Saturday, 28 March 2009

URGENT APPEAL :Israel must be judged at the International Criminal Court - Universal petition


Remember the Innocent Children
Remember the Innocent Children



Massacre of Civilians
Massacre of Civilians

Approximately 300 among NGOs and associations ask the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation on the war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. Our support is indispensable. Sign and circulate this urgent «universal petition».

After the letter from lawyer Gilles Devers to the NGOs, Tlaxcala launches a world civil campaign of letters to be mailed to the International Criminal Court asking it to prosecute Israel for “war crimes”

On January 19th, 2009, Tlaxcala, the Translators’ Network for Linguistic Diversity, had the pleasure of serving as multilingual messenger in a global initiative of NGOs and associations appealing to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the prosecution of Israeli representatives on the charges of the war crimes they committed in Gaza between December 27th, 2008 and January 18th, 2009.

Many things which were unthinkable just a few weeks ago have happened since then: two States, Bolivia and Venezuela, have broken diplomatic relations with Israel; of them, Bolivia officially accuses Israel of war crimes before the ICC; the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan publicly confronted Shimon Peres at the Davos World Economic Forum and told him that his country is a killing machine; two courts have accepted to investigate Israel for war crimes (the Spanish National Audience and a Turkish court; the ICC has started a preliminary analysis of this case; the initiative coordinated by the French lawyer Gilles Devers so far has received the support of more than 300 NGOs and associations from all over the world and, lastly, the campaign of signatures spread by Tlaxcala already has received more than 33,000 personal adhesions by citizens of the entire planet, desirous that justice puts an end once and for all to the historical impunity and violence of the institutional apparatuses of the State of Israel and to its slow genocide of the Palestinian people.

A few days ago, both the NGOs and associations participating in the initiative received a personal letter from Gilles Devers on behalf of the lawyers in charge of the legal aspects of this case.

As part of these associations, Tlaxcala has decided to translate and diffuse that letter.

We request the individual citizens who already signed through Internet – and also any other human being of good will – that they mail a letter to the International Criminal Court reaffirming their desire that it puts an end to the war crimes of the State of Israel.

Tlaxcala Executive Committee

Below you will find both Mr. Devers’ letter and an example of the letter he proposes to mail to the ICC:

Dear friends,

Since January 22nd, 2009, when we filed the petition to launch an investigation, the legal procedures have considerably advanced. The horror of Gaza’s aggression demands a fresh new reading of Law. After the petition by 350 NGO and associations, the Palestinian Authority has formally empowered the International Criminal Court. The first testimonies from Gaza confirm a deliberate will to both kill and destroy that go beyond military objectives. Henceforth, the skepticism that sometimes surrounded our procedure must leave space the taste of victory. Justice must prevail.

About forty lawyers are working in close collaboration. A website will be launched next week that will permit us to circulate information and reinforce contacts. We are going to file the first individual actions.

Proof of the progress of the action is CPI prosecutor Ocampo’s statement to the Times on February 2nd. Nothing is won yet, but let’s measure our advance:

«Prosecutor looks at ways to put Israeli officers on trial for Gaza ‘war crimes’

The International Criminal Court is exploring ways to prosecute Israeli commanders over alleged war crimes in Gaza.

When Palestinian groups petitioned the ICC this month, its prosecutor said that it was unable to take the case because it had no jurisdiction over Israel, a nonsignatory to the court. Now, however, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, has told The Times that he is examining the case for Palestinian jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in Gaza.

Palestinian groups have submitted arguments asserting that the Palestinian Authority is the de facto state in the territory where the crimes were allegedly committed.

“It is the territorial state that has to make a reference to the court. They are making an argument that the Palestinian Authority is, in reality, that state,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo told The Times at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Part of the Palestinian argument rests on the Israeli insistence that it has no responsibility for Gaza under international law since it withdrew from the territory in 2006. “They are quoting jurisprudence,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo said. “It’s very complicated. It’s a different kind of analysis I am doing. It may take a long time but I will make a decision according to law.”

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that his examination of the case did not necessarily reflect a belief that war crimes had been committed in Gaza. Determining jurisdiction was a first step, he said, and only after it had been decided could he launch an investigation.»

On behalf of the victims in Gaza we owe an exemplary mobilization.
Nothing is won yet but we have made considerable progress. Now we have to persuade. Efficient support brought to this action is a decisive element for the CPI.

So we call all signatory NGOs and associations to mobilize their members and friends for a campaign by citizens through individual letters mailed to the CPI prosecutor in order to give testimony of our hope in international justice.

Below you have a model of the letter, although you can write your own. Letters can be individually mailed or else be regrouped and sent by NGOs or organizations, and must be addressed to:(date)


Mr. Prosecutor
International Criminal Court
PO BOX 19519
2500 CM, The Hague, Netherlands

Mr. Prosecutor,

Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009, will remain in History as one of the worst atrocities of the modern world. This defenceless and unprotected people denied any possibility of escape was a victim of the fury of an ultra-powerful army and everything points to the certainty that this army deliberately attacked civilians.

Who would understand if this crime remained unpunished? An unpunished Israel would permit the return of barbarism. Our gazes naturally turn toward international justice embodied by the ICC.
On behalf of human rights and in loving memory of those who died for the only reason that they were Palestinians, I ask you to launch an investigation to defend both the memory of the victims and Law, which is the sign of civilization.
Violence has had too often the last word in that region of the world. But peace must only rest on the respect of people’s rights.

Warm greetings from a citizen of the world,(signature)


This year, Arabs and Palestinians honored the city of Jerusalem as 2009's "Capital of Arab

This year, Arabs and Palestinians honored the city of Jerusalem as 2009's "Capital of Arab Culture: Jerusalem in Our Hearts....

Al-Quds 2009

Al-Quds 2009

This year, Arabs and Palestinians honored the city of Jerusalem as 2009's "Capital of Arab Culture." Each year, Arab cultural ministers name one Arab city as the "Cultural Capital," last year's designate being Damascus, Syria. The title came this year with a fanfare of activities throughout Palestinian cities, crowned off by a huge VIP event in Bethlehem where prominent artists and Arab cultural figures throughout the Arab world conveyed their sentiments of solidarity and support via video conference and Palestinian folkloric groups performed live.

So it would seem that the designation is not and should not be politicized. Naming an Arab city a cultural capital is about preserving its heritage and its Arab identity, passing on the torch of our culture to newer generations that may not be as well versed in it as others. It is a sort of revival, an honor bestowed upon the Arabs' most revered cities and homage paid to its rich history.

Enough said. For these very reasons, Israel was adamant to stop the festivities. Much along the theme of the children's story "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," Israeli authorities chased children with red, white, black and green balloons – the colors of the Palestinian flag – in an attempt to halt them from being released. It did not allow the Palestinian flag to be raised in occupied east Jerusalem nor did it let young Palestinians gather together in song and dance in the streets of the Old City.

In any case, the celebrations were already a few months late. Planned for January, 2009, the festivities had to be postponed because of Israel's invasion of Gaza, the results of which were devastating. At the time, the organizers decided to reschedule the launching for March.

Needless to say, the irony of the situation cannot be lost on the fact that the festivities were launched from Bethlehem rather than the city being honored. Dignitaries from several Arab countries flocked to the city just south of Jerusalem along with scores of Palestinian officials, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinians carrying West Bank IDs are not allowed into Jerusalem, so the Arab cultural capital could not be celebrated properly by its own people. Instead, the organizers chose the Palestinian city closest to the capital to hold the day-long events.

In Jerusalem, residents of the eastern sector of the city tried to compensate but were pushed back by Israel's iron-strong military force. Even before the actual day of the launching, March 21, Israeli forces raided a hotel where organizers were staying, confiscating documents, a laptop and ID cards. "No show of Palestinian sovereignty" in Israel, was their excuse.

On the day, over a dozen organizers and participants were arrested by Israeli authorities, including Hatem Abdel Qader, a consultant to the president on Jerusalem affairs, charged with organizing the balloon launch. When approached for official permits to hold the event in Jerusalem, the organizers were duly rejected by Israeli authorities.

