Saturday 12 December 2009

Secret but not forgotten – “Israel’s” facility 1391

December 11, 2009, source
In May of this year, the United Nations Committee Against Torture bought up the issue of Facility 1391, a clandestine Israeli prison where Palestinian, Lebanese, and other Arab prisoners are detained and subjected to torture.

The committee called upon Israel to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross access to this prison and demanded to know if there were other secret prisons in Israel.

The existence of Facility 1391 came to light in 2002, purely by accident. An Israeli human rights group, Hamoked, which provides assistance to Palestinian prisoners, demanded to know where Bashar and Mohammed Jadallah, two Palestinian cousins who could not be traced by their families after their arrest by the Israeli army, were being held. The Israeli authorities were forced to admit that they were in a secret prison. The location of that prison was also discovered accidentally a short time later. In 2003, Gad Kroizer, an Israeli historian, was researching old police buildings from the time of the British Mandate, when he came across a 70 year old map displaying 62 such buildings. He discovered that one of the buildings shown, called Meretz, could not be seen on any modern Israeli maps, and was not referred to in any of the literature relating to Israeli security compounds. He soon put two and two together. The Israeli authorities had done a thorough job in wiping away any trace of the facility from maps. It is however, visible on Google Earth today. The facility is located near the town of Pardes Hanna-Karkur. The coordinates are 32°28′11.93″N 35° 1′20.74″E.

The facility is inside a military base controlled by Unit 504, a secret unit of the Intelligence Corps which is responsible for gathering “human intelligence” outside Israel. This unit runs a network of collaborators in Lebanon and Facility 1391 started out as a detention centre for prisoners captured or kidnapped by the Israelis in Lebanon in the 1980s. Among the abductees held there were Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, a Hizbullah leader seized from his home in Southern Lebanon in 1989 and Mustafa Dirani, head of security of the Amal Movement, who was kidnapped in 1994. The prisoners also included people who the Israelis said were abducted in order to be exchanged for the Israeli air force pilot Ron Arad who was captured by Amal in Lebanon in 1986. These included Hashem Fahaf, a 20 year old who was visiting Sheikh Obeid on the night he was abducted and who spent the next 11 years in Facility 1391, and two youths, one aged 16 and the other 17. Following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, Unit 504 began to operate in the Palestinian territories and Israel began to detain Palestinians in Facility 1391 for the first time. Marwan Barghouthi, a prominent leader of the intifada, is perhaps the best known Palestinian to spend time in the secret prison.

Facility 1391 has often been called “Israel’s Guantanamo”. However the situation there is even worse than in Guantanamo in at least one way. While the Red Cross has access to the notorious American detention centre, it has never been allowed to visit Facility 1391, neither has any other international organisation. Even members of the Israeli Knesset have been denied access to it by Israeli courts. Practically all the information about the facility comes from the testimony of prisoners held there. A former Israeli justice minister, David Libai, claimed to know nothing about Facility 1391 when interviewed.

This secrecy surrounding the prison plays a key role in the torture of the prisoners held there, most of which is psychological. Prisoners arriving in Facility 1391 were led blindfolded into their cells. They were told by their captors that they were “outside the borders of Israel”, “in a submarine”, “in Honolulu”, or “on the moon”. The prisoners were held in cells with no windows. The lighting provided was barely equivalent to that of a candle. It was so dark that they had difficulty seeing their own hands. A repetitive and deafening sound, given off by a fan was constantly present. The cells there were of varying sizes but most were 2×2metres. Some cells, used to hold prisoners who were still under interrogation were only 1.25×1.25 metres. One prisoner reported being held in a cell no wider than a mattress. Prisoners were given sacks on arrival in the prison and told that they must place them on their heads any time a guard entered their cell or gave them food. They were threatened with dire consequences if they failed to follow this instruction or glimpsed a soldier’s face. The use of beatings, sleep deprivation, and force feeding was routine.

Toilet facilities consisted of a bucket placed in each of the tiny cells and emptied every few days. In most of the cells there was no running water; “luxury” cells had running water but this was under the control of the guards. One prisoner, Raed Bader, says of the sanitary conditions in Facility 1391, “On the ninth consecutive day in the stench-filled cell, one of the soldiers was supposed to come and take me out. He almost vomited and rushed out of the cell,” because of the smell of the unemptied bucket. Bader also speaks of the role isolation played in his torture, “I spent many days in that solitary confinement cell and in others like it, and hour after hour I would talk to myself and feel that I was going crazy, or find myself laughing to myself.”
Another Palestinian held in 1391, Hassan Rawajbeh, mentioned that he had been in six Israeli prisons before “but these experiences were like five star hotels compared to 1391″ He said that for four months the only people he saw were his interrogators and that he was kept naked for days on end. It seems that the technique of using the taboos of Arab culture and Islam concerning nudity against prisoners, which was later employed in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, was pioneered in this prison. Prisoners were not only forced to remain naked, they were photographed in this state as well.

They were also subjected to sexual abuse and rape. Mustafa Dirani filed a lawsuit against the Israeli authorities, stating that he was raped by four soldiers on the orders of an officer known only as Major George. On another occasion, Major George himself raped Dirani with a stick. Dirani’s account is backed up by one of the interrogators who worked in the facility who says that it was common practice to threaten prisoners with the insertion of a stick if they did not talk. In his defence Major George, who was later dismissed from the army, stated that everything he had done was in accordance with the standard practice of Unit 504. Sixty other officers signed a petition in his support confirming this.

Human rights activists have a very simple explanation for the existence of Facility 1391. Manal Hazzan, a human rights lawyer working with Hamoked says, “Our main conclusion is that it exists to make torture possible – a particular kind of torture that creates progressive states of dread, dependency, debility. The law gives the army enough authority already to hide prisoners, so why do they need a secret facility?” Hamoked has also stated that, “The detention conditions… are not proper for holding a human being, and are liable to cause physical and psychological injury, which may even be irreversible”. Indeed, Ghassan Dirani, a relative of Mustafa Dirani, developed catatonic schizophrenia as a result of his incarceration.

It is widely believed that Facility 1391 is only one of several secret prisons in Israel. Palestinians captured in Israel’s war on Gaza last December and January were held as “illegal combatants”. It is very possible that they are being held in similar conditions to those that exist in Facility 1391.

Book review: Alastair Crooke's "Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution"

Hicham Safieddine, The Electronic Intifada, 12 December 2009

The title of Alastair Crooke's book Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution may easily invoke the late Palestinian thinker Edward Said's critiques of trying to essentialize Islam. The reader may become more concerned when she realizes that Crooke is not merely referring to the Iranian Revolution (the book's cover depicts a Muslim cleric in a Tehran street) but to the totality of Islamist movements and ideological trends that emerged in modern times across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Crooke, a former advisor to European Union High Representative Javier Solana in the Middle East, admits in the introduction that he is keenly aware of Said's warnings against speaking of such categories as "Islamism" or the "West" when speaking about a vast array of social, political and ideological phenomena. Crooke agrees with Said that such generalizations are problematic. But then immediately afterwards -- in what reads like a sigh of despair -- declares that one has little alternative but to go down that road if one is to keep the message simple and focus on defining such an "essence!" The reader might forgive Crooke if this were a brief newspaper article or TV appearance where time constraints and public engagement don't allow for a nuanced exposition of these ideas. However, this is a nearly 300-page book that itself engages in a multi-layered discussion about ideological trends and philosophies in Islamic and Western thought.

