Monday, March 30, 2009

To Boycott Israel…or Not? -- Naomi Klein and Rabbi Arthur Waskow Debate

Mid-portion below; whole debate here:

Naomi, Helen Suzman, a white South African who was a leader of the anti-apartheid movement, who died this past January, argued that economic sanctions against South Africa during apartheid had hurt the entire population, particularly the poor. Would not the same thing happen in the occupied territories?

NK: It is true that in South Africa it did hurt the entire population. And the call for sanctions was consciously made despite that fact. And that is why it is so extraordinary, that there has been such a widespread call from Palestinians despite the fact that they will also suffer under BDS.

But we can’t compare the kind of suffering Gazans are facing under the Israeli blockade and embargo to what Israelis would suffer if a BDS campaign were to get off the ground. We’re talking about people in Gaza lacking life-saving medicine, cooking oil and food, versus Israel losing some foreign investment, and not having concerts and some academic conferences. These are not in the same league.

AW: Naomi, you said you see them as complementary strategies, but in the real world, people have to decide what to put their energies into. Do we think that if the Presbyterian church is trying to put its energies into boycotts this time, not just of Caterpillar but of all Israeli society, that that’s going to be workable alongside of, and at the same time as, mobilizing Israeli and Palestinian voices simultaneously in those churches, and then those churches lobbying Congress on these solutions? I don’t believe it.

NK: That is what happened with South Africa. The BDS strategy personalizes the dispute. You follow the money at your own school, your own shopping habits, your own government, and extraordinarily lively debates ensue that are not just about the boycott strategy but are about why the boycott is happening. That’s happening right now at Hampshire College.

The boycott starts the debate, it brings teeth to it so you’re not just signing yet another statement that can be ignored. Or bringing together like-minded people to listen to another speaker or dialogue.

And that’s the dynamic that BDS promises. Just as in South Africa, where you had a lot of industry saying to the apartheid regime, “We can’t live with this any longer,” we would have that dynamic within Israel.

AW: But there is a huge difference between South Africa and Israel. In South Africa, the U.S. government was not pouring billions of dollars into the country. Whereas, in the case of Israel, the U.S. government is. That support seems to me to be far more the point.

The likelihood of Israelis saying, “Wait a minute, this is a serious problem,” is going to be much greater if the Obama administration says: “Here’s the deal. There’s going to be an emergency peace conference in the Middle East. It’s going to come out with a Palestinian state that’s really independent, not chopped up in little bits, and there will be a peace treaty with all the Arab states.” I can see the possibility of a whole new American outlook making peace in the Middle East.

NK: Once again, the question is how do we get to the point where the Obama administration feels the need to get tough and say, “Here’s the deal.” I don’t believe that mere dialogue will bring us there. I’m arguing that BDS is a fantastic movement-building tool precisely because it is a conversation starter; it ignites the debate. It makes the conflict personal in the same way as the amazing grassroots movement we had in the ’80s against South Africa did in the United States. It is only once those debates are raging that there will be the kind of bottom-up pressure on Obama that could lead to a real shift in U.S. policy.

Palestinians Remember Land Day [Today] -- Jonathan Cook

Link to original:

Arrabeh, Israel // Palestinians across the Middle East were due to commemorate Land Day today, marking the anniversary of clashes in 1976 in which six unarmed Palestinians were shot dead by the Israeli army as it tried to break up a general strike.

Although Land Day is one of the most important anniversaries in the Palestinian calendar, sometimes referred to as the Palestinians’ national day, the historical event it marks is little spoken of and rarely studied.

“Maybe its significance is surprising given the magnitude of other events in Palestinian history,” said Hatim Kanaaneh, 71, a doctor, who witnessed the military invasion of his village.

“But what makes Land Day resonate with Palestinians everywhere is that it was the first time Palestinians inside Israel stood together and successfully resisted Israel’s goal of confiscating their land.”

The confrontation took place between the army and a group usually referred to as “Israeli Arabs”, the small minority of Palestinians who managed to remain in their homes during the 1948 war that led to the founding of Israel. Today they number 1.2 million, or nearly one-fifth of Israel’s population.

“We were given citizenship by Israel, but have always been treated as an enemy, perceived of as a threat to the state’s Jewishness,” said Dr Kanaaneh, who last year published his memoir, A Doctor in Galilee, which offers a rare account in English of Palestinian life inside Israel during the Land Day period.

In 1976, Dr Kanaaneh, having completed his medical studies at Harvard University in the United States, was the only physician in Arrabeh.

Israel crushed organised political activity among Israel’s Palestinian citizens between 1948 and 1966, Dr Kanaaneh said. Nonetheless, popular frustration had mounted as the state expropriated privately owned Palestinian land to build new communities for Jewish citizens, many of them recent immigrants.

During military rule, historians have noted, vast swathes of land were taken from Palestinians, both from refugees in exile and from Israel’s own citizens. Jews had bought only six per cent of Palestine by the time of the 1948 war, but today the state has nationalised 93 per cent of Israel’s territory.

“Government policy was explicitly to make the land Jewish – or Judaise it, as it was called,” Dr Kanaaneh said.

The announcement in the mid-1970s of the confiscation of a further 2,000 hectares led to the creation of a new body, the National Committee for the Defence of Arab Lands, which provided a more assertive political leadership.

The minority’s decision to strike, Dr Kanaaneh said, shocked the Israeli authorities, which were not used to challenges to official policy. “Both sides understood the significance of the strike. For the first time we were acting as a national minority, and Israel was very sensitive to anything that suggested we had a national identity or a unified agenda, especially over a key resource like land.”

Although the strike was strictly observed by Palestinians throughout Israel, the focus of the protest were three villages in the central Galilee that faced the loss of a large area of prime agricultural land: Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Deir Hanna.

The prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and his defence minster, Shimon Peres, acted on the eve of the strike.

“What was surprising was that they didn’t send in the police, as you’d expect when dealing with citizens of a country, but the army,” Dr Kanaaneh said.

The government’s original plan, he said, was to break the strike and force employees to go to work, but when villagers began throwing stones, the army imposed a curfew.

“When a neighbour called me to attend to his wife who had gone into labour, I walked out of my house towards an armoured vehicle waving my stethoscope,” Dr Kanaaneh said. “A soldier aimed his rifle straight at me and I hurried back inside.”

Ahmed Khalaila, who was 18 and living in Sakhnin, remembered being woken early by loudspeakers. “Soldiers were calling out that we must not leave the house … We couldn’t even look out of the windows,” he said.

