Saturday, 5 September 2009

Ahmadinejad, Chavez Vow to Back 'Revolutionary' Nations

Ahmadinejad, Chavez Vow to Back 'Revolutionary' Nations

05/09/2009 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineajd and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez vowed on Saturday to back revolutionary nations and form anti-imperialist fronts, the official IRNA news agency said. "Helping the oppressed and revolutionary nations and expanding anti-imperialist fronts are the main missions of Iran and Venezuela," Ahmadinejad said after meeting Chavez who is on a two-day visit to Tehran.

Chavez, who arrived in Tehran on Friday, said in remarksrebroadcast on Venezuelan television that Iran will "not back down" in its quest for peaceful nuclear energy.

Chavez, Ahmadinejad's main ally in Latin America, arrived in Iran after visiting Syria, Libya and Algeria. He is later scheduled to go to Belarus, Russia, Turkmenistan and Spain.

The visit comes one day after Ahmadinejad said that Iran will not bow to pressure in meeting any deadline set by world powers and is ready for more sanctions over its nuclear program. World powers fear that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the program is peaceful and it is its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) while Israel, which is believed to be the sole nuclear power in the Middle East with more than 200 nuclear heads, is not a signatory for this treaty.

"We are certain that Iran, as it has shown, will not back down in its effort to obtain what is a sovereign right of the people: to have all the equipment and structures to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes," Chavez said in Tehran. "There is not a single proof that Iran is building ... a nuclear bomb," Chavez said. "Soon they will accuse us of also building an atomic bomb" in Venezuela, Chavez added.

Venezuela is working up a preliminary plan for the construction of a "nuclear village" with Iranian assistance in Venezuela, "so that the Venezuelan people can count in the future with this marvelous resource for peaceful uses," Chavez said.

While in Syria, Chavez attacked Israel, calling it an imperialist nation that annihilates other people.

Chavez comments came during a news conference with his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad after a one-hour meeting at the hilltop presidential palace. "Israel has become a country that annihilates people and is hostile to peace," he said, according to the Arabic translation of his remarks to reporters.

Iqbal Tamimi - Why would Rupert Murdoch want to buy a stake in Saudi Media?


By Iqbal Tamimi • Sep 5th, 2009 at 20:56 • Category: Analysis, Biography, Israel, Newswire, Religion, Somoud: Arab Voices of Resistance, Zionism

It seems that the Western media is after Arab media platforms, or are they only after the deep Arab pockets? People in the Middle East are still in a state of shock after last week’s Yahoo business venture of buying, the only Arab internet portal based in Jordan.

Now the latest news is that Rupert Murdoch is holding talks with Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to buy a 20 percent stake in his broadcaster Rotana Media. Rotana, which hosts Fox channels in Saudi Arabia via its TV network, owns rights to more than 2,000 Arabic movies and a large music library.

It is not clear if the deal will be for existing stock or new shares. The news shocked the Arab citizens even though Rotana is an entertainment business and has a negligible role in the news activities. The question that is circulating is why would Murdoch want to invest in Arab films and music production? And why would he marry his business with a Saudi one? Is it only an investment venture in the entertainment business, or has he got another futuristic agenda since the Kingdom Holdings, the investment vehicle for Prince Alwaleed, is already a major shareholder in News Corporation?

It has been said that Murdoch’s News Corporation is after the online video and music on demand service that is currently offering live to viewers as a beta site, since this service is modelled on the US based TV, that allows the American public to watch popular television series in full screen high definition over a broadband internet connection for free. in the USA established only in 2007 is now considered one of the 40 most popular sites. as well has open access to its television, film and music archive throughout the GCC, the rumours go that Murdoch is going to change all that, and his investment plan is to control both Rotana and Hulu and charge for both services.

The majority of Arabs expressed their worries of Murdoch putting his foot in the Middle Eastern Media, since everyone knows his appetite for business expansion, he will never be satisfied with this one step, the minute he is in, he will keep expanding and putting his hands on more media outlets. The main complaint comes from the fact that the Arabs see Murdoch as a person who does not respect them, their faith, or heritage. The majority say that he is gambling with his money if he thinks that the Arabs will forget his far right wing political news machine, or his pro-Israeli stands, and the way his owned Fox News portrays Arabs and Muslims in a negative manner. Many even have already started to call for boycotting Rotana should such investment is to be finalised.

Muslims and Arabs in the Middle East are disgusted with the way Murdouch’s machine portrays them as terrorists, extremists, and militants who are always linked with Al Qaeda in every possible incident, and the fact that the Jewish people are always victims of anti-Semitism.

To make my point I guess I have to copy here Rupert Murdoch’s speech on receiving the American Jewish Committee National Human Relations Award held March 4, 2009 in New York City:

‘Thanks for those kind words, Hugh.

Over the years, some of my wildest critics seem to have assumed I am Jewish. At the same time, some of my closest friends wish I were.

So tonight, let me set the record straight: I live in New York. I have a wife who craves Chinese food. And people I trust tell me I practically invented the word “chutzpah”.

Ladies and gentleman, I thank you for having me tonight. I also want to thank Nelson Peltz … Michael Gould … and the many co-chairs for the time and effort they have put into this event. I am humbled by the honor you have given me – because this award speaks more to your good work than it does to mine.

Michael, I was fascinated to hear you talk about this history of this fine organization. The American Jewish Committee started in response to the persecution of Jews in Czarist Russia. And your response took a very American form: An organization that would speak up for those who could not speak for themselves.

In the century since your founding, the American Jewish Committee has become one of the world’s most influential organizations. Yet though your concerns begin with the safety and welfare of Jews, these concerns are anything but parochial. The reason for this is clear: You know that the best guarantee of the security of Jews anywhere is the freedom of people everywhere.

Your good work has helped bring real and lasting changes to our world. Unfortunately, while some threats have been defeated, new ones have taken their place. And these new threats remind us the AJC’s work is more vital than ever.

In Europe, men and woman who bear the tattoos of concentration camps today look out on a continent where Jewish lives and Jewish property are under attack – and public debate is poisoned by an anti-Semitism we thought had been dispatched to history’s dustbin.

In Iran, we see a regime that backs Hezbollah and Hamas now on course to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In India, we see Islamic terrorists single out the Mumbai Jewish Center in a well-planned and well-coordinated attack that looks like it could be a test run for similar attacks in similar cities around the world.

Most fundamentally, we see a growing assault on both the legitimacy and security of the State of Israel.

This assault comes from people who make clear they have no intention of ever living side-by-side in peace with a Jewish state – no matter how many concessions Israel might make. The reason for this is also clear: These are men who cannot abide the idea of freedom, tolerance, and democracy. They hate Israel for the same reasons they hate us.

At I speak, the flashpoint is Gaza. For months now, Hamas has been raining down rockets on Israeli civilians. Like all terrorist attacks, the aim is to spread fear within free societies, and to paralyze its leaders. This Israel cannot afford. I do not need to tell anyone in this room that no sovereign nation can sit by while its civilian population is attacked.

Hamas knows this better than we do. And Hamas understands something else as well: In the 21st century, when democratic states respond to terrorist attacks, they face two terrible handicaps.

The first handicap is military. It’s true that Israel’s conventional superiority means it could flatten Gaza if it wanted. But the Israeli Defense Forces – unlike Hamas – are accountable to a democratically chosen government.

No matter which party is in the majority, every Israeli government knows it will be held accountable by its people and by the world for the lives that are lost because of its decisions. That’s true for lives of innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire. And it’s also true for the Israeli soldiers who may lose their lives defending their people.

In this kind of war, Hamas does not need to defeat Israel militarily to win a big victory. In fact, Hamas knows that in some ways, dead Palestinians serve their purposes even better than dead Israelis.

In the West we look at this and say, “It makes no sense.” But it does make sense.

If you are committed to Israel’s destruction, and if you believe that dead Palestinians help you score a propaganda victory, you do things like launch rockets from a Palestinian schoolyard. This ensures that when the Israelis do respond, it will likely lead to the death of an innocent Palestinian – no matter how many precautions Israeli soldiers take.

