President Obama, say the 'D-Word'

English (US)  January 29th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

US appears to shy away from talk about democracy in Middle East, despite historic anti-government rallies in ally Egypt.
By Mark LeVine

Obama has 'sought to equate Egypt's protesters and government as equally pitted parties in the growing conflict' [AFP]

It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and "non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that really matters: democracy.

How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama spoke the word loudly and clearly - at least once.

"The fourth issue that I will address is democracy," he declared, before explaining that while the United States won't impose its own system, it was committed to governments that "reflect the will of the people... I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

"No matter where it takes hold," the president concluded, "government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power."

[More:]

Simply rhetoric?

Of course, this was just rhetoric, however lofty, reflecting a moment when no one was rebelling against the undemocratic governments of our allies - at least not openly and in a manner that demanded international media coverage.

Now it's for real.

And "democracy" is scarcely to be heard on the lips of the president or his most senior officials.

In fact, newly released WikiLeaks cables show that from the moment it assumed power, the Obama administration specifically toned down public criticism of Mubarak. The US ambassador to Egypt advised secretary of state Hillary Clinton to avoid even the mention of former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, jailed and abused for years after running against Mubarak in part on America's encouragement.

Not surprisingly, when the protests began, Clinton declared that Egypt was "stable" and an important US ally, sending a strong signal that the US would not support the protesters if they tried to topple the regime. Indeed, Clinton has repeatedly described Mubarak as a family friend. Perhaps Ms Clinton should choose her friends more wisely.

Similarly, president Obama has refused to take a strong stand in support of the burgeoning pro-democracy movement and has been no more discriminating in his public characterisation of American support for its Egyptian "ally". Mubarak continued through yesterday to be praised as a crucial partner of the US. Most important, there has been absolutely no call for real democracy.

Rather, only "reform" has been suggested to the Egyptian government so that, in Obama's words, "people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances".

"I've always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform - political reform, economic reform - is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt," advised the president, although vice-president Joe Biden has refused to refer to Mubarak as a dictator, leading one to wonder how bad a leader must be to deserve the title.

Even worse, the president and his senior aides have repeatedly sought to equate the protesters and the government as somehow equally pitted parties in the growing conflict, urging both sides to "show restraint". This equation has been repeated many times by other American officials.

This trick, tried and tested in the US discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is equally nonsensical here. These are not two movements in a contest for political power. Rather, it is a huge state, with a massive security and police apparatus that is supported by the world's major superpower to the tune of billions of dollars a year, against a largely young, disenfranchised and politically powerless population which has suffered brutally at its hands for decades.

The focus on reform is also a highly coded reference, as across the developing world when Western leaders have urged "reform" it has usually signified the liberalisation of economies to allow for greater penetration by Western corporations, control of local resources, and concentration of wealth, rather than the kind of political democratisation and redistribution of wealth that are key demands of protesters across the region.

Al Jazeera interview says it all

An Al Jazeera English interview on Thursday with US state department spokesman PJ Crowley perfectly summed up the sustainability of the Obama administration's position. In some of the most direct and unrelenting questioning of a US official I have ever witnessed, News Hour anchor Shihab al-Rattansi repeatedly pushed Crowley to own up to the hypocrisy and absurdity of the administration's position of offering mild criticism of Mubarak while continuing to ply him with billions of dollars in aid and political support.

When pressed about how the US-backed security services are beating and torturing and even killing protesters, and whether it wasn't time for the US to consider discontinuing aid, Crowley responded that "we don't see this as an either or [a minute later, he said "zero sum"] proposition. Egypt is a friend of the US, is an anchor of stability and helping us pursue peace in the Middle East".

Each part of this statement is manifestly false; the fact that in the midst of intensifying protests senior officials feel they can spin the events away from openly calling for a real democratic transition now reveals either incredible ignorance, arrogance, or both.

Yet this is precisely an either/or moment. Much as former US president Bush declared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we can either be "with or against" the Egyptian people. Refusing to take sides is in fact taking sides -the wrong side.

Moreover, Crowley, like his superiors, refused to use the word democracy, responding to its use by anchor al-Rattansi with the word "reform" while arguing that it was unproductive to tie events in Egypt to the protests in other countries such as Tunis or Jordan because each has its own "indigenous" forces and reasons for discontent.

That is a very convenient singularisation of the democracy movements, which ignores the large number of similarities in the demands of protests across the region, the tactics and strategies of protest, and their broader distaste and distrust of the US in view of its untrammelled support for dictatorships across the region.

Systematic silence

Ensconced in a system built upon the lack of democracy - not just abroad, but as we've seen in the last decade, increasingly in the US as well - perhaps president Obama doesn't feel he has the luxury of pushing too hard for democracy when its arrival would threaten so many policies pursued by his administration.

Instead, "stability" and "reform" are left to fill the void, even though both have little to do with democracy in an real sense.

Perhaps Obama wants to say the D-word. Maybe in his heart he hopes Mubarak just leaves and allows democracy to flourish. By all accounts, the president is no ideologue like his predecessor. He does not come from the political-economic-strategic elites as did Bush, and has no innate desire to serve or protect their interests.

Feeling trapped by a system outside his control or power to change, maybe president Obama hopes that the young people of the Arab world will lead the way, and will be satisfied by congratulations by his administration after the fact.

But even if accurate, such a scenario will likely never come to pass. With Egyptians preparing to die in the streets, standing on the sidelines is no longer an option.

A gift that won't be offered again

The most depressing and even frightening part of the tepid US response to the protests across the region is the lack of appreciation of what kind of gift the US, and West more broadly, are being handed by these movements. Their very existence is bringing unprecedented levels of hope and productive activism to a region and as such constitutes a direct rebuttal to the power and prestige of al-Qaeda.

Instead of embracing the push for real democratic change, however, surface reforms that would preserve the system intact are all that's recommended. Instead of declaring loud and clear a support for a real democracy agenda, the president speaks only of "disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies" and "tak[ing] the fight to al-Qaeda and their allies", as he declared in his State of the Union address.

Obama doesn't seem to understand that the US doesn't need to "take the fight" to al-Qaeda, or even fire a single shot, to score its greatest victory in the "war on terror". Supporting real democratisation will do more to downgrade al-Qaeda's capabilities than any number of military attacks. He had better gain this understanding quickly because in the next hours or days the Egypt's revolution will likely face its moment of truth. And right behind Egypt are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and who knows what other countries, all looking to free themselves of governments that the US and its European allies have uncritically supported for decades.

If president Obama has the courage to support genuine democracy, even at the expense of immediate American policy interests, he could well go down in history as one of the heroes of the Middle East's Jasmine winter. If he chooses platitudes and the status quo, the harm to America's standing in the region will likely take decades to repair.

Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).

Source: Al Jazeera

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    Fisk: A New Truth Dawns On The Arab World

    English (US)  January 27th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

    By Robert Fisk

    The Palestine Papers are as damning as the Balfour Declaration. The Palestinian "Authority" – one has to put this word in quotation marks – was prepared, and is prepared to give up the "right of return" of perhaps seven million refugees to what is now Israel for a "state" that may be only 10 per cent (at most) of British mandate Palestine.

    And as these dreadful papers are revealed, the Egyptian people are calling for the downfall of President Mubarak, and the Lebanese are appointing a prime minister who will supply the Hezbollah. Rarely has the Arab world seen anything like this.

    [More:]

    To start with the Palestine Papers, it is clear that the representatives of the Palestinian people were ready to destroy any hope of the refugees going home.

    It will be – and is – an outrage for the Palestinians to learn how their representatives have turned their backs on them. There is no way in which, in the light of the Palestine Papers, these people can believe in their own rights.

    They have seen on film and on paper that they will not go back. But across the Arab world – and this does not mean the Muslim world – there is now an understanding of truth that there has not been before.

    It is not possible any more, for the people of the Arab world to lie to each other. The lies are finished. The words of their leaders – which are, unfortunately, our own words – have finished. It is we who have led them into this demise. It is we who have told them these lies. And we cannot recreate them any more.

    In Egypt, we British loved democracy. We encouraged democracy in Egypt – until the Egyptians decided that they wanted an end to the monarchy. Then we put them in prison. Then we wanted more democracy. It was the same old story. Just as we wanted Palestinians to enjoy democracy, providing they voted for the right people, we wanted the Egyptians to love our democratic life. Now, in Lebanon, it appears that Lebanese "democracy" must take its place. And we don't like it.

    We want the Lebanese, of course, to support the people who we love, the Sunni Muslim supporters of Rafiq Hariri, whose assassination – we rightly believe – was orchestrated by the Syrians. And now we have, on the streets of Beirut, the burning of cars and the violence against government.

    And so where are we going? Could it be, perhaps, that the Arab world is going to choose its own leaders? Could it be that we are going to see a new Arab world which is not controlled by the West? When Tunisia announced that it was free, Mrs Hillary Clinton was silent. It was the crackpot President of Iran who said that he was happy to see a free country. Why was this?

    In Egypt, the future of Hosni Mubarak looks ever more distressing. His son, may well be his chosen successor. But there is only one Caliphate in the Muslim world, and that is Syria. Hosni's son is not the man who Egyptians want. He is a lightweight businessman who may – or may not – be able to rescue Egypt from its own corruption.

    Hosni Mubarak's security commander, a certain Mr Suleiman who is very ill, may not be the man. And all the while, across the Middle East, we are waiting to see the downfall of America's friends. In Egypt, Mr Mubarak must be wondering where he flies to. In Lebanon, America's friends are collapsing. This is the end of the Democrats' world in the Arab Middle East. We do not know what comes next. Perhaps only history can answer this question.

    independent.co.uk

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      Palestinian Negotiators Must Tell All

      English (US)  January 27th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


      The Palestinian Authority has many questions to answer.

      By George S. Hishmeh – Washington, D.C.

      The Arab peoples, almost anywhere from 'the Atlantic to the Gulf,' are nowadays seething with anger more than at anytime in recent decades, partly because of their poor economic conditions and rising unemployment as well as the absence of good governance. But equally shattering has been the feeling that their autocratic rulers are not responsive to their political goals and only serve as instruments in the hands of the big powers, especially the United States which has been a firm ally of Israel, the usurper of the Palestinian homeland.

      This has been clearly illustrated after the pace-setting Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia forced the country’s president and his family to flee to Saudi Arabia, and served as a torch for many in the region, especially Algeria, Egypt, and Yemen, where some demonstrators have been killed. The ongoing turmoil reported in the Sudan, Iraq and Lebanon where all have experienced political and confessional strife is about to splinter the Sudan, and divide Iraq despite the imminent withdrawal of American troops from occupied country.

      [More:]


      As far as Lebanon is concerned, the country has this week passed through a cataclysmic change whereby Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hizballah, (Party of God) has emerged as a kingmaker when he succeeded in bringing about the downfall of the government led by Saad al-Hariri, son of the assassinated prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, and managed to impose a successor, Najib Miqati, a former prime minister.

      All this came about because of the captivating issue in Lebanon of the Special Tribunal Lebanon (STL), a UN-sponsored tribunal which has been looking into the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and 22 others. The secret indictments, handed down last week, are believed to name prominent Hizballah members as the guilty parties in carrying out the crime. Sheikh Nasrallah had reportedly wanted Saad Hariri, who succeeded his father as the prime minister, to denounce the STL but he refused. Whether the prime minister-designate, will do that is still an open question.

      The more sensational issue at this hour are “The Palestinian Papers,” a cache of secret diplomatic cables covering the period 1999 to 2010 and acquired by Aljazeera, an Arabic and English language television network seen world-wide, and shared exclusively by the Guardian of London. The more than 1600 documents exposed the give-and-take in negotiations in recent years between Israel and the Palestinian Authority where the Palestinians seemed to be giving more than taking.

      “The documents,” according to Aluf Benn of Haaretz, “show that contrary to the ‘no-partner’ image perpetuated by Israelis, the Palestinians were holding serious negotiations on the borders of their future state and that they produced a detailed map of territorial exchanges in the West Bank and neighborhood partitions in (Israeli-occupied)East Jerusalem.”

      What was most alarming in the documents, described by the Guardian as the “biggest leak” on the Middle East peace talks has shockingly revealed that “Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one (Har Homa) of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem.” It added that this “unprecedented” proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shock waves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.

      Another disturbing revelation was a confidential concession offered by the Palestinians included the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians accepted that only 10,000 refugees would return home at the rate of 1,000 a year – a proposal that the Israelis rejected.

      Kathleen Christison, a former CIA political analyst and author of several books on the Palestinian situation, highlighted in a column published this week by Counterpunch, that “the story of pressure one U.S. administration after another has exerted on Palestinian negotiators to make these concessions and accommodate all Israel’s demands shows U.S. conduct throughout almost two decades of negotiations to be perhaps the most cynical, and indeed the most shameful, of the three parties.”

      But the most shameful indeed has been the alleged acceptance of the Palestinian negotiators to offer these unbelievable concessions – – a situation that obliges the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, to tell all when as he has promised this week. It is time for them to come out of their shell.

      - George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. Contact him at: Hishmehg@aol.com.

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        Erekat: "I can't stand Hamas": The Palestine Papers

        English (US)  January 27th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

        For Fatah, the Annapolis process seems to have been as much about crushing Hamas as about ending Israel's occupation.


        Fatah security forces routinely arrest members of Hamas in the West Bank [EPA]

        By Laila Al-Arian

        The Annapolis process was meant to be a round of peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to solve the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But instead of focusing on resolving the core issues at hand, why did Palestinian negotiators spend so much time during the meetings denigrating their political rivals, Hamas?

        The Palestine Papers reveal that Fatah was obsessed with maintaining political supremacy over Hamas, with Israel’s cooperation, especially following the 2006 electoral victory of the Islamist movement. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera also show the extent to which the Palestinian Authority cracked down on Hamas institutions to weaken the group and strengthen its own relationship with Israel.

        At the height of negotiations, on April 7, 2008, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was unequivocal in summing up Israel’s policy: “Our strategic view is to strengthen you and weaken Hamas.”

        [More:]

        Working with Israel to weaken Hamas also appeared to be in the Palestinian Authority’s interest. During a May 6, 2008 security meeting between Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Israeli army civil administration in the West Bank, and Hazem Atallah, the head of the Palestinian Civil Police, Hamas was a prominent subject of discussion.

        Yoav Mordechai: How is your fight against “civilian” Hamas: the officers, people in municipalities, etc. This is a serious threat.

        Hazem Atallah: I don’t work at the political level, but I agree we need to deal with this.

        Yoav Mordechai: Hamas needs to be declared illegal by your President. So far it is only the militants that are illegal.

        Atallah: There is also the request for tear gas canisters. You previously gave us these back in 96.”

        Yoav Mordechai: We gave some to you for Balata 2 weeks ago. What do you need them for?

        Atallah: Riot control. We want to avoid a situation where the security agencies may be forced to fire on unarmed civilians.

        Never mind that tear gas canisters have proven that they can be just as deadly as live bullet rounds, the exchange also foreshadows a crackdown on Hamas’ social institutions in the West Bank.

        PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat made his contempt for his rivals known in 2007, when he told the Belgian foreign minister Karel de Gucht, “I can’t stand Hamas or their social programs.”

        "The way to defeat Hamas"

        By September 17, 2009, Erekat was bragging to U.S. officials that the PA had complete control over “zakat” committees, or Muslim charities, in the West Bank, as well as the weekly Friday sermons.

        Palestinian officials were often more concerned with applying pressure to Hamas than easing a humanitarian crisis.

        “We have invested time and effort and even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law,” Erekat said. “The Prime Minister is doing everything possible to build the institutions. We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the Zakat and the sermons in the mosques. We are getting our act together.”

        In 2007, Reuters reported that Fatah was “increasing pressure on ‘zakat’ charity committees that support the network of Islamic schools and health clinics which helped fuel Hamas's rise to power.” On one occasion, the news service reported, 20 gunmen stormed a dairy funded by such a zakat committee but were ultimately persuaded to leave.

        At the time, Akram al-Rajoub, who headed the Preventive Security service in Nablus said, “There is absolutely no cooperation with Israel in our activities" but that claim is belied by the conversations documented in The Palestine Papers.

        On February 11, 2008, Atallah presented the Israelis with a laundry list of actions the PA took against Hamas, and complained that Israeli actions in the West Bank city of Nablus the previous month were harmful. He was likely referring to the three-day incursion by the Israeli military, in which 40 Palestinians were injured and 20 detained. 70,000 residents of the city were placed under curfew.

        “We made arrests, confiscated arms, and sacked security individuals affiliated with Hamas,” Atallah said, “but you keep on deterring our efforts, and this is what’s happening in Nablus.”

        While security cooperation against Hamas and its institutions dominated some meetings, often Palestinian negotiators merely wanted to vent to their Israeli counterparts about their deep-seated desire to defeat their political opponents.

        “Hamas must not feel that it is achieving daily victories, sometimes with Israel and sometimes with Egypt, and Al Jazeera Channel praises these victories,” Ahmed Qurei, a senior Palestinian negotiator, told Livni on February 4, 2008.

        “I hope Hamas will be defeated, not military I mean because we didn’t try this; we didn’t engage in a civil war. President Abu Mazen was wise enough not to give orders to Fateh members to use arms, otherwise, we’d have had many casualties.”

        According to the Palestine Papers, for Fatah, the Annapolis process seems to have been as much about crushing Hamas as it was about ending Israel’s occupation and establishing an independent, Palestinian state.

        “We continue with a genuine process,” Saeb Erekat confided to European Union Special Representative Marc Otte on June 18, 2008, “reaching an agreement is a matter of survival for us. It’s the way to defeat Hamas.”

        Al Jazeera

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          Palestinians: Don't Get Mad, Get Even

          English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


          Welcome to the brave new world of Palestinian negotiations.

          By Stuart Littlewood – London

          See this embarrassment as your big chance - a God-sent opportunity to sweep away the shameful Palestinian Authority. Then make a fresh start.

          Bypass Israel and its twisted backers and deal direct with those responsible, the United Nations.

          Don't think that you are the only ones with traitors in your midst. We too have our quislings. They have given away our sovereignty to the EU and Brussels, sold off our national assets to foreign corporates and shackled us to the US-Israel 'axis of greed'. They have even abused the trust and loyalty of our troops by committing them to illegal wars that have nothing to do with defence of the realm and everything to do with advancing the crazed ambition of foreign "allies" to get their dirty mitts on other people's resources.

          [More:]

          Following the latest revelations, courtesy of Aljazeera, about the antics of PA negotiators behind closed doors, the PA's normally invisible man in London, Manuel Hassassian, made a surprise appearance on the BBC's Newsnight programme. He explained that the negotiations in question (involving Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state and Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister) were not considered to be negotiations at all. They were “an exchange of ideas, informal talks”.

          Hassassian said: “Always the Palestinians have been the underdog. We never had a symmetrical relationship in terms of negotiations. All the time we have been dictated to by the US government and the Israelis because they have had the upper hand."

          Welcome, then, to the brave new world of Palestinian negotiations, where the underdog sits down to asymmetrical talks, which are not serious talks, and gives away his most important bargaining chips before the real asymmetrical talks begin... knowing full well that they are strictly non-negotiable.

          No International Law in the 'Negotiations'

          The Palestinian embassy in London defended the bumbling negotiators by posting words of praise by United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, on its shiny new website. Serry said: “I can personally attest to the commitment of the Palestinian leadership to secure the legitimate rights and interests of the Palestinian people, based on international law and UN resolutions.”

          This was reinforced by an official press release from the negotiating team saying: "We seek to establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian State along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and to reach a just solution to the refugee issue based on their international legal rights, including those set out in UNGA 194. What an accurate record will show is that we have insisted that any solution be grounded in principles of international law, which Israel has consistently refused to accept or recognize.

          "Even though many ideas have been discussed by the two sides as part of the normal negotiations process, including some we could never agree to, we have consistently said any proposed agreement would have to gain popular support through a national referendum. No agreement will be signed without the approval of the Palestinian people."

          The awful truth is that international law has never been a feature of the talks. So why is the PA engaging in this farce in the first place?

          Another scandalous disclosure is the British plan to collude with the PA and Israel in "degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists", detaining key middle-ranking officers of Hamas and other armed groups, and recommending temporary internment with EU funding - all utterly unlawful of course.

          As The Guardian points out, the documents highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces. "The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture."

          I have asked my MP, who is a Foreign Office minister, for the truth about the role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas, and asked if anyone in the Foreign Office can explain what threat a resistance movement fighting illegal occupation poses to the UK.

          I don't expect a sensible answer as the British government is stuffed with Zionist supporters from the prime minister down.

          The disclosures also seem to show that PA leaders have been obsessed by their hatred for political rival Hamas, which trounced them in the 2006 elections, and by their determination to remain the dominant force against the people's wishes. They even tried to tighten the blockade on their own countrymen by complaining to the Israelis that not enough was being done to destroy the tunnels under the border between Gaza and Egypt. As if that wasn’t enough they invited Israel to reoccupy that border zone.

          In short, they did everything possible to widen the gulf of internal division, with Israeli and American help, and of course played straight into Israel's hands.

          Negotiations 'Only Serve Israel'

          A few months ago Hamas’s strategy for ending the Zionist occupation and restoring Palestinian rights was set out by Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal. The key points were these:

          - Hamas only employs “legitimate resistance” – i.e. against the enemy occupying Palestinian land and holy places.

          - Hamas believes negotiations right now would only benefit Israel. Peace cannot be made when one party is so powerful and the other so weak. For the Palestinians negotiation under these circumstances means surrender.

          - Hamas does not recognise Israel. Doing so would effectively legitimise the occupation and the rest of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, and would be unacceptable in terms of international law and human values.

          - Hamas is not looking for recognition by the West. It already has the legitimacy of the ballot box.

          - There will be no peace in the region until the powers deal with Hamas and respect their interests and rights and quit favouring Israel at Palestine’s expense.

          - Hamas is in no great hurry.

          Meshaal is clear that Palestinians entering into negotiations must be united. Negotiation today – under the current balance of power – serves only the enemy. The situation on the ground has not yet reached a stage where Israel is forced to resort to negotiation; it still refuses to withdraw from Palestinian lands, and does not recognise Palestinian rights.

          Just as there is currently no parity in the field of confrontation, there is also no parity around the negotiating table. In these circumstances negotiation is a "fruitless gamble".

          As regards the incessant demands for Hamas to recognise Israel, Meshaal said: “We refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Israel because we refuse to recognise the legitimacy of occupation and theft of land.”

          All this chimes remarkably well with a report some two years ago by the Palestine Strategy Group called 'Regaining the Initiative - Palestinian Strategic Options to End Israeli Occupation', funded with EU money. It reminded Palestinians what their strategic objectives should be and urged them "to seize their destiny in their own hands” by refusing to enter into peace negotiations unless the international community dealt first with issues relating to national self-determination, liberation from occupation, individual and collective rights, and enforcement of international law.

          Only when these priorities are met, says the report, can peacemaking and state-building begin.

          That, surely, is the line to take. You don’t negotiate with an armed occupier’s jackboot on your neck, nor should the international community expect it. And why do Palestinians need to do deals with Israel when borders and other matters were defined by UN resolutions and international law long ago?

          The study also spelled out the need for national unity. "A house divided against itself cannot stand… Palestinian strategic action is impossible if the Palestinian nation is unable to speak with one voice or to act with one will."

          Its concluding remarks are very appropriate right now:

          “What Palestinians must be prepared to undertake is nothing less than a final and conclusive strategic battle with Israel. Palestinians should not be deterred by the past, but should look with confidence to the future… Palestinians have more strategic cards than they think – and Israel has fewer.”

          It's a pity the PA and its leaders never read the report. Maybe it just didn't suit their deluded purpose. Either way, those losers are not part of the future.

          What it would take to turn the situation round is a matter for urgent discussion and action. It’ll certainly require incorruptible unity leadership, tactical courage, a bold communications strategy inside and outside the Middle East to mobilise worldwide support, and resolute determination of the highest order.

          And with great respect to Hamas, if it is to be a leading player (which is surely inevitable) it really should be persuaded to re-write its charter straightaway.

          - Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.

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            Diane Bhutto on the Palestine Papers

            English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

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              The rabbis of the devil

              English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

              Graffiti by extremist Jewish settlers in Hebron reads: “Gas the Arabs .. JDL”

              By Khalid Amayreh

              Imagine, just imagine, the outcry that would follow an imagined call by a European Muslim or Christian religious leader suggesting sending hundreds of thousands of Jews to concentration camps. The Sheikh or priest or bishop would be lambasted beyond imagination, and his denomination or church would immediately distance itself from his foolish remarks.

              Political authorities would also declare that Nazi-minded Sheikh or bishop has no place in modern Europe and that governments would nip the hateful and racist elements in the bud. In short, he would be looked upon as a pariah, to say the very least. He even might be forced to commit suicide under public pressure.

              As to Jewish circles, their protests would be clarion and omnipresent.

              [More:]


              But how would things look like if such a call took place in Israel and was made by a popular rabbi, with hundreds of thousands of followers?

              According to a weekly Hebrew magazine, several rabbis, including the rabbi of Safad, Shmuel Eliyahu, recently proposed the establishment of death camps for the Palestinians.

              The magazine indicated that the creation of these camps would be the duty of all devout Jews.

              The Yedeot Ahronot's YNet on Saturday, 15 January quoted the rabbis as stating that the Torah requires Jews to wipe out any trace of the so-called Amalek in Palestine . Many religious Jews refer to their perceived or real enemies as Amalek.

              The YNet quoted Jewish intellectual Audi Aloni as saying that calls for the extermination of Palestinians are openly made in the synagogues as the genocidal idea has become a practical option.

              "No one objected to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safad and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Chief Rabbi of Beit El, who undersigned the advisory opinion, which suggested approval for their opinion."

              I realize that these evil men don't represent Jews everywhere, nor do they even represent the entire rabbinic community. There are many esteemed rabbis who reject outright the satanic mindset permeating through the landscape of the sick minds of people like Elyahu, his cohorts and evil colleagues.

              The Torah, after all, was supposed to be a light upon humanity. But when it becomes, thanks to those rabbis of Satan, a tool for genocide, there is obviously a huge catch-22 hanging over Judaism's conscience.

              Again, the fact that these nefarious rabbis don't represent the entirety of Judaism is no guarantee that their damage will be limited. A fool man's fire could frustrate a thousand wise men who wouldn't know how to put it off.

              Isn't this the way the holocaust started? It didn't start with concentration camps, or even with Kristalnacht. Such death camps as Auschwitz , Treblinka, Mauthauzen and Bergen Belsen became only known much later.

              The purpose of this small piece is not to vilify or demonize Jews. Nor am I particularly enthusiastic about hurling Nazi epithets at Jews. However, nothing should be further from truth.

              The call for sending millions of Palestinians to concentration camps means that a sizeable segment of the Israeli Jewish society is capable, at least mentally, of embarking on the unthinkable. It means that a real Jewish holocaust against the Palestinian people is not outside the realm of imagination.

              This matter is well known, even known too well for us who live in this part of the world. After all, Israel demonstrated two years ago, during its Nazi-like onslaught on the Gaza Strip, that it could do the unthinkable.

              And that was not the first time Israel behaved manifestly nefariously. In 2006, during the Israeli aggression on Lebanon , the Israeli air force dropped more than 2,000,000 cluster bomblets on South Lebanon civilian areas, arguably enough to kill or maim at least 2 million Lebanese children.

              The scant media coverage of the latest diabolic statements by the rabbis of evil in no way lessens their gravity and seriousness. After all, these are not marginal or isolated figures in society.

              In fact, paying not sufficient attention to this phenomenon is tantamount to encouraging it. If Germans and others had not kept silence in the late 1920s and early 1930s, many things wouldn't have occurred.

              I would want to be cautious drawing historical analogy between every thing happening in Israel today and everything that happened in Europe several decades ago. However, there are certain parallels that shouldn't escape our attention, and the latest outrageous statements by these diabolical rabbis are one of them.

              Let no one say that words are innocuous and can't kill; nay, words can kill and do kill. A few years ago, a Jewish immigrant from France decapitated a Palestinian cabby from East Jerusalem after the taxi-driver gave the killer a ride to his home north of Tel Aviv. And when the murderer was eventually arrested and interrogated by the police, he said he heard his neighborhood synagogue rabbi say that the lives of non-Jews had no sanctity.

              More to the point, it is abundantly clear that thousands of Israeli soldiers would rather heed and obey their respective rabbis' homilies than their army superiors' instructions when it comes to treating Palestinians. This fact was revealed during the Israeli onslaught on Gaza two years ago when Israeli soldiers knowingly and deliberately murdered innocent civilians, including children, by the hundreds.

              But this is not the time for demonization; it is rather the time for action. Jewish leaders of all orientations should speak up as strongly as possible against those who are besmirching the good name of their religion.

              The likes of Shmuel Eliyahu must be told that there is no place in Judaism for those who advocate genocide for non-Jews. In the final analysis, when Jews or anybody else think or behave or act like the Nazis acted, they simply become Nazis themselves.

              Finally, Jews shouldn't keep silent in the face of these abominations just because the media and public opinion in the West are more or less keeping silent. Well, since when a moral stance was decided by other people's apathy or silence? In fact, the immoral silence of much of the west toward what is happening in Israel these days is bad and dangerous for Jews and their future.

              Anything that causes moral desensitization to occur is definitely bad. This is to put it extremely mildly.

              http://www.xpis.ps/

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                PA's foreknowledge of the Gaza war?; The Palestine Papers

                English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                Did the PA know about the Gaza war in advance? That's a question raised by several exchanges in The Palestine Papers.

                By David Poort

                Did the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s leadership have foreknowledge of the Gaza war? That question is raised - though never satisfactorily answered - by several exchanges revealed in The Palestine Papers.

                In defending their handling of the Gaza war, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, has long held that the PA warned Hamas - both in Gaza and through its Syrian-based leadership - that Israel was planning an attack on Gaza.

                The PA always maintained that their information was only based on Israeli press reports; however, minutes of meetings between the PA and Israeli leaders tell a different story.

                The Palestine Papers show that Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator, told George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, in a meeting on October 21, 2009 that Amos Gilad, the director of Israeli military intelligence, alerted Abbas prior to the Gaza attack.

                [More:]

                Erekat: […] Our trust with the [Israeli] government is zero. Amos [Gilad] spoke to Lieberman [the Israeli foreign minister] - told them about the claim that Abu Mazen [Abbas] was colluding with them in the Gaza war. He went to Abu Mazen before the attack and asked him. Abu Mazen replied that he will not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank. Amos Gilad testified about that. He was honest. So we can maintain the channel.

                The Palestine Papers confirm here what was previously revealed by second hand sources that were quoted in some of the thousands of US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks in December last year.

                Among the diplomatic cables is a report from June 2009 on a conversation between Bob Casey, a US senator, Gary Ackerman, a US representative, and Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister.

                In the report, the US officials said that Barak explained, that the "GOI [Government Of Israel] had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to the Gaza war, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.

                "Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both," the document states.

                Confronted with these leaks, Erekat disputed Barak's account. "We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war," Erekat told The Associated Press news agency. But "there were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the war," Erekat maintained.

                The Palestine Papers show, however, that Gilad, who continues to serve the Israeli government as an adviser to Barak, held several conversations with PA negotiators on the situation in Gaza prior to the war.

                In a post-Annapolis negotiation on March 31, 2008 with Ahmed Qurei, the former PA prime minister, Gilad and Tzipi Livni, the then-foreign minister, foreshadowed a tragedy in the making.

                Livni: Israel does not want Hamas. We cannot accept to have an Islamic regime on our borders. This contradicts our strategic vision.

                Gilad: My personal opinion, and I do not represent the government in this, is that sooner or later we will collide with Hamas because they, are like Hezbollah, continue to build their military capacities. We will clash with them but we will not stay in the Gaza Strip.

                Livni: The last sentence represents the position of the government.

                Qurei: You said that Israel is not negotiating with Hamas, but how do you see Hamas if the situation continues as it is now?

                Gilad: The West Bank is coming and this is Hamas' strategic goal. We are not negotiating with them but we allow the entry of food and fuel into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons. My strategic advice for you is to be ready. It is like Achilles' heel; if the situation goes on as it is for a year or two more, you will become weaker and Hamas will have control over the West Bank. They in Hamas understand the situation and they are fearful. Gaza was only an example. They understand the mood in Israel.

                After the war, Abbas and Erekat maintained that all the information on the Israeli attack came from the media and that the attack was not discussed with the Israelis prior to the war.

                "We don't discuss these things, no," Erekat told Al Jazeera in an interview in November 2010.

                "There were plans, maps, charts published in the Israeli press and Abu Mazen met with Olmert and Olmert raised the issue of missiles from Gaza and so on, and nobody told him," Erekat said in the interview.

                Some 1400 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s three week long assault on the Gaza Strip. Many of the victims were women and children.

                The Palestine Papers also show a recurring theme as to what extent the PA collaborated with Israel in its attempt to defeat Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups.

                In that same series of October 2009 meetings, Erakat recounted to Mitchell his disagreements with Israel - as well as the Egyptian Government - on Gaza policy. Erakat appeared frustrated that not enough was being done to maintain the siege on the Gaza Strip.

                Erekat: [...] I told Amos Gilad: "You are Egypt’s man. You know the Egyptians. 11km! [Referring to the length of the Egyptian border with Gaza]. What’s going on with you and the US, the $23 million [given by the US Agency for International Development to prevent tunnels] and ditches - its business as usual in the tunnels - the Hamas economy [...]."

                Al JAzeera

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                  Stonewalling the Goldstone Report

                  English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

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                    PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote: The Palestine Papers

                    English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                    PA, with US encouragement, delayed a UN vote on the Goldstone Report into war crimes committed during Israel's Gaza war.


                    The Palestine Papers reveal the conversations between US and PA officials in the days before the vote [EPA]

                    By S. Farhan Mustafa

                    On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

                    The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

                    A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

                    But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.

                    [More:]

                    Quid pro quo

                    The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza.

                    "Bad faith"

                    Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

                    Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement; he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote.

                    "Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement," Abbas said in October 2009. "We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”

                    What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.

                    At a September 24, 2009 meeting between Saeb Erekat, George Mitchell and David Hale, the latter informed Erekat that “Our intention is to move quickly to relaunch negotiations. We are wrapping up an agreement on a package with Israel, and including other parties.”

                    Erekat resisted, saying “I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life.” Mitchell informs Erekat that President Barack Obama’s “attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations; delay will not be beneficial to anyone.”

                    During the same meeting, the U.S. also stressed to the PA that it was actively engaged in supporting the PA through other means. Mitchell informs Erekat, “I’ve devoted half my time over the last several months to things like getting you support (for example with Kuwait), not just financial. We will stay the course on this.”

                    At end of the meeting, Mitchell invites Erekat to Washington, D.C., on the day before the UNHRC was due to vote on the Goldstone report. “Regarding coming to DC next week…you should come next Friday,” Mitchell said. Erekat resisted, countering, “That does not give us enough time to go back and consult…”

                    The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington, D.C. seeking more guarantees from the United States.

                    During a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Mitchell and Hale, on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only the U.S.’s commitment to a new round of talks, but also U.S. willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians.

                    Mitchell said the U.S. would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (non-recognition of Israeli annexation and related actions; demolitions, evictions etc.) In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] make a provocative announcement, the US has the leverage to state that this undermines the process, and that Israel is acting in bad faith in the negotiations.”

                    Erekat further bared not only the PA’s reliance on the United States, but the PA’s desperation to get back to the negotiation table. Erekat informs Mitchell that “peace through negotiations is a strategic choice... Our whole future depends on it, and we are counting on the US to help us... Another failure will be devastating.”

                    The following day, on October 2, 2009- while President Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone - Erekat again met with Senator Mitchell. This time, Erekat appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.

                    “I did not come here to complain, but to try to help move forward,” Erekat told Mitchell. “Many people strongly objected to [Abu Mazen] going to NYC and me coming to Washington.”

                    Mitchell continued building a case to Erekat and the PA on why all parties should move quickly to negotiations. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” Mitchell said. “The circumstance under which they live worse and worse…..Believe me it is the best time.”

                    Erekat, meanwhile, only seemed to further push Palestinian priorities behind those of even Israel. “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm,” Erekat lamented to Mitchell. “We pray every day that Israel will come to the point where they realize that a Palestinian state on the [1967] border is in their interest...That’s why we are frustrated. We want to help the Israelis.”

                    At the very same meeting, Senator Mitchell presented Erekat with a document containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons – the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.S. language stated:

                    “The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

                    Erekat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the UNHRC vote. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.

                    Israel leaked the PA’s support for the resolution deferral on the day before the UNHRC vote was to take place. Erekat, undoubtedly caught off-guard, was outspoken in his complaints weeks later to the U.S. on what he perceived as unfair Israeli tactics. In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on October 21, 2009, Erekat revealed:

                    “Then came Goldstone and all hell broke loose. You know the first public response to the Goldstone thing came from Lieberman, who said Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel. Then there was the report that he did it for Wataniya, which they said is owned by his two sons.”

                    Jones, however, was quick to assure Erekat that the PA’s efforts would not go unnoticed. “And thank you for what you did a couple weeks ago,” Jones told Erekat. “It was very courageous.”

                    That same day, Erekat also met with Mitchell, and wasted no time in asking for the U.S. to deliver on its previous promises.

                    Erekat: When can you give me something, a document or a package, so I can take it to [Abu Mazen], so we can study it in good faith?

                    Mitchell: Much of what I read is not controversial...

                    For the United States, and unfortunately for the PA, it was simply business as usual.

                    Al Jazeera

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                      The al-Madhoun assassination

                      English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

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                        The al-Madhoun assassination" The Palestine Papers

                        English (US)  January 26th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                        Documents include handwritten notes of 2005 exchange between PA and Israel on plan to kill Palestinian fighter in Gaza.

                        Saeb Erekat: We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We continue to perform our obligations. We have invested time and effort and killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.

                        By David Poort

                        The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, The Palestine Papers indicate.

                        Among the documents are notes, handwfritten in Arabic, revealing an exchange in 2005 between the PA and Israel on a plan to kill a Palestinian fighter named Hassan al-Madhoun, who lived in the Gaza strip.


                        Hassan al-Madhoun and a senior Hamas leader were killed by Israeli missiles in 2005 [Getty]

                        Al-Madhoun (born 1973) was a leading figure within the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, a movement aligned to Fatah, which at that stage still held power in Gaza. Al-Madhoun had been accused by Israel of planning deadly bombings at Israel’s Ashdod port and the Qarni crossing between Gaza and Israel.

                        In a joint committee meeting on fugitives in mid-2005 in Tel Aviv between Shaul Mofaz, the then-Israeli defence minister, and Nasser Youssef, the PA minister of interior, the PA was asked to kill al-Madhoun.

                        [More:]

                        Mofaz: “[…] Hassan Madhoun, we know his address and Rasheed Abu Shabak [chief of the Preventative Security Organisation in Gaza] knows that. Why don't you kill him? Hamas fired [Qassam rockets] because of the elections and this is a challenge to you and a warning to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president].”

                        Youssef: “We gave instructions to Rasheed [Abu Shabak] and will see.”

                        Mofaz: “Since we spoke, he has been planning an operation, and that's four weeks ago, and we know that he wants to strike Qarni or Erez [another border crossing between Gaza and Israel]. He is not Hamas and you can kill him.”

                        Youssef: “We work, the country is not easy, our capabilities are limited, and you haven't offered anything.”

                        Mofaz: “I understand that nothing has been accomplished in the [Gaza] Strip.”

                        Some four months after this meeting, on November 1, 2005, al-Madhoun was killed in his car by a missile fired from an Israeli Apache helicopter over the skies of Gaza. The attack also killed a wanted Hamas activist and wounded three other people.

                        The very next day, Mofaz, who by that time was in Washington, pledged to ease the lives of Palestinians and to pursue peacemaking with President Abbas.

                        The Palestine Papers appear to reveal two primary motives for the Palestinian Authority’s collaboration with Israel and their crackdown on dissent.

                        Firstly, it serves to maintain the movement’s political supremacy at a time when it is being questioned. Secondly, it is an attempt to signal to the US that it wants to remain a trusted partner in peace talks, regardless the costs.

                        Saeb Erekat, the PA’s chief negotiator acknowledged the cost of gaining US approval and Israeli trust, in a meeting on September 17, 2009 with David Hale, the deputy US Middle East envoy.

                        Erekat: We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We continue to perform our obligations. We have invested time and effort and killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.

                        It is not clear as to which killings Erekat is referring to but the discussion about the plan to kill al-Madhoun is just one example of how, since the death of Yasser Arafat, Fatah’s policy of resistance to Israel has become one of collaboration.

                        The Palestine Papers show how the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, once the spearhead of action against the Israeli occupation, has been transformed into a body that helps maintaining it.

                        During the Annapolis talks in 2008, Ahmed Qurei, the former Palestinian prime minister also known as Abu Ala, and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, discussed collaboration between the brigade and the Israeli security forces.

                        “Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade is part of the Fatah movement and they agreed to be part of the current security apparatus, even though this was not my position when I was a prime minister. I wanted the Brigade to remain as it was to confront Hamas,” Qurei told Livni.

                        With the common goal of destroying Hamas, the Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which the PA, the US and Israel were willing to work together, and the extent to which the PA linked the fate of Hamas with its own political survival.

                        “[…] reaching an agreement is a matter of survival for us. It’s the way to defeat Hamas,” Erekat told Marc Otte, the EU negotiator, in June 2008.

                        Earlier that year, on January 22, Qurei told Livni; “We’ll defeat Hamas if we reach an agreement, and this will be our response to their claim that gaining back our land can be achieved through resistance only.”

                        Al Jazeera

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                          A dangerous shift on 1967 lines: The Palestine Papers

                          English (US)  January 24th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                          US position on borders perhaps opens the door to dangerous Israeli ambitions to transfer non-Jewish citizens.

                          By Ali Abunimah

                          One of the more astonishing revelations in The Palestine Papers -- detailed records and minutes of the Middle East peace process leaked to Al Jazeera -- is that the administration of US President Barack Obama effectively repudiated the Road Map, which has formed the basis of the "peace process" since 2003. In doing so it has backed away even from commitments made by the George W. Bush administration and blown an irreparable hole in the already threadbare "two-state solution."

                          But even worse, the US position perhaps unwittingly opens the door to dangerous Israeli ambitions to transfer -- or ethnically cleanse -- non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel in order to create an ethnically pure "Jewish state."

                          [More:]

                          Shortly after it took office in January 2009, the Obama administration publicly called on Israel to freeze all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. After months of grueling shuttle diplomacy by US envoy George Mitchell, Obama eventually made do with an Israeli promise of a ten-month partial settlement moratorium excluding Jerusalem.

                          While those talks were ongoing, frustrated Palestinian negotiators tried repeatedly to wrestle a commitment from Mitchell that the terms of reference for US-brokered peace negotiations that were to begin once the settlement moratorium was in place would be for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 line with minor, agreed land swaps between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. This, the Palestinians argued, was the position the Bush administration had endorsed and was contained in the Road Map peace plan adopted by the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and the UN) in 2003.

                          But in apparently contentious meetings between Mitchell and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and their respective teams in September and October 2009 -- whose detailed contents have been revealed for the first time -- Mitchell claimed the Bush administration position was nonbinding. He pressed the Palestinians to accept terms of reference that acquiesced to Israel's refusal to recognize the 1967 line which separates Israel as it was established in 1948 from the West Bank and Gaza Strip where Palestinians hoped to have their state.
                          Dropping the 1967 border

                          On 23 September 2009, Obama told the UN General Assembly that his goal was for "Two states living side by side in peace and security -- a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people."
                          Related

                          Expelling Israel's Arabs, without their consent

                          In 2008, Israeli negotiators - including then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni - proposed "swapping" some of Israel's Arab villages into a future Palestinian state, even though a vast majority of Israeli Arabs oppose such a plan.

                          But this did not satisfy the Palestinians. The next day during a meeting at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York, Erekat refused an American request to adopt Obama's speech as the terms of reference for negotiations. Erekat asked Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Hale why the Obama administration would not explicitly state that the intended outcome of negotiations would be a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with a third party security role and a staged Israeli withdrawal. Hale responded, "You ask why? How would it help you if we state something so specific and then not be able to deliver?" according to Palestinian minutes of the meeting.

                          At the same meeting, which Mitchell himself later joined, Erekat challenged the US envoy on how Obama could publicly endorse Israel as a "Jewish state" but not commit to the 1967 borders. Mitchell, according to the minutes, told Erekat "You can’t negotiate detailed ToRs [terms of reference for the negotiations]" so the Palestinians might as well be "positive" and proceed directly to negotiations. Erekat viewed Mitchell's position as a US abandonment of the Road Map.

                          On 2 October 2009 Mitchell met with Erekat at the State Department and again attempted to persuade the Palestinian team to return to negotiations. Despite Erekat's entreaties that the US should stand by its earlier positions, Mitchell responded, "If you think Obama will force the option you’ve described, you are seriously misreading him. I am begging you to take this opportunity."

                          Erekat replied, according to the minutes, "All I ask is to say two states on 67 border with agreed modifications. This protects me against Israeli greed and land grab – it allows Israel to keep some realities on the ground" (a reference to Palestinian willingness to allow Israel to annex some West Bank settlements as part of minor land swaps). Erekat argued that this position had been explicitly endorsed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice under the Bush administration.

                          "Again I tell you that President Obama does not accept prior decisions by Bush. Don’t use this because it can hurt you. Countries are bound by agreements – not discussions or statements," Mitchell reportedly said.

                          The US envoy was firm that if the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not agree to language in the terms of reference the US would not try to force it. Yet Mitchell continued to pressure the Palestinian side to adopt formulas the Palestinians feared would give Israel leeway to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank without providing any compensation.

                          At a critical 21 October 2009 meeting, Mitchell read out proposed language for terms of reference:

                          "The US believes that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that achieves both the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state encompassing all the territory occupied in 1967 or its equivalent in value, and the Israeli goal of secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meets Israeli security requirements."

                          Erekat's response was blunt: "So no Road Map?" The implication of the words "or equivalent in value" is that the US would only commit to Palestinians receiving a specific amount of territory -- 6258 square kilometers, or the equivalent area of the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- but not to any specific borders.

                          "Two states for two peoples"

                          This is an earthquake. It not only up-ends the two-state solution as it is conventionally understood, but opens the door to possible future American acceptance of Israeli aspirations to create an ethnically-pure Jewish state by "exchanging" territories where many of Israel's 1.4 million Palestinian citizens are concentrated. This would be a violation of these Palestinians' most fundamental rights and a repudiation of the universally-accepted self-determination principles established at the Versailles Conference after World War I. It potentially replaces the two-state solution with what Israeli officials call the "two states for two peoples solution."

                          Then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni elaborated what this would look like during a November 13, 2007 negotiating session with Palestinian officials, confidential minutes of which were also revealed among The Palestine Papers:

                          "Our idea is to refer to two states for two peoples. Or two nation states, Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security with each state constituting the homeland for its people and the fulfillment of their national aspirations and self determination."

                          Livni stressed, "Israel [is] the state of the Jewish people -- and I would like to emphasize the meaning of 'its people' is the Jewish people -- with Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of Israel and of the Jewish people for 3007 years."

                          Livni thus makes clear that only Jews are guaranteed citizenship in Israel and that Palestinian citizens do not really belong even though they are natives who have lived on the land since before Israel existed. It negates Palestinian refugee rights and raises the spectre of the expulsion or "exchange" of Palestinians already in the country. Yet Livni's troubling statement appears to reflect more than just her personal opinion.

                          A 29 October 2008 internal Palestinian memorandum titled "Progress Report on Territory Negotiations" states that Palestinian negotiators rejected the notion that Palestinians could be included in land swaps. But, according to the document, "the Israelis continued to raise the prospect of including Palestinian citizens of Israel" in such swaps, during negotiations between Palestinian officials and the government of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

                          In September last year, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman presented a plan the UN General Assembly in which Israel would keep West Bank settlements and cede to a future Palestinian state some lands with highly concentrated populations of non-Jewish citizens. "A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians," Lieberman said, "has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations."

                          While Lieberman heads the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, and Livni the Kadima opposition (often inaccurately perceived as more "moderate" than Israel's current government), the two politicians' views are symptomatic of increasingly overt racism within Israeli society.

                          The Obama administration's failure to press Israel to accept the international consensus that the Palestinian state would be established on all the territories Israel occupied in 1967, except for minor adjustments, dooms the two-state solution. It may well be that a US administration that came to office promising unparalleled efforts to bring peace, ends up clearing the path for Lieberman's and Livni's abhorrent ideas to enter the mainstream.

                          This is not only catastrophic for Palestinian rights and the prospects for justice, but represents a return to nineteenth century notions, banished in the wake of two world wars, that population groups can be traded between states without their consent as if they were mere pieces on a chess board.

                          Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and is a contributor to the newly-released book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict. He is a co-founder of the widely read online publication The Electronic Intifada, an award-winning online publication about Palestine and the Palestine conflict. He has written hundreds of articles on the question of Palestine for publications all over the world, including Al Jazeera.

                          Ali Abunimah

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                            Expelling Israel's Arab population? The Palestine Papers

                            English (US)  January 24th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                            Israeli negotiators, including Tzipi Livni, proposed "swapping" some of Israel's Arab villages into a Palestinian state.


                            Israel's separation wall cuts through the middle of Baqa, dividing it into two villages. [Gregg Carlstrom/Al Jazeera]

                            By Gregg Carlstrom

                            Baqa al-Gharbiyya, Israel – This sleepy agricultural village, an hour’s drive northeast from Tel Aviv, feels worlds apart from Israel’s commercial capital. Garbage lines many of the narrow, rutted streets, symptoms of the lower level of government funding bestowed upon the town; unemployed men mill about, complaining that Israel’s policies have hurt the local economy.

                            Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s hard-right foreign minister, has proposed annexing this and other Arab villages to a future Palestinian state. Their inhabitants would be stripped of their Israeli citizenship unless they were willing to leave their land and swear a “loyalty oath” to the state.

                            His plan is deeply unpopular here and in nearby villages. Despite the discrimination most Arabs experience in Israel, they say few will renounce their Israeli citizenship to become Palestinians.

                            "I’m here in this state now," said Jamil, the owner of a small bakery near one of the town's green-domed mosques. "My family has been here since before 1948. I don’t want to go out to Palestine. I don’t like the wars, I have problems with the [Israeli] government, but a Palestinian state? No."

                            [More:]

                            Liberal Israeli commentators have denounced Lieberman’s plan as racist, but centrist and left-wing Israeli politicians have been more muted in their criticism, leading many Israeli Arabs to believe that their country’s political leadership tacitly supports Lieberman’s plan.

