                        US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2000 over the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured 40 years ago during the Six Day war and annexed in 1981.

                                                                                                                                                        YnetNews

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                                                                                                                                                          ISRAELI-US INTRIGUE (1): Olmert secret offer to Assad: Israel willing to withdraw from Golan Heights

                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  June 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                          A Yedioth Ahronoth report says Olmert relayed secret message to Damascus saying Israel would return Golan to Syria in exchange for comprehensive peace, severing of all ties to Iran, regional terror groups. Right-wing MKs: Olmert trying to save his own skin, has no legitimacy to give up disputed region


                                                                                                                                                          Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently relayed a secret message to Syrian President Bashar Assad saying Israel knew what the price of peace was and would be willing to pay it, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.

                                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                                          According to the report, Olmert told the Syrian leader Israel would return the Golan in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement and the severing of Damascus’ alliance with Iran and terror groups in the region.

                                                                                                                                                          A senior official in Jerusalem was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Assad has yet to respond to Israel’s offer.

                                                                                                                                                          It was further reported that during a phone conversation with US President George W. Bush last month, Olmert said he had decided to look into the possibility of renewing negotiations with Syria.

                                                                                                                                                          'Enough with incessant babble'

                                                                                                                                                          Bush, the report said, gave the go-ahead and said the United States would not stand in Israel’s way, prompting Olmert to convey to Assad several messages through German and Turkish mediators saying he “realizes that a peace agreement with Syria would entail the return of the Golan Height’s to Syrian sovereignty”.

                                                                                                                                                          The prime minister expressed his willingness to live up to his end of the bargain if Syria would “gradually dissolve its alliances with Iran, Hizbullah and the Palestinian terror organizations and stop funding and promoting terror”.

                                                                                                                                                          Syria, for its part, has not responded to the offer, apart from a few vague declarations of its willingness to enter negotiations.

                                                                                                                                                          In response to the report Likud Knesset Member Gideon Sa’ar called on Yisrael Beitenu and Shas to resign from the government immediately.

                                                                                                                                                          “Olmert has no legitimacy from the public for a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and his administration is a danger to Israel’s security,” he said.

                                                                                                                                                          “Steps being taken far from the public eye which may be difficult to stop, and the responsibility lies with all of the cabinet members.”

                                                                                                                                                          'New strategic situation'
                                                                                                                                                          National Union - NRP chairman Zevulun Orlev said, "Ehud Olmert would sell the Golan Heights for his seat. He is trying to save his own skin, and his statement regarding a withdrawal from the Golan is a desperate attempt to survive."

                                                                                                                                                          However, politicians from the Left praised Olmert’s initiative. "The price tag for a viable peace agreement with Syria is a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights,” United Arab List-Ta’al Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi said. “The negotiations must be renewed immediately,” he said.

                                                                                                                                                          Meretz faction chairperson Zahava Gal-On said that "for Olmert to demonstrate that his intentions are serious, he must not only make statements that create a new political agenda, but he must initiate a meeting between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Syrian foreign minister (Walid al-Mouallem)."

                                                                                                                                                          According to Gal-On, only direct contact will attest to the sincerity of the prime minister's intents. "Otherwise, it would appear that the prime minister was using Syria to divert attention from the discussion surrounding the Winograd Report, and to continue his personal survival."

                                                                                                                                                          Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin praised the “change in Olmert’s stance regarding negotiations with Syria”.

                                                                                                                                                          “An agreement with Syria has existed de facto since January 2000, when (then prime minister) Ehud Barak panicked and stopped the talks at Shepherdstown, West Virginia,” Beilin said.

                                                                                                                                                          “I call on Olmert to launch negotiations as soon as possible and reach an agreement based on the Arab initiative. This will directly affect Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran and will create a new strategic situation in the Middle East.”