Miraculously, however, Israel could not put a damper on the people's enthusiasm. In the streets of the Old City, groups of two musicians (Israel banned anything larger) sat playing Arabic instruments to the tune of classic Arabic songs. Small crowds gathered around the young musicians including foreign tourists who were clearly enjoying the change of pace. Directly to the side, a group of Israeli soldiers and police stood ready for action, their eyes hawkishly eyeing the crowds and their fingers clenched tautly around the triggers of their guns.

Still, the mood was unbelievably cheerful. The sound of authentic Arab and Palestinian music ringing out throughout the Old City walls brought immense joy to those who stood listening. It was also a moment of pride for many Palestinians who have grown accustomed to Israel squashing any sign of Palestinian culture in the occupied city.

So, just like the Grinch who tried to cancel Christmas by stealing all of its trappings and who nonetheless could not kill the Who family's spirit, so did Israel fail in Jerusalem. True, there were not the grandiose events one would expect from an event of such magnitude, but the Palestinians drew their strength from the outpour of solidarity from others. On the big screen of Bethlehem's conference center, Arab artists such as Marcel Khalifeh and Durayd Lahham stressed Jerusalem's Arab identity and their solidarity with the Palestinians. Palestinians in Jerusalem remain undeterred, launching the balloons in spite of the heavy Israeli military presence around them and song and dance broke out sporadically throughout the eastern sector of the city whenever a moment could be stolen away from the prying eyes of Israel's army.

If nothing else, Jerusalem was heard. There have been many times when Palestinians in the city have felt sidelined during political negotiations and geographically isolated because of Israel's policy of severing the city from its Palestinian surroundings. But on March 21, Jerusalem was in the spotlight. Its name as an Arab cultural capital was broadcast on television, splashed across newspapers and magazines and uttered by millions. Throughout the coming year, the world will be repeatedly reminded that Jerusalem has a long and deep Arab history and culture. It will be reminded that its eastern sector is still under Israeli occupation and it will be reminded that a political solution must be found for its culture to flourish.

Israel may have been able to stamp out the more visible markings of the day, but one thing is for certain. In spite of all its oppression, this day confirmed that Jerusalem is and always will be forever in our hearts.

posted by annie at 6:25 AM

Three months later gaza is still the issue

Posted on March 28, 2009 by marcy/مارسي newman/نيومان

It is now three months since the savagery inflicted on gaza began on december 27th. lina al sharif, a palestinian blogger and student at the islamic university of gaza, made a video that shares what she witnessed during this savagery. here are her videos:

the situation at palestinian universities in gaza, like the one where lina goes, which israeli terrorists bombed, continues to be a problem as well. irin news published this report yesterday on the situation of palestinian universities in gaza:

Many university students who lost relatives or whose homes were destroyed during the recent 23-day Israeli offensive are finding it difficult to cope, according to university officials and students.

Some have been unable to register for the new semester due to lack of funds; others are still traumatised.

Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza said 14 of the 15 higher education institutions in the Strip (most are in and around Gaza City) were damaged by Israeli forces. Six came under direct attack.

Three colleges - Al-Da’wa College for Humanities in Rafah, Gaza College for Security Sciences in Gaza City, and the Agricultural College in Beit Hanoun (part of Al-Azhar University) - were destroyed, according to Al-Mezan communications officer Mahmoud AbuRahma.

Six university buildings in Gaza were razed to the ground and 16 damaged. The total damage is estimated at US$21.1 million, according to the Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza.

The Israeli offensive - in retaliation for continued Hamas rocket-fire from Gaza into Israel - began on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January.

Just after midnight on 28 December the Islamic University was targeted in six separate air strikes, according to eyewitnesses.

The two main buildings on campus were completely destroyed, while nine others were damaged; water, electrical and internet systems were affected, according to the university’s president, Kamalain Sha’ath.

“The two [main] buildings contained 74 science and engineering laboratories equipped with thousands of pieces of apparatus,” said Islamic University public relations officer Hussam Ayesh.

The university, which has 22,000 students enrolled, wants to rebuild and renovate but lacks building materials due to the Israeli blockade; Israel is very unlikely to allow in replacement laboratory equipment, without which it will be difficult for classes to resume.

“Only basic food commodities and essential humanitarian items are permitted to enter Gaza,” said spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Liaison Administration Maj Peter Lerner.

The Israeli military said the Islamic University was being used by Hamas to develop and store weapons, including Qassam rockets used to target Israeli civilians. The university and Hamas deny the allegations.

”Three thousand of the 20,000 registered students could not return this semester due to issues related to the war.”

The Islamic University has estimated the damage at US$15 million. By contrast, tuition fees for the 2009 semester only amount to $10 million. The university has appealed for help and halved the minimum initial payment required by students.

“Tuition fees are now a problem for more than 70 percent of the students and many have missed the semester,” said Abdel Rahman Migdad, 20, a third year business studies student. “Books are unavailable due to the siege and most students can’t even afford photocopies - and now we even lack ink for the photocopiers.”

Al-Azhar University

Al-Azhar, Gaza’s second largest university, generally seen as pro-Fatah (the political faction associated with Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank) was hit on the same day.

“Three thousand of the 20,000 registered students could not return this semester due to issues related to the war,” said public relations officer at Al-Azhar University Sameh Hassanin, who also said there had been a 20 percent increase in the number of students unable to afford fees since the offensive ended.

“Students lack funds for transport and books, and are struggling,” said Hassanin. The university also lacks paper, spare parts and ink for copiers.

The Agricultural College in Beit Hanoun was completely destroyed, with the damage estimated at US$4.3 million, according to university officials.

and here is an update report on the samouni family in zeitoun, gaza by al jazeera’s amazing sherine tadros:

The Wages Of Force: Expansion, Not Peace


This is zionism Expansion, Not Peace

A review of Zeev Maoz's Defending The Holy Land: A Critical Analysis Of Israel's Security & Foreign Policy (University of Michigan Press: 2006).
March 21, 2009 By Ellen Cantarow

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[Footnote added March 22. 2009]
In 1997 Hamas offered Israel a 30-year truce. Jordan's King Hussein delivered the offer: Israel's response was to send Mossad agents to Jordan where they tried to kill Hamas leader Khaled Meshal by dropping poison in his ear. The incident (described by former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy in his book, Man in the Shadows), not only deeply embarrassed the King, it also failed to kill Meshal. (Other peace bids were made; all were rejected, though none, perhaps, as dramatically as this.)

Hamas has also honored both short and long ceasefires, not the least of which took place during the six months preceding Israel's recent devastation of Gaza. A January 2009 Huffington Post article by Nancy Kanwisher, Johannes Haushofer, & Anat Biletzki shows that in any "conflict pause" between 2000 and 2008 ("conflict pause" means a cessation of hostile actions on both sides) Israel most often killed first, shattering the peace. The longer the "conflict-pause," the greater Israel's propensity to break it with violence.

The 1997 assassination attempt illustrates what Zeev Maoz, in his landmark work, Defending the Holy Land, calls Israel's "over my dead body" approach to peace. One form of Israeli ceasefire violation has been targeted assassinations, which Maoz says became policy -- a specific "tactic intended to ignite escalation" -- in the al-Aqsa Intifada. (He himself cites "four separate occasions" on which "Israel violated an implicit cease-fire that the Palestinians imposed upon themselves by assassinations that caused escalation" [287].)

Anyone seeking the background behind Israel's demonizing of Hamas; its destruction of Gaza; its slide into today's fascism (my word, not Maoz's) should read this book. According to its author Israel has been a "Sparta state" from its inception, its national psyche veering between arrogance and paranoia. Shaped by the belief that all Arabs and their states would destroy Israel if they could, the Jewish state's policies have been rooted from the start in Jabotinsky's "Iron Wall" doctrine. Adopted by Jabotinsky's arch-rival Ben Gurion, this doctrine has translated throughout Israel's history as repeated military blows "to convince the Arabs of the futility and illogic of their dreams. Over time, the Arabs will come to accept the Jewish state and to make peace with it" (9).

The book brings a crushing weight of historical and analytical detail to bear on all arenas of Israel's security and foreign policy. Readers will find blow-by-blow analyses (including details of military decisions, arms used, tactics chosen, advances, retreats, etc.) of all of Israel's wars from Sinai in the mid-1950s through Lebanon in 1982 (the book ends in 2004). Here, too, is a compendium of its "lesser" conflicts from 1949 through the first part of the al-Aqsa Intifada.