                            "He’s shouting what they are not saying," said Ihad Abu Mokh, a lifelong Baqa al-Gharbiyya resident, over coffee in a busy café earlier this month. "They dream it. But they know this is the 21st century. We are not in the Dark Ages now."

                            "Divided. All Palestinian. All Israeli."

                            But The Palestine Papers reveal that Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister, did say it: During several 2008 meetings with Palestinian negotiators, Livni proposed annexing Arab villages to the future Palestinian state, forcing tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs to choose between their citizenship and their land.

                            Her clearest language came on June 21, 2008, when she told senior Palestinian negotiators Ahmed Qurei and Saeb Erekat that their land swaps should include Israeli Arab villages. Udi Dekel, a top adviser to the then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, rattled off a list of villages that would be annexed to Palestine.

                            Livni: We have this problem with Raja [Ghajar] in Lebanon. Terje Larsen put the blue line to cut the village in two. [This needs to be addressed.] We decided not to cut the village. It was a mistake. The problem now, those living on Lebanese soil are Israeli citizens.

                            Dekel: Barka, Barta il Sharqiya, Barta il [Garbiya], Betil, Beit Safafa…

                            Qurei: This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us.

                            Becker: We will need to address it somehow. Divided. All Palestinian. All Israeli.

                            Two months earlier, in another meeting with Qurei and Erekat, Livni herself mentioned the same villages, describing them – their status in the state of Israel – as a problem in need of resolution.

                            Livni: Let us be fair. You referred to 1967 line. We have not talked about Jerusalem yet. There are some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiyeh and Baqa al-Gharbiyyeh.

                            Livni’s choice of words is striking. Beit Safafa, Barta’a and Baqa al-Gharbiyya all sit at least partly on the Israeli side of the Green Line; their inhabitants carry Israeli passports, pay taxes to the Israeli government, and overwhelmingly self-identify as Israelis.

                            But Livni describes them as Palestinians – and suggests that they do not belong in the state of Israel.

                            "I was born in Israel. I’m not leaving."

                            Baqa al-Gharbiyya used to be just Baqa, a name still used by many residents. The creation of the state of Israel split the village in half, with Baqa al-Gharbiyya on the west side of the 1948 armistice line and Baqa al-Sharqiyya on the east.

                            Residents regularly travelled back and forth between the two until six years ago, when the Israeli separation barrier was built. Several streets in the villages now dead-end at an eight-metre-high concrete wall topped with barbed wire.

                            Those who live in Baqa al-Gharbiyya face what they, and many Israeli and international human rights groups, describe as systemic prejudice. Israeli Arabs routinely face discrimination when applying for jobs, and their towns and villages often receive a lower level of government funding than Jewish communities.

                            In its 2009 report, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel described the discrimination faced by Arabs as "open and explicit", and warned that the government is threatening "their most basic rights – to equality, education and employment – as well as their very citizenship".

                            "Look around this village, you see the streets, the cars, the buildings, how it looks,” said Mustafa Fayoum, a resident of the Arab village of Jaljulia. “Compare it to Tel Aviv. You will see the difference.”

                            Yet Qurei was right when he said that Arabs in Israel would oppose a transfer to Palestine: In dozens of interviews on a visit earlier this month, only one Baqa al-Gharbiyya resident said he would prefer to live in a Palestinian state.

                            Asked why, many cited economic reasons; even the jobless thought their future prospects were better in Israel.

                            "Our circumstances here are better than there, even though here we don’t feel that we are in the community, or in the society of the Jewish people," said Bashar al-Alimi, an unemployed 38-year-old.

                            "It’s a difficult question," said Mounir Abu Hussain, a 34-year-old mechanic. "But my job is here, the work is good here, and maybe it would be hard to go into a Palestinian state."

                            "[Israel] is a Western country, it’s more developed, there are more options, less corruption," said Ismail Athmani, 34. "And I was born in Israel. I’m not leaving."

                            But the economy wasn’t the only reason why Baqa al-Gharbiyya residents said they prefer Israel to Palestine. Several described the West Bank as a police state, and said that – despite the discrimination they face – they prefer the level of political freedom in Israel.

                            "It’s bad in the West Bank. We have family there, we hear things. The police in Palestine, you can’t talk about politics unless you’re in the most closed-off place. Otherwise you die," Athmani said.

                            His friend Abu Mokh leaned across the table to interrupt him. "Not die," he said with a rueful grin. "You just disappear."

                            A widespread view

                            Polls of Israeli Arabs over the last decade have consistently reached a similar finding: most would rather remain in Israel than live under Palestinian jurisdiction.

                            A December 2010 survey by the Brookings Institution found that 58 per cent of Israeli Arabs oppose the sorts of swaps proposed by Lieberman and Livni. The Jewish-Arab Relations Index, an annual publication from the University of Haifa, consistently finds majority support for thatAl Jazeera view (57 per cent in the most recent survey, in 2008). Similarly, a 2000 poll of Umm al-Fahm residents found that 83 per cent want their city to remain Israeli.

                            Many families in these villages have lived in Israel since before 1948 – before there was a state of Israel, in other words. One man described himself as "more Israeli than Lieberman," referring to the Soviet Union-born foreign minister who immigrated to Israel at the age of 20.

                            "Netanyahu cannot take me and tell me, ‘you are living here,’" Fayoum said. "I am Israeli, only Israeli."

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                              PA negotiators reject leaked report

                              English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                              The Palestinian chief negotiator labels leaked documents as "pack of lies".
                              Mahmoud Abbas says he keeps the Arab League updated on all details of the negotiations with Israel [EPA]

                              Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has dismissed the documents released by Al Jazeera that show private offers by PA officials to Israelis on contested issues than previously revealed as "a bunch of lies".

                              In an appearance on Al Jazeera shortly after the documents were released on Sunday, Erakat said the Palestinian leadership had "nothing to hide" and dismissed most of the report as lies.

                              He said that the information shown contained mistakes and inaccuracies and that his words were taken out of context and he was misquoted.

                              "I have always said that east Jerusalem is part of Palestine.

                              "No body has given up anything, I have shown Jerusalem Map on Al Jazeera a year ago. The land exchange principle was discussed before," Erakat said.

                              [More:]

                              He said that all documents were shared in advance with the Arab league and several Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar.

                              "We have not gone back on our position. If we had given ground on the refugees and made such concessions, why hasn't Israel agreed to sign a peace accord?" he asked.

                              Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told Egyptian newspapers editors in Cairo that he kept the Arab League updated on all details of the negotiations with Israel, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

                              "I don't know from where al Jazeera came with secret things.

                              "There is nothing we hide from our brothers, the Arabs," Abbas said.

                              The chief Palestinian negotiator in the 2008 talks, Ahmed Qureia, told The Associated Press that "many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership."

                              Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas offcial in Gaza told Al Jazeera that the Palestinian authority officials should be ashamed of themselves.

                              Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                Israel: The ugly truth

                                English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                As it slides further into open and violent racism, Israel offers the Western world a reflection of itself.


                                Violence towards immigrants and Palestinian citizens of Israel may seem like distinct issues, but there is evidence to suggest that moves targeting one group soon spread to another [GALLO/GETTY]

                                By Mya Guarnieri

                                There was that jarring week in December - a protest against Arab-Jewish couples, a south Tel Aviv march and demonstration against migrant workers and African asylum seekers, the arrest of Jewish teenagers accused of beating Palestinians and the expulsion of five Arab men from their home in south Tel Aviv. It left me with the question: What is next?

                                It is impossible to predict the future. But there are signs that violence, perpetrated by citizens, could be spreading.

                                In mid-January, dozens of young Jews attacked Muslims at a mosque in Yafo or Jaffa, the historically Arab city just south of Tel Aviv. An Israeli media outlet reports that the youth, who were armed with stones and Israeli flags, shouted "Mohammed is a pig" and "Death to Arabs" just as the Muslims were preparing to pray.

                                [More:]

                                When the police arrived, they did not arrest any of the assailants.

                                And just a few days before that march in south Tel Aviv, seven Sudanese men were attacked in Ashdod, a coastal city in the south of Israel.

                                According to Israeli media reports, someone threw a flaming tyre into the apartment the men shared. Five suffered from smoke inhalation, two were hospitalised.

                                Another alarming act of violence took place in south Tel Aviv that same night. The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an Israeli NGO, reports that three teenage girls - Israeli-born, Hebrew-speaking daughters of African migrant workers - were beaten by a group of Jewish teenagers. The attackers, one of whom was armed with a knife, allegedly called them "dirty niggers". One of the girls needed medical treatment for her injuries.

                                "It's worth noting that the girls had already experienced such violence in the neighbourhood," Poriya Gal, the spokeswoman for the Hotline for Migrant Workers, says. "But they chose not to report it to the police out of the fear that they would be attacked again."

                                Another frightening indicator of the mood here: In south Tel Aviv, on the day of the protest, a number of afterschool programmes closed early so that children could get home safely before the demonstration began. Administrators were worried that the children might otherwise get caught up in the march and attacked by protestors.

                                Because asylum seekers are often reluctant to ask for help - and they are unlikely to turn to the police - it is hard to determine the precise number of racially motivated attacks.

                                But the African Refugee Development Committee (ARDC) reports that asylum seekers are increasingly being evicted from their homes, despite the fact that they have paid rent. And the committee has been alerted to another alarming trend. Dara Levy-Bernstein of the ARDC says: "There have been a lot of [asylum seekers] complaining about being stopped by police or soldiers - we're not entirely sure which - but they're people in uniform who have been taking their visas and tearing them up."

                                Some argue that asylum seekers and Palestinians represent distinct issues that are distinctly complicated. In some ways, they do. But the police or soldiers who tear asylum seekers' visas are the same people who fail to arrest Jewish citizens for throwing stones at Muslim worshippers. And it boils down to something very simple: How Israel, and some of its citizens, views those it considers 'others'.

                                Turning away the other

                                When I ask Orit Rubin, a psycho-social coordinator at ASSAF Aid Organisation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, if she has noticed a rise in violence, she asks me to define violence.

                                While she has not seen an increase in physical attacks, she has recently received reports from Sudanese café and pub owners who say that police have entered their places of business and sprayed tear gas into the air, without any provocation.

                                The most common problem Rubin sees is African children that are being refused the public education that they are legally entitled to. Right here in Tel Aviv - the supposed bastion of Israeli liberalism - five children from two Eritrean families were recently refused registration.

                                And for four months, four Eritrean children have been turned away from a school in Bnei Brak, a religious suburb of Tel Aviv, because they are not Jewish. Rubin says she has written to the minister of education about the matter. She is still waiting for a response.

                                And then there are those who are illegally denied medical care. Rubin remarks: "This morning I got news from [our field worker] in Eilat that a pregnant woman was sitting at a medical clinic and the doctor came out and said 'I'm not taking care of Sudanese' and they asked her to leave."

                                Rubin adds that the doctor's refusal of treatment was even more shocking because the woman had insurance, something many asylum seekers lack.

                                The same day I interview Rubin, I meet an Ethiopian asylum seeker in Ashkelon who tells me that he recently sought medical help after he was attacked on the street by a Jewish Israeli. He was bleeding when he arrived at the hospital. And he was turned away.

                                Testing the water

                                It might seem sensationalist to draw conclusions about violence and discrimination from such examples. But it is important to recognise these trends early on and act on them, before they have a chance to lay root.

                                Yohannes Bayu, the founder and director of the ARDC, points out that the Israeli rabbis' edict against renting and selling property to Arabs came months after a similar letter was posted in south Tel Aviv.

                                "It started there, with the refugees," Bayu says. "And nobody responded. And then it was, 'Let's expand that' and [the rabbis] came up with [the edict against] the Arabs."

                                So if there is not a strong response to what is happening in south Tel Aviv now, Bayu says: "It's obvious that [things] can go to another level. This is what happened in Germany and many other places."

                                When asked if he hopes that the government will step in and help prevent an escalation, Bayu answers: "They're the ones who started it."

                                He points towards the remarks of Eli Yishai, the interior minister, that migrants bring "a profusion" of diseases and drugs to Israel - claims that fly in the face of ministry of health data proving that migrants have low rates of illness.

                                Other government employees, including a Tel Aviv city council member, have blamed foreigners for increasing crime even though a recent Knesset report proves that asylum seekers are actually much less likely to be involved in criminal activities than Israelis.

                                And both migrant workers and asylum seekers were targeted by a government campaign of advertisements depicting "real Israelis" (read: paid actors) who did not have work because of "foreigners".

                                "First, they [the government] try to create this fear among the public, to create this discrimination, and then the result is always violence," Bayu says. "That's my biggest fear."

                                Fear of the unknown

                                Rubin agrees that the problem is rooted in the government. But she also adds that it says something about society.

                                "I think that some of it is not just Israel. It's human nature to fear what you don't know, to fear what is different."

                                Rubin pauses.

                                "Me, personally," she continues, "I was brought up in a home of Holocaust survivors and I was always taught that Israelis are different ... that they have learned from experience and will be weary before they slide into racism. But, you know, it's not like that.

                                "Part of it is that we forgot what happened in the Second World War was human. Humans were doing it - not beasts, not monsters, but humans."

                                Reflection of the West

                                It is too easy to demonise Israel, in part because the government, the army and some of the people do things that make it so easy.

                                But one of the ugliest truths about Israel - a truth that must be faced in both the US and Europe, where xenophobic and anti-Islamic sentiments are also on the rise - is that Israel offers the Western world a reflection of itself.

                                Of course, it is an exaggerated, hyperbolic image. But it is a picture of nationalism gone wrong. It is a picture of what can happen when a state believes that its very survival depends on maintaining a certain demographic balance. It is a picture of what happens when any country believes that those who change these numbers are an existential threat.

                                And it is getting more and more frightening here by the day.

                                Mya Guarnieri is a Tel Aviv-based journalist and writer. A regular contributor to Al Jazeera English, her work has also appeared in The Guardian and The Huffington Post, as well as other international media outlets.

                                The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

                                Source: Al Jazeera

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                                  "Risks for peace": The Palestine Papers

                                  English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                  The overwhelming conclusion one draws from this record is that the process for a two-state solution is essentially over.

                                  By Robert Grenier

                                  It has been an American mantra throughout the many years of the peace process that both sides must take “risks for peace.” Those risks have taken different forms over time, but the most compelling risk for both Israelis and Palestinians has been a domestic political one: So long as the prospect of peace has remained a hazy dream, no one could object to it compellingly; but just begin to seriously consider the hard compromises necessarily involved, and it becomes clear to important constituencies on both sides that they will lose. To accept and politically manage those realities: That is the essence of “risks for peace.”

                                  [More:]

                                  Given the current disproportion of grievances – and aggrieved constituencies – on their side, and the relative weakness of their bargaining position vis-a-vis Israel, it has always been true, though often willfully ignored by both the Israelis and the Americans, that the greatest burden of risk falls upon the Palestinian leadership. To reach their goals and to satisfy their people, they must have an agreement, and the right agreement, and soon; for as time goes on, their dispossession only increases. On the other hand, the status quo, particularly as illegally and unilaterally changed by them, has suited the Israelis very nicely, so long as bombs were not going off in their cafes and buses. From the Israeli point of view, at least in the short term, the major risk is in agreeing to any settlement at all.

                                  Beginning with the signing of the Oslo accords, the political risks to the Palestinian leadership qualitatively changed, and not for the better. No longer would it be enough just to accept hard compromises and permanent concessions. Now, the Israelis, with full American support, demand that the Palestinians provide assurances of their ability to carry out an agreement by developing the institutions of a stable and competent state, despite having neither the legitimacy nor the independent resources necessary to do so.

                                  The need for American support

                                  The essential bargain for an Israeli-Arab peace, ever since passage of UN resolution 242, has been summed up in a three-word formulation: “land for peace.” However, where Palestinians are concerned, that formulation might better be understood as “land for Israeli security.”

                                  The Palestine Papers reveal that, in 2008, the Palestinian Authority offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem to the Israelis. Their historic concession, for which they received nothing in return, would have legitimized the illegal settlements on which some 120,000 Israelis now live.

                                  The Palestine Papers reveal startling contradictions between the private and public disclosures of the Palestinian negotiators, particularly when it comes to Jerusalem.

                                  Thus, the one core component of the Palestinian state-building project since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, insisted upon by Israelis and Americans alike, has been for the Palestinians to establish full control over radical elements who might not abjure violence in pursuit of Palestinian aims, and to demonstrate the willingness and ability to identify, track down, and arrest or kill anyone involved in terrorism – even as very broadly defined to include those who, in other times and places, would be seen as engaged in legitimate armed resistance to oppression.

                                  The impetus behind this insistence on Palestinian security was greatly expanded after the attacks of 9/11, when the US undertook to lead a grand international coalition against terrorism. Embracing their Israeli friends all the more tightly as allies and fellow-victims of the terrorist plague, the US demand for full Palestinian participation in a war on terror became correspondingly all the more insistent – and indeed a full precondition for any future American assistance in achieving a negotiated solution with Israel.

                                  The post-Arafat Palestinian leadership therefore faced a dilemma. Convinced that there could be no agreement without American support, they were constrained to set up a pervasive and competent security regime and to make an “irrevocable” commitment against the use of violent resistance. This would mean turning on a considerable number of their own people, and alienating groups like Hamas, which enjoyed considerable popular support – indeed, far more than the Fatah-led leadership understood at the time.

                                  Arafat, by contrast, had never permanently abjured violence. He continued to calibrate repression of the most violent elements among his people with the threat of armed resistance to Israel, and when he felt his political needs were being frustrated, he was willing to turn his Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades loose and to empty the jails, allowing nature to take its course. At the end he was again labeled a terrorist by the West; few would meet with him; and his final days were spent surrounded and alone, besieged in squalid defiance.

                                  It should be remembered that the predominantly accepted narrative outside the occupied territories themselves was that Arafat had gone badly wrong, that he wasn’t sincere about peace, that if only he had abandoned his militant roots and acted in good faith to “end terror,” he might have succeeded in winning peace and justice for his people.

                                  The Palestinian Authority's risks

                                  And so Abu Mazen, the leadership, and the Palestinian peace process team made a choice.

                                  They knew they could never obtain justice for their people by negotiating alone with Israel. Armed resistance, while appearing noble to some, could never succeed on its own and would permanently undermine international support. Instead, they would make a good-faith effort to meet the expectations of the “international community,” and hope against all hope that the Americans, once armed with the credible assurances which Palestinian actions would supply, might finally honor their own objective national interests to produce some measure of justice for the Palestinians, a chance for stability in the region, and a counter-narrative to the one propounded by al-Qaeda and its sympathizers in the Muslim world.

                                  In doing so, they knew, they ran an enormous risk. For if their successful efforts to end terror failed to elicit a good-faith response from the Israelis, and if their conformity to international expectations and their cooperation in the US war on terror failed to convince the US to advocate effectively on their behalf, they could easily be branded as quislings, as trustees of the Israeli prison being inexorably constructed for their people.

                                  Their good works, they knew, instead of being rewarded, might only make the status quo more comfortable for the Israelis, and incentivize greater Israeli obduracy.

                                  I have spent many hours reading The Palestine Papers, the recent 10-year record of the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The picture which clearly emerges from these pages of the Palestinian leadership and of the peace process negotiators themselves is that these are no quislings. For month after month, year after year, through endless, mind-numbing subcommittee meetings and plenary sessions, through interminable exchanges of letters and legal briefs, slogging from hotel meetings in Jerusalem to conferences in Egypt to “summit meetings” in Washington, the Palestinian negotiators tirelessly advocate on behalf of their people’s interests. In the face of Israeli condescension, obfuscation, and endless legalistic pettifogging they continually push back, insisting on application of relevant international law, despite the Israelis’ obvious contempt for their international obligations.

                                  They persist in the face of the Americans’ blatant advocacy on behalf of the Israelis, refusing to cave in to consistent American pressure designed to force the Palestinians to compensate for Israeli inflexibility with ever-greater concessions of their own.

                                  And time and again, we see them pleading for some small concession, some tangible evidence which will demonstrate to their people that they do, in fact, have a valuable stake in negotiations with their oppressors. Beyond the immediate exigencies of the negotiating points themselves, the Palestinians are at pains to point out to the Americans the underlying trends in the region, what is at stake for the US in this process, and the many clear convergences of Palestinian and American interests – all largely for naught.

                                  Through it all, hanging like an incubus over the proceedings, is the palpable fear and insecurity of the Palestinians, who know that the longer the process moves on without any prospect of satisfaction for their people’s legitimate aspirations, buying more time for creeping annexation of their patrimony, the more they themselves are vulnerable to the charge that they are traitors, sacrificing the interests of their people to others more powerful than they.

                                  It must be acknowledged, however, that there is another picture which emerges from the pages of The Palestine Papers.

                                  They show that over time the Palestinian leadership has embraced the task of policing their people with more than warranted enthusiasm. They reveal that in committing themselves to a negotiating process, the Palestinian leadership has at times allowed the process to become a fetish, that it has at times agreed to refrain from advocating legitimately for their people’s rights in international forums, all to preserve the formal procedure which has become their raison d’etre.

                                  There is much in The Palestine Papers that the PA’s detractors will seize upon, and often deservedly so. But the context in which these charges are being, and will be, made is set precisely by what the Palestinian leaders of the peace process have feared all along: That their failure to make any long-term, tangible gains for their people – despite their complicity in the process, despite their documented willingness to make far-reaching concessions, and despite having accepted American and Israeli support to repress their enemies and maintain themselves in power with at best threadbare legitimacy – all conspire to open them to charges of collaboration.

                                  Again, the record from these documents shows that these are no collaborators. Even from this evidence, however, one cannot know what is in the heads of the Palestinian participants in the peace process: the Abu Mazens, the Saeb Erekats, the Abu Alas. At what point -- if ever – might they have concluded that negotiation for a two-state solution was hopeless, and that continuation of the process would only serve to further compromise them? At what point – if ever – might they have tacitly decided to continue onward simply because there is nothing left for them, that this is their only way to hang on? I cannot pretend to know.

                                  All of us approach this record burdened with our own backgrounds and experiences. I assess them as an American, and as a former government practitioner. As an American, the reaction I draw, frankly, is one of shame. My government has consistently followed the path of least resistance and of short-term political expediency, at the cost of decency, justice, and our clear, long-term interests. More pointedly, The Palestine Papers reveal us to have alternatively demanded and encouraged the Palestinian participants to take disproportionate risks for a negotiated settlement, and then to have refused to extend ourselves to help them achieve it, leaving them exposed and vulnerable. The Palestine Papers, in my view, further document an American legacy of ignominy in Palestine.

                                  As a government practitioner, my reaction is one of empathy for the Palestinian fellow-practitioners whose record and whose impressions these pages reflect. I know well that to achieve anything in public affairs, one will always in the end be compromised to some extent. It is easy for the observers, for the armchair analysts, to criticize; but my sympathies lie with those who enter the ring, who fight and who risk failure for what they believe.

                                  The Palestinian leadership will surely face criticism for what The Palestine Papers reveal. Some will be merited; some not. The overwhelming conclusion one draws from this record is that the process for a two-state solution is essentially over, that the history of the peace process is one of abject failure for all concerned. The Palestinian participants, having lost the most, will likely suffer most. But I can only come away with the passionately-held belief that these people deserved better.

                                  Robert L. Grenier is Chairman of ERG Partners, a financial advisory and consulting firm. He retired from CIA in 2006, following a 27-year career in the CIA’s Clandestine Service. Mr. Grenier served as Director of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) from 2004 to 2006, coordinated CIA activities in Iraq from 2002 to 2004 as the Iraq Mission Manager, and was the CIA Chief of Station in Islamabad, Pakistan before and after the 9/11 attacks. Earlier, he was the deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, and also served as the CIA’s chief of operational training. He is credited with founding the CIA’s Counter-proliferation Division. Grenier is now a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and speaks and writes frequently on foreign policy issues.

                                  2096 words posted in PALESTINE, American ZionismLeave a comment

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                                    The "napkin map" revealed: The Palestine Papers

                                    English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                    The Palestine Papers include a rendering of the Israeli land swap map presented in mid-2008 to Mahmoud Abbas.

                                    By Gregg Carlstrom

                                    The Palestinian Authority proposed an unprecedented land swap to the Israeli government, offering to annex virtually all of the illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

                                    Not only did the Israeli government offer no concessions in return, but – as The Palestine Papers now reveal – it responded with an even more aggressive land swap: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert wanted to annex more than 10% of the West Bank (including the major settlements in Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and elsewhere), in exchange for sparsely-populated farmland along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Click here for a map of the proposal.

                                    The Israeli offer is documented in a Palestinian rendition of what’s colloquially called “the napkin map,” a rendering of which is revealed for the first time in The Palestine Papers.

                                    [More:]

                                    Olmert met in mid-2008 with Mahmoud Abbas and showed him a map of the proposed swaps. Abbas was not allowed to keep a copy of the map, and so the 73-year-old Palestinian president had to sketch a copy by hand on a napkin.

                                    Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, described the Olmert-Abbas meeting in an interview with Al Jazeera earlier this year.

                                    He went with the President Peres and me and… actually sat outside discussing all issues. And then the president came out of that meeting 20 or 30 minutes, and we sat with the two presidents. And the offer wasn’t made at one meeting. This was three or four meetings actually, one showed him a map, Abu Mazen had given him a map, he showed him a map and Abu Mazen had to draw with his own hands.

                                    The Palestine Papers include two renditions of the napkin map, one showing Israel’s proposed swaps in the Jerusalem area, another showing all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Israel would keep all of its major West Bank settlements – Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Kedumim and others – none of which were included in the Palestinian offers.

                                    Olmert also proposed a “safe passage” – a territorial link between the West Bank and Gaza – that would be under Palestinian control yet remain under Israeli sovereignty. A special road would connect Bethlehem with Ramallah, bypassing East Jerusalem.

                                    Olmert also proposed delaying any decision on the Haram al-Sharif: the issue would be negotiated between Israel and Palestine, and those talks would be overseen by a committee of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

                                    The two leaders met again on September 16, 2008. A set of talking points prepared by the NSU included a great deal of confusion about Olmert's offer; the memo urged Abbas to ask for a copy of the map, and raised a number of questions about the territory swaps.

                                    How do you see it addressing our interests, especially as Ariel, Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev, Har Homa and Efrat clearly prejudice contiguity, water aquifers, and the viability of Palestine?

                                    How do you see the specific areas that you suggested to swap from Israel to Palestine addressing our interest of swapping territory equal in size and value?

                                    The NSU memo did not explicitly endorse or reject the Olmert offer; it did warn that continued settlement growth (particularly in East Jerusalem) would make any agreement "much more difficult."

                                    Al Jazeera

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                                      "Shocking revelations" on Jerusalem: The Palestine Papers

                                      English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                      The chief Palestinian negotiator appears disconnected from his own people and his wider Arab and Muslim constituency.


                                      By Daud Abdullah

                                      One of the most shocking revelations of The Palestine Papers obtained by Al Jazeera relates to the demographic and territorial concessions that the Palestinian Authority was willing to give on Jerusalem.

                                      The papers show that not only did PA negotiators demonstrate a willingness to accept Israel’s annexation of all the settlements in Jerusalem, except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa), but that they were also willing to disown parts of the besieged Arab neighbourhoods in the city. Worse still, Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator, displayed clear "flexibility" regarding the sovereignty on the Haram al-Sharif.

                                      As Ahmed Qurei described the PA's concessions on East Jerusalem settlements, this was “the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David.”

                                      For their part, the Israelis, during negotiations in 2008, refused to return to the point at which the Camp David talks collapsed in July 2000. Udi Dekel, the head of the Israeli team, pointed this out in a May 29, 2008 meeting with Samih al-Abid, the PA's map expert:

                                      “Since 2000, something happened in those 8 years. So we are not at the same starting point. You started a terror war on us and we created facts on the ground. This is the reality that we live in today, so we can’t go back to Camp David. Circumstances changed considerably since then.”

                                      [More:]

                                      "I will not betray my people"

                                      The first time the two sides ever discussed the status of occupied East Jerusalem - and, in particular, its holy sites - was at Camp David in 2000. Under international law, Jerusalem (including the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount) is regarded as part of the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. Notwithstanding, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat attempted to negotiate the issue during their Camp David summit. Several participants in the controversial talks confirm that their failure to resolve the status of the Old City's holy sites contributed to its acrimonious collapse.

                                      At Camp David, the Clinton administration’s proposal was premised on a general principle that "Arab areas are Palestinian and Jewish areas are Israeli." However, the proposals on the Haram were exceedingly problematic: They seemed to recognize Israel’s sovereignty under the Haram. Other aspects of the proposal seemed to prepare the conditions for Palestinian enclaves within the city, all separated from each other. But the Israelis, unlike the Palestinians, seemed set to maintain contiguity.

                                      Hence, while in theory the Clinton proposal called for "maximum contiguity for both," in practice it translated into "maximum contiguity for Israel."

                                      Realizing the dire consequences of such an outcome, Arafat rejected the offer and defended the Palestine Liberation Organization’s unwillingness to compromise on the sovereignty of the Haram. His was a principled position that quickly earned him the scorn of Israelis and Americans alike - though universal support at home, and throughout the Islamic world.

                                      In what was by all accounts a bruising encounter, Arafat told Clinton, "The Palestinian leader who will give up Jerusalem has not yet been born. I will not betray my people or the trust they have placed in me. Do not look to me to legitimize the occupation! Of course, it can continue longer, but it cannot last forever."

                                      Newfound "flexibility"

                                      The Palestine Papers show that ten years later the leadership of PLO, now substantially weakened and fragmented, was prepared to deviate from the red line laid down by Arafat. At least one member of its executive committee, Saeb Erekat, has demonstrated this willingness to show “flexibility” on the Haram.
                                      Related

                                      Erekat's solution for the Haram al-Sharif

                                      Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority, has suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites, The Palestine Papers show.

                                      Whether he made the following overtures to win the admiration of his American counterparts, or merely to break the deadlock created by the extremist Netanyahu government, it is not clear; what is absolutely clear, though, is that the proposed tinkering with the legal status of the Haram al-Sharif is dangerous and unprecedented. Despite the obvious the risks entailed, Erekat nonetheless, made this "creative" suggestion on October 21st 2009 during a meeting in Washington. He told Obama adviser David Hale and State Department legal adviser Jonathan Schwartz:

                                      “Even the Old City can be worked out except for the Haram and what they call Temple Mount. There you need the creativity of people like me…”

                                      When Schwartz asked whether they were to discuss Jerusalem with the borders or separately, Erekat replied:

                                      “It’s solved. You have the Clinton Parameters formula. For the Old City sovereignty for Palestine, except the Jewish quarter and part of the Armenian quarter…the Haram can be left to be discussed – there are creative ways, having a body or a committee, having undertakings for example not to dig.”

                                      It is evident from this exchange that; whereas Arafat had rejected the Clinton parameters, the current Palestinian team (led by Erekat) is prepared to accept it.

                                      Furthermore, he conceded that the Jewish Quarter and part of the Armenian Quarter would be under Israeli sovereignty. By so doing, Erekat was, in effect, moving the current Armistice ["Green"] Line, which is currently far away from the Haram al-Sharif and outside the Old City, to rest exactly at the Haram's walls. (It must be recalled that when the Jewish Quarter was confiscated by the Israelis on 18 April 1968, only 105 of the 595 houses were owned by Jews.)

                                      More alarmingly, Erekat’s suggestion of "a body or a committee" to solve the issue of the Haram demonstrated his unreserved flexibility over the sovereignty of the Haram itself. It indicates it is not a red line any more.

                                      To highlight the extent of the PA's offer on Jerusalem, Erekat on January 15, 2010 told George Mitchell’s staff: “What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history…”

                                      From the beginning, Erekat was well aware of the acute sensitivity of the issue of the Haram to Arabs and Muslims. He confirmed this to US assistant secretary of state David Welch after the Annapolis meeting on 2 December 2008, when he said that, to the Saudis, “Jerusalem is the Haram."

                                      It is notable in The Palestine Papers that even Condoleezza Rice realised the extreme sensitivity of the Haram, telling the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in a July 29, 2008 meeting that on the Haram "your children’s children will not have an agreement." She called on both sides to" leave it unresolved."

                                      But the chief Palestinian negotiator appeared totally disconnected from his own people, as well as his wider Arab and Muslim constituency, when he made this "creative" overture about Old City and the Haram. He apparently, was so consumed by the negotiations that he became oblivious of the import of his remarks among Arabs, Muslims and - most of all - his own people. Even among some Israelis this seemed infantile; as Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann observed in a recent article, “any attempt to construe the API (Arab Palestine Initiative) in a manner that falls short of "full-stop" Palestinian or Arab sovereignty on the Haram/Mount would be an exercise in self-delusion.”

                                      Dr Daud Abdullah is the director of the Middle East Monitor - an independent media research institution founded in the United Kingdom to foster a fair and accurate coverage in the Western media of Middle Eastern issues and in particular the Palestine question.

                                      Al Jazeera

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                                        Erekat's solution for the Haram: The Paletine Papers

                                        English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                        The PA's chief negotiator suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites.


                                        Erekat proposed a "creative" solution for the Haram al-Sharif in a private meeting with US envoy George Mitchell.

                                        By Clayton Swisher

                                        Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority (PA), had suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites, the Palestine Papers obtained by Al Jazeera show.

                                        Minutes of negotiations at the US State Department in Washington DC indicate that Erekat was willing to concede control over the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, to the oversight of an international committee.

                                        The highly controversial issue of who controls the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), home of the Al Aqsa mosque - Islam’s third holiest site - has been a major sticking point during decades of negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians.

                                        Israel calls the Haram al-Sharif the “Temple Mount” because Jews believe it was the site of the Second Temple destroyed during Roman times. In recent years, Jewish settler groups – some with close ties to the Israeli government – have advocated building a “Third Temple", which would necessitate the destruction of the existing Muslim holy sites.

                                        [More:]

                                        The site has often been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On October 8, 1990, Israeli forces shot dead 21 Palestinian civilians at the Haram al-Sharif. The Palestinians, whom Israel said were throwing stones at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below the Haram, were protesting plans by a settler group called the Temple Mount Faithful to lay a cornerstone for the Third Temple.

                                        Palestinians have accused Israel of trying to undermine the foundations of the al-Aqsa mosque through what Israel describes as archaeological excavations. In September 1996, Israel opened what it called a tourist tunnel along the foundations of the Haram, touching off violence that left dozens of people dead – the vast majority of them Palestinians.

                                        In September 2000, Ariel Sharon, the then-Israeli opposition leader, visited the Haram al-Sharif accompanied by hundreds of armed Israeli police. Palestinian protests at what was seen as a provocation, and Israel’s armed response to them, marked the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada.

                                        "There are creative ways"

                                        In a meeting on October 21, 2009 with George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, David Hale, Mitchell’s deputy, and Jonathan Schwartz, the then-US State Department legal adviser, Erekat told the Americans that they would need a “creative” solution for the division of the Old City.

                                        Erekat: “It’s solved. You have the Clinton Parameters formula. For the Old City sovereignty for Palestine, except the Jewish quarter and part of the Armenian quarter … the Haram can be left to be discussed - there are creative ways, having a body or a committee, having undertakings for example not to dig [excavations under the Al Aqsa mosque]. The only thing I cannot do is convert to Zionism.”

                                        Schwartz: To confirm to Sen. Mitchell, [this is] your private idea …

                                        Erekat: This conversation is in my private capacity.

                                        Schwartz: We’ve heard the idea from others. So you’re not the first to raise it.

                                        Erekat: Others are not the chief negotiator of the PLO.

                                        This was a surprising statement from Erekat: The status of the Haram al-Sharif has rarely been discussed during negotiations.

                                        No different than Jericho?

                                        In a November 2010 interview with Al Jazeera, Saeb Erekat says all occupied territory is the same.

                                        The 2000 Camp David talks marked the first time leaders from both sides bargained directly over the status of occupied East Jerusalem and its holy sites.

                                        International law and the 1967 borders clearly show that the Haram al-Sharif is within the occupied Palestinian territories. Thus the discussion– between Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat – proved highly controversial. Many participants in the talks say that their failure to resolve the status of the Old City's holy sites proved the ultimate deal-killer.

                                        Arafat's stance

                                        Bill Clinton, the then-US president advanced various proposals for dividing or sharing sovereignty, but Arafat proudly defended the unwillingness of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) to compromise on the Haram al-Sharif’s sovereignty. It was a principled position that earned him scorn among Israelis and Americans, but universal support at home and throughout the broader Islamic world.

                                        The status of the Haram al-Sharif was also seldom raised in more than 280 bilateral meetings during the Annapolis process (November 2007-December 2008). The main reason for this was domestic Israeli politics: Then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition partners demanded that the status of Jerusalem’s holy sites remained unresolved; the religious right-wing Shas party threatened to leave the government if the issue was even discussed.

                                        Thus the Israeli delegation was not allowed to speak about it, as reiterated to the PA in a July 2, 2008 meeting by Udi Dekel, Olmert’s top negotiator:

                                        “Why does your side keep mentioning Jerusalem in every meeting - isn’t there an understanding on this between the leaders?” Dekel asked Erekat.

                                        The Israelis, in other words, freely admitted that they could not entertain any bargain on Jerusalem.
                                        Carving up the Old City

                                        Yet the PA went ahead and presented its ideas - regardless of the tactical consequences.

                                        During a May 29, 2008 post-Annapolis meeting in Jerusalem, Dekel told PA officials that the parameters of the peace talks had shifted.

                                        “Since 2000, something happened in those 8 years so we are not at the same starting point. You started a terror war on us and we created facts on the ground. This is the reality that we live in today, so we can’t go back to Camp David. Circumstances changed considerably since then. Facts have changed. So we can’t freeze time and consider that we are in 2000 reality. The Middle East has changed,” Dekel told Samih al-Abid, a PLO map expert.

                                        A month later, on June 30, 2008, in a meeting with Tzipi Livni, the then-foreign minister, Ahmed Qurei, the former PA prime minister, tried to persuade the Israelis to roll back their stance on the starting point of the negotiations.

                                        Qurei: “Jerusalem is part of the territory occupied in 67. We can discuss and agree on many issues relating to Jerusalem: religious places, infrastructure, municipal function, economic issues, security, settlements. However, the municipal borders for us are 67. This is the basis, and this is where we can start.

                                        [Silence]

                                        Livni: Houston, we have a problem.

                                        Qurei: Silence is agreement …

                                        Erekat: It is no secret that on our map we proposed we are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in history. But we must talk about the concept of Al-Quds [Jerusalem].

                                        Livni: Do you have a concept?

                                        Erekat: Yes. We have a detailed concept – but we will only discuss with a partner. And it’s doable.

                                        Livni: No, I can’t.

                                        By the end of the Annapolis negotiations, the PA appeared to believe that some internationalising of the Haram al-Sharif would be required. In an offer conveyed orally to [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas on August 31, 2008, Olmert suggested that the US, along with Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, should take membership on a committee to determine the fate of the Haram al-Sharif.

                                        The committee would not have had the ability to force either Israel or the weaker Palestinian party to accept an agreement.

                                        Erekat seemed willing to claim that such an arrangement would be acceptable, even though the US has no historic standing on the issue of holy sites and considers itself Israel’s closest ally. The other Arab participants would each have brought their own baggage, in particular the Saudis, who viewed resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a core concern.

                                        At the end of the Annapolis negotiations, on December 2, 2008 - just weeks before the Gaza war - Erekat said to David Welch, the US Assistant Secretary of State, that: “Saudi’s main concern is Jerusalem - not swaps and neighbourhoods”.

                                        “To them Jerusalem is the Haram,” Erekat added.

                                        Al Quds

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                                          "The biggest Yerushalayim": The Palestine Papers

                                          English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                          Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna reports from Jerusalem on plans to annex illegal Israeli settlements

                                          PA offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem, an historic concession for which Israel offered nothing in return.

                                          By Gregg Carlstrom

                                          Ramat Shlomo, Israel – For all the international controversy over construction at this quiet settlement in north Jerusalem, there is little of it in evidence.
                                          Related Documents

                                          Related documents
                                          Meeting Minutes: Trilateral - United States, Israel and Palestine

                                          Meeting Minutes: Borders with Erekat, Qurei and Livni

                                          The controversy came last year, when the Jerusalem municipality approved 1,600 new housing tenders while Joe Biden, the US vice-president, was visiting Israel. But construction has yet to begin, and residents of this settlement – populated mostly by Orthodox Jews, a group with one of the highest birth rates in Israel – say politics are interfering with family life.

                                          “It shouldn’t be a question of politics,” said Avraham Goldstein, a student waiting at a bus stop in the settlement. “People need to build, they want to have their families nearby. There are more than 18,000 people here. And Ramat Shlomo is obviously part of Jerusalem.”

                                          The US responded to the Ramat Shlomo announcement with anger; Biden said it "undermines the kind of trust we need" to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

                                          But The Palestine Papers reveal that Israel had no reason to halt construction in Ramat Shlomo. That’s because Palestinian negotiators agreed in 2008 to allow Israel to annex this settlement, along with almost every other bit of illegal construction in the Jerusalem area – an historic concession for which they received nothing in return.

                                          [More:]

                                          "We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements"

                                          The unprecedented offer by the PA came in a June 15 trilateral meeting in Jerusalem, involving Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, Ahmed Qurei, PA's former prime minister, and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.

                                          Qurei: This last proposition could help in the swap process. We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David.

                                          Erekat went on to enumerate some of the settlements that the PA was willing to concede: French Hill, Ramat Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Talpiot, and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s old city. Those areas contain some 120,000 Jewish settlers. (Erekat did not mention the fate of other major East Jerusalem settlements, like Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Ya’akov, but Qurei’s language indicates that they would also remain a part of Israel.)
                                          An historic concession
                                          Related

                                          The "napkin map" revealed

                                          The Palestine Papers include a rendering of the land swap map presented in mid-2008 to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.

                                          In an October 2009 meeting, Erekat also proposed a geographical division of Jerusalem’s Old City, with control of the Jewish Quarter and "part of the Armenian Quarter" going to the Israelis.

                                          Settlements in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law, but the Israelis have long treated them as suburbs.

                                          Ramat Shlomo, indeed, feels little different from Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. It is a 10-minute drive from the Knesset building, the first exit on highway 1 after crossing the Green Line. The Jerusalem municipality provides services in settlements like Ramat and Neke Ya’akov. Pisgat Ze’ev will soon be connected with downtown Jerusalem via a light rail line currently under construction.

                                          Israelis are deeply divided on East Jerusalem settlements – polls conducted last year by Yedioth Ahronoth and Ha’aretz found that 46 per cent and 41 per cent (respectively) support an East Jerusalem settlement freeze – but the government’s position is resolute. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, likes to say that "building in Jerusalem is no different than building in Tel Aviv”; Tzipi Livni says her Kadima party will "never divide Jerusalem" in an agreement with the Palestinians.

                                          That is the Israeli framing. But the PA embraces a similar view, according to The Palestine Papers. And it does so unilaterally: The Israeli side refused to even place Jerusalem on the agenda, let alone offer the PA concessions in return for its historic offer.

                                          In July 2008, Udi Dekel, adviser to then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, asked Erekat why “your side keep[s] mentioning Jerusalem in every meeting.” Six weeks earlier, he told PA map expert Samih al-Abed that he wasn’t allowed to discuss the subject.

                                          Dekel: I do not have permission to discuss Jerusalem without knowing what arrangements will be in Jerusalem.

                                          Al-Abed: And Abu Ala said we cannot discuss Ma’ale Adumim.

                                          Dekel: So let’s eat lunch together, and let them [leaders] decide what to do.

                                          The PA, in other words, never even really negotiated the issue; their representatives gave away almost everything to the Israelis, without pressuring them for concessions or compromise. Erekat seemed to realise this – perhaps belatedly – in a January 2010 meeting with [US president Barack] Obama's adviser David Hale.

                                          Erekat: Israelis want the two-state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state… what more can I give?

                                          An impossible choice?

                                          Palestinian leaders took a more principled stand on other major settlement blocs in the West Bank. In the same meeting where he conceded East Jerusalem, Qurei told Livni that the PA "cannot accept the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Giv’at Ze’ev, Ephrat and Har Homa settlements".

                                          All of those (with the exception of Har Homa) are located deep in the West Bank, and their inclusion in Israel would be ruinous for the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state. Ariel, for example, is nearly halfway to Jordan, connected to Israel by an 18km stretch of highway 5.
                                          Palestinian laborers work on a housing development in the illegal settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.

                                          But dismantling these settlements is also not an option for the Israeli government. Ariel is a major industrial zone with nearly 18,000 residents. Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, is a fast-growing "bedroom community" of 30,000 people; during a recent visit, a group of Palestinian construction worker was building family homes on the settlement’s northeastern slopes.

                                          "The people who will buy these homes, they will not just leave in a few years," said one of the workers, from the nearby village of al-Jahalin.

                                          The Palestine Papers, then, underscore the seeming impossibility of resolving the status of settlements like Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel: Palestinian negotiators cannot accept them, and Israeli negotiators cannot dismantle them.

                                          There is a third option, which Palestinian negotiators raised in several meetings: those Jewish settlements could be allowed to remain as part of the future Palestinian state. Ahmed Qurei made that suggestion to Tzipi Livni several times in 2008, including this exchange in June:

                                          Qurei: Perhaps Ma’ale Adumim will remain under Palestinian sovereignty, and it could be a model for cooperation and coexistence.

                                          Livni: The matter is not simply giving a passport to settlers.

                                          The Israeli foreign minister refused to entertain the idea. “You know this is not realistic,” she told Qurei in May.

                                          Asked about Qurei’s offer earlier this month, residents in Ma’ale Adumim reacted with a mix of laughter and disbelief. Some wrote it off as a political impossibility; others worried about their safety, claiming that they would be killed.

                                          There is, in other words, seemingly no mutually acceptable policy for Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, and other major West Bank settlements within a two-state solution – a fact the Bush administration was willing to acknowledge in July 2008.

                                          Rice: I don’t think that any Israeli leader is going to cede Ma’ale Adumim.

                                          Qurei: Or any Palestinian leader.

                                          Rice: Then you won’t have a state!

                                          Rice may prove to be correct: Two and a half years later, the parties are no closer to a solution on settlements, and the Israeli government may be gearing up to issue a “massive” new round of housing permits for illegal settlers in the West Bank.

                                          Al Jazeera

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                                            Main Palestinian negotiators: The Palestine Papers

                                            English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                            Key Palestinian politicians featuring in The Palestine Papers.


                                            Saeb Erekat
                                            Role: Chief negotiator, Palestinian Authority

                                            Erekat has served as a Palestinian negotiator since the early 1990s, and has been the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the last two years.

                                            He first attained prominence in the early 1990s, when he represented the PA at the Madrid Conference and negotiated the Oslo Accords. He has taken part in every major negotiation since, including the Camp David summit in 2000 and the Taba summit the following year.

                                            Erekat occurs in these documents more frequently than anyone else: He represents the Palestinian Authority at 116 meetings with Israeli, American and European officials, and is involved with dozens of e-mails, internal memos and reports.

                                            Erekat lives in the West Bank city of Jericho. He was educated in the United States and the United Kingdom.


                                            Ahmed Qurei
                                            Role: Former prime minister; former Palestinian Authority chief negotiator

                                            Qurei served as the Palestinian prime minister from 2003 until early 2006, when his Fatah party was defeated by Hamas in parliamentary elections. During his tenure in office, he clashed with then-president Yasser Arafat over control of the Palestinian security forces.

                                            The majority of these documents cover the period after Qurei left office, when he assumed the role of the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator. He is one of the PA's chief interlocutors with the Israelis, appearing often alongside Saeb Erekat in meetings during the Annapolis process in late 2007 and 2008.

                                            By the end of 2008, his role is greatly diminished; his last appearance comes in a September 2008 meeting with Israeli general Udi Dekel. The Palestine Papers suggest that his reduced status was the result of political infighting within the PA.

                                            Qurei was born in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, and has been a member of the Fatah party since the 1960s. He spent time living in exile with Arafat in Beirut and Tunis. Qurei was heavily involved with the Madrid Conference and the negotiations that led up to the Oslo Accords.

                                            [More:]


                                            Maen Areikat
                                            Role: Chief Representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mission to the United States

                                            Areikat was born October 1960, in the West Bank town of Jericho to an influential Palestinian family.

                                            At the age of 18, Areikat left his birthplace for the US, where he received a BS in Finance from Arizona State University (ASU) in 1983, and later on an MBA in management from Western International University in 1987.

                                            After his return to Palestine in 1992 Areikat began working with Dr Hanan Ashrawi, the official spokeswoman of the Palestinian Delegation to the Peace Talks with Israel.

                                            He also joined the Orient House, the headquarters of the Palestinian Team to the Peace Talks, and, from 1993-1998, took part in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on permanent status issues.

                                            Areikat became the Director-General of the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO in Ramallah in 1998. In this position, he supervised the Negotiations Support Unit, which provides legal, policy, communication and technical support to the Palestinian Negotiating Teams.

                                            In May 2009, Areikat joined the PLO Mission to the US. Palestine does not maintain an embassy in the US; however, the PLO does operate a mission in Washington DC where Areikat serves as chef de mission.

                                            Areikat’s name first appears in the Palestine Papers on April 10, 2001, when he receives a memorandum from the Washington lobbying firm Bannerman & Associates with a list of deadly incidents in Israel conducted by Palestinians.


                                            Mohammed Dahlan

                                            Role: Former leader of Fatah in the Gaza Strip and, since August 2009, an elected member of the Fatah Central Committee.

                                            His reputation as a Palestinian strongman - with corruption allegations and links to foreign intelligence services - make him one of the most controversial Palestinian politicians of his time.

                                            He became (in)famous for his leading role in a failed CIA-funded coup attempt against the Hamas-led government in Gaza in 2007.

                                            Born to a refugee family in Gaza in 1961, Dahlan grew up under Egyptian, and later Israeli, control. He entered politics as a teenager and in 1981 helped to establish the Gaza branch of the Fatah Youth Movement.

                                            He was jailed 10 times by Israel for his leading role in the movement and learned to speak Hebrew fluently during his time in prison.

                                            After the signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, Dahlan was chosen to head the Preventive Security Service in Gaza where he built up a force of 20,000 men. His forces made him a powerful figure, dealing regularly with the CIA and Israeli intelligence officials.

                                            His soldiers were accused of torturing Hamas prisoners throughout the 1990s, allegations Dahlan denies. During this period Gaza was nicknamed "Dahlanistan" due to his far-reaching power. At the end of Yasser Arafat's reign, Dahlan was seen as his potential successor, but infighting and corruption allegations marred his candidacy.

                                            In March 2007, Dahlan was appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, to lead the newly re-established Palestinian National Security Council, overseeing all security forces in the Palestinian territories.

                                            A month after the Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip, he resigned from his post. Many in Fatah blame Dahlan for the rapid collapse of their forces in Gaza in the face of a Hamas offensive that lasted less than a week.

