Saturday 13 June 2009

The Palestinian Cause in 2 Minutes


By Haitham Sabbah • Jun 13th, 2009 at 12:07 • Category: Israel, Newswire, Palestine, Resistance, Video, War, Zionism

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Haitham Sabbah is an uprooted Palestinian blogger. He is the webmaster and editor of Palestine Blogs, also webmaster and co-editor of Palestine Think Tank. His personal blog is Sabbah's Blog:
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How to spell Bull**** in Hebrew

How to spell Bull**** in Hebrew

What exactly was U.S.-Israel agreement on settlements?
June 08,2009

West Bank settlements have long been a bone of contention between Israel and the United States, which views them as an obstacle to peace. Over the past few years, however, Israel tried to reach a tacit understanding with Washington on settlement expansion, which is now put to the test: President Barack Obama demands a complete and utter construction freeze, whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists on building in settlement blocs, as his predecessors Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert during George W. Bush’s term in office.

The settlement controversy reached its zenith at the twilight of Yitzhak Shamir’s government in 1992. Israel had asked for loan guarantees to help fund the absorption of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the recently collapsed Soviet Union. Then U.S. President George H.W. Bush conditioned the aid on a complete settlement freeze. Shamir was defiant, and Bush remained firm.

Yitzhak Rabin, who succeeded Shamir as prime minister, reached an oral agreement with Bush on the loan guarantees. Rabin promised that Israel would complete the housing units that were under construction and limit future construction in all settlements in the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem area, which Rabin dubbed “security areas.” The New York Times reported that the construction would be for “natural growth” purposes, and would amount to building additional rooms in existing houses and infrastructure. In practice, Israel went far beyond that.

Rabin made a distinction between “security settlements” - those bordering the Green Line - and “political settlements” in the hinterland. These two categories were later renamed “settlement blocs” and “remote settlements,” respectively. The exact location of the settlement blocs has never been determined, but it is broadly accepted that Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Ariel and the settlements around Jerusalem, in which most settlers live, will be annexed to Israel in a future peace agreement.

When Bill Clinton replaced Bush in office in 1993 he adhered to the understandings reached with Rabin over the ‘natural growth’ of the settlements, and to the Oslo accord, which was signed earlier that year, in which both sides agreed to refrain from unilateral moves that would affect a permanent agreement.

At the beginning of the Intifada, Clinton consented to Yasser Arafat’s request and appointed an international committee headed by former senator George Mitchell to probe the roots of the crisis. The Mitchell report, which came out in May 2001, recommended that the Palestinians relinquish violence against Israel and that Israel freeze settlement expansion. The recommendation was unequivocal: Israel must cease all construction in the settlements, including ‘natural growth.’

The new prime minister, Ariel Sharon, accepted the report’s recommendations and strove toward an understanding with the Bush administration that would enable Israel to continue building in the settlements.

Then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres presented a new formula to his U.S. counterpart, Colin Powel, replacing the concept of ‘natural growth,’ which Mitchell rejected, with an Israeli promise to build only within the limits of the settlements existing boundaries.

In June 2001, Sharon presented the Israeli position to the American team: no new settlements; no further expropriation of land for building (with the exception of roads); no building in settlements for the purpose of expansion; Israel’s adherence to the initiative depends upon the Palestinians’ fulfillment of their side of the agreement.

Sharon told the Americans that any new building in the settlements would be done for the purpose of meeting the settlements’ “basic needs.”

Israel called the formula the “Peres-Powell understanding.” The Americans denied ever accepting the Israeli position.

In 2003 the U.S. formulated the road map for the establishment of a Palestinian state, according to which Israel was required to cease all construction in the settlements, including ‘natural growth,’ and evacuate all of the outposts established under Sharon (since March 2001). Israel refused to agree to a complete freeze on settlement construction.

In April 2003, White House officials Stephen Hadley and Elliot Abrams arrived in Jerusalem on a secret visit, and on May 1, in Sharon’s Jerusalem residence, were he was told by the prime minister and his senior adviser Dov Weisglass that from that point onward there would be no ‘natural growth,’ only ‘construction within the existing borders of the settlements,’ the argument being that such construction would not further infringe on Palestinian land.

In May 2003 Weisglass met with Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in Washington and presented her with Israel’s commitments: No new settlements; no expropriation of Palestinian land for the purpose of construction; no government funding of settlement construction; no expansion of settlements beyond their existing boundaries.
In the summer of 2003 the Americans attempted, unsuccessfully, to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on the basis of the road map. Sharon chose an alternate path: He evacuated all the Gaza Strip settlements and, in accordance with American demands, four West Bank settlements.

In return, Sharon requested and, in April 2004, received a letter from Bush stating that it would be unrealistic to ask Israel to withdraw to behind the Green Line in any future agreement “in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.” The interpretation was that Bush accepted the future annexation of settlement blocs to Israel. But the American’s wording was cautious, and spoke of “existing centers” - not future construction.

Alongside his letter to Bush, Weisglass also dispatched a letter to Rice, the first section of which spoke of “the restrictions on the expansion of the settlements” and stated that within the agreed-upon principles of the settlement enterprise, an effort would be made to better define the limits of construction within the West Bank settlements. According to Weisglass’ interpretation, this letter proves the there was U.S. consent to further construction within the existing boundaries of the settlements.

Weisglass and Rice decided to form a joint committee charged with mapping the settlements and marking their construction lines - “Blue Line” - of each one, but could not agree on the exact outlines. The Americans wanted only the large settlement blocs mapped, under the assumption that the isolated settlements would be evacuated; Israel sought to mark only the isolated settlements. In the fall of 2004 the Americans relinquished their demand.

Prior to the disengagement, carried out in the summer of 2005, Weisglass informed Rice that Israel would expand the settlements beyond their construction lines - expand the settlement blocs - but with two constraints: any new construction would be adjacent to existing structures, and according to the balance of supply and demand in the free market. Construction in isolated settlements would be done only within their existing boundaries. For Israel, this was an official understanding. The Obama administration denies this. Either way, there was no written agreement.

Bush convened the Annapolis conference at the end of 2007 in a final attempt to revive the peace process. Ahead of the conference the Americans sought to rearticulate the understandings on construction in the settlements with then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert informed the Americans that any Israeli construction beyond the Green Line would be restricted to four zones: Jerusalem, in which Israel never agreed to any restrictions; the settlement blocs, in which construction would be adjacent, but not confined, to existing construction boundaries; isolated settlements, in which construction would be confined to existing boundaries; and unauthorized outposts, which would be evacuated.

Following the Annapolis conference, in November 2007 Olmert authorized building permits for hundreds of new housing units beyond the Green Line. The American opposition to this was feeble: Rice said that “it was not helpful” to the diplomatic process. Israel interpreted this as a nod of consent. Olmert’s made sure his plans for building in the settlements were in line with his promises to the Americans.

Now Netanyahu seeks to continue building in the settlement bloc according with the understandings formulated by Sharon and Olmert. But Sharon evacuated 25 settlements, Olmert proposed withdrawing from most the West Bank, and Netanyahu, who is still unwilling to give anything in return, will have to deal with Obama’s envoy, the same Mitchell who issued the report is at the root of the demand to freeze construction in the settlements.