Maoz gives careful attention to Israel's secretive nuclear policy and its impact on the region. An illuminating exploration of Israel's intervention into the affairs of neighboring states includes Israel's covert operations in the Sudan, where it supported the Black Sudanese south against the Arab north from 1965-75; the West Bank, where it tried to create "village leagues" -- these were manned by thugs loathed by the general population -- to supplant the PLO. (When that didn't work, it supported Muslim groups that morphed into Hamas.) A section on the "causes and implications of the mismanagement of National security & foreign policy" includes a detailed discussion of how Israel's military came to dominate its civil society (including its court system).

This book was ignored (by The New York Times among others) when it appeared. My guess is that it wasn't the book's bulk (at over 700 pages including end notes and references this is a huge volume) that caused editors to ignore it. Certainly it wasn't its plain-spoken but occasionally "poli-sci" style: such books are routinely reviewed in the Times and The New York Review of Books. I suspect that the book was simply too damning of policies slavishly underwritten by the US, and unquestioningly accepted by US intellectuals -- including, say, the editors of the Times. Length and unwieldiness might have been an excuse; but the real reason probably lies in today's unhappy atmosphere of censorship (both by the "self" and by the guardians of public thought in this arena).

I also suspect that a strike against Maoz is his unimpeachable credentials. He's enough of an "establishment man" to be dangerous -- hence, better ignored. He headed the Masters program of the Israeli Defense Force's National Defense College; he also directed the Graduate School of Government Policy and the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Of five major wars he analyzes here, he fought in three: the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, and the 1982 Lebanon War. In the early 1990s he briefly advised Yitzhak Rabin on strategic affairs. His thirty-year ambition to write this book was driven by his frustration with "the persistent failure of the policy community to learn from Israel's mistakes . . . " (viii).

Israel committed one of its worst mistakes in 1971. That February, President Anwar Sadat announced to Egypt's People's Assembly a possible "interim agreement" with Israel. Within days this became a full-blown peace offer brokered by the UN's Gunnar Jarring in trilateral negotiations with Israel, Egypt and the US. Egypt's foreign minister wrote Jarring that Egypt would "enter into a peace agreement with Israel containing all the . . . obligations as provided in Security Council Resolution 242 . . . once Israel withdrew from the Sinai" (412; emphasis mine). The offer, comments Maoz, "could not be overstated . . . At the end of the road was what the Israelis had been, presumably, praying for over the past twenty-three years: a full-fledged peace treaty . . . It implied a formal acceptance of and peace with a Jewish state in the Middle East by the strongest and most important Arab state" (412).

If Israel had said yes to Sadat in 1971, the Palestinians might well have been quiet (subsequent leaked Israeli intelligence has revealed that Israel was considering letting the old families in the occupied territories run their affairs as they had under the Ottoman Empire). Egypt would have been removed as Israel's greatest Arab threat; Egyptian compliance with the treaty would have been a touchstone for future negotiations with other Arab states.

Before 1967 Israel would have accepted Sadat "with both hands," says Maoz. "In 1971, however, the price tag for this deal appeared excessively high . . ." (412). In short, Israel's greed trumped its desire for peace. It wanted to hold onto what it had conquered in the Sinai in 1967; in specific it wanted to build a huge city on the site of a tiny settlement called Yamit (Israel was forced to evacuate that in 1982).

The choice was fateful. The Yom Kippur War, which largely owed to Israel's rejection, cost the lives of three thousand Israeli soldiers; a "staggering" loss of equipment; $10 billion in overall damages. (Arab losses, of course, were far higher.) On at least two occasions (October 9 and 23), Israel armed its nuclear warheads, bringing the region to the brink of nuclear war (164). (Maoz thinks it's reasonable "to suppose that [Israel] had two to three dozen bombs and a dozen or so nuclear warheads on its Jericho missiles" (165). He also feels that "nuclear deterrence did not do what it was supposed to do" (315). Soviet intelligence must surely have passed knowledge of Israel's nuclear doings to Egypt, but neither Egypt nor Syria was deterred from pressing forward. (The chapter on Israel's nuclear policy greatly expands the idea of its futility and its sparking of a regional arms race.) After the war Israel's defense spending soared from 15% to 25% of GDP, "the largest in the world at that time" (165). Beyond sheer expense in blood and money, in January, 1974, Israel agreed "to a far worse deal" with Egypt (417).*

Was the choice of expansion over peace worth it? Maoz thinks not. The Yom Kippur War did improve Israel's relations with the US; at the same time it increased Israel's military dependence on the Americans. The Yom Kippur War further isolated Israel elsewhere in the world and, in Maoz's view, "marked the growing legitimacy accorded by the international community to the PLO" (167). Israel's security establishment (IDF intelligence) continued dominating its foreign-policy decisions. Among other things this produced Israel's ties with "pariah states such as South Africa . . . " (168).

Maoz use the specific terms "expansion" and "annexationist" only in reference to later events: "Once religious ideology became a major drive in the settlement policy, an unspoken alliance was formed between annexationist elements in the Labor Party and the Likud Party, on the one hand, and national-religious groups such as Gush Emunim, on the other" (489). But Israel's expansionist ambitions are very clear in Maoz's account of Sadat's 1971 offer. Elsewhere, the author describes Israel's territorial fixation as a far earlier motive:

"Even before 1948 . . . Zionist leaders strongly believed that the outcome of any political settlement in Palestine would be determined by the demographic distribution of the ethnic groups residing in it . . . Settlements form a human and physical fait accompli" (17).

In regard to the Sinai war,

"The Israeli leadership had been itching for war since the early 1950s...A large number of people in the military and political elite believed...that the outcome of the 1948 war had not been decisive . . . in providing Israel with defensible borders . . . Both military and political leaders...were actively searching for an appropriate pretext to occupy the West Bank" (74).

In regard to Israel's relations with Syria: "Whenever requested to define the military requirements of a possible agreement with Syria, the IDF opted for territorial control rather than for security arrangements . . . " (403).

The theme I've extrapolated from the book (that Israel's expansionism has historically trumped peace) is not Maoz's. But the evidence exists for such a conclusion. A flaw is that there's so much detail, one can easily lose the forest for the trees. But the details do often make for arresting reading.

Readers will be reminded how "traditional" Israel's brutal siege against Gaza was, how rooted in the past its subsequent destruction of the Strip, by reading the chapter, "Unlimited Use of the Limited Use of Force." Here, Maoz goes back sixty years to describe a policy of collective punishment against civilians. From 1949 on, Israel struck villages from which 1948 refugees had "infiltrated" into the Jewish state. Moshe Dayan comments as follows:

"The only method that proved effective, not justified or moral [emphasis mine], but effective, when Arabs plant mines on our side (is retaliation.) . . . if we harass the nearby village . . . then the population there comes out against the (infiltrators) . . . and the Egyptian Government and the Transjordanian government are (driven) to prevent such incidents, because their prestige is (assailed) . . . " (279).

What has changed in 55 years is that Israel's leaders exhibit naked arrogance in committing outlaw acts -- there's no thought of using a phrase like "not justified or moral." Yet the use by Ben Gurion, Dayan, and subsequent leaders of collective punishment inevitably produced today's Israel. So has its long history of provocation. "[D]isproportionate responses to provocations, as well as military initiatives not in response to specific provocations" (232) include:

Moshe Dayan's order to his general staff, October 23, 1955, to overthrow Nasser's regime by "bring[ing] about a decisive confrontation with Egypt in the nearest possible future." "Gradual deterioration" (Dayan's term) would materialize through acts of disproportionate force against Egyptian provocations. If nothing else worked to make Egypt react satisfactorily, Dayan would order "the occupation of the Eilat Straits by the IDF" as "the detonator that will blow up the entire powder keg" (63-65). (Result: Nasser is not overthrown. The Sinai war is a military success, but it does not result in "making the region safer for Israel and the West . . . just the opposite" (79).

Dayan's candid discussion, in a mid-1970s interview, of IDF provocations against Syria, designed to push that country and Egypt towards the 1967 war: "It worked like this: we would send a tractor to plow some place in the demilitarized zone where nothing could be grown, and we knew ahead of time that the Syrians would shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to move deeper (into the DMZ) until the Syrians got mad eventually and fired on it . . . We thought then, and it lasted for a long time, that we can change the armistice lines by a series of military operations that are less than war, that is, to snatch some territory and hold on to it until the enemy would give up on it . . . " (103). (Result: the 1967 War is a victory, but it contains the poison pill of occupation and further conflict. It makes Israel arrogant and stupid enough to ignore all warnings, and be ravaged by the Yom Kippur War.)