                                            Dahlan is seen by the Israelis as someone they could do business with, something that is reaffirmed in the Palestine Papers.

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                                              Main Israeli negotiators: The Palestine Papers

                                              English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                              Key Israeli politicians and negotiators featuring in The Palestine Papers


                                              Tzipi Livni
                                              Role: Former Israeli foreign minister; current opposition leader and head of Kadima party

                                              Livni has served in the Knesset (Israeli parliament)since 1999. She has held a variety of cabinet posts, including stints as housing minister, agriculture minister and justice minister.

                                              She was the foreign minister and Israel's lead negotiator during the key years covered by The Palestine Papers. She represented the Israeli government during dozens of meetings before and after the Annapolis conference, usually appearing with Tal Becker, her senior adviser.

                                              Livni lost her post as foreign minister in 2009; her Kadima party won the most seats in Israel's parliamentary elections, but failed to assemble a governing coalition. She has been serving as Israel's opposition leader since then.

                                              Livni was born in Tel Aviv. She served for a time in Israel's Mossad spy agency, then left to attend law school; she practiced commercial law for a decade before entering politics.


                                              Ehud Olmert
                                              Role: Former Israeli prime minister

                                              Olmert was the prime minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, when many of the key events described in the Palestine Papers took place. He spent much of his professional career in politics: Olmert was first elected to the Knesset in 1973 and remained a member for 20 years, rising through the ranks of the Likud party. He then served two terms as the mayor of Jerusalem before returning to the Knesset in 2003 and assuming the post of prime minister in 2006.

                                              His domestic popularity remained quite low for much of his time as prime minister. His handling of the 2006 Lebanon war was deeply unpopular in Israel; tens of thousands of people staged a rally in 2007 to demand his resignation. He was also dogged by persistent allegations of corruption, for which he was eventually indicted after leaving office.

                                              Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, was Israel's main negotiator during Olmert’s time in office. Olmert himself appears in only a handful of these documents, mostly in notes preceding or following his one-on-one meetings with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

                                              [More:]


                                              Udi Dekel
                                              Role: Former head of the Israeli Negotiations Unit under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

                                              Dekel worked in the Prime Minister's Office to co-ordinate the work of the negotiation team.

                                              He helped with the formation of Israel's positions in the talks and took part in several rounds of talks on a final status agreement. Before his assignment to the Olmert Administration as head of staff, Dekel served as the head of the Israel Defence Forces Strategic Planning Division.

                                              After his tenure at the prime minister's office, he was highly critical of the negotiating tactics of Olmert and Livni in their dealings with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, and Ahmed Qurei, the head of Abbas' negotiating team.

                                              The Palestine Papers reveal that Dekel has been trying to shift the 1967 borders as a baseline for the negotiations, due to new "facts on the ground" that were created as an answer to a "terror war" that was launched by the Palestinians.


                                              Amos Gilad
                                              Role: Former head of the Israeli defence ministry's political-security branch and Israel's caretaker co-ordinator in the occupied territories.

                                              Gilad was said to enjoy more influence over Israeli government policy than many of those who outranked him in the government hierarchy.

                                              Before his appointment at the defence ministry, he served as the director of the research division of the Israeli army's intelligence branch and also as army spokesman.

                                              In his side role as Israel's special envoy to Egypt, he was also intimately involved in talks over the fate of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He was briefly suspended from that position in February 2009 after he criticised Olmert, claiming that the prime minister was hindering efforts to free Shalit.

                                              The Palestine Papers show that Gilad, who continues to serve the Israeli government as an adviser to Ehud Barak, the defence minister, held multiple conversations with Palestinian Authority negotiators on the situation in Gaza prior to the 2008-2009 war.


                                              Tal Becker
                                              Role: Senior adviser to Tzipi Livni

                                              Becker was Tzipi Livni’s senior policy adviser from 2006 through 2009, and almost always accompanied her to meetings with Palestinian negotiators.

                                              Becker is a lawyer who spent much of his career working for the Israeli government: He is a former lawyer at the Israeli mission to the United Nations, and a former director of the international law department at the Israeli foreign ministry. He was involved in negotiations during both the Oslo Accords and the Camp David summit.

                                              Becker speaks far less often than Livni in the Palestine Papers, and his comments are usually clarifications – interpretations of international law, or details from past negotiations. The documents give the impression of an influential behind-the-scenes figure with a limited "public" role in meetings with Palestinians.

                                              He does occasionally weigh in on substantive issues, discussing at one point the need for two states: "Divided. All Israeli. All Palestinian," he said.

                                              Tal Becker was born in France, but spent most of his childhood in Australia.

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                                                Main U.S. Negotiators: The Palestine Papers

                                                English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                Key American politicians featuring in The Palestine Papers


                                                George Mitchell
                                                Role: Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle East

                                                He was appointed as envoy just two days after Barack Obama was sworn in as the US president, and left for the Middle East within a week of his appointment. He has made more than a half-dozen trips to the region since then, and has met repeatedly with Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and others.

                                                He previously served as the chair of an international fact-finding mission created by Bill Clinton, the former US president. The report offered three suggestions for restarting the stalled Israeli-Palestinian "peace process": a halt to violence; a series of "confidence-building measures," particularly the end to Israeli settlement growth; and a resumption of negotiations.

                                                Mitchell was the chief mediator during the Northern Ireland peace talks held during Clinton's term in office. He chaired the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement.

                                                Mitchell held a variety of roles before being appointed envoy, including three terms in the United States Senate.


                                                Condoleezza Rice
                                                Role: United States' Secretary of State between 2005 and 2009 under George Bush

                                                Before her confirmation as Secretary of State, Rice, 56, was Bush's National Security Adviser during his first term.

                                                Rice stated that the September 11, 2001 attacks were rooted in "oppression and despair" and that the US should advance democratic reform and support basic rights throughout the greater Middle East.

                                                Her emphasis on supporting democratically elected governments faced challenges as Hamas captured a popular majority in Palestinian elections in 2006, and influential countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt maintained authoritarian systems with US support.

                                                Throughout her tenure as Secretary of State, Rice made numerous fruitless attempts to impose the Road Map to peace in the Middle East, a plan originally outlined by Bush in a speech in 2002 in which he called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

                                                Her diplomatic performance in the Middle East and at home in the US earned her the nickname of "Warrior Princess", reflecting strong nerve and delicate manners.

                                                [More:]


                                                Stephen Hadley

                                                Role: Assistant to President George Bush and Deputy National Security Adviser from January 2001

                                                In Bush's second term, Hadley, 63, replaced Condoleezza Rice as National Security Adviser upon Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State.

                                                As assistant to the president, he admitted fault in allowing a disputed claim about Iraq's quest for nuclear weapons material to be included in Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address.

                                                On July 2003, Hadley offered his resignation to Bush because he had "failed in that responsibility" and because "the high standards the president set were not met." Bush denied his request.

                                                Amid this, The Times of London reported that Hadley was Bob Woodward's source for Valerie Plame's name in the CIA leak scandal, but this report proved to be false when Richard Armitage admitted that he was Woodward's source.

                                                During the administration of George Bush Senior, Hadley was "Pentagon aide to [Under-Secretary of Defence Paul] Wolfowitz," serving as the Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Policy from 1989–1993.

                                                In that position, he was responsible for US defence policy towards NATO and Western Europe on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile defence, and arms control.

                                                Hadley is currently Senior Adviser for International Affairs at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, DC.


                                                Keith Dayton

                                                Role: Former United States’ Security Co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority

                                                Since the summer of 2007, Dayton has been overseeing the formation of the Palestinian Security Forces in the West Bank, a force created to serve the Palestinian Authority in matters of public order and to fight Hamas.

                                                The training of the Palestinian Security Forces takes place in a facility outside of Amman, Jordan - incidentally, the same facility where Iraqi security forces are trained by the US. Each Palestinian battalion contains 500 combat troops. The training programme is prepared together with Israel.

                                                Prior to his assignment in Israel, Dayton spent 37 years in a variety of command and staff assignments. As the director of the Iraq Survey Group, he was closely involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served as a senior member of the Joint Staff, and as defence attaché in the US embassy in Moscow, Russia.

                                                Dayton has written many articles over the course of his career and was one of the co-authors of The Future of NATO: Facing an Unreliable Enemy in an Uncertain Environment, a study on the future of NATO published in 1991.

                                                Dayton is currently the director of the George C Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.


                                                David Welch

                                                Role: Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the United States’ Department of State.

                                                Welch started his diplomatic career as a political officer at the US embassy in Islamabad in 1979 and returned after two years to the State Department where he was desk officer for Lebanon and Syria.

                                                Born in Munich in 1953 to US diplomat parents, Welch has been assigned to a number of embassies throughout the Middle East as head of the political section.

                                                Between 1996 and 1998, Welch served in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, playing an important role in US foreign policy in Iran, Iraq and Libya.

                                                In August 2001, Welch was appointed US ambassador to Egypt, where he was criticised for acting like an "American High Commissioner in Egypt”, referring to the British High Commissioner during British occupation. Many Egyptians saw his attempts to rid the Egyptian curriculum and religious sermons of anti-Semitism as unwelcome interference in domestic affairs.

                                                As Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2005 through 2008, Welch was closely involved in the negotiations between the Israeli and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

                                                Welch resigned from his position as the top US diplomat in the Middle East in December 2008 to pursue work in the private sector.

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                                                  Timeline: Palestine-Israel conflict

                                                  English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                  A chronology of key events in the Middle East conflict from 1999 onwards, the time span of The Palestine Papers.

                                                  1999
                                                  May: Ehud Barak of the Labour Party is elected prime minister under the One Israel banner.

                                                  2000
                                                  July: The Camp David summit between Barak, and Yasser Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority, aimed at reaching a "final status" agreement, fails after Arafat refuses to accept a proposal drafted by the US and Israeli negotiators.

                                                  September: Second initifada begins after Ariel Sharon, the Israeli opposition leader, visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

                                                  2001
                                                  February 6: Sharon is elected the leader of the Likud party and refuses to continue negotiations with Arafat.

                                                  June 1: A Hamas suicide bomber attacks a nightclub, killing 21 Israelis, mainly teenagers, and injuring more than 100.

                                                  December: Sharon sends troops into Ramallah, shelling and surrounding the Palestinian Authority's West Bank headquarters; Arafat is unable to leave.

                                                  [More:]

                                                  2002
                                                  March: Israeli army launches Operation Defensive Shield, the country's biggest military operation in the West Bank since the Six Day war in 1967. In the same year, Israel begins construction of separation barrier and annexes large areas of Palestinian land.

                                                  2004
                                                  March 22: Sheikh Yassin, the founder and leader of the Hamas movement, is assassinated by an Israeli helicopter gunship.

                                                  April 17: Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi, the co-founder of Hamas and successor to Yassin, is killed by the Israeli army.

                                                  July 9: International Court of Justice rules that the Israeli separation barrier violates international law and must be removed.

                                                  November 11: Arafat dies.

                                                  2005
                                                  January 9: Mahmoud Abbas is elected president of the Palestinian Authority.

                                                  January 10: Sharon creates government of unity with Labour and United Torah Judaism parties.

                                                  August: Israel disengages from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

                                                  November: Sharon leaves Likud to form the Kadima party.

                                                  2006
                                                  January: Sharon suffers a major stroke that leaves him in a coma.

                                                  January 25: Hamas wins a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislative elections. The US, Israel and several European countries cut off aid to the Palestinians as the Islamist movement rejects Israel's right to exist.

                                                  March 2006: Kadima, now led by Ehud Olmert, wins the parliamentary elections and installs Olmert as Sharon's successor.

                                                  June 25: Armed Palestinians carry out a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip and capture Corporal Gilad Shalit, besides killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding four others.

                                                  September: Violence erupts between rival Palestinian groups, Fatah and Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Abbas attempts to prevent civil war. Abbas's Fatah movement supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, while Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist.

                                                  October: A number of mediation conferences are held. Egypt and Qatar send their foreign ministers to meet with both sides. Other Palestinian groups like the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine mediate between the two sides to stop the clashes.

                                                  November 13: Following talks between Hamas and Fatah, both sides agree to form a unity government.

                                                  December 16: Abbas calls for new elections as a solution to the ongoing crisis.

                                                  2007
                                                  January 30: Fatah and Hamas reach a ceasefire agreement mediated by Egypt after a series of clashes that led to the death of 32 Palestinians. Both sides welcome a Saudi initiative to meet in Mecca.

                                                  February 8: Hamas and Fatah agree on a deal in Mecca to end factional warfare and to form a coalition, hoping this would lead Western powers to lift crippling sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government.

                                                  February 9: The Quartet welcomes the role of Saudi Arabia in reaching the agreement to form a Palestinian National Unity government but later reaffirms that it must obey international demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous peace agreements.

                                                  February 15: Ismail Haniya and his cabinet resign. Haniya is re-appointed by Abbas and begins the process of forming a new Palestinian unity government.

                                                  March 15: Palestinians reach agreement on the formation of the government.

                                                  March 17: The new Palestinian unity government holds its first cabinet meeting in Gaza City, with ministers in the West Bank participating from Ramallah via video link.

                                                  March: Israel refuses to talk to the coalition, saying it fails to meet international demands - renouncing violence, recognising Israel and honouring past peace deals.

                                                  April: Israel plans Gaza invasion, a day after Olmert calls for a regional peace conference with Arab states. The US gives Abbas $60m to boost his presidential guard and for other security expenses.

                                                  May: Israel presses ahead with air raids on Gaza. The strikes came after Olmert said that Israel would continue its crackdown on Hamas following the firing of rockets from the enclave.

                                                  June: Battle of Gaza begins, resulting in Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah. Abbas issues new government, and announces Salam Fayyad, an economist, as the emergency government head. Abbas swears in new emergency government, bypassing Hamas.

                                                  November: George Bush, the US president, hosts peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis at Annapolis, Maryland, while Hamas still holds control over Gaza.

                                                  2008
                                                  January: Israel steps up military actions on Gaza and Hamas, killing seven Palestinians. Olmert vows to respond to continuing rocket attacks from Gaza. Israel continues incursions into Gaza, leaving Palestinians in a humanitarian crisis without fuel, power, food and water.

                                                  January 23: Palestinians blow up part of the border at Rafah, going into Egypt and thousands of Gazans cross the border to buy food and other supplies.

                                                  February: Israel launches military campaign, codenamed Operation Hot Winter, in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of 112 Palestinians and three Israelis.

                                                  May: Tony Blair, former British prime minister, announces new peace initiative based on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.

                                                  December: Israel launches Operation Cast Lead, a full scale invasion of the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups. Some 1400 Palestinians are killed, many of them civilians. After 22 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas each declare separate unilateral ceasefires.

                                                  2009
                                                  March: Binyamin Netanyahu assumes office as Israeli prime minister following parliamentary elections.

                                                  April 3: United Nations establishes a fact-finding mission on the Gaza war, headed by Richard Goldstone, an international jurist from South Africa.

                                                  June 4: Barack Obama, the US president, calls for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims" in a historic speech in Cairo.

                                                  September 15: Goldstone releases his report, accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the Gaza war.

                                                  November 3: The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes a resolution denouncing the Goldstone report as "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy."

                                                  November: Netanyahu announces a 10-month so-called freeze on construction in illegal West Bank settlements. The freeze does not apply to East Jerusalem.

                                                  2010
                                                  January: Israel resumes air strikes against smuggling-tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border.

                                                  May 31: Israel violently intercepts a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine activists on board the Mavi Marmara, the lead vessel .

                                                  September 22: United Nations Human Rights Council terms the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla "disproportionate" and condemns its "unacceptable level of brutality."

                                                  September: Another round of direct negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership begins. The talks collapse in the same month after Israel refuses to extend the freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

                                                  2011
                                                  January 23: Al Jazeera releases The Palestine Papers, revealing a trove of documents, e-mails and minutes of meetings, shedding light on 10 years of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

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                                                    Glossary: The Palestine Papers

                                                    English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                    We've compiled a list of the most frequently-used terms from The Palestine Papers.

                                                    The Palestine Papers were intended as internal notes, and so they make heavy use of jargon, acronyms and abbreviations. We've compiled a list of the most frequently-used terms.

                                                    Acronym / Definition
                                                    AMA Agreement on Movement and Access
                                                    API Arab Peace Initiative
                                                    BATNA Best alternative to a negotiated agreement
                                                    CBM Confidence-building measure
                                                    CEC Central Elections Committee
                                                    GOI Government of Israel
                                                    KSCP Kerem Shalom crossing point
                                                    LO Liaison office
                                                    MB Muslim Brotherhood
                                                    MF Multi-national force
                                                    MFA Israeli ministry of foreign affairs
                                                    NAD Negotiations affairs department
                                                    NSU Negotiation support unit
                                                    NUG National unity government
                                                    PA Palestinian Authority
                                                    PG Presidential Guard
                                                    PLC Palestinian Leadership Council
                                                    PS Permanent status
                                                    PSN Permanent status negotiations
                                                    RCP Rafah crossing point
                                                    RM Road Map
                                                    SPB State with provisional borders
                                                    SSR Security sector reform
                                                    SWG Security working group
                                                    TOR Terms of reference
                                                    WG Working group

                                                    [More:]

                                                    People

                                                    Different documents use different abbreviations for key negotiators: Tzipi Livni, for example, is referred to as both TL and TZ. This list covers the most commonly-used abbreviations.
                                                    Acronym Person
                                                    AA Abu Ala' (Ahmed Qureia)
                                                    AB Azem Bishara
                                                    AG Amos Gilad
                                                    AM Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas)
                                                    ARY Gen. Abdel Razzaq Yahia
                                                    BM Ban Ki-moon
                                                    BO Barack Obama
                                                    CR Condoleezza Rice
                                                    DW David Welch
                                                    ES Ephraim Sneh
                                                    GS Gilad Shed
                                                    JS Javier Solana
                                                    KD Gen. Keith Gayton
                                                    KE Khaled el-Gindy
                                                    MD Mohammad Dahlan
                                                    MO Marc Otte
                                                    PP Lt. Gen. Pietro Pistolese
                                                    PR Col. Paul Rupp
                                                    PS Pablo Serrano
                                                    RD Rami Dajani
                                                    RN Gen. Raji Najami
                                                    SA Samih al-Abed
                                                    SE Saeb Erekat
                                                    SF Salam Fayyad
                                                    ST Shalom Tourgeman
                                                    TB Tal Becker
                                                    TL Tzipi Livni
                                                    UD Udi Dekel
                                                    YAR Yasser Abed Rabbo
                                                    YG Yossi Gal

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                                                      Introducing The Palestine Papers

                                                      English (US)  January 23rd, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                      Al Jazeera has obtained more than 1,600 internal documents from a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

                                                      By Gregg Carlstrom

                                                      Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents – memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations – date from 1999 to 2010.

                                                      The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.

                                                      [More:]

                                                      Al Jazeera will release the documents between January 23-26th, 2011. They will reveal new details about:

                                                      * the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;
                                                      * the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
                                                      * details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
                                                      * and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

                                                      Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity.

                                                      We believe this material will prove to be of inestimable value to journalists, scholars, historians, policymakers and the general public.

                                                      We know that some of what is presented here will prove controversial, but it is our intention to inform, not harm, to spark debate and reflection – not dampen it. Our readers and viewers will note that we have provided a comments section in which to express opinions. In keeping with our editorial policies, we reserve the right to excise comments that we deem inappropriate, but all civil voices will be heard, all opinions respected.

                                                      We present these papers as a service to our viewers and readers as a reflection of our fundamental belief – that public debate and public policies grow, flourish and endure when given air and light.

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                                                        Seymour Hersh: High-ranking members of US military part of ‘Knights of Malta,’ ‘Opus Dei’

                                                        English (US)  January 22nd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                        By Stephen C. Webster

                                                        High ranking members of US military part of Knights of Malta, Opus Dei, reporter claimsVeteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has broken some massive stories in his day, but uncovering secret societies within the highest echelons of America's military would probably be the biggest of his career.

                                                        Well, get ready for the media storm, because that's essentially what Hersh told an audience in Doha, Qatar recently, according to a report published earlier this week by Foreign Policy.

                                                        Speaking at a campus operated by Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, Hersh said he was working on a new book that details "how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government."

                                                        [More:]

                                                        "It's not only that the neocons took it over but how easily they did it -- how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced," he continued, according to the published quotes.

                                                        Hersh also lamented President Obama's continuance of the Bush administration's worst abuses.

                                                        "Just when we needed an angry black man, we didn't get one," he reportedly said.

                                                        The Foreign Policy report added that in 2003, those "in the Cheney shop" were not concerned about the havoc the invasion of Iraq was destined to cause.

                                                        "[The] attitude was, 'What's this? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they're all worried about some looting?" Hersh was quoted as saying. "Don't they get it? We're gonna change moseques into cathedrals. And when we get all the oil, nobody's gonna give a damn.' That's the attitude. We're gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That's an attitude that pervades, I'm here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC]."

                                                        He further claimed that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Vice Admiral William McRaven and others in the JSOC were members of the "Knights of Malta" and "Opus Dei," two little known Catholic orders.

                                                        "They do see what they're doing -- and this is not an atypical attitude among some military -- it's a crusade, literally," Hersh reportedly continued. "They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They're protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function."

                                                        He added that members of these societies have developed a secret set of insignias that represent "the whole notion that this is a culture war" between religions.

                                                        It was President George W. Bush who first invoked images of a holy war in the Middle East, when he suggested soon after Sept. 11, 2001 that the US was on a "crusade" in the region.

                                                        The "Knights of Malta" were a Catholic order founded in 1085 as a group of monks who cared for the wounded. It evolved into a military order that safeguarded Christian pilgrims from Muslims during the nine "Crusades," where Europe's Christian states laid siege to Muslims for control of Jerusalem.

                                                        "Opus Dei," popularly depicted in the Hollywood film "The DaVinci Code," was founded in 1928 and officially accepted as part of the Catholic church in 1947. The group's website claimed their principle calling was to bring about a "Christian renewal" around the world.

                                                        Doubts, denials and a distinctive trend

                                                        Raw Story reached out to Hersh and The New Yorker to confirm the accuracy of his quotes, placing this report on hold until they responded. Both declined to make any further statement, neither confirming nor denying the quotes.

                                                        However, one source close to Hersh who spoke to Raw Story off the record, suggested that Foreign Policy's report was indeed correct.

                                                        Raw Story followed-up on the quotes due to a widely-reported false claim attributed to Hersh in May 2009, where he'd allegedly said former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

                                                        troops High ranking members of US military part of Knights of Malta, Opus Dei, reporter claimsThe report, which appeared to have originated in Pakistan, was picked up by The Wall Street Journal and the conservative-leaning American Spectator, but both removed the links after Raw Story published a denial from Hersh. A link to Raw Story's original report was unavailable due to a database malfunction.

                                                        Hersh, a Pulitzer-winning author and reporter, has previously reported that the JSOC was set up by former Vice President Cheney as something of an "executive assassination squad" that operated outside of congressional authority.

                                                        Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who resigned after Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings quoted him mocking the US civilian command, led JSOC before taking command of America's war effort in Afghanistan.

                                                        In an email to the military's Stars and Stripes publication, McChrystal's spokesman, David Bolger, panned Hersh's claim.

                                                        “The allegations recently made by Seymour Hersh relating to General McChrystal’s involvement with an organization called The Knights of Malta are completely false and without basis in fact,” he reportedly wrote. “General McChrystal is not and has never been a member of that organization.”

                                                        The religious indoctrination of US soldiers has been in headlines in recent weeks as soldiers who "failed" the "spiritual fitness" portion of the "comprehensive soldier fitness" test claimed they were forced to attend Christian ceremonies and become "born again" by professing love for the Christian deity.

                                                        Similarly, GQ magazine uncovered last year a series of top-secret military briefings prepared by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that included passages from the Bible.

                                                        Trijicon Inc., a defense contractor, was also discovered last January to have been for years placing scriptural references on gun sights used by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

                                                        Their actions revealed Trijicon was forced to provide the Pentagon with kits to remove the codes.

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                                                          Gulf Coast fighting for recompense

                                                          English (US)  January 22nd, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                          Residents and fishermen outraged as BP's compensation fund administrator denies 'loss of income' claims.

                                                          By Dahr Jamail

                                                          "I just got off the phone with Feinberg's people and I'm really upset," says seafood merchant Michelle Chauncey from Barataria, Louisiana.

                                                          Her business, which sells wholesale and retail crabs, has not provided her with an income since the end of May, and her home is being foreclosed.

                                                          Attorney Kenneth Feinberg's Washington-based firm, Feinberg Rozen, has been paid $850,000 a month by BP to administer a $20bn compensation fund and claims process for Gulf residents and fishermen affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion last April.

                                                          "(Feinberg') saying to opt in to the fund, you'll come out with more money than if you litigate this," she says. "He's scaring these people. He's not our lawyer. But he's basically saying if you try to sue us, we'll f*** you up. He's condescending. He's completely crooked and corrupt. He's trying to pull every trick in the book on us." -- Karen Hopkin

                                                          The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which Feinberg manages, was set up after negotiations between BP and the Obama administration, but over recent months there has been growing concern among the Coast's residents that Feinberg is limiting compensation funds to claimants in order to decrease BP's liability.

                                                          Late last month, Feinberg told Bloomberg Television that he anticipates that about half of the $20bn fund should be enough to cover claims for economic losses.

                                                          "It remains to be seen, but I would hope that half that money would be more than enough to pay all the claims," he said.

                                                          [More:]

                                                          Grade F

                                                          Chauncey is angry.

                                                          "[Kenneth] Feinberg told me personally I had a legitimate claim, and that he was going to personally look into my claim and see why I wasn't being paid," she explains, adding that one of Feinberg's colleagues gave her his personal number and promised to help.

                                                          "I told Feinberg's man that I know strippers who have gotten money. So if I took off my clothes ... and worked in a bar, I'd have been paid, but since I have a seafood business I haven't been paid.

                                                          "The really sad part is that my story is not isolated," Chauncey adds. "There are loads of us, and they are all in the same predicament as I am."

                                                          Rudy Toler from Gulfport, Mississippi is a fourth generation fisherman. He submitted 62 pages of documentation to the GCCF, but says: "My claim got denied on December 4, with about 100,000 other people."

                                                          The GCCF, which also covers cleanup and remediation costs, has received more than 468,000 claims and has paid about $2.7bn to approximately 170,000 claimants (about one-third of those who have submitted claims) in the last four months.

                                                          Most of the claims that have been paid are temporary emergency payments.

                                                          "You've paid 30 per cent of the claims," Gulf Shores City councilman Jason Dyken told Feinberg at a recent meeting in Gulf Shores, Alabama. "Seventy per cent of the claims have not been paid. Where I went to school that's an 'F'."

                                                          The amount paid out averages nearly $16,000 per claimant. But according to the US department of health and human services, the 2009 poverty threshold for a family of three was $18,310.

                                                          With mounting problems from an escalating health crisis and decimated fishing and tourist industries, many consider this an inadequate amount of compensation for their loss of livelihood.

                                                          Feinberg has recently been on a tour of the Gulf Coast, holding public forums where he has often been faced with throngs of enraged residents and fishermen.

                                                          While Feinberg admits that mistakes have been made in processing claims, he has also said that many claims lack sufficient documentation to warrant payment.

                                                          "I'm trying to do the right thing," Feinberg has said. "This is an unprecedented job. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of claims. But we're getting through them, and the money is going out."

                                                          During his recent visit to the Gulf, Feinberg said: "I will bend over backwards to pay claims." But large numbers of Gulf residents and fishermen beg to differ.

                                                          "Last week I spoke up at the Town Hall meeting in Bay St. Louis, and Feinberg told me to give him my number and information and he would personally take care of it," Toler says. "Here it is a week later and I've not heard from him. You can't get answers from nobody. Nobody. Now, I'm 15 days past due on my rent. It don't seem right to me."

                                                          Like Chauncey, Toler is angered by seeing residents who are not directly involved in the seafood industry being awarded compensation cheques, while those who are have their claims denied.

                                                          "It's very frustrating," he says. "They say on the news they are going to help the fishermen and the people who deserve it while we aren't getting the help, but the people at Burger King and other stores are getting paid."

                                                          Circumventing US law?

                                                          Feinberg's claims operation is now offering three options to claimants:

                                                          • Final settlements for all present and future damages that require the claimant to agree not to seek future compensation or sue anyone involved in last year's oil spill.
                                                          • Smaller interim claims that do not require a lawsuit waiver.
                                                          • Quick payments of $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for businesses that require a lawsuit waiver but, unlike final or interim payments, do not call for financial documentation. Only those approved last year for emergency claims can take a quick payment.

                                                          Attorney Brian Donovan, with the Donovan Law Group in Tampa, Florida, believes Feinberg is simply doing what he is being paid by BP to do.

                                                          "He's doing his job," Donovan says. "Feinberg is a defence attorney representing BP. To think otherwise is being foolish. As a defence attorney, he's doing a great job for BP. But they are saying 'go with us, or sue us'."

                                                          Donovan has written: "In lieu of ensuring that BP oil spill victims are made whole, the primary goal of GCCF and Feinberg is the limitation of BP's liability via the systematic postponement, reduction and denial of claims against BP. Victims of the BP oil spill must understand that 'Administrator' Feinberg is merely a defence attorney zealously advocating on behalf of his client BP."

                                                          Contrary to what Feinberg is telling claim applicants, according to Donovan, under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a victim of the BP oil spill must first present a claim for damages to BP/GCCF and wait 90 days. If he or she is not paid, or accepts a lesser amount, that does not preclude the victim from pursuing future compensation. In addition, the GCCF/Feinberg requirement that a claimant sign a general release of all rights and claims is contrary to the OPA.

                                                          The OPA, signed into law in 1990, provided the statutory authorisation and funding necessary for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF). The National Pollution Funds Centre (NPFC), an administrative agency of the US coast guard (USCG), manages OSLTF and acts as the implementing agency of OPA.

                                                          Since 2003, USCG has operated in the department of homeland security. A primary purpose of OSLTF is to compensate persons for removal costs and damages resulting from an oil spill incident. In essence, OSLTF is an insurance policy, or backstop, for victims of an oil spill incident who are not fully compensated by the responsible party.

                                                          "If the OSLTF was used as it was intended by OPA, when BP/GCCF does not pay a claim, the victim presents the claim to OSLTF," explains Donavan. "At that point, OSLTF pays the victim and then the US attorney general, at the request of the secretary of the department of homeland security, shall commence an action on behalf of OSLTF against BP and collect the amount from BP. That's how it is written."

                                                          Donovan believes that these laws are being ignored for political reasons.

                                                          BP created the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust (DHOST) on August 6, 2010.

                                                          "The fact that, pursuant to the DHOST agreement, future production payments pertaining to BP's US oil and natural gas production, rather than hard US assets, are being used as collateral by BP, guarantees BP's continued long-term operation in the offshore Gulf of Mexico," Donovan says. "Ironically, the federal government has acquired a vested interest in ensuring the financial well-being of BP."

                                                          While Donovan's firm has been largely successful in assisting its clients in obtaining their settlements, he says: "I'm sure down the road we're going to have to file suit. I don't doubt that."

                                                          'Every trick in the book'

                                                          The criticism from angry residents, business owners and fishermen of Feinberg's handling of the GCCF has mounted over the months, and now seems to be at a fever pitch.

                                                          At a January 10, meeting in Grand Isle, Louisiana, resident and seafood worker Karen Hopkins handed Feinberg a petition, which now has nearly 800 signatures, demanding his resignation.

                                                          "We need him to pay us the money that the company he's working for owes us," Hopkins says. "He's not working for our interests. He's working to save as much of that fund for BP as he can. If he was here to serve us, he'd give us a plan for long-term testing for the chemicals they've poisoned us with."

                                                          The chemicals Hopkins referenced are the at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants BP has used to sink the oil from sight.

                                                          At the same meeting, Feinberg said: "We've paid out $1bn in Louisiana alone. Somebody's getting money. It might be the wrong people, but somebody's getting money."

                                                          Hopkins, who works for a large seafood company, says every person who complains to Feinberg about their claim is told "to leave him his claim number and he'll look into it".

                                                          "I know loads of fishermen who have never been paid one dime for emergency payments. Not one thin dime. He doesn't understand our culture, or the damage this has done to our way of life," she says.

                                                          Hopkins believes Feinberg is pressuring people to take the smaller, immediate payments, rather than pursue litigation in order to obtain appropriate levels of compensation.

                                                          "He's saying to opt in to the fund, you'll come out with more money than if you litigate this," she says. "He's scaring these people. He's not our lawyer. But he's basically saying if you try to sue us, we'll f*** you up. He's condescending. He's completely crooked and corrupt. He's trying to pull every trick in the book on us."

                                                          'Lives are being destroyed'

                                                          Cherri Foytlin has been speaking out against the injustice she sees in the wake of the spill [Photo: Erika Blumenfeld]

                                                          The lack of compensation payouts is afflicting people across the Gulf Coast.

                                                          "Most of the people I care about are hungry, they've lost their house, they're losing their cars," says Cherri Foytlin, the co-founder of Gulf Change, a community organisation in Louisiana.

                                                          "I've met so many people over the last three days who've had red beans and rice for Christmas while this man's firm is getting $850,000 a month for this. I saw people on their knees in these meetings begging this man. I don't know how he sleeps at night. He takes money from BP and claims to represent and care about people in the Gulf."

                                                          Lorrie Williams fishes crab from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Her 11-year-old son has been sick for months with symptoms she blames on toxic chemicals related to the oil spill. Her son's blood tested positive for several of the chemicals in BP's crude oil.

                                                          "My concern is not a claim, or money, but finding somebody who is going to treat my son, and other sick people," she says. "For Feinberg to tell me to file a claim, what am I filing for? To get $5,000 since I'm sick? My fear is that in five years my child is going to have cancer. Or my husband or I will pass away and not be here to care for my child."

                                                          Kathy Birrin and her husband are financial partners in their seafood business in Hernando Beach, Florida, each owning half of the company. They both filed identical personal claims for their portion of the business' lost income to the same claims officer.

                                                          "They paid my personal claim in 10 days, but my husband's was denied six weeks later," Birrin says. "In Florida we're watching them pay strippers and waitresses, while they are denying commercial fishermen's claims. I'm hearing this same thing in all the meetings I'm attending in all four states."

                                                          Birrin describes the situation in her area of Florida as a "disaster" and adds: "Our fish are not there this year. We're way, way, way down from what we usually have. People's lives are being destroyed."

                                                          Teresa Abraham also lives in Florida, where she has a publishing business that prints tourism related material.

                                                          "Most of my clients can't pay me because they've not been paid by BP," she says. "I filed for loss of income, and of course my emergency payment was denied, like everyone else I know who's filed."

                                                          Abraham explains that Feinberg promised Florida senator Bill Nelson he would personally look at Abraham's claim, but she adds: "He didn't look at it, and it looks like I may very well go out of business in the next few weeks."

                                                          Abraham, who has been in business for 15 years, feels strongly about the way Feinberg is handling the GCCF.

                                                          "He's a self-appointed tsar and doesn't answer to anybody," she says.

                                                          "My business is down 50 per cent. People are losing their businesses. This is happening now. They are not paying claims to businesses that are desperate. This is extremely frustrating. Nobody has any jurisdiction over this guy, so there's nobody we can go to."

                                                          Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                            Serving Up Palestine One Slice at a Time

                                                            English (US)  January 21st, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                            And Mitchell, the Administration's designated peacemaker is nowhere in sight.

                                                            By Philip Giraldi

                                                            As of last week, 110 countries in the United Nations have extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine. All recognize Palestine as including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, essentially the borders as they existed prior to the June 1967 Six Day War. Nearly every country in Latin America, Asia, and Africa has recognized Palestinian statehood and there are indications that many European nations will soon follow suit. Which leaves the United States, yet again, on the wrong side of history. In fact, Washington has gone in completely the opposite direction, insisting that there cannot be any Palestinian state until negotiations are completed between the two parties involved, meaning that Israel shall have a veto on any such development and will postpone it until some time in the next century.

                                                            In fact, the United States is completely in lock step with Israel on the prospects for a Palestinian state. The White House and State Department have condemned every move to obtain independent recognition of statehood. The US position is summed up by House Resolution 1765, drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "Supporting a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and for other purposes," which had 54 co-sponsors. It declares that "any attempt to establish Palestinian statehood outside the negotiating process will invoke the strongest congressional opposition" and condemns any attempt to "establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians." It urges the Palestinians to "cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process" to "resume direct negotiations with Israel immediately," and to "support the Obama Administration’s opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state."

                                                            [More:]

                                                            And to make sure that the 110 countries who have signed on to the statehood agenda get the message, HR 1765 calls on the White House to "lead a diplomatic effort to persuade other nations to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state" and "affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state…" If it sounds a bit like George Bush’s famous dictum, "you are either with us or against us," it should.

                                                            Make no mistake, Israel does not want a Palestinian state because it would require the resolution of certain "core issues." These would include the actual sovereignty of a Palestinian nation, access to Jerusalem, fixing the borders, and the sharing of limited water resources, most which now go to feed the illegal Israeli settlements which Washington has officially condemned but done nothing about for forty years. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is content to let the entire negotiation process drag on until there is nothing to negotiate. Israel has already sliced up the West Bank with its Jewish only roads and settlements and will soon encircle East Jerusalem with housing developments being built on land illegally annexed. The only thing the Palestinians have going for them is their birth rate: they will soon constitute a majority in the pre-1947 mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River.

                                                            A settlement in the Middle East is strongly in the US national interest as the Israeli repression of the Palestinians has been a recruiting tool for militants worldwide, most of whom wind up blaming Washington. It is reasonable to assume that the Obama Administration would like to have the whole festering Israel-Palestine mess go away, but, like the review of options on Afghanistan, our man in the White House is only listening to one side of the argument, and that side as always only offers the Israeli perspective. According to Laura Rozen over at Politico, there are currently two task forces working with the White House and National Security Council on "options." But before anyone gets too excited by the unusual display of activity, it should be noted that the two groups are headed by Steven Hadley working with Sandy Berger and by Martin Indyk. Both groups are reporting to Dennis Ross, who recently went to Israel to "seek more clarity from Israeli leaders on their security requirements." Indyk and Ross are well known as Israel-firsters and Berger is best remembered for having stuffed classified documents from the National Archive into his trousers. Hadley, who worked for W, is best recalled for nothing in particular but he is along for the ride to show that the effort is bipartisan. Obama would love to have some kind of two state solution and the Ross-Indyk-Hadley-Bergers would sorely love to deliver one, but on Israel’s terms. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is reportedly part of the negotiating process, possibly the first time that an Ambassador of a foreign country has been allowed to sit in and influence the policy of the US relating to his own country, but why should anyone be surprised by that?

                                                            It is interesting to note that George Mitchell, the Administration’s designated rainmaker for Israel-Palestinian rapprochement, is nowhere in sight, leaving the task to those best equipped to appease Israel and its lobby. And what they are trying to do is calculate what the absolute minimum might be that the Palestinians can accept to label a state while leaving the largest part of the pie to the Israelis, together with absolute control over a client nation of helots that they can then abuse at will. That way it will look like there has been a two state solution, Obama will bask in glory long enough to get reelected and everyone that matters in Washington will be happy.

                                                            I know there are readers out there who must believe that there is actually a secret, underground State Department, possibly concealed somewhere in the Department of Agriculture, that is actually going around the world and doing what is best for America and its people. Alas, it is not true and what we are seeing is what we are getting. Consider how Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Pakistan last week to threaten its already shaky government into invading Waziristan to kill the militants who have been hiding there. Joe suggested that American soldiers might do the job if the Paks are not up to it. It is difficult to imagine what Biden thought to accomplish by his performance, but a good outcome from all the saber rattling is hard to imagine. Much like Hillary Clinton going around last week and calling on Arab countries to liberalize their political systems. Sure Hillary, just like the Palestinians did when they elected Hamas in a free and fair election and Washington and Tel Aviv decided that the result was not quite acceptable. What happens when the Muslim Brotherhood wins an election in Egypt? What will happen if parties unacceptable to Washington rise to the top in the current unrest in Lebanon and Tunisia? It would all amount to much ado about nothing except that the consequences are deadly serious with American soldiers and local folks dying in their thousands because the Clintons, Obamas, and Bushes find it hard to admit that they have made a mistake. Whether Obama or Palin is elected in 2012 almost seems irrelevant. Six more years of this and we will be finished as a nation, bankrupt and despised everywhere, our only legacy a network of seven hundred-plus military bases falling into ruin worldwide, meant to give us peace and prosperity but delivering on neither.

                                                            - Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest. (This article was first published in AntiWar.com on January 20, 2011)

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                                                              ‘And No One Wants to Know’: Israeli Soldiers on the Occupation

                                                              English (US)  January 21st, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                              The information was meticulously checked and re-checked for accuracy; there is no mistaking the ring of truth in the reports, which reveal consistent patterns, and thus have a powerful cumulative force. To read them is to see the profound moral corruption of the occupation in all its starkness.


                                                              Photo by Ehud Krinis
                                                              Hajja Sara Nawaja, whose tent in south Hebron was set on fire on December 28, 2010

                                                              By David Shulman

                                                              The publication in Jerusalem of Occupation of the Territories: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies 2000-2010—unprecedented first-hand accounts by over one hundred Israeli soldiers of their experiences while serving in the IDF—coincides with an appalling yet unsurprising incident I learned of only a few days ago. On Tuesday, December 28, 2010, at 3:00 AM, Hajja Sara Nawaja, a Palestinian grandmother living in a tent with her family in the arid hills of south Hebron, on the occupied West Bank, woke to the sound of dogs barking. She smelled smoke. She discovered that two adjacent tents, which the family used as kitchens, were on fire. She woke her son Ahmad, who managed to remove the gas cylinders from the tents just in time, before they exploded. The two tents were burned to the ground. A car was seen driving away from the scene in the direction of the nearby Israeli settlement of Susya.

                                                              Did the settlers who probably set the fire intend to kill Hajja Sara and her large family? It’s quite possible. Settlers regularly harass the family, whom I know well from previous visits to the area. The previous week Hajja Sara’s brother, Hajj Khalil, was severely beaten by some fifteen settler toughs at the tiny encampment of Wadi Gheish. Will the culprits be arrested? No chance. Settlers act with virtual impunity in the wilds of south Hebron; the police and the army units in the area usually show no interest in violence directed at Palestinians. Their primary goal is to secure the settlements and the Israelis who live in them.

                                                              [More:]

                                                              In fact, such events are a natural and enduring part of Israel’s military control of the West Bank, as Occupation of the Territories reveals in systematic and chilling detail. The men and women whose accounts are gathered in its 431 pages have served in the territories over the past decade and have had the courage to come forward and report on what they saw and heard and did there. The testimonies, which are anonymous, take the form of careful interviews that often focus on particular incidents in which the soldier was involved. The book is being published in Hebrew and English (the English edition, also published in Jerusalem, will be available later this month; a nearly final electronic version can be found online) by Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli ex-soldiers with an established record of gathering first-person accounts of IDF operations.

                                                              The information was meticulously checked and re-checked for accuracy; there is no mistaking the ring of truth in the reports, which reveal consistent patterns, and thus have a powerful cumulative force. To read them is to see the profound moral corruption of the occupation in all its starkness. They show us ordinary, decent young soldiers, caught up in an impossible situation, sometimes trying desperately to make sense of that situation, but mostly following their orders without question. In a number of cases, those interviewed have clearly been psychologically and spiritually scarred by their participation in horrific events of which they had little understanding at the time.

                                                              Some of the testimonies date from the second Intifada (2000–2005). Among the worst is the report of the cold-blooded revenge killing of four (possibly more) innocent Palestinian policemen at a checkpoint near Ramallah in 2001:

                                                              All of a sudden our team commander comes … and says, “listen, this is the briefing…. we are doing … the operation is a revenge operation. We are going to eliminate six Palestinian policemen from some checkpoint in revenge for the six they took from us.” … there are like four transfer posts … those who are responsible for them are Palestinian police, and everyone from those posts they sent us … to just eliminate all the police that are there. Right? It was defined to us like, revenge, and when I even hesitated at the moment, like I asked … “What did they do? Who are they?” they said to me, “… There is a suspicion that the terrorist who killed the six went through that checkpoint.” There is a suspicion, like, but they don’t know for certain. And it could be that it’s one of those, but they said to me, “it doesn’t matter, they took six of ours, we are going to take six back.”

                                                              Were they armed?

                                                              They didn’t fire back at us. They didn’t fire back. No, they didn’t…. We gave a fire strike from afar, we didn’t hit anything..we hit one and he ran, I took him down with another bullet. Another one ran into the thing, it was, like, burning, and we chased after another…. Now, the guy who I killed, who I took down, I shot a bullet at him, he was lying on the ground, we only saw … like we only saw … something was hiding him, and we were four or three people who just put … we just kept shooting at the body.

                                                              To verify the killing?

                                                              Not to verify the killing, from the hysteria of the excitement … and then I got to him and he was, like, hacked to pieces … And I tried, and I turned him over, like … it was a 55-year-old, if not 60 year-old guy, very old, and he didn’t have a weapon.

                                                              Were they in uniform?

                                                              They were in Palestinian police uniforms. They were in Palestinian police uniforms without weapons.

                                                              But apart from atrocities like that one, what most shocks the reader of these testimonies is the routine, daily terror and humiliation inflicted on an innocent civilian population. Consider, for example, the following report, from 2005, by a soldier stationed at one of the innumerable checkpoints, in this case again in the vicinity of Ramallah:

                                                              The abuse at the checkpoint was severe … It was December-January, it was a difficult winter, not like this winter. It’s cold in Ramallah, and it’s unnecessary to point out that it’s an exhausting checkpoint, you stand there for 12 hours on your feet, a bullet in the chamber, it’s considered a dangerous checkpoint…. You are freezing cold and you see them coming in their warm cars. We invented a hobby: the majority of the Palestinian cars were old and the trunk doesn’t open from inside the car, we would tell them to get out and open the trunk, so they would get out into the cold and the rain. It angered me seeing them in their cars until I forgot that they don’t want to see me there.

                                                              One time a guy by the name of Amjad Jamal Nazer, I remember him well, I asked him to get out and open the trunk and he asked why, he said he could open it from the inside. There was hail, and I was a bit sick, and I told him to get out and open the trunk. He refused … he said he wasn’t getting out, I confiscated his car, I took the car keys, I told him to step to the side. He mumbled a bit, I hit him in the face with the butt of my weapon, and like that I returned to the circle of violence. My soldiers couldn’t believe it, they were so excited. I was a deputy commander at the vehicular checkpoint and this was “a step up for us,” this incident. The checkpoint became very violent.

                                                              Breaking the Silence


                                                              An IDF checkpoint

                                                              Or another prototypical experience, this time from the northern West Bank in 2009:

                                                              We did searches in Hares, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. They said that there are 60 houses that need to be searched. I said that surely there was some warning from intelligence, I tried to justify it to myself … It was a battalion operation, they spread out over the whole village, took control of the school, broke the locks, the classrooms. One room was the investigation room for the Shin Bet, one room for detentions, a room for the fighters to rest … We went in house by house, knocking at 2 in the morning on the door of a family. They are dying of fear, girls pee in their pants from fear. We knock hard on the doors, there is an atmosphere of “We’ll bring them down,” a fanatical atmosphere. We go into the house and turn the whole thing upside down.

                                                              What’s the procedure?

                                                              Gather the family in a particular room, put a guard, say to the guard to aim the barrel of his gun at them, and check the whole house. Another order we received, everyone born after 1980 until … an age range from 16-29, it doesn’t matter who, bring him in cuffed with plastic cuffs and a blindfold. They also yelled at old people, one of them had an epileptic seizure. They continue to yell at him more. He doesn’t speak Hebrew and they continue to yell at him. The medic treated him. We did the rounds. Every house they went into, they took everyone between 16-29 and from there brought them to the school, they sat tied up in the schoolyard.

                                                              Did they tell you the purpose of this thing?

                                                              To locate weapons. And we didn’t find any weapons in the end. They confiscated kitchen knives. What shook me the most was that there were also thefts there…. People [soldiers] went into the houses and looked for things to steal. This was a village where the people are very poor…. There was also a thing where one Palestinian (who was known to be mentally ill) yelled at the soldiers, but the soldier decided that he was going to attack him, then they simply exploded at him with blows. They hit him in the head with the butt of a weapon, he bled and they brought him to the school, to assemble with the rest.

                                                              There were a lot of arrest orders ready and signed by the battalion commander, with a blank area. They wrote that the person was detained on suspicion of disturbing the peace. So they just filled in the name and the reason for the arrest. I remember the people in plastic handcuffs, where they had put them on really close to the hands, I cut them off and put on freer ones.

                                                              Was there something else you remember from that evening?

                                                              There was a thing that they came to a house and simply demolished it…. The mom watched from the side and cried, the kids sitting with her and stroking her. I’m seeing how my mom put so much effort into every corner of our house and suddenly they come and destroy it.

                                                              What does it mean to wreck a house?

                                                              To break the floors, turn over sofas, throw plants and pictures, turn over beds, break closets, tiles…. The looks of people whose house you’ve gone into. It really hurt me to see. And after that, they left them for hours in the school tied up and blindfolded. At four in the afternoon the order came to free them. That was more than 12 hours. There were security services investigators who sat and went one by one and interrogated them.

                                                              Was there a terrorist attack earlier in the area?

                                                              No. We didn’t even find any weapons.

                                                              Particularly ominous is the far-reaching interpenetration of the army units and the Israeli settlers who, in report after report, are said to give the soldiers their orders. The editors of Occupation in the Territories describe the settlers’ special status: they are “not merely Israeli citizens entitled to protection by the Israeli army and rule of law: in practice they are also partners in the military rule of the Palestinians.” As a soldier says in one of the interviews, “You don’t want to get into a confrontation with a Jewish settlement. They are the people that are closest to you, they are like your operations branch officer, that’s how it works.”

                                                              Any Israeli activist can confirm this fact from his or her own experience. Countless times I have watched senior Israeli commanders in the south Hebron hills bow to the demands of local settlers by putting an end to attempts by Palestinian farmers to plow or tend to Palestinian fields, for example, or by agreeing to settlers’ demands that the army drive Palestinian shepherds and Israeli peace activists off Palestinian grazing grounds (usually by declaring such lands a Closed Military Zone—in clear contravention of an explicit ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court).

                                                              Throughout the territories, young soldiers interviewed in the book often find themselves protecting rampaging settlers and covering up their violence. For example:

                                                              I was guarding, and I see in the middle of my shift, around the afternoon, an old man with a cane coming down, an Arab from Abu Sneina, the old man looked 60 plus, with a cane, he gets to the Abu Sneina intersection, to Gross square, and all of a sudden three 16-17 year-old [settler] kids jump on him, they take him down to the floor within a second. They take a stone, open up his head. They start kicking him on the floor, opening up his head. A 60 year-old man with a stream of blood from his head…. An officer came on patrol, he didn’t know what they did, so he didn’t catch them. They just ran. And immediately the company medic came and started bandaging the old Palestinian, and we took him out in an ambulance…. It shocked me.

