Saturday, 18 July 2009

Delivering a message to Obama


Delivering a message to Obama

Friday 17 July 2009

George Galloway

I have just returned from Gaza with the Viva Palestina US Lifeline 2 convoy. Our aim was partly about delivering aid, but it was also partly about delivering a message. Having raised the funds for the convoy and gathered the volunteers, we set off on US Independence Day, July 4, from John F Kennedy airport in New York to Cairo, where we purchased desperately needed vehicles and medical supplies to drive down to the Egypt-Palestine border.

We then ran into a series of bureaucratic obstacles from the Egyptian authorities, but the convoy members showed incredible resilience and patience. After a considerable amount of delicate negotiation, we finally received the go-ahead.

The convoy was supported by Vietnam war veteran Ron Kovic, whose life story formed the basis for Oliver Stone's Born On The Fourth Of July, along with many others.

And accompanying me through the Rafah crossing on Wednesday were presidential candidate and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and New York council member Charles Barron, alongside over 200 other US citizens.

McKinney had just a couple of weeks previously been subject to an act of international piracy by the Israeli navy when it impounded the ship the Spirit of Humanity and kidnapped the human rights activists on board.


The convoy received a rapturous reception in Gaza from a people bloodied but unbowed.

The situation there is desperate. You have to see it with your own eyes to see just how bad the suffering is.

Two years of siege and the devastating 23-day war on Gaza in January have reduced the people to terrible poverty, as the International Red Cross confirmed recently.

The Egyptian authorities were only prepared to let us stay in Gaza for 24 hours and refused permission for most of our vehicles to go through the border.

Our medical supplies were carted off lorries on one side of the border and then put onto Palestinian lorries on the other. Convoy leaders have stayed behind to try to ensure the remaining vehicles get into Gaza.


Apart from the benefit of the aid we were able to bring, this convoy had a message directed at Barack Obama.

Over the last couple of months I have been spending a lot of time touring the US, speaking to thousands of people and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the beleaguered Palestinians in Gaza. The response has been terrific.

For those who see the US as a hopelessly reactionary homogeneous society, Obama's election should have dispelled any illusions about that. My experiences in the US have backed this up.

It was important to raise as much aid as possible for Gaza. But it was also important to show that there is another US - one which cares deeply about the poor and oppressed in the world and is completely opposed to the policies which sustain that poverty and oppression.

Obama's Cairo speech promised a new relationship with the Muslim world, a break from the utterly discredited policy approach taken by his predecessor, the war criminal George W Bush.

I welcome this change of approach. It includes the dismantling of the hated Guantanamo internment camp, which has seen many innocent people incarcerated without due process and tortured.

In seeking to change US policy, Obama faces formidable vested interests. I hope he will prevail against them.

We are saying to President Obama that the world is looking. The situation in Palestine is intolerable. He has to stop this. This means he has to take action - because actions speak louder than words.

This convoy as well as others like it are essential tools not only in fighting the effects of the siege but also raising awareness around the world about the Palestinians' plight living under Israeli occupation.

"We are saying to President Obama that the world is looking. The situation in Palestine is intolerable. He has to stop this. This means he has to take action - because actions speak louder than words"
That is why we are now intending to organise further convoys involving President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and also a convoy from Russia. And we intend to take another Anglo-US convoy to Gaza to coincide with the anniversary of the launch of the war on Gaza just after Christmas. I hope you will join us.


I returned home from Gaza intending to take part in the parliamentary debate on the growing crisis in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, further ridiculous bureaucratic delays on re-entering Egypt - despite the intervention of the office of the new Speaker John Bercow - meant that I arrived back to late to speak.

The situation in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan is going from bad to worse.

Much of the focus of attention has been on the lack of adequate equipment for the British troops now that the death toll is rapidly mounting.

There is no doubt they are inadequately equipped, with the British commanding officer even having to borrow a US helicopter to transport himself around Helmand province where British troops are based.

But the real problem is not the equipment but the fact the British troops are there in the first place.

This is a war that has been going on now for eight years, since Bush used the horror of September 11 2001 to invade Afghanistan and remove the Taliban government.


Since the Taliban was defeated eight years ago, it has regrouped in Afghanistan and grown in Pakistan where its influence has been threatening to destabilise that nuclear power.

The Taliban has regrouped and reinvigorated itself in Afghanistan because the Western-backed Karzai government is probably the most corrupt in the world.

It is up against pretty stiff competition for that honour because most of the country has been returned to the warlords who controlled the country before the Taliban came to power.

US and British troops have been engaged in warfare which has seen many innocent Afghan civilians die. Similarly in Pakistan, US forces have been bombing innocent Pakistanis with their unmanned drones - acting as recruiting sergeants for the Pakistani Taliban as a result.

Labour ministers and military commanders have both been saying that we are in for the long haul, maybe a 30-year war - and it is a long time since we had one of those.

We must, we are told, be prepared to take casualties, especially if we are going to minimise "collateral damage" among Afghan civilians. This would, in turn, lose the hearts and minds that want and need to win.

And this must be done because Afghanistan would otherwise be a continuing terrorist threat to people here in Britain.

Well, I have a message for those who are so willing to sacrifice the sons and daughters of other people.

There will not be peace in Afghanistan while there are British and US troops there. The troop presence is making the situation worse and making Britain a target for terrorist attack. The same applies to Pakistan where anti-US feeling is now very strong.

I will be stepping up my campaigning, alongside my colleagues in the Stop the War Coalition, for the troops to be brought home from Afghanistan.

I am absolutely certain that public opinion will turn against the needless loss of young British lives in this pointless war.

And I hope sense will prevail in the White House - otherwise Afghanistan will become another Vietnam.

Israel to Kfarshouba Residents: You Put Yourselves in Danger!


Israel to Kfarshouba Residents: You Put Yourselves in Danger!
Readers Number : 202

18/07/2009 A day after residents of the southern town of Kfarshouba stormed into the sand barrier that was erected recently by Israeli occupation forces on Lebanese soil and raised the Lebanese and Resistance flags, the Israeli occupation army strongly protested the move, claiming that they had put themselves in danger.

An Israeli army spokesman charged that Friday's action was a breach of the UN Security Council truce resolution that brought an end to the Israeli 2006 war against Lebanon. "We consider this intrusion by Lebanese civilians to be a gross violation of UN Resolution 1701," the spokesman claimed.

"These civilians, who included children, put themselves in danger through their actions," the Israeli spokesman threatened. "Our forces deliberately refrained from intervening after establishing that these civilians were unarmed," the spokesman added.

Around 70 Lebanese, led by member of the Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc MP Qassem Hashem, cut through barbed wire and marched on the post in the KfarShuba hills which
Israel set up earlier this week.

The protesters put up Lebanese and Resistance flags just outside the post, before being asked by UN peacekeepers to evacuate the area.

20 days ago, Israeli occupation forces erected a 20-meter high and 70 meters wide sand barrier near the Hasan Gate in Kafarshouba.
The Israeli violation took place under the eyes of the UNIFIL.
But the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which is charged with overseeing the 2006 ceasefire resolution, has said that it lies outside the area of its mandate.

Sayyed Nasrallah: We Don't Want Guarantees From Anyone Regarding Arms, Tribunal


Sayyed Nasrallah: We Don't Want Guarantees From Anyone Regarding Arms, Tribunal
Readers Number : 995

17/07/2009
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah marked on Friday the first anniversary of the Redwan operation in which the Islamic Resistance exchanged the bodies of two Israeli soldiers with Lebanese captives held in Israeli prisons, including Samir Qintar who had spent more than 28 years in occupation jails. The Operation was named after martyr Imad Moghniyeh, Hajj Redwan, the Islamic Resistance commander who was assassinated by the Israeli Mossad in Syria in February 2008.

Representatives of the President, the House Speaker, Political, religious and popular figures as well as liberated captives attended the festival at the Shahed School hall in Beirut’s southern suburb. A delegation of MP Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party also attended the gathering.

Sayyed Nasrallah emphasized the days extending from July 12 to August 14 are very special days in every aspect; loyalty, sacrifice, steadfastness, pride and will.