To be fair to Crooke, he does not paint all Islamist movements with the same ideological brush. But he does seem to suggest that they all have one common essence, that of resistance. A more appropriate common thread would have been that of politicization. Political Islam is the sine qua non of this religious revival, with a clear invitation to place Islamic values -- both conservative and subversive -- at the center of public life. Resistance, on the other hand, is a different matter. It is a feature of certain movements and certain times but not others. It is directed against certain forces, such as imperialism, but not necessarily others, like patriarchy.

The search for an essence undermines what otherwise might have been a worthwhile study of philosophy of resistance among Islamic movements as articulated by influential Islamist thinkers and revolutionaries of the last century. This is a much welcome discussion especially in a European and North American context in which political Islam continues to be highly associated with terrorism and the pre-modern and -- as Crooke points out -- denied rational agency. Crooke offers numerous engaging discussions about this ideological trend. He explores the common motivating questions that occupied Islamic revivalists like Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual icon of the Iranian Revolution Ali Shariati, and the figurehead of Islamic thought in Iraq Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr. He also tackles the ideas and beliefs animating political movements like Hizballah and Hamas in their struggle against occupation.

Crooke argues that all of these Islamist ideologies are -- in some way or another -- a reaction to the Western-inspired and often imposed projects of nation-building, such as Kemal Ataturk's founding of Turkey along anti-Islamist, secular lines. These nation-building projects, he maintains, tried to uproot local traditions of knowledge and import European understandings of rationality, individualism and morality. Islamist currents critiqued these projects, not because they shunned modernity or rationality, but because they shunned a particular understanding of modernity that suffered from moral decadence, an instrumental use of rationality in the service of power and dominance, and an individualistic depiction of community and social action. In short, Islamists were disillusioned with the perceived spiritual bankruptcy of European 20th century modernity, the latter largely blamed -- by Crooke -- on its earlier progenitor, the protestant reformation.

It is in the context of this disillusionment that Crooke presents what he terms the "Islamist Revolution," an attempt to create a "dynamic and forward-looking religion that is in the process of evolving distinct ideas about the individual, about relationship within a society, about relationships between the community and its government." The conflict then between Islam and the West as envisioned by Crooke is a religious one at its core. It is a clash of two value systems, of two ideological world-views. Sounds familiar? This is Samuel Huntington's theory of "Clash of Civilizations," only with inverted conclusions. Huntington clearly ranked the two value systems. He privileged the West as the cradle of modernity, democracy and rationality battling the primitive forces of fundamentalism summarized by Islamist ideology. For Crooke, it is almost the opposite, with Islamism offering a new vision of the essence of man that is more humble, more spiritual and more communal than that of the West.

There may be some -- or a lot -- of truth to Crooke's depiction of the value system that many of these Islamist ideologies espouse. Moreover, ideology clearly plays a role in shaping conflicts. But putting too much emphasis on ideology as a source of conflict without linking it to political and economic factors is misleading. Such an emphasis ignores the enduring alliance between secular regimes in the West and the most fundamentalist Islamist ones like Saudi Arabia -- a relationship that is based almost entirely on material interests not ideology. Moreover, it underplays the role of the Saudi regime in supporting Islamists across the Arab world and central Asia since the 1970s as a counterweight to secular nationalist and communist movements. This was not a benign interference. It led to significant trends of conservatism and anti-resistance or anti-revolutionary currents in some of these Islamic ideologies that the author does not address. The role of Saudi Arabia aside, the question of the dynamism and transformations of these ideologies over time is not addressed either. For example, Crooke does not explain how this "essential" notion of resistance can be squared with the transition of Islamist forces in Iran from opposition during the Shah's time to government and at times oppressors of their own people later.

The idealistic and at time lopsided depiction of Islamism and its ethics of resistance, reinforces -- ironically in this case perhaps -- many of the assumptions that Crooke is trying to dispel. It deprives readers misinformed about political Islam the opportunity to replace their prejudiced and skewed understanding of it with a more nuanced and realistic one. At worst, it belongs to a well-entrenched discourse on both sides of the divide that wants to will away the material realities animating much of these conflicts. At best, it serves as a reminder to us, and hopefully to Crooke, that the road to intellectual misrepresentation can be paved with good intentions.

Hicham Safieddine is a Lebanese Canadian journalist.

Iran, Syria Sign Defense Pact against 'Foreign Aggression'


12/12/2009 Iran and Syria signed a defense agreement on Friday, according to an Iranian Press TV report, just as Iran is coming under strong international pressure to clarify aspects of its nuclear program.

The document, signed by Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mohammad Habib Mahmoud, aimed to face "common enemies and challenges," the report said.

Vahidi praised Syria's great potential in defense and military fields and said that "it is natural for a country like Syria - which has an inhumane and menace predator like Israel in its neighborhood - to be always prepared [against possible foreign aggression]."

His visit to Syria comes a week after Saeed Jalili, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, also visited Damascus.

Iran's treaty with Syria comes just as Western countries are warning Tehran that it fails to respond to overtures intended to make its nuclear program transparent, it will face sanctions.

But as Iran was cementing its ties with Syria, the United States emphasized that its patience in waiting for a diplomatic response from Iran to its overtures is running thin.

In a Wall Street Journal interview published on Friday, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said that "Iran still controls its destiny on [the nuclear] issue." The door to the diplomatic process would "stay open as long as we could leave it open … but it's not going to stay open much longer."

According to Jones, the parties involved in negotiations with Tehran wish most of all that Iran's leaders would "give a clear statement of policy with regard to their future ambitions concerning the development of nuclear weapons and the delivery means to go with them."

"As long as there's an open question on both of those issues, then Iran is just asking the world to trust them," he stated. "They think they can withstand anything the UN or the coalition of like-minded nations can put together. They might be right. They might be wrong."

"If Iran pivots and does the right thing, whether it's December 30 or January 20, that's what everybody wants," he concluded.

Tens of Palestinians and foreign activists harmed in IOF quelling of Bilin march


[ 12/12/2009 - 09:11 AM ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Tens of Palestinian citizens of Bilin village and foreign solidarity activists were hurt on Friday when the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) used violence to quell the weekly peaceful anti wall march.

Participants hoisted Palestinian flags, anti occupation slogans and placards denouncing attacks on Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem during the march that also coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the start of the first intifada back in December 1987.

They marched in the village streets calling for national unity and shunning internal differences. They also called for maintaining Palestinian constants and resisting occupation.

The marchers called for the release of all detainees in Israeli jails topped by coordinator of the popular committee against the wall Abdullah Abu Rahma.