                                                              Afterwards I went to the officer really with my eyes tearing. A soldier for 7 months in the army, I didn’t understand what was going on here. I said to him that it can’t be like this, that we can’t protect them [the settlers], I didn’t understand how it could be. I was very shocked by that incident, it destroyed everything for me…. The soldiers don’t talk with each other about these things, there is no serious discussion in a company of combat soldiers. The male atmosphere, everything is jokes, and they treat everything with a lack of seriousness and all in all they try to get through the shit together. Because again, I told you, on the scale of unfortunate ones, you are pretty unfortunate as a soldier in Hebron. You are a sacrifice yourself.

                                                              I understood that basically everything that goes on there, [Palestinian] kids, 14 years old, 8 years old who die for no reason, innocent, where settlers go into their homes and shoot at them, and settlers go crazy in the streets and break store windows and beat up soldiers and throw eggs at soldiers and lynch the elderly, all of these things don’t even make it to the media. There is a small and isolated world in Hebron, the Avraham Avinu [settler] neighborhood sits alone in Hebron, more soldiers protect it than people live there. The people who live in that neighborhood do whatever they want, the soldiers are forced to protect them …

                                                              And it exists here in the State of Israel, and no one knows about it, and no one wants to know, and no one reports about it. People prefer not to know and not to understand that something terrible is happening not far from us, and really no one cares. And the soldiers there are unfortunate and the Palestinians are super-unfortunate. And no one helps them.

                                                              Breaking the Silence


                                                              A soldier preparing for a "demonstration of presence," Batir, 2004

                                                              So it goes, for 431 painful pages. Most painful of all is the inescapable realization that the events reported by the soldiers—in straightforward, unpretentious, searing language—are in no sense unusual. They describe the rule and the norm, the very stuff of the occupation, now forty-three-and-a-half years old and going strong. No one involved in maintaining it gets away unscathed in heart or soul, including the ordinary soldiers who do what they’re told, although only a small number are capable of the kind of articulate reflection on their experience that we find in this book.

                                                              But it is not only the soldiers and the policemen and the judges and the bureaucrats who pay a personal price, along with their Palestinian victims. As the Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz predicted forty-three years ago, the occupation has brutalized Israeli society as a whole and eroded the moral foundation of our very existence. If there is still hope for Israel, it lies with those remnants of the peace camp that remain active and, in particular, with groups such as Breaking the Silence, who offer a taste of the bitter, but perhaps ultimately healing, truth.

                                                              January 9, 2011 10:05 p.m.

                                                              New York Review of Books

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                                                                Who’s Afraid of the Palestinians?

                                                                English (US)  January 21st, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                By Hussein Agha and Robert Malley

                                                                1.

                                                                During the last two years, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has suffered serious setbacks. Other than for a brief, fleeting moment, Israelis and Palestinians have had no direct political contact and there is little hope, for now at least, that this will change. Any faith Israelis and Palestinians may have in the possibility of an agreement is collapsing.


                                                                Benjamin Netanyahu; drawing by John Springs

                                                                The US, sponsor of that process, has seen its credibility badly damaged. The Obama administration was repeatedly rebuffed—by Israel, from whom it had demanded a full halt in settlement construction; by Palestinians it pressed to engage in direct negotiations; by Arab states it hoped would take steps to normalize relations with Israel. An administration that never tires of saying it cannot want peace more than the parties routinely belies that claim by the desperation it exhibits in pursuing that goal. Today, there is little trust, no direct talks, no settlement freeze, and, one at times suspects, not much of a US policy.

                                                                [More:]

                                                                Less visible but equally grievous is the growing loss of interest in negotiations on the part of Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Two years ago, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was somewhat confident that, with a strong US push, Israel could be convinced to reach a historic deal. Since then, his confidence has been fading. Benjamin Netanyahu began his prime ministership in March 2009 with an ambivalent commitment and apparently little motivation to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. During the period that followed, his commitment and motivation significantly diminished. For both leaders, facing publics more disenchanted than they are, it has become a political liability to project belief that negotiations can yield something. Without genuine engagement by the leaders, progress in the talks—direct, indirect, or otherwise—will be unattainable.

                                                                The current impasse has exposed a problem that runs deeper than misjudgments and missteps. Almost two decades after the peace process was launched, little remains of the foundational principle that each side has something of value to which the other aspires and thus something it can offer in exchange for what it wants. Israel holds a monopoly over all material assets. It controls Palestinian land, natural resources, and lives. Israel’s economy is flourishing, its security for now seemingly assured. Its occupation of Palestinian territories is subsidized by Western powers that purportedly seek its end. Although not as satisfactory as Israelis would like, the status quo is not as unpleasant as their adversaries would wish. Israel has become accustomed to the way things are.

                                                                In the hope of alarming Israelis, some Palestinians toy with options they haven’t seriously considered, don’t believe in, or cannot implement. To compensate for the asymmetry with Israel, Palestinians bank on US involvement, which has constrained Palestinian maneuvering without seriously influencing Israeli actions. The lopsidedness has only been made worse.

                                                                Unless they can find a way to reclaim the initiative, Palestinians risk losing the ability to shape events. The US has an important part to play, but so far it has done more to demonstrate the limits than the extent of its influence. Decisions about the future now lie in Israel’s hands. What once was a three-way spectacle has become Netanyahu’s one-man show.

                                                                Whether Israelis wish for a resolution is not the central issue; one can assume they do and still question why they would want to take risks and provoke deep internal rifts when there is no apparent urgency to do so. The principal question for Israelis is no longer how to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. It is why and at what cost.

                                                                2.

                                                                President Abbas has a problem. He is attempting to persuade Israel to make peace with a party with which it no longer is at war—at odds, in dispute, even in conflict, but for now and the foreseeable future, not at war. This quandary lies at the core of Abbas’s belief and strategy: that Israel can be convinced through engagement of the need for a historic compromise that meets Israeli and Palestinian fundamental interests.

                                                                The Palestinian leader’s rejection of violence is not an expression of naiveté or a version of pacifism. It is rooted in his experience as a leader of Fatah and its now defunct armed struggle, experience that makes his belief more secure and his creed more credible. He is convinced that, for Palestinians, force has exhausted its utility and that his way, based on enlightened self-interest and the power of persuasion, ultimately must prevail because there is no other.

                                                                Israelis feel less threatened by Palestinians than at any recent time. They are sheltered behind a separation barrier, protected by an aggressive military force, and aided by the PA’s own security services. Palestinians are exhausted, in search of a respite, not a fight. The priority for Fatah and Hamas seems to be to fight each other, not to coordinate struggle against Israel.

                                                                Should negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis progress, and Hamas feel that it is sidelined, it might be tempted to resume attacks. So far, however, Hamas’s military inclinations have been held in check both in Gaza, where it holds power and bears responsibility for its constituents’ welfare, and in the West Bank, where its power has been crippled under the combined weight of Israeli and PA security forces.

                                                                Virtually everything about mainstream Palestinian politics—its makeup, political methods, sources of support, and diplomatic outlook—argues against a return to armed struggle. Violence would compromise the foreign support upon which the Palestinian Authority has become dependent. It would imperil its effort to build the institutions of a proto-state, which is its most important international selling point, and would threaten the economic and security progress that has become its most potent argument.

                                                                Much the same could be said of nonviolent forms of resistance to the Israeli occupation such as peaceful demonstrations that—notwithstanding periodic expressions of support from the PA leadership—at heart are incompatible with a West Bank strategy that hinges on Israeli goodwill. The occupied territories are far from enjoying quiet or normalcy. But for the most part and for the time being, they convey the appearance of both.

                                                                3.

                                                                Palestinians have looked for other nonviolent options. It’s a curious list: unilaterally declaring statehood, obtaining UN recognition, dissolving the PA, or walking away from the idea of negotiated partition altogether and calling for a single, binational state. Not one of these ideas has been well thought out, debated, or genuinely considered as a strategic choice, which, of course, is not their point. They are essentially attempts to show that Palestinians have alternatives to negotiation with Israel even as the proposals’ lack of seriousness demonstrably establishes that they currently have none.

                                                                Of these suggestions, arguably the most promising is to seek international acceptance of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. In the past few months, several countries have recognized such a state and others may follow. The trend is causing Palestinians to rejoice and Israelis to protest, which only makes Palestinians rejoice all the more. Further recognition almost certainly, and understandably, would be seen as a significant achievement and boost Palestinian morale. Should European nations join the list, it could possibly provide the jolt that will force Israelis to reconsider their options.

                                                                What it will not do for now is materially affect the situation on the ground. Palestinians would not enjoy greater sovereignty, their capital-to-be in East Jerusalem would still be occupied, the fate of Palestinian refugees would remain unaddressed. Their initial shock overcome, Israelis might see an advantage: as Palestinians and the international community celebrate the birth of a state and focus on the minutiae of building its institutions in the roughly 40 percent of the West Bank under PA control, pressure to resolve outstanding issues—drawing final borders, dividing Jerusalem, or bringing justice to the refugees—could wane and Israel could be provided with the opportunity to pursue its own unilateral inclinations.

                                                                Invoking a one-state solution in which Jews someday no longer will form a majority has its own limitations. The argument is familiar—in the absence of a two-state solution, Israel will face a stark choice: remaining Jewish by denying its Palestinian population the right to vote and thus no longer being democratic; or extending the suffrage to all, in which case it no longer will be Jewish. The only way to avoid this fate, according to this view, is to achieve a two-state solution.

                                                                Demographic developments undoubtedly are a source of long-term Israeli anxiety. But they are not the type of immediate threat that spurs risky political decisions. Moreover, the binary choice Palestinians, Americans, and even some Israelis posit—either a negotiated two-state outcome or the impossibility of a Jewish, democratic state—assumes dramatic and irreversible changes that Israel would not be able to counter. Yet Israel possesses a variety of potential responses. Already, by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, former prime minister Ariel Sharon transformed the numbers game, effectively removing 1.5 million Palestinians from the Israeli equation. The current or a future government could unilaterally conduct further territorial withdrawals from the West Bank, allowing, as in the case of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s West Bank government, or compelling, as happened in Gaza, large numbers of Palestinians to rule themselves and mitigating the demographic peril. The options, in other words, are not necessarily limited to a two-state solution, an apartheid regime, or the end of the Jewish state.

                                                                4.

                                                                Salam Fayyad has another idea. He wants to demonstrate that Palestinians can put their finances in order, restructure their security forces, end attacks against Israelis, and build the foundations of a state alongside which their neighbors could live in security, thereby removing any possible reason, sincere or disingenuous, that Israel might have to object to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

                                                                Questions have been raised about what a government that rules by decree, with little democratic legitimacy—parliament has not met in years and elections are long overdue—has done to build democratic institutions. Many grumble that Fayyad has conquered the West through his demeanor rather than substantive deeds. Some challenge his claim to self-reliance, noting that his project relies almost entirely on Western support and Israeli goodwill. They contend that most of the West Bank’s economic growth can be attributed to large-scale foreign aid and that such economic growth has little to do with productive, self-sustaining economic development. Others protest that his security forces violate human rights and cooperate with the occupier to stifle resistance to the occupation. Still, his ideas and how he puts them forward have gained appeal.

                                                                Fayyad’s approach represents a break in the Palestinian national movement. Their many differences aside, Arafat and Abbas were rooted in a time when the movement was in exile and aimed to fulfill the national aspirations of the entire Palestinian people; a time when material well-being and state-building were not the central—perhaps not even particularly important—components of its demands. Day-to-day issues of governance essentially left them cold, which is why they left them to others.


                                                                Mahmoud Abbas; drawing by John Springs

                                                                Arafat and the movement he embodied dreaded normalcy. To settle into the humdrum of everyday life would, they felt, threaten their existential struggle. If Israel could get Palestinians to manage their own affairs, provide security, and ensure their people’s welfare, why would it or anyone else bother to address deeper Palestinian demands? For the national movement’s founders, unsettledness—the constant experience of an open, bleeding wound—was paramount for reaching a resolution.

                                                                Although, like Arafat, Fayyad values steadfastness, he has a very different notion in mind. For Arafat, it meant staying put. In dealing with Israel, his pace was unhurried, his patience seemingly infinite. For Fayyad, it means incessant activity—planting a tree, building a road, inaugurating a building. What matters to him is what he can directly and concretely affect. Nor does he have much interest in grand diplomacy, at least not right now. That he will gladly leave to Abbas—ostensibly because it is not within the PA’s purview, although the loud if often unspoken implication is that it is all a huge waste of time.

                                                                Can Fayyad’s approach work? Many Israelis think so and many Palestinians think not, which has them both equally worried. Israeli praise for Fayyad often barely conceals apprehension. Israelis don’t so much mind what he is doing; in many ways, it is reminiscent of Netanyahu’s much-vaunted “economic peace.” But they mind where it might lead. Having accomplished what he could under conditions of occupation, and having secured unstinting Western support, he will, many Israelis imagine, then turn to his foreign backers for help in achieving Israel’s withdrawal on less than favorable terms.

                                                                Some Palestinians suspect the strategy could lead to a state of their own but they are not so sure that would be a good thing. Like the idea of declaring a state or having it recognized, building one on the parts of the West Bank the Palestinians already control carries risks. By normalizing the situation on the West Bank, it could enable the perpetuation of the status quo at low cost and with diminished international attention.

                                                                Fayyad hopes that the world will not stop halfway, and that Palestinian accomplishments will provide the momentum for a forceful international effort to resolve all remaining issues. But history is not in the habit of rewarding good behavior; it is a struggle, not a beauty contest. If Palestinians have a state or its equivalent and are celebrated worldwide, if West Bankers can enjoy the fruits of greater self- governance and economic prosperity, then any international drive for tackling the core issues might well fizzle. The priority, at that point, would be to consolidate what has been achieved rather than jeopardize it by reopening more thorny subjects. A profound emotional conflict between two national movements could be transformed into a tedious, manageable interstate border dispute. The greater danger to the Palestinian cause, according to this view, is not the absence of a state. It is the premature creation of one.

                                                                5.

                                                                Palestinians face the threat of being stripped of the ability to promote their cause and of the attributes of an independent national movement. They are warned by the US against embarrassing Israel in public forums. The stability of Palestinian rule in the West Bank rests in part on Israeli security forces. Palestinians seem to have subcontracted decision-making to Arab nations. They have become dependent on Western donors’ financial largesse and accountable to their judgment. Captive to foreign benefactors, more responsive to external stimulus than domestic pressure, the Palestine Liberation Organization—the Palestinians’ governing political body—risks making choices at odds with popular Palestinian aspirations. An eventual decision to sign a peace agreement could suffer if Palestinians suspect that such a deal has been reached under external duress rather than through the exercise of free choice.

                                                                Half a century after its birth, the modern Palestinian national movement is being drained of politics. Its main source of energy has become primarily financial, which is why access to funds and management of their flow is so vital. Arafat was as adamant about controlling finances as he was about controlling weapons and most other things, but money for him was a means of promoting his particular political vision. He sought assistance from many in order to be beholden to none. Today, Palestinians must be sensitive to the political requirements of their respective donors lest the financial stream dry up. Appearances aside, the fortunes and fate of Fatah, Fayyad’s endeavors in the West Bank, and Hamas’s in Gaza chiefly ride on who has the money and what or whom it can buy. With few exceptions, the concern is not with politics. It is with whether the next check will arrive on time. Politics has become subservient to finance.

                                                                Palestinians who seem to have scant confidence in themselves have put their hopes in the US instead—an investment that reflects excessive faith in Washington and insufficient knowledge of history. There is no precedent for a successful start-to-finish American effort to bring about peace in the Middle East. All such endeavors that came to something initially were rooted in local dynamics that the US could influence but did not produce. Nor are there notable examples of the US forcing an Israeli government to take sustained action that it believes to be fundamentally at odds with its core interests.

                                                                US mediation has also inevitably blurred the two sides’ vision, distorted the nature of their bilateral dealings, and—intentionally or not—enabled the status quo to be perpetuated. However vehemently they may deny it, Palestinians secretly latch on to the belief that the US will someday save them; Israelis cling to the notion that the US will forever protect them. Too often, both display greater interest in gaining America’s support than in persuading each other.

                                                                Barack Obama rekindled Palestinian faith in America and, for a while, sustained it. But disappointment was unavoidable. Netanyahu cannot afford to jeopardize strategically critical ties with Washington and must try to avert prolonged crises. Still, during the past two years, he has learned that he could handle friction with the administration, withstand its pressure, and come out none the weaker. Out of disagreements that Washington hoped would rally Israelis against their prime minister, Netanyahu emerged largely unscathed. Most Israelis don’t like fighting with an American president but, it turns out, many dislike being told what they can and cannot do even more.

                                                                The Obama administration learned its lessons too. Grudgingly, it concluded that it was wiser to work with Netanyahu than against him, that there is only limited strategic utility in—and, on the American domestic scene, limited political patience for—repetitive skirmishes with Israel. In a war of attrition with the US, Netanyahu could well prove the more resilient.

                                                                In making up with the prime minister, the administration partly addressed its problem and partly compounded it. Netanyahu has become the arbiter of Obama’s pro-Israeli credentials as much as Obama can be the judge of Netanyahu’s pro-peace qualifications. The President’s credibility now partly rests on validation from the very man he someday might want to pressure. The US administration has issued pronouncements—for example, that Israel alone could determine its security requirements—that will render any eventual US peace proposal harder to defend and Israeli objections easier to justify. It also has become more difficult for the President, whose relationship with Netanyahu went from excessively cold to excessively warm, to switch his stance once again without appearing excessively confused or excessively disingenuous.

                                                                Palestinians have tended to bemoan periods of strong US–Israeli relations and take satisfaction at the first signs of froideur. But tension between the two countries does not automatically translate into Palestinian gains; more often, it leads to reinvigorated US attempts to repair frayed Israeli ties. Palestinian depression when the relationship between Israel and the US is smooth and jubilation when it is rocky is not a political strategy. It is a pointless exercise.

                                                                6.

                                                                Without resolving its conflict with the Palestinians, Israel has for the moment taken care of its Palestinian problem. Israel’s anxiety may be growing, but what it worries about no more derives from the Palestinians than what it wants can be provided by them. Its concern arises from being unwanted, from the abiding sense that the Jewish presence in the Middle East is regarded as fleeting. Israelis perceive this in the world’s outraged reaction to the Gaza war of 2008–2009 or to the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla last May; in tensions with Turkey, with whom it had friendly relations until recently; in growing calls to boycott or divest from Israel; in their leaders’ reluctance to travel to Europe for fear of criminal prosecution; in what they have come to call delegitimization. If, in the eyes of many Arabs, Israel acts as if it were above the law, in the eyes of its own Jewish citizens it is treated as if it were perpetually on probation.

                                                                The conflict Israelis have come to care about is not with the Palestinians; it is with the rest of the world. The deal that interests Israel is one that would result in a dramatic change in its condition that only non-Palestinian actors can produce. From the US, it seeks wide-ranging security guarantees and assistance; from the Arab world, the granting of collective normalization; from Jordan, a more active role in the West Bank and acknowledgment that it will become Israel’s de facto first line of defense; from Syria, a strategic shift away from Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah; from the international community, recognition of Israel’s permanent borders and its right to self-defense. Whether it ever can fully obtain these is open to question; whether it can attain them in the absence of a final agreement with the Palestinians is not, which in part is why Israel is drawn to the negotiating table even as it questions it. Israel might have dealt with its Palestinian problem but has yet to deal with the problems the Palestinian problem has spawned.

                                                                It won’t be easy to transform this innate Israeli unease into an impetus to compromise when the cost of that compromise, in many Israeli eyes, is viewed as high. The last, untidy two years have only made matters worse. Coming into office, Netanyahu contemplated some reasons to move forward: he feared US and international pressure, didn’t know how long Palestinian quiet would last without political progress, and believed he might sway Abbas with new ideas. Perhaps, too, history beckoned: the prime minister could be the first to bring normalcy and security to a nation that has lacked both.

                                                                That picture has changed. Netanyahu disregarded demands from the US and others without paying a serious price. The West Bank is as stable, the Palestinians as divided, and the Arabs as feckless as ever. From his few meetings, Netanyahu also came to understand that Abbas’s long-held views on a final status deal were not mere negotiating stances but definitive positions from which he will not budge. The lure of history is being countered by the pull of politics: the more time elapses, the greater Netanyahu’s fear of alienating his right-wing coalition partners and the more distant the idea of achieving a groundbreaking peace. Nothing concentrates the mind of a canny politician like electoral arithmetic.


                                                                Charles Dharapak/AP Images
                                                                Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands at the White House during 
statements on the resumption of negotiations for Middle East peace, September 1, 2010

                                                                In this setting, temptation has grown to increase international pressure on Israel and heighten its discomfort. If it is delegitimization Israelis fear, then it must be delegitimization that will make them budge. Faced with the prospect of isolation, Israel might be persuaded to end its occupation. But pressure is a double-edged sword requiring skillful handling, especially when exercised on a people convinced by the calamities of their own history of the inveterate hostility of much of the outside world. Those who wield it often only confirm in Israeli eyes how unreliable their avowed friendship was in the first place. One should not be surprised if the Israeli people, their sense of vulnerability enhanced, opt to hunker down rather than reach out.

                                                                Waiting for different leaders is unlikely to yield a more promising outcome. A less right-leaning Israeli government might emit the appropriate sounds yet it will find it hard to deliver the appropriate outcome. The large array of forces today represented in the coalition, embittered and betrayed, could pose a far more formidable obstacle to a peace deal once they were out of power. Signed by the left, an agreement would likely mobilize the right in opposition; signed by the right, it almost certainly would co-opt the left in support.

                                                                Like Netanyahu, Abbas too is becoming disenchanted. Even at the worst of times—when Israelis and Palestinians were caught in the throes of violence; when he was excluded from the active leadership; when more militant groups gained the upper hand—he kept faith. This time is different. His life’s project, he feels, is slipping away. But he is the lone surviving leader from an era when the Palestinian movement was credible. He is the last Palestinian, for some time to come, with the history, authority, and legitimacy to sign a deal on behalf of all Palestinians that could end the conflict.

                                                                There may be potential successors, though none with the legitimacy required to straddle geographic and political divides. Some will focus on state-building, others might seek to revert to resistance; most will be adrift. Hamas waits in the wings; the diaspora is beginning to stir; East Jerusalemites and Palestinian citizens of Israel are more active. So far, however, none of these groups has the means to match its ambitions. The national movement might reassemble but it will take time. In the interim, it is likely to express itself in numerous disparate parts.

                                                                For seventeen years, the peace process has been fueled by illusions. Bilateral negotiations have cultivated the pretense that Israelis and Palestinians are equal parties when they are not. US involvement has fed Palestinian delusions and shielded Israel. The international community’s treatment of the PA as a quasi state has not brought Palestinians closer to statehood. It has deceived Palestinians about what to expect from the world and corrupted their politics. Throwing money at the Palestinians has not ended the occupation but made it more palatable: it has reduced Israeli costs and created a Palestinian culture of dependency, diverting Palestinian energy from addressing their predicament to financing it. The illusions helped perpetuate the status quo.

                                                                This probably is not what the world had in mind when Obama took office. It certainly is not what the Palestinians believed history had in store. But it won’t get any better anytime soon.

                                                                —January 12, 2011

                                                                New York Review of Books

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                                                                  Palestinian flag raised in Washington

                                                                  English (US)  January 19th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                  The Palestinian flag flies from the building housing the Palestine Liberation Organization's diplomatic mission in Washington on January 18, 2011.
                                                                  The Palestinians have raised their flag on top of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) diplomatic mission in Washington in a symbolic move that will surely anger US government officials.

                                                                  “We are proud to see the flag,” said the chief Palestinian envoy, Maen Areikat, who raised the flag on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

                                                                  [More:]

                                                                  He said, “It's about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood is raised in the United States. We hope that this will help in the international efforts to provide recognition for the Palestinian state.”

                                                                  The bold measure was taken amid a groundswell of international support for the Palestinians, in which several Latin American countries have recognized Palestine as an independent state.

                                                                  However, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, called the move a stunt.

                                                                  “Raising this flag in DC is part of the Palestinian leadership's scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel,” she said in a statement.

                                                                  The direct talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel broke down a little more than three weeks after they resumed in the US in September 2010 due to Tel Aviv's refusal to extend a partial freeze on the construction of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

                                                                  The Palestinians say that the settlement activities are being carried out to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and have conditioned any new negotiations on a complete halt on the construction.

                                                                  But Washington has said it will only recognize Palestine after the two sides come to an agreement.

                                                                  Areikat also acknowledged that the flag-raising will not have any practical effect on US policy.

                                                                  PressTV

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                                                                    A renegade, lawless and murderous state

                                                                    English (US)  January 18th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                    By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Palestine

                                                                    Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, have been complaining about the increasing “de-legitimization” of the Zionist state across the world. Netanyahu, who is a skilled media operator, said that Israel “needs to de-legitimize the de-legitimizers”.

                                                                    However, a fleeting glance at recent Israeli actions shows that Israel is a nefarious, lawless and murderous entity whose representatives commit murder and terrorism knowingly and deliberately against innocent people. In doing so, it is they who “de-legitimize” the state of Israel.

                                                                    Murder, even when “mistaken”, is Israel’s modus operandi when dealing with its real or imaginary foes, whoever and wherever they happen to be. Some of the murder victims are apolitical figures, innocent people whose killing has no possible justification other than the “need” to make the other party suffer psychologically.

                                                                    [More:]

                                                                    On 9 January, trigger-happy Israeli soldiers manning a military watchtower near the northern Gaza Strip shot and killed 65-year-old Sha’aban al-Garmoot, a poor farmer, as he was working on his own land, which happens to be within the “security zone” declared unilaterally by the Israelis inside Gaza. Sounding totally apathetic about the loss of a non-Jewish life, an Israeli military spokesperson said he had no knowledge of the shooting. Israeli spokespersons, men and women alike, are generally dismissive when talking about non-Jewish lives so this person is not unusual. This may have to do with the racist indoctrination of Israelis that non-Jews are sub-human; indeed, at least one rabbi has called Arabs animals.

                                                                    Relatives of the victim and eyewitnesses dismiss Israeli claims that the murder of the elderly farmer was a mistake. “A mistake is something done once, perhaps twice or even three times,” said Ahmed al-Qarmoot, a relative of the latest victim. “However, here we are talking about almost daily shootings of innocent people at the hands of Israeli soldiers; when ‘mistakes’ happen on a daily basis, it means they are official policy.”
                                                                    Israeli soldiers occasionally indulge in so-called “sport shooting” whereby they “knock down” Palestinian farmers with their bullets. Numerous Palestinians have been murdered by soldiers in this way.

                                                                    Following last week’s murder of another man in his sixties in Hebron, the wife and relatives of Omar Qawasmi described the shooting as “cold-blooded murder”.

                                                                    “It was like a movie,” said Muhammad Qawasmi. “They crashed the door open and fired a hail of bullets, killing him while he was asleep in his bed.” This close relative of the victim was at a loss about how to describe the people responsible. “Shall I call them barbarians, savages, Nazis? Did they learn all of this evil from the Nazis? Are Zionist Jews the Nazis of our time?” he asked.

                                                                    As on previous occasions, the real nature of this murder was covered-up by the Israeli military. It was, said a spokesman, “a case of mistaken identity”. So that’s all right then; if the “right man” had been in that bed, he would have been killed in a hail of bullets. Each successive murder, sorry, “mistake”, requires a fresh lie to cover it up and offer a justification.

                                                                    Jawaher Abu Rahma died after Israeli soldiers shot tear gas at a peaceful rally protesting against the Israeli annexation wall near Bil’in in the central West Bank. Her brother Bassem was also killed during a similar peaceful protest on April 17th, 2010. Again, the Israeli occupation army was desperate to invent another lie to distance itself from the killing. An Israeli military spokesman said that the lethal gas fired towards the 35-year-woman may not have been “completely responsible” for her death. There was no sense of remorse in his statement, just hair-splitting, prevarication and verbal gymnastics in order to exonerate the killers.

                                                                    If the ever-increasing list of Israel’s crimes doesn’t qualify the Zionist entity as a rogue, murderous state, what would? Must an evil state create gas chambers and concentration camps before it is regarded as truly evil? How about raining down white phosphorus on civilian neighbourhoods? Or dropping 1-ton bombs on civilian homes to exterminate entire families as a deterrent? Or dropping two to three million cluster bomblets which will kill and maim as many children as possible?

                                                                    I am not claiming that every member of the Israeli armed forces is evil, but there is no doubt that the Israel Defence Force, which calls itself the most moral army in the world, is a criminal organisation which has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. So-called “Purity of Arms” is a sick joke. Conscientious Jews in whose name the IDF acts have to come to terms with this reality. In the final analysis, you can’t expect to be respected while you are infatuated with child-killers and murderous hoodlums.

                                                                    Israeli criminality is not, of course, confined to the Palestinian theatre of operations. Israel’s Mossad spy agency murders people as a matter of routine, including, it is alleged, nuclear scientists, intellectuals and others who are critical of Israel’s policies and therefore regarded as enemies. It is almost certain that Mossad was behind the assassination of a number of Iranian nuclear scientists recently. What sort of morality condones Israel’s murder of scientists who never committed any crime against Israel or Jews? The same question applies to the murder of writers, poets and academics whom the princes of darkness in Israel have had silenced because they dared to call a spade a spade.

                                                                    With such criminal leaders and policies, Israel will continue to be a destabilizing factor affecting not only the Middle East but also the rest of the world. Israel’s state terror will continue to affect the lives of millions of people around the globe. It is, therefore, the moral and political duty of those in power across the world to rein in Israel before matters get really out of hand and the cancer of Zionist terror spreads even further than it already has.

                                                                    ==========

                                                                    Khalid Amayreh is a Journalist living in Dura, Hebron District, West Bank, occupied Palestine . He has BA in journalism: University of Oklahoma , 1981 MA in journalism, University of Southern Illinois , 1983

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                                                                      Hollywood, Israel and the Pursuit of Normalcy

                                                                      English (US)  January 18th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                      No, Israel is not Norway, nor are Israel's policies normal.

                                                                      By Basil Abdelkarim

                                                                      While flipping through channels on television last week, I ran across an episode of Friends, the long running hit NBC sitcom (1994-2004), which grabbed my attention. In this episode from 2004, paleontologist and professor Ross Geller proudly announces to his circle of attractive young friends that he has just earned tenure at a New York university. This glorious occasion prompts the young dinosaur expert to break out a bottle of Israeli champagne in celebration. There are actually two references to Israeli champagne ('Israel's finest') in this episode, and these moments are played ostensibly for laughs. (Israel? Champagne? Whoda thunk it?)

                                                                      [More:]

                                                                      Nevertheless, Friends made me wonder. In recent years, I’ve noticed a trend among popular television programs and motion pictures to include bizarre, seemingly random references to Israel. The references are on the surface apolitical – they do not precede a discussion of the conflicts in the Middle East, nor do they offer an overt opinion on the Palestine/Israel crisis. They’re usually brief (perhaps a single exchange), and they add nothing to the underlying story. They stand alone, frequently as the punch line to a joke. But does anyone believe that the television and motion picture industries want us to laugh at Israel? Is that really all that’s going on here?

                                                                      References to Israel in Hollywood, like references to Palestine or the Arab world, always demand close scrutiny, particularly given the entertainment industry’s shameful penchant for Arab/Muslim vilification and glorification of all things Israel, to say nothing of the fervent public devotion towards Israel shared by countless Hollywood luminaries. What this means is that in Hollywood, there’s really no such a thing as an “innocent” television or movie reference to Israel, no matter how tiny or inconsequential, for Israel is not like other nations. Even a fleeting mention of Israeli champagne, or a humorous reference to the Mossad (another television favorite), warrants further analysis.

                                                                      So when a character on the hit ABC sitcom According to Jim (2001-2009) reminds Jim that he once planted a tree in Israel in his honor (neither of these characters are Jewish or particularly religious, by the way), there’s nothing innocuous about this fictitious gifting of a tree. Certainly not in an era when Israeli bulldozers routinely uproot ancient Palestinian olive groves and successive Israeli governments devote their collective energies to obliterating centuries of Arab history in the Holy Land.

                                                                      Which brings us to this central question: what is the point of all of these (on the surface) non-political references to Israel on television and the big screen, in stories which have nothing to do with Israel or Israelis? Are they part of a wide-ranging propaganda campaign? Do they serve a different agenda from that of the more familiar, pervasive Hollywood depictions of Heroic Israel/Israelis or Victim Israel? Or are these merely two sides to the same coin?

                                                                      To understand one possible explanation for this trend, it bears mentioning that we’re dealing with a more nuanced narrative than the traditional depiction of gallant little Israel. For the "Old" Israel, just think of the 1960 movie Exodus – attractive, noble proto-Israelis triumph against all odds while battling British colonial overlords and Arab primitives. The original, cartoonish version of Israel always implied conflict, for it centers upon the myth of Israel under siege. This is Jewish David confronting the menace of the Arab/Muslim Goliath. Let’s call this the “Neocon” Israel for reasons that will be made apparent shortly. And while still ubiquitous in far-Right circles, (mostly among neoconservatives and the crowd itching for the Apocalypse), this version of Israel has taken a severe pummeling in recent years. A succession of bloody incursions (Gaza, Lebanon), the inhumane siege of Gaza, the escalation of illegal settlements on occupied land, construction of the apartheid wall, and most recently, the brutal suppression of the Gaza aid flotilla – all have chipped away at this myth of Israel as the besieged yet noble “Light unto the nations”.

                                                                      No, what we’re dealing with in Friends and According to Jim is a softer vision of Israel, but more importantly, an Israel that is neither defined by nor judged on the basis of its treatment of its Palestinian subjects. This is the non-controversial version of Israel, or “Non-Con” Israel, an Israel which exports bad champagne, co-opts environmentalist sentiment (planting trees), and offers up hot young female ex-soldiers as mysterious sex symbols (as in the recent Steve Carell/ Tina Fey comedy Date Night). As for Palestine and the Palestinians – well, they’re not even an afterthought.

                                                                      I’ve always believed that what apologists for Israeli misdeeds crave the most (after vindication, of course) is normalcy. Normalcy in this context is not a comprehensive peace agreement that restores the basic human rights of native Palestinians while guaranteeing the security of all the peoples of the region. Normalcy, rather, is that elusive state of affairs where all the turmoil and embarrassing headlines (and by extension, the Palestinians themselves) have simply evaporated, magically cleansed from our collective consciousness. Normalcy means an uncontroversial, run-of- the-mill Israel disconnected from Palestinians with a reputation as benign as, say, that of Norway.

                                                                      Ideally, the Israel PR movement wants us to think of Israel as we might think of Italy or Greece – an ancient land steeped in history and overflowing with a wealth of natural beauty, archeological treasures, and contemporary luxuries alike, a modern marvel whose charming population stands ready to greet visitors with a smile. “Come to Israel, come stay with friends,” declared the comical old Israeli tourism campaign from some years back. Just don’t bring any Arab friends. But if you enjoy sunbathing in the south of France, why not catch some rays on the beaches of Tel Aviv? And why not drink some Israeli bubbly?

                                                                      Yes, this is a softer, less confrontational Israel, yet this version remains a myth, for it requires a suspension of disbelief. This Non-Con version of Israel is more insidious and in its own way even more damaging than the Neocon Israel, for it ignores Palestinians altogether. Decades of conflict, the deliberate dispossession of an entire people, the ongoing, brutal occupation and siege, institutionalized racism within Israel itself – all are swept under the rug in favor of a sanitized vision of normalcy that lacks any context whatsoever.

                                                                      Fortunately, not everyone has bought into this charade. No, Israel is not Norway, nor are Israel’s policies normal. That’s why the Israel divestment campaign and the international movement advocating a cultural and academic boycott of Israel continue to gather steam. It’s the same reason that diverse artists, from Carlos Santana to Elvis Costello, have cancelled Israeli concert appearances in recent years. Here in America, people from all walks of life (including courageous young American Jews) are slowly waking up to the realization that an Israel that practices apartheid policies cannot be like other nations.

                                                                      If one cares about the world, wishing for normalcy should never serve as a substitute for working for justice or promoting basic human dignity. Here’s hoping that future television and motion picture writers remember this lesson. In the meantime, I’d suggest planting a tree in Palestine as a gift to a friend.

                                                                      As for Israeli champagne, I don’t drink, but for those who do, my advice is simple:

                                                                      Just say no.

                                                                      - Basil Abdelkarim contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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                                                                        The New Raid on Social Security Heartless

                                                                        English (US)  January 17th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                        By HELEN THOMAS

                                                                        This year, 2011, marks the beginning of baby boomers receiving Social Security checks and they should be alerted of past perennial Republican attempts to partially privatize the program.

                                                                        Heaven forbid that plans prevail to invest a certain amount of those checks in the stock market, as many pension plans have taken a bath in the current meltdown. While there have been past GOP plans to partially privatize the program, fortunately they have all failed. So far the Social Security trust fund remains tempting for the gamblers and other risk takers on the market.

                                                                        As a Detroiter, I remember the Great Depression and the stock market crash of 1929 when some of the plutocrats on Wall Street jumped out of windows as a result of their great losses. Those were bleak days when some of the jobless workers also lost hope in the bitterly cold winter as they stood in long lines at the Ford Motor Company, many without overcoats, hoping for a job on the auto assembly lines.

                                                                        The movements for socialism and communism were given some credence as a way out of their misery.

                                                                        The difference between the Great Depression and the current Great Recession is "spirit" - during the 1930s Americans cared about each other. They flocked to Washington - teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses - selflessly offering their services.

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        Next door to us, a family with six children lived on a $13 (equivalent to $163 today) per week welfare check. Somehow they survived and kept their faith. Along came FDR who told the stricken people, "You have nothing to fear but fear itself." The power of hope restored confidence in the country and in its leadership.

                                                                        We were happy to emerge from the depression, but many Americans at the time believed we rebounded economically because of the looming clouds of World War II. The world by this time was swept up by the "isms." The U.S. was divided between the interventionists in World War II (on the side of the allies) and the non-interventionists - they were the isolationists - who disappeared at the start of the war on Dec. 7, 1941.

                                                                        President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935 to cover the elderly, and eventually through amendments, widows, orphans and the disabled. Payments are split 50-50 by the employer and the worker. What has been missing in our current society is compassion and creativeness. Think of the bargains the President had to strike to renew the biggest (Bush) tax cut to the richest Americans, this in exchange for an extension of unemployment compensation for the millions who lost their jobs - some deal! That's the compassion part.

                                                                        As for creativeness, where are the ideas to put people back to work? For Roosevelt, the caring advisors produced a bundle of alphabet agencies. Not the least was the Works Progress Administration which put people to work on rebuilding the broken infrastructure. The program put men on the streets - and even artists painting the walls of great buildings in the Nation's Capital. Ideas and ideals along with great imagination brought our country back. Where are the caring creators now?

                                                                        Many believe it was World War II and the military needs that brought us back - but recovery was well underway by 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

                                                                        According to the 2010 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds presented to Congress, 53 million Americans received benefits during 2009, including 36 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 10 million disabled workers. During that same year, an estimated 156 million people paid social security taxes through payroll. Total expenditures in 2009 were $686 billion, while revenue totaled $807 billion - including $689 in tax revenue and $118 billion in interest earnings.

                                                                        Many Republicans believe the Social Security Trust should be at least partly privatized - Bush failed to achieve this in 2005. There is fear as President Obama has claimed that the new Republican leadership will push again to partially privatize social security funds. With the ups and downs of the stock market - and considering the pension plans that were privatized went down the drain - who would lead us down that path again?

                                                                        Let's not give the newly empowered Republicans - and their blindsided tea party allies - the ability to wipe out or even mitigate the only economic security deprived Americans can count on. Where is their heart?

                                                                        This column was originally published by the Falls Church News Press.

                                                                        738 words posted in Economy, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                                          An Assasination in Pakistan: A Political Murder or War?

                                                                          English (US)  January 17th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                          By M. SHAHID ALAM

                                                                          Pakistan’s English print media – faux liberal and elitist – have been in furor over the recent political murder of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, by his own bodyguard. Ostensibly, the governor was assassinated for his obstreperous stand against the judgment of a lower court to hang Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, for blasphemy against the Prophet.

                                                                          One columnist in the Express Tribune, with high melodrama, proclaimed that the governor’s murder was the ‘death of reason’ in Pakistan. What reason and whose reason, Pakistanis might well ask, since Pakistan’s faux liberal elites have been strangulating the raison d’être of Pakistan’s creation for some sixty four years. More likely, the Tribune columnist feared the death of a different kind of reason: Pakistan’s wealthy and faux liberal elites, by carrying their treachery to extremes, by agreeing to rain death on Pakistanis from the skies, are losing the argument in Pakistan.

                                                                          [More:]

                                                                          Going off on a limb, the governor began attacking Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has been abused by some Pakistanis to settle personal scores. Is it a fault in the law or its execution? Or is the cause a generally lawless society, where abuses of law starting at the highest levels of society are rampant; and Pakistan’s Christians are not their only unfortunate victims. Nevertheless, the governor erratically took up the cause of Aasia Bibi, and began railing against the blasphemy law, although every previous death sentence under this law has been reversed by the higher courts of the country.

                                                                          In the midst of a war against ‘extremists,’ it was unwise of the governor to call the law against blasphemy a ‘black law.’ Did he wish the law amended or repealed? If he believed it was ‘black law,’ perhaps he wanted it to be repealed. Pakistanis worried that this was only the start of a campaign to repeal the law – and open the floodgates for Salman Rushdi-style smearing of the Prophet. Another law maker from the ruling pro-Western Pakistan People’s Party had announced her intentions to introduce a bill in the parliament to amend the law. Was this an initiative inspired by foreign embassies, some Pakistanis speculated, not unjustifiably in a country where Western embassies routinely poke their nose in the country’s domestic affairs.

                                                                          There are causes galore to champion in Pakistan. The disappearing of thousands of Pakistanis over the past decade – some renditioned to the USA under General Musharraf, the previous dictator – has been crying out for redress. Before the national elections of 2008, the governor’s ruling party had pledged to look into the cases of the disappeared Pakistanis. Once in office, that promise was forgotten. Indeed, the disappearances - especially in Baluchistan – have escalated. Legitimately, Pakistanis may ask, Why didn’t this crying shame provoke the governor’s ire – as well as a thousand other instances of victimization of the poor and disenfranchised?

                                                                          This murder is unfortunate: no reasonable person could disagree with that. Any death outside the law – and not a few inside the law – is unfortunate and a shame. Yet, should we see this murder only as the expression of growing religious fanaticism in Pakistan? One discordant fact to consider is that the slain governor had faced the ire of the Barelvi ‘ulama (religious scholars), who support the popular Sufism of shrine-worship, have worked with the government against hard-line Islamists, and, themselves have been repeated targets of terrorist attacks.

                                                                          It betrays extreme naiveté by Pakistan’s English columnists to examine the governor’s murder in isolation, abstracted from the context and the history of betrayals and conflicts that have bedeviled Pakistan especially over the last decade. To say this is not to excuse the governor’s murder but that is the only path to understanding why it happened, and why the assassin is being lauded by wide swathes of Pakistanis as a hero.

                                                                          Scan issues of the New York Times or any US newspaper for a story on Pakistan in the years immediately preceding September 2001 and – luckily for Pakistanis then – your pickings will be slim. Those were ‘normal times,’ in a manner of speaking. On January 4 and 5, however, Salman Taseer’s murder was splashed as a banner head by the web edition of the NYT. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, described his murder as a “great loss.” The US ambassador in Pakistan, Cameron Munter, echoing his boss, lauded Taseer as "a champion of tolerance." Now, the NYT has published an op-ed by the slain governor’s daughter. In another ill-advised move, Pope Benedict called on Pakistan to repeal its anti-blasphemy law. It would appear that the slain governor was in the good graces of the Empire.

                                                                          The times are not ‘normal’ when the murder of an appointed and figurehead provincial governor in Pakistan resonates so loudly in American media and draws attention from the US Secretary of State and the Pope. Pakistan’s plunge into abnormal times began shortly after September 11, 2001, when the country’s military rulers backed by its elites decided to join America’s war against the Taliban.

                                                                          At first, Pakistan’s military government offered air bases and land and air passage to the US military; this was only the thin end of the wedge. A country that had so wantonly surrenders such vital portions of its sovereignty would scarcely hesitate to barter the rest of it – at the right price. And so more deals were made, inflicting horrible wounds on the people of Pakistan that cry out for justice.

                                                                          Pakistan’s elites have never been too greedy when dealing with the Empire. At the rate of a billion US dollars a year, they were quickly cajoled into fighting the Afghan resistance operating out of Pakistan; they opened Pakistan and its institutions to infiltration by the CIA and American mercenaries; and many venal vendors of opinion were mobilized to demonize the Afghan resistance and their sympathizers inside Pakistan.

                                                                          Under US prodding, Pakistan’s rulers have divided the country’s population into ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists,’ – America’s ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys – depending on whether they supported or opposed the US occupation of Afghanistan. As the Afghan and Pakistani resistance – inside Pakistan – have come under savage attacks from the US and Pakistan military, they too have responded with fury targeting the country’s security infrastructure but also – unfortunately – many civilians.

                                                                          Sadly, Pakistan’s decision to join America’s war was predictable. Soon after its creation, the Pakistani state fell into the lap of lumpen elites – landlords, military officers and bureaucrats – picked by the British and trained for several generations in traditions of subservience to their white masters. Instead of building on indigenous strength, these denatured elites bought their survival by cultivating economic, military and cultural dependence on the United States. Like many former European colonies, Pakistan is not yet free. Only the forms of foreign control, always working through domestic tyrannies, have changed: and the foreign hand that wields the whip now is in American rather than British hands.

                                                                          The struggle of Pakistanis for their country has just barely begun. It is part of a larger Islamicate struggle nearly all of whose constituent parts face the same problem: they labor under elites who have tied their systems of knavery to foreign exploiters and to one great power in particular.

                                                                          For most of its more than sixty years, Pakistan has been ruled by predatory elites who, in order to ingratiate their masters, have tried to mimic their manners, to hate what they hate, and to pretend to love what they love. So permeated are these elites with self-inflicted degradation, their multitudinous factions wrangle among themselves to undersell their country, and to place a lower value on the lives and honor of their own people.

                                                                          Wikileaks has now offers a peek into how Pakistan’s rulers pander to their masters. In August 2008, commenting on the subject of US drone attacks against Pakistanis, the current prime minister assured his American interlocutors, “I don’t care if they [the Americans] do it as long as they get the right people [the resistance]. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.” The military dictator who preceded him had boasted in his autobiography that his government had garnered US dollars 50 million by capturing and selling Pakistanis to secret US agencies.

                                                                          Pakistan’s suborned English media pretend that the murder of the Punjab governor is an isolated act. Their myopia blinds them to the war into which Pakistan’s elites have dragged the country, as they batten their foreign bank accounts, their jets warming their engines to fly them off to foreign destinations should Pakistan become too hot for them to carry on their game of deceit and treachery.

                                                                          Still, the murder of the Punjab governor was unnecessary: it was also contrary to the best traditions of Muslim history. The governor had acted unwisely in denouncing the blasphemy law, but that did not make him guilty of blasphemy. If his intent was to start a campaign to have the law repealed, the public protests had sent out a clear signal to the government that such a move would be unacceptable, even dangerous. It was certain to plunge the country into further chaos. Also, the President could have acted more wisely and settled the matter by reprimanding Salman Taseer or, better, retiring him from the office of governor.

                                                                          In better times, Muslim judges in Spain often forgave Christians who blasphemed the Prophet by declaring that they were insane or drunk when they blasphemed. They were awarded the death punishment only when they blasphemed repeatedly, demonstrating both sanity and intent to use blasphemy to challenge Muslim rule. Pakistan’s Supreme Court should urge the lower courts to look more carefully into cases of blasphemy to rule out malicious intent by those who bring such charges. It would not dishonor the Prophet to forgive a poor Christian woman of blasphemy – if that is what she had done in a fit of anger. It is what the Prophet would have done himself.

                                                                          M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging Orientalism (IPI, 2007). Visit his website at http://qreason.com. Write to him at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

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                                                                          1709 words posted in PakistanLeave a comment

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                                                                            In the Penumbra of Death's Shadow: Winter Break in Gaza

                                                                            English (US)  January 17th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                            And all we can ever do is pathetically look at the ground and pretend we don’t understand the Arabic and don’t know the answer. We understand the Arabic, we understand the question, we know the answer, we know exactly where that freedom is—it’s under an Israeli-American jackboot that’s trying to grind that desire for freedom into nothingness, into human dust, while Obama and Netanyahu babble insanely about the Zionist need for security, a security that can only be secured by endless piles of Palestinian corpses, with resistance quieted and Ashkelon safe amidst the secure tranquility of the killing fields to its south.

                                                                            By MAX AJL

                                                                            I got to Gaza three weeks ago after being away for over five months, and almost nothing has changed. F-16s continue to unload their cargoes of heavy explosives on “suspected” military sites nearly every night, terrifying everyone in Gaza as we all wonder if this is the explosion which heralds Cast Lead II, while “suspected militants,” or any Palestinian male under the age of 80, are consistently shot down by the IDF for loitering within a couple hundred meters of the border, especially if a bit of debris kicked up by the wind scares a frazzled and homicidal IDF sniper.

                                                                            The rolling blackouts thankfully hit Gaza in even more of a stutter than they used to. Some days the power remains on all day. The plastic green­houses right on the side of the road from Rafah undulate a little in the wind, the garbage remains littered all over the side of the highway, the children in their school uniforms, constantly multiplying, cluster on the side of the road, peering into passing cars; and the 40 kilometers from the Rafah terminal to the restaurant in Gaza City port took over an hour on the over-crowded, under-maintained, under-funded, crumbling and shattered roadways. Meanwhile, Gaza isn’t so much antediluvian—although it’s that, too, with donkeys moving people up and down main streets, jostling for space with late-model Mercedes recently imported into Gaza—as outside time people wait to come into time.

