Saturday, 7 March 2009

With thanks to Mazin Qumsiyeh

With thanks to Mazin Qumsiyeh

(please act and forward)

Every day brings new sophisticated ways of ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians while expanding the colonial settlements that increasing surround the few remaining Bantustans where those of us who remain here try to cling to a semblance of life (and not just the areas occupied since 1967 but also in places like Jaffa, the Negev, and the Galilee). I would like to impose on you to read a few of these case studies that are compiled by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) for the West Bank. You will be disturbed to see extremely well documented examples of the violence of land confiscation and ethnic cleansing. If you review just a few of those hundreds of stories, you will likely ask yourself why there is so little violent resistance! While awaiting International Criminal Courts to finally take-up these cases, we need to think what we can do together. How much can we get beyond our normal functioning and expand our activism and/or make it more effective (while guarding against compassion fatigue). The best answer for most people is to engage in boycotts, divestments, and sanctions based on the Palestinian Civil Society Call to Action and we urge you to join the call (see below).

ARIJ’s Case Studies (in Ethnic Cleansing and apartheid master plans)


1) Sign as individual or ask your favorite organization to sign onto the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions
2) Add the BDS endorsement page on your home page for the month of March
3) Participate and encourage others to participate in the March 30 Global Day of Action:

Articles of relevance

Israelis Are Beginning to See the Power of BDS

Boycott Israel

Boycotts and Divestment (background and links)

Palestinians in Christian housing fear return of Israeli bulldozers, by Judith Sudilovsky, Ecumenical News International, March 2, 2009

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home

Jews leave pots of urine, feces on the walls


March 6, 2009


Vandalism of Palestinian homes by Israeli soldiers is nothing new. Every time there’s an invasion into Palestinian territory, stories and photos emerge of the destruction and filth left behind. The recent Gaza invasion was no exception. Amira Hass has written about the horrible conditions Palestinians found in their homes when they were allowed back and, in one case, the ordeal a group of elderly people had to endure.

Hass writes about one incident in which Israeli soldiers confined five people, ranging from age 55 to a woman who is probably 85 or 90, to a room in a house. They were not allowed to use the restroom and were forced to urinate in plastic containers. The soldiers also appropriately spray painted “jail” on the wall where they confined these people. They also sketched a map of the area-X marked the spot of the home they were in-and they even wrote what brigade they belonged to.

When the troops pulled out and the Gazans who took refuge wherever they could were eventually allowed to return to their homes, many found feces piled on the floor and smeared on their walls. Soldiers had also urinated on clothes and in the washing machines; for good measure, I guess. Residents found their furniture all ripped up, their computers destroyed, their dishes broken and their clothes torn up.

The vandalism wasn’t just limited to people’s homes. The soldiers also broke into grocery stores and helped themselves to whatever they wanted. Although, they were some soldiers who were kind enough to pass out candy to the children. They used some of those children as human shields when they were giving it out. How ironic.

I wonder what goes through the minds of the these soldiers as they destroy Palestinian property. Not all Israeli soldiers are guilty of these acts but certainly there are many who are. Why do they do it? Do they feel they’re doing their patriotic duty by taking a crap in some room of a Palestinian house they’re using as cover? That couldn’t possibly be the case. Were they raised by barbarians? Some might answer yes to that question but I think the answer is no. I guess the only possible answer for why they do it is that they just simply take pleasure in destroying, regardless of how savage and ruthless, anything and everything belonging to Palestinians.

Hass writes that there were books of Psalms left behind and markings on cupboards differentiating meat and diary products. The soldiers stayed kosher. So what I don’t understand is how could these soldiers be men of faith, and yet still do these horrible things? I mean, these are people’s homes we’re talking about. These are where families live their modest lives. These are human beings! How these soldiers justify doing these inhumane acts is beyond me. The simple truth is there is no justification.

The IDF says they warned their soldiers not to harm personal property unless it was needed for operational purposes. I really don’t think peeing in a washing machine was necessary for an operation. And regarding the graffiti left on the walls, the IDF says that goes against the soldiers’ “values and norms.” Really? So what does it happen time and again? Unfortunately, nothing will change. When the next invasion comes around (and who really doubts that it won’t?) the same vandalism will occur and the IDF won’t do a damn thing about it.

I wonder if Hillary Clinton finds these acts “unhelpful” as well.

Pots of urine, feces on the walls - how IDF troops vandalized Gaza homes
GAZA - We had already visited this house, belonging to the Abu Eida family. It is the only one of the family's nine large houses that remained standing at the eastern edge of the city of Jabalya following Operation Cast Lead. The demolition of the family's houses and its four cement factories spells the loss of 40 years of hard work.

One Hebrew word scrawled on a wall tells the story of the 10 days when young Israeli soldiers became the ostensible prison wardens of five people. The youngest is Suheila Masalha, 55; the eldest is her mother Fatma, who is perhaps 85 or 90 or older. The only man is her brother Mohammed, 65, who is paralyzed and dependent on the women of his family. And there were two more women from the Abu Eida family - Rasmiya, 70, who owns the house, and her sister-in-law Na'ama, 56, who is blind.

"Jail" ("mikhla'a" in Hebrew), wrote the soldiers on the wall of the room where they kept the man and the four women. They did not allow them to use the toilet, but forced them to use all kinds of plastic containers kept in the room, for nine of the days.

From other graffiti you can conclude that it was the soldiers of the Golani Brigade - who were drafted in August 2007, and in January and March of 2008 - who sketched orientation maps on the walls of nearly every room. For example, "Position: entry. Direction: southeast," and a few squares that indicated the houses in the area. "Us," or "We are here," or just an X marked on square No. 5 - Rasmiya Abu Eida's house that became an Israel Defense Forces base.

The soldiers kept kosher, judging by the words "meat" and "dairy" scrawled in red on the kitchen cabinets. Maybe someone was kidding around, or maybe someone thought this was going to be their base for several more months, because they also wrote "Kosher for Passover" on one of the cupboards. Also in red.

White flags

The Masalha family lived in a kind of tin shack and raised their sheep near the Abu Eida family (the shack and the sheep were destroyed). On the evening of Saturday, January 3, when the Israeli ground incursion began, they fled the shelling and sought refuge with the neighbors in concrete houses that seemed safer. But the shells and shooting from close range only increased and the children were scared; they cried and screamed and members of the extended family decided to head west, on foot, with white flags.
The adults carried the children - without suitcases and clothing, and even without ID cards. There was no one to carry Fatma Masalha and her son Mohammed, who remained behind. Na'ama and her sister-in-law Rasmiya decided to stay with the guests who had sought shelter. That was on Sunday, January 4, at around 3 P.M.

A spacious, well-kept, generously furnished home awaited the soldiers on the following morning, when they arrived. There are other houses like this in Gaza, especially on the agricultural lands in the outskirts, which over the years have become bourgeois areas. These are exactly the places where the signs of shelling and the fires caused by the phosphorous bombs made clear to the civilians that they should leave if they held their lives dear.

On January 18, when the forces pulled out, similar sights awaited people whose homes had become military bases in their absence. There were bullet-pocked walls, ripped-up sofas and armchairs, smashed televisions and computers, shards of glass and porcelain dishes and broken wooden thresholds. Clothing was ripped up. And there were mountains of very Israeli garbage - empty tin cans, cardboard boxes, empty bags of potato chips and chocolate, and full bags of sugar and raspberry-flavored drinking powder. Everything was kosher for Passover under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate. And there were Hebrew newspapers, including the January 9 issue of the army magazine Bamahane.

In one house they left behind lots of unopened canned goods. The local people assumed that commanding army officers had stationed themselves there, as well as in other houses where there was no racist graffiti and family belongings hadn't been vandalized. Remnants of ammunition and IDF equipment were also found in and around many houses, as well as books of Psalms, the "Wisdom of the Sages" and "Hafetz Chaim," which is about rabbinical laws concerning slander and gossip.