IOF soldiers fired teargas canisters at the demonstrators when they approached the wall, which confiscated a huge chunk of the village lands, causing breathing problems for dozens of them.

The popular committee, which organizes the weekly event, praised in a statement the Swedish draft proposal to the European Union, saying that it went in harmony with the international resolutions in this regard.


December 12, 2009 at 10:31 am (Crime, From The Media)

Jonathan Pollard, left, and Bernard Madoff.

Bernard Madoff chats up prison-mate Jonathan Pollard

Bernard Madoff, who engineered the largest Ponzi scheme in history which bilked investors for some $19 billion, has adjusted to life behind bars by chatting up, among others, prison-mate Jonathan Pollard, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Like all inmates, Madoff wakes up at 6 A.M. and reports for work by 7:30. The jobs in prison include groundskeeper, plumber, or kitchen crew, while salaries range from 12 cents to $1.15 per hour, according to the Journal.

The rest can be read HERE

Hariri: "... Syria! Until we Meet again!"


That was Auntie Bahia Hariri on March 14th, 2005' ... According to Al Akhbar, Saad Hariri is due 'back' in Damascus, a city the Hariris never really left, for better or for worse, on Monday December 14??

Posted by G, Z, or B at 8:09 PM

Prisoners ministry calls for pressuring IOA to allow winter clothes to prisoners

[ 12/12/2009 - 02:23 PM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of prisoners in Gaza has asked the international human rights groups to pressure the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) to allow winter clothes to prisoners from the Gaza Strip.

Riyadh Al-Ashqar, the ministry's spokesman, said in a press release on Saturday that those 760 prisoners have been deprived of family visits for more than 30 months.

The IOA only allowed winter clothes for those prisoners twice, he said, adding that the ban was doubling the suffering of those prisoners in the harsh winter weather especially in desert prisons.

The IOA does not provide clothes to those captives and compels them to secure their needs either through their relatives or at the prison's canteen, where the prices are very high, Asqar said.

He noted that the Gaza prisoners used to secure their needs of clothes through relatives of their West Bank comrades but the IOA foiled the measure by limiting quantity of clothes to the West Bank prisoners.

The ministry appealed to the UN to pressure the IOA into allowing family visits to those prisoners in order to see their relatives and to secure their needs.



December 12, 2009 at 10:03 am (DesertPeace Editorial, Human Rights, Israel, Media, Palestine)

Without human rights and the rule of law there can be no justice, without justice there can be no peace

I was pleasantly surprised, actually shocked, when I opened the weekend edition of the Jerusalem Post this morning. There was a special supplement between the regular sections…. a poster sized (suitable for framing) copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Post is an ardent supporter of the State of Israel, no one can deny that, also an ardent supporter of Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinian people….. which includes the absolute denial of Human Rights.  To see them agree to include this precious document into their paper is truly a welcome gesture.
It would have been even more meaningful if they printed the following report as well…..

Israel Continues to Deny Palestinians’ Fundamental Human Rights

On 10 December, the world observes the 61st International Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly. This year, International Human Rights Day will focus on non-discrimination, a right enshrined in, inter alia, Article 1 of the UDHR:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood

However, 61 years after the adoption of the UDHR, Israel continues to pursue clearly discriminatory policies and practices and the violation of Palestinians’ human rights have persisted, and escalated.

Israel’s persistent human rights violations would not be possible without the complicity or support of the international community. As recently illustrated by the events surrounding the Goldstone Report, States’ tacit consent or active efforts serve to undermine the fundamental premise of the UDHR: that human rights apply equally and universally. Influential States – who claim to promote and safeguard human rights – either grant Israel impunity or prioritise a ‘peace process’ based on political considerations, while disregarding justice, accountability and the rule of law. The UDHR itself recalls that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

This year began with Israel’s devastating 23-day offensive on the Gaza Strip, (‘Operation Cast Lead’). This military offensive resulted in the killing of over 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilian, and the devastation of the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure. To date, Gaza continues to suffer a humanitarian crisis due to Israel’s unrelenting illegal blockade, which has, inter alia, rendered reconstruction – and thus recovery – impossible. This collective punishment indiscriminately affects all of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants, compounding an already dire human rights situation. Those most vulnerable include refugees, women, children and the elderly.

Over the course of 2009 existing illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land have expanded and new settlements have been established. The confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land has continued unabated, and intensified in East Jerusalem. In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Annexation Wall is a violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. However, construction continues, and approximately 58 percent of the Annexation Wall has been completed to date. When finished, 85 percent of the 723 km long Wall will stand on Occupied Palestinian Territory (‘OPT’).

Forcible transfers of Palestinians and an increase of internally displaced persons (‘IDPs’) and refugees are a consequence of the aforementioned Israeli policies and practices in the OPT. Almost 70 percent of the Palestinian people are forcibly displaced persons who have remained without access to durable solutions and reparations.

As a result of Israel’s systematic discrimination, occupation and colonisation, the Palestinian people have faced increased violations of, inter alia, their right to life, their right to housing and property, their right not to be subjected to torture or cruel and inhuman punishment or treatment, their right to free movement, their right to return, and their right to an effective judicial remedy. At the core of these violations is the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

The systematic violation of Palestinians’ human rights cannot be allowed to continue any longer. As the international community celebrates International Human Rights Day, we as Palestinian non-governmental organisations, remind the Member States of the United Nations to uphold their pledge “to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, as enshrined in the UDHR.

Human rights violations will continue as long as Israel is granted the ability to act as a State above the law. The international community must make tangible efforts to combat impunity, and uphold victims’ rights, this includes implementation of the Goldstone Report’s recommendations, and the 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Wall by the International Court of Justice. International pressure must also be put on Israel to respect the territorial integrity of the OPT, including East Jerusalem, end illegal confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land, ,dismantle illegal Israeli settlements. and provide reparation to Palestinian victims, including refugees and IDPs. Ultimately, Israel’s occupation, which is the root-cause of Israel’s human rights violations, must cease as demanded by international law.

Without human rights and the rule of law there can be no justice, without justice there can be no peace.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be seen HERE

Winning prize for peace while advocating war

Sayed Dhansay, The Electronic Intifada, 11 December 2009

Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize only days after announcing an increase in troops in the ongoing US-led war in Afghanistan. (Pete Souza/White House Photo)

United States President Barack Obama has just accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo. His nomination had been controversial, not least because he is continuing and escalating two illegal wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also because it was awarded to him at the beginning of his term, before he has proven a genuine willingness to promote peace.

Though his eloquent and moving speech in Cairo last June spoke of "peace," "mutual respect" and "new beginnings" with the Arab and Muslim world, his administration's foreign policy has thus far proven otherwise. The glaring contradiction between his words and actions are nowhere else more obvious than in his dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In his acceptance speech yesterday, President Obama quoted former US President John F. Kennedy's advice on attaining peace: "Let us focus on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions."

As a first step toward achieving that evolution, Obama advised that "all nations -- strong and weak alike -- must adhere to standards that govern the use of force." Those standards -- international humanitarian law -- were however not applied by Obama to Israel in its devastating attack on the Gaza Strip last winter.

