Saturday 28 March 2009

Israeli army incursion in Haris, over 150 minors and youths arrested



A major military operation took place today in Haris between 2am and 5pm. Around 15 jeeps, 2 border police jeeps and vans belonging to Israeli Intelligence Shabak entered Haris and arrested around 150 people including large number of minors.

A number of people reported injury by the soldiers including several cases of beatings of small children and women. Soldiers also destroyed furniture, appliances, walls and various food products in at least 4 houses.

At 4:30pm most of the people who were arrested were released. At present IWPS is aware of 4 youths all aged 16 who have not been released and whose whereabouts is currently unknown. There are strong indications that more people were taken away and we are hoping to have more accurate figures soon.

At 2 am soldiers and jeeps entered Haris in a major military operation which lasted 15 hours. The soldiers raided most houses in Haris, arresting youths and interrogating them about their friends, family members and the layout of the houses. The IWPS has heard from many parents and adults that soldiers gave them a piece of paper with a number and photographed them holding this paper.

All those arrested were blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to the primary school in Haris. Here they were seated in the classrooms and in the playground and interrogated one by one by Shabak and the military. Those released were given a paper so that other soldiers would not re-arrest them as the arrests continued throughout the day.

The IWPS members witnessed several of the arrests and we have managed to secure photographic evidence and statements form a number of victims and their relatives.

IWPS also received a report of a man who suffered a back injury due to excessive use of force by the soldiers. The IWPS called for an ambulance which arrived shortly after but was denied entry into Haris by the soldiers, in spite of being urged by the IWPS and the villagers living near by. The reason given was that if a person was injured it would be army's responsibility to take care of them and provide the ambulance. However, the Israeli ambulance parked nearby was not called by the soldiers to treat the injured man.

Two photojournalists who managed to enter Haris close to the primary school where shortly after escorted by the border police out of the village. In addition, a TV van and two other journalists were denied entry into Haris.

The army incursion finished around 4.30 and the villages fear that it might continue in the near future.

When questioned about the purpose of the incursion, IWPS members were told by the army that they were updating its database of information of Haris residents. Last Saturday 21st March there was another army incursion into Haris where army jeeps and Shabak vans parked in front of the primary school and took photos of the school.

IWPS is concerned about the current wave of arrests of residents of Haris and especially minors and youths. IWPS is also very concerned about the violent behavior of soldiers during the arrests and the use of primary school for detention and interrogation purposes. In addition the media access has repeatedly been denied and there is limited flow information including about the very serious human right abuses mentioned above.


Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 12:03 PM

Hezbollah Calls Arabs to Condemn Israeli Offensive on Sudan

Hezbollah Calls Arabs to Condemn Israeli Offensive on Sudan

Al Manar TV

Hezbollah vehemently condemned on Saturday the Israeli aggression on Sudan via targeting one of the relief convoys destined for the Gaza Strip.

In a statement it released, Hezbollah read in the Israeli aggression a clear expression of the spirit of criminal arrogance marking the Zionist entity, "which disregards people's lives as well as laws, treaties and international institutions."

The Resistance party called the Arab and Islamic worlds to take a firm stand against the new Zionist crime. "The forthcoming Arab Summit in Qatar may be an opportunity to obtain an appropriate endorsement for an Arab position that condemns this crime," the statement said.

Hezbollah's statement concluded its statement by calling upon the international community to impose the harshest of measures to deter the enemy from continuing its criminal sins.

Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 11:56 AM

Three Israeli Airstrikes Against Sudan ... since January

"...Today, a Sudanese Foreign Ministry representative said there were two separate bombing raids against smugglers in January and February. The Sudanese minister for highways was more specific, saying the airstrikes took place Jan. 27 and Feb. 11. ...Al-Jazeera also reported today a Sudanese official's claim that Israel had sunk a ship carrying weapons..."
Posted by G, Z, & or B at 10:23 AM

War on Terror 2.0

War on Terror 2.0

By Nicole Colson

Defending government eavesdropping without a warrant. Arguing that prisoners of the U.S. held overseas don’t have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. Claiming that victims of CIA kidnapping shouldn’t have their cases heard because of “national security” interests.

These were supposed to be relics of the Bush administration and its attacks on basic constitutional and human rights. Instead, they are among the many troubling actions taken by the new administration of President Barack Obama.