Like ants

In the midst of all of this were plastic bottles of urine and many closed bags - in some houses, olive-colored ones - of excrement. People assumed that the commanders stayed there. There are houses where excrement was smeared on the walls, or where dry piles of it were found in corners. In many cases, the smells indicated that soldiers had urinated on piles of clothing or inside a washing machine. In all the houses the toilets were overflowing and clogged, and there was filth all around. When the Abu Eidas returned to house No. 5 in Jabalya, they discovered pots of urine and excrement in the refrigerator.
"Like ants, so many of them," says Na'ama, an Arabic teacher, of the soldiers who came into their home on January 5. She recalls that the soldiers had to be told that Mohammed could not put his hands up, and that they ordered the residents to strip. (Na'ama refused and one soldier made do with prodding and probing; they told Suheila to strip because they thought she was wearing an explosives belt.) The soldiers were amazed that the house was so large - "For just five people" - and kept saying that "this is Hamas money." They also asked, "Where are the tunnels, where is Hamas, if everyone left why didn't you leave?"

The soldiers ordered the five people to go into one room and stay there. They let them take some food: bread, olives, oil, water. They confiscated the mobile phones when they saw Na'ama holding one: "You want to call your brother to come with Hamas, to shoot at us," said one of the soldiers. "Liar," they said a lot, as well as "shut up, you donkey," in broken Arabic. They imitated her mockingly when she said "Ya Rab" ("Oh God"). The five prisoners could not pray, as they were not allowed to clean themselves up before prayer and were forbidden to stand up. They were given two blankets, which were not enough, especially because the windows were smashed and the door was always open. A soldier always sat next to the door aiming his rifle at them. All five still have colds.

"You'll come out when we leave," was the answer given to Na'ama after she asked them to contact the Red Cross. Apparently, one soldier spoke fluent Arabic, another could speak some and others knew a phrase or two.

Was there anyone among the soldiers who was a little bit nice? "To my regret, no," Na'ama says. In a number of other houses or neighborhoods people who preferred not to flee encountered some soldiers who were somewhat courteous. In none of the other houses were people forbidden to use the toilet, but the men's hands were bound for two or three days. There are houses where the captives had no food for two or three days or no water for hours. "We don't have food either," said the soldiers in Izbet Abed Rabbo.
Soldiers broke down doors of grocery stores and helped themselves to candy and snacks. There were some who handed out candy to children; sometimes soldiers asked a child whom they forced to accompany them, as a human shield, to hand it out.

On the morning of January 14, the Red Cross came to pick up the five inhabitants of the "jail" in house No. 5. A short while beforehand, the soldiers had brought a portable gas burner in so Rasmiya could make hot tea, which they had not let her do before. "Maybe because the officer came," Na'ama says.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said in response that soldiers in Gaza were instructed in advance not to harm personal property unless there was a need to do so for operational purposes. "Not only did the soldiers not prevent the Palestinians from eating," the office said, "but they shared their army rations with them. The IDF has not received any reports about breaking into grocery stores. Concerning the claims about graffiti, the IDF sees this as a very serious matter, which contradicts the values and norms in which the soldiers are educated."

Homeless in Gaza

Audio slideshow:

Raed al-Atamna's family's six houses were destroyed in the recent Gaza conflict, as well as the cars he uses to earn his living as a taxi driver.

With nearly 3,000 families homeless, rented accommodation is scarce in Gaza - Mr Atamna's pregnant wife and seven children are now staying with relatives, while he sleeps in a corrugated metal shack next to his ruined house.

The Israeli military says it destroyed buildings because of "substantial operational needs", for example because of booby traps or militants in them, but Amnesty International says "wanton destruction" occurred, in violation of international law.

Slideshow by Heather Sharp, Hamada Abuqammar and Paul Kerley. Publication date 6 March 2009.

Related story: Gaza homes destruction 'wanton'

Halabiya: Jerusalem faces the most serious stage in its history

Halabiya: Jerusalem faces the most serious stage in its history

[ 07/03/2009 - 04:50 PM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Abu Halabiya, the rapporteur of the Quds parliamentary committee, warned that the city of occupied Jerusalem is going through the most serious stage in its history, adding that the Israeli occupation authority is waging a relentless war on the Palestinian people everywhere.

Dr. Abu Halabiya's remarks came during a cultural meeting entitled "The risks that threaten Jerusalem and the holy places" held by the Hamas public relations office in the Daraj area in Gaza city.

The lawmaker stressed that at least 60 thousand dunums of Palestinian lands had been seized and 30 settlements had been established since 1967.

He noted that the IOA handed demolition orders for 134 Jerusalemite families living in 88 homes in the Bustan neighborhood in the Silwan town, south of the Aqsa Mosque, and issued other orders for the demolition of 55 apartments in the Ras Khamis area in the Shafat refugee camp, in central Jerusalem.

Abu Halabiya said that the goal of this Israeli policy is to tighten the screws on the Palestinians in Jerusalem in order to force them to emigrate from their city and change the demographic map dramatically in favor of the Jews.

The lawmaker pointed to what had been revealed by the Aqsa foundation for endowment and heritage about the Israeli intents to dig two new long tunnels under the Aqsa Mosque as a prelude to demolishing it.

Palestinian sources reported Saturday that the IOA handed during the past 24 hours demolition orders for 21 Palestinian families in Jerusalem.

The sources said that the IOA handed two Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, north of Jerusalem's old city, orders to evacuate their homes in order to give them for the society of oriental Jews which is active in seizing Jerusalemite real estate.

Israel hands out demolition orders for 36 Palestinian more families in J'lem

[ 07/03/2009 - 02:17 PM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli controlled municipality of occupied Jerusalem handed Thursday demolition orders for 36 Palestinian families living in the Abbasiya neighborhood near the Old City.

The sources said that the orders gave the families, who live in two buildings in this neighborhood, 10 days to evacuate their homes.

According to the sources, the number of Palestinian homes threatened with demolition in different Jerusalem neighborhoods rose to 124 so far.

Last week, Israel issued demolition orders for 88 homes in Al-Bustan neighborhood, located south of the Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem.

New reports received Saturday said that the Palestinians in the Sahel area near Jerusalem's Old City set up a protest camp on the ruins of the last house that was demolished two weeks ago in the area. The camp was set up to protest against Israeli decisions to demolish 13 apartment buildings and the confiscation of 16 dunums of lands owned by Palestinians in the same area

The Israeli ocucpation authority gave the Palestinian owners of homes and lands 40 days to comply with the demolition orders.

As a result of these demolition orders, which contravene international law, thousands of Palestinians will become homeless. There are also fears that more demolition orders will be issued soon at the pretext of unlicensed construction.

PCHR: IOF troops persist in WB incursions
Meanwhile, the Palestinian center for human rights said in its weekly report that the Israeli occupation forces carried out at least 31 incursions in most of West Bank cities, towns and refugee camps during which it kidnapped 31 Palestinian citizens including four children and transformed three Palestinian houses into military posts.
In the West Bank, on February 26, a Palestinian child was killed and two of his friends were injured by the explosion of a suspicious object left by IOF in the Yarza area to the east of Tayaseer village, east of Tubas, where the IOF troops routinely conduct military drills using live ammunition, the report added

On March fourth, a Palestinian child was seriously injured by a gunshot to the head when IOF soldiers moved into Beit Ummar village, north of Al-Khalil, and fired at a number of children who demonstrated against them.

In the Gaza Strip, the report pointed out that Israel continues to impose its deadly siege on the Palestinian people there and still blocks the entry of fuel supplies, food, medicines and other vital needs which paralyzed all walks of life in the Strip.

On February 27, medical sources at al-Zaytoun Hospital in Egypt confirmed that Nihad Mohammed Abu Kmail, 29, from al-Mughraqa village, south of Gaza City, died of injuries he had sustained on 13 January 2009. According to the report, the victim had been traveling in a truck on the coastal road leading to Gaza City when IOF troops positioned to the south of the city fired at the truck. As a result, Abu Kmail was wounded by a gunshot to the head.

On March fourth, the IOF troops extrajudicially executed a military activist of the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, and injured a second activist as well as two civilian bystanders in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The IOF troops have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians throughout the West Bank, including occupied east Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and Gaza continue to be denied access to occupied Jerusalem.