Israel's blanket-bombing of southern Lebanese towns and villages in July 1983 caused thousands of Lebanese to flee toward Beirut. "Operation Accountability" was meant to make the population reject Hezbollah: the opposite effect was achieved.

This book should take its place in your library next to, say, those of Israel's "revisionist" historians, Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle and, more recently, Idith Zertal's and Akiva Eldar's Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories (1967-2007) (Nation Books, 2007).

If you're daunted by the book's length, begin with the first chapter, an excellent overview of the whole that includes concise summaries of each subsequent chapter. You may want to jump to the concluding "Findings and Lessons." Then dip at will into the chapters you find most intriguing (each has a convenient closing summary). Keep coming back over time: this is a book one digests over the course of many sittings.

Problems: I find the index sometimes frustrating: look for "Yamit" -- it's missing. Look for "assassinations" or even "targeted assassinations" -- also missing. A substantive flaw: while Maoz at points alludes to the US's influence on Israel's conduct, he doesn't hammer away at it as a theme.

Then there's his belief that Israel's policies of force have been "failures" or "folly." But what if the inevitable escalation of war into war, "limited conflicts" into further conflagrations, were deliberate? As I write this review, Avigdor Lieberman has just become Israel's new Foreign Minister. Gaza lies in ruins. (On the walls of a shelter where twenty-seven members of one family were killed by an air strike, are inscribed Israeli soldiers' sentiments born of sixty years of "Iron Wall" indoctrination: "Make war not peace," "Arabs need to die," and "Arabs 1948-2009." Such genocidal hatred will flourish only more luridly with the incoming government.) In the West Bank including East Jerusalem, settlement expansion goes on apace. Settler and army attacks against Palestinians and international supporters continue unabated. As usual, Obama hasn't said boo, nor has Hillary Clinton (her only remark about the destruction of 1,000 Gazan homes was that it was "unhelpful"). The real lesson of this book may be grim: force works.
* [Note added March 22, 2009] In 1974, following the Yom Kippur War, Israel had to agree to a "much worse deal" than Sadat had offered in 1971. But withdrawal from the Sinai wasn't part of the deal -- that happened only after Camp David (1978-79). Moreover, the burden of blame for Israel's rejection of Sadat's 1971 peace offer falls on the US's Henry Kissinger (then national security adviser), whom Maoz describes as having been in a "turf battle" with Secretary of State William Rogers who did favor the peace plan. Absent Kissinger, Israel might well have followed a different path in 1971 -- and even after. Those who want to follow up on the Kissinger role should also consult Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle from p. 65.

Ellen Cantarow has written since 1979 about Israel and the West Bank for The Village Voice, Z, Znet, Counterpunch, and many other publications.

NETANYAHU’S FIG LEAF: Trying to Turn Labour Party into Yisrael Beiteinu

March 27, 2009 at 6:05 am

Even more than Lieberman, we should worry about Barak, warns Khalid Amayreh from occupied Jerusalem

Defence Minister Ehud Barak is being courted by prime minister-designate Benyamin Netanyahu to stay on in his new coalition government

Israeli prime minister-designate Benyamin Netanyahu and Labour Party leader Ehud Barak have reached an understanding that would pave the way for the latter to join the Likud-led government, expected to be sworn-in next week.

According to the agreement, Barak will remain defence minister and his party will receive a number of other less important portfolios, including agriculture, infrastructure, industry, trade and labour and one minister without portfolio.

Politically, the understanding stipulates that Israel will formulate a comprehensive plan for Middle East peace and cooperation, continue peace negotiations with the Palestinians and commit itself to peace accords already signed.

The agreement also speaks of “acting against illegal Arab and Jewish building” in the West Bank which may suggest that the next government will step up the virulent practice of demolishing Palestinian homes.

Israel has demolished as many as 20,000 Arab homes under a variety of pretexts since it occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in 1967. The Israeli government is also planning to destroy hundreds of homes in occupied East Jerusalem in what one Palestinian leader has described as “a decapitation of Arab demographic presence” in the city. The Palestinian Authority still hopes to make Jerusalem the capital of a prospective Palestinian state.
Israeli commentators argue that the Likud- Labour understandings are too generalised to give a clear picture as to the exact partnership between the two parties. However, the “constructive ambiguity” should give both sides a feeling that they got what they want.

Barak had said repeatedly that he wouldn’t join a right- wing coalition. However, in recent days, he apparently changed his mind despite stiff opposition within his party to joining the Likud coalition, which observers here already label the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.
The understanding between Barak and Netanyahu is not final, as it must be approved by the Labour Party general assembly which was due to meet to vote on the deal.

A solid plurality, perhaps a majority, within Labour is firmly against joining the Likud-led government for ideological reasons, and also because many traditional Labourites see Barak’s acceptance to play a “second fiddle” to Netanyahu as an expression of cheap opportunism.

This, labour leaders calculate, would seriously harm Labour’s image as a progressive party and prospective alternative to right-wing demagogy. Barak himself used to condemn Likud as representing “swinish capitalism”.

Ophir Pines-Paz is one of the most ardent opponents of Barak and any partnership with the Likud. He says that Netanyahu will only use Barak and whoever will join him from the Labour Party as “a mere fig leaf” to blur and hide the true nature of the next government.

“It is completely natural for Barak to want to join the Bibi-Lieberman government,” says Pines-Paz, the only MK who left Olmert’s government after Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman joined it. “He doesn’t have a problem with their ideology. Perhaps you can remind me how many outposts Barak has evacuated so far and how exactly he abided by the Talia Sasson on settlement expansion,” he said, referring to an official government report published on 8 March 2005.

The report, commissioned by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, was headed by the former head of the State Prosecution Criminal Department, Talia Sasson.

On 23 March, Barak’s opponents within the Labour Party accused him of “trying to turn Labour into Yisrael Beiteinu” and of “acting as if he got 50 seats in the Knesset, rather than suffering an electoral defeat.”

According to Haaretz, seven Labour lawmakers including Pines-Paz sent an unprecedented letter to Netanyahu and his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in which they declared that they won’t be bound by the understandings reached between Barak and the Likud leader.

“This is the first time in the history of the Labour Party that the chairman has set up a coalition negotiating team without a thorough and extensive discussion within the party and without getting the approval of any of the party’s organs. It is a gross violation of the party’s constitution.”

The rebels also warned Netanyahu of the consequences of Barak’s actions. “You should know that the negotiating team established by the Barak faction within the Labour Party does not enjoy our backing or the backing of any authorised party official. It is unfortunate that the party chairman chose to manage party matters in this way. Given the circumstances, we must inform you that you can’t count on our support regarding any agreement that you may reach with Ehud Barak.”

Seeking to justify his decision to join the Netanyahu government, Barak told fellow Labour lawmakers that his membership in the government would guarantee that it won’t go too far to the right.

However, this argument is viewed as largely disingenuous and lacking in rectitude.

Barak has already shown he agrees with Likud on expanding settlements. Under his authority as defence minister in the last government, settlement expansion in the West Bank continued unabated despite commitments made to the Americans to freeze expansion. According to prominent Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar, several new settlements created recently were marketed as “merely new neighbourhoods of existing settlements”.

In some cases, the new neighbourhoods are more than five kilometres away of the mother settlement. “Who wants to send his children to a kindergarten on the other side of the fence, not to mention the cost of the infrastructure and the services.” Eldar asked.

In addition, there are signs that Barak is already trying to endear himself to the extreme right-wing parties, such as the settler party, Habayt Hayahudi (Jewish Home) as well as Shas and United Torah Judaism, formerly known as Agudat Yisrael.

His role is clearly to act as a facilitator to the fascist- minded and pro-settler parties, to “launder” their manifestly illegal settlements (illegal even by Israeli standards) built on stolen Arab land.

Last week, Barak, as defence minister, decided to legalise a new settlement Sansana in the southern Hebron hills, which even the Israeli courts declared to be illegal. Similarly, he refused to uphold a court order to dismantle houses built on stolen Palestinian land in the Ofra settlement in the northern West Bank.