Bad News for Israel: Ahmadinejad Achieves Landslide Victory; Wins 63% of Vote in Most of Iran

Ahmadinejad Achieves Landslide Victory; Wins 63% of Vote in Most of Iran

13/06/2009 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won 63 percent of the vote in most electoral districts across Iran, the election chief said on Saturday, meaning the incumbent hardliner is assured of victory.

Kamran Daneshjoo said on state television that Ahmadinejad received almost 21.8 million votes or 63.36 percent out of nearly 34.4 million valid votes cast in 346 out of 366 electoral districts across the country. He said Ahmadinejad's closes rival, the more moderate ex-premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, garnered 11.7 million votes or 34.07 percent.

In a distant third was the former head of the Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezai with almost 588,000 votes or 1.7 percent while reformist ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi received almost 290,000 votes or 0.87 percent.

Earlier, the Iranian Interior Ministry said that Ahmadinejad was set for a landslide victory with nearly 80 percent of votes counted in Iran's stormy presidential elections. "Doctor Ahmadinejad, by getting a majority of the votes, has become the definite winner of the 10th presidential election," state news agency IRNA declared as his jubilant supporters took to the streets in celebration.

The level of the incumbent's support, roughly twice as many votes as Mousavi, Ahmadinejad's main challenger, with most ballots counted, confounded analyst predictions of a tight race.

The "unprecedented" voter turnout at the polls Friday was also expected to boost Mousavi's chances of winning the presidency.

Mousavi warned on Saturday he would not bow to the "dangerous scenario" created in Iran after results showed he had lost to incumbent Ahmadinejad.

Mousavi said he "protested vigorously against the numerous and blatant irregularities" in Friday's vote after officials said Ahmadinajad had secured about 63 percent of the vote with counting in most districts over. The former premier said on a statement that it was his "national and religious duty to reveal the secrets of this dangerous process and to explain its destructive consequences for the future of the country."

However, as the official results showed Ahmadinejad would be back for a second term, his supporters poured on to the streets of Tehran, honking their horns and waving Iranian flags.

In his first term in office Ahmadinejad became known to the outside world for his fierce rhetoric against the United States and Israel. But Friday's election was also seen as a referendum on his handling of an oil exporting economy which enjoyed a surge in petrodollar revenues on his watch - a boom which critics say he squandered.

Ahmadinejad, 53, championed Iran's devout poor, especially those in rural areas, who felt neglected by past governments and helped sweep him to power in 2005.

Ahmadinejad Congratulated on his Landslide Victory

13/06/2009 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday congratulated Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his landslide re-election victory, calling for stronger ties between the allies.
Assad sent Ahmadinejad a cable in which he also expressed his "best wishes for progress and prosperity" to the Iranian people, state-run SANA news agency said.
The Syrian president "expressed his faith that relations and cooperation will be reinforced between Syria and Iran," which are bound by several economic and military agreements, SANA said.
Assad stressed that the two countries "work together to achieve lasting and comprehensive peace in the region and the world."
Ahmadinejad won a crushing victory in Iran's presidential vote and a second four-year term, according to official results, defeating key rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.

For his part, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez telephoned Ahmadinejad to congratulate him on his electoral win, Chavez's office said.
The victory "represents the feeling and commitment of the Iranian people to building a new world," Chavez said in a statement.
Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli said on Saturday that Ahmadinejad has won the presidential election with 62.63 percent of the vote.

In Lebanon, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said he hoped Ahmadinejad’s victory would be a reassuring factor to solve outstanding issues with the West “and to serve peace, stability and security in the region.”

Islamic Action Front Announces Death of Sheikh Dr. Fathi Yakan


Readers Number : 161

13/06/2009 Head of Islamic Labor Front in Lebanon Fathi Yukon passed away Saturday afternoon after he was hospitalized for serious health problems on Friday night. Yakan was announced dead Saturday morning, but an Islamic Action Front statement later denied the Sheikh was dead, but acknowledged he was in serious condition.

Dr. Fathi Yakan is a prominent Islamic scholar and caller. he was born in Tripoli, north of Lebanon, on the 9th of February 1933.
With a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Sheikh Yakan was among the pioneers of the Islamic movement in the 1950s. He was also the General Secretary of the Lebanese Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya from 1962 until 1992 when he won his seat in the Lebanese parliament. He is a key activist on the political stage, which was very clear during the 1996 elections.

Sheikh Yakan initiated a political effort between PM Fouad Saniora and his allies on the one hand and the opposition in a bid to end the rule crisis in the wake of the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon. As a key figure in the Lebanese National Opposition, he headed prayers for Sunnis and Shiites on Friday, December 8, 2006 and called in his speech for the unity of Muslims against Israeli plots and schemes.

Dr. Yakan was married to Mrs Mona Haddad with whom he had established a private Islamic university (Al-Jinan University). He has four daughters and a son.
Sheikh Yakan was known for his support for resistance movements in Lebanon and the Arab and Islamic worlds.
He described the 2006 victory as one for Lebanon and the whole nation, Sunnis before Shiites, “because the project of the resistance is not only Lebanese project but a global one.”

The Islamic scholar also played a significant role in mending fences between political parties in the region. He was the mediator between the Islamic brotherhood in Syria and President Bachar Assad. He also played the same role between Syria and Turkey between 1998 and 1999, in the wake of the Syria-Turkey crisis.

He is the author of more than 35 books, some of them were translated into many languages, including:
How do we call for Islam? Towards a unified global Islamic Movement. What does “I’m a Muslim” mean?



June 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm (Barack Obama, Israel, Occupied West Bank, Palestine)

Israeli settlers wary, defiant in West Bank

By Paula Hancocks

(CNN) — Many Jewish settlers in the West Bank believe the land was promised to them in the Bible by God.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a freeze on all building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a freeze on all building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

By that rationale, the thoughts of the U.S. president or even their own leaders means little.

But there is concern among settlers that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may buckle under pressure from President Obama’s new U.S. administration and freeze the expansion of any settlements in the West Bank or what they refer to by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria.

So far Netanyahu has spoken of his support for the “natural growth” of existing settlements — putting clear water between himself and the U.S. president. Netanyahu is scheduled to make a major speech on the peace process on Sunday.

Around 280,000 Jewish settlers live in 121 settlements — almost 200,000 more live in East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli-based Peace Now group, which wants settlements in the West Bank evacuated so that a two-state solution can be pursued.

But this is land the Palestinians want as a future state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Critics – both within and beyond Israel – say the settlements are nothing more than a land grab that only complicates the task of achieving a lasting peace; but many settlers say the West Bank is Jewish land and if Palestinians want to live there they must abide by Israeli law.

David Ha’ivri has lived in the West Bank for almost 20 years and says the U.S. has no right to tell him where to live. “We have God on our side and we will be able to exist with help or without help of any foreign nation.”

He adds: “The Palestinians are welcome to go and live in their own country on the east of the Jordan river (meaning Jordan), and the Jews have every right to grow and expand on the west side of the Jordan river (meaning the West Bank).

Over the years U.S. administrations have skirted around the issue of settlements, calling for a freeze on activity while tacitly accepting a continuation of building.

Israeli leaders have publicly supported the 2003 road map to peace, which calls for a settlement freeze, but in 2008, under the leadership of Ehud Olmert, “natural growth” was accommodated. Settlement growth last year alone was 4.9%, almost triple that of residential building in Israel itself, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The era of gentleman’s agreements between Israel and the U.S. appear to be over.

President Obama cannot be clearer in his call for a freeze on settlement activity and Netanyahu’s policy could put him on a collision course either with the U.S. or with his largely right-wing pro-settler coalition.