                                                                                                                                                          YnetNews

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                                                                                                                                                            Muslim graveyard vandalized; racist slogans written on graves

                                                                                                                                                            English (US)  June 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                            RABBIS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DENOUNCE THE INCIDENT


                                                                                                                                                            Jewish worshippers desecrate Palestinian cemetery, break tombstones, write 'Death to Arabs' on graves
                                                                                                                                                            Efrat Weiss

                                                                                                                                                            PALESTINE _ Dozens of Jewish worshippers desecrated a Muslim cemetery in a Palestinian village near Arial on Friday.

                                                                                                                                                            The worshippers broke some tombstones, and wrote “Death to Arabs” on others. Noaf, a resident of a nearby village, said that the worshippers arrived at the cemetery escorted by soldiers.

                                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                                            “Several of them entered a nearby Muslim cemetery, broke tombstones, and wrote things on them such as “Death to Arabs”. I don’t know exactly how many tombstones were desecrated. We were under curfew during their worship time, and they came and did this,” he said.

                                                                                                                                                            Rabbi Arik Asherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights, denounced the incident. “As rabbis, we protest this desecration and are reminded of our pain when such acts are committed against us.”

                                                                                                                                                            According to an official IDF response, the entry of Jewish worshippers into the cemetery was authorized in order to allow them to visit the Yeshua Ben Nun tomb nearby.

                                                                                                                                                            “On the whole, about 1,300 people entered the place, most acting wonderfully, as is appropriate upon entering a sacred place. Unfortunately, a handful of worshippers chose to create a provocation and vandalize Palestinian graves,” the IDF statement said.

                                                                                                                                                            The IDF also said that an official complaint was sent to the worshippers’ leaders. “The IDF has agreed with leaders of the worshippers that they would be responsible for repairing the damages as early as next week.”

                                                                                                                                                            YnetNews

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                                                                                                                                                              Picture of the week: Anti-Chavez demo

                                                                                                                                                              English (US)  June 9th, 2007 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                              University students rally against the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's decision of not renewing the license of RCTV, in Caracas. Thousands of Chavez supporters responded by taking to the streets a day later [AFP]

                                                                                                                                                              33 words posted in General NewsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                FOCUS 1967: 40 YEARS OF OCCUPATION: "They destroyed our lives"

                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  June 8th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                'They destroyed our lives'


                                                                                                                                                                Ahmed recalls families being forced out of
                                                                                                                                                                their homes

                                                                                                                                                                By leila el-Haddad in Gaza

                                                                                                                                                                Ahmed Qandeel, a 67 year old Palestinian, talks about his experiences during the 1967 war and how, he says, the ensuing occupation has led to the deterioration of education in Gaza:

                                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                The war started on a Monday at 10 am. I was a school supervisor at the time and the head of the Rafah educational department. I remember we were handing out and supervising the ninth grade exams.

                                                                                                                                                                We heard the first bullets echoing from the east. We never expected this to happen because we thought we had the Egyptian forces behind us. But sadly, it turned out very differently.

                                                                                                                                                                The occupation forces first entered Gaza from the east. Most people thought the Israeli troops were Iraqis. The Arab media was obfuscating the reality - they were saying things like: "The Arab armies have reached Beer il Sabi." [It was] all lies.

                                                                                                                                                                A tank battalion was deployed inside Rafah and one boy tried to shoot at one of the tanks. He was gunned down immediately. He had never seen a tank in his life.

                                                                                                                                                                Then, a checkpoint was set up near Khan Yunis further north. We weren't sure what to expect - some people even brought them food and water.

                                                                                                                                                                Then the occupying troops surrounded the Shaboora camp in Rafah and hit it hard. We saw them coming.

                                                                                                                                                                'Scattered resistance'

                                                                                                                                                                I was part of the Palestinian Civil Defence at the time.

                                                                                                                                                                There was scattered resistance inside of Rafah, but it was limited in scope and lacked weapons. We heard lots of gunfire. Many young men were slaughtered as a result of taking part in the resistance. Many of the fighters were later exiled to Sinai.