In light of this, it is not hard to predict how the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government, backed by settler and extreme religious parties, will function.

Using the words of one Israeli journalist, the next government will have a modus operandi based on deception, subterfuge and prevarication. “It will be a government that will claim to be committed to peace while in reality do everything it can to make peace as elusive and as distant as ever.”

28/03/2009 Labor Chairman Ehud Barak caused uproar in his party by leading a move to suspend its legal advisor, attorney Yoram Avrahami. Labor's secretary-general, MK Eitan Cabel, criticized Barak on Friday and said he was attempting to "turn Labor into Yisrael Beiteinu".

Attorney Haim Cohen, who is affiliated with Israeli Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, will take Avrahami's place until then. Cabel was absent from the Labor's secretariat meeting Friday, during which the decision was made to suspend Avrahami pending a hearing on his case.

Attorney Avrahami was suspended Friday by Labor's central committee after he had allegedly published legal advice without consulting with Barak.

Cabel said the measures against the legal adviser "are a continuation of various measures implemented by the Labor party chairman in recent days with the purpose of attempting to turn Labor into Yisrael Beiteinu."

Cabel's mentioning of Yisrael Beiteinu was apparently a reference to its leader Avigdor Lieberman, against whom an investigation into alleged corruption is underway.

Avrahami had said that the party's emergency convention on Tuesday contravened the party's regulations, which require a three-week period after the elections before a convention could be called. The convention was called at Barak's behest to vote on his proposed motion to join a Likud-led government.

Cabel, formerly a stalwart Barak ally but now one of the party's most vocal opponents to entry into the coalition, said the decision was legally invalid.

"A gathering of friends in the chairman's room at the Defense Ministry is not a legal gathering of the party secretariat, and in any case there is no validity to a decision made at a bizarre gathering in which even the secretary general is not present," said Cabel, who did not attend the meeting in which Avrahami was suspended.

"The chairman must also know that Labor is not Yisrael Beiteinu - it has a constitution and institutions."

Cabel added that Barak had broken a promise made on Thursday in which the Labor Party leader had pledged to work for party unity.

Cabel was not the only one to criticize the decision. Labor's youth movement also issued a statement to this effect. "The chairman Barak has begun to quickly cleanse anyone who would stand in his way, as was the manner in many a dark regime," the statement said, referring to the decision, led by Barak, to join the Likud's government.

Attorney Haim Cohen has been brought in as a temporary replacement for Avrahami.

Cheney War Crimes

Cheney War Crimes

Matthew Rothschild – The Progressive
March 25, 2009

President Obama needs to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to indict Dick Cheney, right now, for war crimes.

Just look at the statute, Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, Section 2441. It says that someone is guilty of a war crime if he or she commits a “grave breach of common Article 3” of the Geneva Conventions. And then it defines what a grave breach would be.

One such breach is torture, or the conspiracy to commit torture, which Cheney was clearly in on, as when he repeatedly defended waterboarding and talked about the need to go to the “dark side” Here’s the language from the statute: “The act of a person who commits, or conspires to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason based on discrimination of any kind.”

Another grave breach is “cruel or inhuman treatment,” or the conspiracy to inflict such treatment. Again, Cheney was supervising such treatment in the White House, which would qualify as committing this crime. One time, it got so ghoulish that Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the other principals, “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”

Here’s the language on “cruel or inhuman treatment”: “The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act intended to inflict severe or serious physical or mental pain or suffering . . . including serious physical abuse, upon another within his custody or control.”

An additional breach is “mutilation or maiming.” Since some detainees say they no longer have the complete functioning of arms or limbs, Cheney may be on the hook here, too. “The act of a person who intentionally injures, or conspires or attempts to injure, or injures whether intentionally or unintentionally in the course of committing any other offense under this subsection, one or more persons . . . by disfiguring the person or persons by any mutilation thereof or by permanently disabling any member, limb or organ of his body, without any legitimate medical or dental purpose.”

“Intentionally causing serious bodily harm” is yet another grave breach. The statute defines this as: “The act of a person who intentionally causes, or conspires or attempts to cause, serious bodily injury to one or more persons, including lawful combatants, in violation of the law of war.”

For each of these offenses, Cheney could receive life in prison, according to the statute.

That is where he belongs.

And it’s time for Obama to stop pussyfooting around. He should indict, arrest, and prosecute Cheney.

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” said Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.), in the preface to the Physicians for Human Rights report, “Broken Laws, Broken Lives”. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

That question is now firmly on Obama’s desk.

And if he continues to dodge it, he’ll make a sick joke of the pious claim that we are a nation of laws, not men.

Rights orgs: Infighting jeopardizes our cause and our rights


Statement, various undersigned, 27 March 2009

The following letter was sent on 24 March 2009.

Leaders and representatives of Palestinian political factions, parties, and movements,

Based on our faith in our national, moral, and legal responsibility and recognizing our duty to work towards building and strengthening the democratic edifice of the prospective Palestinian state -- which must be grounded on political, intellectual and cultural pluralism; on the principle of peaceful succession of power; on promotion of the values of justice, equity, tolerance, and equality; on respect for human rights and freedoms; on the right of all Palestinians to security and safety; and on application of the rule of law without any undue discrimination -- we, the undersigned Palestinian human rights organizations, hereby and articulate our demands of the Palestinian political authorities for measures to be taken in order to overcome the pains and agonies of the crisis generated by internal fragmentation and conflict.

We appreciate the Palestinian political factions' recourse to the principle of dialogue and peaceful settlement as an approach to solving and exterminating disputes. Not only have they jeopardized our national cause and legitimate right to self-determination, but the contentions of recent times have also exerted an adverse, destructive impact on individual Palestinian rights. Due to infringements and violations, these rights have witnessed a sharp setback that has effectively rendered them meaningless. Innumerable human rights have been breached during the period of internal division, including the right to life; the right to physical safety and security; the right to immunity against arbitrary detention, torture, inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment or punishment; the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right to participation in political life; the right to employment in the public service; the right to freedom of association; as well as other rights that have been divested of their inclusive content. In both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, one's ability to enjoy and exercise these fundamental human rights has been contingent on political and partisan affiliation.

Undoubtedly, political and intellectual disagreements, and divergence of opinion, are the essence and spirit of democracy. They are a positive indicator of how advanced the social, cultural, and intellectual mobility is in a society. Intellectual and political differences and debates have been a source of pride for all Palestinians over the decades. Multiple intellectual and political opinions, beliefs and tendencies are an embodiment of deep-rooted awareness and faith in Palestinian tradition of free expression. Unfortunately, however, we have deviated from this approach. We have inclined towards intellectual unilateralism as well as adopting policies of alienation and rejection of the other. We have further invoked force and violence as a tool to impose particular measures, thereby adversely impacting our national interests. Moreover, citizens' rights and freedoms have been at the mercy of political debates. Individual rights and freedoms have been valueless; whether they exist or not is weighed by political affiliation.

As Palestinian human rights organizations, and as we renew our support of the current dialogue which we regard as the only avenue towards Palestinian unity, we do hope that all participants in the Cairo Summit consider seriously the tragedies and atrocities generated by internal political divisions. To move forward from this painful era in a sensible and objective manner, the following measures must be approved and implemented:
  • Full apologies to be offered victims and their families, as well as reparations for damage and pain inflicted on them as a result of the violation of their rights and freedoms, including all acts of murder, torture, arbitrary detention, and other encroachments on human rights and freedoms safeguarded by the Palestinian Basic Law.
  • Apologies to be offered to the Palestinian people as a whole for the atrocities committed. Murder, destruction, and sabotage caused to Palestinian people, institutions and properties have negatively affected the development, and progress of our citizens' lives. All Palestinians, not a single faction or group, are duly entitled to these resources.
  • Pursuance of accountability in order to ensure that no leader, official, or individual who ordered or perpetrated any crimes or violations of human rights and freedoms is immune from punishment or benefits from a policy of impunity. Anyone convicted for the perpetration of such crimes should be removed from any political or security position in the Palestinian National Authority.
  • The establishing of an independent, impartial committee to investigate all crimes and encroachments committed throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The committee will have a clear mandate and comprise persons with relevant professional experience.
  • Accountability and prosecution of perpetrators of crimes and violations of Palestinian rights and freedoms is the sole measure that can prevent the repeated invocation of violence and desire to take revenge for reported atrocities.