Ha’ivri says: “Netanyahu was elected by the majority of people in Israel because they believed that he’d stand strong for the rights of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and if Netanyahu does not serve that purpose then we will change him with a leader who will.”

Efrat is part of a large settlement block near Bethlehem which, during the presidency of George W. Bush, Israel assumed would remain as part of any future peace deal.

Resident Eve Harow complains that U.S. policy would mean that an illegal outpost, which sometimes consists of a couple of shacks, would be equated with her neighborhood, home to around 7,500 mainly religious Jews.

She believes she needs to be in this area to create a security buffer zone between Israel and the Palestinians, saying, “The threats that face us here, if we pull back from these areas then they will face Tel Aviv. Sadly Judea and Samaria under the Palestinians will not be a neighbor that wants my existence even in the narrow waist of Tel Aviv, so by being here in Efrat I’m actually protecting the people of Tel Aviv.”

But the fact remains, Palestinians want the West Bank for their future state; the Obama administration agrees as does much of the international community.

Israelis remain divided about settlements. According to recent opinion polls, most agree that a two-state solution is the best path to peace. But they are divided about the chances of successful negotiations — as well as the future of settlers of the West Bank.


Nima Shirazi - On the Table & Off the Map: Threats, Lies, and Iranian Elections


By Mary Rizzo • Jun 12th, 2009 at 22:03 • Category: Analysis, Counter-terrorism, No thanks!, Mary's Choice, Newswire, Religion, War

Eight days after Barack Obama delivered his much-touted speech in Cairo, Iranians are going to the polls to vote for their own president. Although reelection for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemed to be guaranteed just a few weeks ago, there now appears to be growing potential for an upset victory by challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been running a campaign as the candidate of change.

Mousavi is no new-comer to the Iranian political stage. He held the now-defunct post of Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989 (which was, at the time, an executive position much akin to the current presidency) during Iran's brutal eight-year war with Iraq. Currently the president of the Iranian Academy of Arts, the trilingual Mousavi - Farsi, Arabic, and English - served as a presidential adviser from 1989 to 2005 and held a position on the Expediency Council, Iran's highest arbitration body.

In the American and European mainstream media, Iranian supporters of Mousavi are routinely referred to as "more educated," "better off," and "pro-Western" than their counterparts who support Ahmadinejad. The Iranian economy, which has seen rising inflation and slowed growth in the past four years, has become a major point of contention during the campaign process and recent debates. The President has been blamed for three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, diminishing Iranian prestige and reputation internationally, and Mousavi even chided him as arrogant and driving Iran toward "dictatorship."

Ahmadinejad's detractors point to all these factors as proof of his failed leadership; however, a closer look into the accusations may reveal a different story - or, at least, a different perspective.

Ahmadinejad is a populist who is seen as having "a deep sympathy for the poor" and has worked very hard to redistribute wealth across the wide range of socioeconomic tiers of Iranian society. He has helped the poor and lower middle class by increasing pensions (sometimes by more than doubling them), loans, and government workers’ wages, also increasing and maintaining financial support for the families of those killed or wounded during the Iran-Iraq War. The New York Times reports that Ahmadinejad "has also handed out so-called justice shares of state firms that are selling stock to the public, and provided low-interest loans to young married couples and entrepreneurs."

Still, opponents claim that his focus on redistribution, rather than creation, of wealth within Iran has harmed the Iranian economy and has resulted in increased unemployment, especially in Iran's vast young population. Nevertheless, his supporters disagree. “Who says Ahmadinejad created unemployment?” twenty-five year old market worker Hamid Nassiri told the Times. “It’s not true at all. He is from the people, and he attends to the people’s needs.”

In fact, even though discussion of the Iranian economy seems to be working against Ahmadinejad, Kelly Campbell of the U.S. Institute of Peace has thoroughly debunked many of the myths about Iranian economic turmoil, explaining that the country has "actually performed well in aggregate terms, with a moderate rate of growth in the last ten to fifteen years, including healthy GDP and per capita growth in investment. In the last three years, Iran's actual growth rate has averaged 5.8 percent." Kelly continues,

Nor do economic indicators support assertions by some observers that inflation is much higher than the rate stated by the Iranian government. In the last fifteen years, the consumer price index (CPI) has increased by a factor of forty-two; if the inflation rate were actually twice the reported rate, the CPI would have increased by a factor of 950. Prices have increased by a factor of five in the last ten years, not twenty, as some claim. While this rate of inflation is cause for concern, it is in line with the depreciation of the exchange rate.

[Another] myth is that Iran suffers from widespread poverty and rising inequality. The poverty rate actually declined throughout the 1990s and continues to fall, and is low by international standards—especially when compared to that of other developing countries. Government public service and social assistance programs have helped to reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas. In addition, economic inequality throughout Iran has remained fairly stable and does not appear to be increasing.

Over the past few years, Ahmadinejad has also courted economic alliances with a number of Latin and South American nations, promising $1 billion to help develop Bolivia's oil and gas sector, opening a trade office in Ecuador, and entering into various agreements with Nicaragua, Cuba, Paraguay, Brazil and, of course, Venezuela. Surprisingly, however, not all of these overtures have to do with oil trade. In 2007, Nicaragua received a loan of over $200 million from Iran to build a hydroelectric dam and, in August of last year, Ahmadinejad donated $2 million for the construction of a hospital. The Council of Hemispheric Affairs' Braden Webb reports that "Venezuela and Iran are now gingerly engaged in an ambitious joint project, putting on-line Veniran, a production plant that assembles 5,000 tractors a year, and plans to start producing two Iranian designed automobiles to provide regional consumers with the 'first anti-imperialist cars.'"

Ahmadinejad's inroads into Latin and South American, in order to act as "counter-lasso" to the United States, have certainly upped his anti-imperialism credentials - so much so, in fact, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the strong relations “disturbing.”

Mousavi, on the other hand, has set his sites closer to home, attacking Ahmadinejad for focusing on the Americas rather than "investing in Iran's neighboring countries…the President has obviously failed to get his priorities right.” Mousavi, on the other hand, favors increased privatization and foreign investment. "We should create an economic revolution to fight inflation," he said during a televised debate. "The private sector is a vital part of our plans to revive the country's economy." Believing that Ahmadinejad squandered excess oil revenue while in office, Mousavi insists, "The oil industry should improve. Right now our economy is solely restricted to oil exports without realizing that the oil industry is dependent on other economic sectors" and that "stable economic policies will help Iran to attract foreign investment."

As a self-described reformist, Mousavi has rallied a strong following by calling for more freedom of the press, freedom of information, more professional opportunities for women, the abolition of the so-called "Morality Police," as well as noting that "blinkered attitudes and false interpretations of Islamic teachings do not satisfy public interests and only trigger the country's backwardness." He wishes to push for more personal freedoms, lifting the state ban on private television stations, and also believes that the supervision of police and law enforcement forces should be handed over to the President, rather than remaining in the hands of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

As to Mousavi's claims that Ahmadinejad is dictatorial, the fact that Ahmadinejad has no control over Iran's military, doesn't have final say on foreign policy matters, has no power over the nuclear energy program, and has often been challenged by both the Majlis (Parliament) and Judiciary, quickly exposes those accusations as campaign rhetoric and name-calling. In fact, the Iranian legislature rejected more than two-thirds of Ahmadinejad's recommendations for ministers which resulted in it taking almost a year before his Cabinet was fully staffed. Hardly the trajectory of a tyrant.