Though the UN-commissioned Goldstone report accused Israeli forces of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in Gaza, Obama's representatives at the UN Human Rights Council voted against a resolution that adopted the report's findings. In addition, his government attempted to discredit the report by claiming that it was biased against Israel and flawed from the outset. This is hard to believe considering that its author is a jurist of international acclaim, not to mention a Jew with strong ties to Israel.

Obama also advocated that "Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure." Yet when it comes to Israeli intransigence, Obama appears unwilling to demand the same level of accountability or exert any pressure at all.

Israel has flouted international law with impunity for 42 years with its settler-colonial project in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. Israel's illegal wall continues to annex Palestinian land, while home demolitions in East Jerusalem occur now almost on a weekly basis. Here, Obama has not "exacted a real price." Instead he has rewarded Israel with billions of dollars of continued military assistance, and caved in to pressure by backtracking on his original policy that a comprehensive settlement freeze be a prerequisite for resumed peace negotiations.

Though US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell hailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ten-month freeze as an "unprecedented step to achieving peace," facts on the ground showed otherwise. Netanyahu declared openly that settlement construction would resume at full pace after the elapse of the ten-month period.

This week, the Israeli Peace Now movement reported that construction in West Bank settlements currently outweighs that within Israel's pre-1967 borders. Journalist Gideon Levy hit the nail on the head when he described this freeze as "just another scene in Israel's masquerade" in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Obama also warned those who violate international law by "brutalizing their own people." He said that there must be consequences for genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo or repression in Burma. He failed however to mention the brutalization of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the slow genocide in Gaza or the repression in the occupied West Bank.

A recent report by Israel's Interior Ministry revealed that 4,577 Palestinians were stripped of their right to live in East Jerusalem in 2008, an all time record in 42 years of occupation. Residency revocation in Jerusalem last year was 21 times higher than the average over the last 40 years. Israel treats native Palestinians in East Jerusalem as if they were foreign residents whose presence can be revoked at will, even though these Palestinians did not come to Israel. Rather, Israel came and imposed itself on them with its internationally unrecognized annexation and occupation of the city from 1967 until present.

An Amnesty International study published in October accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water. While Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have lush gardens and sparkling swimming pools, some 180,000 Palestinians have no access to running water. The report states that Israelis use up to four times more water than Palestinians, while the settler population alone uses more water than the entire West Bank Palestinian population of about 2.5 million.

Though his presidency terminated in January of this year, Mahmoud Abbas and his collaborationist Palestinian Authority (PA) continue to be propped up by the Obama administration. Obama preaches the value of democracy, yet his government fails to recognize the democratically-elected Hamas government. Instead, the US continues to endorse Israel's siege on Gaza which has resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe of such proportion that some Gazans have even resorted to faking cancer in the hope of escaping the isolated coastal territory.

President Obama also stated in his speech that "I believe peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please, choose their own leaders or assemble without fear." Perhaps he should have then taken the opportunity to mention the systematic repression of any outward opposition to the PA or Israel by PA security forces. Then again, if he did so, he would be forced to acknowledge that these very police are trained in their art by none other than US General Keith Dayton and funded by US taxpayers.

While he champions the right to freedom of worship, Obama avoids the fact that his "loyal and true friend," Israel, routinely denies Palestinians the right to freely access the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. He criticizes Burma for its religious repression, but is silent on the continuous incursions into one of the world's holiest sites for Muslims by the Israeli army and extremist settlers.

Obama claimed as a centerpiece of his foreign policy the need to "prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them." He reminded his audience that it was incumbent on all of them to ensure that Iran and North Korea do not "game the system."

While his administration is leading the efforts to increase sanctions against Iran, we hear no mention of Israel's nuclear arsenal, even though it has demonstrated time and again its brazen willingness to use grossly indiscriminate, deliberate and massive firepower on civilian targets, as witnessed in the 2006 Lebanon war and during last winter's assault on Gaza.

The most disturbing aspect of President Obama's speech however was its unabashed justification of war. The leader of the liberal, democratic free world was accepting the world's most coveted peace prize. And the overarching theme of his address was that it was impossible to eradicate violent conflict. Obama's colleagues in the Knesset may well have been pleased to hear this.

"There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified," Obama said. This fatalistic attitude lends itself more to a Rumsfeld-Cheney "bombing for freedom" ideology than that of someone accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

Furthermore, it sends a very dangerous signal to the Israeli government who know that they have America's protection in institutions tasked with upholding international law. It provides no impetus for Israel to end its occupation, lift its draconian siege of Gaza or embrace the only viable option that it has left -- peaceful transition that will protect the rights of Palestinians and Israelis within the framework of a secular, bi-national, democratic state.

In fact, it only further emboldens Israel to accelerate its process of ethic cleansing and colonization, and use military force to achieve these ends. Indeed, many Zionists believe that it is after all morally justifiable to use violence to rid "Greater Israel" of anyone who is not Jewish. The comments of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi that the Israeli military's "next round of hostilities will be even more intense" is quite revealing in this regard.

What is surprising, is that President Obama seems to realize the folly of his very own "just war" doctrine. Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., he states that "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem. It merely creates new and more complicated ones."

If any modern conflict has proven this to be incredibly accurate, it is that of the Israelis and Palestinians. No amount of arrest raids, land confiscation, home demolitions or massacres can bring about peace. These do not solve the social problems of dispossession, statelessness and disenfranchisement. Nor do they quell the desire for freedom and self-determination. Indeed, they only serve to create new and more complicated problems.

By Obama advocating war as an acceptable foreign policy, he is only serving to create new, more complicated problems in the Middle East. Instead of promoting the dead two-state solution with a moribund puppet regime, he should acknowledge the fundamental root cause of this conflict -- that of the dispossession of a people from their native homeland. Without this, there will be no practical, attainable peace.

Sayed Dhansay is a South African human rights activist and independent freelance writer. He volunteered for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 2006 and is an organizer of the South African delegation for the Gaza Freedom March. He blogs at

Washington's New Lebanon Policy


09/12/2009 By Franklin Lamb
December 09, 2009

“There is no obstacle to cooperation with any official in the new Lebanese unity government with the exception of Hezbollah," Nicole Shampaine, Director of the US Department of State's Near East Affairs Bureau Office for Egypt and the Levant 12/3/09.”

Lebanon’s first Sunday morning in December was cold, cloudy and rainy as this country’s’ new Prime Minister, Saad Eddine Hariri, donned a gray track suit, with Nike running shoes and joined hundreds of pro-Hezbollah runners, two dreamy Jordanian princesses and 33,000 others from 73 countries as well as all 18 Lebanese confessions for the annual ‘friendship first, competition second’, 42 km Beirut Marathon. Despite the weather, the atmosphere was warm as Christmas decorations were being hung with care across Lebanon in Christian, Shia, Sunni and Druze neighborhoods.