Respectfully yours,

Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights
Al-Quds Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights
ADDAMEER Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association
AL-DAMEER Association for Human Rights
Defence for Children International - Palestine Section
Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling
INSAN Association
Ramallah Centre for Human Rights Studies

"The best outcome for Washington would be that the summit in Doha ... fails to resurrect SYRIA"


David Schenker, at WINEP, here
"...Despite appearances, however, differences -- particularly regarding Iran and support for "resistance" -- persist. Syria continues to refuse suggestions that it change the strategic nature of its relationship with Iran and is pressing Egypt and Saudi Arabia to adopt a more sympathetic stance toward "resistance groups." In an interview with al-Safir on March 25, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad downplayed progress on reconciliation, likening the process to an airplane that "took off . . .[but] if the engines power subside[s], the plane will collapse....

...Perhaps not surprisingly, given Syria's improved status within the Arab League, the topic of Lebanese elections does not appear on the agenda. Syria, however, did manage to insert two items into the program: a reaffirmation of Arab opposition to U.S. economic sanctions on Syria and a condemnation of "the attempts aimed at politicizing the principles of justice." The second point reflects Syria's rejection of the Hariri Tribunal, echoing al-Asad's recent threat that if the tribunal were politicized, "Lebanon would be the first to pay the price." ...

....the best outcome for Washington would be that the summit, which almost certainly will lend its imprimatur to an indicted Sudanese war criminal, will not further legitimize Hamas"
Posted by G, Z, & or B at 5:31 PM

Anti-Semites on the Rise in Europe


Oi God please help us. It is a disaster. This meshegine klezmer Atzmond is appearing at Oxford University! Just next week he will be talking about anti-Semitism with one of our most committed media zuker pushke, David'le Aaronovitch. At first i thought it was a joke. I was sure Atzmond was there so everybody can practice throwing West Bank tomatoes at his head, but then I saw his picture all over their web site. And they don't even mention the other 2 speakers, just Atzmond! I can’t believe it.... I know what will happen. This sax-loving, self-hating meshigine will tell all those clever-clog, big brains that Jews better look in the mirror, as if he doesn't know this is what we hate the most! Oi oi oi…after everything we suffered, why must he do it?

It is amazing this Azmond, every time we are sure we finished him off, he just grows bigger and bigger. He is like a cultural Schwarzenegger, totally indestructible. We tried to get him branded a racist in the Goydian, but they devote half a whole page on him. Everywhere I look I see his ugly, self-hating, watermelon face smiling back at me. Even the Turkish Prime Minister want to kiss his t*****es…..

And now this?! Oxford, the most famous Yeshiva in the planet!? Someone told me Oxford is even more clever than Brighton polytechnic.

United Against Oxford

Meshigine -Lunatic
Klezmer - sounds like folk music with no beauty.
Zuker Pushke -sweetie pie
Yeshiva- University open for male Jews only

T******es - something too rude for an Auntie to say

Posted by Auntie Ziona at 2:32 PM

The Impact of the Coming U.S.-Iran Detente


Patrick Seale in the Middle East Times, here

"...Israel has expressed great unease. Its greatest fear is that a U.S.-Iran detente will erode its own position as America's closest regional ally, and might even threaten its monopoly of nuclear weapons. It is pressuring the United States to make its dialogue with Iran short - if dialogue there must be - and to redouble its sanctions against Tehran, in order to compel it to end its nuclear program. In turn, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are alarmed at Iran's rise as a regional rival and will need reassurance from Washington that their interests will not be ignored in any U.S.-Iranian deal...

Obama has understood that Iran's help will be needed to stabilize Iraq; to curb the Taliban in Afghanistan; to moderate hardline Palestinian factions in the search for an Arab-Israeli settlement; and to contribute to Lebanon's political harmony. Iran has become a regional power that can no longer be isolated or ignored, since its influence extends into all the interconnected conflicts in the area.

Today, there is a glaring contrast between Obama's words of conciliation addressed to Tehran and the continued attempts by U.S. Treasury officials - Stuart Levey prominent among them - to broaden financial sanctions against Iran, starve its foreign trade of finance, and force international banks to suspend all business with Iranian banks. As recently as this month, the U.S. blacklisted 11 companies linked to Iran's Bank Melli. In addition, Dennis Ross, the recently appointed Obama administration's point-man on Iran, has long been closely associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think-tank dedicated to influencing America's Middle East policy in a pro-Israeli direction. WINEP continues to campaign stridently for sanctions against Iran, and for military action if sanctions fail. ..

Obama will need to resolve these contradictions if he is to be heard in Tehran, and if the dialogue he is seeking is not to be sabotaged by officials and special interests in his own government..."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 9:37 AM

Saudis bend over,... while Mubarak fails to grasp the Damascene moment,,,"


In AP, here

At the same time, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have an ulterior motive. With Obama also pursuing dialogue directly with Iran, Washington's Arab allies want to make sure their interests are not left out if the United States and Iran reach any reconciliation........

During the meeting, oil-rich Saudi Arabia offered Assad a financial package to offset Iranian aid to Syria, if it breaks with Tehran, a Saudi royal adviser told The Associated Press. Abdullah also promised Assad that the kingdom will mobilize Arab support to back Syria in negotiations for a peace deal with Israel, aimed at winning back the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in 1967.

"What we said was, 'Come back to the Arab fold, and after that everything you need can come,'" said the Saudi official, who was briefed on the March 11 meeting. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door talks.

Assad had a further condition: Arab help to ensure than an international tribunal does not name Assad or his close associates in the case of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Saudi adviser said......

Holding out, Assad proposed that the sides find a way to manage their differences - basically, agree to disagree civilly.

But Egypt's Mubarak took a tough tone, pressing for Assad to commit immediately to Egyptian and Saudi demands. He bluntly warned Assad that there would be no generous Arab overtures until Syria shows a real change of behavior, an Egyptian official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door talks.

The mini-summit appeared on the verge of collapsing. But the emir of Kuwait, who was also attending, stepped in and persuaded the two sides to continue talks in the coming weeks, said the Egyptian official, who was also briefed on the meeting. So far, there has been no sign of a breakthrough. ...... the Egyptian-mediated talks with Hamas have since broken up without an agreement. "

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 3:12 PM

An Army of Extremists

An Army of Extremists

Christopher Hitchens - Slate
March 25, 2009

How some military rabbis are trying to radicalize Israeli soldiers.

Recent reports of atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers in the course of the intervention in Gaza have described the incitement of conscripts and reservists by military rabbis who characterized the battle as a holy war for the expulsion of non-Jews from Jewish land. The secular Israeli academic Dany Zamir, who first brought the testimony of shocked Israeli soldiers to light, has been quoted as if the influence of such extremist clerical teachings was something new. This is not the case.

I remember being in Israel in 1986 when the chief army "chaplain" in the occupied territories, Rabbi Shmuel Derlich, issued his troops a 1,000-word pastoral letter enjoining them to apply the biblical commandment to exterminate the Amalekites as "the enemies of Israel." Nobody has recently encountered any Amalekites, so the chief educational officer of the Israeli Defense Forces asked Rabbi Derlich whether he would care to define his terms and say whom he meant. Rather evasively—if rather alarmingly—the man of God replied, "Germans." There are no Germans in Judaea and Samaria or, indeed, in the Old Testament, so the rabbi's exhortation to slay all Germans as well as quite probably all Palestinians was referred to the Judge Advocate General's Office. Forty military rabbis publicly came to Derlich's support, and the rather spineless conclusion of the JAG was that he had committed no legal offense but should perhaps refrain in the future from making political statements on the army's behalf.

The problem here is precisely that the rabbi was not making a "political" statement. Rather, he was doing his religious duty in reminding his readers what the Torah actually says. It's not at all uncommon in Israel to read discussions, featuring military rabbis, of quite how to interpret the following holy order from Moses, in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 31, Verses 13-18, as quoted from my 1985 translation by the Jewish Publication Society. The Israelites have just done a fairly pitiless job on the Midianites, slaughtering all of the adult males. But, says their stern commander-in-chief, they have still failed him:

Moses, Eleazer the priest, and all the chieftains of the community came out to meet them outside the camp. Moses became angry with the commanders of the army, the officers of thousands and the officers of hundreds, who had come back from the military campaign. Moses said to them, "You have spared every female! Yet they are the very ones who, at the bidding of Balaam, induced the Israelites to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so that the Lord's community was struck by the plague. Now, therefore, slay every male among the children, and slay also every young woman who has known a man carnally; but spare every young woman who has not had carnal relations with a man."