Rather than repudiating Bush’s shredding of the Constitution, the new White House is embracing some of the worst abuses carried out by the Bush administration in the name of national security and the “war on terror.”

As a candidate for president, Obama promised a new direction. While pledging to maintain national security, Obama said that “we also want to make sure that we’re protecting the Constitution, and that we’re not excessively providing the president with a sort of a ‘blank check’ when it comes to dealing with national security,” he told ABC’s This Week.

And, in fact, it was refreshing to hear Obama’s new Attorney General Eric Holder declaring bluntly during his confirmation hearings that “waterboarding is torture.” It was a forceful repudiation of one aspect of the Bush administration, at least–Vice President Dick Cheney had, after all, openly defended “waterboarding” in October 2006.

This seemed to confirm the expectations expressed by Obama supporters like George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen, who wrote in a March 2008 op-ed article in the New York Times: “As a former grassroots activist, Mr. Obama understands the need to make the case for civil liberties in the political arena. At a time when America’s civil-libertarian tradition has been embattled at home and abroad, his candidacy offers a unique opportunity.”

But just two months into his presidency, the “unique opportunity” that Rosen thought Obama represented seems to be evaporating. The litany of disappointing actions on civil liberties taken by the Obama administration seems to grow longer by the week.

Among other things, since taking office, the Obama administration has: pre-empted a Supreme Court ruling on whether a legal resident on U.S. soil can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial as an “enemy combatant”; attempted to block a judicial ruling on Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program; asserted in court that prisoners currently held overseas by U.S. forces in Bagram, Afghanistan, have no constitutional right to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts; and argued to dismiss cases brought in federal court by alleged victims of CIA kidnappings and torture on the grounds of “national security.”

As ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said after Obama’s Justice Department argued in federal court that a lawsuit filed by five current and former detainees against Jeppesen Dataplan–a company accused of arranging extraordinary rendition flights for the CIA–should be dropped:

Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government.

This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue.

The reveresals from what Obama promised–or was expected–to do on civil liberties questions have shocked many people who looked forward to the end of the Bush regime.

On the question of warrantless wiretapping, for example, the Obama administration’s arguments in one important court case are indistinguishable from its predecessors.

In the case, brought by two American lawyers against the Bush administration, a federal judge ruled in favor of admitting into evidence a classified document showing that the lawyers for a Saudi charity, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, were electronically eavesdropped on without warrants by the Bush administration.

The Obama administration argued in court that national security would be compromised if the lawsuit was allowed to proceed. As’s Glenn Greenwald wrote:

Manifestly, the Obama [Justice Department] has one goal and one goal only here: to prevent any judicial ruling as to whether the Bush [National Security Agency] warrantless eavesdropping program was illegal. And they’re engaging in extraordinary efforts to ensure that occurs…

Everyone knows the Bush administration spied on Americans without warrants and in violation of the law. Everyone knows that this document reflects that these plaintiffs were among those who were illegally spied on. Still, there’s the Obama administration — just like the Bush administration–claiming that we’ll all be slaughtered if a court rules on whether the president broke the law.

Another disappointment came in early March, when the Justice Department argued in a California federal court to dismiss a case filed against former Bush administration official John Yoo.

Yoo famously drafted much of the so-called “Bybee torture memo”–a Justice Department document that approved the use of CIA interrogation methods, including rendition, and blessed as legal methods of physical and psychological coercion that inflicted discomfort “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

Last year, lawyers for supposed “dirty bomb” plotter Jose Padilla–a U.S. citizen who spent years in a military brig without being charged, and subject to sensory and sleep deprivation and other harsh interrogation measures–filed a suit against Yoo.

If heard, it could challenge the government’s policies on the treatment of detainees. According to one of the lawyers, Jonathan Freiman, the premise of the suit is that “a lawyer who gives the green light to clearly illegal conduct is an accomplice to that conduct.”

But the Obama Justice Department is standing behind Yoo–on the grounds that “the Department of Justice generally defends employees and former employees in lawsuits that are filed in connection to their official duties,” according to department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

“We’re not saying that we condone torture,” Justice Department lawyer Mary Mason said at the hearing on the suit.