When a neighbour stepped outside her house, she was shot and injured, Mr Khalaila said. He and his older brother, Khader, tried to help the woman. When they were about 50 metres from her, Khader was shot in the head.

“He was still breathing and we hoped he could be saved, but there were checkpoints at all the entrances to the village. We knew no ambulance would be coming for him.”

Eventually the family managed to get him into a car and drove towards the nearest hospital. Held at a checkpoint, Mr Khalaila said, the family watched as Khader bled to death as he lay across his younger brother’s legs on the back seat. Khader was 24 and recently married.

No one ever came to investigate what had happened, or offered the family compensation. “It was as if a bird had died,” he said. “No one was interested; no questions were asked in the parliament. Nothing.”

As well as the six deaths, hundreds more Palestinians were injured and sweeping arrests were made of political activists.

Dr Kanaaneh said the stiff resistance mounted by the villagers eventually forced the government to revoke the expropriation order.

Victory, however, was far from clear cut. The next year, Ariel Sharon, as agriculture minister, announced a programme of new Jewish settlements called “lookouts” in the Galilee “to prevent control of state lands by foreigners”, meaning Israel’s own Palestinian citizens. The three villages were surrounded by the lookout communities, which came to be known collectively as Misgav regional council.

“They were intended to be agricultural communities, but Land Day stopped that,” Dr Kanaaneh said. “Instead they became small bedroom communities, and much of the land we defended was passed to Misgav’s jurisdiction.

“Today the owners of the land pay taxes to the regional council rather than their own municipalities, and Misgav can decide, if it wants, to try to confiscate the land again. We may have got our land back, but it is not really in our hands.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Foreign Army Shoots US Peace Activist; US Does Nothing"

Not to mention, when Tristan's parents tried to have a press conference in Jerusalem, it was shut down -- from Indymedia: " The Ma'an News Agency from Palestine reports that Israeli troops shut down the Andersons' press conference before they could address the crowd, beat a journalist and an activist, obstructed other journalists from reaching the tent, and "detained" about a dozen people.

Link to original of below article:

Here's a news awareness question you might not hear on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." (A search on the NPR website yielded no results.)

On March 13, a US citizen attending a peace demonstration was shot in the head by a soldier of a foreign army. Eyewitnesses report that the American and his companions weren't doing anything and hadn't done anything that would justify the use of force, let alone shooting him in the head.

Here's your news awareness question: name the country.

The American remains hospitalized in critical condition, reported The Independent Tuesday, describing him as "fighting for life" following three brain surgeries. He suffered a multiple fracture to his skull, severe injury to the frontal lobe of his brain, and a collapsed eye socket. Part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed.

His parents have called for a full investigation. But so far, judging from press reports, the United States government hasn't had anything to say about it. Why not?

I freely concede that I take this quite personally. I was an international peace volunteer once. When you are a US peace volunteer in an international conflict situation, you like to think that your blue passport gives you some measure of protection; foreign soldiers, you hope, are going to think twice before shooting an American, because the US government would have to make a fuss. And if the foreign army in question belongs to a government that has very friendly relations with Washington, and is highly dependent on substantial US military, economic, diplomatic and political aid from the United States, then you might think that foreign army would really go out of its way not to shoot Americans.

But, in this case, you might be wrong.

When I open my blue passport, I find a very nice letter from the Secretary of State asking everyone to gave me safe passage. It would be nice to think that text means something.

But in this case, it doesn't seem to.

Perhaps there is a Member of Congress who is willing to ask why Tristan Anderson was shot?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

From Black Commentator -- Guarding the Public Henhouse


Welcome to Seattle, Serene!

(Not Serene; come on -- she was just born!)
Greetings, Serene!

Seattle's own little bit of Palestine arrived yesterday evening.

Mom, Dad and Baby doing wonderfully.

The Rich Get Rich and the Poor Get Poorer -- IRS Version

So if Wall Street hadn't crashed the economy, these bloodsuckers would be getting away with it totally. As it is, they'll get a slap on the wrist! Why do I pay my taxes?????? They don't!

Link to original:

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure to bring in money to the faltering economy, plans to give offshore tax evaders a big break.

The agency has drafted a plan that significantly lowers a penalty that applies to wealthy Americans who hide money overseas in secret accounts, a person briefed on the matter said Thursday. The plan is intended to lure out of hiding scores of wealthy people who must come forward and declare their accounts in order to take advantage of the lower penalty.

The plan was developed amid a widening investigation into wealthy American clients of UBS but will apply to clients of other banks as well.

Under the plan, according to the person briefed on the issue, the I.R.S. will reduce an onerous penalty for not filing a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account, known as an Fbar — something offshore tax evaders have not done.

The current penalty is 50 percent of the high balance of each account over the last three years — an amount that can wipe out an investor’s accounts in just two years — but the I.R.S. will reduce that penalty to 5 to 20 percent, depending in part on whether the wealth was inherited.

The I.R.S. will also require taxpayers to pay any taxes and interest owed over the last six years, as well as assess a standard, accuracy-related penalty of 20 percent. Taxpayers must also file amended returns for the last six years.

The proposal, which the I.R.S. is communicating to its field agents who audit returns, does not allow taxpayers to escape potential prosecution, but it makes that outcome less likely, in particular for those covered under the 5 percent Fbar penalty, this person said.

“They need to get money back into the system, so they needed to sweeten the deal,” the person said.

An I.R.S. spokesman declined to comment.

Last November, the I.R.S. scrapped at the last minute a proposal to create a global settlement for taxpayers with offshore accounts. Such settlements in the past have come under criticism for not attracting enough tax evaders.

The new plan may be more likely to draw in tax evaders because the I.R.S. and the Justice Department are exerting significant legal pressure on UBS, the world’s largest private bank, to disclose 52,000 client names. Unless those clients come forward before their names are potentially turned over, they may face a heightened risk of being prosecuted, as well as the steeper Fbar penalties.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Israeli Arabs" -- A Phrase You Don't See Often, But Might See More Now

Israeli Arab demonstrators are blocked by police following a protest by Israel right-wing extremists in the northern Israeli Arab village of Umm El-Fahm, Tuesday. Police dispersed rock-throwing Israeli-Arab youths with stun grenades and tear gas after a group of Israeli extremists marched through the Arab town demanding that residents show loyalty to the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
(March 24, 2009)

SAfrica Peace Conference Postponed over Dalai Lama

I'm no big fan of the Dalai Lama (who gave Bush comfort on Iraq), but this seems a bad development for people living under occupation anywhere, including Tibet.
Portion below; whole thing here:

Organizers shelved a peace conference meant to show how sports can bring people and nations together because South Africa's government - fearing trouble with China - won't allow the Dalai Lama to attend.