“The Redwan Operation came in the same days on the second anniversary of the harsh July war of 2006, which we fought against the enemy and paid the tax of the resistance. The 14 of August marked the end of sacrifices in that particular war and the beginning of a new era of struggle. We truly consider this day as the day of the Divine victory which Almighty Allah promised to the patient people and the true and faithful fighters. The whole world had its own interpretation to this victory; but allow us to explain it based on our own teachings to say that what happened back then was a true Divine victory.”

“On the issue of prisoners, this is related to the way we view the prisoners and how we should view the background that rules our position and our rhetoric when we deal with such an issue. If we go back to facts, a prisoner is a citizen of some country. For instance, a Lebanese prisoner is a Lebanese citizen. Therefore the Lebanese people have a fair case because they have rights usurped by an enemy. Eventually, this people will have the motive to work and struggle in various methods to defend itself and its dignity in the framework of this just cause. There are millions of prisoners throughout the world, but they do not stand as equals with those imprisoned for being resistance fighters. Those are called captives.

A captive is captured because he defends a just and national cause, so his cause is not the responsibility of his family. The cause of Samir Qintar did only concern the family of Samir Qintar, neither is the cause of the rest of the captives in Israeli jails who are still in prison like Yehya Skaf. Many people might ask, is a captive worth all these efforts, blood and wars? Yes, he is. Those captives had abandoned everything in this world to engage in the battle of the nation and they were ready to become martyrs. Some resistance fighters might become martyrs; others might get injured or captured. This is why there is no difference between them for the captive holds the spirit of martyrdom. Those have sacrificed for us to become free. We hold the responsibility to set them free to preserve their dignity just as they sought to preserve ours. This is the core of the resistance; this is the key to all coming issues.”

“An open battle still lies ahead. We still have thousands of Palestinian captives, dozens of Syrian, Jordanians and some Lebanese who are still missing. As much as we are concerned in Hezbollah, we consider ourselves responsible for every Lebanese, Palestinian or Arab captive who went missing on Lebanese soil. If someone else had bore this responsibility we would have stood aside. We are not competing with anyone. Since the Israeli invasion of 1982, we’ve been viewing the resistance as a duty that we must pursue. Concerning captive Yehya Skaf, the available data that we received from the Israelis was not convincing. We should deal with this case as if Skaf were still alive in Israeli jails and we should deal with this matter just as we dealt with the cases of all previous captives. There are still remains of martyrs held by the Israelis. Despite the data had given us during Operation Redwan, we will not accept their allegations and we’ll keep on working to gain back the remains of those martyrs. The same thin goes for the missing. Their fate should be determined. We want them back whether they were dead or alive and we assure that we are following up the cases of the missing who were directly captured by Israeli occupation forces or handed over by the Lebanese militias that collaborated back then with Israel. In the same framework, the issue of the four Iranian diplomats remains open, not because they are Iranians but because they were kidnapped in Lebanon and therefore, the Lebanese government and people are responsible for them.”

On the formation of the new government in Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah said that Hezbollah will be at the disposal of any new government that would work on solving the aforementioned issues.
“We are not the government’s substitutes. We demand it shoulders its responsibility and we will be the auxiliary in this regard. I would like to seize the moment to praise the efforts of the captives’ families in previous stages. I would also like to praise the fists of the resistance fighters, the brave fighters of the Islamic Resistance, their martyrs, their captive fighters, their wounded fighters and their leader martyr Imad Moghniyeh. The cause of the captives has two part: the captives themselves and the sufferings of their families. I don’t know how the Arab world deals with this issue at the level of government and in the media. I admit that I am personally emotional and I used to cry whenever I had to meet a family of a captive fighter or the children of a martyr. What’s more painful is to see those captives still behind Israeli bars and what’s more humiliating for this whole Arab nation is the scene of those captives still lying in Israeli jails. This is a stigma on the face of this nation which we are part of and we feel this shame. The whole world understands the July aggression on Lebanon where thousands were killed and wounded and more than a million people displaced. Does Israel have the right to destroy Lebanon for two captured soldiers that Hezbollah had unlawfully taken them, as they claim? The world also understands the war on Gaza for the sake of Gilad Shalit. But instead of punishing Israel, they pressure Hamas to release Shalit. Israel is an apartheid and fake nation that the whole world sympathizes with, respects and understands its criminal nature represented in killing thousands of people for the sake of one soldier. However, we are a nation that the world does not respect while thousands of our youths, men and even women remain captured in Israeli jails. Where is the Arab honor?”

“The missing Lebanese in Syria and the missing Syrians in Lebanon must be resolved through the concerned panels. This issue must be addressed by the new government and the fate of the missing must be uncovered...”

“I would like to point to a question pertaining to Hezbollah and the formation of the government. I have read in many newspapers that Hezbollah wants guarantees related to the arms of the resistance and that this demand is one of the elements that are obstructing the formation of the government. This is not true. When I met (Prime Minister-designate Saad) Hariri, I told him that we do not want guarantees for the arms of the resistance, neither from the government nor from anyone else in this world. We agreed on this, and it’s behind us because everybody agrees that this issue should be discussed at the dialogue round table. It is claimed that Hezbollah has certain concerns about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and therefore the party is obstructing the formation of the new government because it wants guarantees. This is baseless. We have never discussed this with Hariri. We do not want guarantees from anyone in this world. Even if the opposition agreed with Hariri to form a government without Hezbollah being represented in it, I, Hasan Nasrallah, declare that I will support it.”

“Security challenges and spy networks have unfortunately caused lots of noise in the country, but those networks are not done with yet. I demand security apparatuses to make the same effort as before elections to dismantle spy networks. This is a serious issue that is part of the regional situation, from Netanyahu to Lieberman to naturalization of Palestinians to the threats to transform Palestine into a Jewish state…

These are major issues and Lebanon is affected more than any other country. This is why we need a government of real partnership and we are open on many options. What’s important is that we reach a real formula that leads to partnership and cooperation. I suggested to Hariri that since they constitute the majority in parliament, they can form a government of real partnership so we can try you and you can try us in a government that would face the dangers. I also told him that the Prime Minister can resign at any time and the government will become invalid; moreover the majority in parliament can give its vote of no confidence at any time. Showing the good will by both parties is required at this stage. Our country has lived through dangerous divisions and faced serious challenges. Today we have a chance to overcome our divisions but what we need is courage to take the decision. I advise that no one pressures Hariri with a time limit. Forming the government is worth taking the time this process needs to take and we are open on dialogue and partnership. Today the vast majority of the people wants calm in Lebanon, so let’s reach an understanding. Unfortunately, there are certain sides that are not at ease with the atmosphere of calm, this is why they escalate in the media. They must reassess their choices because people and dialogue and understanding.”

Iran: Israel Plotted to Assassinate Ahmadinejad


Iran: Israel Plotted to Assassinate Ahmadinejad
Readers Number : 226

18/07/2009 Israel conspired with Iranian opposition figures in a plot to assassinate President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during last month's election campaign, Iran's intelligence minister said on Friday.

According to AFP, Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie told state media in Iran that Israeli officials had met members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an exiled opposition group, twice to plan Ahmadinejad's assassination.

"The Zionist regime had met with the (PMOI) on the sidelines of a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt and in Paris to assassinate Mr. Ahmadinejad," Ejeie said.

The intelligence minister said the group agreed to cooperate on condition that it be removed from a U.S. "terror black list," according to AFP.

"The enemies even approached the rebels in east of the country to achieve this aim," said Ejeie, who was referring to armed Sunni dissidents.

Last year, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and current minister for strategic affairs, Moshe Ya'alon, was quoted as saying by an Australian newspaper that the West must consider all options necessary to stop Tehran's nuclear program, including assassinating Ahmadinejad.