But by arguing that the case against Yoo should be dismissed, the Obama administration is protecting the very man who crafted the legal reasoning to justify torture as an acceptable part of the U.S. “war on terror.” How is that not “condoning torture”?

The Obama administration isn’t protecting just Yoo, but other top Bush administration military officials who are the targets of lawsuits brought by prisoners who say they were tortured while being held at Guantánamo Bay.

In another federal court document filed in March, the Justice Department argued that holding military officials liable for their treatment of prisoners could cause them to make future decisions based on fear of litigation rather than appropriate military policy. “The Obama administration appears to be sticking with Bush administration legal definitions in pending litigation,” reported the Associated Press.

The case, involving four British men who say they were beaten, shackled in “stress positions” and forcibly shaved while they were imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay (all four have since been released) named, among others, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As Eric Lewis, an attorney for the four, put it: “The upshot of the Justice Department’s position is that there is no right of detainees not to be tortured, and that officials who order torture should be protected.”

Even when the Obama administration has seemed to take positive steps to turn back some of the Bush administration’s abuses, the full picture is more complicated.

So, for example, civil liberties advocates applauded Obama’s executive orders to close the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, affirm detainees’ right to habeus corpus and instruct that prisoners be treated according to the Geneva Conventions when interrogated by U.S. officials. But it turns out that these orders have wide loopholes.

The order on interrogations, for example, only applies to prisoners “in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee or other agent of the United States Government, or detained within a facility owned, operated or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, in any armed conflict.”

That formulation would allow the use of torture by other governments’ security forces operating on orders from the U.S.–under, for example, the “extraordinary rendition” program used by the Bush administration to evade the law by sub-contracting torture to to U.S.-allied regimes.

In addition, the order demands that the CIA close “as expeditiously as possible” any of its detention centers, but says nothing about whether the FBI, Defense Department or any other U.S. body–or private contractors such as Blackwater–may run such facilities. As Professor James Hill noted, “This order contains loopholes big enough to drive a FEMA camp train through them.”

Likewise, in February, it seemed like a positive sign when Attorney General Eric Holder announced a review of every court case in which the Bush administration invoked the “state secrets” privilege to have lawsuits thrown out.

But according to the Associated Press, on the same day that Holder announced his review, Douglas Letter, an attorney for the Justice Department’s civil division, cited the same “state secrets privilege in asking a federal appeals court to uphold dismissal of a lawsuit accusing a Boeing Co. subsidiary of illegally helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists to allied foreign nations where they would be tortured. Three times, Letter assured the judges his position had been approved by Obama administration officials.”

To take another example, earlier this month, the media reported that the Obama administration had dropped the term “enemy combatants” as a justification for detaining terrorism suspects without trial.

But as the New York Times reported, “[I]n a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects [at Guantánamo Bay] without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

“The filing signaled that, as long as Guantánamo remains open, the new administration will aggressively defend its ability to hold some detainees there.”

As Glenn Greenwald put it, “[T]he Obama administration, when called upon to state their position, makes only the most cosmetic and inconsequential changes–designed to generate headlines misleadingly depicting a significant reversal (”Obama drops ‘enemy combatant’ label”)–while, in fact, retaining the crux of Bush’s extremist detention theory.”

There is no “middle ground” on these questions. Those who justified, condoned, participated in and ordered the torture of detainees should be held accountable–starting with George W. Bush. Citizens should have a right not to be spied on by their government. Detainees should have rights under international law, including the right to a trial.

But the Obama administration isn’t taking anything like a principled stand on these questions.

On the contrary, while it wants to change the popular perception of federal policies on civil liberties, the evidence is mounting that the Obama administration is putting a new face on many of the same abuses we’ve been living with for the past eight years.

Nicole Colson writes for Socialist Worker.

Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 3:52 PM

Hizbullah Rebuilds South Beirut


Posted by Qifa Nabki under Hizbullah, Lebanon Tags: ,
[34] Comments


I remember hearing Thomas Friedman on NPR after the cease-fire that ended the July War in 2006. He was speaking to Terry Gross if I’m not mistaken, and he said something along the lines of: “Nasrallah is yet another Arab leader who repeats the same formulas as many before him. He’s just another leader who stands on the rubble and says “We won”. Why? Because “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, all that matters is if you fight the Jews.”