South Africa's soccer officials and a grandson of Nelson Mandela, who were putting Friday's conference together, announced Tuesday it was postponed indefinitely because the Dalai Lama had been barred.

The conference had been in doubt since South Africa's government said a day earlier the Dalai Lama was not welcome, prompting condemnation and a boycott by retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others.

Queen Rania of Jordan, the entire Nobel Peace Committee, other laureates and Hollywood actress Charlize Theron, a native of South Africa, had been among those confirmed to attend.

Friday's conference was intended to highlight ways soccer can promote peace, and all Nobel peace laureates had been invited, along with world statesmen and celebrities. Irvin Khoza, who is chairman of the South African committee organizing the 2010 World Cup, also heads the professional soccer league that was arranging and funding the conference.

Organizers said they hoped to hold the event when the Dalai Lama could attend, and that they hoped that would be before the World Cup. South Africa's tournament will be the first in Africa.

Asked by reporters whether the Tibetan Nobel Peace laureate would be issued a visa before the sporting event, Thabo Masebe, spokesman for President Kgalema Motlanthe, said: "No, we won't."

He said he did not want a visit to be a distraction at a time when South Africa was hoping to showcase its transformation from pariah apartheid state to international, multiracial role model.

"You can't remove Tibet from" the Dalai Lama, Masebe said. "That becomes the issue and South Africa is no longer the issue."

Tibet's government-in-exile said South Africa was acting under pressure from China, but South Africa's government denied it. South Africa is China's largest African trading partner.

Masebe had said a day earlier South Africa would not allow the Dalai Lama to visit for the peace conference, citing South Africa's ties to China and generating sharp criticism of South Africa. Fellow Nobel peace laureate Tutu as well as members of the Nobel Committee pulled out of the conference in response.

Mandla Mandela, Nelson Mandela's grandson and a member of the conference organizing committee, told reporters Tuesday he wanted the Dalai Lama there when the conference is held. Barring a leader of the Dalai Lama's stature, the younger Mandela said, "is really worrying and saddening. Where are we headed in the future?"

Corruption World Champs, by Khalil Bendib

via Palestinian Pundit

"Will Israel be Brought to Book?" -- Seumas Milne

I've watched the first of the Chassay videos -- it is about the unmanned drones -- horrifying.

Portion below; whole thing (via Angry Arab Newservice) here:

Evidence of the scale of Israel's war crimes in its January onslaught on Gaza is becoming unanswerable. Clancy Chassay's three films investigating allegations against Israeli forces in the Gaza strip, released by the Guardian today, include important new accounts of the flagrant breaches of the laws of war that marked the three-week campaign – now estimated to have left at least 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis dead.

The films provide compelling testimony of Israel's use of Palestinian teenagers as human shields; the targeting of hospitals, clinics and medical workers, including with phosphorus bombs; and attacks on civilians, including women and children – sometimes waving white flags – from hunter-killer drones whose targeting systems are so powerful they can identify the colour of a person's clothes.

Naturally, the Israeli occupation forces' spokesperson insists to Chassay that they make every effort to avoid killing civilians and denies using human shields or targeting medical workers – while at the same time explaining that medics in war zones "take the risk upon themselves". By banning journalists from entering Gaza during its punitive devastation of the strip, the Israeli government avoided independent investigations of the stream of war crimes accusations while the attack was going on.

But now journalists and human rights organisations are back inside, doing the painstaking work, the question is whether Israel's government and military commanders will be held to account for what they unleashed on the Palestinians of Gaza – or whether, like their US and British sponsors in Iraq and Afghanistan, they can carry out war crimes with impunity.

It's not as if Clancy's reports are unique or uncorroborated by other evidence. Last week, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that a group of Israelis soldiers had admitted intentionally shooting dead an unarmed Palestinian mother and her two children, as well as an elderly Palestinian woman, in Gaza in January. As one explained: "The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way".

They also tally with testimony of other Israeli soldiers from the Givati Shaked battalion, which operated in the Gaza city suburb of Zeitoun, that they were told to "fire on anything that moves". The result was that one family, the Samunis, reported losing 29 members after soldiers forced them into a building that subsequently came under fire – seven bleeding to death while denied medical care for nearly three days. The Helw and Abu Zohar families said they saw members shot while emerging from their homes carrying white flags. "There was definitely a message being sent", one soldier who took part in the destruction of Zeitoun told the Times.

Or take the case of Majdi Abed Rabbo – a Palestinian linked to Fatah and no friend of Hamas – who described to the Independent how he was repeatedly used as a human shield by Israeli soldiers confronting armed Hamas fighters in a burned-out building in Jabalya in the Gaza strip. The fact of Israeli forces' use of human shields is hard to gainsay, not least since there are unambiguous photographs of several cases from the West Bank in 2007, as shown in Chassay's film.

Last week Human Rights Watch wrote to European Union foreign ministers calling for an international inquiry into war crimes in Gaza. In the case of Israel, the organisation cited the siege of Gaza as a form of collective punishment; the use of artillery and white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, including schools; the shooting of civilians holding white flags; attacks on civilian targets; and "wanton destruction of civilian property".

Israel and others also accuse Hamas of war crimes. But while both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have echoed that charge, particularly in relation to the indiscriminate rocketing of towns such as Sderot, an exhaustive investigation by Human Rights Watch has found no evidence, for example, of Hamas using human shields in the clearly defined legal sense of coercion to protect fighters in combat. And as Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, argued recently, any attempt to view the two sides as "equally responsible" is an absurdity: one is a lightly-armed militia, effectively operating underground in occupied territory – the other the most powerful army in the region, able to pinpoint and pulverise targets with some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world.

"Is the Political System Captured by Big Finance?" Duh!

Portion below; whole thing here:

In 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission, after hard lobbying by Wall Street, reversed its 1975 rule limiting investment banks to leverage of 15-to-1. The new limit could be as high as 40-to-1 if the investment banks’ own computer models said it was safe.

Question: Why wasn’t Wall Street more nervous about the rising tide of leverage and the risk it posed?

Answer: Ah, come on. You know why: The new business model was incredibly profitable. In 1999, AIG’s financial-products group had revenue of $737 million, Morgenson reported in the Times. That had climbed to $3.26 billion by 2005. And almost all of that was profit: Operating income was 83% of revenue in 2005. The biggest expense, by far, was compensation. Salaries and bonuses ranged, depending on how good a year the unit had, from 33% to 46%.

Question: Why didn’t Washington step to at least temper the risk?