Saad, telling race watchers on the sidewalks, “I know I won’t win but I want to participate anyway. We have to bring Lebanese together, and sport is a very important event that can bring them together” actually passed on the 42 km course in favor of the 10 km event—but then, how many politicians anywhere, used to the good life, can even run two km these days?

To many Lebanese, their new Prime Minister’s openness and sports ethic, symbolizes a new and promising atmosphere at Lebanon’s Grand Serail, also known as Government Palace, the Headquarters of the Prime Minister located a few blocks from Parliament. A positive and welcomed change from the tensions of the 2006-2007 ‘tent city’ days in Riad Solh Square when the opposition and the Bush administration- backed Fuad Siniora government faced each other for more than a year,separated by the Lebanese army, the former glaring up at their adversaries from scores of tents and the latter peeking down from behind pulled back office curtains.

Joy to the World!

At least in press releases and during TV interviews, Lebanon’s political factions appear more willing and able to work together than has been the case for decades. The Deputies and Cabinet members in Lebanon’s new unity government are about to get to work, with the people of Lebanon and her friends wishing them well. The intensely political and anti-Resistance Maronite Patriach Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who declined an invitation to participate in the marathon, did use his pulpit this morning at early Mass to “Thank God almighty the atmosphere in Lebanon is tilted toward understanding between the feuding parties. We hope this spirit of understanding will continue and political leaders would pay attention to the poor.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Ali Fayyad, a charismatic Hezbollah Member of Parliament expressed his party’s “excitement and intension to work with all parties to improve the lives of all Lebanese.”

Even more encouraging to many Lebanese, but upsetting to some in Washington and Tel Aviv, is that on 12/04/09 Saad Hariri’s US-Saudi backed Mustaqbal ( Future) bloc (March 14), held a meeting at Hariri’s downtown Beirut Center House and emphatically committed the party to “making the citizens priorities the priorities of the national unity cabinet. “ The bloc committed itself to “the political, economic and social aspects of the ministerial Policy Statement.”

This puts the March 14 coalition program in close conformity with much of Hezbollah’s new Political Manifesto. “There now appears to be the votes in Parliament to make some real changes around here” my motorcycle mechanic told me after replacing my windshield, following another fairly minor accident--my 4th in 2009 but down one from 2008.

Europe is expressing its support for Lebanon’s Unity Government as is Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the whole region. Plus the United Nations Sec-Gen Ban Key Moon and virtually the complete international community with two exceptions, the governments of Israel and the United States.

For its part, Israel predictably served up its usual fare of dire threats since the new Cabinet’s Policy Statement recognizing the necessity of Hezbollah’s arms as a deterrent against Israeli attacks on Lebanon. Through its lobby outlets Israel has been threatening that “the adoption of the resistance scheme by the Lebanese government and the major influence of Hezbollah in the Lebanese political scene means that Lebanon has declared that it is responsible for any attack by Hezbollah, and that acting against Lebanon will be easier for the army to win a battle against a state than to win it against a terrorist organization."

On 12/2/09 Israel’s former deputy leader of the Israeli internal front during the July 2006 war, Ayal Ben Raufen warned during an Israel Army Radio interview that "the Lebanese government gave legitimacy for the dangerous increase of Hezbollah’s political power and in case of war, Israel now has a clear address: Lebanon. “

Perhaps Mr. Ben Raufen had not been advised by the much ballyhooed International Law Unit attached to Israeli army brigades whose job it is to make sure all Israeli military attacks continue to be perfectly legal as in Jenin, Lebanon and Gaza, that the drumbeat of threats that he and other Israeli officials have been making against Lebanon are outlawed by Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter which provides: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”.

Washington’s reaction to date has come mainly from two sources. The first and most predictable was an AIPAC drafted letter sent out by 31 of Israel’s agents on the House side of the US Congress. The members forwarded the particularly obtuse and nearly incomprehensible letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging the Obama administration to work toward disarming Hezbollah by threatening the budgets of UNIFIL and Lebanon.

It reads in part: "In light of the clear violations of UN Security Council resolutions, we ask what actions the Administration is taking to ensure the UN addresses these violations.” Presumably the reference is to UNSCR 1701 which according to the arithmetic contained in the seven UN Reports on UNSCR 1701 compliance, Israel has violated more than 1,600 times including near daily violations of Lebanese sovereignty, with cross border troop incursions and Lebanese airspace and territorial waters penetrations. If the members had in mind UNSCR 425, unanimously passed in 1978, demanding that “Israel immediately withdraw from all Lebanese territory”, it is true that this resolution has still not been complied with as Israeli troops still occupy Lebanese territory and it is doubtful the AIPAC language (“we ask what actions the Administration is taking to ensure the UN addresses these violations”) is meant to apply to the Israeli forces occupying the Lebanese territory of Ghajar, Kfar Khouba, and Shebaa Farms.

The letter, introduced by career Israeli legmen, Mark Kirk and Steve Israel also informs the White House that "We must seek to support stronger multilateral efforts to disarm Hezbollah and clear southern Lebanon of Iranian weapons,” despite the fact that international lawyers at the US Library of Congress Research Service recognize that the new Lebanese government’s acceptance of Resistance arms moots certain provisions of UNSRC 1701, and 1559. Some lawyers and scholars at the CRS have argued recently that the Resistance arms arrangements of Lebanon’s unity government constitute a legitimate exercise of Lebanon’s right to self-defense and deterrent requirements especially given six decades of Israeli attacks. Moreover, as they have pointed out, Lebanon has every right to receive assistance from Iran and any other country. No doubt this subject will be raised when Lebanon’s President, Michel Suleiman, visits President Obama on December 14.

Another reaction from Washington immediately followed Hassan Nasrallah’s pledge of Hezbollah cooperation with the new Unity Government as part of the parity new political manifesto. Nicole Shampaine, appointed last year by the Bush Administration as the Director of the Department of State's Near East Affairs Bureau Office for Egypt and the Levant weighed in. She was not happy as she announced that the U.S. will cooperate with the Lebanese government but not with Hezbollah Cabinet ministers. "There is no obstacle to cooperation with any official in the Lebanese government with the exception of Hezbollah," she said in an interview with the Beirut daily As-Safir.

Ms. Shampaine emphasized two problems. “One is that the Hezbollah declaration puts a higher priority on the issue of an Islamic state in Lebanon.” Secondly, Hezbollah’s new political manifesto is “more an attempt to show force in the face of the United States and Israel.” Shampaine’s analysis left some in Lebanon scratching their heads. Had she even read the document? Or was she confusing it with the 1985 ‘Open letter’ which did mention the ideal of an Islamic Republic? Neither the manifesto nor Nasrallah made any mention of an Islamic Republic of Lebanon. What was she talking about?

Nasrallah read and commented on the 32 page document. it focused on the Unity government and Hezbollah’s social programs to develop a balanced economy across the regions based on the productive sectors; improving production; providing appropriate services to citizens including education, healthcare, housing, poverty reduction. Nothing about an Islamic Republic. The idea of an Islamic Republic is presumably one of the last subjects Hezbollah wants to talk about these unity days.