It seems that Friedman was wrong about Nasrallah, or at least about the ’standing on the rubble’ bit. Hizbullah has apparently rebuilt 241 buildings and renovated hundreds more. Highly worth reading is this report by AFP about the progress of Hizbullah’s campaign to rebuild al-Dahiyeh. I will post the introduction below.

Salam Hassoun is thrilled by the new flat Hizbullah has built for her to replace the one Israeli bombs destroyed during the 2006 summer war. The war ravaged Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold that includes the teeming neighborhood of Haret Hreik, where a mammoth Hizbullah-orchestrated reconstruction drive is under way.

The deafening explosions of Israeli bombs have been replaced by the grinding cacophony of earth-movers and cement mixers contracted to rebuild 241 of the 282 buildings destroyed in the bombing.

The project, dubbed Waad (pledge in Arabic), has won the heart of Hassoun but has also raised a storm of political dust between Hizbullah and the government, whose authority in the southern suburbs has lagged for decades.

“I used to dream of an apartment where the living room was separated from the dining area and where the kitchen would be much bigger, and Waad gave me that,” Hassoun told AFP during a Hizbullah-organized tour of Haret Hreik.

“May God protect [Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah. He has kept his promise,” she said from her ninth-storey flat in one of several spanking new towers…

In the famous “let’s burst this boil” speech about the defense strategy, Nasrallah seemed to suggest that the best way to address the issue of Hizbullah’s resistance was not by attempting to dismantle it, but rather by transforming it from a private Shiite army into a national force that is capable of defending the homeland. In other words, rather than subtracting weapons from the resistance, the best solution would be to add people, especially members of other sects, in order to ‘nationalize’ what is inherently a sectarian militia and decouple it from a conservative theocratic social movement.

One can imagine a future speech in which Nasrallah makes the same point about the rest of Hizbullah’s growing social services empire. With the right spin (think “public-private” synergy), and given the high prices for housing, telephones, and everything else that one pays in West Beirut, I suppose anything is possible!

Reham Alhelsi - They can't take that away from me: "settlers" stealing Palestinian land from under our feet


Commemorating 60+ Years of the Systematic Murder of Palestinian Land. The first part of a three part series for Land Day

As I stood on the roof and watched Jerusalem stretch in front of me, with the sun reflecting on the golden Dome, I felt angry and felt how unfair the world is. I was born in Jerusalem, went to school there and practically grew up there knowing almost every corner, every street and every alley in it. I have more memories in Jerusalem than any other place in the world, all cherished ones. But now, I am not allowed into the city anymore because I am Palestinian. As I stood there, with tears in my eyes, I envied every Palestinian with an American or European passport, because they can come and visit Jerusalem. I envied every foreigner who can visit the city whenever they choose. I even envied the birds singing on the cypresses before me, because they could fly over Jerusalem and fill their eyes with its beauty and their lungs with its air. In my childhood, Jerusalem was the only major Palestinian city I knew well and loved. In the eyes and mind of a child, to me Ramallah was a cold city, Bethlehem was the “village” nearby, Nablus and Hebron were the places “to visit my uncles in Israeli prisons” and Jericho was too hot. Only Jerusalem was perfect: with its bustling Old City, the old bus station, Salah Al-Deen Street, Al Musrarah, the walk to the Notre Dame, the walk down Wadi Al-Joz and up to Al-Tur and the walk up to Ras El Amoud. I walked on the roof and saw the mountains on the Jordanian side, clearly visible during mild weather. Late afternoons, coming back home from school, one would witness a breathtaking sight going down the steep street in Sawahreh: a marvellous mixture of simple houses, some with old traditional domed roofs, barley fields or olive groves spreading against a curtain of mountains. Between the mountains and the last of the houses a strip of blue was visible. We always thought it to be the Dead Sea. Well, I personally still like to think of it as the Dead Sea. It was a combination of colours that rarely showed itself, but when it did, it was truly breathtaking.