Hamas gets away with this, moreover, because they do not rule Gaza by the consent of those they claim to represent. They rule by fear and intimidation. They are accountable to no one but themselves.

This is the chilling logic of Gaza. And it helps explain why even a strong military power like Israel can find itself at a disadvantage on the ground.

The second handicap for Israel is the global media war. For Hamas, the images of Palestinian suffering – of people losing their homes, of parents mourning their dead children, of tanks rolling through the streets –create sympathy for their cause.

In a battle marked by street to street fighting, the death of innocents is all but inevitable. That is also true of Gaza. And these deaths have led some to call for Israel to be charged with war crimes by an international tribunal.

But I am curious: Why do we never hear calls for Hamas leaders to be charged with war crimes?

Why, for example, do we hear no calls for human rights investigations into Hamas gunmen using Palestinian children as human shields? Why so few stories on the reports of Hamas assassins going to hospitals to hunt down their fellow Palestinians? And where are the international human rights groups demanding that Hamas stop blurring the most fundamental line in warfare: the distinction between civilian and combatant?

I suspect the answer has to do with the same grim logic that leads Hamas to provoke a military battle it knows it cannot win. Whether Israel is ever found guilty of any war crime hardly matters. Hamas gets propaganda win simply by having the charge made often and loudly enough.

In this, Israel finds itself in much the same position the United States found itself in Iraq before the surge. There, al Qaeda realized that it was in its interests to provoke sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni – no matter what the cost to innocent Iraqis. That is the nature of terror. And what we are seeing in Gaza is just one front in this much larger war.

In the West, we are used to thinking that Israel cannot survive without the help of Europe and the United States. Tonight I say to you: Maybe we should start wondering whether we in Europe and the United States can survive if we allow the terrorists to succeed in Israel.

In this new century, the “West” is no longer a matter of geography. The West is defined by societies committed to freedom and democracy. That at least is how the terrorists see it. And if we are serious about meeting this challenge, we would expand the only military alliance committed to the defense of the West to include those on the front lines of this war. That means bringing countries such as Israel into NATO.

My friends, I do not pretend to have all the answers to Gaza this evening. But I do know this: The free world makes a terrible mistake if we deceive ourselves into thinking this is not our fight.

In the end, the Israeli people are fighting the same enemy we are: cold-blooded killers who reject peace … who reject freedom … and who rule by the suicide vest, the car bomb, and the human shield.

Against such an enemy, I will not second-guess the decisions of a free Israel defending her citizens. And I would ask all those who support peace and freedom to do the same.

I thank you for listening. I thank you for this award. And I thank you for all you are doing to make our world a safer and freer place.

After reading Murdoch’s speech I guess his policies are quite clear, and there is nothing ambiguous about them. It remains that the ball is in the Saudi Prince’s court.

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Iqbal Tamimi is a Palestinian journalist and poet from Hebron. She is the creator of a vibrant and important activists' network Palestinian Mothers, open to all who share the vision of peace and justice, men and women alike. She is working now in UK.
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GATES: How the Israel Lobby took control of US Foreign Policy


September 5, 2009


by Jeff Gates – - 14 July 2009

In the early 1960s, Senator William J. Fulbright fought to force the American Zionist Council to register as agents of a foreign government. The Council eluded registration by reorganizing as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has since become what Fulbright most feared: a foreign agent dominating American foreign policy while disguised as a domestic lobby.

Israelis and pro-Israelis object when they hear that charge. How, they ask, can we so few wield such influence over so many? Answer: it’s all in the math. And in the single-issue advocacy brought to bear on U.S. policy-making by dozens of ‘domestic’ organizations that now compose the Israel lobby, with AIPAC its most visible force.

The political math was enabled by Senator John McCain whose support for all things Israeli ensured him the GOP nomination to succeed Christian-Zionist G.W. Bush. McCain’s style of campaign finance reform proved a perfect fit for the Diaspora-based fundraising on which the lobby relies. Co-sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, this change in federal election law typifies how Israeli influence became systemic.

‘McCain-Feingold’ raised the amount (from $1,000 to $2,300) that candidates can receive from individuals in primary and general elections. A couple can now contribute a combined $9,200 to federal candidates: $4,600 in each of the primary and general elections. Primary elections, usuall low-budget, are particularly easy to sway.

Importantly for the Diaspora, this change also doubled the funds candidates can receive without regard to where those contributors reside. A candidate in Iowa, say, may have only a few pro-Israeli constituents. When campaign support is provided by a nationwide network of pro-Israelis, that candidate can more easily be persuaded to support policies sought by Tel Aviv.

Diaspora-based fundraising has long been used by the lobby with force-multiplying success to shape U.S. foreign policy. Under the guise of reform, John McCain doubled the financial resources that the lobby can deploy to elect and retain its supporters.

Fulbright was Right

The influence-peddling process works like this. Candidates are summoned for in-depth AIPAC interviews. Those found sufficiently committed to Israel’s agenda are provided a list of donors likely to “max out” their campaign contributions. Or the process can be made even easier when AIPAC-approved candidates are given the name of a “bundler.”

Bundlers raise funds from the Diaspora and bundle those contributions to present them to the candidate. No quid pro quo need be mentioned. After McCain-Feingold became law in 2003, AIPAC-identified bundlers could raise $1 million-plus for AIPAC-approved candidates simply by contacting ten like-minded supporters. Here’s the math:

The bundler and spouse “max out” for $9,200 and call ten others, say in Manhattan, Miami, and Beverly Hills. Each of them max out ($10 x $9,200) and call ten others for a total of 11. [111 x $9,200 = $1,021,200.]

Imagine the incentive to do well in the AIPAC interview. One call from the lobby and a candidate can collect enough cash to mount a credible campaign in most Congressional districts. From Tel Aviv’s perspective, that political leverage is leveraged yet again because fewer than ten percent of the 435 House races are competitive in any election cycle (typically 35 to 50).

Additional force-multipliers come from: (a) sustaining this financial focus over multiple cycles, (b) using funds to gain and retain seniority for those serving on Congressional committees key to promoting Israeli goals, and (c) opposing candidates who question those goals.

Jewish Achievement reports that 42% of the largest political donors to the 2000 election cycle were Jewish, including four of the top five. That compares to less than 2% of Americans who are Jewish. Of the Forbes 400 richest Americans, 25% are Jewish according to Michael Steinhardt, a key funder of the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC was led by Jewish Zionist Senator Joe Lieberman when he resigned in 2000 to run as vice president with pro-Israeli presidential candidate Al Gore.

Money was never a constraint. Pro-Israeli donors were limited only by how much they could lawfully contribute to AIPAC-screened candidates. McCain-Feingold raised a key limit. The full impact of this foreign influence has yet to be tallied. What’s known, however, is sufficient to apply the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Of the top 50 neoconservatives who advocated war in Iraq, 26 were Jewish (52%).

Harry Truman, a Christian Zionist, remains one of the more notable recipients of funds. In 1948, he was trailing badly in the polls and in fundraising. His prospects brightened dramatically in May after he recognized as a legitimate state an enclave of Jewish extremists who originally planned to settle in Argentina before putting their sights on Palestine.

That recognition was opposed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the bulk of the diplomatic corps, the fledgling Central Intelligence Agency and numerous distinguished Americans, including moderate and secular Jews concerned at the troubles that were certain to follow. Not until 1984 was it revealed that a network of Jewish Zionists had funded Truman’s campaign by financially refueling his whistle-stop campaign train with $400,000 in cash ($3 million in 2009 dollars).

To buy time on the public’s airwaves, money raised from the Israel lobby’s network is paid to media outlets largely owned or managed by members of the same network. Presidents, Senators and Congressmen come and go but those who collect the checks rack up the favors that amass lasting political influence.