Checking the list and checking it twice!

The one positive comment about US policy Shampaine offered was Washington’s support for Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unity government, the main pillar of which is Hezbollah and its political allies in Parliament and the Cabinet. Washington trusts him and will follow his lead. So what happens when Saad hosts US officials with Hezbollah or pro Hezbollah cabinet ministers or meetings at which Hezbollah Parliamentary delegates are needed?

“Our hands are tied-- Nicole (Sampaine) put us in one hell of a bind!” reported one Beirut Embassy political staffer on 12/4/09. “We have the names of 128 Members of Parliament and 30 cabinet ministers and we will have to advise the Ambassador and visiting officials who they can and can’t meet with or even talk to? Who supports Hezbollah and who does not—who is outed or closet Hezbollah and who it not? My job reminds me of the dilemma of Justice Potter Stewart in the 1964 Jocabellis case when the Supreme Court tried to define what is and is not hard core Pornography and the frustrated Judge just shrugged and explained “it’s hard to define but I know it when I see it”. So I am to go through these names, bios and photos and know a Hezbollah supporter when I see one”

In the spirit of giving this holiday season some Beirut based Americans offer the following counsel to assist our Embassy’s “we’ll know em when we see em” project. It is meant to aid and assist the current US policy of sniffing out contraband members of Lebanon’s new Cabinet.

First the easy cases:

· If the US States government should discover its Beirut Embassy or any visiting American officials have a reason to discuss any aspect of Foreign Affairs with Lebanon, forget about it! Lebanon’s new unity government Foreign Minister is none other than the esteemed former Professor from Lebanese University, Ali Shami. He’s a pro Hezbollah Shia and Amal Movement member. No way can American officials talk/meet with Dr. Shami. Maybe the Swiss will do it for us.

· Concerning any issues having to do with the unity government Cabinet post of State which deals with issues of Administrative Reform which the White House has expressed interest in, don’t even think about discussing them. The new Cabinet Minister is the much respected Mohammad Fneish. He has a terrible record of being elected to Parliament on the Hezbollah ticket in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2005. He also served as Minister of Labor and Minister of Energy in previous governments. He is one of those hard core types.

· Matters concerning Agriculture and US AID projects which need to be discussed with the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture? Absolument Verboten! That Ministerial seat is his held by Hezbollah’s Hussein Hajj Hassan who was elected to Parliament in 1996, 2000 and 2005 on the Hezbollah slate. Even though Hassan is considered an expert on agriculture, having headed the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture between 2000 and 2005, he cannot under the new US guidelines announced by Ms. Shampaine, be met or communicated with.

· US-Lebanese joint efforts with AN1Hi flue, aids, all other Health issues. Not in your dreams because the new Minister of Health is none other than Dr. Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh, Director of the Lebanese Association for Organ Donors and former Head of General Surgeries at the American University of Beirut Medical Center. His problem? Dr. Khalifeh, a Shia Muslim, is a member of the Amal Movement which is aligned with Hezbollah in the National Lebanese Resistance

· Issues involving the Ministry of Youth and Sports that needs to be discussed? Nope. The new unity government minister is surgeon Dr. Ali Abdullah. First he practices in the Rayyak Hospital in the Hezbollah area of the Bekaa and he is Shia. He held the Youth and Sports portfolio since 2003 and while he is pretty independent the Embassy must not take a chance on him. He obviously has too many of the wrong patients, neighbors and friends maybe even relatives.

Slightly more difficult cases requiring intense vetting by the Department of Homeland Security and other security agencies are the new unity government ministers Ghazi Aridi (Public Works), Akram Chelayab (Displaced Persons) and Wael Abu Fasour (State). The problem with these three is that they are Druze and all Members of Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party, and everyone in the State Department knows how that ingrate jumped ship and is now way too cozy with the Hezbollah led Resistance. Surely the Embassy has read what Jumblatt has been saying about Israel being Lebanon’s only enemy, whereas the Embassy knows Israel is American’s only ‘friend’ these days. These three are suspect for sure and under the Shampaine Doctrine are best dissed.

There is one Minister, Elias el Murr, who holds the Defense Ministry post who should pass muster under this season’s “anyone but Hezbollah” standard. Murr, the son of Michel, a long time Member of Parliament, is a Greek Orthodox independent and formerly headed the Interior Ministry. He is not part of the ‘suspect’ Christian bloc headed by Michel Aoun who is allied with Hezbollah. The only problem with this ‘clearance’ to hold discussions with the Defense Minister is that there is not a lot to talk about. Everyone is pretty aware that without a ‘green light’ from Israel very little assistance having to do with military equipment, boots and shoelaces included, according to the US Military Attaché, serious aid to defend Lebanon from Israel will not be seriously discussed. So in the case of the Defense Minister it’s not the Who but the What that is the problem for US-Lebanese relations.

Of the remaining Cabinet Members nearly all have been showing signs of being open to dialogue, willing to hold discussions with Hezbollah on the basis of mutual respect and willingness to solve Lebanon’s severe social, political and economic problems. Most have also expressed support for granting civil rights to the Palestinian Refugees, still wanting and waiting to return to their their country.

As the twelve days of Christmas rapidly approach, it’s not clear exactly who the Obama Administration is going to be able to talk and engage with here in Lebanon. According to one Embassy staffer, “That’s what the American taxpayers pay their Beirut Embassy and State Department to figure out”. is not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and can be reached at

Mr. President, War Is Not Peace

11/12/2009 Norman Solomon –
December 10,2009

Eloquence in Oslo cannot change the realities of war.
As President Obama neared the close of his Nobel address, he called for "the continued expansion of our moral imagination." Yet his speech was tightly circumscribed by the policies that his oratory labored to justify.

Lofty rationales easily tell us that warfare is striving for the noble goal of peace. But the rationales scarcely intersect with actual war. The oratory sugarcoats the poisons, helping to kill hope in the name of it.

A few months ago, when I visited an Afghan office for women's empowerment, staffers took me to a pilot project in one of Kabul's poorest neighborhoods. There, women were learning small-scale business skills while also gaining personal strength and mutual support.

Two-dozen women, who ranged in age from early 20s to late 50s, talked with enthusiasm about the workshops. They were desperate to change their lives. When it was time to leave, I had a question: What should I tell people in the United States, if they ask what Afghan women want most of all?

After several women spoke, the translator summed up. "They all said that the first priority is peace."

In Afghanistan, after 30 years under the murderous twin shadows of poverty and war, the only lifeline is peace.

From President Obama, we hear that peace is the ultimate goal. But "peace" is a fixture on a strategic horizon that keeps moving as the military keeps marching.

Just a couple of days before Obama stepped to the podium in Oslo, the general running the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan spoke to a congressional committee in Washington about the president's recent pledge to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops in July 2011. "I don't believe that is a deadline at all," Stanley McChrystal said.

War is not peace. It never has been. It never will be.