Moses and Eleazar the priest go on to issue some complex instructions about the ritual cleansings that must be practiced after this exhausting massacre has been completed.

Now, it's common to hear people say, when this infamous passage and others like it come up, that it's not intended to be "taken literally." One also often hears the excuse that some wicked things are done "in the name of" religion, as if the wicked things were somehow the result of a misinterpretation. But the nationalist rabbis who prepare Israeli soldiers for their mission seem to think that this book might be the word of God, in which case the only misinterpretation would be the failure to take it literally. (I hate to break it to you, but the people who think that God's will is revealed in scripture are known as "religious." Those who do not think so must try to find another name for themselves.)

Possibly you remember Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the man who in February 1994 unslung his weapon and killed more than two dozen worshippers at the mosque in Hebron. He had been a physician in the Israeli army and had first attracted attention by saying that he would refuse to treat non-Jews on the Sabbath. Now read Ethan Bronner's report in the March 22 New York Times about the preachments of the Israeli army's latest chief rabbi, a West Bank settler named Avichai Rontzski who also holds the rank of brigadier general. He has "said that the main reason for a Jewish doctor to treat a non-Jew on the Sabbath … is to avoid exposing Diaspora Jews to hatred." Those of us who follow these things recognize that statement as one of the leading indicators of a truly determined racist and fundamentalist. Yet it comes not this time in the garb of a homicidal lone-wolf nut bag but in the full uniform and accoutrement of a general and a high priest: Moses and Eleazar combined. The latest news, according to Bronner, is that the Israeli Defense Ministry has felt compelled to reprimand Rontzski for "a rabbinal edict against showing the enemy mercy" that was distributed in booklet form to men and women in uniform (see Numbers 31:13-18, above).

Peering over the horrible pile of Palestinian civilian casualties that has immediately resulted, it's fairly easy to see where this is going in the medium-to-longer term. The zealot settlers and their clerical accomplices are establishing an army within the army so that one day, if it is ever decided to disband or evacuate the colonial settlements, there will be enough officers and soldiers, stiffened by enough rabbis and enough extremist sermons, to refuse to obey the order. Torah verses will also be found that make it permissible to murder secular Jews as well as Arabs. The dress rehearsals for this have already taken place, with the religious excuses given for Baruch Goldstein's rampage and the Talmudic evasions concerning the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Once considered highly extreme, such biblical exegeses are moving ever closer to the mainstream. It's high time the United States cut off any financial support for Israel that can be used even indirectly for settler activity, not just because such colonization constitutes a theft of another people's land but also because our Constitution absolutely forbids us to spend public money on the establishment of any religion.

hristopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, Calif.

Obama Pulling Karzai's Strings

Obama Pulling Karzai's Strings

Ron Jacobs – Antiwar
March 26, 2009

In November 1963, the US-sponsored president of southern Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, was murdered by members of that country's military. The murder was (at the least) tacitly supported by Washington and was partially due to Diem's attempts to operate independently of Washington in regards to the war his military was fighting against Washington's enemies – the National Liberation front and the northern Vietnamese army. After a series of political machinations that included a stint by Nguyen Cao Ky as prime minister, a general named Nguyen van Thieu was named president after a show election in 1967. He was chosen because he would do Washington's bidding. His administration was known for its corruption and acquiescence to Washington.

In the middle of March 1970, while Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia was out of his country, the United States government engineered his removal from power. He was replaced by military strongman and CIA puppet Lon Nol. Sihanouk had consistently refused to allow US troops to operate in Cambodia. Simultaneously, he ignored the presence of Vietnamese troops fighting the United States military in Vietnam. Of course, this angered the Pentagon. Indeed, the United States Air Force had been illegally bombing the country of Cambodia for close to a year without telling the US public and much of Congress. Within weeks of the CIA coup in Cambodia, Richard Nixon ordered a ground invasion of Cambodia. That invasion was met with a massive wave of public protest across the US and much of the rest of the world. The protests resulted in the deaths of six students in the United States, untold numbers of injuries, and a national crisis that was only calmed after Nixon agreed to withdraw the ground troops.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the United States has put in place a number of men to lead that nation according to Washington's desires. Some of these men were appointed and were clearly pawns of Washington, while others came to power wearing a pretend cloak of legitimacy provided by elections controlled by Washington's occupation authority. All of their governments were known for their corruption. The current leaders exist at Washington's pleasure, even though they pretend otherwise. This is obvious from the backtracking done by the current Prime Minister al-Maliki regarding the withdrawal of US forces from his country. Back in December, much was made of the fact that he was insisting on a complete and unconditional withdrawal from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and a total withdrawal from the country by 2011. Recent statements by Mr. al-Maliki indicate that he is no longer insisting on this timetable.

I mention these governments and their fates in light of recent news coming out of Kabul, Afghanistan. According to many news reports over the past few months, Washington is growing frustrated with the regime of Hamid Karzai. If one recalls, the government of Mr. Karzai is a creation of Washington as much as those of Nguyen Van Thieu or Lon Nol. In other words, he owes his current position of power to powerful elites in DC, not to any people or factions in Afghanistan. Yet, he has spoken out repeatedly against US air raids in Afghanistan that indiscriminately kill civilians. Like the governments mentioned above, Mr. Karzai's government is rampant with corruption. History tells us that Washington is quite willing to look the other way when it comes to corruption as long as the crooks under their control do its bidding. Indeed, the very presence of US forces and money is part of the dynamic which encourages such corruption.

Apparently, Mr. Karzai is no longer considered to be playing by those rules and attempts to unseat him are growing. According to reports out of European capitals, Washington intends to create a new appointed position in the Afghan government – a chief of staff or prime minister – that will be given the real power to carry out Washington's goals for the Afghanistan it wants to create. By creating this position and filling it with a man willing to do Washington's bidding, Mr. Karzai's presidency will be rendered politically impotent. Reports about these and other changes in Washington's Afghan strategy are currently being dismissed by Obama administration spokespeople. As for Karzai, he responded by saying (without irony) "Afghanistan will never be a puppet state."

I suppose Mr. Karzai should be grateful that he isn't being murdered like Mr. Diem.

US, NATO Wage World's Largest and Longest War

Rick Rozoff - Global Research
March 26, 2009


On October 7 it will enter its ninth calendar year and with the projected deployment of at least 30,000 more American and thousands of more fellow NATO nations' troops this year it promises to go on indefinitely.

It is the second longest war, both on the air and ground fronts, in United States' history, with only its protracted involvement in Indochina so far exceeding it in length.

The Afghan war is also the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's first armed conflict outside of Europe and its first ground war in the sixty years of its existence. It has been waged with the participation of armed units from all 26 NATO member states and twelve other European and Caucasus nations linked to NATO through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Partnership for Peace and the Adriatic Charter with the first-ever invocation of the Alliance's Article 5 mutual military assistance provision.

The twelve European NATO partners who have sent troops in varying numbers to assist Washington and the Alliance include the continent's five former neutral nations: Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.

The European NATO and partnership deployments count among their number troops from six former Soviet Republics - with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine tapped for recent reinforcements and the three Baltic states represented disproportionately to their populations - although Western officials and media refrain from using words like invasion, empire and occupation that were tossed around so profligately in the 1980s.

The conflict marks the first time since the Vietnam War that US, Australian, New Zealand and South Korean troops have fought in the same campaign in the same theater. (Although all four also had troops in Iraq after March of 2003, only American forces were engaged in combat. In Afghanistan, however, over 1,000 Australian troops, including special forces, participate in counterinsurgency operations and ten of their soldiers have been killed.)

In all, 42 nations have military contingents ranging from a handful to thousands of troops serving under NATO in a war nearly as far removed from the North Atlantic as could have been imagined and embroiled in an endless engagement because of a 1949 commitment by the major Western powers to render each other military aid in the event of a conflict in Western Europe or North America.

Over a thousand US, NATO and NATO partner nations' soldiers have been killed in the war, including servicemen from all three Baltic States, Australia and South Korea.