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            The first thing I did when I got here was have a Turkish coffee in a café overlooking the Mediterranean. The calm was interrupted when the reports from gunshots started ricochetting off the water. When you’re sitting that close, it’s hard to distinguish between bombs falling far away and the echo of shots from the big guns the Israeli navy uses to harass fishermen. Then later people told me that the shots I was hearing weren’t the fishermen—that evening, my friends walked into the apartment where I was staying with more far composure than I remember having when I saw AhmadSalem Dib, a 19-year old man from Gaza City, hemorrhaging after being shot by a dum-dum bullet in the femoral artery at a non-violent protest last April east of Gaza at the Nahal Oz crossing. That protest was against the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone,” a no-go swathe of land running along Gaza’s borders with Israel, which robs the farmers here of 36 percent of their arable land. That shooting concluded with Ahmad dying from blood loss and shock after desperate emergency surgery at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, as surgeons tried to repair his shredded leg. This time, Israeli maintenance of the illegal “buffer zone” meant the murder of a 20-year-old shepherd, Salama Abu Hashish, apparently shot through the kidney from the back as he was herding his animals a couple hundred meters from the border.

                                                                            Later, I went to Salama’s tent in Beit Lehiya. The shepherd who had died was freshly married. His child had been born two days before. His father said, “I am open,” indicating a line running along his sternum. The young man who had died had been his oldest son, leaving three brothers and two sisters. My friends working here, and the statistics, say that these murders, even more, the injuries, have been incessant since I left at the end of July. Incessant, and marked in the West by a thundering silence—the silence of a racism that roars at the death of a Jewish Israeli and does not even bother to shrug at the death of a Bedouin living with his sheep.

                                                                            And what remains for his father? The stink of Beit Lehiya’s open, fetid sewage pits glittering in Gaza’s hot January sun, and a kilometer or two north of their home, the ghetto wall running along Gaza’s northern frontier, with its watchtowers and their minders, one of whom put a hole in his son’s back for being on the wrong part of his own land, a mistake for which his child will pay by never knowing his father. There will be no apology forthcoming for that murder.

                                                                            The family probably won’t bother with an impotent lawsuit in the racist Israeli court system, and that same obdurate racism ensures that Salama’s murder will be reprised—already has been reprised—again and again in the coming days and weeks while Israeli snipers maintain Israel’s “security” in a buffer zone already monitored by endless surveillance towers, drones, motion sensors, tanks, and automated machine guns, all of it a constant reminder to his parents that their child’s murderer walks free somewhere north or east of that concrete wall while they while away their time fuming, anguished, asking us as we visit, rhetorically rather than desperately, “Where is our freedom?”

                                                                            And all we can ever do is pathetically look at the ground and pretend we don’t understand the Arabic and don’t know the answer. We understand the Arabic, we understand the question, we know the answer, we know exactly where that freedom is—it’s under an Israeli-American jackboot that’s trying to grind that desire for freedom into nothingness, into human dust, while Obama and Netanyahu babble insanely about the Zionist need for security, a security that can only be secured by endless piles of Palestinian corpses, with resistance quieted and Ashkelon safe amidst the secure tranquility of the killing fields to its south.

                                                                            Indeed, the next attack is on everyone’s mind. They speculate: one university professor told me that it would probably be a set of “surgical” strikes, hitting government targets, compressed into a two or three day hell. “Any day now,” he said. And, he asked, “who would notice, or care? It would pass like a quick storm and be gone from people’s minds,” before the Western journalists left their flats in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv to try to pass through the Erez Crossing, with the aftereffect of the government here being further embittered, the population traumatized by again seeing F-16s, missiles, and Apaches filling the air, white phosphorus glittering horribly in the sky.

                                                                            A friend, 20 years old, tells me in response to my question of how she’s been that they are simply “surviving.” This is what life is like here, in the penumbra of death’s shadow, with death tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after. What they wish is so plain and regular that it’s nearly breathtaking in its sheer normalcy, and what’s sickening is the wrenching denial of that wish by a state that insists that it has the right to abuse another people merely for being.

                                                                            What they want is for the Goldstone Report’s findings to be taken seriously.

                                                                            They want what everyone wants: decent, peaceful lives; they want to get the good jobs that the Gazan economy is structurally incapable of providing, they want their children to grow up unburdened by trauma and despair, they want to see their children get married and have grandchildren. They receive none of that. Instead, as a young shopkeeper living around the corner from my apartment mimes to me with his hands around his neck, they are choking, and when they lash out at their tormentors with an occasional Kassam, the Israeli-American air force unleashes a fresh round of hell on this child-filled ghetto, and to what end? A young guy, a little younger than me, cuts my hair, and told me last week that “we are the ones that die and nothing happens to Hamas.” Meanwhile, the government here will never agree to reconciliation terms with the collaborators in Ramallah, and perhaps this is what the civilian managers in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv wish: a split, divided populace, unable to unite, unable to resist. And when, asks my landlord, will it end, and what is there to say but to impotently mutter, hopefully soon?

                                                                            Max Ajl is an ISM volunteer in the Gaza Strip. He can be reached at max.ajl@gmail.com

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                                                                              Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda

                                                                              English (US)  January 17th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                              By Stephen J. Sniegoski

                                                                              A friend, Phil Collier, an avid student of and sometime writer on Middle East affairs (and a National Master in chess), recently informed me that Avi Shlaim, in his recent book, Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations, had one chapter, “Palestine and Iraq,” that presents a thesis almost identical to what I have written in The Transparent Cabal. This naturally encouraged me to obtain the book, and Collier’s description turns out to be correct.

                                                                              Now this similarity is quite significant since what I have written on the neocons regarding their strong influence on U. S. Middle East policy and their connection to Israel is taboo in the American mainstream, with even numerous antiwar individuals (especially those with higher status) and publications shying away from my work. But unlike me, Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford, is a recognized scholar, with such notable books on Israel and its neighbors as The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2001). And he is also Jewish and an Israeli citizen, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (possessing dual British and Israeli citizenship), which shelters him from charges of anti-Semitism. Undoubtedly because of his credentials, his works cannot be ignored, and this book was honored as a Kirkus Best Book for 2009.

                                                                              [More:]

                                                                              Now, in his ten-page chapter on this subject, Shlaim could only present a much-abbreviated version of the major themes that I elaborate on at length in my 447 page book. The following are some poignant examples from Shlaim’s work, with my commentary drawing comparisons to The Transparent Cabal.

                                                                              “The basic premise behind George W. Bush’s policy towards the Middle East reflected this strong pro-Israeli bias,” Shlaim opines. “The premise was that the key issue in Middle East politics was not Palestine, but Iraq.” (p. 297) This is the essence of my thesis, but it is something many establishment people, including those who have been antiwar, ardently deny when they claim that the elimination of Saddam not only harmed Israeli interests by empowering Iran, but that this result was clearly foreseen by Israelis and supporters of Israel prior to the attack on Iraq and that the government of Israel thus allegedly opposed the war. The Transparent Cabal, of course, shows that the entire neocon war agenda in the Middle East was directed to advancing Israel’s security by weakening its enemies and that Israeli leaders did, in fact, promote the war on Iraq. Of course, in the United States, any claim that American Jews promote Israeli interests, no matter how well adduced, invariably elicits accusations of anti-Semitism.

                                                                              “American proponents of the war on Iraq promised that action against Iraq would form part of a broader engagement with the problems of the Middle East,” Shlaim notes. “The road to Jerusalem, they argued, went through Baghdad. Cutting off Saddam Hussein’s support for Palestinian terrorism was, according to them, an essential first step in the quest for a settlement.” (p. 297) Later he observes: “One of the main arguments for regime change in Baghdad was to put an end to Iraqi support for Palestinian militants and for what was seen as Palestinian intransigence in the peace process with Israel.” (p. 300)

                                                                              As I point out in The Transparent Cabal, the neocons maintained that it was the removal of not only Saddam, but most “non-democratic” regimes in the Middle East, which was necessary to bring about a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue. However, the “peace” the neocons had in mind was one dictated by Israel. Elimination of the Middle Eastern “non-democratic” regimes would facilitate this development because it was just these regimes that provided moral and material support to the Palestinian resistance, portrayed by the neocons as “Palestinian intransigence.” Without outside support, the isolated and dispirited Palestinians would ultimately be forced to accede to whatever type of peaceful solution Israel offered, which would create nothing like a viable, Palestinian state, but which would serve to remove Israel’s Palestinian problem and thus help to secure the Jewish nature of the state of Israel.

                                                                              “The influence of the Likud and of its friends in Washington could be detected across the entire spectrum of American policy towards the Middle East,” writes Shlaim. “Particularly striking was the ideological convergence between some of the leading neoconservatives in the Bush Administration – such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith—and the hardliners in Ariel Sharon’s inner circle.” (p. 298)

                                                                              I go to great lengths in The Transparent Cabal to highlight the link between the neocons and the hardline Likudniks. In fact, I show that the neocons’ very plan to reconfigure the Middle East paralleled the Likudnik goal of destabilizing and fragmenting Israel’s enemies, which was best articulated by Oded Yinon in the early 1980s.

                                                                              In illustrating the neocons’ identification with Israeli interests, Shlaim underscores the significance of the neocons’ “A Clean Break” paper, writing: “In 1996, a group of six Jewish Americans, led by Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, wrote a paper for incoming Israeli prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu. Entitled ‘A Clean Break’, the paper proposed, in essence, an abrupt reversal of the foreign policies of the Clinton Administration towards the Middle East.” (p. 298) After mentioning the major goals of the plan, including the removal of Saddam’s regime, Shlaim declares: “Thus, five years before the attack on the twin towers, the idea of regime change in Baghdad was already on the agenda of some of Israel’s most fervent Republican supporters in Washington.” (p. 299) Regarding the connection of that policy to actual American interests, Shlaim opines that “While the authors’ devotion to Israel’s interests was crystal-clear, their implicit identification of those interests with American interests was much more open to question.” (p. 299) Shlaim accepts the obvious fact that the neocons were influential in shaping Bush policy: “The Bush Administration’s entire policy towards the Middle East was similarly supportive of Israel’s short-term strategic interests.” (p. 299)

                                                                              It should be noted here that Shlaim, in accord with what I write in The Transparent Cabal, makes three taboo points that often lead to charges of anti-Semitism when he observes that the neocons are Jewish, that they are devoted to Israel, and that they were influential enough to shape U. S. Middle East policy in the interests of Israel.

                                                                              Shlaim correctly points out that the neocons’ Middle East war agenda transcended Iraq: “While Iraq was the main target, the neocons also advocated that America exert relentless pressure on Syria and on Iran.” (p. 300) In The Transparent Cabal, I show that the neocons only regarded Iraq as the momentary “main target”—it was to be the first step in their plan to reconfigure the Middle East.

                                                                              Shlaim refers to Israeli support for the broader neocon Middle East war agenda, which would also primarily benefit that country, not the United States: “Washington’s policy of confrontation and regime change was fervently supported in Tel Aviv. Here too the benefit to Israel is much more evident than the benefit to America. And here too, the US agenda towards the region appears to incorporate a right-wing Likud agenda.” (p. 300)

                                                                              While fundamentally similar, Shlaim’s analysis does differ with The Transparent Cabal in a few respects. For example, he depicts the noted Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis as a crucial influence on the neocons, maintaining that he provided “the intellectual underpinning for this policy [the neocon plan of democratizing the Middle East by war].” (P. 299) While aware that Lewis expressed this Middle East democratization argument, I am not aware that the neocons actually derived this view from him. To obtain expert opinion on this issue, I contacted Paul Gottfried, probably the foremost historian of neoconservatism, and he also was not aware of any evidence for Shlaim’s claim. Since Lewis is a well-known scholar, some neocons undoubtedly believed that publicizing their connection to him would enhance the credibility of their democratization argument, but whether they actually derived this view from him needs to be proven.

                                                                              A more significant difference between Shlaim’s argument and that of The Transparent Cabal revolves around an assessment of the results of the neocon policy. While Shlaim holds that the neocons were attuned to the views of the hardline Likudniks and sought to advance what they considered to be Israel’s security interests, he seems to drift away from this position in looking at the policy’s results. Instead, he seems to take the neocon rhetoric on democracy at face value and judges the results by both this standard and how the results affected Israel’s security, as he (a left-wing Zionist, not a hardline Likudnik) sees it. “The war on Iraq has not gone according to plan,” Shlaim asserts. “Saddam Hussein and his henchman have been removed from power but the goals of democracy, security and stability have proved persistently elusive. Today the shadow of civil war hangs over Iraq.” (p. 305)

                                                                              In contrast to Shlaim’s view of Israel’s security, the neocons explicitly sought regional instability to allegedly achieve democracy, as I show in The Transparent Cabal. And the hardline Likudnik position was to destabilize and fragment Israel’s enemies to enhance Israeli security. The neocons similarly advocated such an approach in their “Clean Break” agenda, which did not emphasize democratization. In short, from the perspective of the neocons and the hardline Likudniks, the instability and the “shadow of civil war” resulting from the US invasion of Iraq were neither surprising nor unwelcome. Thus the neocons’ plans failed only to the extent that the US has not, or at least not yet, moved on to attack and destabilize Iran and other enemies of Israel.

                                                                              It is certainly pleasing to see themes that I present emerging in the mainstream, but I am miffed that my much longer account remains largely ignored. It would be great if books such as Shlaim’s would serve to open the door to wider publicity for The Transparent Cabal, which would not simply be of personal benefit but would also provide mainstream readers with the most complete account currently existing of the neoconservative involvement in the war on Iraq and overall U. S. Middle East policy, and thus serve as a guide to analyzing current U.S. policy. However, since Shlaim’s theme is buried among 29 other short chapters, its impact will likely be negligible. And the overall blackout of these crucial themes will likely continue.

                                                                              _______________________

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                                                                                S Africa groups seek Livni arrest

                                                                                English (US)  January 17th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                Pro-Palestinian groups seek arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel's Kadima party, for alleged war crimes.


                                                                                Pro-Palestinian groups in South Africa accuse Tzipi Livni of war crimes during the 2008-2009 war on Gaza [EPA]

                                                                                Two South African groups have launched a move to get an arrest warrant issued against Tzipi Livni, the chairperson of Israel's Kadima party, during a visit to the country next week, Israeli media have said.

                                                                                Haaretz.com, quoting Channel 10, said the Media Review Network (MRN) and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) allege Livni committed war crimes in her role in Israel's three-week war on Gaza in late 2008-2009.

                                                                                Livni was then foreign minister in the government of Ehud Olmert.

                                                                                Channel 10 was citing South African media on reporting the move.

                                                                                "We have now been informed that Livni has been invited to this country and have therefore instructed our legal team to take all necessary measures to secure an arrest warrant," Iqbal Jassat, the head of the MRN was quoted as saying.

                                                                                "Our decision is based on the fact that South Africa is a signatory to the Rome statutes which obligates all member states to honour their responsibility in the prosecution of war criminals."

                                                                                Livni was invited to South Africa by the local Jewish community to give a number of speeches and hold meetings in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                Investigation

                                                                                Iqbal Jassat, the chairperson of the MRN, told Al Jazeera that the application for the arrest warrant filed on Friday was in pursuant of an earlier submission filed with South African prosecutors in August 2009.

                                                                                Jassat said the submission was an "extensive compilation of complaints in excess of 3,000 pages containing a wide variety of substantial documentation including evidential material and affidavits from victims" that alleged Livni was one of the architects of the Gaza massacre.

                                                                                "We had also asked for an investigation involving members of the South African Jewish community suspected of violating the country's Foreign Mercenary Act," he said, adding that investigations are ongoing.

                                                                                "We are deeply disappointed with Livni's hosts - the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation - for displaying gross insensitivity and arrogance by inviting a known violator of human rights to the country.

                                                                                "Livni's track record as a perpetrator of war crimes stems from her official leadership roles in various capacities," he added.

                                                                                Jassat said the move has received overwhelming support from civil society groups including the leadership of the Cape Town-based Muslim Judicial Council, whom he said have expressed fear that emotions may run over if Livni was to visit Cape Town as scheduled.

                                                                                'Pure intimidation'

                                                                                Zev Krengel, the South African Jewish leader, said he was disappointed with the decision of the MRN and the PSA to pursue Livni.

                                                                                "First of all we are very sad that they would even want to do such a thing," Krengel was quoted as saying.

                                                                                "Tzipi Livni has been an enthusiastic supporter of the peace process."

                                                                                Krengel added that Livni's trip would go ahead as planned.

                                                                                "It is a pure intimidation tactic by people who are not interested in finding a solution to the situation in the Middle East," he was quoted as saying.

                                                                                In December 2009 a British court reportedly issued an arrest warrant for Livni on similar charges, but later withdrew it after discovering she was not in the country.

                                                                                Livni was initially scheduled to travel to London for an event organise by the Jewish National Fund, followed by meetings with British government officials.

                                                                                She cancelled the trip two weeks before the event, and Israeli media said she called off the visit for fear of being arrested.

                                                                                Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                  What's Next in Lebanon?

                                                                                  English (US)  January 17th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                  Hezbollah may well take its time as it ponders its major responsibilities.

                                                                                  By Franklin Lamb – Beirut, Lebanon

                                                                                  'In case no one has noticed, the Obama administration just gifted Lebanon to Iran. Washington earlier presented Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf, and Pakistan. Could it be clearer that Iran's strategic trump card is America’s subservience to Israel? For Iran, Israel's strangle hold on the US government is the gift that keeps on giving.' With his comment, my neighbor, Lebanese Human Rights Ambassador Ali Khalil, declared American hegemony in the region was on a slippery and descending slope and that yesterday’s political maneuvering in Lebanon likely accelerated American withdrawal.

                                                                                  My other neighbors in South Beirut appeared to go to bed early last night following the day’s events which saw the collapsed of Lebanon’s US-Saudi and Israeli backed government. Some, like my American and Lebanese roommates were planning for quick evacuations should our Hezbollah neighborhood-watch guys give us that special knock on the door. Two rapid raps and a shouted “Yalla!” (Let’s go) and it’s time to head north fast without looking back. The reason is because, like many here, some neighbors fear Israel might use this latest government crisis to invade Lebanon again.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  Yesterday, our “government” electricity (and internet) was cut from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and again from 6 p.m. to midnight. At least ten hour daily power cuts is the norm south and north of the pro-US/Saudi Hamra “chic” district, where three hours or less daily power cuts are experienced. Spending lots of hours in candle light probably made the unsubstantiated rumors even more unsettling. “The armed forces of Lebanon, Hezbollah and its allies, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Iran are on military alert. The Americans may send battalions from Iraq!”, the young man who works in the phone shop near my flat whispered. I could not help noticing that some of the young men normally hanging out in our hood seemed to have vanished. Even my phone card guy was impatient with me wanting to recharge my phone, “please hurry”, he said, “I have an appointment and need to close my shop.”

                                                                                  Assassination of Rafik Hariri

                                                                                  The current government crisis has its origins in the February 14, 2005 Valentine’s Day murder of Lebanon’s prime minister Rafic Hariri and 20 others. The Bush administration declared Syria responsible and saw an opportunity to force the Assad regime to drop its friendship with Washington’s regional nemesis Iran, and to end its support for the National Lebanese Resistance led by Hezbollah.

                                                                                  One of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s State Department lawyers came up with the idea to use the UN Security Council to set up a Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to try Hariri’s killers and to hammer Syria into warming to Israel and to US projects for the region.

                                                                                  What was not considered at the time, but later became a godsend from the points of view of Israel and the Bush administration was leaked Tribunal information claiming that Hezbollah members might also be involved in the assassination. Hardly believing, one imagines, their good luck, Israel and the US abruptly changed directions and decided to use the newly formed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to rid themselves of Hezbollah once and for all as well as to correct Syria’s behavior, believing that the Syrian government would also be indicted.

                                                                                  The pressure on Hezbollah caused the party to condemn what it claims is false witnesses and it strongly urged the Lebanese government to open a case against them and not allow the STL, which it and others believe has became fatally politicized by rushing to judgment, to receive Lebanese government cooperation. Hezbollah’s adversaries hailed the tribunal even if Lebanon’s stability was endangered. After nearly fourteen months of trying to get the Saad Hariri government to seriously reconsider its positions on the STL, the Hezbollah-led opposition gave the majority an ultimatum either to call a cabinet meeting by January 12, 2011 to discuss the STL or the opposition Cabinet members would resign. What Hezbollah and its allies wanted was for PM Hariri to convene a Cabinet session to consider whether to stop payment of Lebanon’s 49 per cent share of the financing of the STL, whether to withdraw the Lebanese judges from the tribunal, consider ending all cooperation with the STL, and prosecuting the “false witnesses” it claimed was linked to the UN probe into Rafik Hariri’s killing.

                                                                                  Under enormous pressure from Washington, Paris and Riyadh, Saad balked. The opposition quickly resigned. Under article 69 the Lebanese Constitution, the resignation of one-third plus one of Cabinet members automatically leads to the collapse of the 30-member government. It was the first time in Lebanon’s politically turbulent history that a government collapsed under pressure of the resignations of one-third plus one of its members.

                                                                                  In order to secure the eleventh cabinet resignation, to add to Hezbollah’s ten, in order to bring down the pro-US government, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s key political aide Hussein Khalil, called President Suleiman’s Cabinet designee, Sayyed Hussein. Khalil reportedly conveyed Nasrallah’s greetings and his hope that Hussein would decide what to do based on his conscience. Huyssein’s resignation quickly followed and Hariri’s Premiership ended as he sat with President Obama at the White House.

                                                                                  What the Toppling of the Government Means

                                                                                  Regional players reacted more or less predictably with the US accusing Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of ‘blackmail’, the French warning Syria that is would be held to account if there is violence in Lebanon and the British warning of long term dangers. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement: “This is an extremely serious development which could have grave implications for Lebanon and for regional stability.” One British diplomat added late this evening, “Good Grief, however can we resolve this problem anytime soon?”

                                                                                  Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said they were "carefully following events" in Lebanon following the resignations and that "The Lebanese understand that an attempt by extremist to disturb the peace may turn out as a perilous gamble,” according to Israeli TV Channel 10. Israel is being accused today in Lebanon of trying to provoke strife and to gain advantage from the governmental crisis. Yesterday after kidnapping Sharbel Khoury, a shepherd from near Rmeish (he was released 24 hours later) the Israel navy also entered Lebanese waters along the coast. This afternoon (1/13/10) Israeli warplanes overflew Baalbek, Nabatiyeh and Marjayoun. These incursions constituted Israel’s 7,269 and 7,270th violation of Lebanese sovereignty since the August 2006 adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 ordering it to stay out of Lebanon. Several UNIFIL and UN protests have had no effect on Israel while Washington remains mute on the subject of Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty.

                                                                                  Free Patriotic Movement member and Hezbollah supporter Jebran Bassil, who was Minister of Energy until yesterday, blamed Washington for the fact that Saudi-Syrian efforts to prevent the resignations, reached a dead end. “The other side bowed to external, especially American pressure, ignoring the advice and wishes of the Saudi and Syrian sides,” Bassil said.

                                                                                  For his part, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt seemed to agree with the FPM and he attributed the failure of mediation efforts of Saudi Arabia and Syria to the “forces of darkness,” alluding to leading Western powers, “It appears the forces of darkness got involved and stymied the Syrian-Saudi initiative, through which we would have seen a blocking of the negative repercussion of the STL indictment.”

                                                                                  Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea blamed the rival March 8 camp for seeking what he called “Stalin-like” powers, accusing it of “seeking to steal away the prerogatives of the president and the prime minister.”

                                                                                  What Next for Hezbollah?

                                                                                  The Hezbollah led opposition, as a result of the last election, has a majority in the 128-member Parliament, which enables it to name a candidate of its own for prime minister during the president’s soon to be announced binding parliamentary consultations. At noon on 1/13/10, Hezbollah voting bloc leader MP Mohammed Raad, announced that the opposition will name “a personality with a history of national resistance to head the new government.” Some are speculating that Hezbollah might propose the longtime Sunni leader Omar Karami, a moderate self effacing fellow with strong Syrian, progressive, and popular support.

                                                                                  Whatever it decides to do, Hezbollah may well take its time as it ponders major responsibilities that would envelop the resistance movement should it decide to govern Lebanon. Some of its supporters are urging Hezbollah to accept the daunting challenge and implement its 2009 Manifesto and its recent election platforms and end the mafia-like corruption among some Lebanon’s political leaders. Several Lebanese civil society NGO’s are urging Hezbollah to do more for Lebanon’s increasingly fragile environment, fix once and for all Lebanon’s serious water, electricity and infrastructure problems, and let the Lebanese public decide if Hezbollah is true to their cause and warrants its future electoral support.

                                                                                  Others continue to also lobby the party to immediately end Lebanon’s and the Arabs’ shame and grant Palestinian refugees the internationally mandated basic civil rights to work and to own a home. If Hezbollah heads the government, Palestinian prospects for achieving these elementary rights will look a lot brighter.

                                                                                  - Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon. He contributed this article to PalstineChronicle.com. Contact him at: fplamb@gmail.com.

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                                                                                    Tunisia: This Is What Victory Looks Like

                                                                                    English (US)  January 17th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                    Thanks to Tunisia, the Arab world has entered new stage. (Al Jazeera)

                                                                                    By Robin Yassin-Kassab

                                                                                    (Written on the night of January 14th, 2011)

                                                                                    The dictator, thief and Western client Zein al-Abdine Ben Ali, beloved until a few hours ago in Paris and Washington, has been driven from Tunisia. His reign was ended not by a military or palace coup but by an extraordinarily broad-based popular movement which has brought together trades unions and professional associations, students and schoolchildren, the unemployed and farmers, leftists, liberals and intelligent Islamists, men and women. One of the people’s most prominent slogans will resonate throughout the Arab world and beyond: la khowf ba’ad al-yowm, or No Fear From Now On.

                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                    It is to be hoped that Tunisia will now develop a participatory system based on respect for citizens’ rights, that it will reclaim and develop its economy, implement social justice, and move out of the Western-Israeli embrace. The revolution, however, is beset by dangers. Although the head of the snake has been sacrificed, the conglomerate of interests behind the Ben Ali regime is largely still in place, and will be working furiously to restrict and roll back popular participation. For this reason it is of crucial importance that Tunisians are tonight raising the slogan ‘al-intifada mustamura,’ or ‘the intifada continues.’

                                                                                    Beyond the local Tunisian mafia, those who have every reason to wish the revolution to fail include: the terrified Arab regimes, particularly the Western clients; Israel; and sections of the American, French and other Western elites. One or more of these powers may stoop to sponsoring chaos in some form or another. But we can have a good degree of confidence. Over the last weeks Tunisians have proved themselves sufficiently courageous and open-eyed to face down all manner of threats.

                                                                                    Whatever happens next in Tunis, the Arab world has entered a new stage. Tunisia has shown that the ‘Arab street’ has greater potential, greater power, than many Arabs, cowed by decades of oppression, dared dream. Now we know that if Arabs are enraged by their regimes’ corruption and mismanagement, by the muzzling of dissent and debate, by the failure to build functioning health and education systems, by the craven kow-towing to Zionism and the hosting of foreign miltary bases – now we know the Arabs can coerce their regimes to change these policies, or face Ben Ali’s fate.

                                                                                    The Western clients in particular are in trouble. Saudi-owned media coverage of Tunisia makes their fear plain. Over the last weeks Algeria has seen demonstrations and riots. Yesterday thousands marched against economic conditions in Jordan. Tonight a demonstration outside the Tunisian embassy in Cairo congratulated the intifada, and chanted “Revolution Until Victory” (the old Palestinian battle cry), “Revolution in Egypt.”

                                                                                    Egypt used to be the political, cultural and military leader of the Arab world; now it bears less weight than Qatar. Most Egyptians are hungry and over a third are illiterate. Mubarak’s regime is a willing tool of Zionism and imperialism, a besieger of Palestinians. And the country’s social fabric is being ripped apart by salafism and sectarianism. If somewhere needs a dose of Tunisia, that place is Egypt. Inspiration from Tunisia is something that could raise Egypt’s confidence, halt Egypt’s decline, and give impetus to radical change. The escape route from communal hatreds and social breakdown is popular action, for all citizens, irrespective of religion, sect, ethnicity, tribe or region.

                                                                                    This Tunisian victory was not won by employing nativist romanticism, sectarian distraction or religious obscurantism. Tunisians held ‘Power to the People’ signs and posters of Che Guevara rather than the rulings of a cleric. This will have a long-term cultural effect on the Arab world, at least to the extent of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, which has energised Arab Islamism ever since. (Here I’m remarking on the surprising fact that the first Arab revolution of the age has largely been secular in character, but I don’t wish to trot out a simplistic secular-versus-Islamist discourse. Tunisian Islamists have been as active as everyone else in the struggle, and Tunisian Islamism is very often politically pluralist and reasonably progressive. Rashid al-Ghannushi’s Nahda Party is a good example.)

                                                                                    Inevitably the events have exposed the continuing hypocrisy of Western governments as well as the mainstream media’s continuing adhesion to ruling class foreign policy concerns. Until the very day of the revolution’s victory the Anglosaxon media kept as quiet as it possibly could. This in marked contrast to its coverage of the Iranian Green Movement, which had a much narrower social base but was cast as a near-unanimous uprising, its martyrs were named and lionised, and reams of nonsense were written concerning the ‘twitter revolution’. Well, here was a secular mass movement calling for freedom and civil rights, using the new media, appealing to universal values, on the southern shore of the mediterranean – and nobody wanted to know.

                                                                                    By tonight, all of a sudden, the American position has changed from ‘we’re not taking sides’ to applauding ‘the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people.’ And, in a twinkling, the media has discovered that Ben Ali was a corrupt dictator. A new story is being scribbled out, to adapt to events. That’s what you call a fait accompli. And, for once, it was the Arab people who did the deed. This is what victory looks like.

                                                                                    - Robin Yassin-Kassab is the author of The Road from Damascus, a novel published by Penguin. He co-edits www.pulsemedia.org and blogs at www.qunfuz.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published at Pulse: www.pulsemedia.org)

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                                                                                      Palestinian factions demand local elections

                                                                                      English (US)  January 16th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                      RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The joint follow up committee of the leftist and democratic election lists on Sunday called on the Palestinian Authority to hold local elections by the end of May.

                                                                                      The demand followed a meeting of representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian People’s Party, the Palestinian National Initiative, the Palestinian Democratic Union and independent figures.

                                                                                      In a statement released after the meeting, the committee said the PA was "haggling" over the election issue.

                                                                                      The factions said they would consider organizing popular protests to force the government to hold elections.

                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                      In June 2010, the PA cabinet indefinitely postponed municipal elections in a closed-door cabinet meeting, a move condemned by Palestinian factions and civil society groups as undemocratic and illegal.

                                                                                      At the time, the Ramallah Ministry of Local Government said the decision to postpone came in response to the demands of some Arab nations and a number of "friends in the world."

                                                                                      The calls from abroad advised the government to postpone "in order to pave the way for a successful end to the siege on Gaza and for continued efforts at unity," the ministry said.

                                                                                      In December, the Palestinian Supreme Court in Ramallah ruled the postponement illegal, and called on the government to appoint a new date for local elections.

                                                                                      MAAN nEWS

                                                                                      ) Nour / Palestine
                                                                                      16/01/2011 16:08
                                                                                      Excellent, power to the people, not Fatah thugs.
                                                                                      2 ) r cummings / uk
                                                                                      16/01/2011 16:13
                                                                                      It was justifiable to delay elections for a while to see if some agreement could be reached regarding voting in Gaza. But it isn't going to happen and time has run out, the PNA just has to cut its losses and get on with holding elections on the West Bank. If Hamas refuses to permit voting in Gaza, it will be seen to be clearly in the wrong and will be in for a tough time with donor nations. Abbas has nothing to lose here and just needs to get on with it.
                                                                                      3 ) Simon / UK
                                                                                      16/01/2011 20:34
                                                                                      Alternative for Abbas - join Ben Ali in Jeddah!

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                                                                                        Fayyad denies Blackwater allegations

                                                                                        English (US)  January 16th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                        RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The unelected Palestinian Authority acting Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Sunday dismissed allegations the PA was colluding with US security group Blackwater.

                                                                                        Fayyad told Ma'an that the US hired the private security firm to protect senior American figures in the West Bank and Israel.

                                                                                        He said the contract was assigned by the US to a consortium of three specialist companies, one of which was previously called Blackwater and has a branch in Israel.

                                                                                        The PA was not involved in the process, the unelected acting prime minister said. Blackwater guards were hired to work for US figures and would not be involved with PA forces.

                                                                                        Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Thursday that the arrival of US security personnel in the West Bank meant Palestinians were "under double attack."

                                                                                        The move reflected the "multinational authority" governing the West Bank and "confirmed the existence of US-Israel security cooperation," he added.

                                                                                        Maan News

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                                                                                          PA: Top officials interrogated over corruption

                                                                                          English (US)  January 16th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                          BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Prosecutors have referred 80 cases to the Palestinian Authority's anti-corruption department for investigation, PA Attorney General Ahmad Al-Mughanni said Sunday.

                                                                                          Al-Mughanni told Ma’an that he would head a special committee which will join the department established six months ago and headed by Rafiq Natshe. The committee will follow up with post-investigation cases which will be referred to the anti-corruption court.

                                                                                          The official did not name any of the suspects or specify the charges.

                                                                                          Earlier Sunday, the London-based Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper quoted Al-Mughanni saying high-profile Palestinian officials were mentioned in cases which have already been referred to the department. He said current ministers were being interrogated.

                                                                                          “It is about old cases, some of which were referred to courts in the Gaza Strip before the coup, and were suspended after the coup. Crimes are usually dealt with where they take place, but after the coup general prosecution was unable to operate in Gaza,” he said.

                                                                                          “The anti-corruption department includes four or five representatives from the general prosecution office, and after they finish their investigations, they refer the cases to the attorney general, who decides whether or not to refer the case to court depending on evidence.

                                                                                          He might as well return the case to the anti-corruption department for further investigations. The department is dealing with about 80 cases, and some cases have already been referred to courts,” Al-Mughanni added.

                                                                                          However, the attorney general highlighted that his office and the anti-corruption department faced certain obstacles as some of the suspects are based abroad in countries like Jordan and Egypt. Some hold dual citizenship, he added, and a number of countries have requested that the corruption cases be referred to their own courts.

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                                                                                            Hezbollah to defend itself against Hariri charges

                                                                                            English (US)  January 16th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                            By Natacha Yazbeck

                                                                                            BEIRUT (AFP) -- Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Sunday his group would defend itself against likely charges over the murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, on the eve of expected indictments in the case.

                                                                                            "We will not allow our reputation and our dignity to be tarnished nor will we allow anyone to conspire against us or to unjustly drench us in Hariri's blood," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

                                                                                            "We will act to defend our dignity, our existence and our reputation," added Nasrallah, who reiterated previous accusations that The Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon was controlled by the United States and Israel.

                                                                                            The Shiite leader said his party would disclose in coming days how it planned to defend itself in light of the indictments.

                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                            His speech came one day before the prosecutor of the UN-backed tribunal was expected to submit its charges in the 2005 murder to a pre-trial judge.

                                                                                            Lebanese officials said the government had been notified that the indictments, the contents of which will not be made public in the immediate future, would be submitted on Monday.

                                                                                            Nasrallah's comments came ahead of consultations Monday led by President Michel Sleiman to nominate a new premier after Hezbollah and its allies last week toppled the government of Saad Hariri, the slain leader's son, plunging the country into yet another crisis.

                                                                                            The resignations of 11 ministers were linked to the long-running dispute over the STL, which Nasrallah expects will accuse high-ranking operatives of his Shiite militant party.

                                                                                            Nasrallah confirmed that his party and its allies would not nominate Hariri for the premiership and accused the United States of scuttling an initiative by regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Syria to forge a compromise on the standoff over the tribunal.

                                                                                            "The opposition will not name Saad Hariri for premiership," he said while accusing Western states of pulling all stops to ensure the Sunni leader was reappointed.

                                                                                            "As soon as the opposition raised the possibility of naming a candidate other than Hariri, every single Western capital mobilised" to promote the acting premier, Nasrallah said.

                                                                                            Nasrallah said that, under the proposed Syrian-Saudi pact, the Lebanese government would pull its judges from the court, cut off its share of funding and relinquish its memorandum of understanding with the STL.

                                                                                            That essentially would mean that Lebanese authorities would cease all cooperation with the court.

                                                                                            Nasrallah accused Hariri of backing out of the deal under US pressure.

                                                                                            Lebanon's government collapse has sparked a flurry of international diplomatic efforts to contain the political storm that many fear could escalate into sectarian violence.

                                                                                            France has proposed an international "contact group", similar to that of Bosnia in the 1990s, that would include Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Qatar and the United States in an effort to defuse tensions.

                                                                                            Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan travels Monday to Damascus to meet with Syrian and Qatari leaders on the Lebanon crisis.

                                                                                            US Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly, who met with Hariri on Sunday, reiterated her country's unwavering support for the STL while urging all Lebanese factions "maintain calm and exercise restraint at this critical time."

                                                                                            Maan News

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                                                                                              The 'new' rhetoric of Islamophobia

                                                                                              English (US)  January 16th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                              Islamophobes in and outside Congress are claiming that a mass 'radicalisation' of American Muslims is taking place.


                                                                                              US Rep. Peter King (R-NY) - formerly an ardent supporter of the IRA - has been making no distinctions between the average Muslim layman and a radical [Getty]

                                                                                              By MJ Rosenberg

                                                                                              New York City's former mayor, Ed Koch, has taken time off from his new career as a film critic to offer a valentine to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, for scheduling hearings on the dangers posed by Muslim Americans.

                                                                                              Koch's support for King is not surprising. Koch has always been open about his contempt for Arabs and Muslims and his belief that a war of civilisations is now in progress between Muslims and everyone else. He recently wrote:

                                                                                              For me, the question is this: will the secular Western civilisation shared by America and Europe, which allows us to enjoy life and its creature comforts, still be standing at the end of that war? Or will radical Islam, with an aggressive culture that treasures martyrdom and death over life, prevail.... [italics mine]

                                                                                              For years, Koch, King and others who share their anti-Muslim views hid behind that word: "radical". They said that they have no problem with Muslims as people or Islam as a religion. It is only "radical Islam" or "Islamists" that they can't abide.

                                                                                              Lately that caveat has been thrown to the winds. It is now clear that for Islamophobes (actually Islamohaters), "radical" Islam is just Islam. And "radical" Muslims are just Muslims.

                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                              A powerful example was recently offered by HBO commentator Bill Maher. Maher said in October that he was "alarmed" after reading that the most common name among newborns in the United Kingdom in 2009 was Muhammad.

                                                                                              Am I a racist to feel that I'm alarmed by that? Because I am. And it's not because of the race, it's 'cause of the religion. I don't have to apologise, do I, for not wanting the Western world to be taken over by Islam in 300 years?

                                                                                              He then added: "I should be alarmed and I don't apologise for it." (After all, those baby Muhammads will grow up to be adult Muhammads).

                                                                                              Marty Peretz, former editor of The New Republic, did apologise, in a half-hearted way, for writing during the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy that American Muslims should not be protected by the Constitution.

                                                                                              He had written that Muslims simply are not "worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse."

                                                                                              His subsequent apology was so weak, and his record of race-baiting was so long and vitriolic that Peretz was forced out by The New Republic and quickly hotfooted it out of the United States for Israel where he told New York magazine last month that he could not possibly be a bigot.

                                                                                              [H]e mentioned two close, personal black friends, one who is "so fucking smart," and then a third, a black student whom he had plucked from Harvard and made the circulation director of The New Republic. "I hired Muslims - I hired Fareed Zakaria," he added.

                                                                                              Well, okay then.

                                                                                              Then there is David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee. Under his leadership, the American Jewish Committee issued a study "proving" that, contrary to the commonly used estimate of six million American Muslims, the correct number is 2.8 million.

                                                                                              And why is Harris worried about Muslim population estimates?

                                                                                              "Six million has a special resonance,'' Harris wrote in a May 21 article in Jerusalem Report magazine. ''It would mean that Muslims outnumber Jews in the US and it would buttress calls for a redefinition of America's heritage as 'Judeo-Christian-Muslim,' a stated goal of some Muslim leaders."

                                                                                              That is some scary "stated goal".

                                                                                              Even more, Harris is worried that the perception that there are as many Muslims as Jews would give Muslims additional political clout, leading Congress to occasionally actually pay attention to them (but unfortunately, that is not how it works).

                                                                                              And now along comes Peter King, who, as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is scheduling hearings on the "radicalisation of the American Muslim community". No, not on terrorists or terrorist sympathisers but on Muslims in general.

                                                                                              It's not just people who are involved with the terrorists and extremists, it is people who are in mainstream Islam, leaders of mosques, leaders of Muslim organisations... So, it goes beyond the terrorists and the extremists and also includes those in what others call mainstream Muslim leadership.

                                                                                              King offers no evidence that the American Muslim community has become radicalised (perhaps because there is none).

                                                                                              No, drawing on what the New York Times correctly calls his usual "blather" and "bluster", King simply slanders an entire community. He will follow up with a bunch of kangaroo court hearings in which the usual bigots (Steve Emerson and/or Robert Spencer and/or Daniel Pipes and/or David Horowitz and/or Frank Gaffney, etc.) will show up to inform America that the Muslim family down the block might be al-Qaeda.

                                                                                              This isn't exactly McCarthyism but only in the sense that (1) there actually is a terrorist threat to the United States while the Communist threat was almost pure fabrication and (2) McCarthy never targeted a specific religious or ethnic group.

                                                                                              Of course, it makes sense for King to malign a particular segment of the population, rather than to focus on terrorism itself.

                                                                                              And that is because of Peter King's own record of sympathy for terrorism.

                                                                                              A 2005 profile of King by the conservative New York Sun told the story of King's long and deep involvement with the terrorist Irish Republican Army (IRA) and, even more damning, his support for Irish Northern Aid (NORAID), a US-based group accused of funnelling guns and money to the IRA. According to the Sun:

                                                                                              Mr. King's support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

                                                                                              King was defending the IRA while it was engaged in serious violence.

                                                                                              [T]he IRA took its campaign to Britain - where London's financial district was twice devastated by bombs - and to mainland Europe, where British NATO bases were frequently targeted. The IRA nearly killed Prime Minister Thatcher and her cabinet with a bomb in 1984, and it assassinated prominent British politicians and members of the royal family.

                                                                                              King's support for the IRA was so outspoken that "[b]y the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge's view, 'he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA.' When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches."

                                                                                              In 1984, "the Secret Service listed him as a threat when President Reagan made a trip to Nassau County to watch a Special Olympics event."

                                                                                              Fortunately, in the 1980s, there was no headline-seeking House chairman to investigate the entire Irish-American community because of the activities of Peter King and his friends. After all, who could seriously suggest demonising a community of millions of law-abiding citizens because of the actions of a few terrorist sympathisers? NORAID and other IRA-supporting groups were, quite properly, investigated. Not a whole population.

                                                                                              But now here is Peter King determined to find terrorism-supporters under every Muslim bed. Better, he should look in the mirror.

                                                                                              MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.

                                                                                              The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

                                                                                              Source: Al Jazeera

                                                                                              1310 words posted in Racism, American ZionismLeave a comment

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                                                                                                Tunisia: How the US got it wrong

                                                                                                English (US)  January 16th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                The events in Tunisia again show how US foreign policy in the Middle East fails to fully understand the region.

                                                                                                Recently in Doha, Secretary of State Clinton spoke of regimes whose "foundations are sinking into the sand" and who will disappear unless "reform" occurs. Ironically, the same regimes who have been historically backed by the US [EPA]

                                                                                                By Mark LeVine

                                                                                                One sign read "Game Over". But in fact, the game has barely started.

                                                                                                The Facebook generation has taken to the streets and the "Jasmin Revolt" has become a revolution, at least as of the time of writing. And the flight of former President Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia is inspiring people across the Arab world to take to the streets and warn their own sclerotic and autocratic leaders that they could soon face a similar fate.

                                                                                                As the French paper Le Monde described it, scenes that were "unimaginable only days ago" are now occurring with dizzying speed. Already, in Egypt, Egyptians celebrate and show solidarity over Tunisia's collapse, chanting "Kefaya" and "We are next, we are next, Ben Ali tell Mubarak he is next." Protests in Algeria and Jordan could easily expand thanks to the inspiration of the tens of thousands of Tunisians, young and old, working and middle class, who toppled one of the world's most entrenched dictators. Arab bloggers are hailing what has happened in Tunisia as "the African revolution commencing... the global anti-capitalist revolution."

                                                                                                The birth of a human nationalism?

                                                                                                Around the turn of the new millennium, as the Arab world engaged in an intense debate over the nature of the emerging globalised system, one critic in the newspaper al-Nahar declared that an "inhuman globalisation" has been imposed on the Arab world when its peoples have yet even to be allowed to develop a "human" nationalism. Such a dynamic well describes the history of Tunisia, and most other countries in the Arab/Muslim world as well.

                                                                                                And so, if the people of Tunisia are lucky, they are in the midst of midwifing the Arab world's first human nationalism, taking control of their politics, economy and identity away from foreign interests and local elites alike in a manner that has not been seen in more than half a century.

                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                But the way is still extremely treacherous. As a member of the Tajdid opposition party told the Guardian, "Totalitarianism and despotism aren't dead. The state is still polluted by that political system, the ancient regime and its symbols which have been in place for 55 years."

                                                                                                Indeed, the problem with most post-colonial nationalisms - whether that of the first generation of independence leaders or of the leaders who replaced (often by overthrowing) them - is precisely that they have always remained infected with the virus of greed, corruption and violence so entrenched by decades of European colonial rule. Tunisia's nascent revolution will only succeed if it can finally repair the damage caused by French rule and the post-independence regime that in so many ways continued to serve European and American - rather than Tunisian - interests.

                                                                                                A region's tipping point

                                                                                                The stakes could not be higher. The "Tunisian Scenario" could lead either to a greater democratic opening across the Arab world, or it could lead to the situation in Algeria in the early 1990s, where democratisation was abruptly halted and the country plunged into civil war when it seemed that an Islamist government might come to power. We can be sure that leaders across the Arab world are busy planning how to stymie any attempts by their people to emulate the actions of Tunisia's brave citizenry. But at this moment of such great historical consequence what is the US doing about the situation?

                                                                                                The timing couldn't have been more fortuitous, as Secretary of State Clinton was in the Middle East meeting with Arab political and civil society leaders at the moment events took their fateful turn. Yet when asked directly about the protests the day before Ben Ali fled her answer said volumes about the mentality of the Obama administration and the larger US and European foreign policy establishments to the unfolding situation.

                                                                                                "We can't take sides."

                                                                                                A more tone deaf response would have been hard to imagine. This was a moment when the Obama administration could have seized the reins of history and helped usher in a new era in the Arab/Muslim world world. In so doing it could have done more to defeat the forces of extremism than a million soldiers in AfPak and even more drone strikes could ever hope to accomplish. And Mrs. Clinton declared America's attention to remain on the sideline.

                                                                                                Obama's Reagan moment

                                                                                                Can we imagine that President Reagan, for whom Obama has declared his admiration, refusing to take sides as young people began dismantling the Iron Curtain? Indeed, even when freedom seemed a distant dream, Reagan went to Berlin and challenged Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!"

                                                                                                It's not as if the Obama administration doesn't understand what kind of regime it was dealing with in Tunisia. As the now infamous WikiLeaks cable from the US Ambassador in Tunis to his superiors in Washington made clear, "By many measures, Tunisia should be a close US ally. But it is not." Why? "The problem is clear: Tunisia has been ruled by the same president for 22 years."

                                                                                                Indeed, WikiLeaks did Clinton and Obama's job: It told the truth, and in doing so was a catalyst for significant change in the country - yet another example of how the release of all those classified documents has helped, rather than harmed, American interests (or at least the interests of the American people, if not its political and economic elite), even if the Obama administration refuses to admit it.

                                                                                                What is clear is that if the massacre in Tuscon last week might have provided Obama with his "Clinton moment", as he eloquently led the country on the path towards unity and healing, the Jasmin Revolution has handed him his Reagan moment. Obama needs to stop playing catch up to events, lay aside hesitation and throw his support behind radical change in the region, behind young people across the Middle East and North Africa who could topple the regimes who have done more to increase terrorism that Osama bin Laden could dream of accomplishing.

                                                                                                Decades of support despite repression

                                                                                                The US has understood and even welcomed this very dynamic in Tunisia for the last half century. A 1963 Congressional report on "US Foreign Aid to 10 Middle Eastern and African Countries" stated positively about Tunisia that "Tunisia has been known for its internal political stability and unity... This fact, unique in a ME country, can be explained by the existence of an unopposed single-party rule... Under the vigorous leadership of President Bourguiba, Tunisia offers a favourable and stable political climate, progressive in its outlook, in which to bring about economic development. US aid should be continued at the same or higher level," the report advised.

                                                                                                In recent years the US position has been little different. The Tunisian regime was supported by the United States because it was secular, cooperated on the "War on Terror" and followed, at least on the surface, liberal economic reforms. And European support for Ben Ali was even stronger, with successive French governments openly declaring their preference for stability and cooperation against illegal immigration and the threat of terror to supporting the kind of democratic transformation that would have gone much farther to securing those goals.

                                                                                                During the Bush administration, then Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick rebuffed attempts by local journalists to get him to admit to a double standard in calling for human rights without actually supporting them in countries like Tunisia and Egypt. The Bush administration supported draconian anti-terrorism laws that were clearly used to repress any opposition to the regime.

                                                                                                Today, Clinton declares that in fact the US doesn't have much power in the region. "We can't force people to do what we want," she explained in Doha at the Forum of the Future earlier this week, emphasising reforms that were focused far more on "economic empowerment, rather than political change," according to the Washington Post. Clinton never even mentioned the word democracy in her prepared remarks, or human rights for that matter.

                                                                                                And while she preached the gospel of reform and civil society, Clinton praised the record of another despotic regime, Bahrain, whose foreign minister participated in the forum with her. This even though the country's record of censorship and political repression lags little behind Tunisia's, if at all, as the annual Human Rights Reports of Clinton's State Department clearly show.

                                                                                                Taking history's reins

                                                                                                The WikiLeaks cable that by many accounts helped encourage the protests that have now toppled the Ben Ali regime had the virtue of being honest, as it explained that the incredibly deep and endemic corruption up through the very top of a regime that had completely "lost ouch with the Tunisian people" produced an untenable situation.

                                                                                                It's clear, then, that the US understood the problems plaguing Tunisia, so why didn't Clinton speak as openly as her ambassador in Tunis? Imagine what support she would have gotten from the people of Tunisia if she only stated what everyone already knew? If at the very least she had, as her ambassador urged in the then classified communique, declared America's intent to "keep a strong focus on democratic reform and respect for human rights," words that the US would not utter directly and openly until Ben Ali had fled the country.

                                                                                                The question now is, does Obama have the courage, the "audacity", to use one of his favourite words, to seize the moment?

                                                                                                Once Ben Ali had fled the country, the President did salute "brave and determined struggle for the universal rights", applauded "the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people", and called on the Tunisian government "to respect human rights, and to hold free and fair elections in the near future that reflect the true will and aspirations of the Tunisian people".