Actual policy always, in the real world, profoundly trumps even the best rhetoric. And so, for instance, when President Obama's Nobel speech proclaimed that "America cannot act alone" and called for "standards that govern the use of force," the ringing declaration clashed with the announcement last month that he will not sign the international Mine Ban Treaty.

As Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams pointed out, "Obama's position on land mines calls into question his expressed views on multilateralism, respect for international humanitarian law and disarmament. How can he, with total credibility, lead the world to nuclear disarmament when his own country won't give up even land mines?"

At the outset of his speech in Oslo, the president spoke of his "acute sense of the cost of armed conflict." Well, there's acute and then there's acute. I think of the people I met and saw in Kabul who are missing limbs, and the countless more whose lives have been shattered by war.

In the name of pragmatism, Obama spoke of "the world as it is" and threw a cloak of justification over the grisly escalation in Afghanistan by insisting that "war is sometimes necessary" -- but generalities do nothing to mitigate the horrors of war being endured by others.

President Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while delivering -- to the world as it is -- a pro-war speech. The context instantly turned the speech's insights into flackery for more war.

Norman Solomon is co-chair of the national Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. He is the author of a dozen books including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For more information, go to:

Detentions Leave Palestinian Students in Limbo

December 12, 2009  

Ofer military base
The Ofer military base, near Ramallah
by Matthew Kalman  -  The Chronicle -  8 November 2009

Ashraf Abuiram should have graduated from college long ago, but his life took an unexpected turn.

In late 2005, when he was a second-year student pursuing a degree in sociology at Birzeit University, 20 jeeps carrying 100 Israeli soldiers showed up at his home in the dead of night. He was arrested, detained without a trial, and spent a year in a prison camp in the south of Israel before being released and allowed to return to college.

Mr. Abuiram was suspected of aiding terrorist organizations but never charged with any crime. His story is not an uncommon one.

Anan Quzmar, director of the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit U., tries to keep updated on the cycle of arrests and releases. Former prisoners “are weakened on the inside,” he says. “I can see them defeated.”

Sahar Francis, director of Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, in Ramallah, says the broad use of administrative detention orders makes it nearly impossible for detainees to enjoy legal protection.

Ashraf Abuiram, a Palestinian student who was detained by the Israelis for a year without trial, says that he has never engaged in terrorist activities but that his empathy for Palestinian militants has grown.

Interviews conducted by The Chronicle with students, former prisoners, activists, and faculty members at universities in the West Bank suggest that a number of Palestinian students have been held for long periods of time without trial and with no evidence provided that they committed any crime. A senior Israeli military prosecutor interviewed for this article adamantly rejects this argument, saying that all detainees are held based on solid evidence and are provided multiple reviews and protections during their imprisonment.
Palestinian-student involvement in terrorist activities has been well documented. Still, the continuous threat of arrest by Israeli security forces in the West Bank, who frequently detain Palestinian students and faculty members for questioning, has led some students to switch majors and has persuaded many students and professors to stay away from even the most innocent political involvement.

Mr. Abuiram is one of 411 Birzeit students who have been detained by Israeli security forces since the university began keeping detailed records in November 2003. Right now, 85 Birzeit students are sitting in Israeli jails. Of those, 44 have been convicted of various terrorism-related charges; 26 are awaiting trial; nine are in “administrative detention,” which allows a local military commander to detain prisoners without trial; and six are undergoing interrogation following their arrests. The most recent arrest was on November 3.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Information, some 720 Palestinian students have been detained by Israel in the nine years since the outbreak of the second intifada, in September 2000. Birzeit appears to have been a particular target. Its students account for more than half of all student detentions, and its past three student-council heads were all arrested and held for months on end.

The Israeli Security Agency, more commonly known by its Hebrew initials, Shin Bet, says it has good reason to focus on students in its efforts to prevent Palestinian terrorism. Contrary to the perception of Palestinian suicide bombers as desperate refugees, a study of 87 attackers from 2000 to 2004, published by the U.S.-based research group Economists for Peace and Security, found that 38 percent were university students or graduates at the time of the attacks.

The Shin Bet also believes that students and universities provide the leadership-and-planning infrastructure for terrorist operations—most notably through the Hamas student organization Kutla al-Islamiya.

“Terrorist organizations perceive the universities in the territories and their students as an attractive target for spotting and recruiting of activists, since the students are intellectual, politically aware, motivated young people who possess leadership skills,” says a 2009 Shin Bet report.

A Pattern of Involvement

Many of the Palestinian students arrested by the Israelis were clearly involved in murderous attacks. They include Ahlam Tamimi, a communications student from Ramallah sentenced to 16 life sentences for escorting a suicide bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in August 2001. The bomber detonated a guitar case filled with explosives, killing 15 and injuring more than 100. Five weeks earlier, Ms. Tamimi had planted a bomb concealed in a can of beer at a Jerusalem supermarket.

At the height of the intifada, when An-Najah National University, another West Bank institution, produced eight suicide bombers in less than a year, the Hamas student society’s Web site hailed them as “heroes,” describing them as “leaders who spread the light with their blood and chart with their lives the annals of glory.”

The Shin Bet says it has arrested at least 12 students since the start of 2009 who are actively engaged in terrorist activity.

But the students, activists, and faculty members who spoke to The Chronicle say that Israeli security forces regularly detain students and professors on the thinnest of evidence, and that administrative detention offers few rights for the accused.

Asked specific questions by The Chronicle about individual prisoners and cases, the Shin Bet refused to comment on most cases, and so it is impossible to corroborate the students’ stories in detail. But the patterns of arrest and detention were reflected across more than a dozen interviews with students, faculty members, human-rights experts, and lawyers familiar with the issues.

Mr. Abuiram, the sociology student, says things started to go wrong about a year into college when fellow students who had been called in for questioning by Israeli intelligence told him they were being asked about his activities.

Feeling hunted, he transferred to a university in Jordan, but Israeli security personnel began to pull him aside for questioning as he traveled across the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and the West Bank. In April 2005, he says, he was summoned for a three-hour interrogation by someone identified to him only as Captain Dudu of the Shin Bet secret service at the Ofer military base near Ramallah.

After a few months, he decided to end his studies in Jordan and return to the West Bank. But in December 2005, hours after he had applied to reregister at Birzeit, Mr. Abuiram says Captain Dudu appeared at his family home at 3 in the morning on a freezing-cold night, accompanied by 20 army jeeps and more than 100 soldiers. The captain called his family out into the street, he says, arrested him, and sent him to a prison camp in southern Israel. He remained in administrative detention for one year.

Lingering Effects

From the moment of his arrest, Mr. Abuiram says, he was never questioned and never charged. He was taken to an Israeli military court several times to extend the detention order but was never allowed to see any evidence against him or to speak to his lawyer except in the court.

He was taken to the Ketziot prison camp in the far south of Israel, where he lived in a tent with 19 other prisoners. Their tent was one of six within a walled compound with six showers and exercise space. He was released exactly one year later, in December 2006, and warned that he was being closely monitored and should not resume his previous activities.
He still has no idea why he was arrested.