The view from the United States appears to be that, with a Mousavi win on Friday, relations between Iran and America will improve. Mousavi clearly strikes a more conciliatory tone when discussing international affairs than does Ahmadinejad, who has always been consistent in his insistance that Iran has every legal right to enrich uranium under the protocols of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that sanctions against Iran imposed by UN Security Council resolutions are themselves illegal.

"Our country was harmed because of extremist policies adopted in the last three years…My foreign policy with all countries will be one of detente," Mousavi said after first announcing his candidacy. "We should try to gain the international community's trust while preserving our national interests." He has also said, “In foreign policy we have undermined the dignity of our country and created problems for our development."

Nevertheless, the former prime minister insists that "Iran will never abandon its nuclear right" and echoes the statements of both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad when saying, "If America practically changes its Iran policy, then we will surely hold talks with them."

It is clear that an electoral victory for Mousavi would be seen as a political victory for Barack Obama as well. It is assumed that Mousavi is more "rational and reasonable" than Ahmadinejad and would therefore be more amenable to Washington's demands, regardless of how illegal and hypocritical those demands may be. As such, he is the preferred candidate by Western analysts and politicians.

But how different would the United States treat Iran, really?

Back in 2003, soon after the invasion of Iraq, the Iranian government sent a "proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States" and the fax suggested everything was on the table - including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups." Flynt Leverett, a senior director on the National Security Council staff at the time, described the Iranian proposal as "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement." A Washington Post report from 2006 revealed that the document listed "a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its 'legitimate security interests.' Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, 'decisive action' against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending 'material support' for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation."

The proposal was roundly rejected by the Bush administration.

The then-government of reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami - now a Mousavi supporter - even voluntarily suspended uranium enrichment from 2003 to 2005 and still received nothing but lies and threats from the United States and its European allies. As Ahmadinejad recently pointed out, "There was so much begging for having three centrifuges. Today more than 7,000 centrifuges are turning," and then asking, "Which foreign policy was successful? Which one created degradation? Which one kept our independence more, which one gave away more concessions but got no results?"

Many commentators point to a new approach from Barack Obama's Washington, which they believe should be reciprocated from Tehran. Apparently, Obama's recent Cairo speech appealed to many Iranians, even government officials. Ali Akbar Rezaie, the director-general of Iran's foreign ministry's office responsible for North America commended the new tone coming from the US president, saying, "Compared to anything we've heard in the last 30 years, and especially in the last eight years, his words were very different…People in the region received the speech, from this angle, very positively, with sympathy." He added that the upcoming Iranian election would set the stage for a new chapter in US-Iran relations. "After the election we will be in a better position to manage relations with the United States," he said. "We'll be at the beginning of a new four-year period, and the political framework will be clear."

But what has Obama said to or about Iran that should prompt such positive and optimistic responses? Not a whole lot.

Exactly one year to the day before his Cairo speech, and the day after clinching the Democratic nomination for president, Obama stood before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and stated that "There is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran." He said this about a country that has not threatened nor attacked any other country in centuries and harbors absolutely no ambitions of territorial expansion. The same can obviously not be said about Israel, or the United States. Obama continued,

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

Obama threatened Iran with ratcheted up pressure, if it did not bend to American demands - demands based on unfounded accusations and outright lies. This pressure would not be limited to "aggressive, principled diplomacy" but would include "all elements of American power to pressure Iran." Just to be clear, Obama promised his audience to "do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

In his inaugural address, Obama seemed to calm down and offered the Muslim world "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect." A week later, during an interview with Al Arabiya TV, the new president reiterated his insistence that the US was now "ready to initiate a new partnership [with the Muslim world] based on mutual respect and mutual interest."

Two months later, in March, Obama addressed the Iranian people and government directly by releasing a taped message on the occasion of the Iranian New Year. The message urged a "new beginning" in diplomatic relations. Obama said,

"My Administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran, and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek, instead, engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."

Obama's emphasis on "mutual respect" is striking considering the near constant usage of that phrase in Iranian overtures for years. Many Iranian officials, including UN ambassador Javad Zarif, former president Rafsanjani, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Assefi, have been calling for international relations based on "mutual respect." The Mossadegh Project's Arash Norouzi points out, as far back as February 2000, then President Khatami was saying, "We believe in existing alongside, and forging relations with, all countries…on the basis of mutual respect and interests." Then, in early 2004, then Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi said, "We call for positive and constructive dialogue on the basis of mutual respect." In December 2007, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated, "As senior Iranian officials have reiterated, we welcome any rational approach that is based on mutual respect."

Ahmadinejad himself has used the phrase a number of times ever since he was the mayor of Tehran and running for president. More recently, in a July 2008 interview with NBC News, Ahmadinejad wondered if the United States was finally beginning "a new approach; in other words, mutual respect, cooperation, and justice? Or is this approach a continuation in the confrontation with the Iranian people but in a new guise?"

Some say that where Ahmadinejad is confrontational, Mousavi will be more mollifying. But Ahmadinejad has always been ready for diplomatic engagement with the United States, despite what you may hear constantly in the mainstream media. In fact, the day after Obama'sAl Arabiya interview, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech in the Iranian town of Kermanshah. This is how his speech ended:

We welcome change but on the condition that change is fundamental and on a right course, otherwise the world should know, that anyone with the same speaking manner of Mr. Bush, same language of Mr. Bush, the same spirit of Mr. Bush, adventurism of Mr. Bush, even using new words to speak to the nation of Iran, the answer is the same Mr. Bush and his lackeys received over the years.

We hear that they are making plans for Iran. We in turn wait patiently, listen carefully to their words, carefully assess actions under the magnifying glass and if a real change occurs in a fundamental way, we shall welcome it.

In May, at the request of Barack Obama, the Pentagon updated its plans for using military force against Iran. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained that "as a result of our dialogue with the president, we've refreshed our plans and all options are on the table." So much for not advancing threats.

Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and long-time AIPACer Dennis Ross as top Iran advisor is also troubling. Clinton once threatened to "totally obliterate Iran" if it ever attacked Israel with the nuclear weapons it doesn't have and has suggested that negotiations with Iran, while doubtfully being fruitful, will be primarily useful to garner support for more “crippling” multilateral sanctions. Also, it has long been said that Ross has advocated an "engagement with pressure" strategy of dealing with Iran which, as Ismael Hossein-Zadeh explains, "means projecting or pretending negotiation with Iran in order to garner broader international support for the US-sponsored economic pressure on that country." In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, former National Security Council staff members Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett relate what Ross revealed to them regarding his cynical strategy:

In conversations with Mr. Ross before Mr. Obama’s election, we asked him if he really believed that engage-with-pressure would bring concessions from Iran. He forthrightly acknowledged that this was unlikely. Why, then, was he advocating a diplomatic course that, in his judgment, would probably fail? Because, he told us, if Iran continued to expand its nuclear fuel program, at some point in the next couple of years President Bush’s successor would need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. Citing past “diplomacy” would be necessary for that president to claim any military action was legitimate.

They also make it clear that, "the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Under these circumstances, the Iranian government — regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June 12 — will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile."