The IOA continues its measures aimed at creating a demographic Jewish majority in east Jerusalem, the report underlined.

Syria's "bottom line" for peace with Israel is the return of all the land seized from it by Israel in June 1967


Report by Fred Hof at the USIP, here

'...Syria's "bottom line" for peace with Israel is the return of all the land seized from it by Israel in June 1967. This includes the Golan Heights plateau and small tracts in the Jordan River Valley--acreage that adjoins bodies of water vitally important to Israel's economy and of marginal use to Syria.

Israel's "bottom line" for peace with Syria is the strategic reorientation of Damascus away from Iran, Hezbollah, and certain Palestinian organizations, mostnotably Hamas.

Rejecting the argument that peace with Israel obliges it to break relations with others, Damascus has indicated that an American presence at the peace talks would produce direct Syrian-Israeli interactions and that a drastically improved Syria-U.S. bilateral relationship must be a by-product of Syrian-Israeli peace..."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 3:31 PM


Asuming Shylock is really interested in peace Syria, his bottom line to return Golan Heights is strategic reorientation of Damascus away from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. In other words: dropping the most powerfull Syrian Card.

A stupid, like the
PP Annal-ysist, may imagine that the Syrian Fox would meet the Zionist bottom line.

So far, Assad has played his cards right and that he is the king of this jungle and you will deal with him on his terms:

"We are a player in the region. If you want to talk about peace, you can't advance without Syria." "you must deal with Syria on her terms".

Rising Beyond Bullets

Rising Beyond Bullets

By Natalie Abou Shakra – Gaza City

There is a limit to the sea, and there is a limit to the land. To a Palestinian's life in Gaza, there is a limit that is not determined by natural death or an unfortunate accident. The harvest seasons forcibly altered, and the fishing boats from their routes blocked. Tanks and bulldozers have plucked the roots of citrus fruits and olive trees kilometers away from the northern and eastern borders of the strip, pushing the borderlines further in, and forcing the inhabitants around these areas out of their homes and into other areas within. The population is already strangled with an Apartheid wall and a suffocating siege and the rope around its neck continues to tighten with the encroachment of the occupation forces from the boundaries inwards by weapons no one is supposed to defy.

Local economy, currency, basic resources, medication, technology, academic development and material, are entirely dependent on the Occupier and the allowance of equipment and supplies in through the crossings in a process of importation only, as exporting to the outer world has been prohibited ever since the blockade was enforced on the population in Gaza. A few days before Valentine’s, and at the demand of the farmers and the Dutch government, 25,000 Carnation flowers were allowed to be exported to Europe, which is one of the few exceptions. But, exceptions… are merely exceptions; no rule from the oppressive codes imposed by the occupation has been altered in favor of the Palestinians in the Strip.

Acres of land across the borders are lost simply because the farmers are targeted by the Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) bullets if approached. It is not only about the monetary value from produce that the land composes to the farmer, it more than that: the farmer’s or the peasant’s life is the land. It embodies symbol and existence. The farmer’s existence, in all its aspects, is the land on which s/he finds a reason to live for. Alienated from him/herself and those around him/her, the farmer, the peasant, this individual finds no way for the expression of self. Adding on to the six million Palestinians in exile, are the ones who are exiled on their own land, in their own homes, with their own people.

When we, non-local activists, accompany the farmers to their lands for a day of harvest and work in the fields, the farmers feel safe. However, they are aware of the falsity of this sense of security. The IOF soldiers in their jeeps and hummers gather around the area moments later and begin to strike their bullets towards all individuals present on the other side. Despite this awareness, the farmers insist to be on their lands, in their fields to harvest, reap, and plough. During one of the accompaniments that took place around a week ago, a farmer’s leg was injured in the shooting episode. But, this did not prevent us or the farmers from attending action, again. These strikes target unarmed civilians that are not violating rules or trespassing. But, to the occupier, in their jeeps, in their hummers, with their snipers, with their guns, they have a license to kill in the name of a supposed threat to a security.

In the logic of the oppressor’s sense of security, yes, the will of the oppressed, the will of a people to exist despite the oppression, unarmed, peacefully, is a threat to the occupier’s security of maintaining their oppression, their repression and colonialism, and thus existence as a colonizing and occupying force. Any form that resistance takes is an ultimate threat to their destructive subjugation of the colonized. So, the farmers and activists’ insistence to be present on the land is a successful act of resistance, non-violent civil resistance, in the face of the occupier. And the occupier in targeting unarmed, harmless civilians, engage in a failing, weak act to defy a will. After all, a bullet cannot kill the will, determination, insistence, persistence and resistance of a people; neither can F16, F35, F15, and Apache rockets along with White Phosphorous, tanks, gunboats and snipers.

What the last genocidal war against the Palestinians brought was a louder and wider condemnation from the international community, the intensification and radicalization of the boycotting movement, the increased awareness of the morality and justice of the Palestinian cause, and a stronger choice for civil resistance against the Israeli Apartheid state in its policies, acts and government.

Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise, Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise, I rise, I rise (M. Angelou)

- Natalie Abu Shakra is from Lebanon and is affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement. She defied Israeli orders for Lebanese citizens not to go to Gaza and was able to get in with the Free Gaza movement.
Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 9:36 PM

Exposing Israel (MUST SEE!)

Exposing Israel (MUST SEE!)

This is the true face of Israel, built on terrorisim, land theft, and ethnic cleansing.

Posted by Farhud

Feltman to Leb.: Openness to Syria Part of New US Policy

Feltman to Leb.: Openness to Syria Part of New US Policy
Readers Number : 123

06/03/2009 US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, and top Middle East officer at the US National Security Council Daniel Shapiro arrived on Thursday to Beirut ahead of a visit to neighboring Syria on Saturday following the pledge by President Barack Obama's administration to engage US foes.

"My visit here today underscores an important reality - the United States' support for a sovereign and independent Lebanon remains unwavering," Jeffrey Feltman told reporters after meeting with President Michel Sleiman as well as the country's premier and foreign minister.

The former US ambassador to Lebanon said Washington's overtures to Syria was in line with the policy of new US President Barack Obama to engage states in the region, including foes. "The president has said he wants to sustain in principle engagement with all states in the region and that includes Syria," said Feltman, who is acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

However, he stressed that Washington had a "long list" of concerns that he and fellow envoy Daniel Shapiro planned to discuss with Syrian officials when they meet on Saturday. "Our trip to Syria ... is an opportunity for us to start addressing these concerns and using engagement as a tool to promote our objectives in the region," Feltman said.

"We'll talk to the Syrians about many many issues but about Lebanon, the message is clear: The US and the international community ... all agree Lebanon is for the Lebanese," he added. "That's the basic message."

Feltman and Shapiro, the National Security Council's senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, arrived on Thursday. They first met the head of Future movement MP Saad Hariri, the son and political heir of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in a massive Beirut car bombing in 2005.

Feltman said it was appropriate to meet first with Hariri as an international tribunal to try the killers of his father is in its first week of operation in The Hague. "The United States welcomes this important step towards ending impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon and as a concrete sign that Lebanon's sovereignty is non-negotiable," he said.

He also hailed the June 7 legislative election in Lebanon. "This will be an important milestone in Lebanese history," he said. "The United States will support the Lebanese authorities' efforts to ensure that they are free, fair, transparent and unmarred by political violence."

Feltman and Shapiro are due to head to Syria on Saturday before returning to Beirut that same evening. They are expected to leave Lebanon on Monday.

Mauritania Expels Israeli Diplomats, Shuts Embassy

Mauritania Expels Israeli Diplomats, Shuts Embassy
Readers Number : 256

06/03/2009 Mauritania's military junta expelled Israeli diplomats and shut the embassy on Friday after freezing ties with the Zionist entity over its invasion of Gaza.

Mauritania was one of only three Arab countries that had full diplomatic relations with Israel and the closure of the embassy in Nouakchott leaves just Egypt and Jordan.