To the south I could see Mount Herod in the distance. I have watched this artificial mountain since my childhood and always wondered at its shape. It always looked far away to be reached, but at the same time so close, an integral part of the view surrounding my home. I used to think about the impossibility of climbing that mountain, because it had steep sides, one would keep slipping and would never reach the top. I did “climb” that mountain years later, during the work on a TV documentary on Bethlehem. During the 2002 IOF invasion of the West Bank, my parents told me that Israeli fighter jets used to pass over Sawahreh on their way to Bethlehem. After a few minutes, the sound of explosions would rock the sky, as the IOF bombarded Bethlehem and the surrounding towns, villages and refugee camps. Since hearing this, every time I see Mount Herod I can’t help thinking of Israeli jets on their way to destroying yet another part of Palestine and kill innocent unarmed civilians. In Sawahreh, Israeli jets roaring in the sky were always a common thing. Some of Sawahreh’s vast lands had been confiscated for so-called “security reasons” and were used as a training area for the IOF. We would often hear sounds of explosions and the house would shake, or hear Israeli jets coming and going. One time, my sister, my brother and I thought that they were preparing for war, and since we had no army of our own, had no jets or tanks or bombs to protect ourselves, we held a meeting to decide on the best way to protect the family. The only solution we could think of was to build an underground shelter. I don’t know where we got the idea of a shelter from, since Palestinians have no shelters, but most probably from one of those WWII films the Israeli TV kept showing. We did start digging, using our hands and small pointy stones, but realized after a while what a lengthy and hard process that was, and instead decided that in case a war does break out we would use the water well as a shelter, i.e., after removing all the water.

One would think what a beautiful view, Jerusalem on one side, Bethlehem on the other with mountains and an imaginary sea in the background. Unfortunately, this scenery is interrupted by the Jewish illegal settlements Maale Adumim and Kidar, spreading themselves on Palestinian hills. Many Palestinian villages and town are surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements. Some are surrounded by settlements from one, two or three sides. Others are surrounded by illegal settlements and the Apartheid Wall. Sawahreh is surrounded by the illegal settlements of Maale Adumim from the northeast and Kidar from the east and by the Apartheid Wall from the west. Kidar settlement is the closest to us. Before the first intifada, Kidar settlers used to come and walk through our main street, among Palestinian houses. So sure they were of themselves, acting as if the land belonged to them. I remember once we were playing in the land, when a group of settlers walked up the street. We stopped playing and just watched them. I didn’t understand settlers and settlements much at the time, but I remember knowing that these people had no right to walk on our streets. We used to spend our holidays in Dheisheh refugee camp, where the IOF would shoot to kill little children, and then we would come back to Sawahreh, where settlers were walking our street. Those close to Kidar used to sell home-made white cheese and yoghurt to the settlers, who thought us too quiet and peaceful, so they called us “Kiryat Shalom” or the village of peace. It was something I always felt ashamed of, knowing that the settlers thought us too peaceful to bother with, while their army and their fellow fanatic settlers were attacking Dheisheh and killing people there. If the illegal settlers of Kidar were so very interested in peace with us, why did they steal our lands to expand their settlement, knowing that our livelihood depended on these lands? You can’t have peace with your occupier, because the only peace they will offer you is a masquerade, not a real and just peace. In Palestine, power cuts are a regular thing, and whenever we had no electricity and had to study using candle light, which often hurt our eyes, I used to look through the window and watch Sawahreh, Abu Dees and Ezariyyeh drown in complete darkness, while Kidar and Maale Adumim would be lighted like a Christmas tree. Even as a child this made me think of how unfair the situation was and that these settlers and these settlements don’t belong here.

I remember as a child how “far away” Maale Adumim seemed. But as I grew up, so did the illegal settlement. The danger of this expansion never really registered in my mind until one night I dreamt that I opened the window of my bedroom to find myself looking into the courtyard of a Jewish house. The settlement had eaten the land all the way from where it stood till our house, and our house and the land surrounding it was next. I woke up sweating and my heart beating fast. So real was the threat, I realized at the time, that I knew it was not a mere nightmare. The next day I went at the back of the house to the spot where one could get a direct view of Maale Adumim and tried to calculate how much time we had before my nightmare became reality. I thought we still had time to act, but I was mistaken. Since the 1990’s the settlements have been expanding and are eating more Palestinian land at an unprecedented pace. In this area there are several illegal Jewish settlements such as Maale Adumim, Alon, Almon, Kidar, Kefar Adumim and Mishor Adumim, with a combined population of some 40,000 settlers. The largest, Maale Adumim was established in 1975 on confiscated Palestinian land and lies 14 km to the east of Jerusalem. It has a population of 35,000 illegal Jewish settlers and a jurisdictional area of 50 km². Road networks have been also established to connect Maale Adumim and neighboring settlements with Jerusalem and with the Jordan Valley. Palestinian land would be confiscated, declared a “closed military zone” and later used for illegal settlement expansions.