The U.S. system of government is meant to ensure that members of the House represent the concerns of Americans who reside in Congressional districts—not a nationally dispersed network (a Diaspora) committed to advancing the agenda of a foreign nation. Federal elections are meant to hold Senators accountable to constituents who reside in the states they represent—not out-of-state residents or a foreign government.

In practical effect, McCain-Feingold hastened a retreat from representative government by granting a nationwide network of foreign agents disproportionate influence over elections in every state and Congressional district. Campaign finance ‘reform’ enabled this network to amass even more political clout—wielding influence disproportionate to their numbers, indifferent to their place of residence and often contrary to America’s interests.

This force-multiplier is now wielded in plain sight, with impunity and under cover of free speech, free elections, free press and even the freedom of religion. Therein lies the perils of an entangled alliance that induced the U.S. to invade Iraq and now seeks war with Iran. By allowing foreign agents to operate as a domestic lobby, the U.S. was induced to confuse Zionist interests with its own.

Jeff Gates is an attorney, investment banker, educator and consultant to government, corporate and union leaders worldwide. His latest book is Guilt By Association—How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War (2008). His previous books include Democracy at Risk: Rescuing Main Street From Wall Street and The Ownership Solution: Toward a Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century. For two decades, an adviser to policy-makers worldwide, he was counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee from 1980-87. His website
is at


PAPPE: In Upper Nazareth


September 4, 2009


The new town of Shacharit will soon encircle the Palestinian village of Ayn Mahil.  Shacharit is also the first Jewish prayer of the day.

The new town of Shacharit will soon encircle the Palestinian village of Ayn Mahil. Shacharit is also the name for the first Jewish prayer of the day.

by Ilan Pappe - London Review of Books - 10 September 2009

Officially, no Palestinians live in the ‘Jewish’ city of Upper Nazareth. The city’s elegant website appears only in Hebrew and in Russian. When I was there recently, I called a spokesperson to ask about numbers but he wouldn’t give me a straight answer. ‘I am standing in front of a house with “There is no power but in God” written in Quranic Arabic over the door,’ I said. ‘And I know there are two Palestinians on your city council.’ ‘We still do not have enough information about the numbers,’ was the reply.

In fact, according to the Arab Association for Human Rights, 20 per cent of the city’s population are Palestinians. Most of them moved from the crowded city of old Nazareth at the bottom of the hill and from the villages surrounding it. Some of them had to pay as much as £500,000 for a house, three times the market value. The people selling up are Russian immigrants gravitating towards Tel Aviv. There are no Palestinian schools or kindergartens, so the roads between Nazareth and Upper Nazareth are overcrowded in rush hour. But the non-existent 20 per cent are represented on the council and, Israel being Israel, the two Palestinian councillors are in a weird coalition with the ultra-right-wing party of Avigdor Liberman. The mayor needed their support in order to defeat the Labour Party. They demanded, and received, a promise that an Arab school would be built in Upper Nazareth. The mayor is nonetheless committed to the ‘Judaisation’ – i.e. the de-Arabisation – of his city, and Liberman declared in August that stopping the immigration of Arabs into Nazareth, as he calls it, is a national priority.

The city was built in the 1950s. David Ben-Gurion was outraged by the presence of so many Arabs in the Galilee when he toured the region in 1953, a few days before he retired for a year and half from his premiership. He appointed the director general of the Ministry of Defence, Shimon Peres, to ‘Judaise’ the Galilee using emergency regulations that allowed the army to confiscate land from the Palestinians. Upper Nazareth opened in 1957, and senior army officers were billeted there.

The area covered by Upper Nazareth has quadrupled since its creation. Each expansion was on land expropriated from Arabs. Its 50,000 inhabitants live in a dynamic urban space that keeps expanding and developing. The 70,000 Palestinians of old Nazareth live in a city half the size that is not allowed to expand by a single square metre; indeed, one of its western hilltops was recently requisitioned for Upper Nazareth.

The villages around Nazareth were first targeted by Yitzhak Rabin’s 1976 plan of Judaisation, Yehud Ha-Galil. In greater Nazareth the main tactic was to disrupt the natural geographical continuity between Palestinian villages by driving Jewish wedges between them. The Jews came, but the Palestinians did not leave, so a second wave of Judaisation began in 2001, under Peres and Ariel Sharon. This wasn’t very successful either; Jews preferred to live in Tel Aviv.

The present attempt is motivated by the failure of the previous policies to make the Galilee in general, and Nazareth in particular, Jewish. People and economies move in mysterious ways: well-off Palestinians began buying houses in the citadel that was built to evict them. Benjamin Netanyahu regards this as a grave threat to Israel’s national security. Local politicians are even blunter. ‘If we lose the Jewish majority in the Galilee this is the end of the Jewish state,’ Motti Dotan, a member of the Labour Party, said recently. ‘I would like to imagine a Galilee without Arabs: no thefts, no crimes . . . we will have normal life.’ The racist mood in Israel absolves the government
from any inhibitions that may have restricted its actions in the past.

Now ecologists, industrialists and academics have been drafted in. The Jewish National Fund is behind the initiative, along with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The aim of diminishing the Palestinian presence in the Galilee is also fully endorsed by the prestigious union of Israeli wine producers, which has adopted a plan prepared by leading academics from the Israel Institute of Technology. Published in 2003, the plan calls for the Jewish ‘takeover’ of the Galilee. ‘It is either them or us,’ it begins. ‘The land problems in the Galilee proved that any territory not taken by Zionist elements is going to be coveted by non-Zionists.’

The gist of what they propose is to seize strategically important land by force and hold onto it until Jews settle on it. The director general of AMPA, an electrical manufacturer, recently said that his company now not only makes refrigerators but is also actively supporting the ‘Judaisation of the Galilee’ by building new communities in the area for AMPA’s veterans. ‘We are not ashamed to say that our plans have a Zionist element.’

The Palestinian village of Ayn Mahil, east of Nazareth and adjacent to Upper Nazareth, is now accessible only by one road, and it goes through a Jewish religious neighbourhood in Upper Nazareth: on the Day of Atonement, the people of Ayn Mahil cannot leave or enter their village. They will soon be encircled by a new town called Shacharit (which means ‘dawn’ in Hebrew but is also the name of the first Jewish prayer of the day). Ten thousand ultra-Orthodox Jews will be settled there and the hope is that they will rectify the ‘unfavourable’ demographic balance, as well as cut Ayn Mahil off from the greater Nazareth area. The village’s ancient olive groves have been uprooted in preparation for the building work. A new road network will ensure that other villages are separated from each other and from Nazareth.

Under emergency powers granted to him as minister of national infrastructure in the 1990s, Sharon ordered the building of a new heavy
industrial site, Ziporit, on land expropriated from the Palestinians and close to several villages. Ziporit includes a glass factory and an aluminium works; according to international law, neither can be built near where people live. The closest of the villages is Mashad:since the opening of the site the number of deaths from cancer there has risen by 40 per cent.

Ilan Pappe is chair of the department of history at the University of Exeter and the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.


The Missing Link in Israeli Organ Theft? The Autopsy Surgeon Aftonbladet Forgot


Organ theft busted


This story was first offered to the Guardian’s Comment is Free site. It was received on August 26 by Brian Whitaker, a commissioning editor at CiF and a former Middle East editor of the newspaper, who responded that “we’re minded to use it” but that because the issue was “a hot potato” it would take “a day or two” to decide.

On September 3, more than a week later, Georgina Henry, CiF’s executive editor, replied, apologising for the delay but saying she was going to reject the piece. Her strange reasoning led to a short but revealing correspondence. I include it here for anyone interested.

By JONATHAN COOK, counter punch Nazareth,

{Stealing the organs of Palestinian martyrs-(Torchlight) Swedish press} by Issam Ahmed-Palestine

The hyperventilating by Israel’s leaders [1] over a story published in a Swedish newspaper last month [2] suggesting that the Israeli army assisted in organ theft from Palestinians has distracted attention from the disturbing allegations made by Palestinian families that were the basis of the article’s central claim.