Answer: Money. Just look at the who’s who of senators receiving campaign contributions from AIG. According to Federal Election Commission data at the Center for Responsive Politics, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has received more money from AIG — $91,000 — than from any other contributing company. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Dodd, the head of the Senate Banking Committee, has received $280,000 from AIG. (In the 2003-08 election cycles, AIG was only the fourth-largest contributor to Dodd; Citigroup (C, news, msgs) ranked No. 1.) And Dodd now admits he’s the one who wrote the loophole that allowed AIG to award $165 million in bonuses to its financial-products group. (In his defense, Dodd says he inserted the language at the request of the Obama administration.)

AIG doesn’t show up among the top 10 contributors to Shelby, but the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee does count Citigroup (at No. 1) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM, news, msgs) (at No. 3) among his top donors. Twenty-eight current members of Congress own stock in AIG. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is the biggest investor, with stock valued at $2 million (it was valued at $2 million at the time he filed his lastest financial reports, anyway).

Congress has delivered a lot of other goodies in the past decade or so that have contributed to this crisis — and made the cleanup more expensive and painful. For example, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision both moved to block states from enforcing their consumer-protection laws against any nationally chartered bank.

Among the measures states were prohibited from enforcing were rules against predatory lending. Not that the federal government stepped in for the states: The Federal Reserve took all of three formal actions against subprime lenders from 2002 to 2007, and the Office of the Comptroller, with authority over 1,800 banks, took only three enforcement actions from 2004 to 2006, according to Multinational Monitor.

But you get the idea by this point.

"US Unleashes Metal Beast" -- The Sun UK (via CLG)

AMERICA has called out its new weapon to send into battle in Afghanistan - a terrifying pack of robotic "BigDogs".

The state-of-the-art headless four-legged metal beasts have been designed to navigate the country's treacherous terrain.

And - as it leaps towards the enemy on animal-inspired articulated legs - the BigDog also lets off an eerie lawnmower buzz.


"Bilin 2009 Four Years of Nonviolent Struggle" -- IMEMC

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tristan Anderson's Parents Insist Israel Take Responsibility for His Injuries

The last line in this article about "land grab" is routinely used by the AP. Too bad they aren't honest enough to characterize the whole state of Israel that way.

Link to original:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The parents of an American man severely wounded by Israeli troops during a West Bank protest have asked Israeli police to launch an investigation, their lawyer said Monday.

Tristan Anderson, 38, from Oakland, Calif., was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by members of Israel's paramilitary border police in the Palestinian village of Naalin on March 13.

Anderson had joined a protest against Israel's separation barrier, which cuts off Naalin from 300 acres of olive groves. In the past year, four Palestinians were killed in Naalin by Israeli troops quelling weekly stone-throwing protests against the barrier, according to Israeli human rights group B'tselem.

The couple's lawyer, Michael Sfard, said he asked Israel's police to launch an investigation.

The Andersons, of Grass Valley, Calif., held back tears Monday as they described their son's critical condition. ''We don't know if he'll recover, and if he does, we don't know what abilities he will ever regain,'' his mother, Nancy, told reporters.

His father, Mike, said Israel must ''take full responsibility for the shooting of our son.''

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Anderson's injury was ''an extremely regrettable result of rioting.''

The incident is under investigation, the Israeli military has said, though it is not clear if police will investigate separately.

The Israeli military has said there was heavy stone-throwing and troops fired tear gas during the demonstration, though protesters said the stone-throwing was sporadic. Anderson did not throw any stones and was struck after he had returned to the village, witnesses said.

Rights activists say Israeli troops often use excessive force in dispersing West Bank protests, and fire tear gas canisters directly at protesters -- using them as a weapon, rather than a means to disperse crowds.

The Israeli military says stone-throwing poses a threat to troops, and several officers have been injured by rocks. The military said troops used permitted means of riot dispersal, such as tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets and stun grenades.

About 450 people have been injured, 12 of them seriously, in a year of Naalin protests, organizers say.

Israel says the barrier prevents Palestinian attackers infiltrating into Israel. Palestinians say it's a land grab because it juts into the West Bank.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

As North American Zionists Become Isolated, They Might Start Lashing Out -- JDL v. Galloway

UPDATE: I had to change the title to include "North American" because of course in the Middle East, Zionists have been lashing out for almost 100 years. Pardone!


This guy from the Canadian JDL (see youtube below) is definitely threatening peace groups. The gov't has obviously fallen for it in the case of barring George Galloway.

the article below was written by Marcy Newman from Body on the Line

March 21, 2009

they call themselves the "jewish defense league," (jdl) but this misnomer, like the "israeli defense forces" masks what they are really there to do: to murder, steal, and cover it all up. the jdl, fortunately, continues to be on the united states terrorist watch list for its history of attacks on american soil. here is one recent report by the fbi:

The two terrorist plots prevented by law enforcement in 2001 were being planned by domestic extremists. Ronald Mike Denton was planning to attack his former place of employment, the Chevron Oil Refinery at El Segundo, California, when he was arrested in March 2001. In December 2001 Irving David Rubin and Earl Leslie Krugel, members of the extremist Jewish Defense League, were arrested as they were in the final stages of planning attacks against the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California, and the local office of U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa.

sometimes these jdl terrorists are even put in prison as reported by the new york times' leonard buder:

A former head of the Jewish Defense League was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in Federal prison for taking part in a series of "terrorist bombings" in the New York area since 1984 to protest Soviet treatment of Jews.

Among the incidents was a firebombing at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center on Oct. 20, 1986, the day of a scheduled performance by the Moscow State Symphony. The firebomb damaged the stage-door entrance but caused no injuries.

i grew up around this terrorism, although admittedly at the time i did not have any understanding or any context for it. but the jdl was and is active in los angeles. i’ve written about this before, but bears repeating in light of recent events. here is part of an older report by gerald neff on the if americans knew website documenting some of racist, terrorist crimes committed by the jdl:

A 1985 FBI study of terrorist acts in the United States since 1981 found 18 incidents initiated by Jews, 15 of the acts by the JDL. In a 1986 study of domestic terrorism, the Department of Energy concluded: "For more than a decade, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) has been one of the most active terrorist groups in the United States….Since 1968, JDL operations have killed 7 persons and wounded at least 22. Thirty- nine percent of the targets were connected with the Soviet Union; 9 percent were Palestinian; 8 percent were Lebanese; 6 percent, Egyptian; 4 percent, French, Iranian, and Iraqi; 1 percent, Polish and German; and 23 percent were not connected with any states. Sixty-two percent of all JDL actions are directed against property; 30 percent against businesses; 4 percent against academics and academic institutions; and 2 percent against religious targets."