Even more recently, during his speech in Cairo, Obama, after once again mentioning "mutual respect," said that "any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." Whereas this sounds like an unprecedented admission by a sitting US president, it's important to remember what Bush said to Charlie Gibson back in 2002 during an ABC News interview: "Matter of fact, I said this in a press conference, that it's the sovereign right of Iran to have civilian nuclear power, and I agree, and I believe that."

As Iran Affairs' Cyrus Safdari points out, "Arguably, Bush's statement is more sweeping than Obama's…compare 'may have some right' to 'has a sovereign right'." He continues,

In any case, Iran's absolute and unqualified and unquestionable right to access the full nuclear fuel cycle is based on international law and not for Obama or Bush to decide. Iran has the same rights to nuclear technology (or any other technology) as Japan, Argentina, Brazil, the USA…

Nor is it up to Iran to "prove that its aspirations are peaceful" (code words for "must give up enrichment and forever rely on us to power their economy".) Iran has signed the NPT and after years of inspections, no evidence has been found of any weapons program. The burden is therefore on Iran's accusers to prove their allegations, and not vice versa.

Meanwhile, not only is Iran's nuclear program legal, it is under heavy scrutiny by the IAEA. Just recently, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh, confirmed Tehran's continued cooperation with the UN nuclear agency while at the same time it continues its uranium enrichment activities. He told reporters, “After six years of intrusive and robust inspection and issuance of 24 reports, the director general has once again reported to the world that there is no evidence of any diversion of nuclear material or case of prohibitive nuclear activities.“

Nevertheless, Obama presented Iran on Sunday with a "clear choice" of halting its nuclear and missile activity or facing increased isolation.

Maybe the US just doesn't like Ahmadinejad, what with his deliberately being mistranslated and intentionally misquoted by Western media. Blamed for threatening to "wipe Israel off the map" (an idiom that doesn't even exist in Farsi), Ahmadinejad is constantly called a Holocaust denier for questioning why the horrific Nazi genocide of European Jews resulted in the violent displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Ahmadinejad has never threatened to attack Israel, but rather hopes that the people of Palestine can all - Jews, Christians, and Muslims - vote for whatever type of government system they are to live under. Ahmadinejad's willingness to bring up issues pertaining to Zionism without worrying about the delicate sensibilities of Western audiences has made him a pariah.

Obviously, it is seldom remembered that, in 2001, the former Iranian president and putative moderate, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is now heavily supporting Mousavi's run for office, declared that although Israel would be destroyed by an atomic bomb, the Muslim world would only be damaged by one and therefore "such a scenario is not inconceivable." Nevertheless, the LA Times noted back in 2006, "four years later, when Rafsanjani was running for president, Washington and its European allies were eagerly hoping that he would win." Apparently, an actual threat of nuclear destruction didn't seem to bother Western powers at the time. Now all they talk about is a fictitious one.

Still, hopes are that Mousavi will be more tactful in his discussion of Zionism and Israel's reliance on the Holocaust for its own existential validation. Recently, when asked about his views on the Holocaust, Mousavi said: "Killing innocent people is condemned. The way the issue [Holocaust] was put forward [by Ahmadinejad] was incorrect," but continued in a manner almost identical to the incumbent president, "Of course the question could be that why Palestinians should be punished for a crime committed by Germans?"

As millions of Iranians flood to the polls today to vote, it may become clear that a vote for Ahmadinejad is more a vote for continued Iranianresistance to US influence and hegemony in the region, whereas a vote for Mousavi is a vote for possible reconciliation based on Iranian fears, American demands, and Israeli paranoia and deception.

And so, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Nima Shirazi was born and raised in Manhattan. He now lives in Brooklyn and writes the weblog Wide Asleep In America under the moniker Lord Baltimore. He can be reached at wideasleepinamerica (at) gmail (dot) com. (and the credit to him will be fully restored on PTT when it leaves the Mary's Choice area.. the computer obligates it thus!)

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Mary Rizzo is an art restorer, translator and writer living in Italy. Editor and co-founder of Palestine Think Tank, co-founder of Tlaxcala translations collective. Her personal blog is Peacepalestine.
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Obama @ Yad Vashem

Obama at Yad Vashem: Honoring the Holocaust and protecting Israel, but not the ‘Greater Israel’ of the settlements.

By Tony Karon

The line in last Friday’s New York Times summed it up: Some Israelis and their American supporters are furious with President Barack Obama, the Times reported, because they saw his Cairo speech as “elevating the Palestinians to equal status.” And those who would be threatened by Palestinians being viewed as equal human beings to Israelis may have reason to be concerned. That’s because whatever its policy implications — and the jury is very much still out on those — Obama’s Cairo speech marked a profound conceptual shift in official Washington’s discourse on the nature and causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of America’s obligations to each side. So much so that one as prone pessimism as I was before the speech was forced to note that the reason Israel’s more right-wing supporters are worried is that, rhetorically at least, Obama was trying to move the U.S. position towards one of an honest broker. He began with the Israelis, rooting America’s “unbreakable bond” with Israel on a recognition of the centuries of persecution suffered by Jews that culminated in the Holocaust. “Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today,” he noted. “Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.” This, of course, is sound advice. As I’ve previously written on this site,

“Arab Holocaust denial … evades confronting the fact that not only did the Holocaust happen to the Jews of Europe, but because it happened to the Jews of Europe — and because of the reaction by other Western powers before and after the fact — the Holocaust profoundly changed the Arab world. Indeed, in this sense, the Holocaust may have been one of the most important historical events shaping Arab history over the past century… The memory of the Holocaust is such a powerful ideological tool for Zionism precisely because of its reality — it speaks the collective memory of Ashkenazi Jews of our fate in Europe, and it pricks the conscience of the perpetrators and those who preferred to turn away. To respond by trying to deny the reality of the Holocaust is as profoundly immoral as it is idiotic — creating a kind of binary game in which if Israel says mother’s milk is good for babies, the likes of Ahmedinajad will convene a symposium to prove the superiority of formula. The point about the Holocaust is that it happened to the Jews of Europe, and afterwards, as a result of the efforts of the Zionist movement and some combination of shame and latent anti-Semitism in the West, many of its survivors had no choice but to go to Palestine, where they were willing to fight with every fiber of their being for survival, without the luxury of considering the history and context into which they’d been thrust. In the war that followed, Palestinian Arabs, who had been 55 % of the population and had controlled around 80 % of the land, now found themselves displaced and dispossessed, confined to a mere 22 % of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza), and prevented by a series of ethnic-cleansing laws passed by the State of Israel at its inception from reclaiming the homes and land from which they’d mostly fled in legitimate fear of their lives. So, the Holocaust, in a very real way, reverberated traumatically in Palestinian national life: It was the narrative that fueled the ferocity with which many of those who drove the Palestinians from their homes in 1948 approached the struggle.