“I’m just a normal student at the university like everyone else,” says Mr. Abuiram. His penetrating stare and prematurely graying close-cropped hair are the only possible clues to his harsh experiences as he talks in measured tones about interrogation, arrest, and detention. “I’m involved in a bit of political activity, not anything that’s linked to anything outside the university, but student-union activity to try and achieve student demands from the university.”

He flatly denies any involvement in terrorism or violence or membership in any group outside the university. During the single interrogation with Captain Dudu, he says, it became clear that the Israelis suspected he was involved with underground terrorist cells of the PFLP, the PLO group that assassinated the Israeli tourism minister Rechavam Zeevi in 2001.
Another Birzeit student, who asked that his name not be published, says he was snatched off the street by Israeli soldiers in January 2001 and held for 12 days at the Beit El military base north of Ramallah before being released in the pouring rain miles from his home.

The former engineering student says he had never been remotely involved in any militant activity, but in September 2003 he was arrested again and spent three months in the Ketziot prison camp. On his first night home, he was arrested again and taken to the Russian Compound—a security facility that houses Jerusalem’s police headquarters and the Shin Bet interrogation center—for questioning.

There he was held in a tiny cell and interrogated for 18 hours at a time. After 70 days, he was allowed to see a lawyer for five minutes, and after 125 days he was moved to another prison in southern Israel where he was held for 20 months, until June 2006, when he was put on trial and sentenced to 28 months in jail for being “an active participant in the intifada.”

He was returned to the Ketziot prison camp for three months and then to a jail near Nazareth for one month. He was finally released in January 2007.

The student said the only evidence provided at his trial was his one-time participation in a small demonstration near the university.

“They never found anything to accuse me of. There were no specific accusations that I even knew anyone involved in militant activity,” he says.

“I have been at university for eight years now, while four classes have graduated including all my friends and contemporaries,” he told The Chronicle. “Some teachers in the labs are now younger than me. All my dreams are about jail. I’ve never had a nice dream where I wake up happy.”

Apart from the delay, the continued arrests persuaded him to drop his engineering courses.
“Electrical engineering was my dream and my hobby. I was top of my school in physics,” he says. “But the Israeli interrogators in the Russian Compound said: ‘Electrical engineering is dangerous for us. You will use the knowledge against us.’ So I changed to media studies because I don’t want to be arrested every year. I want them to change their view of me.”
He was willing to speak about his experience, but only on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t want the Israelis to notice me. I don’t want to go back to prison.”

Helpless and Defeated

Faculty members on West Bank campuses say they have seen dramatic changes take place among students who have been targets of questioning or arrests. Some, like the former engineering student, switch majors. Others avoid any group activities that could remotely be perceived as student activism.

Anan Quzmar, director of the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University, tries to keep updated on the cycle of arrests and releases. He says the effects are obvious on the campus.
“Ex-prisoners face difficulties. It decreases their academic performance, and after being in prison they find it hard to get back into a university atmosphere. All their friends have graduated. They are weakened on the inside. I can see them defeated.”

“One of the main effects is this helplessness,” agrees Saleh Abdel-Jawad, dean of the law faculty at Birzeit. He himself has been arrested three times, most recently in 1986 when he led a sit-down protest of staff members and students at an Israeli checkpoint near the university. He was upset because the checkpoint was delaying students for so long that he would often end up with only half his class.

“I was not affiliated at all to any political movement. But the last detention led me to take a decision that even if there is something, I do not have to be involved,” he says.

Mr. Abdel-Jawad describes himself as “a nonviolent intellectual” and says he avoids doing anything that might get him arrested again. He avoids going to trouble spots even as an observer “because I am afraid that one way or another I will be caught by accident.”

At An-Najah National University, in Nablus, Akram Daoud, dean of the law faculty, is still trying to understand the case of his star commercial-law lecturer, Ghassan Khaled, who was arrested in January 2008, held and interrogated for 20 days before being released, and then re-arrested in March 2008. Mr. Daoud says Mr. Khaled remains in administrative detention, although the Israeli army says they have no record of his being currently in detention.

“There are no charges. This was the first time he was arrested. He is religious. He is someone who prays and sometimes talks in the mosques, but he’s not connected to any kind of political party,” says Mr. Daoud. “They couldn’t prove that he has any link with any political party—this is why they are going to put him in administrative detention, because they don’t have any charges against him. This guy has very close connections to Israelis from the peace movement—they are coming daily to his house. He has many friends in Israel and among the Israeli people.”

‘Activism Is Illegal’

Sahar Francis, director of Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, in Ramallah, says the widespread use of administrative detention orders makes it almost impossible for detainees to enjoy legal protection. Addameer is campaigning on behalf of another Birzeit student, Arafat Daoud, a third-year sociology major who has been in administrative detention since 2006.

Contacted by The Chronicle, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said in a written statement that Mr. Daoud is in administration detention “due to his involvement in military activity which endangers the security in the area.” The spokesman noted that Mr. Daoud’s case was due for review last week.

Administrative detention was an emergency measure introduced in 1945 under the British Mandate, the League of Nations government established in Palestine after World War I. The Israeli army, which continues to apply British Mandate law to the West Bank, updated the regulations through military orders issued in 1970 and 1988, allowing the local military commander to detain prisoners without trial, based on confidential intelligence from the Shin Bet, if the commander believes the prisoner poses a danger to the security of the state.
“For Israel, activism is illegal,” says Ms. Francis. “They use administrative detention when the evidence comes from collaborators or agents. They have effectively criminalized all student activities.”

Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsch, a senior Israeli military prosecutor, told The Chronicle that the lengthy detention of innocent Palestinians as described by these interviewees was “almost impossible in reality” because of a system of legal checks and balances and an appeals process that allowed access to judicial review all the way to Israel’s high court.

“The legal basis for administrative detention in Judea and Samaria is Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which specifically states that a conquering army has the right to hold persons who pose a threat to the security of the region in administrative detention,” says Mr. Hirsch.

He says the measure is used only “as a last resort” where exposing the evidence in open court would endanger sources, or where no crime has yet been committed but there is firm intelligence that a terrorist act is being planned.

He rejects accusations that the army is abusing its powers in order to intimidate Palestinians or punish them for nonviolent political activity.

“The very basic requirement before every administrative-detention order is handed down is that it can be proven by the evidence supplied by the security forces that this person poses an immediate and severe danger to the security of the region. It has no connection to that person’s vocation and no connection to that person’s political views in any way, shape, or form,” he says.

Mr. Hirsch says Israeli procedures go far beyond the demands of international law, requiring each administrative-detention order to be reviewed every few months, when statistics show that military judges, military appeals judges, or the Israeli high court change or overturn the orders in nearly half the cases.

As for Mr. Abuiram, he is in his final year of study.

He dropped out several times after his release, and assiduously avoids anything that could be remotely construed as a political activity. But his empathy for Palestinian militants has only increased.

“I used to respect them before getting into prison because they are defending themselves,” he says. “Even before getting to prison I could understand everything about them, even if they kill civilians. And you can write that. I can understand anything that the Palestinians did against the occupation.”