The JDL was suspected in two high-profile murders over the years. One came in 1972 when a bomb exploded in impresario Sol Hurok’s Manhattan office on Jan. 26. The explosion killed his receptionist, Iris Kones, 27, while Hurok and 12 others were injured. The JDL was suspected because Hurok was bringing Soviet performers to the United States.

The next year, Jerome Zeller, an American JDL member, was indicted on charges of planting the bomb at Hurok’s office. He had since moved to Israel and his extradition was requested. Israeli authorities arrested the American expatriate but released him on $1,200 bail. He later was wounded in the 1973 war. Afterwards, the U.S. again requested extradition, but the response was, said U.S. Attorney Joseph Jaffe, who prosecuted the case, "You can…hold your breath until you die cause you ain’t going to get him because he’s a national hero." Zeller was later reported living in the occupied West Bank among militant settlers.

Kahane became an outspoken advocate for the "transfer" of all Palestinians.

The other high-profile murder came in 1985, on Oct. 11, when Alex Odeh, 37, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in Santa Ana, California, was killed by a bomb planted at his office. Odeh had appeared the previous night on a television show and called Yasser Arafat a "man of peace." The Jewish Defense League praised the bombing but denied involvement, its usual practice in such incidents.

One of the suspects was Robert Manning, 36, of Los Angeles, a JDL member. He and his wife, Rochelle, moved to Israel, where he joined the Israel Defense Forces. FBI agents said Manning and others were also suspected of being involved in a year-long series of violent incidents in 1985 including the August house-bomb slaying of Tscherim Soobzokov, of Paterson, N.J., a suspected Nazi war criminal; the Aug. 16 attempted bombing of the Boston ADC office in which two policemen were severely wounded; the September bombing at the Brentwood, Long Island home of alleged Nazi Elmars Sprogis, in which a 23-year-old passerby lost a leg, and the Oct. 29 fire at the ADC office in Washington, DC, which was called arson.

By December 1985, FBI Director William H. Webster warned that Arab Americans had entered a "zone of danger" and were targets of an unnamed group seeking to harm the "enemies of Israel."

Manning and his wife lived in the radical Kiryat Arba settlement in Israel’s occupied West Bank until March 25, 1991 when, after two years of pressure, Israel acceded to U.S. extradition demands.

The case caused critics to charge U.S. media bias against Arabs, noting that a week earlier the killing of American Jew Leon Klinghoffer aboard the hijacked Achille Lauro received heavy media coverage. They pointed out The New York Times devoted 1,043 column inches to Klinghoffer while devoting only 14 inches to Odeh’s death.

Israeli police finally arrested the Mannings on March 24, 1991. Although strongly suspected in the Odeh murder, they were charged in a separate suit involving the 1980 letter-bomb murder of California secretary Patricia Wilkerson. Robert Manning, but not his wife, was eventually extradited to the United States on July 18, 1993, and was found guilty on Oct. 14, 1993, of complicity in the Wilkerson murder.

On Feb. 7, 1994, Manning was sentenced to life in prison. His wife died of a heart attack on March 18, 1994, in an Israeli prison while awaiting extradition.

Meanwhile, Kahane had moved to Israel in 1971 and immediately became an outspoken advocate for the "transfer" of all Palestinians. His unabashed public voicing of a subject that Israelis had spoken about only privately for so long earned him instant popularity among the most radical of Israelis. He founded the Kach Party. Kach in Hebrew means "Thus!" and Israelis understood that the party’s name referred to the use of violence to ethnically cleanse the land. By 1984 Kahane was popular enough to win a seat in the 120-seat Knesset under the Kach banner.

why do i bring this all up? because the jdl in canada, which seems to be far more active than in the u.s. of late, has issued threats on television to anyone supporting george galloway’s lecture tour, which they had a role in canceling by getting the canadian government to ban galloway from setting foot on canadian soil. live on television some terrorist from the jdl threatened such people, including churches sponsoring his speaking engagements. watch the terrorist meir weinstein of the jdl for yourself:

when you look at the list of reasons that the canadian government may have used to prevent his entry this story becomes even more outrageous as deborah summers reports for the guardian:

A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the decision had been taken by border security officials "based on a number of factors" in accordance with section 34(1) of the country’s immigration act.

The act states:

"A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on security grounds for:

(a) engaging in an act of espionage or an act of subversion against a democratic government, institution or process as they are understood in Canada;

(b) engaging in or instigating the subversion by force of any government;

(c) engaging in terrorism;

(d) being a danger to the security of Canada;

(e) engaging in acts of violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada; or

(f) being a member of an organisation that there are reasonable grounds to believe engages, has engaged or will engage in acts referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c)."

just one question: is irony dead?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Uzi Arad: "We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of the Palestinian populations - not territories." -- Moon of Alabama Blog Post

March 19, 2009

Yesterday Israel arrested ten Palestinian political leaders in the West Bank:

Among those detained were four Hamas lawmakers, a university professor and a former Hamas deputy prime minister.

They are taking hostage to press Hamas for the release of a prisoner of war, Gilad Shalit, Hamas is holding in Gaza. The weekend negotiations about Shalit's release failed. While Israel agreed to release some of the several thousand of Palestinians it holds without any judicial process in exchange for the release of Shalit, it insisted on deporting those into some foreign country. Hamas could of course not agree with that.

So now Israel increases the pressure by taking more non-militant civilians hostages and a further blockade of the 1.5 million people in Gaza.

Worse is to come. The incoming Netanjahu/Avigor Lieberman government is at the extreme right of the political spectrum. Netanjahu selected as national security adviser Uzi Arad, a former(?) Israeli spy who is currently not allowed to enter the United States for spying against it. Recently Netanjahu snubbed Hillary Clinton when he insisted on Arad's presence in a meeting with her.

Next to being a spy Arad is also a fascist. I am exaggerating? No. Via War in Context a video of an interview a settler friendly TV station did with him.

Uzi Arad on the two-state solution:

I don’t think that one has to go that far because at the end of the day, I don’t think the majority of Israelis want to see themselves responsible for the Palestinians. We do not want to control the Palestinian population. It’s unnecessary. What we do want is to care for our borders, for the Jewish settlements and for areas which are unpopulated and to have our security interests served well. But also to take under our responsibility these populations which, believe me, are not the most productive on earth, would become a burden. We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of the Palestinian populations - not territories. It is territory we want to preserve, but populations we want to rid ourselves of.

The full interview is below the fold. The above quote is at 8:30, but the rest like his perverse understanding of 'democracy' is certainly also of interest.