On the day of my arrival to Palestine for a short visit, I watched in shock as I passed Maale Adumim at how huge it has become. Within the space of two years, since my last visit, it had doubled in size, to say the least. Standing there on the mountain top, with a wall surrounding parts of it, it reminded me of a fortress from the middle ages. Although I am a fan of fortresses, this one brought only anger and disgust. The lands opposite it, which I distinctly remember were planted with olive trees, had become bare land, the trees uprooted and the land destroyed to make way for more illegal settler houses and roads. At the entrance to Maale Adumim stood a single olive tree, as huge as life and older than any illegal settler on this land. It was clear that this tree had been uprooted from some Palestinian field, maybe even from our confiscated land, and replanted here. Macabre, I thought and could only shake my head at the sad view of that lonely olive tree. Olive trees are like Palestinians, they grow in groups, surrounded by family and friends. That tree stood there alone, a reminder to every Palestinian that this is what the so-called peace process had done to us, and that if this process is allowed to go on, every single Palestinian will end up like that tree, alone and uprooted.

The plan to expand Maale Adumim, known as the “E-1” Plan, which was initiated by Rabin in 1994 and approved in 1999, led to the confiscation of yet more Palestinian land. This Plan is an important part of the “Greater Jerusalem” scheme, which includes Maale Adumim, Beitar, H´Givat Ze’ev, Gush Etzion, the Ariel bloc, the Hashmonain bloc and the Jordan Rift, and aims at annexing large areas of the West Bank to Jerusalem. This plan expands the jurisdictional boundaries of Maale Adumim and its satellite settlements to the Israeli Jerusalem municipal boundaries, linking Jerusalem with surrounding settlement blocs and linking the Maale Adumim bloc with with other settlement blocs such as Pisgat Ze’ev, Pisgat Omer, Neve Ya’acov and the French Hill. Also, a wall is being built around Maale Adumim and its satellite settlements, which will completely encircle East Jerusalem and 61 km² of Palestinian land. The “E-1” Plan aims to completely cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian Territories, disconnecting the geographic contiguity of Palestinian Territories by dividing the West Bank into two parts, thus ensuring that no viable Palestinian state would ever come to existence. Last year, roads were paved and a bridge, main junctions, public squares, police stations, checkpoints and side walls were built in the “E-1” area. This area will cover some 13,000 dunums confiscated from Palestinian villages around Jerusalem and is to house an additional 15,000 illegal settlers. Two Israeli-only roads will connect settler roads southeast of Bethlehem with roads to the northeast, including connecting Maale Adumim and other Jerusalem settlements with the Ramot Ashkol settlement. For the construction of these roads, tens of houses in Sawahreh, Abu Dees and Al Tour are to be demolished. To prevent Palestinians from entering Jerusalem or using Road Nr. 1 that passes through the E-1 and Road Nr. 60 that passes through East Jerusalem, an “alternative” road is being constructed for Palestinian use and is to connect the Southern West Bank with its Northern part. For the construction of this road, the IOF issued a military order in 2007 confiscating 1,128 dunums of Palestinian land from villages between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, i.e. Sawahreh, Abu Dees, Nebi Musa and Al Khan Al Ahmar.

Blocking the southern entrance of Sawahreh is the “Container” checkpoint, which is now being expanded to become a permanent border-like crossing. Passing the checkpoint, one would not imagine what beautiful landscape lies behind the Israeli stone blocks and control tower. Locally, we call it “Barriyeh”, the wilderness or the prairies. Green meadows decorated with red poppies wherever one looks. My favourite spot there is a low area, surrounded by hills and naturally-formed stone structures. Here, running was not possible because of the tall vegetation that covered the place. We would imagine ourselves swimming and race each other or play hide and seek. Then, when we would feel hungry, we would have something to eat under the olive trees. Relics of family history decorate caves in that area and cherished memories of childhood lie behind the checkpoint, making them off-limit to us. The last time I went there was just before leaving for Germany and I had not set foot again. Our lands there, including the olive fields, which were a source of income for my family, were confiscated in 2003. Today, only those few who originally had their houses behind the checkpoint are allowed in, but no one knows how long before their houses will be demolished for some reason or other so as to close the area completely.