Obama, Foxman and Israel’s Purpose


Obama, Foxman and Israel’s Purpose



Obama at Yad Vashem, the diplomatic ‘gateway’ to Israel whose function is to root Israel — in the mind of every visiting dignitary — squarely in the Holocaust



http://tonykaron.com/2009/07/16/obama-abe-foxman-and-israels-purpose/

Obama at Yad Vashem, the diplomatic ‘gateway’ to Israel whose function is to root Israel — in the mind of every visiting dignitary — squarely in the Holocaust


Abe Foxman, President of the Anti-Defamation League and a stalwart cheerleader for Israel in Washington, has been worried about President Barack Obama ever since the new Administration took office. When Obama named Senator George Mitchell as his Mideast envoy, Foxman actually complained that the problem with Mitchell was “meticulously fair and even handed,” which he insisted was not a desirable approach for the U.S. to take to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ever since Obama’s Cairo speech, Foxman’s concerns have become more pronounced. It’s not that the Anti Defamation League president didn’t take heart from Obama’s insistence that Israel’s security is sacrosanct; or that “he made strong statements against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.” No, his concern — among others — was that Obama should have “made clear that Israel’s right to statehood is not a result of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.”
He’s not the only one who argues this, of course; many on the Zionist right have long insisted that the movement claimed sovereignty in Palestine not on the basis of the Holocauast, but claiming to represent the continuity of the Hebrews of Judea thousands of years ago.

The same theme was echoed today in Haaretz by Israeli liberal Aluf Benn.

Commenting on Obama choosing to follow his Cairo speech with a visit to Buchenwald, Benn said this decision to balance an outreach to the Muslim world with a gesture recognizing the horrors of anti-Semitism may have been welcomed by American Jews, “but in Israel it was taken as an affront. The Israeli narrative attributes the state’s creation to a historical bond from biblical times, to the Zionist struggle and to the victory in the War of Independence. Obama’s message in Cairo - that Israel was established as compensation for the Holocaust - was perceived in Israel as an adoption of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Zionist stance.”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… Where on Earth did Barack Obama get this idea that Israel’s foundation was intimately tied to the Holocaust? Maybe it’s the fact that the first place Israel takes every visiting dignitary is to Yad Vashem, which as Avrum Burg has so eloquently argued, a visit designed effect what he calls the “emotional blackmail” that sears into the minds of the guest that Israel is the answer to the Holocaust, and that any criticism of the Jewish State must be muted for that reason.
Or maybe it’s the fact that Israel’s leaders are always rabbiting on about every new challenger in the region being a reincarnation of Hitler. Begin said it about Arafat; Netanyahu says it about Ahmadinejad. For years, Israel’s leaders have spoken about the 1967 borders as “Auschwitz borders.” I could go on and on. The Zionist narrative as I was fed it growing up portrayed the creation of the State of Israel as a triumphant redemption from the horrors of the camps. And the same narrative became the organizing principle of Israeli education starting in the 1960s with the Eichmann trial, when as Tom Segev and others have shown, the Israeli state makes a conscious decision to emphasize the Holocaust as the basis of its national identity to keep people from leaving. Jewish schoolkids, many of whose families had never set foot in Europe, now make an annual pilgrimage to the death camps of Poland. Israeli air force planes fly over Auschwitz in symbolic claiming of the mantle of the survivors.

And most of those Jews abroad who support the principle of a Jewish State — and the Western nations who do likewise — do so on the basis of the Holocaust. If Israel’s claims were based only on a mythologized history of a Biblical kingdom, frankly it would have aroused no more sympathy in the Jewish world than Bin Laden’s fantasies about resurrecting the Islamic Caliphate have done in the Muslim world. Without the Holocaust, in other words, Zionism would have remained the fringe movement among Jews that it was before World War II.

To suggest that the link between Israel’s claims to legitimacy and the Holocaust were invented by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is absurd. They were present at the founding in the international community’s response to Israel’s creation (does Aluf Benn really think Israel won the UN vote that enabled its creation because of the Biblical claims of the Zionist movement?!), and they have been systematically developed and exploited by Israel itself.
The reason the likes of Foxman, and the Israelis themselves, are suddenly feeling queasy about the Holocaust-as-basic-argument-for-Israel, is that they’re suddenly recognizing the limits of what that buys them.

As I wrote here following the Cairo speech, the likes of Foxman suddenly realized that the Holocaust argument set limits on what Israel could legitimately demand — Obama expressed a rock solid commitment to ensure Israel’s security, but warned that settlements outside its 1967 border had no legitimacy. After all, they were if anything a drain on Israeli security, and Obama made clear that the U.S. recognizes that Israel’s creation came at the expense of another people, rooting the plight of the Palestinians first in the expulsions of 1948, and then in the occupation that began in 1967 — and he insisted, to the chagrin of Foxman and others, that the Palestinian narrative and aspiration had equal status, and could not be ignored by the U.S.

I wrote:

Hence, a solid U.S. bond with Israel to guarantee its survival and security in a hostile environment, but no endorsement of an expansive Zionism that calls on Jews to “redeem” the Biblical Land of Israel by settling on West Bank land. By insisting that Palestinians are born equal to Israelis and that their side of the conflict be understood, and that Israel halt its expansion into Palestinian territory, Obama is forcing Israel to confront a basic question of its own identity — and also to reckon with the fact that its creation, and expansion, have occurred at the expense of another people who are deemed of equal status in the mind of the American president. No wonder, then, that some Israelis and their American supporters are annoyed.

Still, having told the world and the majority of Jews who live in it that Israel was the answer to the Holocaust and the inheritor of the mantle of the survivors (a contestable claim, to be sure, but you only have to look at the fact that Germany paid most of its “reparations” not to the survivors themselves, but to Israel), Foxman et al are going to have a hard time pivoting to the narrative of Biblical redemption. For starters, most of the world’s Jews don’t buy such bubbemeis. And you’re going to have a hard time getting American Jews and most Western countries to accept the idea that the Palestinians’ epic suffering has been inflicted simply in the name of a distortion of Biblical fantasy.
Essentially, the problem they face is that an ideological construct of their own making is no longer serving its purpose of ensuring a blank check for Israel’s endless dispossession of the Palestinians. The bad news, of course, is that justifying that dispossession on the basis of a Biblical narrative is going to get even fewer takers in America, of any persuasion.

"Watch What We Do, Not What We Say"

Link

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Weekend Edition
July 17-19, 2009

"Watch what we do, not what we say,” was the famous advice Nixon’s first Attorney General, John Mitchell, gave the press at the onset of the Nixon presidency in 1969. It’s a handy piece of advice in the Age of Obama too, as we roll towards the end of his first six months in office. There’s the added difficulty that Obama likes to say two different things in the same speech, usually prefaced by his trade-mark “Let me be clear.”

“And let me be clear,” he told the Russians in Moscow, even as he presses forward with the Clinton/Bush policy of NATO expansion, ringing Russia with missile bases, “NATO seeks collaboration with Russia, not confrontation.”

You think “saying” and “doing” are far apart on that one? Try this gem, also delivered in Moscow: “Now let me be clear, America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country…. America will never impose a security arrangement on another country.”

The last guy in the White House to be that clear was in fact Nixon, who tossed in “perfectly” as a bonus.

Obama has been perfectly clear on so many pledges, such as restoring constitutional protections such as habeas corpus, respect for international treaties and covenants on torture and the treatment of prisoners, ending eavesdropping and, when you take even a quick glance at what he’s done, he’s been perfectly awful on so many fronts.

He was at his sermonizing worst in Ghana, telling Africans to shape up, a homily aimed at those same folks back home who thrilled to Obama’s strictures on the campaign trail, using Father’s Day a year ago to tell black dads—only black dads—to shape up, an act he just reprised to the NAACP’s 100th convention in New York.

“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” he said in Accra. No it’s not. Africa’s future is to a pervasive extent up to the World Bank, the IMF, international mining and oil companies, the US Congress (which for example votes cotton subsidies to domestic corporate farmers, thus undercutting and laying waste the cotton economies of Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali and Chad).

“No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands,” was his New York message for America’s black youth. Rip the entrails out of America’s manufacturing economy, hock the economy to Goldman Sachs and then tell the kids, if you fail, you’ve only yourself to blame.