                                                                                                But unless there is a stick behind this call, there is every reason to believe, as so many Tunisians and other commentators worry, that the country's corrupt and still powerful elite will find a way to remain entrenched in power once the situation calms down. Indeed, Obama's call to "maintain calm" is counter productive. While violence is of course deplorable, the worst thing for Tunisians to do would be to remain calm, to tone down their protests and leave the streets.

                                                                                                Now is the time for Tunisians to ensure that the revolution that is just sprouting is not cut off or co-opted. The protests need to continue and even expand until the foundations of the regime are uprooted and other senior officials removed from power and sent into exile as Ben Ali has now been.

                                                                                                What is President Obama going to do if they emulate their colleagues in Iran and ruthlessly suppress further protests? If he and other world leaders don't lay out the scenario to the Tunisian people and the elites still trying to contain them now, so everyone understands what the United States will do to support the people, what incentive will those seeking to retain power have to take another route?

                                                                                                Crucial next steps

                                                                                                While the United States and the international community should not directly intervene unless the military begins killing or arresting large numbers of people, there are a number of steps Obama could take immediately to ensure that this nascent democratic moment takes root and spreads across the region.

                                                                                                First, the President should not merely urge free and fair elections. He must publicly declare that the United States will not recognise, nor continue security or economic relations, with any government that is not democratically elected through international monitored elections. At the same time, he must freeze any assets of Tunisia's now ex-leadership and hold them until they can be reclaimed by the Tunisian people.

                                                                                                Second, he should declare that the young people of Tunisia have shown the example for the rest of the Arab world, and offer his support for a "Jasmin Spring" across the Arab world. Obama should demand that every country in the region free all political prisoners, end all forms of censorship and political repression, and fully follow international law in the way they treat their citizens or the people's under their jurisdictions.

                                                                                                Furthermore, the President should call on every country in the region to move towards free, fair, and internationally monitored elections within a specified time or risk facing a similar cut-off of ties, aid and cooperation. Such demands must be made together with America's reluctant European allies.

                                                                                                Of course, such a call would apply to Israel as much as to Egypt, to Morocco as well as to Saudi Arabia. There would be one standard for every country from the Atlantic to the Indian ocean, and the US would pledge to stand with all people working to bring real democracy, freedom and development to their peoples and countries and to oppose all governments that stand in their way.

                                                                                                Imagine what would happen to America's image in the Muslim world if the President took such a stand? Imagine what would happen to al Qaeda's recruitment levels if he adopted such a policy (in fact, al Qaeda has been equally behind the 8-ball, as it was only Friday that the leaders of the movement's so-called Maghrebian wing declared their support for the protests in Tunisia and Algeria).

                                                                                                Imagine how hard it would be for so-called "supporters" of Israel to attack the President for finally putting some teeth behind his criticism of Israeli policy (which Clinton in Doha incredulously said the US could do nothing to stop) if he could reply that he was only holding Israel to the same standard as everyone else and that his policies were actually protecting America's core interests and security?

                                                                                                Sinking in the sand

                                                                                                In Doha, Clinton poetically spoke of regimes whose "foundations are sinking into the sand" and who will, it is assumed, disappear unless "reform" occurs. The reality is that US foreign policy towards the Middle East and larger Muslim world is equally in danger of sinking into the sands if the President and his senior officials are not willing to get ahead of history's suddenly accelerating curve. It is the US and Europe, as much as the leaders of the region, who in Clinton's words are in need of "a real vision for that future."

                                                                                                Clinton was eloquent in her closing remarks at the Forum for the Future, where she declared,

                                                                                                "Let us face honestly that future. Let us discuss openly what needs to be done. Let us use this time to move beyond rhetoric, to put away plans that are timid and gradual, and make a commitment to keep this region moving in the right direction. People are looking for real leadership in the 21st century, and I think it can be provided, and I know that this is the moment to do so."

                                                                                                She couldn't be more right, but it will only happen if the United States, and not the Arab world's aging and autocratic leadership, takes her sage advice.

                                                                                                Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).

                                                                                                The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

                                                                                                Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                  To Liberate Palestine, Humanity: The Winning Attitude

                                                                                                  English (US)  January 14th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                  Zionists act to control and manipulate and we must continue to calmly resist.

                                                                                                  By Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

                                                                                                  After I finished my last book on popular resistance in Palestine over the past 130 years, I became certain that political Zionism will fail and that Palestinian refugees will return to their homes and lands. My certainty is based on the lessons of history in Palestine and lessons from similar struggles like South Africa, Vietnam, and Algeria. Some of the peculiarities that will be critical for our success are:

                                                                                                  - The incredible and inspiring history of the local popular resistance: The subtitle of my book is "A history of hope and empowerment". Over 200 forms of popular resistance are practiced including a wide spectrum of what we call in Arabic Sumud. Resistance is the main thing that stood in the way of the Zionist project. Five and a half million Palestinians still live in the dreamed of "Eretz Yisrael".

                                                                                                  - The logarithmic growth of the boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement. In five years alone (2005-2010), we achieved more than what we were able to achieve in BDS movements in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s.

                                                                                                  - The unrest in Algeria and Tunisia tell us that the era of backward selfish undemocratic Arab leadership will (and must) come to an end. There are tremendous intellectual resources in the Arab world that can then be unleashed to build a vibrant society (at levels of culture, economics, scientific, etc.)

                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                  - Despite the heavily censored/controlled mainstream media, people of good conscience were and are able to get the truth out and many of the myths of Zionism were demolished. The internet only accelerated this.

                                                                                                  - The publication of the civil society call to action in 2005 and the Palestine Kairos document in 2009 has given tremendous push to activism around the world including in mainstream churches.

                                                                                                  - The growth of International solidarity was unparalleled in history. Despite the attempts by the Israeli authorities to stop this international support by many methods (including refusing entry to many activists), the movement only grows stronger. We went from few hundreds to tens of thousands and from one ship to seven; and as many as 60 ships are coming to break the siege on Gaza later this year.

                                                                                                  - We are very proud and persistent people. The thriving art and culture scene in Palestine and among Palestinian community in exile are a testament to this spirit of a people who seek life and refuse to be dehumanized. We do not and will not resort to the tactics of those who chose to be our enemies. From Dabka to good food to other cultural traditions, Palestine remained not only physically in our surroundings but deep in our hearts. We developed the most educated populace in the region.

                                                                                                  In Palestine, these and many other reasons increase our certainty in the inevitability of a successful end to our decades of repression, colonization and occupation. We faced, almost alone, the best-organized, best-financed, most western-supported colonial enterprise in history. Rational human beings see that the spread of fundamentalism is only fostered when Israel is made an exception and is funded and protected while it flouts human rights and International law.

                                                                                                  Zionists act to control and manipulate and we must continue to calmly resist and refuse to be enslaved. We tell our stories with dignity and we explain why this racist/tribalistic system is harmful to all of humanity. We do it without hatred to any person but with anger and hatred at the inhuman actions of a deluded few who think they can get away with war crimes and crimes against humanity forever. People around the world increasingly see the reality and join our struggle. I talk and show reality in Bethlehem area to groups of visitors almost every day in Palestine. I get invitations to speak abroad frequently but I chose to limit such trips abroad because there is so much to do at home.

                                                                                                  We speak to diverse groups sometimes to the consternation of puritans on all sides. I spoke for example at colleges and schools in the US where the majority of students and faculty were Jewish (e.g. Brandeis, Manhattenville), I spoke at NATO defense college, at conservative Churches, at synagogues and Jewish community centers, at editorial board meetings of influential papers largely owned by Zionists, and we even spoke at a US Naval Academy. In the West Bank I spoke to visitors ranging from Church leaders, to US congressmen, to British Parliamentarians, to the US consular officers, and even to Israeli academics. Some people especially on the left balk at these events and some even openly criticized us for these kinds of engagements.

                                                                                                  But if we are willing to speak to Israeli soldiers telling them how they are committing war crimes by obeying orders and we manage to occasionally (though rarely) touch a cord in the heart of our direct oppressors, why can't we talk to all other human beings regardless of their background? It is counterproductive to imagine the worst in humanity, misjudge the trends in history, and insist that we can only talk to those we agree with or go with the flow.

                                                                                                  This is a losing attitude that relegates many on the left to holding signs at street corners without creatively thinking how we get power. It also relegates those in power to complacency and corruption and mistrust of people. Many develop their diagnostic language (the corporate media is controlled, the Zionist lobby is too strong, the politics cannot change, power structures are what they are etc) but are not willing to seriously take action to make this world a better place.

                                                                                                  In this year, we will be seven billion human beings on this earth. The distortions in many countries (including Italy and Israel/Palestine) of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer cannot and will not continue. Fear of change is what paralyzes many people. As others have pointed out, our biggest fear is not that we will fail but that for many human beings, the biggest fear is that we can be more successful than our wildest dreams. I believe indeed it is fear of success that keeps most people complacent. After all, for many if they really go seriously after their dreams (personal or collective) and succeed then it will show that the years they spent worrying and being afraid have indeed been only because of their lack of courage to change themselves.

                                                                                                  Neurobiologists tell us that we humans only use a tiny fraction of our brain (we are told that geniuses use 1-2%). In the 1950s civil rights movement in the US, a common saying was "free your mind and your ass will follow." I think positive change always comes after people changed attitude in life to a positive direction. This is not only possible but it is imperative and inevitable. The more people realize this, the quicker we will get there. And we should all be working on the nature of the society to follow our inevitable victory: one based on human rights and the rule of law, not on military might and repression.

                                                                                                  - Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Professor at Bethlehem University and author of the book "Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment" (Pluto Press, 2010). He was arrested three times simply for advocating non-violent resistance to colonial occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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                                                                                                    Israel's Man in Palestine

                                                                                                    English (US)  January 14th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                    Salam Fayyad (L) and Mahmoud Abbas.

                                                                                                    By Stephen Lendman

                                                                                                    Salam Fayyad is the appointed Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

                                                                                                    His resume includes a University of Texas economics Ph.D., a teaching position at Jordan's Yarmouk University, and economic research at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. From 1987 - 1995, he also served as a World Bank and IMF official, and until 2001, was IMF's man in Palestine, serving as Yasser Arafat's finance minister.

                                                                                                    In Palestine's 2006 legislative elections, his Third Way party got 2.4% of the votes, a clear renunciation. Yet after Fatah's coup d'etat co-opted the PLO, PA and West Bank, President Mahmoud Abbas illegitimately appointed him prime minister.

                                                                                                    The New York Times calls him "a political independent who gained the confidence of the West and is largely respected in Israel." In fact, he's a political opportunist, Israel's man in Palestine. Also Washington's. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nathan J. Brown calls him "indispensable to US diplomacy....confusing a useful individual with sound policy." He's mainly improved security, providing enforcer services for Israel against his own people.

                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                    Moreover, there's "no separation of powers; instead there is an increasing concentration of authority in the executive branch. There is no legislative branch. Court orders have been ignored; judges have bowed out of sensitive political issues; and the independence of the judiciary is hardly guaranteed. The fact remains, of course, that....security is synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas" and other opposition groups.

                                                                                                    Senior officials, including Abbas and Fayyad, have neglected or unilaterally decreed other measures. As CEO, Fayyad has maintained earlier institutions and made a few of them more efficient. "But he has done so in an authoritarian context that robs the results of domestic legitimacy." As appointed prime minister, of course, he has no legitimacy beyond Israeli and Washington power backing him.

                                                                                                    Writer Nathan Thrall says he's "criticized at home for many of the same reasons he is lauded abroad." He condemns violence against Israel, ignores Palestinian persecution, is instrumental in furthering it, and says diaspora Palestinians can resettle in a future Palestinian state, not Israel or their settlements, exceeding 40% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

                                                                                                    Backing him is a 25,000-strong security force, trained, equipped, vetted and perhaps run by America's Lt. General Keith Dayton, US security coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the PA. Under his command, thousands of Palestinians complete 19 weeks of training at Jordan's International Police Training Center, built with US funds in 2003 to instruct Iraqi police.

                                                                                                    Throughout the West Bank, Dayton's in charge of building and renovating garrisons, training colleges, Interior Ministry facilities, and security headquarters. In recent years, Washington has spent around $400 million to institutionalize hard-line control, supplementing Israel's own efforts.

                                                                                                    Fayyad is titular CEO under Abbas. According to Michael Oren, Israel's US ambassador, "....expanding what Dayton is doing in the security realm to other sectors of Palestinian governance and society is really the only viable model for progress." "Progress," of course, is repressive military occupation, no opposition allowed.

                                                                                                    Evaluating the PA under Abbas and Fayyad

                                                                                                    In a December 20 article, titled "The Palestinian Authority and the Problem of Reform under the Occupation," Dr. Moshen Mohammed Saleh asked if it's possible. "Or is (it) simply a matter of 'dancing to the Occupation's tune?"

                                                                                                    Indeed the latter after Arafat's Oslo Accords abdication. He ignored core issues, including Palestinian sovereignty, fixed borders, settlement expansions, the right of return, ending Israel's occupation, and establishing a unified government for all Palestinians.

                                                                                                    "In short," said Saleh, "the way (the PA) was established looked more like a 'trap' than a solution or a way out; and the route it took was more akin to wandering aimlessly in a 'labyrinth' than walking naturally and logically towards independence....The current situation (resembles a prison under an) assigned warden" empowered to enforce repression for disobedience.

                                                                                                    The PA/PLO-led Fatah "found itself alone facing widespread opposition from nearly 10 Palestinian factions," notably Hamas. "As a result, the institutions of the Authority were mainly staffed by" Fatah members or supporters, including "shameless opportunists and exploiters" like Abbas and Fayyad. As CEO, Fayyad represents Israel and the West, "demand(ing) full concessions from Palestinians" with nothing committed in return.

                                                                                                    "Moreover (his) government paid heavy political prices (for) committ(ing) itself (to) cracking down upon Hamas and other Palestinian resistive factions as well as neutralizing" the legislative assembly's role. His survival, fact, depends on sustaining divisions and no unified Palestinian platform.

                                                                                                    On December 28, Saleh again evaluated Fayyad and his government in an analysis titled "Evaluating Salam Fayyad's government in Ramallah," saying:

                                                                                                    It's sustained by maintaining Palestinian divisions and keeping Israeli, Washington, and Arab leadership support. Fatah's leadership also backs him, yet he's "exploited his position so as to channel funds to his government and thereby consolidate his political base."

                                                                                                    At the same time, he and Abbas renounced armed resistance, instead adopting "reconciliation with Israel as (their) project." On June 17, 2007, his new government included himself as prime minister, 11 ministers, two independent politicians and another technocrat besides himself, a trained economist. All opposition ministers were excluded.

                                                                                                    Then on July 13, 2007, Abbas raised the ministerial total to 16, including Fayyad. On January 22, 2009, Fayyad created a new government under Abbas. By May, it had 24 ministers, mostly technocrats. Opposition factions, excluding Hamas, were represented by one minister each. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) refused to participate. The entire process lacked legitimacy. Abbas bypassed legalities "by legislating by decree," letting "Fayyad's government....operate (by) presidential mandate."

                                                                                                    In fact, "this government, which is supposed to represent the will of the people, vigorously opposed the political party (Hamas) which democratically represents the will of the majority, (and has) legally been entrusted with the mandate to represent them."

                                                                                                    For his part, Fayyad's management style has been devisive. He's excluded many Fatah members from civil service and security force positions, coerced some into retirement, and appointed others "ideologically close to him" to key posts. Moreover, he's monopolized financial resources for his own purposes, and remains subservient to Israel and Washington against the interests of his own people.

                                                                                                    Opposition Fatah members face exclusion. As a result, some, like Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Hatem Abdel Qader, resigned "with criticism of the government for its failings." In virtually all respects, Israel has control, including over economic issues, unjustly restricting Palestinian imports and exports, as well as imposing "restrictions and impediments on the free movement of people and goods."

                                                                                                    Absent Abbas/Fayyad opposition, Israel also expropriates Palestinian land, expands settlements, extends its Judaization agenda, consumes most West Bank resources, especially water, and maintains hard-line control together with Dayton-trained forces.

                                                                                                    As a result, from June through August 2007 alone, West Bank Hamas members were subjected to 1,007 attacks, both by security forces and Fatah members. They "included 639 arrests and kidnappings, thirty-six (shooting) incidents....and 175 assaults on institutions and organizations, including centers of Qur'anic learning, charitable organizations, media institutes, press offices," nursery and other schools. In addition, 156 raids targeted private properties belonging to Hamas and supporters.

                                                                                                    Thereafter, thousands more Hamas members and facilities were targeted. Hundreds of arrests were made, and numerous demonstrations and protests against occupation, Gaza's siege, and Israel's Separation Wall were attacked. Fayyad dutifully enforces Israel's no opposition policy. Israeli forces, of course, do much of it themselves.

                                                                                                    As prime minister, Fayyad's future depends on satisfying Israel and Washington and their agendas of divide and conquer, solidifying occupation, continuing settlement expansions, entirely Judaizing Jerusalem, dominating the West Bank's economy, and containing all opposition factions.

                                                                                                    A Palestinian future, however, depends on ending Israel's occupation, achieving unity, fulfilling real sovereignty under a government serving them, and an integrated Palestine or one nation serving all its citizens equitably, fairly and democratically. That vision, however, remains nowhere in sight, Fayyad and Abbas in charge to keep it that way.

                                                                                                    - Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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                                                                                                      Not if but when

                                                                                                      English (US)  January 14th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                      All signs are that Israel will attack Gaza again; only the timing is yet to be decided, writes Saleh Al-Naami

                                                                                                      The waiting room at the orthopaedics clinic at Al-Salah Medical Centre in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in central Gaza was agog with conversation at the beginning of the week as waiting patients wiled away the time debating whether Israel would launch another war against the Gaza Strip or not. Some were confident that it would certainly do so; some couldn't hide their concern; while others countered that Tel Aviv could not possibly launch a more aggressive war than the one at the end of 2008, so there is no need to worry.

                                                                                                      One of the women who lives in Abul-Ageen district, southeast of the town of Deir Al-Balah, said that she left her home -- which is located less than 500 metres from the border separating the Gaza Strip and Israel -- when the last war began. She went to live in a rented apartment in the town of Deir Al-Balah and now is worried that her family would need to do the same thing again in the next war. The difference this time, she explained, is that they cannot afford the rent and that there are barely any apartments available because of high demand. "I hold my breath all night until morning comes," said the woman, who looked in her mid-40s. "I am scared for my husband and children; our house would be one of the first to be hit if war breaks out."

                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                      A man sitting behind her didn't like the panic in her voice. He interrupted: "What more can they do than what happened in the last war? Life and death are in the hands of God."

                                                                                                      Talk of war seems a hot topic for Gazans everywhere. People debate and analyse Israel's motives to launch a war. General Tal Russo, the head of the Southern Command in the Israeli army, indicated that Israel would escalate operations against Hamas and its government in response to clashes between Palestinian resistance groups and Israeli special units on both sides of the border between Gaza and Israel. One Israeli soldier was killed and five others injured in recent skirmishes.

                                                                                                      Ron Ben-Yishai, senior political commentator for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, argues that another war by Israel against Gaza is only a matter of time. Ben-Yishai revealed that all the military leaders, cabinet ministers, Knesset members and the presidents of settlement councils in the vicinity of Gaza assert that the decision to go to war has been taken and it's only a matter of timing. He predicted that Israel would launch another war within the next few months to one year at most, when conditions are more conducive for such a war.

                                                                                                      Israel's leaders usually cite two reasons to go to war against Gaza. First, that missile attacks from Gaza into Israel continue; second, weapons and other assault equipment continue to be smuggled into Gaza. Israeli officials claim the attacks are given a green light by Hamas and its government, although the group itself does not participate in them. Decision-makers in Tel Aviv believe this is a sign that Israel's deterrence is eroding in the eyes of Hamas since the last war.

                                                                                                      But do these two reasons truly warrant a war, or does Israel have other hidden reasons? Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak described 2010 as one of the calmest, whereby missile attacks largely dropped, as did the amount of damage in Israel as a result of resistance operations.

                                                                                                      It is certain that Israel has other reasons to wage war, most prominently mixing up issues since negotiations have ground to a halt. It also wants to impose a new political agenda in the region so that the outcome of the next war would turn over a new leaf, allowing Israel to avoid international demands for it to change its negotiating posture and show more flexibility. At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is burdened by a series of failures since he came to office. His popularity and that of the ruling Likud Party is dropping because of his failure to confront the crises plaguing Israel.

                                                                                                      These include the failure to put out the Mount Carmel forest fires that greatly undermined the confidence of Jewish settlers in the incumbent government, and also the belief by the Israeli public and elite that Netanyahu is the weakest prime minister in Israeli's history: he is paralysed in handling Israel's calamities and too cowardly to question his ministers who perform poorly on the job. Accordingly, Netanyahu is likely to wage war to improve his image and that of his government.

                                                                                                      There are three fronts where Israel can launch a war: Iran, Lebanon and Gaza. Gaza is obviously the softest target for Israel to attack and score points, in comparison. At the same time, the probability that Israel will go to war against Iran has significantly diminished after assurances by outgoing Mossad Chief Meir Dagan that his secret war against Iran's nuclear programme has incapacitated Tehran from developing nuclear military capabilities before at least 2015.

                                                                                                      Also, there is a huge difference in the military capabilities of Hamas and those of Hizbullah. Under current conditions, Israel has no plausible reason to justify a war against Hizbullah since the group has maintained a quiet and calm front in South Lebanon. However, Israel can use sporadic missile attacks from Gaza as a pretext for launching a war against the Strip.

                                                                                                      But what scale of war would Israel launch anew against Gaza? This would depend on Israel's parameters in the war, which are dictated by two factors. First, that the next war should not oust Hamas from power because the current structure in Gaza greatly benefits Israel. This revelation was disclosed in WikiLeaks reports, which quoted the commander of Israeli Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin at the beginning of 2007 as saying that he would be pleased to see Hamas take power in Gaza. In this way, Israel would know whom to put pressure on and extract a price from by imposing a siege and launching military operations, without much resistance from the international community because Hamas is on the terrorist lists in Europe and the US. That would not have been the case if the government in Gaza belonged to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel is also uninterested in managing the daily lives of more than 1.5 million Palestinians, knows that the world community would become less amiable with it as a result, and is certain that a strike against Palestinians -- regardless of its magnitude -- will end the resistance.

                                                                                                      The second factor dictating the parameters of war is Israel wanting to avoid another episode that would further undermine its standing in the world. Hence, it is very likely that the next war would take the form of an aggressive military campaign comprised of assassinating large numbers of Hamas leaders -- and probably the leaders of other Palestinian groups. It would also target what Israel considers the infrastructure of resistance, such as training and manufacturing sites. Israel is also likely to penetrate deep into specific areas to draw the fire of the Palestinians, and kill a large number of Palestinian resistance fighters.

                                                                                                      If all signs indicate that this is what Israel will do, Hamas then must not allow Israel to control the situation. The group should transform the next war, despite its intensity and aggression, into an opportunity for the Palestinian people, instead of remaining in power and licking its wounds. If Israel wants Hamas to rule over a destroyed and debilitated Gaza in name, without any cadres to carry out vital functions, Hamas should pre-empt this. According to some, the group should end the war by stepping down from power after Israel reoccupies parts of Gaza, which would give Hamas a pretext to do so.

                                                                                                      Abdicating power in Gaza would achieve three significant goals for the Palestinian people and Hamas. First, an end to the financial responsibility that comes with government, since the group would no longer be responsible for tens of thousands of civil servants. Second, the group would relinquish the burden of providing minimum living standards for Gazans -- of whom 80 per cent live below the poverty line. Finally, the move would no doubt effect a significant change in the Palestinian national cause by focussing world attention on Israel's crimes, instead of on internal divisions.

                                                                                                      Al Ahram

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                                                                                                        Amayreh: Israeli bulldozers do the talking

                                                                                                        English (US)  January 14th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                        Despite prior condemnations, Israel is pressing ahead with demolitions as it continues to colonise East Jerusalem and the West Bank, writes Khaled Amayreh


                                                                                                        Israeli bulldozers demolished the Shepherd Hotel in an Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood Sunday to make way for a new Israeli enclave

                                                                                                        Israel this week demonstrated once again its determination to scuttle any genuine peacemaking effort that might lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.

                                                                                                        Israeli bulldozers and huge hydraulic jackhammers descended on the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to demolish the Shepherd Hotel, a huge complex dating back to the 1930s. Part of the structure served as home to the former grand mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini. The doomed structure thus had a lot of historical significance related to the history of the Palestinian struggle.

                                                                                                        The demolition was the latest step by Israel to consolidate Jewish hegemony over the occupied Arab town and obliterate its erstwhile Arab- Islamic identity. The forced Judaisation of the city -- holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews -- is done feverishly through shadowy deals and dubious expropriation practices in which deception, cheating and trickery loom large.

                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                        Moreover, Zionist circles in cooperation with the Israeli government and Jewish settler interests have allocated hundreds of million of dollars for the purpose of channelling Arab-owned property to Jewish interests all over East Jerusalem. The demolition of the Shepherd Hotel took place despite international -- including American -- objections.

                                                                                                        However, given the generally ineffectual nature of these objections, the Israeli government has grown accustomed to taking them lightly, calculating that they are only meant for public relations consumption and that in no way do they constitute a credible challenge to Israel's settlement policy.

                                                                                                        According to reliable Israeli sources in Jerusalem, the Israeli municipal authorities are awaiting an opportune time to carry out further large-scale demolitions of Arab homes in the Silwan neighbourhood. "If the government finds out that international reactions, especially US reactions, are weak as usual, then it will mean a kind of go-ahead signal for the demolitions," said the source that was not authorised to speak to the media.

                                                                                                        "They [the pro-settler Municipal Council of the city] want to desensitise international public opinion to accept [their] reality and come to terms with the fact that Israel will have its way in Jerusalem."

                                                                                                        Reactions to the latest provocation in East Jerusalem have been "normal", whether from the Palestinian Authority (PA) -- which as usual appealed to "the international community" to pressure Israel -- or from EU, UN and Arab states, which more or less repeated the same old platitudes pertaining to Israel's settlement policy being unlawful and counterproductive to peace.

                                                                                                        Saeb Ereikat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, urged the West to act on its condemnation of Israeli provocations. "The UN and governments around the world, including the US and the UK, have already condemned plans to demolish this particular hotel. We call on the world to take a strong stand in defence of their positions. This intransigent and illegal behaviour on behalf of Israel must not be allowed to proceed unchecked."

                                                                                                        Speaking in desperate tone, Ereikat said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was undercutting and corroding international efforts to create a Palestinian state. "While Netanyahu continues his public relations campaign regarding the peace process, on the ground he is rapidly moving to prevent the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.

                                                                                                        "Israel continues to change the landscape of Jerusalem aiming to change its status and turn it into an exclusive Jewish city. This process of cleansing and colonisation must be stopped to change the dark reality of Israeli occupation into a free and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital."

                                                                                                        Meanwhile, the Israeli government has been trying to give the impression that diplomatic movement was underway, probably to create a public relations counterbalance to settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

                                                                                                        Netanyahu met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo this week. He also asked for a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, ostensibly for the same reason. Mubarak did urge Netanyahu to reverse present Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the peace process. Netanyahu heard Mubarak's appeal but didn't listen to it. For as soon as he returned to Israel, the demolitions in East Jerusalem took place.

                                                                                                        Meanwhile, Israel is about to dispatch an envoy to Washington to assure the Obama administration that the Netanyahu government is still committed to the peace process. This comes in the aftermath of the clarion failure of the Obama administration to convince Israel to freeze settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories, even in exchange for huge diplomatic inducements and military incentives.

                                                                                                        Some analysts believe that the obsequious American behaviour towards the Netanyahu government, especially the excessive patience displayed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has further emboldened Israel and encouraged the Israeli leadership to ignore US pressure. "I am sure that Mrs Clinton dreads Israeli wrath and displeasure more than the Israelis dread American wrath and displeasure," said one veteran European journalist based in East Jerusalem.

                                                                                                        The US reaction to the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel as well as the latest coldblooded killing of innocent Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including farmers tilling their land and old men sleeping in their beds, has been characteristically hollow and wrapped in diplomatic jargon.

                                                                                                        Meanwhile, Clinton put the peace process on the backburner as she toured Gulf Arab emirates and sheikhdoms, inciting them against Iran's nuclear programme. Predictably, Clinton implied that Israel posed no threat to the Arabs and that the real common enemy of both Israel and the Arabs is Iran. Clinton went as far as discrediting statements by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan in which he said that Iran wouldn't have nuclear weapons capability before 2015.

                                                                                                        A few weeks ago, Clinton dismissed the charge that "unilateral Israel actions" were derailing the peace process. "Bilateral negotiations," she said, "are the only way to reach peace between Israel and the Palestinians." One PA cabinet minister commented on Clinton's remarks, saying: "This is very much like telling a rapist and his victim to sort it out among themselves."

                                                                                                        Al Ahram

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                                                                                                          Gazan youth issue manifesto to vent their anger with all sides in the conflict

                                                                                                          English (US)  January 13th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                          An anonymous group of students has created a document to express their frustration born of Hamas's violent crackdowns on 'western decadence', the destruction wreaked by Israel's attacks and the political games played by Fatah and the UN


                                                                                                          Hamas security forces ride a vehicle in Gaza Members of Hamas's security forces on escort duty. A group of young Gazans say they are fed up with Hamas and 'sick of bearded guys with guns'. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

                                                                                                          The meeting takes place in a bare room in a block of flats in the centre of Gaza City. No photographs, no real names – those are the conditions.

                                                                                                          This is the first time that a group of young Palestinian cyber-activists has agreed to meet a journalist since launching what it calls Gaza Youth's Manifesto for Change. It is an incendiary document – written with courage and furious energy – that has captivated thousands of people who have come across it online, and the young university students are visibly excited, but also scared. "Not only are our lives in danger; we are also putting our families at risk," says one of them, who calls himself Abu George.

                                                                                                          Gaza Youth's Manifesto for Change is an extraordinary, impassioned cyber-scream in which young men and women from Gaza – where more than half the 1.5 million population is under 18 – make it clear that they've had enough. "Fuck Hamas..." begins the text. "Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!"

                                                                                                          It goes on to detail the daily humiliations and frustrations that constitute everyday life in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian slice of land that Israel and Egypt have virtually sealed off from the world since Hamas was elected to power in 2006.

                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                          "Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed," reads the extraordinary document. "We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even can't think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!"

                                                                                                          The text ends with a triple demand: "We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?"

                                                                                                          On Facebook, the group calls itself Gaza Youth Breaks Out. When the cyber-activists wrote the manifesto three weeks ago, they gave themselves a year to gather enough support before thinking about further steps. But their text has travelled around the world at an unexpected speed and has harvested thousands of supporters, many of them human rights activists, who say they are ready to help.

                                                                                                          Now, the authors are dealing with the impact of a document that could be a turning point in the life of the Strip. "We did not expect this to be so big," one of them admits. Eight people – three women and five men – wrote the text. They are normal students, from the more secular elements of Gazan society. All declare themselves to be non-political and disgusted with the tensions and rivalries that divide Palestinians between Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, and Fatah, the more secular party which governs the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank. "Politics is bollocks, it is screwing our lives up," said one member of the group. "Politicians only care about money and about their supporters. The Israelis are the only ones benefiting from the division."

                                                                                                          Two of the group have been detained by the Gazan authorities several times, accused among other crimes of "immoral" behaviour. They say that they have been abused in jail and claim that physical and psychological punishment is commonplace in Gaza's detention centres.

                                                                                                          Another one obtained a scholarship to attend a workshop at an American university, but he says Israel did not issue a permit that would allow him to leave the Strip.

                                                                                                          "We are supposed to be the engine of change in this society, but our voices are muted. In the press, at university, there is no room in our society to talk freely, out of the frame, without putting yourself and your family at risk," says one, who wants to be called Abu Yazan. He adds: "In Gaza, you feel watched at school, in the streets, everywhere. You can be thrown into jail at any time. [Hamas] will threaten you with ruining your family reputation and that would be it."

                                                                                                          These youngsters do not represent anybody except themselves, but their call for change has resonated strongly, not only abroad but also inside Gaza. Their Facebook page already has thousands of friends – including, they say, many from the Strip.

                                                                                                          The causes of frustration are legion. The Israeli blockade forbids Gazans to travel in and out of the Strip without a permit, which is difficult to obtain. For Gazan students who wish to study abroad, the most difficult part is not being accepted at a foreign university or getting a scholarship, but simply being able to travel.

                                                                                                          Inside the Strip, things do not get much better. Israeli shelling which follows the launching of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants is part of their everyday life. Power cuts and ruinous sanitary conditions are among the side-effects of the embargo suffered by Gaza's inhabitants.

                                                                                                          With high unemployment in the Strip and little access to other job markets after graduation, many feel that they have reached a dead end. Some keep studying and accumulating degrees and foreign languages, which they learn via the internet, hoping for better days to come. Others kill their time smoking hookahs with their friends day after day. There is an increasing number who rely on drugs to cope with their conflict traumas and frustrations.

                                                                                                          Going out, meeting friends in cafés – let alone clubs or discotheques – or attending cultural events has become an increasingly complicated task as Hamas cracks down on western "decadence".

                                                                                                          In Gaza there are no theatres and few concerts aside from the Islamic musical performances organised by the Hamas authorities. In the places where young men and women are allowed to meet, considered an "oasis" by the less conservative youth, the police are quick to interrogate mixed couples suspected of not being married or engaged.

                                                                                                          The "last straw" for the writers of the Gaza manifesto came a month ago, when Hamas closed Sharek, an internationally financed organisation offering training and summer activities for thousands of adolescents and young people. Sharek had also became a hang-out place for the more liberal-minded in Gaza. Human Rights Watch recently issued a statement condemning its closure. "Hamas authorities in Gaza should allow an organisation that helps children and youth to reopen, and penalise officials who have harassed its workers," it said.

                                                                                                          According to Ihab Al Ghusain, a spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, the problems highlighted by Gaza's disaffected youth are sometimes the result of over-zealous officials. "There are no laws prohibiting men and women sitting together in public places in Gaza," he said. "But some policemen at their own initiative interrogate the couples. Those policemen should be punished."

                                                                                                          He says that proof of the government's commitment to Gaza's young generation is that it has declared 2011 the Year for the Youth. But the authors of the youth manifesto are unlikely to be persuaded by such symbolic initiatives. The group is currently investing most of its time and energy in debating new strategies to pursue a web-based platform for change. The new year may yet become one for the youth of the Strip, but perhaps not in the way Hamas intended.

                                                                                                          • The caption on the photograph in this article was amended on 5 January 2011 to make it clear that it shows members of Hamas's security forces.

                                                                                                          The Manifesto

                                                                                                          "Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!

                                                                                                          "We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in...

                                                                                                          "We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal-dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, home-made fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

                                                                                                          "There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalising this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.

                                                                                                          "We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the Earth. During the last years, Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want.

                                                                                                          "ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want! We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?"

                                                                                                          http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/02/free-gaza-youth-manifesto-palestinian?INTCMP=SRCH

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                                                                                                            11 Lebanese Ministers Resign; Topple Hariri’s Government

                                                                                                            English (US)  January 12th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                            Al ManarTV

                                                                                                            In an unprecedented move in Lebanon’s history, 11 ministers of the 30-member Cabinet resigned Wednesday, thus toppling PM Saad Hariri’s government.

                                                                                                            The 10 opposition ministers as well as State Minister Adnan Sayyed Hussein declared withdrawal from the government and held Hariri and his bloc responsibility for the failure of the Saudi-Syria effort to defuse the crisis in Lebanon over the international tribunal into the Rafiq Hariri assassination.

                                                                                                            [More:]


                                                                                                            Energy Minister Jibran Bassil read the opposition ministers’ statement during a press conference held at the head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aoun’s residence in Rabiyeh.
                                                                                                            Along with Bassil, opposition ministers include: Mohamad Fneish and Hussein Hajj Hasan (Hezbollah), Mohamad Jawad Khalife, Ali Shami and Ali Abduallah (Amal Movement), Charbel Nahhas and Fadi Abboud (Free Patriotic Movement), Abraham Dadayan (Tashnaq) and Youssef Saade (Marada).

                                                                                                            In their statement, the opposition ministers thanked Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Syrian President Bashar Assad for their efforts to resolve the Lebanese crisis caused by the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. They regretted, however, how some parties have missed the opportunities to prevent attempts to destabilize Lebanon and to protect the country against sedition schemes.

                                                                                                            The opposition ministers also said in their statement that their decision came as a result of the foiled Saudi-Syrian effort caused by the other bloc’s surrender to foreign pressure, mainly American, and by ignoring the wishes and advice of both the Syrians and Saudis. “Despite the openness we have always expressed to solutions, the other bloc insisted on its strategy of obstructing, thus depriving the government from assuming its duties according to constitutional norms, also obstructing the work of the ministries,” the statement read.

                                                                                                            “Following our last bid to resolve matters through our call for an immediate cabinet session and after our call was turned down by the other bloc, and in order to pave the way for the formation of a new government that would be able to assume its duties in the upcoming stage, we announce our resignation from the government,” the statement concluded, urging President Michel Sleiman to speed up the constitutional procedures that should be taken to form a new cabinet.

                                                                                                            SAYYED HUSSEIN RESIGNS
                                                                                                            For his part, State Minister Adnan Sayyed Hussein, who is politically aligned with President Sleiman, issued a statement in which he announced his resignation from the government.

                                                                                                            “In light of political differences that have threatened the national unity government; and after the cabinet failed, especially in the few last months, in respecting the slogan of people’s priorities in the face of the economic and social pressures; and due to my status as consensual minister in the government; and in harmony with the consensus policy sponsored by President Michel Sleiman, I announce my resignation from the government,” Sayyed Hussein said in his statement.

                                                                                                            He concluded by expressing hope a new government be formed to safeguard national unity and comprehensive stability.

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                                                                                                              Looting the Holy Land

                                                                                                              English (US)  January 10th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

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                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, the Right will crucify him. Im Tirzu will roll out ads and billboards showing him with a tail to go along with his horns.

                                                                                                                English (US)  January 10th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                Haaretz

                                                                                                                By Bradley Burston

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, he will be without papers.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, he will be taken into a small room, off-white and chilled, with one gray metal chair at either side of a gray metal desk.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, he will be questioned by a junior officer of the Shin Bet security and by an Interior Ministry official who got his job through his cousin, a kashrut supervisor at a cookie factory who got his job through his sister's father-in-law, the third assistant to the deputy chairman of the Ramle branch of the Shas party.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, no one will know. His donkey, which is white and is named Havatzelet, will be impounded in a leaky underground police lot near the Lod railroad station. There will be no paperwork. By nightfall it will have disappeared, spirited into a closed truck by the lot's watchman, who after his shift will drive the donkey to a moshav. Money will change hands, and the donkey as well, four times, until it is sold by settlers to Palestinians some of whose ancestral land now lies inside the settlement fence.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, the first sign will be a gag order. A coded report on a high-profile news website will be made to disappear. It will reappear on a blog from Seattle, and then in The Guardian.

                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                The government will put off responding, eventually issuing a statement ascribed to sources in Jerusalem and reading "We have no knowledge of this." The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit, quoting an unnamed senior military official, states that there is no evidence that a Messiah of any kind has come. It will later soften the denial, saying it is checking the report and directing reporters to the Defense Ministry, which turfs them to the Prime Minister's Office, which cannot be reached for comment.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, rabbis will treat him like Jesus. They will brand him disloyal, diseased, Reform. In wall posters, Sabbath sermons, ritual decrees and signed petitions, careful not to use his title, chief rabbis of cities and towns will warn of an existential threat to the essential Jewish character of the state. Under no circumstances are Jews to sell or rent homes or land to someone like this. The rabbis' wives will vilify him as a carnal threat to Jewish girls.

                                                                                                                The rabbis' declarations will divide the Jewish people and bring wrath and dishonor upon Israel. The rabbis will continue to draw large civil-service salaries, as well as generous tips in cash, goods and services, under the table and off the books.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, the right will crucify him. Im Tirtzu will roll out ads and billboards showing him with a tail to complement his horns. A blogger from Commentary will call him a whiny, petulant boob. In Maariv and the Jerusalem Post, seven columnists will all have at him in the same three-day period. NGO Monitor will ask for donations to expose his sources of funding.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, the occupation will end. But before it does, a global social network led by Fox News, 4,300 rightist bloggers, the Zionist Organization of America and Daniel Pipes will launch a campaign aimed at exposing the Messiah as a Muslim. When the Messiah is crucified, the army will deny that he was even in the vicinity at the time of the incident.

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, an Israel political party whose voters are routinely denigrated by native-born Israelis as whores and non-Jews will propose legislation declaring him a delegitimizer of Israel and the army (over the crucifixion ), a blasphemer of Zionism (for suggesting that the Palestinians were not the sole obstacles to peace ), and rendering him ineligible for citizenship unless he signs a loyalty oath stating that even if Israel did practice crucifixion, it did so in a democratic and Jewish manner.

                                                                                                                Aides to MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union), together with Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans, will create a Facebook group called "Mavet Le'mashiach" (Death to the Messiah ).

                                                                                                                When the Messiah comes, he will be granted refugee status by the United Nations as a legitimate asylum seeker, but will be held at a detention camp in Israel's Area 51, near the perimeter of the Dimona nuclear reactor facility, where a judge will trick him into signing an illegible document that will cause him to be deported to Chad. By the time the Messiah leaves the Jewish state, he'll be thrilled to go.

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                                                                                                                  The World from Berlin: 'Political Radicalization in US Unworthy of a Democratic State'

                                                                                                                  English (US)  January 10th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                  "Regardless of the motives of the assassin, the debate is urgently needed. The political radicalization in the US has reached a point that is unworthy of a democratic state. More than any others, the members of the Tea Party movement made rhetoric of war into normal discourse ..." -- Financial Times Deutschland


                                                                                                                  Families and supporters gather at the entrance of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' office in Tucson to pay their respects and pray for her recovery.

                                                                                                                  Spiegel

                                                                                                                  The shootings over the weekend of a US congresswoman and 19 others in Arizona prompts German commentators to urge the Americans to tone down the rhetoric and take a step back. Some say Europeans, too, could learn a lesson from the violence in Tucson.

                                                                                                                  As the United States seeks to grapple with what role extreme political discourse may have played in Saturday's shootings in Tucson, German commentators called on the country to take a good, hard look at what words are thrown out in the national dialogue, and what their consequences may be.

                                                                                                                  The shooting of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others at a meet-and-greet event outside a grocery store in the southern Arizona city of Tucson stunned the US and made headlines across Germany over the weekend. In all, six people were killed, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge, and 14 were wounded. Giffords, who was shot at close range, remains in critical condition in a Tucson hospital following brain surgery. Doctors have removed a portion of her skull to allow for swelling of her brain.

                                                                                                                  German readers have learned details about the record of the Democratic congresswoman, seen pull-out maps of the state she represents, and viewed images of a shocked US president. Most of the editorials in German papers Monday focused on the racheting up of political tensions in the United States, and lay responsibility at the feet of the Tea Party movement and figures at its helm, such as former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                  Charged with Attempted Assassination

                                                                                                                  On Sunday, US federal prosecutors charged the suspected shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, with attempting to assassinate a member of Congress, killing two federal employees, and attempting to kill two federal employees. Loughner will appear in a Phoenix, Arizona courtroom on Monday afternoon, and, according to CNN, will be defended by Judy Clarke, who previously defended the Unabomber, Theodore J. Kaczynski.

                                                                                                                  (Editor's note: One-time math professor Kacyznski pleaded guilty in 1998 to government charges related to his mail-bombing campaign that lasted almost 20 years, killed three people and injured 23 others. He is now serving a life sentence without parole in federal prison in Colorado.)

                                                                                                                  According to court documents, the Glock semi-automatic pistol used on Saturday was purchased legally by Loughner in November at a Tucson store. Those documents also show that evidence seized from Loughner's Tucson home included an envelope with the hand-written words "I planned ahead," "My assassination" and the name "Giffords."

                                                                                                                  In Arizona it is legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and visitors to certain public locations can be greeted with signs asking them to leave their firearms at the door.

                                                                                                                  The state long has had a liberatarian streak, and has been fertile ground for the recently successful Tea Party movement. Arizona has also been at the forefront of a highly polarized immigration debate. Last April, the state approved one of the toughest immigration laws in the country, requiring immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and targeting employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Giffords, whose congressional district runs from Tucson to the Mexican border, was openly critical of the state's immigration law.

                                                                                                                  Former Republican candidate John McCain, a longtime advocate for immigration reform, had to move further to the right in a Republican primary last year to beat a popular opponent supported by the Tea Party movement. McCain relied on the support of his former running mate and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin in order to win re-election to his U.S. Senate seat last fall.

                                                                                                                  For several German opinion makers, the most important lesson to come from the shootings was that words do matter.

                                                                                                                  The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

                                                                                                                  "No one who is politically active can claim that words are not blameworthy. After the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, US politics have become a matter of how much guilt can be assigned to words: At issue is whether or not the radicalization of the political debate played a role in the actions of what was likely a mentally disturbed lone actor."

                                                                                                                  "Regardless of the motives of the assassin, the debate is urgently needed. The political radicalization in the US has reached a point that is unworthy of a democratic state. More than any others, the members of the Tea Party movement made rhetoric of war into normal discourse ..."

                                                                                                                  "It speaks volumes that Tea Party members and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin removed crude imagery from their websites in a hurry on Saturday ..."

                                                                                                                  "And instead of shaking their heads about the US, Europeans should think about their own verbal arsenals. Right-wing populists, for example, are involved in turning Islam into the face of the enemy. Their words are also not without blame."

                                                                                                                  The conservative daily Die Welt writes:

                                                                                                                  "Giffords' name will be written in blood in the history of the United States. It was the first such incident since the attack on President Reagan almost 30 years ago. This murderous attack came from an atmosphere of discord and self-doubt, because America is experiencing the limits of its power on a daily basis, whether it be on distant fronts or with dissatisfaction at home. It has never been like this. There always was the motto: "Yes, we can." Today, widespread pessimism prevails, because of the financial crisis, and because of Iraq and Afghanistan, all lost battles ..."

                                                                                                                  "Sarah Palin put on her website Giffords' district with a target on it. What was meant metaphorically has become a bloody reality ... After the attack on Gabrielle Giffords, Americans are looking in a mirror that is blurred by hate and fear. That is not America. They need to ask themselves, and they are not alone, how to go about self-reconciliation."

                                                                                                                  The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

                                                                                                                  "America is appalled, and for the first time has stepped back. The attack in Tucson aimed a spotlight on how pure hatred has set the tone in the US. This happened, incidentally, before the rise of the Tea Party movement. The moment the first elected black president moved into the White House, the right began comparing him to Hitler, and calling him a socialist and the anti-Christ ..."

                                                                                                                  "The murders diminish Sarah Palin's chances of prevailing as a presidential candidate. Instead, moderate Republicans will profit politically. And they are exactly the people Obama needs to protect a country deeply mired in a financial and ideological crisis and steadfastly refusing reforms from extreme anti-democratic forces."

                                                                                                                  The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

                                                                                                                  "First and foremost, the spokespeople of the right, such as Sarah Palin, have poisoned the atmosphere with aggressive verbiage. They routinely portray their political opponents as domestic enemies. They compare the resistance against the policies of a democratically elected president to the colonists' fight for independence from the British. They predict the demise of the nation, if the Democrats are not defeated."

                                                                                                                  "But above all, they use frivolous images of armed violence: After political setbacks they speak first of their need to 'reload.' They have even marked districts of their political opponents with crosshair targets on maps on their websites."

                                                                                                                  "America has been repeatedly afflicted with political violence: the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s, and the gruesome attacks on Oklahoma City and in Atlanta during the Olympic games in the 1990s. After the tragedy in Tucson, the writing is on the wall again. One should hope that the leaders of the political right in the US recognize the deadly power words can really have. The time has come for them to stop. Otherwise, America might sink into a spiral of violence."

                                                                                                                  The left-leaning daily Berliner Zeitung writes:

                                                                                                                  "Giffords' district was literally targeted by her political opponents. Of course, Sarah Palin didn't grab her shotgun herself and fire on political opponents. Of course, the former governor of Alaska doesn't want to provoke violence. But she does that when she twitters brash slogans like 'reload!'"

                                                                                                                  "In a country where there are almost as many hand guns as people, there are also many crazy people. It may be that the shooter in Tucson was simply a disturbed and bloodthirsty young man. Maybe he never saw Glenn Beck spin yarns on TV about how he would like to shoot director Michael Moore and poison Democrat (and former speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi. Perhaps on that black Saturday he would have shot any other politician."

                                                                                                                  "One hopes that the public discourse following the tragedy in Arizona would reflect on civic behavior. And those who want to save their homeland had better not take up arms."

                                                                                                                  -- Mary Beth Warner

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                                                                                                                    BOYCOTT NEWS: Israel academics to boycott college

                                                                                                                    English (US)  January 9th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                    At least 165 professors sign peition vowing to avoid activities at campus built on illegal settlement in the West Bank.


                                                                                                                    Construction resumed in the settlement or Ariel after the moratorium on building ended in September [GALLO/GETTY]

                                                                                                                    At least 165 Israeli professors have declared a boycott against a contentious college in the occupied West Bank, deepening an internal rift over the expansion of Israeli settlements there.

                                                                                                                    Organisers of the boycott said on Sunday that the academics signed a petition stating they are unwilling to undertake any activities at Ariel University Centre, because, they said, Ariel is an "illegal settlement" intended to prevent Palestinians from establishing an independent state.

                                                                                                                    "Ariel is not part of the sovereign territory of Israel, and we therefore cannot be required to go there," the petition reads.

                                                                                                                    Ariel, a settlement of 19,000 people, lies deep inside the West Bank, and the Ariel University Centre of Samaria, with its approximately 8,500 students, is situated inside one of the larger settlements of the occupied West Bank.

                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                    Palestinians - who claim all of the West Bank, seized in 1967, as part of a future independent state -refuse to negotiate while Israel builds homes for Israelis on captured territories.

                                                                                                                    Some 300,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, in addition to 200,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem.

                                                                                                                    Petition signers criticised

                                                                                                                    Nir Gov, a professor at Weizmann Institute of Science, who organised the boycott, said the goal is not to punish the college's student body - which includes many Arabs - but to hasten the end of the occupation.

                                                                                                                    "I have two young daughters and I want them to grow up in a democratic, free Israel," Gov said.

                                                                                                                    "The occupation of millions of Palestinians without any human rights is really destroying it."

                                                                                                                    Gov added that others have declined to add their names to the petition for fear of retribution by Israel's right wing.

                                                                                                                    The petition was opposed by an umbrella group of Israeli university presidents and the hawkish political party Yisrael Beitenu.