The “Container” checkpoint is a passage between the north and the south of the West Bank. It is one of more than 630 Israeli checkpoints and road barriers all over the West Bank, aiming to restrict Palestinian movement on Palestinian land. Travelling to the south, one would have to take the “Wadi Al-Nar” road. Wadi Al-Nar, the Valley of Fire, is most probably called so because of its steepness and the danger of driving there. It was a dirt road connecting Sawahreh with Ubediyyeh, rarely used except maybe by villagers travelling on donkeys. With the signing of the so-called peace process, Jerusalem was closed to most Palestinians and this road was used instead as a link left between the south and the north. If one is stuck behind a truck on that road, the meaning of “Valley of Fire” becomes clear, for when driving up the road, one has the continuous feeling that the truck will turn over any minute and everything behind that truck would be squeezed underneath it. As children we would follow the shepherds with their herds whenever we could. We would eat figs, search for snake nests in caves and play at the old ottoman stone circles. Every time we were there on the hills, we would go exploring a bit further. It was mostly steep hills, where we learned to slide slowly down a hill, using our left foot as a break. Here, there were no illegal settlements and no IOF soldiers, or at least they were not visible. When it was time to go home, instead of taking the direct way, we would go all around the hills, passing the “sacred river” to the old Sawahreh houses and further back home. The “sacred river” as we called it, was a small “river” running through the Wadi Al-Nar. Greenery was along both sides of this river, giving it a genuine river look, like those we used to see in cartoons. The vegetables growing around the riverbanks were double the size of the ordinary vegetables we would buy from the supermarket. Later, and to our great disappoint, we found out that the reason for the extraordinary growth of these vegetables was the waste water. This “sacred river” was actually the flow of waste water from Maale Adumim and other settlements in the area. Not only was their waste water contaminating our lands, their solid waste was being dumped and burned on our lands as well. Several studies have shown that illegal Settlements comprise a major environmental threat. Waste water and industrial waste from settlements is dumped on Palestinian lands, contaminating the soil and the water supply. Palestinian plans to treat waste water are usually rejected by Israel, and in one incident Israel insisted that a treatment facility for Tulkarem be built on the other side of the Green line, for no other reason than to use the treated water for its own interest.

During my last visit to Palestine, I wanted to see these hills again and enjoy the beauty of a Palestine that was free of illegal settlements and IOF checkpoints. It was late afternoon and as I looked around me I saw Mount Herod in the distance, with Palestinian villages decorating the hills all the way from there to Jerusalem. And opposite them, Palestinian hills extended all the way to meet the Jordanian mountains in the horizon. There was no Apartheid Wall, no IOF checkpoints and no settlements. Although I knew they were there, breaking the natural bond between Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, they were not visible from where I stood. I saw the old stone houses with the traditional domed roof, a herd of sheep with a shepherd who was playing the flute, the sunset adding a magical touch to the whole landscape, and there, at that moment I felt what it would feel to live in a truly free Palestine. I started taking photos and wondering how long before the Israelis would wipe out this landscape and all traces of Palestinian existence here. I went home, thinking that the Palestine I grew up in is not the Palestine of today. The Palestine of today is the rest of the so-called peace process with its illegal settlements, the Apartheid Wall, the IOF checkpoints and “Herrenstraßen” that are eating Palestine from inside, like a cancer, destroying the land piece by piece. I remembered that lonely olive tree in front of Maale Adumim and hoped that those still disillusioned by the “peace process” would wake up and act before it was too late.


Reham Alhelsi is a Jerusalem-born Palestinian. She has worked extensively in the Palestinian Broadcasting Company and since 2000, when she moved to Germany, has trained at various radio and TV networks including Deutsche Welle, SWR and WDR. She is currently writing her PhD in Regional Planning with a focus on Palestinian Land Management and local government.

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.