What does the Administration say about Iran? At the recent G8 meeting in Italy Obama talked tough. He said Iran has until September to show it is serious about curbing its nuclear weapos program. Remember that the CIA , to the fury of the Bush crowd said in 2006 there was no evidence that any such program is underway.

In Italy Obama talked about an international September summit in Pittsburgh "It provides a time frame. If Iran chooses not to walk through that door, then you have on record the G-8 to begin with, but I think potentially a lot of other countries, that are going to say we need to take further steps."

Watch what we do.

As Afshin Rattanssi wrote on this site on Thursday, it’s too early to tell the reason for the midday plane crash on July 15 in Janat-Abad, northwest of Tehran. All 168 people on board were killed in Qazvin province and there is an inquiry underway. But, even so, the relatives of the 168 that have died today may yet blame the U.S. and Britain for their dead, since sanctions are already creating a spare parts crisis in Iran’s aircraft hangers. Sanctions are what destroy countries, whether it be Nicaragua in the 1980s or Iraq in Clinton-time. As Rattanssi says:

“In the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s U.N. sanctions on Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of children as discovered by its own agency, UNICEF. We now have a man in the White House who trumpets the use of sanctions over the war-war bluster of George W. Bush. President Bush’s continual threats about the use of military force on Iran did nothing but entrench the Iranian people’s support for the theocratic government. If much-mooted September is the date for President Obama’s new sanctions, they look set to kill many more civilians than any threats by his former rival and now secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Hillary and her husband seem never to have been concerned about the lethal impact of sanctions on developing nations.”

In her election campaign Hillary was always eager to emphasize her willingness to nuke Iran and fry 70 million. Watch what I could do. To ABC’s George Stephanopoulos a few weeks ago she hinted obscurely at a First Strike scenario. Here she is in full spate last week in the new Washington hq of the Council on Foreign Relations:

“We know that refusing to deal with the Islamic Republic has not succeeded in altering the Iranian march toward a nuclear weapon, reducing Iranian support for terror, or improving Iran's treatment of its own citizens… Iran does not have a right to nuclear, military capacity, and we're determined to prevent that. But it does have a right to civil nuclear power if it reestablishes the confidence of the international community that it will use its programs exclusively for peaceful purposes. Iran become a constructive actor in the region if it stops threatening its neighbors and supporting terrorism. It can assume a responsible position in the international community if it fulfills its obligations on human rights. The choice is clear. We remain ready to engage with Iran, but the time for action is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely.”

And then later, in answer to a hawkish question:

“I think part of the attractiveness of engagement -- direct engagement is not only to make our own judgments but also to demonstrate to others that we've done so and to make clear what kind of reaction we've gotten, which I think lays the groundwork for concerted actions and certainly in just the last six months in our efforts in talking with other partners, I've noticed a turn in attitude by some, a recognition that it's not just the United States that should be concerned about what Iran is doing, but that there are implications for others who are much closer than we are to Iran.”

Now you could say that this was just HRC trying to put herself back on the map as a major player in the Obama administration, seeking to quell the snickers that she’s just one more sidelined Secretary of State who can’t even stop the White House from blocking her from hiring Sid Blumenthal. There were slabs of the speech that as wacky as Obama’s shameless fictions about the freedom Africa and black kids in the US to shape their own destinies – unless, that is, you go with Lenin’ bleak remark that Freedom is the recognition of necessity, later translated into song as Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Try this pearl from our Secretary of State:

“I believe NATO is the greatest alliance in history, but it was built for the Cold War. The new NATO is a democratic community of nearly a billion people, stretching from the Baltics in the east to Alaska in the west. We're working to update its strategic concepts so that it is as effective in this century as it was in the last.”

What the Obama administration most definitely will do is find as many reasons to be “unpersuaded” about the peaceful intent of Iran’s nuclear program as was the Bush administration about evidence that Saddam had got rid of its WMDs. It’s the same game, maybe with the same ending. At the very least they’ll intensify sanctions, ensuring that many will die, starting with the very young and the very old.

Meanwhile the troops and weapons flow towards Afghanistan, with vast, Vietnam-style “sweep” operations under way.

And how is the antiwar movement here dealing with that? Answer, what antiwar movement? We certainly can’t watch what it’s doing, because the answer is nothing. And we can’t hear what it’s saying, because there too the answer is nothing.

Where are the mobilizations, actions, civil disobedience? Antiwar coalitions like United for Peace and Justice and Win Without War (with MoveOn also belatedly adopting this craven posture) don’t say clearly “US troops out now!” They whine about the “absence of a clear mission” (Win Without War), plead futilely for “an exit strategy” (UFPJ). One letter from the UFPJ coalition (which includes Code Pink) to the Congressional Progressive Caucus in May laconically began a sentence with the astounding words, “To defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country, the U.S. must enable the Afghan people…” These pathetic attempts not to lose “credibility” and thus attain political purchase have met with utter failure, as the recent vote on a supplemental appropriation proved. A realistic estimate is that among the Democrats in Congress there are fewer than forty solid antiwar votes.

Ending the “Third Degree”

“Eighty years ago, with the publication of the Wickersham Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement, America learned that torture didn’t work…and promptly forgot.

“Debates on the morality and practical efficacy of torture periodically erupt in American politics. Now, the issue has re-emerged with the efforts of ex-Bush administration officials and allies to defend their legacy and their legal impunity against the current administration’s stated desire to move beyond coercive interrogations…”

This is Peter Lee in our latest CounterPunch newsletter, in an enthralling piece of historical excavation about how a commission appointed by Herbert Hoover managed to include a savage expose of torture as practiced by US police departments. Lee shows how exactly the torture techniques of our current era and their rationales mirror those of the practitioners and sponsors of torture in the last century.

Also in this crackerjack issue is Marcus Rediker’s diary of his lectures in Auburn Prison on pirates and how the inmates responded to them.

Only in CounterPunch.

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Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn

Zionist cash for spies & settlers

Zionist cash for spies & settlers

Marcy Newman, body on the line

July 17, 2009

here are some things the zionist entity is spending your good, american, hard-earned tax dollars on:

1. Intelligence agents have been offering young Palestinians cash bribes as incentive to spy for Israel during interrogation at military checkpoints near the West Bank city of Tulkarem.

A number of Palestinians told Ma’an that Israeli officers stopped their cars and detained the Ennav and Jabara checkpoints. While detaining the Palestinians at the checkpoints, the intelligence men offered cash and permits to enter Israel if they agreed to collaborate.

During the interrogation, the same young men said, they were asked about their income and social status. They were also asked to divulge their mobile phone numbers.

After refusing to cooperate, the men were released but given letters summoning them for further interrogation at the Israeli military headquarters south of Tulkarem.

The issue of collaborators is sensitive in Palestinian society, because information provided by Israel’s spies has often led to the arrest or assassination of political and military leaders.

2. Israel will offer more than $3,500 to any foreign Maccabiah participant who decides to stay, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry announced on Sunday.

The Maccabiah, often called "the Jewish Olympics," has brought some 5,700 Jewish athletes and their coaches to Israel from all over the world in time for the opening ceremony on Monday in Ramat Gan.

For the first time, the Ministry for Immigrant Absorption is offering participants from abroad a special assistance package to the tune of nearly NIS 15,000 in addition to standard assistance given to immigrants.

The grant will include a one-time stipend of NIS 4,000 for sports equipment and a monthly stipend of NIS 1,200 for nine months during the first year in university or college for anyone beginning school before 2011. Additionally, the ministry will subsidize salaries given to the new immigrants by their employers for a period of 24 months.

President Carter: Many Children Were Tortured Under Bush

Link

Ralph Lopez

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July 17, 2009

"You have the power to hold your leaders accountable." - President Obama, Ghana, July 14, 2009

While congress says it is gearing up to investigate what is old news, that CIA and Special Ops forces are killing Al Qaeda leaders, a decision of far different gravity is being contemplated by Attorney General Eric Holder. The new insistence of Congress on its oversight role, conspicuously absent throughout 8 years of Bush, is suddenly rearing its head in the form of questioning a policy which has been in place with no controversy for years. The U.S. has been hunting and killing Al Qaeda leaders outside of official war zones since 2004, when the New York Times reported that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had signed an order authorizing Special Forces to kill Al Qaeda where they found them.