                                                                                                                                                                And soon, the house demolitions began. Entire families were forced out of their homes and their houses were destroyed to pave the way for wide roads suitable for their military vehicles.

                                                                                                                                                                Shaboura camp, on Rafah's outskirsts, was hit particularly hard. The Israelis reached this camp and demolished a series of homes there because they said it was a centre of resistance.

                                                                                                                                                                After this, the resistance died down. They had no weapons and no outside support. Then the Israeli troops and administrators tried to calm things down so they could win people over and assure them that there was some stability.

                                                                                                                                                                Worsening education

                                                                                                                                                                They changed the currency that we were using. Curfews were imposed at night and during the day. Residents were asked to raise white flags on top of their rooftops.

                                                                                                                                                                The Palestinian flag - or any reference to Palestine - was banned. Breaking this law would land you in military courts and, ultimately, prison.

                                                                                                                                                                They tried to reopen schools, but they were in bad shape.

                                                                                                                                                                But most significant of all, they tried to change our syllabi to the Israeli curriculum.

                                                                                                                                                                The head of education at the time, Bashir il-Rayyis, refused to do so and the teachers went on strike.

                                                                                                                                                                He insisted on maintaining the Egyptian curriculums and they did, they kept them until 1994. But they only used it selectively.

                                                                                                                                                                Anything to do with Palestine or references to Palestinian history or culture, and even certain Quranic verses were tossed out in their entirety by the Israeli occupation forces.

                                                                                                                                                                Teachers were subject to military trials and detention if they didn't abide by the Israeli rules. The level of education greatly deteriorated.

                                                                                                                                                                The curriculum also needed to be updated and we were not allowed to do so under Israeli orders. It was an attempt to dumb down the Palestinian population. So people around us change, times change, and we stay in cocoons.

                                                                                                                                                                Egyptian curriculums changed in Egypt itself, but the Israelis refused to allow to change the curriculums the Palestinians were using.

                                                                                                                                                                'Dumbing down'

                                                                                                                                                                The [Israeli] occupation resulted in the deterioration of our education system for 30 years, as well as of our culture and civilisation.

                                                                                                                                                                They forced a curriculum change and began to set guidelines for the kinds of teachers that were allowed to teach us.

                                                                                                                                                                Ultimately, the point was to dumb down the Palestinian residents.

                                                                                                                                                                Then, [Israel] opened the way for Palestinian labourers. Students began to leave school, and, due to poverty and rising unemployment, began working in Israel.

                                                                                                                                                                As a result, we began to see new things. Hebrew began to spread by way of the labourers as well as a new culture and mannerisms we were not accustomed to.

                                                                                                                                                                Slowly, the resistance began to resurface, but only as individual units.

                                                                                                                                                                They begin to hit Israeli areas. So Israeli forces hit back hard at the refugee camps - under the guise of wanting to pave large roads in the camps. They hit Brazil neighbourhood here in Rafah, demolished dozens of homes, and forced its residents out.

                                                                                                                                                                In short, they destroyed our lives.


                                                                                                                                                                Source: Al Jazeera

                                                                                                                                                                789 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                  Chiquita faces Colombia lawsuit

                                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  June 7th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                  Relatives of people killed in conflict in Colombia's banana-producing regions have filed a lawsuit against Chiquita Brands for paying right-wing paramilitary groups.

                                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                  Families of 173 people who died in violent incidents across Colombia launched the suit on Thursday over Chiquita's payments to the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC).

                                                                                                                                                                  Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer with International Rights Advocates who is leading the multi-million dollar litigation, said: "This is a landmark case, maybe the biggest terrorism case in history. In terms of casualties, it's the size of three World Trade Center attacks."

                                                                                                                                                                  Fines

                                                                                                                                                                  Chiquita has said in the past that it paid money to guarantee protection for its workers in Colombia's banana-producing regions.