Mauritania's communications minister said the move was a result of a decision taken at a meeting of Arab leaders in Doha in mid-January following Israel's invasion of Gaza. "We informed them of the decision to suspend relations at the time of the summit in Doha, and it is now being executed," El Kory Ould Abdel Mola said. "The embassy is closed," he declared.

Another Mauritanian official said Israeli diplomats had been given 48 hours to leave the northwest African country. Staff were seen leaving the building.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official who declined to be identified said he could not confirm the expulsion and suggested the timing of the decision could be linked to a planned visit to Nouakchott by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. "Maybe they are just showing they're tough," the official said.

Gaddafi heads the African Union and is trying to mediate in the political crisis Mauritania has endured since the first democratically elected president was overthrown last August and General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz took over.

An official close to Mauritanian military ruler General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said the decision to expel the Israeli diplomats followed the decision in January to freeze relations with the state. "This is the logical consequence of the freezing of relations between Israel and Mauritania ... there is nothing new," said the official, who declined to be identified.

"This was expected. After General Aziz took the decision at the Doha summit, an envoy from the Mauritanian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the ambassador of Israel to leave the country," the official said.

Abdel Aziz announced the decision to freeze relations at a summit of Arab nations in Doha, Qatar, in January. Qatar said at the time that it would freeze its own relations with Israel, which are at a lower level than full diplomatic ties. Most other Arab countries also froze Israel's trade missions in their capitals after Israel's offensive in Gaza.

Nouakchott, in common with other cities across the Arab world, saw protests against the Gaza attacks earlier this year.

Mauritania gives Israeli embassy staff 48 hours to leave the country

Israeli teenage refuseniks speak to Palestinians in Bethlehem


Shministim video

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Five young Israelis who refused military service defied the separation between Israelis and Palestinians on Saturday evening to share their tales of prison, isolation, and struggle with an audience outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

They were four women and one man. All but one have already been to prison for their objection to serving in the occupying army. They slipped into Bethlehem in order to bring the message of the refusal movement to the Palestinians who face the guns wielded by their teenage peers every day.

“These soldiers don’t have to be bad people. They’re very ordinary people, but they’re doing these things. They are responsible,” said Sahar Vardi, 18, from Jerusalem.

Israeli refuseniks speaking in Bethlehem, 7 February, 2009
Photo by Anna Paq, ActiveStills (published with permission from ActiveStills)

Nearly a hundred Palestinians and third-country nationals crowded into a small theater to listen to the Israeli youths at the Alternative Information Center (AIC), a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization in the town of Beit Sahour.

On Tuesday Israelis are expected to elect the most right-wing government in recent memory, but these five, represent a countervailing force, however small, to an Israeli society that appears more than ever to be in the grip of right wing nationalism. In Tuesday's election, the top slot is expected to go to the right-wing Likud party, and the third largest share of the votes to Avigdor Lieberman’s “Israel Our Home” party, one of whose slogans is “No loyalty, no citizenship.”

“Refusing is a break from the Jewish-Israeli consensus,” said 22-year-old Alex Cohn, “It’s the beginning of a journey, not an end.” Cohn spent a total of five months in a military prison in 2005 for his refusal.

Israeli refuseniks speaking in Bethlehem, 7 February 2009
Photo by Anna Paq, ActiveStills (published with permission from ActiveStills)

The refuseniks’ message of moral objection was welcomed by at least some of the Palestinians who attended the panel. One student from Bethlehem said, “Every day I go to school at the Al-Quds university, which is in a town next to Jerusalem. I have to pass through a checkpoint twice a day. So, statistically speaking, if I’m standing in front of five Israelis, they’re probably going to be pointing guns at me. Instead I’m standing here applauding you.”

The five each explained their decision to refuse in terms of their life experiences. For some it was visiting the occupied territories and witnessing the brutality of the Israeli army first hand. Tamar Katz, 19, visited the Israeli-occupied city of Hebron with the group Breaking the Silence, and found the formerly bustling Old Market a “ghost town.”

Katz has spent three separate terms in prison ranging from two to three weeks each. When she refused to wear an American donated military uniform during one of her terms, she was remanded to solitary confinement.

Israeli teenage refuseniks, Maya Yechieli-Wind and Raz Bar David-Vernon are jailed for refusing to serve in the Israeli mlitary, Hashomer Prison, 14 January, 2009
Photograph by Oren Ziv, ActiveStills (published with permission from ActiveStills)

Eighteen-year-old Sahar Vardi said she has been active in Palestinian issues since the age of twelve, but it was not until she began attending demonstrations in the West Bank that she “realized who was responsible for [the occupation],” specifically, individual soldiers who are the ones who carry out the daily violence of the occupation. Before facing tear gas and Israeli bullets at a demonstration in the town of Bil’in, Sahar said she blamed the Israeli government, in abstract terms, for the occupation.

18-year-old Neta Mishly also went to the weekly demonstrations in Bil’in and recalled “what it felt like when the soldiers were shooting at me … I was just a 16-year-old girl.”

“I saw who the military is fighting against; it’s not another army, it’s normal people trying to live their lives,” said Mishly, who will likely go to prison in April.

“These soldiers are the same people we were supposed to be, the same as our friends and fathers,” said Mishly.

Protst in support of teenage refuseniks
Photograph by Oren Ziv, ActiveStills (published with permission from ActiveStills)

The young Israelis also talked about what 19-year-old Mia Tamarin called “the stamp of the refuser,” the social isolation they face in a society where everyone is a soldier. Tamarin, a committed pacifist who spent two years in an educational program where she met women from all over the Middle East, said that her decision to refuse also led her to leave home.

Alex Cohn also said he faced tension with his family. “When my brother heard he called me very angrily, saying ‘you’re going to rot in prison,’” he said, then recalling that his brother changed tones, “’You’re going to sit in prison and read books while I’m risking my life.’”

Israel’s rightward lurch going into Tuesday’s elections, Cohn said, “is like falling down a cliff. It’s a nightmare. We can only hope that people wake up from this nightmare.”

“But,” he added, “Maybe it will lift the mask of Israeli democracy, and there will be more pressure on Israel from the outside."

Demonstration in support of Israeli high school refuseniks outside Tzrifin Prison in Israel, 4 October, 2008
Photo by Oren Ziv, ActiveStills (published with permission from ActiveStills)

Posted by Kim at 3:58 AM



This video explains to what is actually taking place in Occupied Palestine.

Closed Zone: Free Gaza

Contributed By fatima

Closed Zone: Free Gaza

Dear friends,

Yoni Goodman, a main animator for Ari Foldman's "Waltz with Bashir" which won a Golden Globe for best foreign film and a nomination for an Academy Award in the same category has illustrated a new film for the Israeli human rights organisation, Gisha, the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement. The film life of a fictional boy living in the Gaza Strip under the Israeli blockade.

in solidarity, Kim

Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement calls on the State of Israel to fully open Gaza's crossings and to allow the real victims of the closure - 1.5 million human beings - the freedom of movement necessary to realize their dreams and aspirations.

Posted by Kim at 3:25 PM

Auschwitz Survivor Claims Elie Wiesel is an Impostor


English Language Exclusive!

Translated from the Hungarian by our Budapest Bureau

This article was based on this one
Zsolt Nyeki who says Miklos Gruner personally approached their journal some days ago to propose a free interview. Gruner was accompanied by Angela Nagy an Hungarian eye surgeon.

In May 1944 , when Miklos Gruner was 15, he was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau with his mother, father as well as a younger and an elder brother. He says that his mother and his younger brother were immediately killed after their arrival in the camp. Then he, his elder brother and their father had an inmate number tattooed on their arms and were sent to perform hard work in a synthetic fuel factory linked to IG Farben where the father died six months later. After that, the elder brother was sent to Mauthausen and, as the young Miklos was then alone, two elder Jewish inmates who were also Hungarians and friends with his late father took him under their protection. These two protectors of the young Miklos were the Lazar and Abraham Wiesel brothers.