There was a time when some my ancestors wanted to rid themselves of the "burden" of a certain population they vilified based on race and religion. We know how that ended. Never again? Not if Uzi Arad gets his way.

"Israeli soldier: We murdered Gazans" -- Checkpoint Jerusalem (McClatchy)
As promised, Haaretz published extensive testimony from Israeli soldiers who fought in Gaza.

The stark reports, obtained independently by McClatchy Newspapers, paint a stark picture of the Israeli military strategy in Gaza.

"I call this murder," says one Israeli soldier identified as Aviv.

As Israeli soldiers prepared to take over parts of Gaza, Aviv said, they were instructed to shoot anyone they came across in buildings.

Aviv said other soldiers embraced the orders by saying: "We need to murder any person who's in there. Yeah, any person who's in Gaza is a terrorist."

"One of our officers, a company commander, saw someone coming on some road, a woman, an old woman," said Aviv. "She was walking along pretty far away, but close enough so you could take out someone you saw there. If she were suspicious, not suspicious - I don't know. In the end, he sent people up to the roof, to take her out with their weapons. From the description of this story, I simply felt it was murder in cold blood."

"I don't understand," the moderator asked Aviv. "Why did he shoot her?"

Aviv: "That's what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn't have to be with a weapon, you don't have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him. With us it was an old woman, on whom I didn't see any weapon. The order was to take the person out, that woman, the moment you see her."

Faced with direct reports from its own soldiers, the Israeli military has opened a criminal investigation.

In the talk, one soldier also said that rabbis working with the military portrayed the Israeli offensive as a kind of holy war to expel non-Jews from the land.

As an interesting coda, Haaretz on Friday also published a long story on a Tel Aviv print shop that produces shirts for young Israeli soldiers.

Perhaps the most controversial image described in the story shows a veiled, pregnant Arab woman in the crosshairs of a rifle. Underneath the image it reads: "One shot, two kills."

The Israeli military condemned the shirts:

"Military regulations do not apply to civilian clothing, including shirts produced at the end of basic training and various courses. The designs are printed at the soldiers' private initiative, and on civilian shirts. The examples raised by Haaretz are not in keeping with the values of the IDF spirit, not representative of IDF life, and are in poor taste. Humor of this kind deserves every condemnation and excoriation. The IDF intends to take action for the immediate eradication of this phenomenon. To this end, it is emphasizing to commanding officers that it is appropriate, among other things, to take discretionary and disciplinary measures against those involved in acts of this sort."

War Protesters March on Pentagon, Mark Anniversary

Link to original (in MARINE CORPS TIMES):

The throng of war protesters swelled Saturday as they marched across the Memorial Bridge into Virginia, by the Pentagon and to the offices of defense contractors to mark the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

With police in riot gear standing by, hundreds of demonstrators were met by a small group of counter-protesters as they crossed the Memorial Bridge. War supporters held a large banner that read, “Go to hell traitors, you dishonor our dead on hallowed ground.”

Organizers from the ANSWER Coalition said more than 1,000 groups sponsored the protest to call for an end to the Iraq war. Carrying cardboard coffins and signs saying “We need jobs and schools, not war” and “Stop the war!” demonstrators beat drums and played trumpets as they marched.

Protesters demanded that President Barack Obama immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, saying thousands of Iraqis have died and thousands of American troops have been wounded or killed.

“We think it’s especially important for this new administration to feel the pressure from people that we don’t want more war,” said Obama supporter Pat Halle, 59, of Baltimore.

Anti-war activists said even though former President George W. Bush is out of power, they are disappointed with what they see as stalled action from Obama.

“Obama seems to be led somewhat by the bureaucracies. I want him to follow up on his promise to end the war,” said 66-year-old Perry Parks of Rockingham, N.C., who said he served in the Army for nearly 30 years, including in Vietnam. “But the longer it goes, the more it seems like he’s stalling.”

Obama has said he plans to withdraw roughly 100,000 troops by summer 2010. He promises to pull the last of the U.S. troops by the end of 2011, which is in accord with a deal Iraqis signed with Bush.

There were about 138,000 troops in Iraq as of March 13.

Meanwhile, in California, hundreds of protesters gathered in Hollywood. Among them were peace advocate Cindy Sheehan — whose son was killed in Iraq — Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis and Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran whose story was chronicled in the book and film “Born on the Fourth of July.”

Protesters in Los Angeles were expected to follow a rally with a march and then a symbolic “die in” where they would lie down in a major Hollywood Boulevard intersection to symbolize the soldiers who have died in the war.

Protesters waved signs and sold bumper stickers and T-shirts commemorating the event.

Denise Clendenning, 51, an environmental scientist from Chino Hills, Calif., said she hopes Obama will rethink his strategy to withdraw most of the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and call all of them back instead.

“We all have a lot of confidence in him,” she said, holding two signs that read “Out of Iraq” and “End the War.”

Donna Moreno, 32, a medical worker from Gardena, Calif., said she was representing her Vietnam veteran father at the rally.

“I know Obama is making the effort. I have hope,” she said, wearing an Obama shirt and several buttons. “But I’m here to protest the war and job situation.”

This year, the protest in Washington was held on a weekend — a few days after the March 19 anniversary of the war, which began in 2003. Last year’s weekday protest was marked by lower turnout than in previous years.

Friday, March 20, 2009

George Galloway Refused Entry Into Canada -- Say He is "Hamas Supporter"
March 20, 2009 "DPA" -- Outspoken British anti-war member of parliament (MP) George Galloway Friday denounced as "outrageous" a decision by the Canadian authorities to refuse him entry on the grounds of national security.

Galloway, a former Labor politician who has now set up his own political party, said in London that he would not accept the ban imposed ahead of a speech he had planned to give in Toronto.

The 54-year-old maverick politician, who left Britain's ruling Labor Party in protest at its support for military intervention overseas, was refused entry to Egypt in 2006. He is an MP for his Respect Party.

"All right-thinking Canadians, whether they agree with me over the wisdom of sending troops to Afghanistan or not, will oppose this outrageous decision," he said in London Friday.

He was due to speak at a public forum entitled "Resisting war from Gaza to Kandahar" in Toronto on March 30.

According to the Press Association Friday, a spokesman for Canada's immigration minister, Jason Kenney, has made clear that the decision will not be overturned.

Galloway had been deemed "inadmissible" to Canada under section 34(1) of the country's immigration act.

Kenney's spokesman, Alykhan Velshi said the act was designed to protect Canadians from people who fund, support or engage in terrorism."