                                                                                                                    Gideon Saar, Israel's education minister, condemned the boycott in a statement, calling the petition a "provocation", and Ron Nachman, Ariel's mayor, told Israeli radio that the more academics boycott, the more he will build up the settlement.

                                                                                                                    Boycotting the boycotters

                                                                                                                    Israeli academics themselves have been subject to boycott calls from colleagues in Britain and Spain.

                                                                                                                    Israeli officials have angrily said such efforts are counterproductive and go against the ideals of academic freedom.

                                                                                                                    In 2010, more than 150 Israeli artists boycotted a new performing arts centre in Ariel, with 60 Jewish artists from the UK and UK signing on the Jewish Voices for Peace petition stating the same.

                                                                                                                    Also, hundreds of professors signed a petition opposing the college's upgrade to university status.

                                                                                                                    The continued growth of Jewish settlements is at the heart of the current impasse in Mideast peace efforts.

                                                                                                                    The latest round of peace talks broke down in late September after an Israeli freeze on most settlement construction expired.

                                                                                                                    Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                      Masters of obliteration: Zionist Israel demolishes historic hotel

                                                                                                                      English (US)  January 9th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                      Hotel Shepherd bulldozed to make way for new settlement despite global opposition to the move seen as obstacle to peace.


                                                                                                                      The new settlement will separate two Arab neighbourhoods, Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi al Joz [EPA]

                                                                                                                      Bulldozers have demolished a hotel in east Jerusalem to make way for a new Israeli settlement, the latest in a wave of new buildings globally seen as an obstacle to the now stalled peace process.

                                                                                                                      The Shepherd Hotel was razed by three Israeli bulldozers, early on Sunday, as part of a plan to build a new settlement of 20 units in the heart of the occupied city.

                                                                                                                      The hotel is located on the demarcation line between two Arab neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi al-Joz. The site will not only divide the two neighbourhoods but it will also change the aspects of occupied Jerusalem.

                                                                                                                      According to official documents, the hotel was owned by al-Quds Mufti, Haj Amin al-Hussaini, who was deported by the British rule in 1937. He later died in Lebanon in 1974.

                                                                                                                      The Israeli government has granted permission to begin work on the settlement, despite Washington's opposition to it.

                                                                                                                      Reporting from west Jerusalem, Al Jazeera's correspondent Hoda Abdel-Hamid said that, “This has been a very big problem here."

                                                                                                                      "Palestinians (are) pointing at this specific demolition as a perfect example of the unilateral steps taken by Israel to change the landscape and the ethnic balance of occupied east Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider the capital of their future state.”

                                                                                                                      The Shepherd Hotel project is funded by Irving Moskowitz, a Jewish-American millionaire and a longtime patron of Jewish settlers.

                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                      'No negotiations'

                                                                                                                      It has drawn condemnation by Palestinians. They say that the historical hotel is owned by them and it was taken over by Israel occupation forces after 1967 and sold to Jewish-American millionaire.

                                                                                                                      Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator has said that Palestinians would not negotiate with Israel as long as such moves continued.

                                                                                                                      "As long as this government continues with settlement and acts like [it did with] the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel there will not be negotiations"

                                                                                                                      There has been no progress in peace talks as Palestinians refuse to negotiate without an Israeli settlement freeze that includes east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their future capital.

                                                                                                                      “The justification given by the Israeli authorities, is that a Jewish person is allowed to live wherever he or she wants to in Jerusalem and no one should be able to stop that,” our correspondent said.

                                                                                                                      “President Obama has tried very hard to stop that specific plan to demolish the Shepherd hotel,” she added.

                                                                                                                      Israel's plans to demolish the hotel created a diplomatic dispute with the US in 2009.

                                                                                                                      The step is likely to spark protests by Palestinians as well as cause a negative affect on the peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

                                                                                                                      But there have been no reports of violence after the demolition in Sheikh Jarrah.

                                                                                                                      In this neighbourhood, evacuation of Palestinian families from homes that Israeli courts have ruled were owned in the past by Jews or purchased from Arabs, has led to anti-settler protests.

                                                                                                                      The hotel was declared "absentee property" by Israel after it captured and annexed East Jerusalem.

                                                                                                                      Some 190,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem and adjacent areas of the West Bank that Israel annexed to its Jerusalem municipality after the 1967 conflict.

                                                                                                                      East Jerusalem has 250,000 Palestinian residents.

                                                                                                                      Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                                        Fatah hounds Dahlan

                                                                                                                        English (US)  January 8th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                        Once the darling of Ramallah, Mohamed Dahlan is in the crosshairs of Fatah's old guard leaders, writes Khaled Amayreh in the West Bank


                                                                                                                        A Palestinian woman stands next to her demolished house in Jerusalem's Givat Hamivtar neighbourhood

                                                                                                                        A Fatah security panel has been questioning former Fatah strongman Mohamed Dahlan in connection with allegations that he had been plotting to overthrow Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. Dahlan denied any wrongdoing, blaming the "rumours" on "political enemies and envious detractors".

                                                                                                                        Fatah didn't issue a formal statement on the outcome of the two-hour questioning session, but unofficial sources in Ramallah spoke of a "growing estrangement" between Dahlan and "the presidency institution and those who call the shots [within Fatah]."


                                                                                                                        Strongman Mohamed Dahlan

                                                                                                                        According to some Fatah sources, Dahlan, a member in Fatah's Executive Committee, has already been stripped of many of his privileges and denied access to classified information. It has also been rumoured that he has been asked to leave the West Bank and make no contacts with PA security agencies.

                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                        Moreover, some of Dahlan's close aides and confidants in the West Bank have been arrested lately, with money and caches of mostly light weapons rumoured seized.

                                                                                                                        The interrogation session with Dahlan left many questions unanswered. It may have even increased the sense of "bad chemistry" between the "Dahlan camp" and the Fatah leadership. Dahlan himself has voiced deep grievances, telling reporters in Ramallah a few hours after the questioning session that, "I feel hounded and persecuted." "I will be patient with Fatah as I have been patient with Hamas. The problem is that many people would prefer to believe rumours, not the truth."

                                                                                                                        Fatah-PA interrogators reportedly confronted Dahlan with a secretly recorded conversation in the northern West Bank in which he told supporters, "I made Abbas. I enabled him to reach the status and stature he has now. I enabled him to travel all over the world to promote and expedite his sons' business."

                                                                                                                        Dahlan argued his remarks were merely a slip of the tongue and that he didn't harbour any vindictiveness or ill will towards Abbas and his family. He also claimed that "certain detractors" were poisoning his relations with Abbas by resorting to rumours, innuendoes and lies.

                                                                                                                        About two months ago, it was reported that Dahlan was part of a group that intended to have Abbas replaced by Nasser Al-Qidwa, a nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. For the time being, Dahlan is being questioned with regards to alleged attempts to destabilise the authority of Abbas, whose term in office has long expired.

                                                                                                                        Dahlan may be feeling that he is a scapegoat for Fatah blunders, especially during the period in which he was most prominent, and that was defined by rampant corruption, haphazard governance, and autocratic decision-making. In 1994-2000, Dahlan was Gaza's strongman as head of the Preventive Security Forces. With a large number of cronies and hangers-on, Dahlan presided over a regime of routine political abuse, security repression and financial corruption.

                                                                                                                        In May 1997, during the height of Dahlan's lordship in Gaza, David Hirst wrote an article in The Guardian, entitled "Shameless in Gaza". He quoted one of Gaza's merchant princes, a former Fatah fighter himself, as saying: "We live in amazing, shameful times, but you should know that every revolution has its fighters, thinkers and profiteers. Our fighters have been killed, our thinkers assassinated, and all we have left are the profiteers. These don't think even primarily of the cause, they don't think about it at all. They know that they are just transients here, as they were in Tunis, and, as with any regime whose end is near, they think only of profiting from it while they can."

                                                                                                                        Dahlan was not solely responsible for the wanton flaws of the Arafat era, but there is no denying his power and influence at this time. Dahlan denies any wrongdoing. He complains, "They are claiming I have embezzled tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. Where are they?" But in the words of a neighbour, Dahlan, who was hardly able to buy a pack of cigarettes prior to the Oslo Accords, has become rich. The question imposes itself: How?

                                                                                                                        Some of Dahlan's loyalists and supporters -- and they are many, especially in the Gaza Strip, his natural power base -- insist that the onus of proof lies with his accusers who should provide irrefutable evidence to back allegations of corruption. However, this is unlikely to be possible, given the murky atmosphere in which the PA, a non-state entity with little oversight, operates. For the time being, Dahlan is asking why he is being singled out.

                                                                                                                        Aside from allegations of plotting to overthrow Abbas, Dahlan probably should be investigated for his role in events that led to the rift with Hamas and the brief but bloody strife in Gaza in the summer of 2007. Dahlan is widely believed to have connived and colluded with the Americans and Israelis to destabilise Hamas, planning a coup attempt against its elected government in Gaza. Hamas responded by pre-empting the attempt and taking over Gaza by force.

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                                                                                                                          A week of racism in Israel

                                                                                                                          English (US)  January 8th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          Israeli racism may not be new but it is becoming more open, which begs the question - which way will the public tip?

                                                                                                                          By Mya Guarnieri


                                                                                                                          Israelis rallied in support of a religious edict forbidding Jews from selling or leasing homes or land to Arabs [GETTY]

                                                                                                                          On a recent Monday, more than 200 Jewish Israelis rallied in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv under the banner 'Keep Bat Yam Jewish'. The demonstrators, most of whom were religious and young, were there to protest against romantic relationships between Arabs and Jews, particularly those between Arab men and Jewish women.

                                                                                                                          I did not go as a reporter. I went to bear witness. I had also volunteered to translate for a colleague, a Palestinian man, who does not speak Hebrew.

                                                                                                                          We stood to the side. Demonstrators, mistaking us for supporters, handed us leaflets containing shameless propaganda. I read them aloud to my colleague, even though I was ashamed to repeat the words I held in my hands. "The Arabs are taking control of Bat Yam, buying and renting apartments from Jews, taking and ruining girls from Bat Yam! Fifteen-thousand Jewish girls have been taken to Arab villages! Guard our city - we want a Jewish Bat Yam," the leaflets said.

                                                                                                                          The rally came in the wake of a religious edict forbidding Jews from leasing or selling homes or land to Arabs. The proclamation was signed by 50 rabbis, many of whom are state employees, before it was announced publicly several weeks ago. Another 250 have joined since then.

                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                          Over 1,000 rabbis have signed a letter against the edict, calling it "a painful distortion of our tradition" and a "desecration of God's name". But these are diaspora rabbis. And although Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has condemned the initial proclamation, the rabbis who signed it remain state employees.

                                                                                                                          Monday's rally in Bat Yam was just the first moment of a week that suggested that open racism is spreading through Israel like a wildfire.

                                                                                                                          Along with the leaflets, there was singing, shouting and speeches, which I translated for my colleague. Several times, I stopped mid-sentence. I could not believe what I had heard. Did that man really say that Jewish women who date Arab men should be sentenced to death? Did that rabbi really say that the Jewish people have "holy blood"?

                                                                                                                          'We have facts'

                                                                                                                          A group of teenage girls approached us and asked us to register our names in support of their "cause". We refused. When they understood that my colleague did not speak Hebrew, they turned to me.

                                                                                                                          "Do you agree with what we're doing here?" one asked. Like the other girls, she was wearing a burgundy shirt that read "Keep Bat Yam Jewish".

                                                                                                                          "I don't," I said.

                                                                                                                          "Why?"

                                                                                                                          "Because it's racist."

                                                                                                                          The girl tried to explain that it is not about race, but defence. "There are people in my family that have been hurt in terror attacks," she said. "I’m really scared. Sometimes, I'm even scared to walk down the street."

                                                                                                                          "You know what's scary to me?" I said, pointing to the crowd. "This. It reminds me of what happened in Europe before the Holocaust. This is Germany in the thirties."

                                                                                                                          "You can't compare," she said. "The Arabs want to kill us."

                                                                                                                          "All of them? Really? How do you know? Have you ever talked to an Arab or a Palestinian?" I asked her.

                                                                                                                          "No," she said.

                                                                                                                          "And you?" I asked another one of the girls.

                                                                                                                          "No. But we don't need to. We have facts." She held up a leaflet. "Fifteen-thousand Jewish girls have been taken to Arab villages. They've been kidnapped ..."

                                                                                                                          My colleague interrupted. "Tell these girls that they've been brainwashed," he said to me.

                                                                                                                          'Survival, not racism'

                                                                                                                          That was Monday.

                                                                                                                          On Tuesday, police announced that they had arrested seven teenagers and two adults, all Jewish, suspected of attacking Arab youths in Jerusalem. The group allegedly used a 14-year-old girl to lure the victims to isolated places. They then attacked the Arabs using pepper spray, glass bottles and stones. Several were beaten so badly that they needed to be hospitalised. According to police reports, the attacks were motivated by nationalism.

                                                                                                                          On Tuesday night, hundreds of South Tel Aviv residents held a rally against the growing presence of foreigners, calling on the government to deport foreign workers and African refugees. Participants carried signs that read: "It's not racism. It's survival. Eli Yishai, you're not alone," referring to the interior minister. Yishai has pushed a plan to deport the children of illegal migrant labourers and has publicly stated that foreigners bring diseases into the country.

                                                                                                                          Fistfights broke out between demonstrators and left-wing activists who were holding a counter-demonstration.

                                                                                                                          The next day, Netanyahu responded with a video, which was posted on Facebook and YouTube. He emphasised that "Israelis cannot take the law into their own hands," and asked the people to refrain from violence.

                                                                                                                          But the week was not over yet.

                                                                                                                          On Thursday, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that five Arab men - all citizens of the state, one of whom had served in the Israeli army - had been driven out of the home they shared in south Tel Aviv.

                                                                                                                          And that night, thousands of Jewish Israelis gathered in Jerusalem to support both continued settlement growth as well as the rabbis' letter forbidding rental to Arabs.

                                                                                                                          'Infiltrators'

                                                                                                                          Friday morning saw a demonstration of another kind.

                                                                                                                          More than 1,000 Israelis and African refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, marched through Tel Aviv in protest against state plans to build a new detention centre in the desert. The government claims it will provide "humane conditions" for illegal migrants from Africa, a group they call "infiltrators". Human rights' organisations say that the facility will be a prison camp for refugees.

                                                                                                                          A drum line wove its way through the crowd as it walked through the city. Protestors chanted: "What do we want? Rights! When do we want them? Now!" An Israeli called out: "The camp is dangerous, no less than south Sudan." Demonstrators shouted it back, clapping out the beat of the sentence, which rhymes in Hebrew.

                                                                                                                          Despite the gravity of the cause, the mood was upbeat. The crowd seemed huge. It was exhilarating. It felt like we were really doing something, like we were taking the city - no, the country - into our hands.

                                                                                                                          How many are we? I wondered. I hopped up onto a bench to get a headcount. My excitement fell away as I saw us for what we were - a small, thin line, crawling past a traffic jam, cars full of Israelis who had forgotten the week and were starting the weekend.

                                                                                                                          The 'foreigners' among us

                                                                                                                          Most Israelis are apathetic. This leaves the Right free to take over - although the government is trying to distance itself from their efforts.

                                                                                                                          The Israeli media seems to be both condemning the "rise of racism" while giving the coals an occasional poke. Haaretz, a centre-left newspaper that has run many editorials decrying recent events, recently published a story with the provocative headline: 17 per cent of AIDS carriers over last decade were foreign migrants. It seemed to me an irresponsible and unnecessary article in light of recent events.

                                                                                                                          The government sends mixed messages, too. Netanyahu's video urging Israelis to stay calm came just months after the government embarked on a public campaign against foreigners. It included videos of another sort - advertisements in which "real Israelis" (read: actors) claimed that migrant workers were taking their jobs. And while Netanyahu condemns the rabbis' letter, a religious proclamation against the "foreigners" who live among us, he refers to another group of outsiders, the Africans, as "a concrete threat".

                                                                                                                          And some of those speaking out in earnest against recent events still do not get the point. They bemoan the sudden "rise" of racism in Israel. One writer bucked this trend, arguing that the "roots" of the issue lie in the Ashkenazi mistreatment of Mizrahi Jews. But racism goes further back - to 1948 when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes.

                                                                                                                          Racism has since remained in ways large and small. Today, Arab schools receive less funding than Jewish schools and Arab areas of East Jerusalem receive less municipal services.

                                                                                                                          It is here in more insidious ways, too. When some Israelis want to call something tacky - a pair of shoes, a dress - they call it "Arab". And a poorly-done job is referred to as "Arab work".

                                                                                                                          The argument I had with those girls is not new. What is new is that it is taking place in public. And it begs the question: Which way will the Israeli public tip?

                                                                                                                          I am scared of the answer.

                                                                                                                          Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                                            Rampaging Zionist Occupation Forces shoot Palestinian dead in his bed

                                                                                                                            English (US)  January 7th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                            Family says soldiers mistakenly shot dead sleeping man during hunt for a Hamas fighter released from Palestinian jail.


                                                                                                                            Israeli troops shot dead al-Qawasmeh during a dawn raid on Friday to arrest suspected Hamas fighters [AFP]

                                                                                                                            Israeli troops have shot dead a sleeping Palestinian man during a dawn raid in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

                                                                                                                            Family members found Omar al-Qawasmeh, 66, in a pool of blood in the bedroom after soldiers broke into several homes in the al-Sheikh neighbourhood on Friday.

                                                                                                                            The raid came less than 24 hours after six Hamas fighters who had been on hunger strike in Palestinian jails were released on Thursday.

                                                                                                                            Five of them were from Hebron, and one of them, Wael Bitar, arrested by the Israelis, lived one storey below the victim, residents said.

                                                                                                                            "I was praying when they entered. I do not know how they opened the door. They put their hand to my mouth and a rifle to my head," al-Qawasmeh's wife told the Reuters news agency.

                                                                                                                            "I was shocked. They did not allow me to talk. I asked them, 'What did you do?' They asked me to shut up."

                                                                                                                            Al Jazeera's Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from Ramallah in the West Bank, said al-Qawasmeh was shot at close range with multiple bullets in the head and chest, and was already dead by the time he reached the hospital.

                                                                                                                            "According to the family, the soldiers appeared very flustered after killing al-Qawasmeh and asked one of the sons whether that was Bitar. When told he was not, they went to Bitar's apartment one floor below to arrest him and left the building," she said.

                                                                                                                            "The Palestinian Authority said they were very angry with this incident and called it the execution of an elderly Palestinian citizen. They consider it an incitement against the Palestinian Authority and an unjustified crime that will lead to instability in the region."

                                                                                                                            Israel 'regrets death'

                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                            In a statement, the Israeli army confirmed the arrest of Bitar, who is described as a "senior member of the Hamas armed infrastructure in the Hebron region".

                                                                                                                            "Bitar was the assistant of Shehab Natshe, who planned the suicide bombing in Dimona of 2008", the statement said.

                                                                                                                            Regarding the death of al-Qawasmeh, the statement said that he "was present in one of the terrorist's homes".

                                                                                                                            "There is no indication that he himself was a terrorist," an Israeli military spokesman told the AFP news agency.

                                                                                                                            "There is no indication that he was involved in any terror activity at any stage and therefore we regret the incident," he said.

                                                                                                                            An immediate investigation has been ordered, with a report expected by next week, according to the statement released by the Israeli army.

                                                                                                                            In addition to Bitar, four "Hamas operatives who were working alongside [him]" were also arrested overnight. All five of the men were released from a Palestinian prison on Thursday, the statement said.

                                                                                                                            Rising tension

                                                                                                                            Overnight, Israeli aircraft attacked two targets in Gaza, in response to rocket fire from the territory, the Israeli military said.

                                                                                                                            One of the targets of the raid was a tunnel Hamas fighters dug into Israel under the border fence, a military statement read.

                                                                                                                            Friday's raids come as tensions continue to rise in Gaza. Overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians who they said were trying to get across the border fence into Israel.

                                                                                                                            Earlier, on Wednesday, Palestinian fighters fired seven projectiles, most of them mortar shells, across the border. No casualties or damage was reported.

                                                                                                                            Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                                              Open Letter to Jon Bon Jovi: This One Should Go out to the Palestinians

                                                                                                                              English (US)  January 6th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                              Please act in the spirit of your past social actions. (Photo: Artur Bogdanski/Commons)

                                                                                                                              By Palestinian Campaign for the Academic 7 cultural Boycott of Israel

                                                                                                                              It is with great disappointment that the undersigned organizations learned of your scheduled performance in Israel set for 2011 as part of your 'Circle Tour'. Given that Israel is involved in grave violations of international law and human rights, particularly as indicated in the UN Goldstone Report, we urge you to cancel this gig until the time comes when Israel is in compliance with its obligations under international law and fully respects Palestinian rights.

                                                                                                                              We were particularly surprised by news of your planned performance given your deep involvement in affordable housing and homelessness issues. As part of its ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people, Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes and entire villages, including the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib, which was destroyed seven times this year. Indeed, the entire modern history of the Palestinian people is based on dispossession and homelessness as more than 750,000 people were made refugees to enable the creation of the state of Israel, then kept in permanent refugee status despite the requirements in international law that they be allowed to return to their homes. In your commitment to effect change you have understood that your position as a respected and prominent musician can weigh on politics and contribute to advancing freedom, justice and human rights. It is in this spirit that we address you.

                                                                                                                              Don’t be Complicit in Entertaining Apartheid

                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                              In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a call for boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid. We wish, in our letter to you, to stress the importance of this Palestinian call, and underscore the rationale for the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

                                                                                                                              The 2004 Palestinian call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel appealed to international artists to refuse to perform in Israel or participate in events that serve to equate the occupier and the occupied and thus contribute to the continuation of injustice. Following this, in 2005, an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing BDS campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality. The BDS movement adopts a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights standards as other nations. It is asking artists to heed the boycott call until “Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid."

                                                                                                                              Your performance in Israel would constitute a rejection of the appeal from over 170 civil society organizations that comprise the Palestinian BDS movement. It would also seem like a rejection of your own sentiments, as expressed in your song in response to a newspaper report about “a young boy in the West Bank living smack in the middle of the conflict between Palestine and Israel”. Your song, “Hook me up”, proclaimed that “everybody’s waiting for someday”. What better moment is there than this one for you to answer the call coming from the Palestinian people? Years after you wrote that song, they are telling you that they are hooked up, they have a voice, and they are asking to be heard. Indeed, in light of your song, your performance in Israel would appear as tragicomedy!

                                                                                                                              Dispossession and Racial Discrimination

                                                                                                                              Perhaps you are not familiar enough with Israel’s practices, widely acknowledged as violations of international law. If this is the case, then we hope you will reconsider your planned concert after thinking through some of Israel’s trespasses. Your performance would function as a whitewash of these practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual. Concretely, Israel routinely violates Palestinians’ basic human rights in some of the following ways:

                                                                                                                              Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live under a brutal and unlawful military occupation. Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank. All the while, Israel continues to build its illegal wall on Palestinian land and to support the ever-expanding network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements that divide the West Bank into Bantustans.

                                                                                                                              Palestinian citizens of Israel face a growing system of Apartheid within Israel's borders, with laws and policies that deny them the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy. These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people's daily lives. In many ways this system strikingly resembles Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa.

                                                                                                                              Since 1948, when Israel dispossessed more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form an exclusivist Jewish state, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands. Israel also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev). Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees still struggling for their right to return to their homes, like all refugees around the world. In Gaza, Palestinians have been subjected to a criminal and immoral siege since 2006. As part of this siege, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles, books, crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee and chocolate, but also musical instruments from reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison.

                                                                                                                              Could you possibly perform in such a state with a clear conscience? In a country in which Palestinians living just minutes away in the West Bank and Gaza will not be able to attend? Are we back to the Jim Crow South?

                                                                                                                              Whitewashing Violations of International Law

                                                                                                                              In December 2008 and January 2009, Israel waged a war of aggression against Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, dead, and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes. In the wake of this assault and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign, as the presence of internationally acclaimed artists from the West is meant to affirm Israel’s membership in the West’s privileged club of “cultured,” liberal democracies. But it should not be business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights.

                                                                                                                              After the Gaza assault and even more so after the flotilla massacre in May 2010, many international artists, intellectuals, and cultural workers have been rejecting Israel’s cynical use of the arts to whitewash its Apartheid and colonial policies. Among those who have supported the BDS movement are distinguished artists, writers, and anti-racist activists such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Adrienne Rich, Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, and Alice Walker.

                                                                                                                              World-renowned artists, among them Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless and the Pixies have also cancelled their performances in Israel over its human rights record. Maxi Jazz (Faithless front-man) had this to say as he maintained his principled position not to entertain apartheid:

                                                                                                                              “While human beings are being willfully denied not just their rights but their needs for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that [performing in Israel] is either 'normal' or 'ok'. It's neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have.”

                                                                                                                              Please Say No to Performing in Israel

                                                                                                                              If you remain unconvinced because of claims that a cultural boycott of Israel may infringe on freedom of expression and cultural exchange, may we recall for you the judicious words of Enuga S. Reddy, director of the United Nations Center against Apartheid, who in 1984 responded to a similar criticism voiced against the cultural boycott of South Africa by saying:

                                                                                                                              “It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms... to the African majority... should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime.”

                                                                                                                              Today, Palestinian civil society groups are calling on artists to shun Tel Aviv in the same way that South African activists called on artists to boycott Sun City. All we are asking is for you to act consistently in the spirit of your past social actions, and to refrain from crossing a picket line called by Palestinian society, endorsed by international organizations, and increasingly supported by progressive-Israelis. Palestinian civil society is asking this of you as the most essential contribution to their struggle to achieve peace and justice. We urge you to hear their call.

                                                                                                                              (Original lyrics are "This one goes out to the ones in need" from Bon Jovi's hit song We Weren't Born to Follow on their album The Circle. See here.)

                                                                                                                              - For more information regarding the work of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) contact: pacbi@pacbi.org and visit www.PACBI.org.

                                                                                                                              Signors:

                                                                                                                              Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
                                                                                                                              Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel
                                                                                                                              South African Artists Against Apartheid
                                                                                                                              Creative Workers Union of South Africa (Affiliate of the Congress Of South African Trade Unions)
                                                                                                                              European Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI)
                                                                                                                              Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (Occupied Ramallah)
                                                                                                                              Yabous Productions (Jerusalem)
                                                                                                                              Popular Art Centre (Al-Bireh, Occupied Ramallah)
                                                                                                                              Oriental Music Ensemble (Occupied Ramallah)
                                                                                                                              Palestinian Students for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PSACBI)
                                                                                                                              BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israeli BDS activists)
                                                                                                                              Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)
                                                                                                                              The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC)
                                                                                                                              British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
                                                                                                                              US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
                                                                                                                              Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP)
                                                                                                                              International Jewish anti-Zionist Network
                                                                                                                              British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP)
                                                                                                                              Artists Against Apartheid (International Alliance)
                                                                                                                              Americans AGAINST Apartheid UK
                                                                                                                              Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign
                                                                                                                              International Solidarity Movement-France (ISM-France)
                                                                                                                              Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
                                                                                                                              Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) UK
                                                                                                                              Queers Against Israeli Apartheid
                                                                                                                              Boicotisrael-Madrid
                                                                                                                              Educators for Peace and Justice (Toronto)
                                                                                                                              Tadamon! Montreal
                                                                                                                              Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right To Return Coalition
                                                                                                                              New York City Labor Against the War
                                                                                                                              Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI)
                                                                                                                              BDS Group Berlin
                                                                                                                              Action Group at KTH for Boycott of Israel (Sweden)
                                                                                                                              United4Palestine
                                                                                                                              Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (Toronto)
                                                                                                                              Australian Artists Against Israeli Apartheid (Australia)
                                                                                                                              Italian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (ICACBI)
                                                                                                                              Belgian delegation for the academic boycott of Israel
                                                                                                                              Berlin Academic Boycott (BAB)
                                                                                                                              Comissió Universitària Catalana per Palestina (CUNCAP)

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                                                                                                                                WikiLeaks: 'Israel took bribes for Gaza entry'

                                                                                                                                English (US)  January 6th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                WikiLeaks releases US diplomatic cable indicating US companies had to pay bribes to get their goods into the Gaza Strip.


                                                                                                                                Coca-Cola was one of the US companies asked for bribes in order to get their goods on shelves in the Gaza strip [EPA]

                                                                                                                                A US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks indicates that a key Israeli cargo crossing for goods entering the Gaza Strip was rife with corruption, forcing American businesses to pay hefty bribes to Israelis to get their products across the border.

                                                                                                                                The June 14, 2006, cable released on Thursday said distributors for major American companies that included Coca-Cola Co., Caterpillar Inc. and Motorola Inc. complained of widespread corruption at the border crossing:

                                                                                                                                As of late May 34 shipments of American goods, amounting to nearly USD $1.9m, have been waiting three to four months to cross into Gaza. US distributors assert they are being asked to pay "special fees" which amount to as much as 75 times the standard processing fee as quoted by GOI [Government of Israel] officials.

                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                Israeli officials denied any wrongdoing at the Karni crossing, which was once a major shipping point for cargo entering Gaza. Its operations were scaled back after Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007.

                                                                                                                                The WikiLeaks document quoted a local Coca-Cola distributor as saying he was asked to pay more than $3,000 for each truckload of merchandise going through Karni.

                                                                                                                                The executive was identified as Joerg Hartmann, an official with Coca-Cola's distributor in the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                What does one get for $3,000 payment to move cargo? Hartmann said that for that price, your truck is promised the first place in line or a spot near the head of the so-called "Israeli line" which does move. Hartmann said that usually two or three lines at Karni are reserved for Israeli companies/shippers, which he speculated pay a much lower amount to get their products across the border.

                                                                                                                                The company did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

                                                                                                                                Hartmann claimed an unidentified "high-level official" at the crossing headed the corruption ring, but that it filtered further down, adding that Palestinian partners on the other side participated in the shakedown operation.

                                                                                                                                Of bribes and blockades

                                                                                                                                The cable says distributors from other companies, including Procter & Gamble Co., Caterpillar, Philip Morris, Westinghouse, Hewlett-Packard Co., Motorola., Aramex and Dell Inc., complained of corruption at the crossing.

                                                                                                                                The document implied that at least two of the companies, Coca-Cola and Westinghouse, paid the bribes, while a Caterpillar representative said it refused to pay the $2,667 it was asked to provide to move two small generators through the passage.

                                                                                                                                The alleged corruption occurred a year before Hamas overtook Gaza and Israel imposed an economic border blockade, restricting shipments into Gaza.

                                                                                                                                Prior to that time, however, Israeli-Palestinian violence frequently closed the border crossings, and Hartmann told US diplomats that the cost of the bribes would rise after extended closures of the border.

                                                                                                                                Under international pressure, Israel eased the blockade last summer after a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound international flotilla.

                                                                                                                                Israeli military officials that co-ordinate movement in and out of Gaza refused to comment, and Israel's Airports Authority, which operates the actual crossing points, denied any wrongdoing.

                                                                                                                                "We have looked into this. ... Nobody here had anything to do with it," said authority spokesman Adar Avisar.

                                                                                                                                In 2006, a World Bank report found that problems in Karni's operations acted as a "magnet for corruption on both sides of the border".

                                                                                                                                Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                                  The Culture of the Occupation. 1

                                                                                                                                  English (US)  January 5th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                  Arab Woman Blues
                                                                                                                                  http://arabwomanblues.blogspot.com/2011/01/culture-of-occupation-1.html

                                                                                                                                  By Layla Anwar

                                                                                                                                  January 05, 2011 "An Arab Woman Blues"

                                                                                                                                  I was not sure how to title this post, for it is a fairly complex subject that needs to take into account several factors. I will start easy and simple and see where that will take me...

                                                                                                                                  Echoes I hear from Baghdad and I will refer mainly to Baghdad as the center - the eye of the storm, so to speak, and from my observation of Iraqi refugee youth outside of Iraq, either those whose have already emigrated - been placed in another country or are still caught in a limbo, in some psychological no man's land, unable to move back or move forward...

                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                  The age group I shall focus on is the 15-25 years old or so. Bear in mind this is not an in depth sociological study nor is it meant to be. It is more like a mix of observations, experience and listening to people.

                                                                                                                                  But before I do, I need to rewind back in time a little, first to the sanctions years then to the 2003 U.S occupation.

                                                                                                                                  These young men and women were born during the sanction years or just a little before. The bulk of their growing up life experience in Iraq was marked by the first Gulf War and the subsequent sanctions years that lasted 13 years, in other words years perceived as years of "deprivation".

                                                                                                                                  If you have not lived the sanctions you would not know what am talking about. The only image that comes to mind, a close enough picture - is one huge prison with transparent windows, where you are allowed to watch the outside the world but never participate in it.

                                                                                                                                  The sanctions years were crucial in preparing the whole psychological atmosphere for what was to come later - the brutal destruction of Iraqi culture and society.

                                                                                                                                  Yet despite these draconian sanctions that left the majority of Iraqis in a state of total helplessness, the societal fabric even though pulled at the seams, had not cracked open yet, nor did it disintegrate like in the subsequent post 2003 years.

                                                                                                                                  It remained a deeply secular society in its intra sect /intra ethnic dealings. Religion played a role ,sure, but remained confined to the personal and overall cultural realm. After all, Iraq is an Arab country and Islamic contributions to the world came forth from the Abbassid period, where Baghdad was one of the most important centers of learning and contributions to world civilization. But Religion, never NEVER occupied the center stage as it has done post 2003.

                                                                                                                                  A parenthesis here - Every time I attempt to write an overall picture of the Iraq of before and after, I need to take a break, a choking feeling grips me in my throat and the rage rises again, like some lava from a volcano unwilling to die down.

                                                                                                                                  That is why, when I hear shits of Westerners talk of the Iraq of before and after, in particular the garbage Americans the so called experts who made a fortune dissecting us like insects, in occupied Iraq, I honestly want to go for their jugular, literally... These are opportunistic bastards who came late on the scene and are still aiming for a best seller. They sicken me, my contempt for them sickens me...

                                                                                                                                  That is why I refuse, categorically to read ANYTHING, any analysis of the War on Iraq by an American - apart from an occasional article that never fails to make me cringe with disgust.

                                                                                                                                  Who am I ? The eternal Question . Have not figured it out fully yet . All you need to know about me is that I am a Middle Easterner, an Arab Woman - into my 40's and old enough to know better. I have no homeland per se. I live in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Egypt simultaneously...All the rest is icing on the cake.

                                                                                                                                  644 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                    Declaring Palestine: Revisiting Hope and Failure

                                                                                                                                    English (US)  January 5th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                    Fervor of recognitions is back, championed by PA leader Abbas.

                                                                                                                                    By Ramzy Baroud

                                                                                                                                    When late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat read the Declaration of the Palestinian Independence just over 22 years ago, Palestinians everywhere were enthralled. They held onto his every word during the Palestinian National Council (PNC) session in Algeria on November 15, 1988. The council members incessantly applauded and chanted in the name of Palestine, freedom, the people and much more.

                                                                                                                                    Back in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in Gaza, a large crowd of neighbors and friends watched the event on a small black and white television.

                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                    The Declaration of Independence read, in part: “On this day unlike all others…as we stand at the threshold of a new dawn, in all honor and modesty we humbly bow to the sacred spirits of our fallen ones, Palestinian and Arab, by the purity of whose sacrifice for the homeland our sky has been illuminated and our Land given life.”

                                                                                                                                    Many tears were shed, as those watching the historic event recalled the innumerable “spirits of the fallen ones”. The Nuseirat refugee camp alone had buried scores of its finest men, women and children the previous year.

                                                                                                                                    By then, the first Palestinian Uprising (December 1987) had swiftly changed a political equation that relegated both the Palestinian cause and Palestine Liberation Origination (PLO). Arab leaders had met in Amman in November 1987, where their discussions were focused almost exclusively on the Iran-Iraq war. The “central issue” of the Arabs didn’t even receive the usual lip service. The PLO leadership, exiled in Tunisia since the Israeli war on Lebanon in 1982, was being disowned, sidelined, and worse, discredited.

                                                                                                                                    The Palestinian people watched in dismay - but not for long. Merely days after the disastrous Arab Summit, Palestinian streets erupted in fury. Tens of thousands took to the streets of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and even Arab towns throughout Israel, making their frustrations clear to everyone who contributed to their protracted misery and oppression.

                                                                                                                                    While celebrating the people’s uprising, Yasser Arafat and the PLO leadership didn’t seem to have a concrete plan. They did, however, labor to seize the moment. PLO representatives were first consulted regionally and internationally, and then US and other Western powers attempted to court the PLO and to exact ‘compromises’. This ‘engagement’ was conditional, of course, as it continues to be till to date.

                                                                                                                                    The Palestinian Declaration of Independence was, then, a capitalization on all of this. Although it rekindled the ‘power of the people’ as a very relevant political factor in the Middle East equation, it also ushered the triumphant return of the PLO and Arafat.

                                                                                                                                    “We call upon our great people to rally to the banner of Palestine, to cherish and defend it, so that it may forever be the symbol of our freedom and dignity in that homeland, which is a homeland for the free, now and always,” the declaration stated.

                                                                                                                                    Abu Ashraf, of the Nuseirat refugee camp, was a poor man with six children. His barely treated diabetes had taken a toll on his body. Once a boxer who had competed at a ‘regional level’ (i.e. in other refugee camps in Gaza), his body was now contorted and withering. But when Arafat declared that the state of Palestine now existed – even if only on paper and largely symbolically - Abu Ashraf got up and danced. He waved his cane above his head and swayed around the room amidst the laughter of his children.

                                                                                                                                    Around 100 countries now recognized “Palestine”. Ambassadors were deployed to new posts in many countries, excluding the US and European states. But this also seemed to matter little. Palestine had never sought legitimization from the very powers that had helped establish, sustain and defend Israel’s illegal occupation and violence.

                                                                                                                                    The problem was that Arafat, his political party, Fatah and PLO leadership could only go so far. There was a subtle understanding among the ‘pragmatics’ in Fatah that without Western, and specifically American validation, a real, tangible Palestine could never follow the symbolic one. However, the US, the ultimate defender of Israel, had raised conditions, which the PLO readily accepted. The more conditions Arafat met, the more he was expected to meet. Among these were: acknowledging UN resolution 242, renouncing armed struggle, excluding PLO factions that the US considered too radical, and many more.

                                                                                                                                    At first Arafat seemed to have a strategy: get some and demand more. But the concessions never stopped, and Arafat was constantly paraded following US demands. In return, he received very little, aside from, 6 years later, a Palestinian Authority that was merely responsible for managing small, disconnected, ‘autonomous’ areas in the West Bank and Gaza. The once glorious moment of independence was left at only that - a fleeting moment. Its political potential was prematurely and cleverly co-opted by US ‘engagement’, which yielded the Oslo agreement. Oslo, in turn, led to many disasters, which we are still witnessing today.

                                                                                                                                    In late 2010 the fervor of recognitions returned, championed by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. This time around, however, there is little fanfare and no genuine hope for meaningful political initiatives. Abu Ashraf died in his mid-40’s, broken and penniless. His children and grandchildren still live in the same house, in the same refugee camp. A minor difference in their life is that the Israeli military occupation of past has been rebranded and replaced by a very tight siege. The soldiers are still nearby, just a few miles away in any possible direction. And these days there seem to be few reasons to dance.

                                                                                                                                    What Palestinians do have today is a much gratitude to the Latin American countries that have recently joined the host of nations that recognize independent Palestine. Uruguay has promised to recognize Palestine in January 2011. Many Palestinians now understand that to capitalize on the growing international solidarity, the Palestinian leadership needs to free itself from the iron grip and political monopoly of the United States and embrace its partners of old, from the time before Oslo, the “peace process”, the Roadmap and all the other broken promises.

                                                                                                                                    - Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

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                                                                                                                                      Global Thinkers vs. Non: A Chat with Gideon Levy

                                                                                                                                      English (US)  January 4th, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                      Gideon Levy: In war, propaganda is all right.

                                                                                                                                      By Belén Fernández

                                                                                                                                      Two years have passed since Operation Cast Lead, Israel's 22-day war on Gaza that began on 27 December 2008 and resulted in over 1400 Palestinian deaths. At the time, Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy noted the ironic application of the term 'war'—defined by the Even-Shoshan dictionary as "an armed clash between armies, a conflict between state bodies (nations, states) in battle operations with the use of weapons and by force of arms"—to a situation in which only one of the sides possesses a state, an army, and a senior military officer who describes the conflict as "a superb call-up and training exercise".

                                                                                                                                      Reviewing the various advantages of invoking the lexicon of war, Levy wrote:

                                                                                                                                      “War makes it possible to mobilize, call to the flag and unite the ranks of the [Israeli] people, which most of the time are more interested in the seacoast of [the Turkish resort city of] Antalya than in any West Bank outpost. Only in war are we permitted to have media that sound more like the briefing room of the IDF Spokesman. In war, propaganda is all right. Using the word ‘war’ also validates war crimes, which might be prohibited in just a plain operation. If it’s war, then let’s go all the way: white phosphorus shells in the streets and artillery against population shelters; hundreds of women and children killed; strikes against rescue units and supply services. Hey, this is war, right?”

                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                      It is for his commitment to reporting the truth that Levy has been distinguished, along with his Haaretz colleague Amira Hass, as one of PULSE’s Top 10 Global Thinkers of 2010, compiled in response to Foreign Policy’s second annual publication of a farcical list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. Other recent distinctions bestowed on Levy include being singled out for a sarcastic personalized greeting from former Israeli President Moshe Katsav at the Tel Aviv District Court the other morning, on the occasion of the Katsav’s conviction for rape. (See Levy’s response here: “Good morning to you too”, and “Take full responsibility for your deeds”.)

                                                                                                                                      I spoke Sunday evening on the phone with Levy, who had spent the day in the West Bank—where Israel continues to pursue the decimation of the Palestinian Abu Rahmah family via tear gas and related paraphernalia. On the subject of the “brainwashing machinery” which propagates the Israeli conviction of a permanent monopoly on victimhood and which Levy has described as being “so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg” (see Johann Hari’s excellent interview in The Independent), Levy had the following to say:

                                                                                                                                      “GL: [Brainwashing is] mainly taking place in the media and in the education system. And it’s an ongoing process. It [involves] adopting the language of the occupation, the laundering of words and perceptions. [As for] the way that the occupation is being covered in the media—mainly the way it is being not covered in the media—you can take the flotilla as an example, or you can take Operation Cast Lead as an example. The way these [events] were presented to Israeli public opinion was totally different than what the world saw.”

                                                                                                                                      In other words, while the rest of the world saw IDF commandos attacking humanitarian activists on the Mavi Marmara last May, Israelis were encouraged to see the inverse relationship. While the rest of the world saw Palestinian civilians perishing at an alarming rate during Cast Lead, Levy points out that the death of an Israeli dog by Qassam rocket was treated as front-page news by certain Israeli media. (The Even-Shoshan dictionary should meanwhile consider refining its entries for “shock” and “anxiety” to specify that they are a strictly Israeli phenomenon, lest Arabs on the receiving end of white phosphorus assume they are also entitled to casualty-enhancing psychological suffering.)

                                                                                                                                      I asked Levy to elaborate on the Israeli reaction to Cast Lead:

                                                                                                                                      “Q: Did people feel that there was genuinely a threat emanating from Gaza and that this was genuinely a defensive maneuver, or did people assume that this was just the sort of slaughter merited by subhuman creatures who might at some point infringe on the comforts of Israeli existence? What was the reaction of the majority of the populace?

                                                                                                                                      “GL: This was being checked in polls and it was very clear that there was overwhelming support for the operation. I think it was 89 percent… of Israeli public opinion which supported Cast Lead and supported its continuation and objected to stopping it. And you felt it everywhere, there was really—almost from wall to wall—support and also lack of tolerance to hear any kind of criticism.

                                                                                                                                      “Q: But did the support result from a genuine conviction that Gaza did pose a threat to the Israeli state; I mean were people genuinely afraid?

                                                                                                                                      “GL: [The fear] is genuine but it’s also being manipulated. There is a process of demonizing Gaza, which has been taking place for decades now, including in the months and the years before Operation Cast Lead, [when] the media was always [peddling] these descriptions about the Iranian weapons which are being smuggled in in the tunnels [from Egypt]… So for sure there was fear; Gaza was always perceived in Israel not as a place where people are living but only as a base for terror.”

                                                                                                                                      These perceptions have been nurtured by Foreign Policy’s Global Thinker No. 33, The New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, who loyally alerts his readership to the various crimes of Gaza such as Hamas’ failure to “turn it into Dubai rather than Tehran”. It is apparently not required by Global Thought to ponder whether Dubai itself would still function as a trade hub if it did not have control of its ports or if it was a location in which Global Thinkers advocated massive civilian casualties as a means of “education”.

                                                                                                                                      Foreign Policy’s rationale for honoring Friedman is that he “doesn’t just report on events; he helps shape them.” Which is exactly the problem. (See Friedman’s encouragement to the IDF a few days prior to the deadly 2002 assault on Jenin: “Israel needs to deliver a military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay.”)

                                                                                                                                      Levy, on the other hand, is rejected by Global Thought because he would like for Palestinians not to be killed and because he relentlessly humanizes a population that is not meant to exist in human form. By transmitting the reality of, for example, the Palestinian Wahbas family whose lunch at home is interrupted by the arrival of an Israeli missile, Levy himself is effectively relegated to nonexistence by the likes of Foreign Policy.

                                                                                                                                      Levy has argued that the failure of Cast Lead to provoke massive demonstrations in Israel, and the failure of Israelis to condemn atrocities being committed in their name, is indicative of the lack of a genuine Israeli peace camp and a genuine left wing. I asked him whether there is hope for a rectification of the situation. He responded:

                                                                                                                                      “GL: No, I don’t see much hope, I don’t seen much room for hope. Because I don’t see any scenario in which any change would come from within Israeli society. There is no agency in Israeli society which can bring change now. Not civil society, not the media, not the political leadership. So I don’t see any hope for a change from within.”

                                                                                                                                      This sober analysis is reflected in Levy’s New Year’s Eve dispatch for Haaretz entitled “The year of truth”, in which he demonstrates that Israeli democracy is as oxymoronic as Foreign Policy Global Thinkers and assesses 2010 as “the year we finally came out of the closet – no more saccharine phrases and hollow talk about justice and equality, no more flowery and superficial words about peace and two states.” A sense of optimism is nonetheless conveyed, but it derives from the idea that Israel has finally and definitively shown its true colors.

                                                                                                                                      Levy’s book The Punishment of Gaza was published by Verso in 2010.

                                                                                                                                      - Belén Fernández is an editor at PULSE Media and the author of Coffee with Hezbollah, a satirical political travelogue about hitchhiking through Lebanon in the aftermath of the July War. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: belengarciabernal@gmail.com.

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                                                                                                                                        Netanyahu's bargaining chip?

                                                                                                                                        English (US)  January 4th, 2011 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                        Israel's prime minister has asked Barack Obama, the US president, to pardon an American who spied for Israel.

                                                                                                                                        The White House said on Tuesday it was reviewing the request from Binyamin Netanyahu.

                                                                                                                                        Pollard, a former analyst in the US navy, is serving a life sentence for passing thousands of secret documents about US spy activities in the Arab world to Israel between May 1984 and his arrest in November 1985.

                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                        "Two weeks ago I received a letter from the prison, from Jonathan [Pollard], which asked me to request openly - I emphasise openly - as prime minister of Israel, for the president of the United States to make an official request for his release," Netanyahu told parliament on Tuesday.

                                                                                                                                        "I would like to read to you the letter that I sent to President Obama in the matter of Jonathan.

                                                                                                                                        "'Honourable president, in the name of the Israeli people I am turning to you to request a pardon for Jonathan Pollard ... At the time of his arrest Jonathan was acting as an agent of the government of Israel, although Israel did not in any way direct its intelligence efforts against the United States.

                                                                                                                                        "'[Israel] acted mistakenly and totally unacceptably ... Both Mr Pollard and the government of Israel have repeatedly expressed their regret at these actions and Israel will keep to its pledge that such things will never happen again.'"

                                                                                                                                        Thorny issue

                                                                                                                                        The issue of Pollard, a US-born Jew who was given Israeli citizenship while in prison, has been a thorn in the side of relations between Israel and its main ally, Washington.

                                                                                                                                        His arrest sparked a crisis in ties that only ended with Israel promising to end all espionage activities on US soil.

                                                                                                                                        But Israelis say Pollard's punishment and the longstanding US refusal to commute his sentence have been particularly harsh, given that he gave information to a friendly nation.

                                                                                                                                        Israeli prime ministers have repeatedly tried, in vain, to secure Pollard's release.

                                                                                                                                        Netanyahu last month announced his intention to make a public plea to Obama for Pollard's release and the US state department issued a non-committal response after Netanyahu announced his intentions.

                                                                                                                                        "If such a request were formally made, there's obviously a legal process that would be undertaken to evaluate it," Philip Crowley, US state department spokesman, said at the time.

                                                                                                                                        Crowley did not rule out the prospect that Pollard's case could be looked at in a broader light.

                                                                                                                                        "In the context of advancing Middle East peace, if either the Palestinians or the Israelis want to raise with us issues of importance to them, we will consider all of this as we try to get them to an agreement," he said.

                                                                                                                                        Netanyahu's decision to appeal publicly to Obama came after a meeting with Pollard's wife, Esther, in Jerusalem last month, during which she gave Netanyahu a letter from her husband.

                                                                                                                                        Netanyahu at the time said the decision "was made following a series of talks and contacts which the prime minister and his representatives have held on the issue in recent months with senior US administration officials".
                                                                                                                                        Source:
                                                                                                                                        Agencies

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                                                                                                                                          Hope in 2011: Peoples, Civil Society Stand Tall

                                                                                                                                          English (US)  January 1st, 2011 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                          2010 was a year that human will proved more effective than military hardware.

                                                                                                                                          By Ramzy Baroud

                                                                                                                                          When the Iraqi army fell before invading US and British troops in 2003, the latter's mission seemed to be accomplished. But nearly eight years after the start of a war intended to shock and awe a whole population into submission, the Iraqi people continue to stand tall. They have confronted and rejected foreign occupations, held their own against sectarianism, and challenged random militancy and senseless acts of terrorism.

                                                                                                                                          For most of us, the Iraqi people’s resolve cannot be witnessed, but rather deduced. Eight years of military strikes, raids, imprisonments, torture, humiliation and unimaginable suffering were still not enough to force the Iraqis into accepting injustice as a status quo.

                                                                                                                                          In August 2010, the United States declared the end of its combat mission in Iraq, promising complete withdrawal by the end of 2011. However, US military action has continued, only under different designations. The occupation of Iraq carries on, despite the tactical shifts of commands and the rebranding effort.