                                                                                                                                                                  The lawsuit was lodged the same day that Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's president, was lobbying in Washington for a bilateral free trade deal.

                                                                                                                                                                  "I guess this is the one scenario where I would support the death penalty - the death of a truly evil corporation"

                                                                                                                                                                  Terry Collingsworth, an attorney with International Rights Advocates
                                                                                                                                                                  "In the last 10 years, more than 10,000 people have been murdered by the AUC, many of them in the banana zones where Chiquita financed the AUC's operations," Collingsworth said.

                                                                                                                                                                  In April, Chiquita agreed to pay a $25m in fines after pleading guilty to one count of engaging in transactions with a designated global terrorist group.

                                                                                                                                                                  Chiquita was accused of paying a total of $1.7m to the AUC from 1997 to 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                  The company has also acknowledged past payments to Farc, a left-wing rebel group.

                                                                                                                                                                  The lawyers maintained that admitting the payment opened the company up to potential litigation.

                                                                                                                                                                  "Putting Chiquita on trial for hundreds or even thousands of murders could put them out of business," said Collingsworth.

                                                                                                                                                                  "I guess this is the one scenario where I would support the death penalty - the death of a truly evil corporation."

                                                                                                                                                                  'Terrorist' organisation

                                                                                                                                                                  The AUC is designated a terrorist organisation by several countries, including Colombia and the US.

                                                                                                                                                                  Senior supporters of Uribe have also been accused of close links with the AUC.

                                                                                                                                                                  Uribe has repeatedly rebutted claims that he had personal links to the AUC when he was governor of the Antioquia province in the 1990s.

                                                                                                                                                                  Colombia's paramilitary groups were organised as private armies in the 1980s, and aimed to protect landholders from left-wing fighters who were extorting "war taxes".

                                                                                                                                                                  The AUC have since been accused of killing civilians and of drug trafficking.

                                                                                                                                                                  The group began a process of disarmament in 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                  Source: Agencies

                                                                                                                                                                  398 words posted in General NewsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                    New UN map charts West Bank reality

                                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  June 7th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                    By Sharmila Devi and Harvey Morris in Jerusalem

                                                                                                                                                                    A new map of the West Bank (see below), 40 years after its conquest by Israel in the Six Day War, gives the most definitive picture so far of a territory in which 2.5m Palestinians are confined to dozens of enclaves separated by Israeli roads, settlements, fences and military zones.

                                                                                                                                                                    Produced by the United Nations’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, it is based on extensive monitoring in the field combined with analysis of satellite imagery. It provides an overall picture officials say is even more comprehensive than charts drawn up by the Israeli military.

                                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                    The impact of Israeli civilian and military infrastructure is to render 40 per cent of the territory, which is roughly the size of the US state of Delaware or the English county of Norfolk, off-limits to Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                                                    Fragmentation of the West Bank

                                                                                                                                                                    The rest of the territory, including main centres such as Nablus and Jericho, is split into isolated spots. Movement between them is restricted by 450 roadblocks and 70 manned checkpoints.

                                                                                                                                                                    The UN mapmakers focused on land set aside for Jewish settlements, roads reserved for settler access, the West Bank separation barrier, closed military areas and nature reserves.

                                                                                                                                                                    What remains is an area of habitation remarkably close to territory set aside for the Palestinian population in Israeli security proposals dating back to postwar 1967.

                                                                                                                                                                    The process of enclosing the civilian enclaves has accelerated in the years since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and the reintroduction by Israel of its military rule even in areas previously under Palestinian Authority security control.

                                                                                                                                                                    A network of roads designed to ease the movement of Jewish settlers limits access between Palestinian enclaves. A secondary network being built would allow Palestinian limited movement via tunnels, bridges and trenches.