"We're going to uphold the law, not give special treatment to this ... street-corner Cromwell who actually brags about giving 'financial support' to Hamas, a terrorist organization banned in Canada," Velshi was quoted as saying by the British Press Association.

Our Westlake Vigil for Gaza continues- Saturday March 21, Noon-2:00

What: Save Gaza Vigil

When: Saturday March 21, Noon - 2:00pm

Where: Westlake Center on 4th & Pine


IDF Confesses: We Kill Civilians

Link to original:
During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.

The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some of their statements made on Feb. 13 will appear Thursday and Friday in Haaretz. Dozens of graduates of the course who took part in the discussion fought in the Gaza operation.

The speakers included combat pilots and infantry soldiers. Their testimony runs counter to the Israel Defense Forces' claims that Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation. The session's transcript was published this week in the newsletter for the course's graduates.

The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader of an incident where an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. "There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said.

"The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders."

According to the squad leader: "The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. In any case, what happened is that in the end he killed them.

"I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to ... I don't know how to describe it .... The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said.

Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.

The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader's soldiers complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist."

The squad leader said: "You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most."

More soldiers' testimonies will be published in Haaretz over the coming days.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Type of Projectile Used by IDF on People Coming Between Them and "Their" Land

From ISMer's blog:
New, 'extended range' teargas projectile, similar to the one fired at Tristan's head. Photo: ISM Palestine
The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson’s forehead and right eye socket. During the operation, part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan’s injuries is yet unknown.

It should also be noted that soldiers at the Ni’ilin checkpoint prevented the Red Crescent ambulance from taking Tristan directly to the hospital, forcing it to wait for approximately 15 minutes until an Israeli ICU ambulance (called by Israeli activists) arrived at the scene, after which he had to be carried from one ambulance to the other. This, of course, is standard procedure - in the extremely rare cases where the army allows patients from the occupied territories to be tranferred into Israel.

Read more here...

In the taxi on our way home from Rafah, the man in the seat in front, from Beit Lahia, showed us photos of his three children on his phone. He said something about “phosphorous”. “They were all burnt with the phosphorous bombs?” I asked, looking at those little faces.

He shook his head, I hadn’t understood. They were all killed.

A couple of days ago, I made contact with Maher, a clinical psychologist from the Palestine Trauma Centre. The 14 year old in the family of our Jabalia friends whose mother S was killed in the first ten minutes of the Dec 27 attacks is frightened to ever be alone, even for a moment, and I wanted to see what support is available to her. I am also worried about another family member, F’s small nephew A, who bursts into tears whenever he hears tank fire - as he did the last time we were there visiting a few weeks ago. He has been traumatised to some extent ever since his father’s legs were blown off several years ago, and the recent hiding in the basement under bombing then fleeing their home hasn’t helped.

The PTC has only been fairly recently formed, and during the attacks its university trained therapists were in the field, 32 of them, based for example in the UNWRA schools-turned-into-refuges. Maher told me about one woman they did their best to help. Her family were in their house in Attatra when it was shelled. Her husband was decapitated by explosion in front of her. Her four children were set on fire by phosphorous bombs and died begging her for help she couldn’t give, but she sustained 3rd degree burns trying.

When the PTC people first met her shortly afterwards she was not sleeping, but awake 24 hours a day, weeping and calling for someone to help her children - who in her head were still alive and burning. After two weeks working with her, they took her to the graves of the children, to show her they were really gone. The therapists knew that, due to her burns and the possibility of contamination, they should do their best to prevent her from touching the earth of the graves. But of course she fell to the ground and tried to find some way to gather her children into her arms.

Another patient they have been working with, a 13 year old, didn’t lose her family, but her room and all her belongings were burnt. When she saw what was left, she quietly began to eat the ashes.

Later, I was listening to some Palestinians talking about the attacks.
“What do you think we learnt from this time?” one asked.
“It should teach us to stick together more.” the other answered.

Which Side Are They On? Democrats (via Chris Dodd) Show Us

Portion below; whole thing here:

Clarence Randolph, a 50-year-old dump truck driver from New Haven, has been out of work for two months.

He is not happy that financial firms bailed out by the government are paying bonuses to their executives. And he does not understand why one of his senators, Christopher Dodd, allowed it to happen.

“Why would he do it?” he said as he was about to enter the New Haven Free Public Library to search online for jobs. “Why are they going to take taxpayers’ money — my money — and give all these people bonuses? I think that’s terrible.”

Across Connecticut, anger is erupting against Mr. Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, whose stature in Washington once reflected the state’s beneficial ties with the financial industry. Now, he finds himself a symbol of the political establishment’s coziness with tainted corporations and a target of populist wrath over their excesses.

On Thursday, the senator sought to defuse the furor over the latest revelation, holding a conference call with reporters to explain how legislation meant to limit executive compensation was changed at the last minute. That change exempted bonuses protected by contracts, like those at American International Group, a big campaign contributor to Mr. Dodd that received billions in federal bailout money.

Mr. Dodd said that his staff revised the bill at the urging of Treasury officials, who he said were concerned that the compensation limits, which he had written in the original legislation, went too far and might invite lawsuits.

While he knew the language was being rewritten, the senator said he had no idea the revision would allow for the bonuses at A.I.G.

“Had I known at the time that there were any A.I.G. bonuses involved — that this was somehow going to assist in that matter — I would have rejected it completely,” he said.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner came to Mr. Dodd’s defense, saying in an interview with CNN that his staff had raised concerns about whether the legislation limiting executive compensation “was vulnerable to legal challenge.”

The fierce reaction back in his home state, however, underscores the peril the usually politically invulnerable senator faces.

In dozens of interviews, residents said they were appalled by Mr. Dodd’s ties to financial firms and believed that he had damaged himself as he prepares to run for re-election next year.

Even some who have been steadfast supporters worry that after 28 years in the Senate, Mr. Dodd, 64, has been seduced by the power of Washington and grown distant from his constituents in this heavily Democratic state, which has been hit hard by the economic downturn.

“What he needs to do is try to get some jobs out here for people,” said Henry Ford, 44, a painter from New Haven. “There are a lot of people out here who have bought houses and can’t afford them.”

This week’s uproar was triggered largely by Mr. Dodd himself, when he provided conflicting answers about the provision that allowed the bonuses at A.I.G. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the company’s employees, political action committees and subsidiaries have made campaign contributions of nearly $300,000 to Mr. Dodd since 1989.

Ex-Bush Official to AP: "Many at Gitmo Are Innocent"

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A former Bush administration official says many Guantanamo detainees are innocent, and have been held only because U.S. officials hoped they would know something important.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He says only two dozen or so of the roughly 800 men held at Guantanamo are terrorists. About 240 prisoners remain at the US military prison.