The families’ fears that relatives, killed by the Israeli army, had body parts removed during unauthorized autopsies performed in Israel have been overshadowed by accusations of a “blood libel” directed against the reporter, Donald Bostrom, and the Aftonbladet newspaper, as well as the Swedish government and people.

I have no idea whether the story is true. Like most journalists working in Israel and Palestine, I have heard such rumours before. Until Bostrom wrote his piece, no Western journalist, as far as I know, had investigated them. After so many years, the assumption by journalists was that there was little hope of finding evidence — apart from literally by digging up the corpses. Doubtless, the inevitable charge of anti-semitism such reports attract acted as a powerful deterrent too.

What is striking about this episode is that the families making the claims were not given a hearing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the first intifada, when most of the reports occurred, and are still being denied the right to voice their concerns today.

Israel’s sensitivity to the allegation of organ theft — or “harvesting”, as many observers coyly refer to the practice — appears to trump the genuine concerns of the families about possible abuse of their loved ones.

Bostrom has been much criticized for the flimsy evidence he produced in support of his inflammatory story. Certainly there is much to criticize in his and the newspaper’s presentation of the report.

Most significantly, Bostrom and Aftonbladet exposed themselves to the charge of anti-semitism — at least from Israeli officials keen to make mischief — through a major error of judgment.

They muddied the waters by trying to make a tenuous connection between the Palestinian families’ allegations about organ theft during unauthorized autopsies and the entirely separate revelations this month that a group of US Jews had been arrested for money-laundering and trading in body parts. [3]

In making that connection, Bostrom and Aftonbladet suggested that the problem of organ theft is a current one when they have produced only examples of such concern from the early 1990s. They also implied, whether intentionally or not, that abuses allegedly committed by the Israeli army could somehow be extrapolated more generally to Jews.

The Swedish reporter should instead have concentrated on the valid question raised by the families about why the Israeli army, by its own admission, took away the bodies of dozens of Palestinians killed by its soldiers, allowed autopsies to be performed on them without the families’ permission and then returned the bodies for burial in ceremonies held under tight security.

Bostrom’s article highlighted the case of one Palestinian, 19-year-old Bilal Ahmed Ghanan, from the village of Imatin in the northern West Bank, who was killed in 1992. A shocking picture of Bilal’s stitched-up body accompanied the report. [4]

Bostrom has told the Israeli media that he knows of at least 20 cases of families claiming that the bodies of loved ones were returned with body parts missing, [5] although he did not say whether any of these alleged incidents occurred more recently.

In 1992, the year in question, Bostrom says, the Israeli army admitted to him that it took away for autopsy 69 of the 133 Palestinians who died of unnatural causes. The army has not denied this part of his report.

A justifiable question from the families relayed by Bostrom is: why did the army want the autopsies carried out? Unless it can be shown that the army intended to conduct investigations into the deaths — and there is apparently no suggestion that it did — the autopsies were unnecessary.

In fact, they were more than unnecessary. They were counterproductive if we assume that the army has no interest in gathering evidence that could be used in future war crimes prosecutions of its soldiers. Israel has a long track record of stymying investigations into Palestinian deaths at the hands of its soldiers, and carried on that ignoble tradition in the wake of its recent assault on Gaza.

Of even greater concern for the Palestinian families is the fact that at around the time the bodies of their loved ones were whisked off by the army for autopsy, the only institute in Israel that conducts such autopsies, Abu Kabir, near Tel Aviv, was almost certainly at the centre of a trade in organs that later became a scandal inside Israel.

Equally disturbing, the doctor behind the plunder of body parts, Prof Yehuda Hiss, appointed director of the Abu Kabir institute in the late 1980s, has never been jailed despite admitting to the organ theft and he continues to be the state’s chief pathologist at the institute.

Hiss was in charge of the autopsies of Palestinians when Bostrom was listening to the families’ claims in 1992. Hiss was subsequently investigated twice, in 2002 and 2005, over the theft of body parts on a large scale.

Allegations of Hiss’ illegal trade in organs was first revealed in 2000 by investigative reporters at the Yediot Aharonot newspaper, which reported that he had “price listings” for body parts and that he sold mainly to Israeli universities and medical schools. [6]

Apparently undeterred by these revelations, Hiss still had an array of body parts in his possession at Abu Kabir when the Israeli courts ordered a search in 2002. Israel National News reported at the time: “Over the past years, heads of the institute appear to have given thousands of organs for research without permission, while maintaining a ‘storehouse’ of organs at Abu Kabir.” [7]

Hiss did not deny the plunder of organs, admitting that the body parts belonged to soldiers killed in action and had been passed to medical institutes and hospitals in the interests of advancing research.

Understandably, however, the Palestinian families are unlikely to be satisfied with Hiss’ explanation. If the wishes of a soldier’s familiy were disregarded by Hiss, why not Palestinian families’ wishes too?

Hiss was allowed to continue as director of Abu Kabir until 2005 when allegations of a trade in organs surfaced again. On this occasion Hiss admitted to having removed parts from 125 bodies without authorization. Following a plea bargain with the state, the attorney general decided not to press criminal charges and Hiss was given only a reprimand. [8] He has continued as chief pathologist at Abu Kabir.

It should also be noted, as Bostrom points out, that in the early 1990s Israel was suffering from an acute shortage of organ donors to the extent that Ehud Olmert, health minister at the time, launched a public campaign to encourage Israelis to come forward.

This offers a possible explanation for Hiss’ actions. He may have acted to help make up the shortfall.

Given the facts that are known, there must be at least a very strong suspicion that Hiss removed organs without authorisation from some Palestinians he autopsied. Both this issue, and the army’s possible role in supplying him with corpses, needs investigation.

Hiss is also implicated in another long-running and unresolved scandal from Israel’s early years, in the 1950s, when the children of recent Jewish immigrants to Israel from Yemen were adopted by Ashkenazi couples after the Yeminite parents had been told that their child had died, [9] usually after admission to hospital.

After an initial cover-up, the Yeminite parents have continued pressing for answers from the state, and forced officials to reopen the files. [8] The Palestinian families deserve no less.

However, unlike the Yemenite parents, their chances of receiving any kind of investigation, transparent or otherwise, look all but hopeless.

When Palestinian demands for justice are not backed by investigations from journalists or the protests of the international community, Israel can safely ignore them.

It is worth remembering in this context the constant refrain from Israel’s peace camp that the brutal, four-decade occupation of the Palestinians has profoundly corrupted Israeli society.

When the army enjoys power without accountability, how do Palestinians, or we, know what soldiers are allowed to get away with under cover of occupation? What restraints are in place to prevent abuses? And who takes them to task if they do commit crimes?

Similarly, when Israeli politicians are able to cry “blood libel” or “anti-semitism” when they are criticised, damaging the reputations of those they accuse, what incentive do they have to initiate inquiries that may harm them or the institutions they oversee? What reason do they have to be honest when they can bludgeon a critic into silence, at no cost to themselves?

This is the meaning of the phrase “Power corrupts”, and Israeli politicians and soldiers, as well as at least one pathologist, demonstrably have far too much power — most especially over Palestinians under occupation.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is


U.S. Congress members to EU: Condemn IDF organ harvesting article

Kufaisheh warns of seriousness of Zionist schemes against Aqsa

Kufaisheh warns of seriousness of Zionist schemes against Aqsa

[ 05/09/2009 - 11:33 AM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Palestinian lawmaker Hatem Kufaisheh, a prisoner in Israeli jails, warned of the seriousness of the Zionist schemes and plots carried out against the Aqsa Mosque and the occupied city of Jerusalem that aim to expel Palestinians from their city and establish the alleged temple.

In a leaked letter sent to the Palestinian information center (PIC), MP Kufaisheh called on the Arab and Muslim nations and leaders, the organization of Islamic conference and the Arab League to move to save the Aqsa Mosque before it is too late.