In the following months, Miklos Gruner and Lazar Wiesel became good friends. Lazar Wiesel was 31 years old in 1944. Miklos never forgot the number Lazar was tattooed with by the Nazis: A-7713. In January 1945, as the Russian army was coming, the inmates were transferred to Buchenwald. During the three months this transfer took, partly by foot, partly by train, more than half of the inmates died and amongst them was Abraham, the elder brother of Lazar Wiesel. In April 8, 1945, the US army liberated Buchenwald. Miklos and Lazar were amongst the survivors of the camp. As Miklos had tuberculosis, he was sent in a Swiss clinic and therefore was separated from Lazar. After recovering, Miklos emigrated to Australia while his elder brother, who also survived the war, established himself in Sweden.

Years later, in 1986, Miklos was contacted in Australia by a Swedish journal and was invited to come in Sweden in order to meet "an old friend" named Elie Wiesel... As Miklos answered that he doesn`t know anyone with this name, he was told Elie Wiesel was the same person Miklos knew in the Nazi camps under the name Lazar Wiesel and with the inmate number A-7713... Miklos still remembered that number and he was therefore convinced at that point that he was going to meet his old friend Lazar and happily accepted the invitation to fly to Sweden in December 14, 1986. Miklos recalls:

" I was very happy at the idea of meeting Lazar but when I got out of the plane, I was stunned to see a man I didn`t recognize at all, who didn`t even speak Hungarian and who was speaking English in a strong French accent... so, our meeting was over in about ten minutes. As a goodbye gift, the man gave me a book titled "Night" of which he claimed to be the author. I accepted the book I didn`t know at that time but told everyone there that this man was not the person he pretended to be!"

Miklos recalls that during this strange meeting, Elie Wiesel refused to show him the tattooed number on his arm, saying he didn`t want to exhibit his body. Miklos adds that Elie Wiesel showed his tattooed number afterward to an Israeli journalist who Miklos met and this journalist told Miklos that he didn`t have time to identify the number but... was certain it wasn`t a tattoo. Miklos says:

- After that meeting with Elie Wiesel, I did research everywhere I could for twenty years and found out that the man calling himself Elie Wiesel has never been in a Nazi camp since he doesn`t figure on any official list of detainees.

Miklos also found out that the book Elie Wiesel gave him in 1986 as something he has written himself was in fact written in Hungarian in 1955 by Miklos old friend Lazar Wiesel and published in Paris under the title "A Világ Hallgat", meaning approximately "The Silence of the World". The book was then shortened and rewritten in French as well as in English in order to be published under the author`s name Elie Wiesel in 1958, under the french title "La Nuit" and the English title "Night". Ten million copies of the book were sold in the world by Elie Wiesel who even received a Nobel prize for it in 1986 while -says Miklos- the real author Lazar Wiesel was mysteriously missing...

- Elie Wiesel never wanted to meet me again, says Miklos. He became very successful; he takes 25 thousand dollars for a 45 minutes speech on the Holocaust. I have officially reported to the FBI that Elie Wiesel is an impostor but had no answer. I have also complained to the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences with no result. The American and the Swedish media which I tried to contact were indifferent. I have received anonymous calls telling me I could be shot if I don`t shut up but I am not afraid of death any more. I have deposited the whole dossier in four different countries and, if I died suddenly, they would be made public. The world must know that Elie Wiesel is an impostor and I am going to tell it, I am going to publish the truth in a book called "The Story of a Stolen Nobel Prize Identity".

You can find this article permanently at

Henry Makow is the author of A Long Way to go for a Date. He received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto. He welcomes your feedback and ideas at

See also:

Elie Wiesel - A Fraud

Posted @ 05:43

Post Title:

Friday, 6 March 2009

US Military Dominance in Mideast Proven a Costly Myth


by Gareth Porter

The arguments for maintaining a major U.S. combat force in Iraq at least through 2011, escalating U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and assuming a confrontational stance toward Iran appear to assume that the United States remains the dominant military power in the region.

But the pattern of recent history and current developments in the region has not supported that assumption. Not only has the United States been unable to prevail over stubborn nationalist and sectarian forces determined to resist U.S. influence, but it has not been able to use its military supremacy to wage successful coercive diplomacy against Iran.

Furthermore, even the ability of the United States to maintain troops in Iraq and Afghanistan turns out to be dependent on regimes which are by no means aligned with the United States.

Six years ago, after the United States had removed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the U.S. appeared to be militarily dominant in the region. Apart from its nearly 200,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States had surrounded Iran with a network of airbases scattered across the region from the Persian Gulf sheikdoms through Iraq and Afghanistan to the Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, along with aircraft on U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf.

Since 2003, however, events in the region have dealt a series of blows to the assumption that the U.S. military presence in general and ground forces in particular confer real power in the region. The first blow was the U.S. failure to subdue the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. By mid-2005, U.S. commanders in Iraq were admitting publicly that the U.S. military occupation was generating more resistance than it was eliminating.

The next blow was the Sunni-Shi'a civil war in Baghdad in 2006, which U.S. troops were unable to prevent or stop, even after the Bush "surge" of additional troops. The "cleansing" of Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad by Shi'a militias with the tacit support of the government ended only after a large swath of Sunni neighborhoods in the capital had been taken over. That fact contradicts the later boast by Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, that "coalition forces" had "broken the cycle of sectarian violence in Iraq."

The decision by Sunni insurgents to cooperate with the U.S. military in 2006 and 2007 was not the result of U.S. military prowess but of their defeat at the hands of Shi'a militias and the realization that the Sunnis could not oppose three enemies (the U.S., the Shi'a militias and al Qaeda) simultaneously.

It also enabled the Shi'a government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which had close ties to Iran, to consolidate its power and to achieve a crucial degree of independence from the United States.

The George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military command continued to assume that it would be able to keep its Iraqi bases indefinitely. In mid-2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates invoked the Korean model – a decades-long garrisoning of tens of thousands of U.S. troops – as the plan for Iraq.

But in July 2008, the al-Maliki government began demanding that all U.S. troops leave the country by the end of 2010. After initially refusing to believe that the troop withdrawal demand was serious, the Bush administration was forced eventually to agree to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The evolution of Iraqi politics belies the popular narrative that Gen. David Petraeus miraculously rescued the U.S. war from a bad strategy and ultimately prevailed over U.S. "enemies," including Iran.

In its conflict with Iran over its nuclear program, the Bush administration tried to intimidate Tehran by seizing Iranians in Iraq and wielding indirectly the threat of attack against its nuclear facilities. But coercive diplomacy did not work, largely because Iran could credibly threaten to respond to a U.S. or Israeli attack with unconventional attacks against U.S. bases and troops – and possibly even warships – in the Persian Gulf region.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, where the United States had appeared to be in control from 2001 to 2005, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have grown rapidly since then and become the de facto government in large parts of the Pashtun region of the country. The U.S. military presence has been unable to slow the rise of the insurgents in those rural areas.

The most recent blow to the image of U.S. military dominance in the region has been the revelation that the United States lacks a reliable access route for supply of its troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has long relied on the route through the Khyber Pass in Pakistan to transport about 80 percent of all supplies for Afghanistan.

But in 2008, allies of the Taliban began disrupting the U.S. logistics route through the Khyber Pass so effectively that it could not longer be counted on to supply U.S. forces. That meant that United States had to find another access route for supplying its troops in Afghanistan.

David Petraeus, the new CENTCOM commander, traveled to Central Asia to secure promises of a new route into Afghanistan from Russian ports overland to Kazakhstan and then through Uzbekistan to northern Afghanistan.

But this alternative scheme would rely on Russian cooperation, giving a rival for power in Central and Southwest Asia a veto power over U.S. military presence in the region. The Kyrgyz president announced during a trip to Moscow in early February that he was ending the agreement on U.S. use of the air base at Manas. That was a signal that Russia would cooperate with the U.S. military only insofar as it was consistent with Russian dominance in Central Asia.

Relying on Uzbekistan for transit of NATO supplies for Afghanistan was another highly tenuous feature of the Petraeus plan. The Karimov regime, notorious for its abuse of human rights, faces an Islamist insurgency that could well disrupt supply routes through the country.