As recently as September 2008 CBS reported that Special Forces struck Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.

The decision faced by Holder, whether or not to appoint a Special Prosecutor on torture, is of a different gravity altogether. A weight of evidence keeps building which indicates torture was employed on innocent men, that it didn't work, and that it didn't prevent any attacks. And it gets worse. Bush's own FBI Director Robert Mueller recently confirmed to the New York Times what he told Vanity Fair a year ago, that "to [his] knowledge" torture didn't prevent a single attack. Former Legendary CIA Director William Colby has said that torture is "ineffective."

Harper's Magazine's Scott Horton nows suggests there are two Eric Holders at war with each other: Holder the good soldier who knows well the preference of his boss for prosecutions to not take place, and Holder the servant of the law who is aware that what he does now may determine what is likely to happen again.

It is becoming clear that such an investigation, if it happens, will not stop with a few low-ranking scapegoats. Horton notes:

"President Obama’s assurance to CIA officials who relied on the opinions of government lawyers in implementing these programs, an assurance that Holder himself repeated, would have to be worked in. That suggests that the focus would likely be on the lawyers and policymakers who authorized use of the new techniques."

And CIA whistleblower Ray McGovern writes this week:

the buck stops - actually, in this case, it began - with President Bush. Senate Armed Services Committee leaders Carl Levin and John McCain on Dec. 11, 2008, released the executive summary of a report, approved by the full committee without dissent, concluding that Bush's Feb. 7, 2002, memorandum "opened the door to considering aggressive techniques."

What changed with Holder? Horton writes in "The Torture Prosecution Turnaround?":

Holder began his review mindful of the clear preference of President Obama’s two key political advisers—David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel—that there be no investigation. Axelrod and Emanuel are described as uninterested in either the legal or policy merits of the issue of a criminal investigation. Their concerns turn entirely on their political analysis...Holder initially appeared prepared to satisfy their wishes.

This attitude seemed to change after Obama's speech at the CIA, when Emanual and Axelrod moved out front to say there would be no prosecutions. According to Horton:

"In the days after Obama’s speech at the CIA, both Axelrod and Emanuel insisted that the White House had made the decision that there would be no prosecutions. According to reliable sources, that incensed Holder, who felt that the remarks had compromised the integrity both of the White House and Justice Department by suggesting that political advisers made the call on who would or would not be criminally investigated."

To make things worse for the Bush administration, evidence is emerging that they can no longer even rely on exhibit A and B of the Torture Works theory, Al Zabudaya and Kalid Shiek Mohammed, the latter of whom is still confessing to everything short of being the real Boston Strangler. I guess if I'd been waterboarded 82 times I'd be babbling too. The FBI Special Agent who interrogated Abu Zubayda, recently breaking a 7-year silence after reading the "torture memos," wrote in the New York Times:

"One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence...This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives."

Then there is the political risk to the Obama administration that Axelrod and Emanual have miscalculated, and that, in fact, the rest of the president's agenda is hamstrung while a growing number of Americans call for existing laws to be enforced. What is haunting Americans could be, in Washington jargon, "sucking oxygen" out of the debate, and "moving forward" is a pipe dream until pending business is dealt with. Spontaneous and planned rallies calling for a Special Prosecutor are growing, not diminishing. In addition, the worse revelations may be yet to come in the horrifying saga of what happened when, as Major General Anthony Taguba says:

[a] permissive environment [was] created by implicit and explicit authorizations by senior US officials to "take the gloves off"...

President Jimmy Carter wrote that the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Pentagon "have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, confirmed by soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse." In "Our Endangered Values" Carter said that the Red Cross found after visiting six U.S. prisons "107 detainees under eighteen, some as young as eight years old." And reporter Hersh, (who broke the Abu Ghraib torture scandal,) reported 800-900 Pakistani boys aged 13 to 15 in custody.

Journalist Seymour Hersh's (who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal) bombshell before the ACLU some years ago has been in a temporary slumber, as there is question as to whether the videotapes in possession of the Pentagon were among those claimed to be destroyed. Destroyed or not, there is still the conscience of soldiers and agents who bore witness to contend with, as the reign of political terror against whistleblowers which characterized the Bush administration subsides. Hersh said:

" Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said at the time:

"The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."

History is just beginning to sort out the Bush era, with stubborn facts showing a resilience that Fox News talking points cannot, and more emerging. Today, even among Republicans, it is difficult to find those who will embrace Richard Nixon, though for a while he was every bit the perceived victim of "left-wing hate" that Bush and Cheney are now. Incredibly, to compare Nixon to Bush-Cheney is to do a deeply flawed man a disservice. Nixon inherited Vietnam. He did not orchestrate from whole cloth a campaign to link Saddam with 9/11, and strenuously push to war despite the objections of his countrymen and the world. Nixon spied on political enemies. He did not use a tragedy to illegally spy on millions, the true numbers of which we still do not know because congress has never investigated.

It's almost possible to feel sorry for the shifty, friendless Nixon. It is less possible to feel so for the smirking Bush, who thought nothing of telling soldier's families that war critics were saying that their loved ones "had died in vain."

A compilation in November2008 of other evidence of alleged incidents involving children at the time recounts:

-- Iraqi lawyer Sahar Yasiri, representing the Federation of Prisoners and Political Prisoners, said in a published interview there are more than 400,000 detainees in Iraq being held in 36 prisons and camps and that 95 percent of the 10,000 women among them have been raped. Children, he said, "suffer from torture, rape, (and) starvation" and do not know why they have been arrested. He added the children have been victims of "random" arrests "not based on any legal text."

-- Former prisoner Thaar Salman Dawod in a witness statement said, "[I saw] two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and [a U.S. soldier] was beating them and a group of guards were watching and taking pictures and there was three female soldiers laughing at the prisoners."

-- Iraqi TV reporter, Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz, arrested while making a documentary and thrown into Abu Ghraib for 74 days, told Mackay he saw "hundreds" of children there. Al-Baz said he heard one 12-year-old girl crying, "They have undressed me. They have poured water over me." He said he heard her whimpering daily.

-- Al-Baz also told of a 15-year-old boy "who was soaked repeatedly with hoses until he collapsed." Amnesty International said ex-detainees reported boys as young as 10 are held at Abu Ghraib.

-- German TV reporter Thomas Reutter of "Report Mainz" quoted U.S. Army Sgt. Samuel Provance that interrogation specialists "poured water" over one 16-year-old Iraqi boy, drove him throughout a cold night, "smeared him with mud" and then showed him to his father, who was also in custody. Apparently, one tactic employed by the Bush regime is to elicit confessions from adults by dragging their abused children in front of them.

-- Jonathan Steele, wrote in the British "The Guardian" that "Hundreds of children, some as young as nine, are being held in appalling conditions in Baghdad’s prisons...Sixteen-year-old Omar Ali told the "Guardian" he spent more than three years at Karkh juvenile prison sleeping with 75 boys to a cell that is just five by 10 meters, some of them on the floor. Omar told the paper guards often take boys to a separate room in the prison and rape them.

-- Raad Jamal, age 17, was taken from his Doura home by U.S. troops and turned over to the Iraqi Army’s Second regiment where Jamal said he was hung from the ceiling by ropes and beaten with electric cables.

-- Human Rights Watch (HRW) last June put the number of juveniles detained at 513. In all, HRW estimates, since 2003, the U.S. has detained 2,400 children in Iraq, some as young as ten.

-- IRIN, the humanitarian news service, last year quoted Khalid Rabia of the Iraqi NGO Prisoners’ Association for Justice(PAJ), stating that five boys between 13 and 17 accused of supporting insurgents and detained by the Iraqi army "showed signs of torture all over their bodies," such as "cigarette burns over their legs," she said.