The lawmaker stated that the political and military institution of the "Zionist entity supports Jewish extremists" and provides them with the atmosphere appropriate to commit massacres as a prelude to carrying out criminal schemes prepared in advance.

“This was what actually happened after criminal Baruch Goldstein fired a barrage of his treacherous bullets at Muslims as they were in the first prostration of the dawn prayer resulting in dozens of martyrs and hundreds of injuries. Then came out Shamgar, the head of the so-called supreme court, who decided to turn the bulk of the Ibrahimi Mosque into a synagogue,” the lawmaker underscored.

He pointed out that the expulsion of families from their homes, the seizure of their property and real estate, the ongoing settlement expansion and the excavations under the Aqsa Mosque prompted him to write this letter and make this warning to urge Arabs and Muslim to take urgent action.

Sheikh Sabri hails thousands of Palestinians for praying in Aqsa

[ 05/09/2009 - 10:26 AM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Sheikh Ikrema Sabri, the preacher of the Aqsa Mosque, on Friday hailed thousands of Palestinians who managed to pray in the Mosque despite the Israeli restrictions imposed on movement of Palestinians in the occupied city of Jerusalem.

Sheikh Sabri highlighted in the Khutba (sermon) that the presence of Palestinian worshipers in large numbers in the Aqsa Mosque protects it from the Zionist threats, and urged the Palestinians to frequent the Mosque.

The preacher also called on the Arab and Muslim regimes to assume their responsibility towards Palestine especially Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque.

About 200,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem and the 1948 occupied lands flocked to the Aqsa Mosque to perform the second Friday prayer in Ramadan amid tight Israeli security measures around the holy city and Mosque.

The Israeli occupation forces had imposed before dawn prayers a security cordon around the Aqsa Mosque and the city of Jerusalem especially in the Old City and prevented the Palestinian men from the West Bank under age 50 and women under age 45 from reaching the Mosque.



September 5, 2009 at 12:20 pm (Boycott Israel, Cinema, Divestment, International Solidarity)


Jane Fonda joins boycott of Toronto film festival over homage to Israel

Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Eve Ensler have joined the growing list of artists who are boycotting the Toronto film festival over a program honoring Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary, gossip blogger Perez Hilton reported on Friday.

The three have added their names to a letter aimed at festival officials claiming that Tel Aviv was built on violence, ignoring the “suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants,” Hilton reported.

Several Israeli films are being screened at the festival’s new City to City event, which this year celebrates Tel Aviv’s centennial.

Culture critic Naomi Klein and director John Greyson are among those who had already announced their protest over the homage to Tel Aviv.

Two-time Oscar winner Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called the boycott “an attack on the heart and soul of Israel.”

“People who support letters like this are people who do not support a two-state solution,” he was quoted as saying on Hilton’s blog.

“By calling into question the legitimacy of Tel Aviv, they are supporting a one-state solution, which means the destruction of the State of Israel. I applaud the organizers of the festival for celebrating on the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv. If every city in the Middle East would be as culturally diverse, as open to freedom of expression as Tel Aviv is, then peace would long have come to the Middle East.”

Fonda, 72, rose to fame as an actress in the 1960s, but has since become known for her political activism, including her opposition to the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

Glover, who is probably best known for co-starring with Mel Gibson in the four Lethal Weapon movies, has also been politically active since his student days. He made headlines in 2006 when he traveled to Venezuela with a group of celebrities to show solidarity with president Hugo Chavez.

Ensler, whose father is reportedly Jewish, is an American playwright and activist who wrote The Vagina Monologues.

Hard times in Gaza


Posted by realistic bird under Caricature, Politics Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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by Nidal Al Khairy-Palestine

by Nidal Al Khairy-Palestine

by Saleh Al-Naami, source

Saleh Al-Naami finds that economic deprivation reigns in the streets of Gaza this Ramadan

September 4, 2009

Since the early hours of the morning, Marwan Abd Rabbu has been standing in line waiting for the Al-Salah Society to open its doors. Al-Salah is a charity organisation that helps the poor, and Marwan, who lives in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in Gaza, needs assistance to support his family.

Assistance from Al-Salah would help Marwan, 42 and currently unemployed, see his family of 10 through the month of Ramadan. “They give us packages of food, and without their assistance I don’t know what I would have done. I wouldn’t be able to feed my family come Iftar [the sunset meal] time,” Marwan says.

Charity, especially that provided through organisations with Islamic leanings, as well as by the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, has become a main source of income in Gaza, where 80 per cent of the population are believed to be living under the poverty line.

Some families depend on relatives who have a job with a monthly salary. Those with jobs also try to help their extended families. In Ramadan, a package containing cheese, dates and sweets can go a long way.

Families try to help each other the best they can. At the beginning of the holy month, Majed Ibrahim, a college professor, bought food products, wrapped them as a gift, and gave them to his four married sisters, for example.

However, in general hard times reign in Gaza this Ramadan. The shops are nearly empty of customers, and even those that do show up often leave empty handed if they can’t find anything they can afford.

Gamal Alyan owns one of the largest food stores in central Gaza. Sweating profusely on a hot August day, he wipes his forehead with a handkerchief and looks around. His shop is one of the few that are full of customers, but he still says that many leave without buying anything, mostly because prices have gone up.

“Customers have less money to spend than they used to,” Alyan says. “Most prefer to buy smuggled Egyptian products, as prices are cheaper than for those that come from Israel. High rates of tax also make much of the merchandise coming from Israel too expensive for the poor inhabitants of Gaza.”

Price differences between Egyptian products and products coming from Israel can be considerable, with a kilo of Dutch cheese imported via Israel costing more than double the Egyptian equivalent.

In addition, not everyone can go shopping. Only 20 per cent of the population have regular salaries, and these people, mostly working for the government or civil society organisations, are considered the lucky ones.

The price of vegetables has also gone up this Ramadan, with shoppers in the vegetables markets complaining about the high prices of onions at six shekels a kilo ($1.7) and tomatoes at four shekels ($1.2).

The electricity in Gaza goes off every day since Israel no longer supplies the only power station with its complete fuel needs, and the company running the station is obliged to cut the power to various neighbourhoods for a few hours each day.

Abdel-Rahman Oudah, 49, who lives in Birkat Al-Wezz west of the Al-Maghazi Camp in central Gaza, says that his wife now bakes bread early in the morning before the electricity goes off. She would prefer to bake at sunset, but that would be too risky given the irregularity of the power supply.

“The electricity can go off at any time,” Abdel-Rahman says. “In the morning there is usually electricity, but after 11 or 12 o’clock you never know.”

Such power cuts affect the rhythm of religious life during Ramadan. While the pious naturally still go to the mosque after dusk for tarawih, a long form of prayers performed only in the holy month, because of the outages imams tend to cut the tarawih short, breaking with tradition.

However, Gaza’s economic situation not only affects everyday life in Ramadan, but it also poses a problem for families preparing their children for the new school year. Children need clothes, school bags and stationary, but most of these items have become unaffordable.

Abdel-Karim Rawafaah, 41, has been all over the market at the Al-Nuseirat Camp in Central Gaza with his seven children looking for supplies, but he still goes back to the Al-Maghazi Camp where he lives empty handed. Schools open in two weeks, but he is not sure he can buy the supplies his children need.

One pair of trousers now costs 70 shekels ($20), up from 40 shekels ($12) last year, he says. Abdel-Karim, who earns around 1,000 shekels ($300) from his job with the local council, says he would need almost twice his monthly salary just to clothe his children. For now, he’s hoping he’ll find cheaper clothes on a later shopping expedition. Otherwise, the children will just have to wear last year’s clothes, he says.

Many people in Gaza are in Abdel-Karim’s situation. Because of the Israeli blockade, basic goods are often exorbitantly priced, with shopkeepers barely expecting people to buy. Walking down Omar Al-Mokhtar Street, Gaza’s main thoroughfare, the shopkeepers are often to be seen chatting together or simply reading the newspapers.