                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                          However, were it not for the tenacity of the Iraqi people, who manage to cross-sectarian, political and ideological divides, there would be no talk of withdrawals or deadlines. There would be nothing but cheap oil, which could have ushered in a new golden age of imperialism - not in Iraq, but throughout the so-called Third World. The Iraqi people have managed to stop what could have become a dangerous trend.

                                                                                                                                          2010 was another year where Iraqis held strong, and civil societies throughout the world stood with them in solidarity, a solidarity that will continue until full sovereignty is attained.

                                                                                                                                          Palestine provides another example of international solidarity, one that is unsurpassed in modern times. Civil society has finally crossed the line between words and sentiments of solidarity into actual and direct action. The Israeli siege on Gaza, which was supported by the United States and few other Western powers, resembled more than a humanitarian crisis. It was a moral crisis as well, especially as the besieged population of Gaza was subjected to a most brutal war at the end of 2008, followed by successive lethal military strikes. The four year long siege has devastated a population whose main crime was exercising its democratic right to vote, and refusing to submit to the military and political diktats of Israel.

                                                                                                                                          Gaza remains a shining example of human strength in our time. This is a fact the Israeli government refuses to accept. Israeli and other media reported that the Israeli army will be deploying new tanks to quell the resistance of the strip, with the justification that Palestinians fighters managed to penetrate the supposedly impenetrable Israeli Merkava tank. Israeli military chief Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, who made the revelation in a recent parliamentary session, may never comprehend that neither a Mekava (or whatever new model he will be shipping to Gaza soon) nor the best military hardware anywhere could penetrate the will of the unwavering Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                          Gaza is not alone. Civil society leaders representing every religion, nationality and ideology have tirelessly led a campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian people. The breadth and magnitude of this solidarity has been unmatched in recent times, at least since the anti-fascist International Brigades units resolutely defended the Second Spanish Republic between 1936-1939.

                                                                                                                                          The solidarity has come at a cost. Many activists from Turkey and various other countries were killed in the high seas as they attempted to extend a hand of camaraderie to the people of Gaza and Palestine. Now, knowing the dangers that await them, many activists the world over are still hoping to set sail to Gaza in 2011.

                                                                                                                                          Indeed, 2010 was a year that human will proved more effective than military hardware. It was the year human solidarity crossed over like never before into new realms, bringing with it much hope and many new possibilities.

                                                                                                                                          But the celebration of hope doesn’t end in Palestine and Iraq. It merely begins there. Champions of human rights come from every color and creed. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, The Most Rev. Dr. Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former US President Jimmy Carter and other luminaries and civil society heroes and heroines from across the world will continue their mission of peace and justice, as they have for many years.

                                                                                                                                          These well-known names are only part of the story. There are literary millions of unsung heroes that make the hardship of the years more tolerable, and who will continue to guide us through new years and unknown challenges.

                                                                                                                                          Haiti was one country that was hit hardest in 2010. The small nation was greeted on January 12, 2010 with a most catastrophic earthquake, followed by 52 aftershocks. Over half a million people were estimated killed and injured, and many more became homeless. The year ended on a similarly devastating note, as over 2,000 people died and 105,000 fell ill (according to estimates by the Pan American Health Organization) after a cholera outbreak ravished an already overwhelmed country.

                                                                                                                                          It is rather strange how leading powers can be so immaculate and efficient in their preparations for war, and yet so scandalously slow in their responses to human need when there is no political or economic price to be exacted. But this discrepancy will hardly deter doctors and nurses at the St. Nicholas Hospital in Haiti, who, despite the dangerous lack of resources, managed to save 90 percent of their patients

                                                                                                                                          Our hearts go out to Haiti and its people during these hard times. But Haiti needs more than good wishes and solemn prayers. It also needs courageous stances by civil society to offset the half-hearted commitments made by some governments and publicity-seeking leaders.

                                                                                                                                          It must be said that hope is not a random word aimed at summoning a fuzzy, temporary feeling of positive expectations for the future. To achieve its intended meaning, it must be predicated on real, foreseeable values. It must be followed by action. Civil society needs to continue to step up and fill the gaps created or left wide open by self-seeking world powers.

                                                                                                                                          Words don’t end wars, confront greed or slow down the devastation caused by natural disasters. People do. Let 2011 be a year of action, hope, and the uninterrupted triumph of civil society.

                                                                                                                                          - Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

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                                                                                                                                            Arab majority in historic Palestine after 2014: survey

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  December 31st, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                            RAMALLAH, Occupied Palestinian Territories — The Arab population in "historic Palestine" will equal the Jewish population by 2014, and quickly outstrip it thereafter, Palestinian statistics released Thursday said.

                                                                                                                                            The figures published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics show the Arab population in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip nearing the size of the Jewish population, but with a significantly higher birth rate.

                                                                                                                                            The bureau said the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza currently stands at 4.1 million, with another 1.4 million Arabs living inside Israel.

                                                                                                                                            That gives a total not far short of the 5.8 million Jews living in the same area, according to current Israeli data.

                                                                                                                                            "The number of Palestinians (Arabs) will reach that of Jewish residents by the end of 2014, around 6.1 million, at the current growth rate," the Palestinian bureau said.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                            It noted that the birth rate in the Palestinian territories is currently 32.8 per thousand residents, as compared to 26.2 per thousand in Israel.

                                                                                                                                            The bureau put the current number of Palestinian refugees living overseas at 5.6 million, primarily in Arab countries.

                                                                                                                                            A number of Israelis have advanced the "demographic" argument to push for a two-state solution, warning that without a resolution, the growing Arab population will erase Israel's character as a Jewish state.

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                                                                                                                                              Jesus Recruited: God-TV Helps Israel Oust Bedouin

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  December 31st, 2010 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                              Efforts to move Bedouin off their lands have been intensifying since 2003.

                                                                                                                                              By Jonathan Cook - Nazareth

                                                                                                                                              Half a million trees planted over the past 18 months on the ancestral lands of Bedouin tribes in Israel's Negev region were bought by a controversial Christian evangelical television channel that calls itself God-TV.

                                                                                                                                              A sign posted a few kilometres north of Beersheba, the Negev's main city, announces plans to plant a total of a million trees over a large area of desert that has already been designated “God-TV Forest”.

                                                                                                                                              The Jewish National Fund, an international non-profit organisation in charge of forestation and developing Jewish settlements in Israel, received $500,000 from God-TV to plant some of the trees, according to the channel's filings to US tax authorities last year.

                                                                                                                                              [More:]


                                                                                                                                              A coalition of Jewish and Bedouin human rights groups have denounced the project, accusing God-TV and the JNF of teaming up to force the Bedouin out of the area to make way for Jewish-only communities.

                                                                                                                                              No one from God-TV was available for comment, but in a video posted on its website, Rory Alec, the channel's co-founder, said he had begun fundraising for the forest after receiving “an instruction from God” a few years ago. He said God had told him: “Prepare the land for the return of my Son.”

                                                                                                                                              Standing next to the “God-TV Forest” sign, Alec thanked thousands of viewers for making donations to “sow a seed for God”, adding: “I tell you Jesus is coming back soon!”

                                                                                                                                              Part of the forest has been planted on land claimed by the Aturi tribe, whose village, al-Araqib, is nearby.

                                                                                                                                              Al-Araqib has been demolished eight times in recent months by the Israeli police as officials increase the pressure on the 350 inhabitants to move to Rahat, an under-funded, government-planned township nearby.

                                                                                                                                              Earlier this year, Joe Stork, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, criticised the repeated attempts by Israeli authorities to eradicate the village and displace its residents.

                                                                                                                                              “Tearing down an entire village and leaving its inhabitants homeless without exhausting all other options for settling long-standing land claims is outrageous,” he said.

                                                                                                                                              Human Rights Watch and other international human rights groups have criticised Israel for harsh measures taken against the people of al-Araqib and the other 90,000 Bedouin who live in Negev villages that the Israel refuses to recognise. They accuse the government of trying to pre-empt a court case moving through Israeli courts aimed at settling the Bedouin ownership claims.

                                                                                                                                              God-TV’s involvement in the dispute has prompted fresh concern.

                                                                                                                                              Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, said the JNF, which has semi-governmental status in Israel, had set a “dangerous precedent” in accepting money from God-TV.

                                                                                                                                              “The Israeli authorities are playing with fire,” he said. “This dispute between the Israeli government and the Bedouin is a long one that until now focused on the question of land rights. But the involvement of extremist Christian groups like God-TV is likely to turn this into a religious confrontation, and that will be much harder to resolve.”

                                                                                                                                              The JNF did not respond to questions about its involvement with God-TV or the Negev forest.

                                                                                                                                              Gordon said it was particularly worrying that Alec was using the language of Biblical prophecy in justifying his decision to finance the forest.

                                                                                                                                              The channel, which has become one of the most popular global evangelical stations since its founding in Britain 15 years ago, claims a potential audience of up to a half-billion viewers, including 20 million in the United States.

                                                                                                                                              Stephen Sizer, a British vicar and prominent critic of Christian Zionist groups, described God-TV as part of an evangelical movement that believes Israel's establishment and expansion are bringing nearer the “end times” – or the moment when, according to Christians, Jesus will return for the second time.

                                                                                                                                              Its followers, he added, believed that, by dispossessing Palestinians of their land and replacing them with Jews, Jesus's return could be expedited.

                                                                                                                                              “Funding aliyah [Jewish immigration] and planting trees in the desert may look innocuous but it’s actually their way to side with the Israeli right’s hardline policies towards the Palestinian population.”

                                                                                                                                              Sizer said there was increasing co-operation between Israeli institutions and Christian evangelical groups, which have begun basing their operations in Israel.

                                                                                                                                              God-TV has proclaimed itself the only television channel to broadcast globally from Jerusalem, following its relocation there from the UK in 2007.

                                                                                                                                              Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union of Reform Judaism in the US, has repeatedly called on Israel to sever contacts with Christian Zionist and evangelical groups, describing them as opposed to "territorial compromise under any and all circumstances".

                                                                                                                                              God-TV has close ties to Christians United for Israel (Cufi), an umbrella group founded in 2006 by John Hagee, a Texan pastor, that lobbies on behalf of Israel in Congress.

                                                                                                                                              Hagee, a frequent preacher on the TV channel, has regularly courted controversy with comments seen as anti-Semitic. Most notoriously, in a sermon in the late 1990s, he called Adolf Hitler “a hunter” who carried out God’s plan for the Jews to return to Israel by leaving them “no place to hide” in Europe.

                                                                                                                                              Cufi and the other evangelical groups have lobbied strenuously in Washington on behalf of the illegal settlements in the West Bank and for Israeli control over the holy sites in East Jerusalem, said Sizer.

                                                                                                                                              Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has been especially keen to seek out support from Christian evangelical groups, according to Shalom Goldman, a professor at Atlanta's Emory University, who recently published a book on the Christian Zionist movement.

                                                                                                                                              Last year Cufi announced a $38 million marketing drive to bring more Christian tourists to Israel, including the establishment of a “task force on global Christian relations” jointly overseen by Hagee and Netanyahu.

                                                                                                                                              Haia Noach, the director of the Negev Coexistence Forum, which campaigns for Bedouin rights, said her organisation feared more of God-TV’s trees would be planted on Bedouin lands in the coming weeks. A depot has recently been established close to al-Araqib to store four bulldozers.

                                                                                                                                              “The villagers refuse to abandon al-Araqib, even though it has been destroyed many times. But once a forest is planted there, there will be no chance to go back,” she said.

                                                                                                                                              She said she feared the goal was to build Jewish communities on Bedouin land. She cited the case of Givat Bar, which was secretly established by the government on part of al-Araqib's lands in 2003.

                                                                                                                                              Repeated letters to the JNF for information about their forestation programme had gone unanswered, she said.

                                                                                                                                              Awad Abu Freih, a community leader at al-Araqib, said the house demolitions and forest-planting were only the latest measures by the government to remove the villagers.

                                                                                                                                              Repeated destruction of al-Araqib's crops by spraying them with herbicides was ruled illegal by Israel's Supreme Court in 2004.

                                                                                                                                              Efforts to move 90,000 Bedouin off their lands close to Beersheba have been intensifying since 2003, when the Israeli government announced plans to move them into a handful of townships.

                                                                                                                                              The Bedouin have resisted, complaining that the official communities are little more than urban reservations that languish at the bottom of the country's social and economic tables.

                                                                                                                                              - Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.jkcook.net. (A version of this article originally appeared in The National - www.thenational.ae - published in Abu Dhabi.)

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                                                                                                                                                Palestinians to Approach UN for State Recognition

                                                                                                                                                English (US)  December 31st, 2010 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                Abbas threatened to use diplomatic options.

                                                                                                                                                By Mohammed Mar'i – Ramallah

                                                                                                                                                The Palestinian Authority (PA) will present the UN Security Council (UNSC) with a draft of a resolution declaring statehood in the coming days, a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

                                                                                                                                                Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in a press statement that the resolution is scheduled to be filed when Bosnia takes the UNSC's presidency in January.

                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                Erekat added that the Palestinian leadership is "waiting for Bosnia to take the presidency of the Security Council." The Palestinian negotiator expressed his hope that the US would not veto the move.

                                                                                                                                                He added that Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand would recognize the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.

                                                                                                                                                Erekat said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will leave for Brazil on Wednesday to lay the cornerstone of the Palestinian Embassy there on Jan. 1. Brazil recognized the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders in early December.

                                                                                                                                                According to Erekat "the Israeli government is witnessing an international isolation that it hasn't witnessed before."

                                                                                                                                                According to other reports the Palestinians will submit a proposal calling for a Security Council resolution to halt Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                Meanwhile, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday that Palestinians expect wider recognition of their statehood in the coming year and it will mean more than the mere "Facebook state" predicted by an Israeli minister.

                                                                                                                                                Fayyad said recognition by many countries would "enshrine" the Palestinians' right to a state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel captured along with East Jerusalem in a 1967 war.

                                                                                                                                                Seventeen years of peace efforts had failed to deliver this promise, he told reporters. The current Israeli coalition's stated commitment to a two-state solution could not be relied on "given the erosion that has taken place," he said.

                                                                                                                                                Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador announced recognition of Palestinian statehood in the past month. Chile, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua are reported to be weighing the same move.

                                                                                                                                                "These are welcome developments," Fayyad said.

                                                                                                                                                However, the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that the US and Europe are straying from the idea of unilaterally establishing a Palestinian state.

                                                                                                                                                The European Union has staved off Palestinian pressure in favor of waiting until an "appropriate" time, while the US House of Representatives passed a resolution this month saying only peace talks could set such a process in motion.

                                                                                                                                                In September, the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed after Israel refused to extend a 10-month moratorium over freezing settlement constructions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

                                                                                                                                                Abbas and other Palestinian officials had threatened to use other diplomatic options, including dissolving the Palestinian Authority, in case Israel keeps insisting not to freeze building settlements.

                                                                                                                                                While the Palestinians say they are still committed to a negotiated peace deal, they have grown increasingly frustrated and have started taking alternative actions to put Israel on the defensive. As part of that campaign, they have been seeking unilateral recognition of an independent Palestinian state, even in the absence of a peace deal.

                                                                                                                                                (Arab News and Agencies – www.arabnews.com)

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                                                                                                                                                  Downfall of the Jewish Dream of a Safe Homeland

                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  December 31st, 2010 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                  Racism tears a society apart in a toxic irreversible manner.

                                                                                                                                                  By Lillian Rosengarten

                                                                                                                                                  'Israeli military kills 20-year old Gazan for herding animals too close to buffer zone.' -- Adam Horowitz, December 24.

                                                                                                                                                  The International Solidarity Movement in Gaza reported: “Yesterday morning Salama Abu Hashish, 20 years, was herding his sheep and goats in Beit Lahya, in northern Gaza, when the Israeli Occupation Forces shot him without any warning. The bullet hit his back and went straight through one of his kidneys. He had surgery and was in the intensive care unit at Kamal Adwan Hospital, where he died at 5.30 pm. The IOF has not only taken a life away from the Abu Hashish family; it widowed a young woman and orphaned a baby that was only born the previous evening. Salama Abu Hashish had just become a father, but has not even been able to name his first born.”

                                                                                                                                                  [More:]


                                                                                                                                                  In 1945 the war against the Nazis ended. I was 10 years old and had emigrated with my parents to New York. For years and well into adulthood, I had pushed the debauchery of Germany by the Nazis undergound and assumed my role as a “good” American. I am an assimilated Jew as were so many German Jews so that my “Jewishness” as a religion meant nothing to me. I haphazardly identified as a “cultural” Jew. In this way I held onto some vestige of my Jewish identification. I married a socialist and politics became my religion.

                                                                                                                                                  Some years later when I was well into my fifties, a creeping torment began to nag at me, a direct result of numerous visits to Israel to visit relatives, refugees from Germany who were supportive of Israeli politics. But most influential, beloved and life altering for me was a first cousin of my father who became my mentor and role model as both a critic and lover of Israel. Hans Lebrecht, a former human rights activist and journalist now in his 90’s, taught me the truth about Israel’s human rights abuses to Palestinians, the insatiable hunger for land not theirs and the racism towards Sephardic Jews and Bedoins. I was shocked out of my love for the Kibbutzim and the idea of a democratic, safe Israeli homeland. How could they have built Socialist style communal living on someone else’s land? It did not make sense. I am now fifteen years later accustomed to feeling torment as I pursue the question of Palestinian liberation and the abuses perpetrated by the Israeli State. I feel in me an aspect of the “reviled Jew who must be cleansed out of Germany and Europe. This part of me had remained dormant for many decades of my life.

                                                                                                                                                  This “hatred of Jews” and others deemed to be “inferior” was the driving force created by the monsters of German nationalism. We know Germany was not alone. Cambodia whose killing fields I have seen, created a similar holocaust where toxic hatred was displaced on an entire population of intellectuals and professionals who were systematically murdered to create a subservient country of submission.

                                                                                                                                                  Suddenly I have become a staunch advocate of Palestinian rights and liberation from occupation and hatred. The torment now conscious, does not go away but accelerates on a daily basis for I am every Palestinian who is reviled, murdered and pushed from their homeland into occupied ghettos of despair. I am every refugee without a home.

                                                                                                                                                  Racism is a disease. It spreads as a malignancy, a hatred that assumes another person is less than human. Islamic teachings condemn racism and tribalism and promotes equality and brotherhood of all human beings. Furthermore, Islam teaches that racism, nationalism, ethnic discrimination or considering oneself superior over others in any way is forbidden, not acceptable and not permitted. These are similar teachings of what it means to be a Jew. They are religions of compassion

                                                                                                                                                  What we see in Israel is a distortion of Judaism and an attempt by the Israeli State to insist that Israel professes Jewish values as well as moral superiority. (Note the oxymoron “moral army”) Nothing could be further from the truth. True Judaism opposes the stealing of land, the occupation and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. The hallmark of Zionism in Israel is a harsh nationalism that has imposed itself in a completely illegitimate and amoral way on the Palestinian population. Jewish Americans and those who call themselves progressives (with the exception of their unquestioning support of Israel) have been brainwashed through the power of the Israeli lobby and The American Jewish Committee that has control over the American news media. Only the Israeli side of the story is heard, Muslims are demonized and the occupation of Palestinians on their own land is justified. I believe the emotional relationship of Jews as victims of the Holocaust also plays a powerful role in obtaining support for Israel’s cruel subjugation. For example, the Israeli story line asks for support of a democratic Israel in its quest for peace and security. What is not debated is just how does Israel’s claim to be “democratic” state where people enjoy human rights and dignity coexist with the truth of its apartheid racist and degrading relationship with the Palestinians. And then there is another piece that assumes it is a hate crime to criticize Israel using the holocaust to evoke guilt and shame.

                                                                                                                                                  For all of us who desire a peaceful co-existance in the Middle East, we must have the courage to stand against any forms of racism no matter how it is justified. Racism tears a society apart in a toxic irreversible manner. Stand with me please, I ask you once again.

                                                                                                                                                  - Lillian Rosengarten, a refugee from Nazi Germany is a Buddhist practitioner, poet, writer and a pacifist. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: truthpoem@gmail.com.

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                                                                                                                                                    Senator John McCain's born identity

                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  December 31st, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                    McCain's fervent opposition to presidential policies, are and always have been, driven by spite and not statesmenship.

                                                                                                                                                    By Cliff Schecter

                                                                                                                                                    What does he want? Revenge. For what? Being born.

                                                                                                                                                    This is the way famous gunslinger Doc Holliday answers equally famous lawman and good friend Wyatt Earp’s inquiry - in their depiction in the movie Tombstone - into why their sworn enemy, Johnny Ringo, is such a misanthrope.

                                                                                                                                                    Sadly, this description would be equally accurate in explaining the actions of another Arizona transplant filled with endless rage: Senator John McCain.


                                                                                                                                                    Senator John McCain's personal vendettas have driven him to vehemently oppose all of President Obama's key policies this year [Getty]

                                                                                                                                                    I first encountered the seething side of McCain when I was writing my 2008 book, The Real McCain, which was critical of him while pointing out a then-controversial fact, one no longer in dispute among those who lionised him back then. Namely, that the Led Zeppelin-groupie relationship he then enjoyed with many in the media was based on a faulty premise.

                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                    John McCain was not a maverick (which he has since admitted after long identifying with the title), but a man driven by a need to fight. To fight for his own redemption, to fight with those who dared disagree with him, and most particularly, to fight with anyone who had delivered him a perceived humiliation of any sort. Think Yosemite Sam on a bender, or Vladamir Putin in those half-naked martial arts pictures.

                                                                                                                                                    Sure, McCain was also motivated by the very same political expediency which drives too many politicos, as well as coveting an appearance on the Sunday morning talk circuit the way a twenty-something blonde does meeting Edward Pattinson, or marrying Hugh Hefner.

                                                                                                                                                    But the driving force for McCain has been pure vitriol and spite. When I first pointed out this inconvenient truth in my book, that many Republicans, including some willing to go on the record, were sure McCain was motivated by demons and not decency, I was criticised or dismissed in many quarters. Yet, it was obvious to me back then that his battles with fellow Republicans and Democrats had become personal, crusades for the eternally perturbed Abe Simpson stand-in.

                                                                                                                                                    I broke two stories in my book that spoke to McCain’s temperament, that he had physically assaulted a member of his own party after taunting him (Republican Representative Rick Renzi) and had called his wife a very not-safe-for-work term of non-endearment. In perhaps an emblematic McCain moment, during a policy meeting with a fellow Republican, McCain “called the guy a ‘sh—head.’ The senator demanded an apology. McCain stood up and said, ‘I apologise, but you’re still a sh—head.’”

                                                                                                                                                    There’s a reason the dude was nicknamed “McNasty” in high school.

                                                                                                                                                    So when others still saw McCain’s breaking from President Bush on taxes, healthcare, the environment and gun control in the early 2000s as a sign of “independence,” I tried to point out what I had learned: He was just doing it because he hated Bush for beating him in the primaries. And when others saw his loss to then-Senator Barack Obama and thought he’d work with Obama to display his maverickyness once Obama was sworn in, I warned that in all likelihood we’d see McCain once again do his best Judge Elihu Smails impression.

                                                                                                                                                    But even I couldn’t have expected how truly ridiculous he’s become. As Deputy Political Director Michael McMurray of NBC News pointed out in a tweet just before Christmas that outside of Afghanistan, “the AZ senator didn't support any major Obama WH policy in '09-'10.” In fact, it has been much worse than that.

                                                                                                                                                    Bush’s tax cuts for top earners, immigration reform, a nuclear arms treaty and even a military suicide prevention bill were not worthy of McCain’s support during the last two weeks. Not supporting a bill to prevent military suicides? Really? It’s almost like this particular Scrooge got a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Crazy while napping after an especially large portion of Quaker Oats.

                                                                                                                                                    As journalist David Corn recently pointed out, looking at McCain’s increasingly desperate attacks against repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy of allowing gays to serve in the military only if they were as vocal as a Buddhist Monk about who they really were, “…McCain practically threw a tantrum on the Senate floor, decrying ‘this bizarro world’ and denouncing senators in favour of repeal…Looking as if steam would shoot out of his ears at any moment, McCain went on to exclaim that ending DADT would endanger ’the survival of our young men and women in the military.’"

                                                                                                                                                    Of course, as Corn also wrote, “Not only had McCain flip-flopped, he had become an angry crusader, seemingly full of rage at a policy initiative he once quasi-endorsed…It seemed more personal than policy -- as in he really doesn't fancy seeing a victory for President Obama, the fellow who prevented McCain from becoming BMOC.”

                                                                                                                                                    That is really the gist of it, and it’s at the heart of who McCain has been his entire time in Washington, whether most journalists have been willing to see it or not. He’s not a statesman, nor has he ever been. He’s a petulant bomb thrower. He’s Simon Cowell in a suit.

                                                                                                                                                    In fact, in a slightly alternative universe, it wouldn’t really be all that hard to imagine McCain standing on a Times Square street corner screaming at passersby that they all deserve to go to hell, or challenging random strangers to a fight to the death using sticks to determine who gets his clay marble collection.

                                                                                                                                                    But in this one, he was just elected to another 6-year Senate term. And that tells you a helluva lot about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves as a nation.

                                                                                                                                                    Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

                                                                                                                                                    Follow Cliff Schecter On Twitter: @Cliffschecter

                                                                                                                                                    Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                                                                      Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Gaza remains imprisoned

                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  December 28th, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                      By Jody McIntyre

                                                                                                                                                      It feels strange to spend time over the Christmas period in a quiet Yorkshire village with family; this time last year, I was on my way to the Gaza Strip. It was the second time I had travelled to Gaza; the first time was in March 2009, just a few months after Israel had launched Operation Cast Lead, a twenty-two day assault on the Strip, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Hard to describe as a conflict, a massacre perhaps, but a tragedy undoubtedly.

                                                                                                                                                      Just as English students are currently enjoying the school holidays, many Gazans had time off school in the winter of 2008/09. There were no lessons in the UN school in Gaza when it was showered with white phosphorus. The Universities in Gaza were closed when they were shelled by the Israeli military. Terrorist breeding grounds, or institutions of education?

                                                                                                                                                      In January, I interviewed Ayman Quader, a Palestinian student hoping to leave Gaza to pursue a course abroad. “I remember when I was still at secondary school,” Ayman told me, “it was before the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005, and the Israeli army would block the road that ran from where I lived to where my school was. So, from an early age I learned the education of occupation.”

                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                      Reporting on the current situation in Gaza is all too familiar a story. First of all, we ignore the context of the Israeli-imposed, Egyptian-enforced siege of the Gaza Strip, plunging 1.5 million people into a desperate and isolated existence. We also ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of these people are refugees, displaced from their homes inside what is now the State of Israel in 1948 and 1967. When Palestinian armed groups fire rockets into Israel, they are “terrorists firing at civilians”, but when the Israeli army fires at and kills Palestinian farmers and fishermen, they are “soldiers shooting at suspicious figures near the border”. The double-standards never cease to amaze.

                                                                                                                                                      It is all too easy to forget that whilst Hamas came to power, through a democratic election, in 2006, the Israeli occupation of Palestine began not in 2008, when they invaded Gaza, nor in 2006, when they invaded Lebanon, but in 1948. 2011 will mark the sixty-third year of that occupation. As political commentator Ali Abunimah observed this week, “we must remember that the Palestinian people in Gaza are not objects of an isolated humanitarian cause, but partners in the struggle for justice and freedom throughout Palestine.”

                                                                                                                                                      I remember living with the Hanoun family in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in the summer of last year. When the family were evicted from their home to make way for foreign settlers, despite the opposition of the UN, the EU and both British and American consuls in Jerusalem, Sharihan Hanoun, one of the daughters of the family, refused to cancel the psychology exam she was due to sit at her University a few days later. She did her revision on the pavement opposite her home, where we also slept, and got the highest mark in her year.

                                                                                                                                                      As the South African freedom fighter Steve Biko once said, “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” The State of Israel can oppress the Palestinians for another sixty-three years, but it will never defeat their spirit, or win their minds.

                                                                                                                                                      http://tinyurl.com/2bynk5p

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                                                                                                                                                        Two year anniversary: The Gaza massacre and the struggle for justice

                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  December 27th, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                        Israel's violence against Gaza, like its violence against Palestinians everywhere, is the logical outcome of the racism that forms the inseparable core of Zionist ideology and practice: Palestinians are merely a nuisance, like brush or rocks to be cleared away in Zionism's relentless conquest of the land.


                                                                                                                                                        27 December 2008: Israel began its deadly three-week assault on Gaza. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

                                                                                                                                                        By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 December 2010

                                                                                                                                                        The Gaza massacre, which Israel launched two years ago today, did not end on 18 January 2009, but continues. It was not only a massacre of human bodies, but of the truth and of justice. Only our actions can help bring it to an end.

                                                                                                                                                        The UN-commissioned Goldstone Report documented evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in an attack aimed at the very "foundations of civilian life in Gaza" -- schools, industrial infrastructure, water, sanitation, flour mills, mosques, universities, police stations, government ministries, agriculture and thousands of homes. Yet like so many other inquiries documenting Israeli crimes, the Goldstone Report sits gathering dust as the United States, the European Union, the Palestinian Authority and certain Arab governments colluded to ensure it would not translate into action.

                                                                                                                                                        Israel launched the attack, after breaking the ceasefire it had negotiated with Hamas the previous June, under the bogus pretext of stopping rocket firing from Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                        During those horrifying weeks from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, Israel's merciless bombardment killed 1,417 people according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                        They were infants like Farah Ammar al-Helu, one-year-old, killed in al-Zaytoun. They were schoolgirls or schoolboys, like Islam Khalil Abu Amsha, 12, of Shajaiyeh and Mahmoud Khaled al-Mashharawi, 13, of al-Daraj. They were elders like Kamla Ali al-Attar, 82 of Beit Lahiya and Madallah Ahmed Abu Rukba, 81, of Jabaliya; They were fathers and husbands like Dr. Ehab Jasir al-Shaer. They were police officers like Younis Muhammad al-Ghandour, aged 24. They were ambulance drivers and civil defense workers. They were homemakers, school teachers, farmers, sanitation workers and builders. And yes, some of them were fighters, battling as any other people would to defend their communities with light and primitive weapons against Israel's onslaught using the most advanced weaponry the United States and European Union could provide.

                                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                                        The names of the dead fill 100 pages, but nothing can fill the void they left in their families and communities ("The Dead in the course of the Israeli recent military offensive on the Gaza strip between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009," [PDF] Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 18 March 2009).

                                                                                                                                                        These were not the first to die in Israeli massacres and they have not been the last. Dozens of people have been killed since the end of Israel's "Operation Cast Lead," the latest Salameh Abu Hashish last week, a 20-year old shepherd shot by Israeli occupation forces as he tended his animals in northern Gaza.

                                                                                                                                                        But the tragedy does not end with those who were killed. Along with thousands permanently injured, there is the incalculable psychological cost of children growing up without parents, of parents burying their children, and the mental trauma that Israel's offensive and the ongoing siege has done to almost everyone in Gaza. There are the as yet unknown consequences of subjecting Gaza's 700,000 children to a toxic water supply for years on end.

                                                                                                                                                        The siege robs 1.5 million people not just of basic goods, reconstruction supplies (virtually nothing has been rebuilt in Gaza), and access to medical care but of their basic rights and freedoms to travel, to study, to be part of the world. It robs promising young people of their ambitions and futures. It deprives the planet of all that they would have been able to create and offer. By cutting Gaza off from the outside world, Israel hopes to make us forget that the those inside are human.

                                                                                                                                                        Two years after the crime, Gaza remains a giant prison for a population whose unforgivable sin in the eyes of Israel and its allies is to be refugees from lands that Israel took by ethnic cleansing.

                                                                                                                                                        Israel's violence against Gaza, like its violence against Palestinians everywhere, is the logical outcome of the racism that forms the inseparable core of Zionist ideology and practice: Palestinians are merely a nuisance, like brush or rocks to be cleared away in Zionism's relentless conquest of the land. This is what all Palestinians are struggling against, as an open letter today from dozens of civil society organizations in Gaza reminds us:

                                                                                                                                                        "We Palestinians of Gaza want to live at liberty to meet Palestinian friends or family from Tulkarem, Jerusalem or Nazareth; we want to have the right to travel and move freely. We want to live without fear of another bombing campaign that leaves hundreds of our children dead and many more injured or with cancers from the contamination of Israel's white phosphorous and chemical warfare. We want to live without the humiliations at Israeli checkpoints or the indignity of not providing for our families because of the unemployment brought about by the economic control and the illegal siege. We are calling for an end to the racism that underpins all this oppression."

                                                                                                                                                        Those of us who live outside Gaza can look to the people there for inspiration and strength; even after all this deliberate cruelty, they have not surrendered. But we cannot expect them to bear this burden alone or ignore the appalling cost Israel's unrelenting persecution has on the minds and bodies of people in Gaza or on society itself. We must also heed their calls to action.

                                                                                                                                                        One year ago, I joined more than a thousand people from dozens of countries on the Gaza Freedom March in an attempt to reach Gaza to commemorate the first anniversary of the massacre. We found our way blocked by the Egyptian government which remains complicit, with US backing, in the Israeli siege. And although we did not reach Gaza, other convoys before, and after, such as Viva Palestina did, only after severe obstruction and limitations by Egypt.

                                                                                                                                                        Yesterday, the Mavi Marmara returned to Istanbul where it was met dockside by thousands of people. In May the ship was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which set out to break the siege by sea, only to be attacked and hijacked in international waters by Israeli commandos who killed nine people and injured dozens. Even that massacre has not deterred more people from seeking to break the siege; the Asian Convoy to Gaza is on its way, and several other efforts are being planned.

                                                                                                                                                        We may look at all these initiatives and say that despite their enormous cost -- including in human lives -- the siege remains unbroken, as world governments -- the so-called "international community" -- continue to ensure Israeli impunity. Two years later, Gaza remains in rubble, and Israel keeps the population always on the edge of a deliberately-induced humanitarian catastrophe while allowing just enough supplies to appease international opinion. It would be easy to be discouraged.

                                                                                                                                                        However, we must remember that the Palestinian people in Gaza are not objects of an isolated humanitarian cause, but partners in the struggle for justice and freedom throughout Palestine. Breaking the siege of Gaza would be a milestone on that march.

                                                                                                                                                        Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament and a passenger on the Mavi Marmara explained last October in an interview with The Electronic Intifada that Israeli society and government do not view their conflict with the Palestinians as one that must be resolved by providing justice and equality to victims, but merely as a "security" problem. Zoabi observed that the vast majority of Israelis believe Israel has largely "solved" the security problem: in the West Bank with the apartheid wall and "security coordination" between Israeli occupation forces and the collaborationist Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and in Gaza with the siege.

                                                                                                                                                        Israeli society, Zoabi concluded, "doesn't feel the need for peace. They don't perceive occupation as a problem. They don't perceive the siege as a problem. They don't perceive oppressing the Palestinians as a problem, and they don't pay the price of occupation or the price of [the] siege [of Gaza]."

                                                                                                                                                        Thus the convoys and flotillas are an essential part of a larger effort to make Israel understand that it does have a problem and it can never be treated as a normal state until it ends its oppression and occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and fully respects the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian refugees. And even if governments continue to stand by and do nothing, global civil society is showing the way with these efforts to break the siege, and with the broader Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

                                                                                                                                                        Amid all the suffering, Palestinians have not celebrated many victories in the two years since the Gaza massacre. But there are signs that things are moving in the right direction. Israel begs for US-endorsed "peace negotiations" precisely because it knows that while the "peace process" provides cover for its ongoing crimes, it will never be required to give up anything or grant any rights to Palestinians in such a "process."

                                                                                                                                                        Yet Israel is mobilizing all its resources to fight the global movement for justice, especially BDS, that has gained so much momentum since the Gaza massacre. There can be no greater confirmation that this movement brings justice within our grasp. Our memorial to all the victims must not be just an annual commemoration, but the work we do every day to make the ranks of this movement grow.

                                                                                                                                                        Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and is a contributor to The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict (Nation Books).

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                                                                                                                                                          Shin Bet puts Israeli 'anarchists' in crosshairs

                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  December 27th, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                          Security forces' Jewish Department warns leftist activists that they might be found to be violating the law.


                                                                                                                                                          Soldiers and children at a protest against the security fence in Bethlehem.
                                                                                                                                                          Photo by: Haggai Matar

                                                                                                                                                          By Amira Hass

                                                                                                                                                          The two security cadets at Ben-Gurion International Airport stood by the plane's door. That Friday, December 17, they were waiting not for some Mohammad, but rather for a Cohen. Matan Cohen.

                                                                                                                                                          He disembarked, and they followed him through passport control. From there he was taken to a small interrogation room. The duty policeman told Cohen, 22, a student at Hampshire College, that he was being detained on suspicion of "hostile activity."

                                                                                                                                                          Cohen: "Was it you who decided to detain me?"

                                                                                                                                                          Policeman: "No, security elements did."

                                                                                                                                                          Cohen: "Meaning the Shin Bet security service?"

                                                                                                                                                          Policeman: "Yes, the Shin Bet's Jewish department."

                                                                                                                                                          Four more people in civilian clothes examined Cohen's possessions. It took them two and a half hours. They asked some questions that showed Cohen they did not know a thing about him. (He is an anarchist activist and one of the coordinators of BDS - Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel - in the United States. ) They told him they did not have the security clearance to gain access to his file.

                                                                                                                                                          "We merely were warned that you are suspected of terrorist activity," which means they have to go through his bags, they said. After the examination, he was taken back to the policeman, who said, "If it were up to me, I would let you go already. I'm waiting for a telephone call from the head of the Jewish department."

                                                                                                                                                          Cohen: "[Am I] a suspect in something?"

                                                                                                                                                          Policeman: "You're not a suspect. You're suspected."

                                                                                                                                                          Cohen: "Your grammar is amazing."

                                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                                          Policeman: "It means that they think you're connected to something but you are not suspected of anything concrete."

                                                                                                                                                          Cohen: "In other words, you can detain me whenever you wish."

                                                                                                                                                          Policeman: "These are the instructions I got from the Shin Bet and the decision is theirs."

                                                                                                                                                          Eventually the policeman filed a detention report, writing: "Suspected of hostile terror activity by Shin Bet." Cohen, who was home for a vacation from his studies in political economy, philosophy and psychoanalysis, left the airport for his parents' house.

                                                                                                                                                          He was not the only anarchist the Jewish department dealt with that week. Five days earlier, Kobi Snitz was attending a conference when he received a call from an unidentified number. The caller told him, "Shalom, this is Rona from the Shin Bet. I'm sure you've heard about me."

                                                                                                                                                          "She said she wanted to invite me for a friendly conversation and for us to exchange thoughts," said Snitz, 39, an anarchist activist and a mathematician. He asked whether he was being called in for an interrogation and when she said no, he said, no thanks. In 2009, Snitz served a 20-day sentence over an attempt a few years earlier to prevent the demolition of a house in Kharbatha, a village west of Ramallah. Two months ago, he was given another five-day sentence over a protest against the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

                                                                                                                                                          "The Jewish department believes that every Arab is dangerous and that they can take us, the naive activists, for a ride," says Snitz. "They call us in in order to create a psychological profile, to know which of us they can exploit, and who can be exploited by others. They are not looking for information."

                                                                                                                                                          Assaf Kintzer received a call on December 9: "Shalom, this is Rona from the Shin Bet. How are you?" After he said "okay," she said she wanted to see him and asked him to come to the Dizengoff Street police station in Tel Aviv. It's urgent, she added. Kintzer, 33, said he could not come immediately. She said: "I'll call you again soon, and it's worth your while to come." She then continued, as Kintzer recalled, "Listen, if you aren't coming now, I'll tell you a bit by phone. I want you to know that we know what you are doing and that it will have repercussions. At the moment, what you are doing is on the borderline of the law and it is quite possible that information on you will show your actions are illegal. We know about all your files."

                                                                                                                                                          That same day, Kintzer was called to the police station to be interrogated after being detained at two demonstrations against the separation fence at Ma'asara.

                                                                                                                                                          Then Rona added: "In addition to your activity in the West Bank, we know that you are involved in [a plan to demonstrate against] the business conference. If you do anything violent, there will be consequences. Why aren't you talking?"

                                                                                                                                                          I have no reason to answer, he said. So Rona, he recalls, said in parting: "You should know that I'm not against you at all. I am on your side and take part in demonstrations."

                                                                                                                                                          One person who did go to meet Rona two weeks ago, mainly out of curiosity, was N., 30, another member of Anarchists against the Wall.

                                                                                                                                                          The entire meeting, including the security check with a magnometer and the screening of his bag, took less than 20 minutes. Rona could not get N. to respond to her questions, but N. said she had the following message: "We know what you are doing. At the moment you are not violating the law and we don't have any problem with you. The moment you violate the law, we'll be there."

                                                                                                                                                          Haaretz asked the Shin Bet whether it was warning activists about violating laws that the Knesset may pass in the future, thus making their actions illegal. The newspaper also asked who was considered "suspected," and whether members of the service could participate in demonstrations against the government.

                                                                                                                                                          The Shin Bet responded, "The security service acts in keeping with the authority granted it by law to fulfill its objective of protecting state security, institutions and public order in a democratic regime from threats of terror, damage, subversion, spying and revealing state secrets, as stipulated in paragraph 7 (a ) of the Shin Bet security service law from 2002. As for the extent to which Shin Bet employees may take part in demonstrations, they are subject to the restrictions imposed on all civil servants."

                                                                                                                                                          Haaretz

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                                                                                                                                                            Another Gaza war?

                                                                                                                                                            English (US)  December 27th, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                            By Sherine Tadros

                                                                                                                                                            On Thursday, as I hurried into Gaza, that was the question everyone was asking – from news editors in Doha, to the guy who carries luggage through the Erez terminal, to the Hamas official who took my passport details.

                                                                                                                                                            If the donkeys in Gaza could talk this is what they would be asking: Is there going to be another war?

                                                                                                                                                            Maybe because I was there during the last assault people see me as a bad omen in Gaza ... but there is real cause for concern.

                                                                                                                                                            Last week the strip witnessed the most violent few days since the end of the war, with Israel killing several fighters and dozens of mortars and rockets being fired towards southern Israel [one lightly injured an Israeli teenage girl].

                                                                                                                                                            From discussions with Hamas and military wings in Gaza, the good news is, it doesn't look like another war will happen right now. The bad news: is it is likely to happen.

                                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                                            Make War not Love

                                                                                                                                                            For the past two years, since the war ended, there has been no effort to reconcile Israel and Hamas, not even whispers of talks (direct or indirect) between the two.

                                                                                                                                                            The unilateral ceasefire declared in 2009 seems to be holding only because neither Hamas nor Israel is ready for another round.

                                                                                                                                                            Instead, both have used this time to regroup, rearm and, particularly for Hamas, recover .... building an arsenal that will ensure the next war will be deadlier - for both sides - than the last.

                                                                                                                                                            Israel has learnt from it’s 2006 war with Hizbullah and fitted it’s Merkava tanks with defence systems that can neutralize advanced missiles. It says it is deploying these tanks on the Gaza border.

                                                                                                                                                            Hamas have been accumulating a variety of mainly Russian-made weapons, including the Kornet - a laser guided missile able to penetrate the Merkava.

                                                                                                                                                            And it did. Last week a Kornet sliced through an Israeli tank but didn’t explode. Kornet’s can take up to 10kg of explosives – had it exploded it would have killed Israeli soldiers and been seen as a serious provocation, if not declaration of war.

                                                                                                                                                            Hamas never claimed responsibility for launching the Kornet, but it's widely believed Hamas (and perhaps Islamic Jihad too) were testing their new toy.

                                                                                                                                                            A fighter from one of the military wings told me they have weapons most of their fighters don’t even know how to operate yet.

                                                                                                                                                            From Arms Race to War

                                                                                                                                                            For now though neither Israel nor Hamas want to see an escalation of violence. A senior Hamas official said on Friday his group will abide by the unofficial ceasefire as long as Israel does.

                                                                                                                                                            In fact, it’s not Hamas launching most of the rockets but the smaller Salafi groups (many of whose members are ex-Hamas fighters). Hamas, they tell us, is aggressively cracking down on them, arresting their fighters and stopping them from launching rockets.

                                                                                                                                                            Israel’s army chief is on his way out and defense minister Ehud Barak is in hot water with his party and could face early primaries to see him out. It’s not a good time for a war right now – certainly not one which would see Israeli soldiers killed, or perhaps worse, captured.

                                                                                                                                                            In short, the stakes for another confrontation are much higher than they were in 2008. The sides may not looking for a war right now, but they are it seems gearing up for one.

                                                                                                                                                            Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                                                                              English (US)  December 25th, 2010 by admin ( Email )

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                                                                                                                                                                Julien Assange interview with David Frost

                                                                                                                                                                English (US)  December 23rd, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                Julian Assange, the co-founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks - which is currently releasing over 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables - is in the UK fighting extradition to Sweden where he is wanted on charges for sexual assault.

                                                                                                                                                                He joins Sir David to talk about a host of issues, from his personal situation to the role of WikiLeaks as a bastion of transparency, championing the right to reveal government secrets, when it is in the publics' interest.

                                                                                                                                                                When he co-founded WikiLeaks he saw that he could encourage, through successful examples, people to step forward to reveal abuses by governments - to produce more justice. Subscribing to the motto that 'courage is contagious', Assange claims not to be an anarchist, rather his modus operandi is to promote responsible governance.

                                                                                                                                                                Now his lawyers are concerned that he will end up in an American jail, either directly through extradition from the UK, or through extradition from Sweden.

                                                                                                                                                                Assange heavily implies that receiving a fair trial in Sweden is doubtful. Why was the most senior prosecutor in Sweden removed (and replaced) after he said there was "no evidence or even suspicion" of rape? Why do Swedish authorities refuse to provide British officials with any evidence of crimes Assange allegedly commited - including witholding the statements of the victims?

                                                                                                                                                                He is hesitant to blame his two accusers for their allegations against him, suggesting they could be innocently caught up in a greater political scheme.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Why Is Israeli Spy Jonathan Pollard Back in the News?

                                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  December 23rd, 2010 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                                  By Jeff Gates

                                                                                                                                                                  Over the past two months, Benjamin Netanyahu has mentioned the fate of jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard six times in meetings with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Israel lobby also mounted a letter-writing campaign on Pollard’s behalf.

                                                                                                                                                                  When Pollard was arrested for espionage in the 1980s, Tel Aviv swore he was part of a "rogue" operation. Only 12 years later did Israel concede he was their spy the entire time. That insider espionage by a purported ally damaged U.S. national security more than any incident in U.S. history.

                                                                                                                                                                  During an earlier term as Prime Minister, Netanyahu secured a verbal agreement from Bill Clinton in 1998 to release Pollard. Clinton then faced a rebellion among U.S. intelligence agencies aware of the damage done. Clinton backed down and Netanyahu backed off.

                                                                                                                                                                  Pollard took more than one million documents for copying by his Israeli handler. When transferred to the Soviets, reportedly in exchange for the emigration of Russian Jews, that stolen intelligence shifted the underlying dynamics of the Cold War.

                                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                                  What has its entangled alliance with Israel cost the U.S.? The U.S. committed $20 trillion to Cold War defense from 1948-1989 (in 2010 dollars). Pollard negated much of that outlay yet even now Israel pretends to be an ally. Few believe it; many realize the U.S. has been played for a fool.

                                                                                                                                                                  Why Now?

                                                                                                                                                                  The timing could be a Christmas season plea for clemency after 25 years of imprisonment. Former Assistant Secretary of State Lawrence Kolb now claims the sentence was excessive due to a personal distaste for Israel by then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger.

                                                                                                                                                                  At trial, Pollard claimed he wasn't stealing from the U.S.; he was stealing secrets for Israel—with whom the U.S. has a "special relationship." Aware of the harm done by Pollard during the Reagan-era defense buildup, Weinberger pressed for a longer sentence than the prosecution.

                                                                                                                                                                  From 1981-1985, this U.S. Navy intelligence analyst provided Israel with 360 cubic feet of classified military documents on Soviet arms shipments, Pakistani nuclear weapons, Libyan air defense systems and other intelligence sought by Tel Aviv to advance its geopolitical agenda.

                                                                                                                                                                  Even while in prison, Pollard's iconic status among pro-Israelis may have played a strategic role. Or was it just coincidence that Tel Aviv announced a $1 million grant to their master spy ten days before 911? Is that how Israel signals its operatives in the U.S.?

                                                                                                                                                                  Could that explain the timing of Israel’s latest announcement? Could this news flurry be a signal to pro-Israeli volunteers (sayanim in Hebrew) that another operation is underway?

                                                                                                                                                                  Timing is Everything

                                                                                                                                                                  Tel Aviv routinely schedules its operations during political “downtime” in the U.S. The Suez crisis was scheduled for the last week of President Eisenhower’s 1956 reelection campaign. Fast forward to 2008 and Israeli troops invaded Gaza just after Christmas, killing 1,400 Palestinians before exiting just prior to the Obama inaugural.

                                                                                                                                                                  That well-timed provocation generated more outrage at the U.S. as Israel’s reliable enabler. The carnage also catalyzed reactions worldwide that undermined peace talks

                                                                                                                                                                  This latest news about Pollard coincides with another political downtime. The U.S. Congress has adjourned and the White House has shut down for the holidays. Plus WikiLeaks successfully removed peace talks from the news and restored talk of war with Iran.

                                                                                                                                                                  If there is another “incident” in the U.S. or the E.U., will the evidence point to Tehran? Islamabad? Damascus? If the U.S. cannot be persuaded to invade Iran, can it be provoked to do so? Stay tuned.

                                                                                                                                                                  What Next?

                                                                                                                                                                  Tel Aviv may be growing desperate and for good reason. Israel and pro-Israelis were the source of the fixed intelligence that induced the U.S. to invade Iraq in response to the provocation of 911. Those facts are well known to intelligence agencies worldwide.

                                                                                                                                                                  As with Pollard, Tel Aviv denies it.

                                                                                                                                                                  With Pollard back in the news, anything is possible. Recall how long it took for a confession that he was an Israeli spy. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Tel Aviv to concede its role in provoking its primary ally to pursue a Zionist agenda in the Middle East.

                                                                                                                                                                  Absent the mass murder of 911, would the U.S. now find itself at war in the Middle East? Absent another provocation, Americans are not inclined to expand these wars. At least not yet.

                                                                                                                                                                  "I know what America is," Benjamin Netanyahu assured a group of Israelis in 2001, apparently not knowing his words were being recorded. "America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction."

                                                                                                                                                                  Pollard has long been a rallying point for Jewish nationalists, Zionist extremists and ultra-orthodox ideologues. Only time will tell why he is back in the news. And whether this news is a means for moving the U.S. in the right direction.

                                                                                                                                                                  Jeff Gates is author of Guilt By Association—How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War. See www.criminalstate.com

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