A much shorter and far more secure route into Afghanistan would be from the Iranian port of Chabahar through the Western Afghan city of Herat to the Ring Highway which serves all major Afghan cities. NATO's top commander in Afghanistan said on Feb. 3 that NATO would "not oppose" bilateral deals with Iran for supplying troops through that country.

Significantly, the Pentagon has made contingency plans for the use of the Iranian route, according to one well-informed former U.S. official. That suggests that the Russian-Central Asian route was regarded as far from certain.

On the other hand, the U.S. military is not likely to regard reliance on its regional rival for power in the Middle East as a solid basis for its military presence in Afghanistan.

Obama administration officials are still talking about Middle East policy as though the U.S. military presence has conferred decisive influence over developments in the region. However, the events of the past six years have shown that to be a costly myth. They have underlined a truth that few in Washington find palatable: geography and local sociopolitical dynamics have trumped U.S. military power – and are very likely continue to do so in the future.

Bishop Williamson on Orwells 1984 and 911

Catholic traditionalist bishop Richard Williamson gave a profound conference in London, England, the weekend 21-23 September 2007 on George Orwells book 1984.

The following is his extraordinary sermon the last day. The sermon is perhaps a bit long for being a sermon, but on this topic who can blame him? In this day of age when the global police state is upon us, it is more important than ever that clergy dare to speak out and warn their flock from this nightmarish abyss. Unfortunatly a rare thing from catholic bishops nowadays.

Msgr Williamson is of English origin but is presently Rector at Seminario Nuestra Senora Corredentora in Argentine.

part 1

part 2

A public stoning in Germany

Raymond Deane, The Electronic Intifada, 6 March 2009

Hermann Dierkes is a respected politician with an honorable record of campaigning for social and political justice in the German Rhineland city of Duisburg. He represented his party Die Linke (The Left Party) on Duisburg City Council, campaigning tirelessly on anti-racist and anti-fascist issues. Most recently, he was his party's candidate for the post of Lord Mayor.

On 18 February 2009 Dierkes addressed a public meeting on the question of Palestine. To the question of how to take action against the injustice being suffered by Palestinians, he responded that the recent World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil had proposed an arms embargo, sanctions and the boycott of Israeli exports. He added: "We should no longer accept that in the name of the Holocaust and with the support of the government of the Federal Republic [of Germany] such grave violations of human rights can be perpetrated and tolerated ... Everyone can help strengthen pressure for a different politics, for example by boycotting Israeli products."

A few days later, Dierkes gave an interview to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ), a conservative paper based in the nearby city of Essen. He explained the demands of the World Social Forum, and requested that the published interview should stress that this had nothing to do with anti-Semitism -- a qualification that invariably needs to be made in Germany, except when there is suspicion of Islamophobia. Predictably, his precautions were in vain; scenting a political coup, the reporter published his article without including the qualification.

All hell broke loose. In the 25 February edition of Bild -- Germany's best-selling and most obnoxious daily paper -- Dieter Graumann, Vice-President of the Central Jewish Council, accused him of "pure anti-Semitism." WAZ editorialist Achim Beer decried Dierke's "careless Nazi utterances," comparing his words to "a mass execution at the edge of a Ukrainian forest." Hendrik Wuest, General Secretary of the CDU (the Christian Democratic Party), warned that "the Nazi propaganda" emanating from Die Linke is "intolerable." Michael Groschek -- General Secretary of the local branch of the Social Democratic Party, which shares power nationally with the CDU -- played electoral politics with the claim that "[a]nyone playing electoral politics with such anti-Israeli utterances sets himself outside the rules of the democratic game."

Worse still, Dierke's own party failed to stand by him unambiguously. Press spokesperson Alrun Nuesslein opined that if Israel is criticized because "the population in the Gaza Strip is collectively punished by the ... closure of border crossings, it is equally impossible for us to punish the Israeli population" by means of a boycott of Israeli goods, particularly "in the context of German history," a mantra with which Germans routinely absolve themselves of their historic responsibility towards the Palestinians.

Other voices within the party took a more strident tone. Petra Pau, Vice President of the Bundestag (German Parliament), said Dierke's words "awake unspeakable associations and employ dubious cliches." Left Party politicians in Dierke's own area condemned his "anti-Jewish endeavors" (Guenter Will) and "anti-Semitic utterances" (Anna Lena Orlowski).

Events took their predestined course, and on 26 February Dierkes resigned his position within Die Linke and withdrew his mayoral candidacy. In an open letter to his party colleagues, pointing out that he had been the victim of "a public stoning" and of a campaign that was "a terrible mixture of the gravest insults and defamation, Islamophobic hatred, hatred of immigrants, and murder threats," he maintained that "[t]he victims of the Shoah and the heroes of the Warsaw Jewish rising would turn away with horror [could they see] with what malice and toward what ends they are being instrumentalized in order to justify ... the undemocratic and murderous politics of the Israeli government."

A quick perusal of the German blogosphere throws up countless repetitions of the phrase "kauft nicht beim Juden!" -- "don't buy from the Jew!" -- a slogan from the Nazi era that no longer serves to defame Jews but rather those who seek justice for the Palestinians. However, Jews aren't entirely immune from this weapon: in the respected weekly Die Zeit (15 January 2009) a certain Thomas Assheuer turned it against the Canadian Jewish author Naomi Klein after the British Guardian published her call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Given that Klein had carefully specified that BDS should be aimed at Israeli institutions and not individuals, this piece of defamation was particularly crass.

It appears that freedom of speech, supposedly one of the proudest acquisitions of post-Fascist Germany, is readily suppressed when exercised to advocate positive action against the racist, politicidal institutions and actions of the Zionist state. Indeed so brutal and venomous was the response to Hermann Dierke's remarks, and so instantaneous and unanimous the recourse, however ironic, to Nazi sloganeering, that it is difficult not to be reminded of the rhetoric promulgated by Julius Streicher's vile paper Der Stuermer between 1923 and 1945 and not to feel that the same atavistic sources that once disgorged Jew-hatred are now being tapped in this virulent and unceasing campaign against the advocacy of Palestinian rights. The Palestinians, after all, stand in the way of the establishment of a racial Jewish state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, an eventuality that the German establishment deludedly sees as somehow shriving its own past crimes.

It has to be said that ordinary German people are, by and large, as unimpressed by philosemitic hysteria as they are by anti-Semitism. It remains to be seen how those people who have repeatedly voted for Hermann Dierkes because they see him as an honest and reliable politician -- something as rare in Germany as elsewhere -- will react to being robbed of their representative by such a campaign of hatred and defamation on behalf of a quasi-fascist state.

Finally, it will be interesting to see if this debacle induces Die Linke to reconsider whether it is more appropriate to adopt a principled position on Israel than to continue playing to the gallery of rightist pressure-groups that have taken upon themselves the task of perpetuating unconditional German support for Israel. It is hard to feel optimistic about this.

Raymond Deane is an Irish composer and activist (

As Hillary Clinton ratchets up rhetoric against Iran

As Hillary Clinton ratchets up rhetoric against Iran

By Bill Van Auken

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ratcheted up bellicose US rhetoric against Iran Wednesday, accusing the country of funding "terrorism" and interfering in the internal affairs of states throughout the Middle East. Her statements coincided with the release of a report by a Washington think tank with ties to the Obama administration suggesting that the US should establish a "nuclear umbrella" over the region.

Clinton made her remarks to reporters while flying to a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, having just completed her tour of the Middle East. The rhetorical attack was delivered in the context of growing indications that the Obama administration is continuing the essential policy of the Bush White House--seeking to isolate Iran while preparing for a possible military confrontation.

Making it clear that the question of Iran had been central to her talks in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Egypt, Clinton declared, "It is clear that Iran intends to interfere with the internal affairs of all these people and try to continue their efforts to fund terrorism, whether it's Hezbollah or Hamas or other proxies."