Yet, the shopkeepers, too, are despondent. According to Salim Rajab, a shopkeeper, “this time of year used to be the best for us, as parents come out to buy new clothes for their children at the beginning of the school year. But this year’s much-awaited boom hasn’t happened.”

Other shopkeepers say that clothes have become more expensive because of the many intermediaries involved in smuggling them into the Strip to beat the blockade. As every middleman takes a cut, the final product can become very expensive.

Finally, in recognition of the hard times reigning in Gaza this Ramadan, in an extraordinary move the government of Ismail Haniyeh has decided to deduct 30 per cent or more from the pay of salaried employees to give to the poor, with some ministers and top officials giving their entire pay during the holy month.

Some non-governmental organisations have done the same. The Islamic Universities Board of Trustees, for example, has deducted 50 per cent from the salaries of professors and 100 per cent from the salaries of college presidents during the month of Ramadan and distributed the money to the poor.

Hamas as It and Its Neighbors See It

Contributed by Ritalin

What to Make of Hamas, Part I

Michael Thomas

CNI Board Member

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has proven intractable for over six decades. In the past decade, even as Israel, Arab states and Fatah have seemed to be gravitating toward a two-state solution many blame a resistance organization designated terrorist by the United States and Israel as the major obstacle to negotiated peace. As ever, it isn’t that simple. The Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, has the potential either to facilitate movement toward stability and peace, or to add its considerable weight to those on both sides who oppose a negotiated political solution. There is no guarantee that anything the United States does will achieve sustained constructive engagement with Hamas, much less move all the parties to long-term settlement. However, intensive interviews in the region point to the urgent necessity for different American policies and to the likelihood that principled policies, persistently pursued, would substantially improve the odds of success.

Eleven Americans spent seventeen days in May talking to ministers, political leaders and diplomats in Israel and its neighbors, including Gaza and the West Bank. Most of those we talked to had insights and opinions about Hamas. After summarizing the divergent views we heard, I will try to make some sense of the paradoxes that Hamas presents, and discuss what the United States should do going forward.

Hamas on Hamas

We talked to Khalid Meshal, who was recently re-elected the movement’s overall leader as President of the Political Directorate, in Damascus, and to a panel of Hamas leaders in Gaza. We heard a very disciplined, hard-headed set of positions, aimed at convincing Americans both that Hamas cannot be excluded from the political process, and that Hamas is a pragmatic organization offering feasible means of dealing with the most contentious issues. Meshal offered many reasons the US should talk to Hamas, among them that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, that it won “ballot legitimacy” in 2006, that its deep roots in Palestinian society were again shown in the recent Israeli offensive, and that it has limited its resistance to the territory it contests, never targeting Americans. Because Hamas is an integral part of Palestinian society and the strongest of the resistance movements, the US could not do anything in the region without talking to it. Meshal professed bewilderment that the US barred all contact with Hamas, when George Mitchell had found it necessary to talk to Sinn Fein in Ireland, Americans had negotiated with the Sunni resistance, and the US was talking through intermediaries with the Taliban. He also argued that the Americans were inconsistent in another way: Hamas was designated a terrorist group for resisting occupation, when the US had armed the Taliban for its violent resistance against Soviet occupation.

Meshal said he knew that the home-made rockets sent into Israel were used by Israelis to chill the peace process, but that the US must understand the terrible effects of IDF attacks on Gazans, to which the rockets responded. In Northern Ireland, reciprocal steps were taken to end violence. Hamas had stopped all violent resistance several times, but Israel and the US failed to use the opportunity to pursue longer-term arrangements. He had told President Carter on his recent visit that if Carter could bring any offer to lift the siege of Gaza, Hamas would enter a ceasefire.

To Meshal’s mind, the US has consistently supported a corrupt Fatah, both before and after they were defeated in free and fair elections, and has forcibly intervened in Palestinian unity talks to prevent Fatah from reaching agreements with Hamas unless Hamas agrees to the Quartet’s conditions on dialogue, which he believes are unreasonable and one-sided. Fatah is only too happy to let the US prop it up and disable its competitor for Palestinian leadership. Meshal points out that Hamas elects its leaders every year, whereas Fatah has not had an election for 21 years. Meshal said that Hamas considers democracy a value, not a tool, and that Hamas would respect the results of any Palestinian election.[1]

What Meshal told us is consistent with what Hamas leaders told us in Gaza, and what Meshal has said elsewhere. In a New York Times interview conducted May 3 and 4, Meshal reconfirmed that Hamas recognizes the authority of Mahmud Abbas as chair of the PLO to conduct final status negotiations with Israel, and that Hamas would be bound by any such agreement once it had been ratified by a referendum of Palestinians.[2] Given that any such agreement would involve recognition of Israel, territorial compromises and an end to revanchist claims, and a final arrangement for refugees, he was saying that Hamas would abandon all positions inconsistent with those compromises. This is what he meant when he said that, while no progress can be sustained without Hamas, Hamas would always be part of the solution.

Hamas leaders in Gaza gave us a more detailed understanding of their reluctance to meet the Quartet’s conditions (recognize Israel, accept prior agreements with Israel, and reject violence). They said that they have learned to be cautious after the PLO agreed to a series of similar conditions in the Oslo accords only to find that Israel did not keep its bargains and the plight of the Palestinians grew worse. As to recognizing Israel, they ask what Israel it is they are asked to recognize, given that Israel has never declared its final borders or accepted the constraints of UN resolutions; they also argue that no occupied people should ever be asked to recognize its occupier on the occupier’s terms, especially when the occupier does not recognize their rights. As to prior agreements, they point out that Israel has not implemented, or now repudiates, major parts of those agreements, including the Oslo Accords, the Road Map, the Annapolis framework, and the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. And as to repudiating violence, they again ask for assurances that Israel would be similarly bound.

We were in Gaza while sporadic negotiations between Hamas and Fatah were being conducted in Cairo, and Hamas leaders gave a detailed briefing on each of the five sets of issues under discussion there. They said that all agreed on the need for an interim government until new elections could be held, but that there were substantial problems with the program of such a government, and significant interference by Israel and the US, essentially preventing Abbas from agreeing to anything until Hamas had adopted the Quartet requirements, and preventing any Hamas to participation in West Bank governance. Specifically with respect to security forces, Fatah wanted “reform” only in Gaza, leaving the West Bank under the program overseen by US General Dayton.[3] As it turned out, negotiations foundered on such issues. The impression left, both by Hamas spokesmen and by Fatah, was that each side was loathe to surrender any measure of control it currently had, and calculated that time would be its friend. This impression was shared by spokesmen for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, who complained that only Egypt seemed to have a sense of urgency about the unity talks they were hosting.

Hamas spokesmen were anxious to dispel any image of their organization as extreme or unreasonable. The first thing said by the Gaza group was that they had “adopted the West’s politics of pragmatism.” They were a civil movement, which took its education and principles from Islam but were not engaged in a religious conflict with Jews. Rather, it was a liberation movement against Zionist exclusion, which conducted resistance operations only in the land of Palestine. In other words, they were engaged in national liberation, not global jihad. And when asked whether Hamas would seek to impose a sharia regime, Meshal said that the people would choose both their representatives and the nature of the system of government.

Hamas as Seen by Others

Needless to say, American diplomats did not share Hamas’s benign view of itself. One senior diplomat in Israel did give Hamas a back-handed compliment. He described a constant “philosophical struggle” with the Israelis, who obsessed on immediate security issues, while the US was trying to get them to focus on steps that would achieve longer-term goals of stability and peace. He said that, in contrast, Hamas thought very long term. The problem was that their long-term goal was the destruction of Israel. As to the Gaza blockade, he spent fully half his time trying to get the Israelis to lengthen the list of goods they would allow into Gaza, but this effort was constrained by the fact that the US did not want “to strengthen Hamas.” This refusal to do anything that could be seen as “strengthening” Hamas was echoed by US diplomats in Damascus and Cairo. Thus, even though 1.5 million Palestinians are being impoverished and driven to despair by the siege and killed and maimed by military incursions, America so fears the possibility that allowing them a normal life would be claimed as a “victory” by Hamas that the blockade, an act of war and a means of collective punishment, has to continue.[4] The diplomat in Cairo admitted that the policy of squeezing Hamas into defeat had not worked, and said that alternatives were being sought. We saw no evidence of change.