From the beginning of the invasion of and war in Afghanistan in early October of 2001 under the aegis of so-called Operation Enduring Freedom, which commenced with US and British air and missile attacks, the model used seventeen months later in Iraq, the conflict has not been limited to Afghanistan itself but rather has exploited the nation's alleged and highly tenuous connections to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington to situate US and other NATO military forces in several neighboring and nearby nations, including airbases and troop and naval deployments in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and the Indian Ocean (where the Japanese navy has been assisting Operation Enduring Freedom).

The Russian press wire agency Itar-Tass reported last December that 120,000 US and NATO soldiers passed through the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan in 2008.

2009 has brought the Pentagon and NATO the bad news that the government of Kyrgyzstan may close the base to warplanes used for the war in Afghanistan, a base that since 2001 has hosted military personnel from the United States, Australia, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France and South Korea.

The Pentagon officially defines Operation Enduring Freedom's area of responsibility as encompassing fifteen nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay Naval Base), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, the Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

After the invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001, the US and its NATO allies obtained from the United Nations of ever-obliging Secretary-General Kofi Annan (who in 1995 held the posts of Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to the former Yugoslavia and special envoy to NATO and was installed as Secretary-General after the US deposed his predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali and browbeat the other 14 Security Council members in 1997 to accept him) a resolution authorizing the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), initially to oversee Afghanistan's occupation, but later to wage a full-blown counterinsurgency campaign inside the country and across the border into Pakistan.

There was and is nothing international about ISAF. It is a NATO operation entirely.

From December of 2001 until August of 2003 command of ISAF was held in six month rotations by major NATO nations. At the end of that period it passed to NATO collectively. Initially its mission was limited to the capital of Kabul, but by 2003 its mandate was extended beyond the capital and by 2006 to all of Afghanistan's provinces.

To deploy combat forces to a nation that was bombed and invaded and to conduct aerial and ground assaults throughout its territory is as good a working definition of the words war and occupation as could be devised.

Afghanistan has become a permanent training ground and firing range for providing the US and its NATO allies and candidate members opportunities to test out new weapons systems, wage 21st Century counterinsurgency operations and integrate so-called niche deployment military units from over 42 nations to achieve weapons and warfighting interoperability.

Polish military officials among others have openly stated that in Afghanistan NATO has provided them with the conditions to modernize their armed forces, which had not been employed in war zone and combat operations since the beginning of World War II. Coupled with recent statements by Polish and Baltic officials that NATO should renew its focus on "defending" Europe, the Greater Afghan war theater is a laboratory for preparing Eastern European and South Caucasus nations for actions on Russia's eastern and southern borders.

Last month the US signed an agreement with Poland to train their special forces (comparable to what the Pentagon has already done with Georgia), citing Afghanistan as the immediate locale for its joint implementation.

The comparative size of each NATO nation's contribution is less important than the fact that several tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of NATO troops have been rotated through Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan over the past seven and a half years and in the process gained experience in serving under the command of major NATO powers.

Earlier this year the US's Central Command chief David Petraeus began focusing on the Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan as military transit routes for the expanding war in Afghanistan and visited the former Soviet Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan to also incorporate them into the ever-widening South Asian war vortex.

Late last year General Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces, warned that "American military bases are dotted throughout the world. The U.S. has opened bases in Romania and Bulgaria, and according to our information plans to establish them in Kazakhstan
and Uzbekistan."
Much is made in Western official circles and in the obedient media about the pretexts under which the US and NATO attacked and invaded Afghanistan, took over all its strategic Soviet era airbases (as was done most recently with the Shindand airbase in 2005 in Herat Province, near the Iranian border) and installed a compliant puppet government to rule over the nation and its people.

At first as the memory of the attacks of September 11, 2001 were still freshly burned into America's and the world's imaginations, the rationale for Operation Enduring Freedom was to hunt down and "bring to justice" - or kill - Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and several of their top associates in a lex talionis punishment for the deadly attacks on New York's financial center and the headquarters of the US Defense Department.

As the years proceeded and not only weren't bin Laden and Mullah Omar apprehended but their whereabouts couldn't even be determined, emphasis was shifted to the fight against Taliban for having hosted the above two.

That fallback position was belied by the fact that Washington in the person of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld right after 9/11 asserted that as many as sixty nations, almost a third of the world's, were harboring terrorists and as such were fair game for missile and other attacks, but conspicuously left off the hit list the only three nations that had recognized, funded and no doubt armed the Taliban: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Nor was the Taliban argument helped by US-installed President Hamid Karzai being quoted regularly on the US's Voice of Afghanistan (an offshoot of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) applauding "our Taliban" who "fought shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the jihad against the Soviets."

The US and NATO tact was then to adopt an ex post facto humanitarian guise to justify their fanning out into Afghanistan's provinces in 2003 (in addition to the original in Kabul, NATO launched North, South, East and West commands): Establishing so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).

Invading armies with their bombers, cruise missiles, 15,000 pound Daisy Cutter bombs and long-range artillery are designed to destroy and not construct buildings and the PRTs would be better termed provincial pacification teams, with the model being the Strategic Hamlet Program in South Vietnam in the early 1960s.

More reasons would be devised to explain the West's continuing and growing presence and intensifying military operations in Afghanistan and its environs.

Four years of Taliban power had at least accomplished one objective; it had curbed opium cultivation.

However, after a few years of NATO occupation Afghanistan became the world's largest producer and exporter of opium and so last autumn the Alliance announced that it was planning to conduct armed raids against opium and "drug traffickers," however the West decided to define the second.

The ongoing and endless war in Afghanistan - and now Pakistan - has metamorphosed from a hunt for bin Laden, to a fight against Taliban to a drug war modeled after the US's murderous Plan Colombia initiated in 1999. There are reports that 300 Colombian troops are slated for deployment to Afghanistan to replicate that model.

Notwithstanding recent talk by US President Barrack Obama about an Afghan exit strategy, it's not apparent that Washington and its allies ever intend to leave the country and the broader South-Asia/Central Asia/Caspian Sea Basin/South Caucasus circumference whose center Afghanistan is.

Two weeks ago the Russia Novosti website featured this observation: "Central Asian states think the U.S. started the Afghan war to change the regional regimes into local analogues of Georgia's Saakashvili and Ukraine's Yushchenko, and that it began with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Iran, China and Russia think the war could be Washington's attempt to reduce their influence in Central Asia to zero."

Less than four months before the invasion of Afghanistan China, Russia and four of the five former Soviet Central Asia republics - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - founded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a mutual security grouping that would later include India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers.

It's purpose is to provide regional security and to address the issues of trans-border crime, including narcotics smuggling, armed extremism and separatism.

Since its inception it has also increasingly focused on joint development projects in the spheres of energy, transportation, trade and infrastructure.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Central Asia was seen by the SCO's founding members and since by its observers as a mechanism for fostering mutually beneficial relations among the nations of Central Asia and Russia, China, Iran, India and even Turkey eventually.

Afghanistan has been hurled into interminable turmoil, with hundreds of thousands of its citizens displaced; almost daily bombing runs, drone missile attacks, middle-of-the-night commando raids, indiscriminate shooting of civilians at checkpoints; mass-scale drought and famine; an explosion of opium cultivation and trafficking; expansion of that destabilization by setting Pakistan aflame with the potential for its fragmentation and dismemberment and heightened tensions with its - fellow nuclear - neighbor India.

This is the current, grave situation seven and a half years after the invasion of Afghanistan.

With the deployment of another 30,000 US troops and thousands more from NATO's ranks (recently Italy, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan and other nations have announced increases) Western troop strength will soon approach 100,000.

This is pouring fuel on fire. Taliban has become as amorphous a term as al-Qaeda has been; anyone in Afghanistan, even in the non-Pushtun North and West of the nation, who takes issue with Western warplanes and combat troops dealing out death and destruction in their nation and their villages is now a Talib. An enemy.

The more US and NATO troops that arrive in Afghanistan, the more resentment, resistance and violence will ensue. Inevitably.

The US and NATO have arrogantly spurned offers by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty Organization to assist in bringing a regional - and non-military - resolution of the myriad crises afflicting Afghanistan, its long-suffering people and the region.

NATO is not a nation-building, peacekeeping or humanitarian outfit - it is an aggressive military bloc. When it and its individual member states' military forces leave South and Central Asia then healing, reconstruction and lasting peace can begin.