Indeed, Obama appeared well aware of that reality in turning to the Palestinians’ story: He became the first American president to officially enter into the public record an official acknowledgment of the Palestinian national trauma known as the “Nakbah”. He didn’t use the term, of course, but he made clear that for the Palestinians, Israel’s creation in 1948 was a catastrophe that resulted in their “displacement,” leaving many languishing in refugee camps ever since. That trauma was followed, since 1967, with the humiliation of occupation. So, Obama identified the Palestinians as an oppressed and dispossessed people engaged in a struggle for their national rights — although he was sharply critical of their methods, and urged them to follow the strategic examples of the African-American civil rights struggle and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, even if some of his characterizations and comparisons were a bit iffy. Obama said

“It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”

Obama here roots the Palestinian plight in the expulsions of 1948 — he’s not just talking about the Palestinians under occupation; he’s talking about the refugees, too, and vowing not to turn his back on them, even if a two-state solution necessarily truncates their aspirations. To frame the Palestinian national experience as a 60-year quest for statehood is misguided, of course — as Rob Malley and Hussein Agha make clear, the Palestinian national movement has always been organized around the principle of throwing off occupation and recovering that which was taken from Palestinians in 1948. Statehood, as in the two-state conception in which the Palestinians would have cede their claims to much of what was once theirs, was a realpolitik political compromise adopted by the PLO leadership from around 1988, and never especially enthusiastically embraced by their base. Still, it appears increasingly likely that Hamas will, in its own way, reach a similar realist conclusion, based on the fact that as much as they’d prefer that Israel had never been born (so would Mahmoud Abbas and all of Fatah, frankly), they know it’s not going anywhere. Obama’s scolding of the Palestinians on violence was also double-edged:

“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia, to Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end.”

That formulation is replete with flaws, of course: The grim reality for Palestinians is that they were a forgotten people until the late 1960s and early 70s, when the PLO’s campaign of high profile terror attacks put them back in the headlines. And the only reason Israel agreed to talk to the PLO ahead of the Oslo Accords was that the intifada uprising that began in 1987 made the occupation politically untenable. Moreover, following Obama’s civil rights analogy, Palestinians could not peacefully appeal to the “ideals at the center of” Israel’s founding for full and equal rights in the way that African Americans did of the United States, since the very principle of a “Jewish State” required their exclusion. (If the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan had been implemented, Palestinian Arabs would have been 45% of the population of what would become Israel). And as for using South Africa as a stick with which to beat home the message that the Palestinians have to “renounce violence”, it ought to be remembered that the Nelson Mandela and the ANC never, in fact, renounced violence, until the apartheid regime had accepted the principle of democratic majority rule. Still, far more significant than these flaws in his reasoning is the fact that Obama appeared to acknowledge that the Palestinians have a right to resist their plight — he challenged their resorting to violent resistance, instead urging them to pursue non-violent means of resistance, both on moral grounds and also because they’re more likely to effective. And in suggesting that the Palestinians learn from African-Americans or black South Africans under apartheid, he was recognizing their narrative of dispossession and oppression. I don’t remember the Palestinian side of the story ever having been explained to the American people by its government in this way. Instead, the Palestinians have usually entered the American conversation on the conflict mostly through the prism of the Israeli narrative, i.e. as a threat to Israel. Obama, as the NYT noted Israel’s boosters are complaining, has elevated the Palestinian narrative to equal status. Doing so, Obama believes, is actually vital to achieving peace. He argued,

“For decades, then, there has been a stalemate. Two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers. For Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history, from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth.

The narratives also connect, of course: It was not the Palestinians who authored the Holocaust, yet they paid a heavy territorial price for the establishment Jewish safe haven in its wake. And their resistance to their dispossession, and later occupation, has reinforced the belief, among many Israelis, that they remain under threat of extermination — a belief often callously exploited by politicians with an expansionist agenda: They called the 1967 borders “Auschwitz borders” (even though those included twice as much territory as was awarded to Israel in the UN Partition plan), and began to expand their grip on the West Bank. And any move, even by Israeli authorities, to evict settlers who have stolen and colonized Palestinian land, is denounced by settlers and their supporters as an echo of Jewish dispossession under Nazism. One of the sticking points in talking to Hamas, on the other hand, is its refusal to recognize the State of Israel. Yet that’s explained by the place of the Nakbah in the Palestinian national narrative: For many Palestinians, even Fatah supporters, “recognizing” Israel appears to be a demand that they accept and legitimize the very “dislocation” of 60 years ago that Obama recognized. In recognizing both competing narratives, Obama has waded into the conflict’s most intractable issues. He hopes to navigate that minefield with the two-state concept, which is why he was so harsh on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — their very existence undercuts prospects for a two-state solution, not simply because they were created in violation of international law, but because the physical space they occupy makes a mockery of the physical integrity of any Palestinian state. (To recap on our political geography, the 1947 partition plan offered what the Palestinians deemed a bitter pill by requiring that they, then 55% of the population and owners of most of the land, accept 55% of Palestine being awarded to a Jewish state comprised mostly of refugees from Europe, leaving them in political control of the remaining 45%. The 1948 war left them, under Egyptian and Jordanian authority, in control of the West Bank and Gaza, comprising only half of what had been allocated them in the partition plan — and those territories came under Israeli occupation after the 1967 war. When the Palestinians in 1988 moved to accept a state on the occupied 22% of historic Palestine — the West Bank and Gaza — that was a massive compromise. But ever since then, the settlements have been systematically carving up and shrinking even that 22%…) Obama attempted to draw a red line on settlements, saying “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” Hence, a solid U.S. bond with Israel to guarantee its survival and security in a hostile environment, but no endorsement of an expansive Zionism that calls on Jews to “redeem” the Biblical Land of Israel by settling on West Bank land. By insisting that Palestinians are born equal to Israelis and that their side of the conflict be understood, and that Israel halt its expansion into Palestinian territory, Obama is forcing Israel to confront a basic question of its own identity — and also to reckon with the fact that its creation, and expansion, have occurred at the expense of another people who are deemed of equal status in the mind of the American president. No wonder, then, that some Israelis and their American supporters are annoyed.

Obama’s real impact will be measured by what he does on the conflict rather than by what he says. Still, those prone to pessimism about U.S. policy on the Middle East changing should consider the fact that even before he’s done a thing, he’s changed the discourse, signaling that the United States has moral obligations to both sides.

June 11, 2009 Posted by Elias



Following Israel's Operation Cast Lead, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented the toll on Gaza's children and published it in May. It did so "in response to the unprecedented number of children who were killed (and injured) by (the Israeli Defense Forces) during the offensive on Gaza." According to international standards, the Convention on the Rights of the Child's (CRC) definition was used to apply to anyone under age 18.

PCHR reviewed IDF killing of Gaza's children since the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000, then focused on the 313 youth deaths during the recent conflict. Its evidence comes from eye-witness accounts of the willful targeting of civilians, including women and children.

Also covered are the psychological scars and "alarming scale of physical injuries" leaving some children blind and many others (as well as adults) permanently disabled by the loss of limbs and psychological trauma.

PCHR's report bears testimony to Israel's contempt for international laws, its imperial agenda, culture of violence, disdain for peace, genocidal intentions, disparagement of Arabs and Islam, and its scorn for Palestinian lives and welfare.

PCHR presented 13 case studies in its report. Briefly discussed below, they represent a small fraction of the many hundreds killed and thousands more grievously harmed.


Since the September 2000 Second Intifada, Israeli forces killed 1179 children, including 865 in Gaza as part of a decades-long policy of collectively punishing millions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, mostly civilian men, women, and children.

"We have noticed the appearance of white spots on the children's faces and all are suffering from obvious psychological repercussions, including re-occurrence of nightmares, constant screaming out of fear, bed-wetting and various health problems, including nausea and vomiting. The children are terrified and refuse to eat or play."

Israel calls self-defense "terrorism" and justifies its actions as responses to militant missile or other attacks. PCHR's investigations "have consistently undermined these claims," and condemns all killing, especially of children.