Meshal was provided sanctuary in Damascus after Mossad assassination attempts in Jordan during Netanyahu’s earlier stint as Prime Minister. American diplomats in Syria are not allowed to speak to him, a point underlined for us when Meshal and the American charge’ carefully avoided each other at a Norwegian National Day party where Meshal spoke to everyone else present. A senior American diplomat in Damascus argued that contact with Hamas was a more difficult issue than the decision to open dialogue with the PLO in 1988, because then the bar on contact had been a matter of policy only, while the current bar is a matter of statute.[5]

We suggested to this same American official that the US could deal with Hamas as the US (through George Mitchell) had dealt with the Republican movement in Ireland, by limiting contact with political officers until the parties committed to exclusively political means. The response was that the analogy was flawed. In Northern Ireland, the argument went, the British wanted a deal, but were being held hostage by the Orange. There was no existential issue for the British, whereas the Israelis see Hamas, for good reason, as a threat to Israel’s existence. That seems frankly like a distinction without a difference, or perhaps with a difference that makes contact more desirable rather than less. The first question is whether we, like the British in Ireland, see dialogue as desirable (and perhaps are being held hostage by the Israelis). If so, then given Hamas’s decision to participate in the political process and its evident urgent desire for contact, the only challenge is to frame the contact in a way that maximizes the likelihood of progress toward permanent solutions and minimizes damage to present interests. There is no existential threat to the US, and surely we can frame and limit contact so that it does not increase the threat to Israel. From Israel’s perspective, the important question may be not whether Hamas is a threat, but what Israel wants. If it wants division of the Palestinians in order to avoid the need to negotiate seriously, current policies are increasing that division; our diplomat in Cairo thought it an open question whether this would be Bibi’s plan. If Israel wants to negotiate with a partner that can actually implement agreements, it needs to find a way to encourage unification behind credible Palestinian leaders. It has tried military attacks against Hamas and strangulation of the population in which Hamas lives, and has failed to destroy or starve Hamas. Testing their willingness to reach sustainable political compromises may be the most fruitful, least costly alternative.

Aside from the “rejectionist front” (the US, Israel and Fatah), everyone we spoke to urged contact with Hamas. This was true of Syrian officials, of course, but also Egyptians (officials, scholars, and dissidents), Palestinian independents, UN officials, and Israelis who were not in the government. The current policy of trying to break Hamas by means of military strikes and collective punishment was uniformly seen as counterproductive, quite apart from whether it was also illegal or immoral. And the idea of conditioning contact on the Quartet’s three demands was generally seen as one-sided and unrealistic.

John Ging, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, believed that the Quartet conditions were reasonable goals, but that they should be the subject of credible reciprocal agreements. Having dealt with the devastating human damage caused by the blockade of Gaza and Operation Cast Lead, he was particularly caustic and eloquent on the failure of Israel to live up to the terms of the Agreement on Movement and Access negotiated by Secretary Rice in 2005, and the new government’s explicit repudiation of the Annapolis framework and major parts of other agreements. An Irishman, he described how helpful it had been for Jerry Adams to visit Gaza and talk about how reciprocal steps had been effective in giving the parties in Ireland confidence to turn from violence to political compromise.

Independent Palestinian leaders we talked to agreed. Sharhabeel Alzaeem, an international trade lawyer in Gaza, was no advocate for Hamas, his children having been roughed up because of his independent stance.[6] But he was certain that Hamas leaders would take steps quickly if assured of Israeli reciprocity. He and a group of five independent political leaders agreed that contact with Hamas by George Mitchell would moderate Hamas, not strengthen it. One expressed the view that exclusion of Hamas had pushed it to take a harder line than it would otherwise take.

Hamas spokesmen all said that they recognized the need for new elections, and that they would abide the results of any election. There was broad agreement among all Palestinians that new elections were necessary in order to produce a credible Palestinian leadership, but the obstacles are great. Each party would have to be given the opportunity to organize and campaign in territory now controlled by the other, and even if all Palestinian parties agreed to terms, Israel would have to power to disrupt and prevent a competitive election. As to how either Fatah or Hamas would do in an election if one were held now, the opinions we heard were surprising. The independent leaders in Gaza, as well as Mustafa Barghouthi in the West Bank, all believed that Hamas would lose ground as compared with 2006 in Gaza, but that they would gain in the West Bank – in other words, that the party which has been in control of an area has alienated voters in that area. The independents generally thought that neither Fatah nor Hamas would get over 25% of the vote overall, meaning that independents would make up a majority. That would require coalition government, and could involve a splintering as unstable as that in Israel. Alzaeem believed that Hamas would join a collation government and take five or six ministries, in part to enable them to travel abroad as ministers.

Whatever the accuracy of these electoral predictions, it is clear that Hamas has a substantial and lasting advantage based upon its delivery of services – schools, clinics, family support – and its disciplined cadre. This advantage, remarked on by some of the independents, was reinforced by the impression made by Dr. Zakaria Al-Agha, a Fatah member who is a member of the PLO Executive Committee and chair of its Refugee Affairs Department. A member of the Old Guard of Fatah from Central Casting, Dr Al-Agha seemed tired, discouraged and despondent. He had been involved in the Cairo negotiations (and had been stopped and stripped of his papers by Hamas security), and he believed that Hamas would not make concessions because they were negotiating from strength. His prediction was that, if conditions in Gaza remained what they were, Hamas would win a resounding victory in any election.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has had a unique perspective on efforts to deal with Hamas. The Egyptian regime fears an armed and empowered Hamas as a child of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has had a long and troubled relationship with Gaza, but does not want to be responsible for massive human misery there, or to be seen among Arabs as the co-jailor with Israel. Accordingly, they have been working to get the parties to share responsibility. We were told by Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister Amin Meleika and Ambassador Yasser Osman, head of the Palestine Department, that the blockade radicalized everyone, but that each side was trying to use the crisis to leverage their own power, and would not agree to cooperative ways to manage the crossings. In unification talks, the security issue was a major obstacle because unification would require concessions by both camps, and the US opposes any role for Hamas in the West Bank. Likewise, the US vetoed a caretaker government until elections could be held in January of 2010. Egypt proposed a joint committee established just to run the election, but that would also require Hamas access to the West Bank and Fatah access to Gaza. It was their opinion that Hamas would not do well in any election.

As to US contact with Hamas, the Egyptians said that the Mitchell mission cannot advance if it does not deal with Hamas. And for Hamas to recognize Israel as a condition of such contact would destroy its raison d’être.

One of the most interesting sets of insights about Hamas was from Daniel Ben-Simon, the leader of the Labor bloc in the Knesset. Ben-Simon was elected leader of the greatly diminished Labor faction as a freshman this year, attesting both to his reputation gained as a political commentator and author, and to the desperate need for new spokesmen for the party. Ben-Simon believed that Israeli voters would in fact approve of dealing with Hamas, if they believed that the result of the negotiation was good. However, the fear of doing anything that recognizes or strengthens Hamas is so great that Olmert killed a negotiated prisoner exchange that would have freed Galid Schalit. In part, the concern is that they cannot deal with Hamas and maintain a relationship with Fatah; Abbas and the PA have essentially said to them, “Do a deal with Hamas and we go away.” Another reason that Hamas is shunned is the effect of the Israeli right’s antipathy to negotiations on Palestinian issues. Ben-Simon said that the right really likes having a schism in Palestinian leadership: “It’s so nice when they kill each other.”

More of the Same?