Washington has branded as "foreign terrorist organizations" both Hamas, which is the elected government of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and Hezbollah, which is one of the most powerful political organizations in Lebanon and part of the national unity government, because both have resisted Israeli occupations.

Turning to the focus of Washington's confrontation with Iran, Clinton accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and defended the US plan to deploy a missile defense system on the soil of Poland and the Czech Republic as a necessary response to a supposed Iranian threat.

Russia has charged that the shield is directed at neutralizing its own nuclear force, giving the US impunity in waging a preemptive nuclear war. For its part, the Iranian government has insisted that is nuclear power program is for peaceful purposes only.

Clinton claimed that the Eastern European regimes and Washington were united in confronting a perceived Iranian threat. "Missiles not only with a nuclear warhead, but a conventional warhead, or some other chemical, biological weapon, could very well be in the hands of a regime like Iran's, which we know will use whatever advantage they have to intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach," she said.

She was questioned on the shield because of a reported secret letter sent last month by President Barack Obama to his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, suggesting that if Moscow collaborated with Washington in suppressing the supposed Iranian nuclear threat, the US would consider scrapping the proposed missile shield installations in Eastern Europe. After accounts of the letter appeared in the media, both Obama and Medvedev denied that it offered a direct "quid pro quo" deal.

In another diplomatic initiative, Clinton announced the dispatch of American envoys to Damascus in a bid to revive US-Syrian diplomatic relations. The move is seen as a bid to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. This was made explicit by Senator John Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who recently visited Syria. Supporting the opening of ties with Syria and loosening of sanctions, Kerry insisted in a speech Wednesday at the Brookings Institution that "Syria's long-term interests lie not with Iran but with its Sunni neighbors and the West."

In the midst of these diplomatic maneuvers against Iran, a Washington think tank with close ties to the Obama administration issued a report [here in pdf format] Wednesday advocating the extension of a Cold War-style "nuclear umbrella" over the Middle East, and warning that Israel is seriously considering unilateral military action against the Iranian nuclear program.

The report issued by the Washington Institute on Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Israeli think tank, was billed as the work of a "Presidential Task Force" and was titled, "Preventing a cascade of instability: US engagement to check Iranian nuclear progress."

The 15-member panel that prepared the document included former State Department and National Security Council officials, members of Congress and the former chief of the US Strategic Command.

Also listed as having endorsed an earlier draft of the report was Dennis Ross, who worked at WINEP for seven years before being recently appointed as the Obama administration's special envoy for the Persian Gulf.

The report frames the US confrontation with Iran over the nuclear question as part of a broader struggle for American hegemony throughout the region, including the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By taking strong measures against Iran, it argues, Washington can strengthen its position throughout the Middle East. "Vigorous steps to shore up regional stability could check unfounded perceptions by some that the US star is waning," the report states.

Clearly suggesting that the conflict has been deliberately sought as a means of furthering key strategic objectives, the authors write, "Confronting the Iran nuclear program also offers opportunities to advance US interests... to deepen US relationships with its Middle East friends."

Further on, the report presents a proposal that would not only "deepen US relations" with various countries in the Middle East, but place them under the direct protection of Washington's nuclear arsenal.

"One issue needing much more thought is how a US nuclear guarantee (or ‘umbrella') would work and whether it is appropriate in the Middle East. Many in the Gulf seem to think that the region already benefits from a de facto US guarantee; they may welcome its formalization."

During the course of the 2008 election campaign, then-Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton declared her support for just such an umbrella, vowing that as president she would "obliterate" Iran in the event it attacked Israel.

"An attack on Israel," she said in a Democratic candidates' debate last April, "would trigger massive retaliation. But so would an attack on those countries [she mentioned by name the monarchies of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait] that are willing to go under the security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions."

The WINEP report notes, "The Cold War experience suggests that deployments of weapons and troops are often necessary to make pledges [of deterrence] credible." It likewise indicates that such a nuclear umbrella should be formalized through a congressionally approved treaty.

Obviously, such proposals encompass far more than the US confrontation with Iran. They would have the effect of turning the other oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf and much of the Middle East into a declared American military protectorate. Such an arrangement would have far-reaching strategic implications, above all in the conflict between American imperialism and its rivals in Europe and Asia for control of markets and resources under conditions of the deepening global slump.

The report indicates that the Obama administration's declared openness to negotiations with Iran is aimed in large part at preparing the groundwork for possible military action. "Restoring confidence in US willingness to make extraordinary efforts to resolve the standoff with Iran is important in the event that Washington, after careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of any course of action, opts for other policy instruments to prevent Iran's development of a nuclear weapon," it declares.

Other proposals floated in the report include a call for the tightening of sanctions against Iran and extending Washington's current efforts to intimidate financial institutions and industrial firms from doing business with Iran. In particular, it calls for pressure aimed at preventing the construction of oil refineries in Iran in an attempt to exploit the country's shortage of gasoline.

The report also warns that the Israeli government is considering a unilateral attack on Iran's nuclear program and sees its window of opportunity closing.

"Whatever Americans may think, Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now they have a military option," it states. However, they "see the option fading over the next one to two years" both because of Iranian progress in its nuclear project and the pending shipment of more advanced Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Teheran. "Israel therefore may feel compelled to act before the option disappears," the report warns, adding that the US could "pay a high price" for such a strike.

One of the report's recommendations, however, is that in response to Russia supplying S-300 missiles, which Moscow has portrayed as a stabilizing action, dissuading Israeli aggression, Washington should "promptly provide Israel with the capabilities to continue to threaten high-value Iranian targets--for instance, with more modern aircraft."

The report, whose authors include Obama's top advisor on the region, makes it clear that the new administration is not only continuing the occupation of Iraq and escalating the war in Afghanistan, but preparing for a new and potentially far more catastrophic military confrontation with Iran.

The author also recommends:

Hillary Clinton threatens to "obliterate" Iran
[24 April 2008]


Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 10:13 AM

Suing for war crimes

Suing for war crimes

Any recourse to international law in seeking to bring Israeli officials to book must be carefully considered, writes Azmi Bishara
It is not my intention to discuss the definitions of resistance, the legitimacy of resistance or the laws of war in general. Nor will I delve into the definition of war crimes, the relevant articles in international conventions, the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the duties and obligations of its member states, the powers of its prosecutor and the difference between this court and those that were established for the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity in specific countries, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. All these subjects have been treated extensively in numerous other publications. My purpose here is to shed light on some possibly unfamiliar aspects of the notion of appealing to this form of international arbitration.

All such tribunals and conventions have derived their impetus from the will on the part of powerful nations to bring war criminals to account and from the ability of these powerful sovereign nations not only to draw up the law but to put it into effect when they want. Given this, it is fundamentally erroneous to liken international law to the rule of law in sovereign countries. International law does not prevail internationally, is not applied around the globe as though the world was a single sovereign country, and has no executive authority to put it into effect apart from powerful nations. It is thus subject to political aims and interests. Above all, the principle of equality before the law that applies in democratic countries does not exist in international law, either practically or theoretically.

Since it was founded Israel has claimed that its civilians have been the victims of "crimes of terrorism" perpetrated in the course of the clash between its occupation forces and the Palestinian resistance. Yet Israel -- the one state established by UN resolution (or by what the Arabs like to call "international legitimacy") -- has never once appealed to the international justice system. Instead its security agencies took the matter in hand, exacting revenge upon those on its hit lists, even resorting to operations carried out in Western Europe on the territory of its allies. The US has acted similarly in its global "war on terror".
It is no coincidence that it is not Arab governments but the Arab people and their rights activists and civilian organisations that are pressing for international enquiries into the crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and, to a lesser extent, in Lebanon. The people realise that their governments are too weak to act to redress the wrong and humiliation inflicted upon them. They also resent the double standards in international law and justice, epitomised by the contrast between the International Court's campaign over Darfur and its indifference to American crimes in Iraq. Arab public opinion cares little for details and explanations. There is, however, a widespread sense of injustice combined with frustration at the weakness of their regimes which is why the Arab public has high expectations from any efforts to exact revenge upon Israeli officials through recourse to international criminal law.