-- One boy of 13 arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 was held in solitary for more than a year at Bagram and Guantanamo and made to stand in stress position and deprived of sleep, according to the "Catholic Worker."

Attorney General Holder is a man of conscience who now serves both President Obama and the law. A Newsweek piece last week says he has no illusions that:

Such a decision [to appoint a Special Prosecutor] would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."

There can be redemption for a nation which faces its past. One that does not can only become more monstrous.

Call the Office of the Attorney General, "Appoint a Special Prosecutor" at (202) 353-1555. Then email the Justice Department.

Palestinian children in Israeli prison are deprived the most basic of human rights

Prisons expert: Palestinian children in Israeli prison are deprived the most basic of human rights
http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6184&Itemid=

17.07.09 - 11:15
Gaza / PNN – There are 345 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons where physical and psychological torture are both practiced.

Since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000 some 7,800 boys and girls have been arrested. The number since the occupation of 1967 is in the tens of thousands.


The figures come as part of a report by prison expert Abdel Nasser Ferwana issued today that says children constitute 3.6 percent of the total number of Palestinian political prisoners. “The future of these children are at risk and face harsh torture and degrading treatment,” he said. “Children are subjected to systematic violations and the continual deprivation of their most basic rights, among them sickness without medical care.”

Children are treated similarly to adults: arrested at checkpoints or snatched from homes and are subjected to middle-of-the-night searches that use dogs. The difference is the destruction of the formative years and the denial of the right to education. Ferwana noted the targeting of the next generation to ensure that it comes into its own without proper education or socialization, and with deep-rooted psychological problems.

International law does not prohibit the imprisonment of children for short periods of time but does not condone the deprivation of liberty.

Israel Traps Gazans in Deprivation and Despair


Link




Most of the poor 'have exhausted their coping mechanisms.'

By Stephen Lendman – Chicago

Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross is an "impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance." It also tries "to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles."

It's legally mandated to do it under the 1949 Geneva Conventions and has had a permanent presence in Gaza since 1968. Currently 109 ICRC staff work there, including 19 expatriates. They remained throughout Operation Cast Lead and witnessed firsthand the carnage and destruction that took place.

Cooperatively with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), they evacuated hundreds of people, some severely wounded in the conflict. As able, they also repaired power and water supply lines and provided hospitals with vital medicines and supplies. In addition, ICRC surgeons performed operations in Gaza's Shifa Hospital working alongside Palestinian doctors.

Post-conflict, ICRC and PRCS collected information on Israeli violations of international humanitarian laws. They also distributed vital items, including plastic sheeting, cooking sets, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, and more to over 72,000 Gazans whose homes were partially or totally destroyed.

ICRC is currently providing eight hospitals with medicines, other medical supplies, equipment, spare parts, and is helping with needed repairs. It's also fitting amputees with artificial limbs and offering needed physiotherapy.

It's helping to upgrade water and sanitation services to keep Gaza's water network running as best it can. It's aiding farmers and others with land rehabilitation, compost production, and "cash-for-work." It promotes international humanitarian law and calls on all sides to observe it.

In June 2009, it issued a report titled, "Gaza: 1.5 million people trapped in despair" that described the Territory as "look(ing) like the epicentre of a massive earthquake" in the wake of Operation Cast Lead and went on to detail how severely.

No Reconstruction Allowed - Public Health at Risk

Despite billions pledged for reconstruction, practically none of it has come because of Israel's tight embargo on virtually everything needed. As a result, thousands of displaced and destitute families live in cramped quarters with relatives or in tents as their only other alternative.

Some emergency repairs were carried out, but "only to the already unsatisfactory level prevailing before December 2008." Overall, the infrastructure is inadequate, overloaded, and subject to breakdown. Although chlorine is available to disinfect water, sewage and other waste matter seepage remains a major threat to public health. Each day, 69 million liters of partially or untreated effluent are pumped into the Mediterranean for lack of an ability to handle it.

Poor Access to Health Care

Gaza's health care system is in disrepair and can't adequately treat patients with serious illnesses. In addition, with the Territory under siege and a strict embargo imposed, most people can't leave to seek care elsewhere. Those allowed out endure a bureaucratic nightmare and wait months before permission is granted. For some, it's too late and for others their condition has worsened.

Twenty-six year old Do'aa is typical. She has pancreatic cancer, needs surgery, yet explains her despair. "At first, there was hope that I would be given an operation, but as time went by I stopped hoping. I am in pain and I know all too well that my disease is life threatening." She's waited six months for permission, so far not granted.

Reaching Jordan is no easy task. It requires passing through Erez crossing into Israel and doing it is arduous. ICRC describes the process:

"Patients on life-support machines have to be removed from ambulances and placed on stretchers, then carried 60 - 80 metres through the crossing to ambulances waiting on the other side. Patients who can walk unassisted may face extensive questioning before they are allowed through the crossing for medical treatment - or, as sometimes happens, before they are refused entry into Israel and turned back."

As for treatment in Gaza, everything needed falls short. What's available comes from the Palestinian Authority's (PA) Ministry of Health in the West Bank, but the supply chain is unreliable given obstacles that Israel imposes and tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

Getting imports is more complicated still because of embargo restrictions of even the most basic items like painkillers and X-ray film developers. Patients go wanting as a result, a serious problem for the most ill.

For those needing prosthetic appliances as well because getting them is a lengthy, arduous process. Fourteen-year old Gassan lost his older brother and both his legs. He loves football, but doctors told him he'd walk again. Six months later, he's still waiting for both of his limbs to be fitted.

A Strangled Economy

The combination of siege and Operation Cast Lead devastated Gaza's already fragile economy. On May 1, the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce reported that unemployment reached 65%, poverty hit 80%, and the longer isolation continues the higher these figures will go. Currently, about 96% of Gaza's industrial operations are shuttered, and over 80% of its residents depend on humanitarian aid and supplies from the World Food Program, UNRWA, and what comes in through tunnels from Egypt to survive.

A May 2008 ICRC household survey showed that over 70% of Gazans had personal incomes of $1 dollar a day excluding whatever humanitarian assistance they received. On average, Territory workers have to support six to seven other immediate family members and several others in their extended family. Cutting household expenses is essential, even at the cost of a healthy balanced diet, no longer affordable for most.

So cheap alternatives substitute for fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies result. Children, the elderly and sick are especially impacted. For youths it means stunted bone growth, improper teeth development, and a reduced capacity to learn. It makes everyone infection and illness-prone by lowering their resistance and destroying their overall state of well-being.

Most of the poor "have exhausted their coping mechanisms." Their savings are gone, and they've sold personal belongings, including jewelry, furniture, farm animals, land, fishing boats, cars and other possessions - anything to raise cash. They've cut back on food and other essentials as much as possible. Still their situation is grave. Israel is slowly sucking life out of 1.5 million people with no opposition stepping up to stop it.

Farming in the Danger Zone

Farm families comprise over one-fourth of Gaza's population, and they, too, been badly hit. "Exports of strawberries, cherry tomatoes and cut flowers used to be" important cash crops. No longer as they've been virtually halted. Farmers lost half their income and struggle to sell what they can internally at far lower prices than obtainable from exports to Israel or Europe.

Operation Cast Lead destroyed thousands of citrus, olive and palm groves as well as irrigation systems, wells and greenhouses. In addition, many farmers lack fertilizers and many seedling types. They also lost access to around 30% of their land, the portion inside a "no-go" buffer zone straddling Israel and Gaza. It extends up to a kilometer inside an Israeli-erected fence on which farmers risk being shot if they work there. Under these conditions, productive agriculture is severely curtailed and in some places not possible.

Fishermen has been just as hard hit by Israel's coastal restrictions extending up to six nautical miles offshore. Reduced catches have resulted as bigger fish and sardines, comprising 70% of earlier harvests, are found in deeper waters.

Trapped

ICRC states:

"People in Gaza are trapped. Because Israel has shut the crossing points, Gazans have scant opportunity for contact with relatives abroad or for further education or professional training." Palestinian staff members of international organizations, including ICRC, are also impacted.