                                                                                                                                                                    Diplomats say the effect of the infrastructure changes would be to formalise the de facto cantonisation of the West Bank. Some 450,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and occupied east Jerusalem and settlements have grown by at least 5.5 per cent a year compared with less than 3 per cent among Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                                                    The map is one of a number of documents whose publication has coincided with Monday’s anniversary of the 1967 war. Amnesty, the rights group, issued a report that accused Israel of a land grab in the West Bank and called for urgent action to address “widespread human rights abuses committed under the occupation”.

                                                                                                                                                                    The Israeli justice ministry branded the report as “one-sided, immoral and riddled with mistakes”.


                                                                                                                                                                    The Financial Times

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                                                                                                                                                                      Zionist army bulldozes Palestinian cemetery trees and kidnaps two boys in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem

                                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  June 7th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                      By Ghassan Bannoura

                                                                                                                                                                      AIDA REFUGEE CAMP, BETHLEHEM, Palestine - The Israeli army and a group of settlers continued their efforts to raze trees in a Palestinian graveyard near the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem on Thursday morning.

                                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                      Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that the soldiers and several armored Israeli vehicles surrounded the graveyard early in the morning.

                                                                                                                                                                      The graveyard is located near a Jewish holy site known as Rachel's Tomb. The trees were due to be cut down in order to establish a wider security buffer zone around the wall in the area of the site.

                                                                                                                                                                      The Palestinian Ministry of Religious Sites, which is responsible for the area, had recently protested the razing of the trees in the graveyard, and an agreement had been reached with the Israeli Supreme Court that any tree pruning should be carried out in coordination with and under the supervision of the ministry. Wednesday morning's action represented a unilateral effort by the army, breaking the recent legal agreement.

                                                                                                                                                                      A group from the ministry of religious sites arrived at the scene and managed to stop the work while the relevant courts were consulted.

                                                                                                                                                                      Throughout the duration of the stand-off, an Israeli military vehicle was stationed in front of the graveyard and did not allow journalists to enter the site. The soldiers regularly stopped civilian cars and searched some of them.

                                                                                                                                                                      In other news, two Palestinian children were reportedly kidnapped by Israeli forces after they invaded Aida refugee camp on Wednesday afternoon.

                                                                                                                                                                      Local sources told IMEMC that the two boys were Khaled Qaraq', 19, and Rafat Darwish, 15. The sources added that during the incursion into the camp, soldiers clashed with locals, searched homes and kidnapped the two boys. Witnesses reported that tear gas was fired at the homes of residents during the raid.

                                                                                                                                                                      International Middle East News Center

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                                                                                                                                                                        Woman arrested for making faces at dog

                                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  June 7th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                        CHELSEA, Vt. - A prosecutor has dropped charges against a woman who was arrested for staring at and making faces at a police dog.

                                                                                                                                                                        "Prosecuting a woman for `staring' at a police dog is absurd," said her lawyer. "People are allowed to make faces at police dogs and officers to express their disapproval. It's constitutional expression," said public defender Kelly Green, who represented Jayna Hutchinson.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Hutchinson, 33, of Lebanon, N.H., was charged with cruelty to a police animal and resisting arrest after a July 31 incident in West Fairlee in which police were called to a market to investigate a report of a brawl. They were approached by Hutchinson, who told one officer she had been assaulted the day before by one of the men involved.

                                                                                                                                                                        She asked Vermont State Police Sgt. Todd Protzman to take her statement but he refused, telling her she smelled like alcohol and was drunk but that he would take her statement at another time.

                                                                                                                                                                        After a heated exchange, she approached Protzman's cruiser, where his dog Max was waiting, putting her face within inches of the window and "staring at him in a taunting/harassing manner," Protzman wrote in an affidavit.

                                                                                                                                                                        "While the defendant taunted my canine, Max was focused on the defendant and the perceived threat she presented to him," the affidavit said. "He was no longer focused on me and the other officers at the scene."

                                                                                                                                                                        Officers arrested Hutchinson, adding the resisting arrest charge because she pulled her arms and upper body away during the arrest. She registered 0.21 percent blood-alcohol content on a breath test, more than twice the legal limit for drivers in Vermont.