In September 2006, the London Independent's Donald Macintyre headlined his story: "Gaza: The children killed in a war the world doesn't want to know about." He wrote about more than 37 children under 18 killed since June 25 during Israel's Operation Summer Rain, according to PCHR figures, out of an overall 228 total, mostly civilians.

He highlighted a "forgotten war in the Middle East" with young boys, girls and adults blown apart by Israeli shells and missiles, but who notices. He said the IDF attacks heavily populated areas indiscriminately on the pretext of fighting a "terrorist infrastructure." He stressed that "attention (was) diverted from Gaza as Israel launch(ed) a full military invasion of southern Lebanon" yet civilian deaths mounted in both areas.

He listed by name Gazan children under 18 killed and by what means ~ from airstrikes, while playing football, missiles, shrapnel, tank or artillery shells, and shot in the head or chest at close range. Khitam Mohammed Rebhi Tayey was one ~ age 11. Aya Salmeya another ~ age 9.

Avichai Mandelblit

Israel rarely responds to public outrage or investigates its crimes, including against children. The few times it does turn into whitewashes. After 11 days on March 30, 2009, military advocate general Avichai Mandelblit closed the IDF's inquiry into Israeli soldiers' accounts of Operation Cast Lead crimes and dismissed them as unfounded.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Protection for Children

Various laws apply, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). As protected persons, they're to be safeguarded against willful killing, coercion, corporal punishments, torture, collective penalties and reprisals.

They are only protected if the soldiers or invading troops actually respect such laws and injunctions. It is well known that Israel does not care about what is said about them they still go on doing them.

CRC was the first legally binding international instrument incorporating all human rights for children, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social. They're now universally agreed on non-negotiable standards and obligations supporting their rights.

“Around 10 am a missile fell outside the office window, near the pediatric unit, where the new babies lie in incubators. Almost all children were killed immediately. There was a 2nd missile soon after, which caught on fire after hitting the same area.”

CRC's Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict took effect on February 12, 2002. Israel ratified it on July 18, 2005 and CRC in 1991. The Optional Protocol strengthens children's rights, recognizes that they require special protection, and condemns their being targeted in armed conflicts, especially in schools, hospitals or at home.

Israel is legally bound under both laws and Geneva, yet disdains them repeatedly, especially by "willful killing" through indiscriminate attacks or deliberately targeting civilian areas or structures.

Truth and Lies: Operation Cast Lead and Civilian Deaths

Besides vast destruction and mass population displacement, 313 children were killed among the 1414 who died over a 23-day period. Of the 5300 injured (many seriously), 1606 were children. In all cases, the vast majority were noncombatants.

Of the children killed:

~ most were at home or nearby;

~ around one-third were girls and the rest boys;

~ almost 15% were under age 5 and another one-fourth between 5 and 10;

~ the remainder were between 11 and 17;

~ the "overwhelming majority" were killed in densely populated residential areas;

~ 46% were killed in northern Gaza;

~ 38% in Gaza City;

~ 9% in Khan Yunis and Rafah and 7% in less densely populated areas.

Israel used conventional and illegal weapons. The former included missiles, artillery and tank shells, mortars, and automatic weapons.

With one parent dead and the other traumatized, this child dumpster dives for dinner.

Others included:

~ white phosphorous that burns flesh to the bone and can be fatal; it's use is prohibited in civilian areas;

~ flechettes that are 4cm long darts used as anti-personnel weapons; they penetrate to the bone and can cause multiple horrific injuries; up to 8000 of them can be packed into one artillery shell; on explosion, they travel at high speed in multiple directions up to around 300 meters; and

~ various other internationally prohibited weapons that PCHR investigations uncovered and condemned.

Its case studies show a consistent failure of Israeli forces to protect civilian lives, especially those of children. They document indiscriminate attacks against densely populated neighborhoods in grave violation of international laws.

To safeguard civilians and non-military areas and structures, IHL requires that precautions be taken in any attack, and civilian protection is paramount. Israel pays no heed and attacks indiscriminately in grave violation of the law.

Case Study One ~ The Olaiwa Family

Gaza City's Isma'il (age 7), Mo'men (age 13), Mo'tassem (age 14) and Lana Olaiwa, (age 9) and their mother Amal were killed when an artillery shell struck their home on January 5, 2009. Three other family members were injured, including Amal's husband, Haider, and her eldest son, Muntasser.

Two survivors were too badly injured to be interviewed. PCHR spoke to Fadwa Olaiwa, Haider's sister, who lived two floors below. She said that 42 extended family members lived in the four-story house. The shell killed five of them in their kitchen where Amal was cooking.

When Fadwa heard the explosion, she ran upstairs and saw what happened. She found Amal decapitated by the refrigerator and the other bodies close by. Haider, Muntasser and Ghadir were taken to Gaza City's al-Shifa Hospital.

Haider sustained permanent facial and jaw injuries. Ghadir's right arm was seriously injured. She and her father's hearing were badly damaged. Muntasser had serious liver and stomach shrapnel wounds requiring two operations. Metal is still embedded in his right leg, and he continues to undergo treatment.

PCHR investigations confirm that no combatants or military targets were close by at the time of the attack. Artillery shells were fired indiscriminately, have a range of up to 60 km, and were used against entire areas, including civilian ones. This attack and many others like it constitute war crimes on two counts under Articles 8(2)(b)(ii) and (iv) of the International Criminal Court Statute.

Case Study Two ~ the al-Dayah Family

In the Zaytoun district of eastern Gaza, 22 family members were killed when a bomb struck their home ~ including 12 children and a pregnant woman. The explosion destroyed the house and buried many of the family inside. Only two family members survived, 28-year old Aamer and his brother Rida. Those killed included:

~ Fayez Musbah Hasham, age 60

~ Kawkab Sa'id Hussein, age 57

~ Radwan Fayez Musbah, age 22

~ Sabrin Fayez Musbah, age 24

~ Raghda Fayez Musbah, age 34

~ Eyad Fayez Musbah, age 36

~ Rawda Hilal Hussein, age 32

~ Ali Eyad Fayez Musbah, age 10

~ Khitam Eyad Fayez Musbah, age 9

~ Alaa' Eyad Fayez Musbah, age 7

~ Raba'a Eyad Fayez, age 6

~ Sharaf Al-Din Eyad Fayez, age 5

~ Mohammed Eyad Fayez, age 7 months

~ Ramez Fayez Musbah, age 27

~ Safaa' Saleh Mohammed, age 20

~ Baraa' Ramez Fayez, age 1.5

~ Salsabil Ramez Fayez, age 5 months

~ Tazal Isma'il Isma'il Mohammed, age 28 and 8 months pregnant

~ Amani Mohammed Fayez, age 6

~ Qamar Mohammed Fayez, age 5

~ Arij Mohammed Fayez, age 3, and

~ Yousef Mohammed Fayez, age two

On February 3, 2009, PCHR interviewed Aamer al-Dayah (who was home) and his brother, Rida who was outside the house when attacked. Aamer said 24 family members shared seven apartments in the building.

When it was struck, the force knocked Aamer unconscious, and he awakened under rubble. Rida was at a nearby mosque at the time. He rushed home, freed Aamer and his twin brother Radwan inside, still alive but only barely until he died on January 9.

Both survivors told PCHR that the explosion flung some family members meters outside their home while others inside were burned beyond recognition. They had no advance warning of an immanent attack, but PCHR fieldworkers learned there was military activity nearby.