"There are still innocent people there," Wilkerson told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Some have been there six or seven years."

Wilkerson says he learned of their innocence through State Department briefings and military commanders. He first made the allegations in an Internet posting this week.

The Pentagon has said the detainees are dangerous enemy combatants.

"U.N. Rights Envoy Sees Israeli War Crimes in Gaza" -- Reuters

Link to original:

GENEVA, March 19 (Reuters) - A United Nations human rights investigator said on Thursday that Israel's massive military assault on densely populated Gaza appeared to constitute a grave war crime.

Richard Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.

"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk said.

"On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion," he wrote in an annual report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Falk gave the same death toll from Israel's offensive -- 1,434 Palestinians, including 960 civilians -- as the Palestinian human rights center.

Israel, which lost 13 people during the war, disputes the figures and has accused Hamas militants in Gaza of using civilians as human shields during the conflict.

Falk called for an independent experts group to be set up to probe possible war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas.

Violations included Israel's alleged "targeting of schools, mosques and ambulances" during the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 offensive and its use of weapons including white phosphorus, as well as Hamas firing of rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Falk said that Israel's blockade of the coastal strip of 1.5 million people violated the Geneva Conventions, which he said suggested further war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

The aggression was not legally justified and may represent a "crime against peace" -- a principle established at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi criminals, according to the American law professor who serves as the Human Rights Council's independent investigator.

He further suggested that the Security Council might set up an ad hoc criminal tribunal to establish accountability for war crimes in Gaza, noting Israel has not signed the Rome statutes establishing the International Criminal Court. (Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

"After Gaza, Israel Grapples With Crisis of Isolation" NYTimes -- GOOD!!!

“We need to do much more to educate the world about our [Israel's] situation,” he said. Regarding the extra $2 million budgeted for this, he said: “We need 50 million. We need 100 million.”

And the report in Haaretz about IDF soldiers confessing they killed Palestinians in Gaza under "lax rules of engagement" isn't going to help their "branding" problem.

To Palestine Solidarity people: KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

Link to original:

JERUSALEM — Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.

Examples abound. Its sports teams have met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania has closed Israel’s embassy.

Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill.

The issue has not gone unnoticed here, but it has generated two distinct and somewhat contradictory reactions. On one hand, there is real concern. Global opinion surveys are being closely examined and the Foreign Ministry has been granted an extra $2 million to improve Israel’s image through cultural and information diplomacy.

“We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits,” said Arye Mekel, the ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs. “This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

But there is also a growing sense that outsiders do not understand Israel’s predicament, so criticism is dismissed.

“People here feel that no matter what you do you are going to be blamed for all the problems in the Middle East,” said Eytan Gilboa, a professor of politics and international communication at Bar Ilan University. “Even suicide bombings by Palestinians are seen as our fault for not establishing a Palestinian state.”

Of course, for Israel’s critics, including those who firmly support the existence of a Jewish state, the problem is not one of image but of policy. They point to four decades of occupation, the settling of half a million Israeli Jews on land captured in 1967, the economic strangling of Gaza for the past few years and the society’s growing indifference toward the creation of a Palestinian state as reasons Israel has lost favor abroad, and they say that no amount of image buffing will change that.

Israel’s use of enormous force in the Gaza war in January crystallized much of this criticism.

The issue of a Palestinian state is central to Israel’s reputation abroad, because so many governments and international organizations favor its establishment in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. And while the departing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert negotiated for such a state, the incoming one of Benjamin Netanyahu says that item is not on its immediate agenda.

Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for the European Union, said in Brussels on Monday that the group would reconsider its relationship with Israel if it did not remain committed to establishing a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Mr. Netanyahu is expected to appoint Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, as his foreign minister. This alone has Israelis and their allies in Europe and the United States worried because of Mr. Lieberman’s views of Israeli Arabs that some have called racist.

Mr. Lieberman had campaigned on the need for a loyalty oath in Israel so that those who did not support a Jewish democratic state would lose their citizenship. One-fifth of Israeli citizens are Arabs, and many do not support defining the state as Jewish.

Mr. Lieberman also has few fans in Egypt, which has acted as an intermediary for Israel in several matters. Some months ago Mr. Lieberman complained that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had not agreed to come to Israel. “If he doesn’t want to, he can go to hell,” he added.

“Imagine that Hossein Mousavi wins the Iranian presidency this spring and he names Mohammad Khatami as his foreign minister,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst in Israel, referring to two Iranian leaders widely viewed as in the pragmatist camp. “With Lieberman as foreign minister here, Israel will have a much harder time demonstrating to the world that Iran is the destabilizing factor in the region.”

Of course, all of this is being seen in the context of a new, Democratic administration in the United States that has announced a desire to press for a two-state solution. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has already criticized Israeli plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and her department has criticized Israel’s banning of certain goods from Gaza.

This represents a distinct shift in tone from the Bush era. An internal Israeli Foreign Ministry report during the Gaza war noted that compared with others in the United States, “liberals and Democrats show far less enthusiasm for Israel and its leadership.”

The gap between Israelis and many liberal American Jews could be seen Tuesday in a blog by Bradley Burston, who writes on the Web site of the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz. He said that while visiting Los Angeles he faced many questions that amounted to “What is wrong with these people, your friends, the Israelis?”

He quoted an article by Anne Roiphe, an American Jewish liberal, which said that witnessing the popularity of Mr. Lieberman in Israel made her feel “as if my spouse had cheated on me with Mussolini.”

She added: “We here in America are waiting as of this writing for a government to emerge in Jerusalem, and most of us keep on hoping that its shape will not preclude the peace process, will not doom a two-state solution, will not destroy the hope that our new president brings to the table.”

Mr. Burston pointed to the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into Sderot and other Israeli cities and towns and titled his piece “The Racist Israeli Fascist in Me.”

Some Israeli officials say they believe that what the country needs is to “rebrand” itself. They say Israel spends far too much time defending actions against its enemies. By doing so, they say, the narrative is always about conflict.

“When we show Sderot, others also see Gaza,” said Ido Aharoni, manager of a rebranding team at the Foreign Ministry. “Everything is twinned when seen through the conflict. The country needs to position itself as an attractive personality, to make outsiders see it in all its reality. Instead, we are focusing on crisis management. And that is never going to get us where we need to go over the long term.”

Mr. Gilboa, the political scientist, said branding was not enough.

“We need to do much more to educate the world about our situation,” he said. Regarding the extra $2 million budgeted for this, he said: “We need 50 million. We need 100 million.”