International law was established to regulate relations between Western nations after a long and painful process, extending from the rise of the international order in the late 19th through the 20th century. Its provisions on war crimes, the laws of war, the rights of POWs, the Red Cross and the rights of civilians and wounded, as well as the right of resistance, all emanated from the Western experience of war, in the two world wars in Europe itself, in Europe's colonies and even in such grey cases as the Boer war. Throughout this long period there was no mention of the need to respect the right of Third World peoples to resist occupation, of their rights as captives, or of war crimes perpetrated against them. Western countries exchanged Western POWs, not African or Asian prisoners who had no rights. In modern times, there was no thought of bringing a single American official to justice when atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II with the deliberate aim of wreaking the greatest possible degree of death and destruction. Yet this was a crime against humanity as horrific as the crimes committed by the Nazis against European peoples.
International law on war crimes, POWs, civilians and the like arose in the context of what we might call a European civil war, and even then it was only put into effect against the defeated party. The victors were never brought to account for their crimes. International law still adheres to this tradition, which now extends to Western powers in general, especially if they emerge victorious from a war. The US has never been tried for war crimes in Vietnam, Iraq or elsewhere. The same applies to all colonial powers, from the conventional European powers to their more contemporary Zionist version. (It also applies to other major powers such as China).

Only in the latter half of the 20th century has there emerged a theoretically and morally universalised jurisprudence of international law intended to comprehend peoples who are not white or of European origin.
A liberation movement that turns to a corpus of law that is international in name only sacrifices its liberationist substance to legal formalities that it lacks the capacity to enforce. In other words, it concedes its natural right to liberation and to build and utilise the force necessary to achieve this in favour of principles of international law that were never conceived for it, over which it has no say and which it would never be able to enforce anyway if it relinquishes the sources of its own strength.

International law recognises states, not liberation movements. If it did recognise them before they obtained the status and sovereignty of a state it would encumber them with the duties of states without granting them the rights of states. Duties are imposed by others. People must secure their own rights if they are not to be prey to the will of others.
The International Criminal Court offers a previously unavailable avenue to punish people guilty of war crimes. It was inspired by the need to offer a means to prosecute such crimes, in the absence of a state or judiciary willing to bring to justice persons responsible for the massacres in Rwanda, Burundi and elsewhere. The strong point of this court is also its weak point.

Criminal law punishes individuals and holds them to account individually. As such it acts as a deterrent to individuals who issue or execute orders to commit crimes. Recourse to it does not entail conceding principle, accepting the legitimacy of entities one does not recognise, or relinquishing the right to resist. Also, in this case, the international prosecutor is not an individual but rather the embodiment of a sort of international "public right", while the defendants are not governments, but rather military and political officials being called to account as individuals responsible for their acts.
Its weak point is that it does not prevail where there exists a national judiciary capable of performing its function, which is a claim made by the majority of Western governments, including Israel. And perhaps they do exist -- in form. They bring suspected officials to trial, put them through the required steps and then acquit them for lack of evidence or because the national law allows leeway for "collateral damage"; or the defendant's lawyers make a deal with the prosecution to have the charges reduced. More important from the perspective of a resistance movement, criminal law does not differentiate between the occupier and the occupied; it deals with individuals who commit crimes. It has been demonstrated recently that even international rights organisations have a problem with their formal logic when it comes to differentiating between a protracted crime, such as the violence perpetrated by occupation, and the intermittent and exceptional response to it, as represented by the violence of the resistance. What compels international criminal law to bring to account an Israeli officer for issuing orders leading to a massacre of Palestinians may also compel it to bring to account a Palestinian resistance fighter who kills Israeli civilians in the course of his fight against the occupation. The primary factor that stands in the way of such a prospect is the Israeli claim that it is capable of avenging itself. It does, in its own way, hunting down and kidnapping the "perpetrator", prosecuting him, or assassinating him along with everyone living in the same building if need be.

If we looked beyond such obstacles, recourse to criminal prosecution would entail the following.
Firstly, the persons or agencies that are bringing suit must be thoroughly compared and must coordinate effectively among themselves. The presentation of their case must be so solid that they cannot lose. The Palestinian people hardly need an international court to acquit Israel for war crimes on technical or procedural grounds after having accepted that body's legitimacy to pursue the matter.

Secondly, all procedural formalities will have to be taken as given. When one goes to court one plays by its rules, which means presenting arguments and submitting evidence that can be substantiated and corroborated and, if need be, dropping important and powerful claims that, as convinced as one may be of their veracity, cannot be proven in the language of the courts.
Thirdly, it will be important to distinguish between combat and massacre, and fighters who fell in the course of battle and civilians who were deliberately targeted and slaughtered. In Arabic they may all be "martyrs" but the language of the courts insists on the distinction. And why not make the distinction? Surely it is wrong, for example, to regard a heroic stand on the part of resistance as a massacre. There are times when the Palestinian people should be proud of their struggle, and these are the instances that should not be taken to the court as though the courageous fighters that took part were mere victims of a massacre. Summoning the necessary precision will be difficult because it conflicts with the Palestinians' day-to-day awareness and prevailing sympathies and culture. However, Israel did indeed commit massacres of Palestinian civilians, and these must be isolated with the dispassion of a surgeon. The hard facts must be presented to prove that they did indeed occur and more hard facts need to be presented to establish the responsibility of Israeli political and military officials.

Fourth, as in any criminal case, it will be necessary to establish the existence of all elements constituting the perpetration of a crime. The precise nature of the crime must be defined, means and motive established, and evidence produced with an eye to distinguishing between the circumstantial and the direct.
In order to establish Israeli culpability in this type of crime Palestinians will have to demonstrate from official statements, political literature and the prevailing climate that there was a deliberate policy of targeting civilians as a form of collective punishment or for other political aims. They will have to furnish concrete evidence that Israeli political or military officials knew in advance that a military action would take a severe civilian toll but pressed ahead with the action anyway. They will further have to establish that the Israeli judiciary, to the legitimacy of which Palestinians in the occupied territories have lent credence by continually resorting to it, does not seriously punish war crimes (as was the case when the court fined the man who ordered the Kafr Qasem massacre one piastre).

It would not be wise for Palestinians to seek recourse to the international justice system under current international circumstances, in which, at best, the criminal is equated with the victim and more often than not the victim is blamed, if this course requires conceding political positions that would lend legitimacy to Israel or involve conceding the right to resist and to fight for national liberation. The court remains an alternative, but it is one that needs to be considered carefully. Remember, the court attributes individual responsibility. It does not deal with political entities. Yet this latter aspect is extremely important. Any case must be grounded in the fact that the Palestinian victims of Israeli violence are not mere side-effects from the bombarding of resistance fighters. Attention must be drawn to the history of Israeli war crimes and to the culture of unleashing massively excessive force against the indigenous population whether to teach them a lesson about supporting the resistance or to drive them off their land. Any legal action must also work to refute the claim that Israel is an organised state with a judicial system that has not collapsed and which is capable of bringing the guilty to justice. In matters of security and war the Israeli judiciary has amply demonstrated that it is part of the machinery of repression and occupation. It does not prosecute criminal behaviour among its security forces so as not to dampen their combat energies.
No one expects the official Arab order to contribute seriously to the drive to seek redress for war crimes, including those perpetrated against Arab citizens in other Arab countries. When there was a state of war Arab governments thought that apart from the routine of going to the Security Council, war meant taking revenge through warfare, not through wailing and laments. Later, after Arab states turned to the negotiating process and peace initiatives, they succumbed to a general impression that there was a contradiction between accusing Israeli rulers of being war criminals and making peace with them. For this reason, when Arab officials refer to war crimes at all, they do so timidly and in Arabic, and then take the matter no further. This inconsistency in Arab behaviour does little to help in the arena of litigation. It somehow jars to hear Arab officials levelling charges of war crimes against Israeli officials and then having to watch one news report after another of the same officials flying off to peace conferences and shaking hands and exchanging visits with the person they accused. The world is not stupid. It is always on the lookout for those who vouch for Israel.

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Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 6:24 PM