                                                                                                                                                                        On Tuesday, two days before Hutchinson was to go to trial, Orange County State's Attorney Will Porter decided to drop the charges, after viewing a videotape of the incident over the weekend.

                                                                                                                                                                        "I think it was going to be difficult to prove her conduct changed the dog's behavior," Porter said. "Most of the time (in harassment cases) people would come tell the court what it felt like. Dogs can't do that."

                                                                                                                                                                        ABC news

                                                                                                                                                                        343 words posted in General NewsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                                          Iraqi Lawmakers Pass Resolution That May Force End to Occupation

                                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  June 6th, 2007 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                          While Washington lawmakers play procedural games with an out-of-control executive branch, Iraqi legislators are working to bring an end to the occupation of their country.

                                                                                                                                                                          By Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland

                                                                                                                                                                          While most observers are focused on the U.S. Congress as it continues to issue new rubber stamps to legitimize Bush's permanent designs on Iraq, nationalists in the Iraqi parliament -- now representing a majority of the body -- continue to make progress toward bringing an end to their country's occupation.

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                                                                                                                                                                          The parliament today passed a binding resolution that will guarantee lawmakers an opportunity to block the extension of the U.N. mandate under which coalition troops now remain in Iraq when it comes up for renewal in December. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose cabinet is dominated by Iraqi separatists, may veto the measure.

                                                                                                                                                                          The law requires the parliament's approval of any future extensions of the mandate, which have previously been made by Iraq's prime minister. It is an enormous development; lawmakers reached in Baghdad today said that they do in fact plan on blocking the extension of the coalition's mandate when it comes up for renewal six months from now.

                                                                                                                                                                          Reached today by phone in Baghdad, Nassar al Rubaie, the head of Al-Sadr bloc in Iraq's Council of Representatives, said, "This new binding resolution will prevent the government from renewing the U.N. mandate without the parliament's permission. They'll need to come back to us by the end of the year, and we will definitely refuse to extend the U.N. mandate without conditions." Rubaie added: "There will be no such a thing as a blank check for renewing the U.N. mandate anymore, any renewal will be attached to a timetable for a complete withdrawal."

                                                                                                                                                                          Without the cover of the U.N. mandate, the continued presence of coalition troops in Iraq would become, in law as in fact, an armed occupation, at which point it would no longer be politically tenable to support it. While polls show that most Iraqis consider U.S. forces to be occupiers rather than liberators or peacekeepers -- 92 percent of respondents said as much in a 2004 survey by the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies -- the U.N. mandate confers an aura of legitimacy on the continuing presence of foreign troops on Iraq's streets, even four years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

                                                                                                                                                                          The resolution was initiated when a majority of Iraqi lawmakers signed a nonbinding legislative petition two weeks ago that called on the Iraqi government to demand a withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country.

                                                                                                                                                                          While the issue of the Multinational Force's (MNF) mandate has been virtually ignored by the American media, it has been a point of fierce contention in Baghdad. Last fall, just after the midterm elections in the United States, a coalition of Iraqi nationalists in the parliament tried to attach conditions to the mandate's extension.

                                                                                                                                                                          Iraqi lawmaker Jabir Habib (a Shia closely aligned with the al-Sadrist Movement) said in an interview last fall that the Iraqi Assembly had been poised to vote on the issue. "We spent the last months discussing the conditions we wanted to add to the mandate," he said, "and the majority of the parliament decided on three major conditions. These conditions included pulling the coalition forces out of the cities and transferring responsibility for security to the Iraqi government, giving Iraqis the right to recruit, train, equip and command the Iraqi security forces, and requiring that the U.N. mandate expire and be reviewed every six months instead of every 12 months."

                                                                                                                                                                          Alternet

                                                                                                                                                                          590 words posted in Iraq war, American EmpireLeave a comment

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