The emotional fallout especially affects families whose relatives are imprisoned inside Israel. In June 2007, Israel stopped ICRC-supported visits of about 900 families and prevented spouses and children from staying close to their loved ones.

Students, professors, teachers, and health professionals also get no exit permission for education, training, seminars, and other skills and expertise-building methods. Ibrahim Abu Sobeih is a 24-year-old Gaza student. Pennsylvania's Clarion University awarded him a scholarship, but he can't attend. In frustration, he said:

"Being stuck here gives me a sombre view of the future. I would like to be educated and to make something of myself. I want to be able to help my family financially. But it is very difficult when I am trapped. I feel very angry and hopeless."

So do 1.5 million other Gazans - trapped in the world's largest open-air prison, under siege for over two years, getting way inadequate outside help, and none whatever from Western powers that support Israel's slow-motion genocide against a civilian population unable to stop it.

- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. (Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues.)

Hamas praises anti-Zionist Jews "heros" against Israel siege

Link

Hamas leader Haniye met on Thursday with a group of anti-Zionism Orthodox Jews who arrived in Gaza with a US aid convoy.

Friday, 17 July 2009 12:54

It was the first time envoys from the Neturei Karta have visited the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control in June 2007.

The Hamas leader praised his four Jewish guests, saying, "Those religious figures that express their objection to the siege, the aggression and the crimes – we can't help but respect them and for their beliefs and their culture."

Haniyeh also said that the US-based Viva Palestina convoy "is proof that the American people is not entirely a people of occupation and is not entirely on the side of the criminal Zionist regime."

"We view you as heroes; you are opening the eyes of the world to the siege in the Strip," he added.

The ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist Jews arrived with the "Lifeline 2" convoy of 200 people led by antiwar British MP Galloway who made his second journey to the war-torn Strip this year. In March he donated 25,000 British pounds and a fleet of ambulances to the Hamas-run Gaza government.

During their Thursday meeting, Haniyeh told them that the "Palestinian people are not against the Israelis because they are Jewish, but they are against the occupation and the Zionism that deny Palestinians their rights."

"We feel your suffering, we cry your cry," said Rabbi Yisroel Weiss upon arriving Wednesday night. "It is your land, it is occupied, illegitimately and unjustly by people who stole it, kidnapped the name of Judaism and our identity," said Weiss.

Neturei Karta, Aramaic for "Guardians of the City," was founded some 70 years ago in Jerusalem by Jews.

Gaza is still considered under Israeli occupation as Israel controls air, sea and land access to the Strip.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt, Gaza's sole border crossing that bypasses Israel, rarely opens as Egypt is under immense US and Israeli pressure to keep the crossing shut.

Human rights groups, both international and Israeli, slammed Israel's siege of Gaza, branding it "collective punishment."

Israel killed nearly 1434 Palestinians, a third of them children and wounded more than 5000 Palestinians in the 22-day military aggression in December 2008 on Gaza.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Settler Violence Report, May/June 2009

Settler Violence Report, May/June 2009

By Ahmad Jaradat and Virginia F.

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Settlers in Hebron.

July 16, 2009

Hebron and Southern West Bank

On the evening of 1 May, approximately 20 settlers from the Bat Ayin settlement north of Hebron opened fire on homes in the Palestinian village of Safa. The settlers burned a field which was planted with wheat and belongs to farmer Mohammed Husain Musleh Adi. Villagers from Safa and other nearby villages gathered after mosque loud-speakers issued notification of the violence. Residents threw stones at the settlers to protect themselves and their homes. After arriving on the scene, the Israeli military announced that the village is a closed military zone. Israeli soldiers then sat at checkpoints on the roads that lead to the village and did nothing to stop the settlers' actions. Two weeks ago settlers from Bat Ayin also uprooted tens of olive trees on land located close to the settlement.

Also on 1 May, Israeli bulldozers under the protection of the military leveled around ten dunums of land near the Ale’azer settlement located to the south of the Palestinian village of al-Khader. The site is called Abu Bakeer and is lies in the Bethlehem District. The affected land belongs to the Salah family and was planted with grapes. Ramzi Salah, mayor of al-Khader, said the aim of the destruction is to expand the neighboring settlement.

On 7 May, armed settlers from Bat Ayin settlement prevented farmers from Bait Omar to reach their land and work. Settlers fired into the air when farmers attempted to reach land located in the site of 'Ain al-Baida. The farmers fled after the settlers fired.

On 12 May, settlers from Giv’at Harsina and Kiryat Arba attacked a group of Palestinians and internationals who had gathered in Buwaira, located to the east of Hebron. The demonstrators had gathered to protest land confiscation in the area. Hashem al-Azza, a 45-year-old activist, sustained head injuries after settlers arrived and began throwing stones at the group. The army also reportedly assisted the settlers in attacking the demonstrators.

On 17 May, dozens of settlers in cooperation with extreme Knesset Members from the Israeli National Party convened in the streets of the Old City of Hebron. The gathering took place under the direction of a Knesset member Yakov Katz, of the Ichud Leumi Party. Defense Minister Ehud Barak granted the group permission to visit and tour the city. News sources described the visit as designed to encourage settlement in the Old City and to enhance the existing outpost there. Starting from the morning, the Israeli army closed shops and all streets in the affected area and increased checkpoint activity. In some areas of the city, local Palestinian organizations, internationals, and Arab Knesset members gathered to protest the visit.

On 19 June, army officers from the Israeli Civil Administration issued home demolition orders to five Hebron families. The homes are located in Hejra, situated to the south of the city and two kilometers to the west of the Bait Hagai settlement. The homes are close to Road Number 60, which serves the settlements. Land Defense Committee sources said that these orders were issued to Palestinians who cannot build or expand their own homes because they reside in Area C, for which construction permits are almost impossible to obtain. Meanwhile, settlement and settlement road-building in this area continues. The Committee's Abed al-Hadi Hantash said that since the beginning of this year, around 90 home demolition orders have been given to Palestinians, particularly in the southern hills area where the settlement projects are active.

On 19 May, a female settler from Kiryat Arba ran over a 3-year-old child with her car. The incident occurred on the main road in the al-Ra area, to the west of the settlement. The woman tried to escape but people gathered and prevented her from leaving. The army ultimately came and let her go. The child, Jalela Mus’ab al-Ja’bari, was taken to a Hebron hospital for treatment. Her case was described as medium.

On 24 May, four farmers from Om El-Muqfera and Om Toba villages, to the southeast of Yatta, were injured when approximately 20 settlers attacked them using stones and stakes. The farmers had been shepherding their goats in the land to the west of the settlement. The injured are Ismael Abu Qubaita, Issa Jebreel Makhamreh, Ibraheem ali El-Zain and Ali Mohammed Makhamreh. The men were taken to local medical centers in Yatta for treatment.

On 30 May, settlers from Bat Ayin settlement attacked farmers who came to work the land to the south of the settlement. Jamla Mohammed Husain Adi, 45, and her child Mai Ibraheem Thaljee, 3, were injured when the settlers pushed them to the ground and then tried to force them to leave the land. Internationals were injured in the same event when the settlers threw stones at them. Mohammed Ayyad Awad, an activist in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM?), said that the attacks happened while the army was present and did nothing to stop the settlers. Futhermore, the army declared the area a military zone and forced the farmers and internationals, who came to pick crops alongside the farmers, to leave. The army detained several farmers and Israeli activists for hours.

On 8 June, army bulldozers damaged and leveled 40 dunums of land in the Baq’a area, northeast of Hebron, and damaged seven agricultural pools. The land was being used for grape cultivation and belongs to Yahya Saeed Jaber, Mohammed Nader Jaber, Azmi Abed El-Azeez Jaber, Abedel Wahhab Jaber, Jawad Abed El-Jawwad Rajabi, and Ziyad Hammouda Jaber. The 40 dunums will be confiscated for use by the Kiryat Arba and Giv’at Harsina settlements.

On 13 June, settlers from Kiryat Arba and other settlement outposts renewed their attacks against the residents of Wadi Husain, which lies to the west of the settlement. According to Wadi Husain resident Fahd Ja’bari, the settlers antagonize village residents by throwing stones at their houses and running after children in the main street.