What seems clear from the summary above is that the question of what to do about Hamas, like many issues of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, is difficult in large part because several players with significant power to affect events have motivations to disrupt progress, or insufficient reason to concede leverage they now have. The result is not a “status quo,” in the sense of a static set of conditions. The two-state solution, nearly everyone now agrees, is both desirable and receding rapidly from view. The people of Gaza are more impoverished and desperate, and the youth there less understanding of the benefits of co-existence, with each passing month. US policy must reflect, protect, and advance American interests, which include a secure Israel, a stable Middle East, and consistency between proclaimed American values and what we do. US policy has not even begun to accomplish those goals, to the great detriment of millions of people and the future prospects of peace. American policy must change.

Click for parts two and three.

[1] Meshal made every effort to identify his movement with American values, giving each of his visitors a small framed representation of Jerusalem’s holy sites. He said this is how Hamas sees Jerusalem, as a place where the three great religions can live together in peace. He stressed this ecumenical approach in his speech of June 25, 2009, contrasting the Palestinian history of several faiths sharing the land with the exclusivist Jewish claims outlined by Prime Minister Netanyahu in his recent speech.

[2] This is not a new Hamas position. Hamas approved the May 2006 National Conciliation Document, negotiated by leaders of Hamas, Fatah and other organizations in Israeli jails (and also called the Prisoners’ Document). That document provides for making Hamas a constituent organization of the PLO, for a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, and for a National Unity Government to include “especially Fatah and Hamas.” It also recognizes the authority of the PLO or president of the PNA to negotiate final status, subject to ratification by the PNC or referendum. Before 2005, Hamas had rejected membership in the PLO because the PLO had recognized Israel and participated in the peace process; Hamas signed the March 17, 2005 Cairo document that said that all factions must be brought into the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and that all must accept a state with Jerusalem as its capital.

[3] Dayton’s program has claimed significant success in integrating and training PA security forces, and those forces are being given increasing responsibility in “Area A” towns that were to be PA-controlled under Oslo. However, many Palestinians see it as a program to have the PA administer the occupation for Israel. This view was bluntly confirmed when Dayton, in a May 7, 2009 speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an AIPAC spinoff, bragged that during Cast Lead, the PA forces he had trained suppressed Palestinian opposition to Cast Lead in the West Bank, and allowed “a good portion of the Israeli army” to go “off to Gaza from the West Bank.”

[4] John Ging of UNRWA estimated that the number of Gazans who wanted Israel destroyed numbered in five figures, but said that as a new generation grows up with no understanding of Israelis except as military oppressors, Gaza will become the “hostile entity” that Israel declared it to be in 2007.

[5] I will argue in Part II that the statutory bar is only as strong as the administration wants it to be.

[6] Alzaeem noted wryly that as to corruption, the issue that lost Fatah many voters in the 2006 elections, Hamas leaders were “quick learners.” He could identify $700 million in proceeds from illicit tunnel traffic that was unaccounted for, and there were at least a dozen Hamas leaders who were suddenly wealthy. Nevertheless, it is his view that corruption is worse in Israel than it is in the occupied territories.

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2 Responses to “What to Make of Hamas, Part I”

  1. [...] for parts one and two. [1] Three of these options (excluding negotiations with Abbas alone) are analyzed by [...]

  2. [...] for parts one and three. [1] Hamas’s First Communiqué, December 14, [...]

"Sense of duty": interview with Bilin journalist

ody McIntyre, The Electronic Intifada, 4 September 2009

Haitham a- Katib at home with his son Mohammed. (Hamde Abu Rahme)
Haitham al-Katib is a journalist living in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin. During the last few months, village residents have been the victims of constant night invasions by the Israeli military. The goal of these raids is to crush the village's campaign of nonviolent resistance to the confiscation of their land. Al-Katib films the night raids, as well as the weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the wall, and has become a well-known figure for his brave attempts to document the struggle. The Electronic Intifada contributor Jody McIntyre, currently based in Bilin, interviewed him about his work.

Jody McIntyre: What's your daily routine at the moment?

Haitham al-Katib Because of the raids, I don't sleep at night. Instead, I walk around the village with friends as well as international volunteers, to watch for soldiers. They come with dogs and masked faces, and break into the houses without knocking on doors, usually between 2 to 4am, so now our children are terrified that it will be their house next. When I was 15 years old I was put in jail myself, so I know how it feels. I was only a kid, and I was really afraid, so now I feel like I have a responsibility to try and stop it from happening to our next generation.

On Fridays, I film the nonviolent demonstrations at the wall. The occupation forces have stolen over half of our land to build settlements and the wall, so we go to protest against this. This year, at one such demonstration, they killed a close friend of mine, Bassem Abu Rahme. He had his arms in the air and was telling them not to shoot because they had injured an Israeli girl, and they murdered him right there. I used to be a photographer, but after that incident I realized how important video is to show the truth; the Israeli army later claimed that Bassem was hurling rocks at them when he was shot. I was photographing Bassem at the time and I thought he was just injured, but when I realized something wasn't right, I dropped my camera from the shock.

JM: How do the night raids affect your family life?

HK: I've lost my regular job as an electrician since the night raids began, so now my family and I are in a very difficult situation financially. Not just my family, but everyone in the village sleeps in normal clothes now, fearing they could be the next person to be dragged from their bed with automatic weapons pointed at their face. I can't sleep in my house at night, because I know there could be another invasion, and I want my children to sleep instead.

My youngest son, Karme, is two years old; he was diagnosed with leukemia at just eight months. I used to take him to the hospital in Jerusalem every day, but recently I've been finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the permit I need from the Israeli authorities, so my wife goes instead. The [Palestinian Authority] was paying for Karme's healthcare, but its support is unreliable - earlier this year it suddenly stopped paying for a month, and I had to find 20,000 NIS [New Israeli Shekels, about $5,255] for the medical costs. There is no way my family can afford these hospital fees.

JM: Why do you film the night raids?

HK: Because I feel a [sense of] duty to show the world the reality of what is happening in Bilin. Also, I think if my camera wasn't there the Israeli soldiers would be even more brutal, and would stay in the village for longer during the raids. We also go out with the intention of stopping the violent arrests of our children, although that has proven impossible.

JM: Have you ever been hurt while filming?

HK: Yes, many times! During a recent night raid, I saw the soldiers looking to grab me, so I started running and gashed my leg on a piece of metal that was sticking out from underneath a car. The soldiers just left me when they saw I was lying on the ground.

In fact, they often attack me during the raids and try to break my camera. In the most recent raid they succeeded -- one of the soldiers saw me filming and grabbed the screen of the camera, yanking it twice to completely destroy it.

I've also been injured many times during the weekly nonviolent demonstrations at the wall. On one occasion, I was photographing and a soldier told me if I didn't stop he would shoot me in the head. I didn't believe him, so I stepped to the side and continued to take photos, and he shot me with a rubber-coated metal bullet right between my eyes, which broke my skull. While I was lying in intensive care, the one question on my mind was, "Why?" I didn't do anything wrong, I was just taking photos, but perhaps the soldiers didn't want the world to see the truth of their actions, while they preach about Israeli "democracy" in the mainstream media.

But it's not only me; hundreds of people, including many journalists, have been injured during our nonviolent demonstrations.

JM: What are your plans for the future?

HK: My dream is to teach lots of people in the village how to film, so that when the mothers have their children snatched from them they can show the whole world.

Next week, I am going to Switzerland with Shai Pollak, an Israeli activist and filmmaker, and close friend of mine, to show Bil'in, Habibi [a film Shai made about our village's campaign of nonviolent resistance] at the Biennale libre de l'image en movement film festival in Geneva. I hope we can use the film to show the world that the wall is not for security, as Israel claims, but solely for stealing our land and building illegal settlements.

JM: Do you see an end to the occupation?

HK: I think our struggle for freedom may continue for a long time, but I truly believe we will get there one day. If Palestine follows the model of Bilin, we will be free.

Jody McIntyre is a journalist from the United Kingdom, currently living in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin. Jody has cerebral palsy, and travels in a wheelchair. He writes a blog for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, entitled "Life on Wheels," which can be found at He can be reached at jody.mcintyre AT gmail DOT com.