However, all al-Dayah family members were civilians. The IDF attack gravely breached international law and constitutes two war crime counts under Articles 8(2)(b)(ii) and (iv) of the International Criminal Court Statute.

According to IHL principles, Israeli forces used excessive and disproportionate force against a known civilian target resulting in the death of 22 al-Dayah family members ~ a crime Palestinians will long remember.

Knowing the mindset of these "soldiers" I can almost hear them congratulating themselves on such a great hit! Better than "One hit, Two kills" in their minds. I wonder if they give bonus points for erasing complete families.

Case Study Three ~ the al-Battran family

On January 16, six al-Battran family members were slaughtered in their al-Bureji refugee camp home by an Israeli aircraft fired missile. Killed were Manal and five of her children:

~ Manal, age 32

~ Islam, age 15

~ Eman, age 9

~ twin sister Ehsan, age 9

~ Bilal, age 6 and

~ Izziddin, age 3

One year old son Abdul Hadi and Amal's husband Issa survived. On February 25, PCHR interviewed Issa's brother, Diaa' who was in the house next door at the time of the attack. When he heard the explosion, he ran over and discovered the bodies, burnt and shorn of some body parts.

According to al-Battran family members, Issa hadn't seen his wife and children since Operation Cast Lead began for fear of being assassinated. The day of the attack was the first time in January he was with them, only to pack clothing before heading to a safer location.

He survived three earlier attempts to kill him because of his position in the Izz ad-Din Al Qassam Brigades.

Shrapnel at the scene identified a US-made Hellfire missile providing clear evidence of US involvement. Killing noncombatants is a war crime as defined in Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the International Criminal Court Statute.

Other Case Studies ~ Further Examples of War Crime Attacks on Noncombatants, Including Children

(1) On January 16, two projectiles killed four Abu Eita family members outside their home, the youngest 2.5 year old Malak Abu.

(2) On January 9, two projectiles destroyed their house and killed six Salha family members, the youngest Bahaa, age 5

(3) On January 5, a projectile killed Mohammed Hijji. Earlier their home was commandeered by Israeli forces. Family members were held prisoners inside, then forced to be human shields so they could occupy a nearby house.

Afterwards the family was ordered to evacuate Zaytoun where they lived, then shot at while leaving, killing their 2.5 year old daughter Shahd. Relatives and Arafat family members told to leave were also fleeing. In progress, one woman was shot and killed. Nine others were wounded. All are civilians, including children.

(4) on January 14, a projectile killed 14 year old Izziddin al-Farra in Qarara village in eastern Gaza while he and his friend Abdul Ghani were bicycling on a rural road. Abdul sustained a serious head injury.

(5) On January 4, Israeli forces shot and killed 1.5 year old Farah al-Helu. Family members were in their home. Soldiers entered, shot and killed 62 year old Fouad, then ordered the family to evacuate. Outside they were shot at, injuring three family members and killing Farah who bled to death.

Mother is being taken to burial.

The eyes of the older boy truly make me weep.

One family member described their ordeal. They tried crawling to safety. Most did but three others were struck and lay in the street. Farah bled to death because emergency care was denied ~ further evidence of a war crime atrocity.

(6) On December 29, a bombing of an adjacent mosque destroyed the Balousha family Jabaliya refugee camp home. Five of eight daughters were killed, the youngest Jawaher age four. Five others were injured and another five homes were seriously damaged.

(7) On January 6, two projectiles struck the yard of Mo'in Deeb's Jabaliya refugee camp home when 10 family members were there. Ten were killed instantly, the youngest Nour Mo'in age 3. Others were injured, four critically. One subsequently died. Another had both legs amputated.

(8) On December 29, a bomb struck the al-'Absi family Yibna refugee camp home in Rafah while those in it were sleeping. Three children died instantly, the youngest Sidqi age 4. Their mother sustained critical injuries. Four other children were also injured.

This child was so traumatized that the sight of the camera terrified him.

He screamed until it was out of sight.

(9) On January 17, a white phosphorous artillery shell struck the area around a Beit Lahiya school killing Bilal al-Ashqar (age 6) and Mohammed al-Ashqar (age 4). Two other family members were seriously injured. Their mother sustained critical head injuries and loss of her right hand. Her 19 year old daughter had her leg blown off. All were sheltering there at the time.

(10) On January 5, a projectile struck a house where the Abdul-Dayem family was attending a condolence ceremony. Those inside fled across the street and were struck by two tank shells containing flechettes. Three family members, including one child, were killed instantly. Two others, including a child, subsequently died of their injuries.

PCHR summarized the 23-day toll as follows:

"Alongside the 313 children killed by Israeli forces during (Operation Cast Lead), 1606 children were injured, with some sustaining horrific disabilities, head and spinal injuries, facial disfiguration, burns and amputation."

Most were in their homes at the time. Others in shelters for their safety. Some of the injured couldn't access medical care resulting in their permanent disability, infection, and for some their death. Even at hospitals, doctors were overwhelmed, under-resourced, and forced to deliver care under battlefield conditions.

The toll on parents and children was horrific, and some surviving adults face a lifelong task of caring for their permanently disabled offspring. Those who lost parents require help from relatives.

The stench of death, injury, vast destruction, displacement, and Gaza still under siege pervades the Territory. The conflict's psychological impact inflicted collective trauma ~ unrelieved and hardly noticed by Israel, America, the West, and most Arab states.

Children more than others suffer most and now experience "anger, sleeping difficulties, nightmares, avoidance of situations that are reminders of the trauma, impairment of concentration, and guilt" because they survived while others didn't.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) approach epidemic levels, but fortunately Gaza's Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) provides some of the best care of its kind in the Middle East. Years of conflict honed their skills.

After hostilities ended, they assessed the psychological damage on children and learned that the overwhelming majority personally witnessed traumatic events that could seriously impair their mental health. For example:

~ 98% of children said they didn't feel safe;

~ 96% didn't think they could protect themselves;

~ 97% thought their families couldn't protect them;

~ 90% heard bombing;

~ 89% saw homes destroyed from it;

~ 65% were forced to evacuate their homes;

~ 61% saw their neighbors' homes bombed;

~ 54% were either physically detained in their homes by soldiers or were trapped inside them during bombings and/or shellings; and

~ 55% said they were told that one or more of their family members or relatives were killed.

Psychologist Hassan Ziyada said: "These children reported high levels of trauma and insecurity that will impact on the psychological and intellectual development....(They're) suffering continual long-term trauma due to the psychological, social and economic effects of the recent offensive, the siege and closure of Gaza, and the internal political situation.

This (attack) came at a very difficult time for all the people of Gaza, especially children, who were already suffering acute feelings of anxiety and powerlessness....Children in Gaza are continuing to exhibit long-term symptoms of hyperactivity, deterioration of their cognitive abilities, intrusive memories and hyper arousal and anxiety."

Ziyada believes many children will develop long-term depression from the loss of loved ones and friends that contribute to a feeling of abandonment. He also said they're experiencing physical body pain, headaches, stomach aches, insomnia and aggressive behavior.

In an appendix, PCHR listed all 313 children killed by name, gender, age, location, date of attack, and date of death. The youngest was one month old Al-Mu'tasim Bellah Mohammed Ibrahim al-Samouni. Also one month old Hala 'Isam Ahmed al-Mnei'i. Israel expressed no regrets nor did America.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday ~ Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Stephen Lendman

Posted by Barbara L at 3:14 PM