On 17 June, a new wave of settler attacks began in Om al-Khair village in the southern hills. Settlers came from the nearby Karmiel settlement and threw stones at shepherds to force them to leave the land near the settlement. Tareq Salem Hadaleen, 16, was struct by a stone in his head. Israeli soldiers arrived and announced the area a closed military zone and sided with the settlers in keeping the farmers out of the area. In a statement to the AIC, Yasser Hadaleen said that these attacks are aimed at forcing residents to leave their land, especially land located to the east of the Karmeal settlement, to make it easier to confiscate. But in spite of these attacks carried out in cooperation with the army, Hadaleen said that village residents do not plan to leave. He also said that instead of stopping the settlers' attacks, the army arrives and says they don't want problems – and then simply declares the area a closed military zone.

On the afternoon of 19 June, a group of settlers from Beit 'Ain settlement burned a wooded area belonging to families from the villages of Bait Omar and Soreef. Around 120 trees were destroyed in the fire. Mohammed Ayyad Awad, a solidarity movement activist, said that each day his movement is informed of similar aggressions and that tree burning in this area is an ongoing occurrence.

On 20 June, several internationals and residents of Beit Omar were inured when settlers, in cooperation with the army, attacked dozens of farmers and members of solidarity groups who came to help farmers work their land adjacent to Bait Omar. The settlers arrived from the nearby Beit 'Ain settlement and threw stones. For months, settlers from this settlement have been attacking the farmers; the Land Defense Committee has recorded 11 attacks since April, including tree-burning and physical assaults on farmers.

On 21 June, three residents from the Palestinian village of Sosya, southeast of Yatta, were injured when settlers from the nearby Susiya settlement set fire to their tent in the early morning hours while they were asleep. Abed El-Rahman Mohammed Jawaj’a, 22, Yahya Khaled Nawaj’a, 21, and Ibrahim Mohammed Khaleel Nawaj’a, 22, were injured in the attack. In a similar incident two months ago, settlers from the same settlement tried to burn another tent, but a gathering crowd prevented them from doing so. Last December the settlers set fire to two tents belonging to Sara Salamah Nawaj’a and Mohammed Jaber Nawaj’a.

On 22 June, settlers from Bait 'Ain carried out new attacks against the land that lies south of the settlement. This time the settlers cut 200 grape and olive trees belonging to Hammad Jaber Sulaibi and Fahd Jaber Slaibi. In the same attacks, the settlers also burned around ten dunums of land.

On 22 June, in cooperation with the army, settlers from the Bethlehem-area settlements of Juv’ot [Gva'ot?], Navi Danial [Neve Daniel?]and Bettar [Beitar Illit?] leveled around 40 dunums of planted land to the south of the town of Nahhalen. The land belongs to the Fannon, Shakarneh and Al-Shaikh families. The aim of the settler's destruction of the land is to build electricity and water grids that will serve the settlements in the area. Local Council Chairman Mohammed Ghayada reported that this project of building infrastructure for the settlement will lead to the confiscation or isolation of another 3300 dunums of village land. He added that since 1967, his town has lost 15,000 dunums of land to the settlement projects. Most of their land has been confiscated, he said. The village is already surrounded on all sides by settlements, which lie very close to the village's buildings and adversely affect its development.

Nablus and Northern West Bank

On 1 May, settlers from the settlement outpost Gi’ad, east of Qalqilya, attacked 20-year-old farmer Mohammed Ahmed Abu Baker of the village of Jet. The young farmer was working on his land near the outpost when five settlers arrived, beat him, and sprayed material on his face that inflicted burns. He sustained head and back injuries when the soldiers forced him on the ground and beat him using stones. The settlers also damaged his tractor. Mohammed was taken to Darweesh Nazzal Hospital in Nablus.

On 13 May in the district of Jenin, approximately 40 settlers arrived and erected tents on the ruins of the Homish settlement that was dismantled in 2005. The settlers periodically organize protests against the dismantling of the settlement and sometimes engage in attacks against residents of the Selet al-Daher village. On this occasion the settlers threw stones at Palestinian cars on the main road of the village. The army closed the area by checkpoints.

On 21 May, dozens of settlers from Itsehar settlement south of Nablus destroyed ten dunums of land that were slated for wheat cultivation. The land is located in Khallet as-Sewar and is owned by a farmer named Mohammed Reda. Palestinian sources in Nablus say that this is not the first time that this area has been targeted by Itsehar settlers.

On 22 May, the Israeli Authority issued confiscation notices for 300 dunams in El-Qatayen in the Jenin District. The 300 dunums belong to families from the villages of Ya’bad and Tora El-Gharbiyya. The orders instructed the farmers to take what they need from the land within 45 days.

Mohammed Qabaha, a farmer who owns 60 dunums in the affected area, told the AIC that "officers from Civil Administration came to the site and brought the confiscations orders and maps that showed the borders of the land." The land is cultivated with trees and is owned by Mohammed Eid Qabaha, Anees Hasan Qabaha, Mohammed Shareef Zaid, Adnan Ismael Zaid, Husni Zaid, Mohammed Othman Abbadi, Saleh Azeez Zaid, Mohammed Ismael Qabaha, and Awwad Rafeeq Deeb.

Qabaha added that each farmer has documents attesting to their ownership of the land. This confiscation will cause around 13 families to lose their main source of income. The Palestinians suspect that the goal behind this confiscation is to build a new settlement on the site.

On 22 May, settlers from Itsehar settlement burned a field of wheat owned by a family from the village of Boreen in the southern part of the district. Landowner Mohammed Raja said that the settlers burned 20 dunums of land planted with wheat. The land is located on the site of Khallet Iswar. Fire-Brigades came from nearby towns and stopped the fire while Israeli officers from the DCO arrived and documented the aggression.

On the same day, another group of settlers from settlements in the southern Nablus area attacked farmers from Oreef village while they were harvesting their wheat. Physical altercations took place between settlers and farmers when the army came to try to curtail the incident.

On 25 May, 21-year-old Al-Quds University student Hiba Abed El-Haq was waiting at Za'tra checkpoint north of Nablus when settlers threw stones at her, injuring her in the back and face. The settlers descended on the checkpoint in three cars and threw stones at the waiting cars and passengers. The soldiers present at the scene reportedly waited more than thirty minutes before they intervened and stopped the settlers.

On 7 June, dozens of local organizations and farmers met in the town hall of 'Aneen, west of Jenin, to discuss settlers' daily attacks against their land. 'Aneen Mayor Rabah Yaseen said that 11,500 dunums of land, most of it planted, now lies on the other side of the Separation Wall and is therefore difficult for farmers to reach. For several months settlers have been damaging this land and allowing their own goats to feed on the trees. The issue has been brought to the attention of Israeli officials, but nothing has been done to prevent the settlers from harming the land that lies outside the Separation Wall. Residents of the area's agricultural settlements and people from inside Israel continue to bring their cows and goats to the land. Meanwhile the farmers are unable to reach the land to cultivate it because permission is usually granted only during harvest times.

On 8 June, the settlers from Itamar settlement east of Nablus burned 20 dunums of land planted with olive trees. The land is owned by Amjad Sulaiman Qawareeq of the village of Awarta. According to Ghassan Duglas, a spokesman for settlement activity in the northern West Bank, the attacks by settlers in Nablus District have been heavy in the past two weeks, particularly involving settlers from Itsehar and Itamar settlements.

On 26 June, approximately 50 settlers from settlements in the Tulkarem District erected tents on land belonging to Ibrahim Kayed, who is from the village of Kufer Labad, east of Nablus. The settlers also raised the Israeli flag on the land. Kayed said that when he and his sons went to protest, the settlers stoned and beat him and his sons Samer, 30, and Jamal, 20. Both were taken to a local clinic because of injuries to their heads and hands. Sources in Nablus say that it seems the settlers want to build a new outpost on the site, especially given that this is not the first time the settlers have staged a sit-in on this land.