Thursday, February 26, 2009

Israeli Occupation Forces Fire on Farmers and Internationals



Here is the link from the posted story yesterday. The internationals in Gaza, Eva, OJ and Andrew were not able to upload it, and the electricity was out in Gaza for much of yesterday. Watching this video should outrage all of us. Israeli snipers are using Palestinians and internationals as target practice, and it is only a matter of time before more are murdered.
from the Free Gaza Movement

Erased -- Wiped Off the Map (Movie Trailer)


Erased-Wiped off the map from C.I. COMUNICACIÓN on Vimeo.

This is a trailer from a production that Alberto Arce has filmed and directed. He was on the last voyage of the DIGNITY that got into Gaza, and he was there during Israel's murderous assault on a civilian population. Although much is in Spanish and Arabic, it makes no difference. It is the language of a people being wiped out in front of the eyes of the world with American money and American support.

from Free Gaza Movement

Gaza Chronology -- June 19 to December 27, 2008

19th June:
Ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Hamas government comes into force for six months. Israel insisted on a verbal agreement. It stated: cessation of all military hostilities on both sides, opening of Gaza's borders after 72 hours for 30% more trade, unrestricted trade after ten days. Egypt supports the extension of the agreement to the West Bank. (source: International Crisis Group: Ending the War in Gaza. Middle East Briefing No. 26, 5.1.2009, p. 3)
19th June
Israeli warships fire four rockets at Palestinian fishermen in Palestinian waters. On the same day aircraft circling over Gaza City break the sound barrier near the ground and trigger a panic among the people. In the area of Khan Yunis Israeli patrols shoot over the border fence at farmers who work on their fields on the other side of the border. (source: Ma'an, 26.06.2008). This scenario is repeated almost daily.
24th June:
Two young officials of Jihad are murdered in their homes in Nablus by units of the IDF (Israeli Defence Force). On the same day al-Quds Brigades fire three rockets at Sderot in retaliation. (source: Ma'an 24.06.2008) The Israeli side uses the action of Jihad as an excuse to close the border crossings again.
26th June:
The al-Aqsa Brigades fire a rocket on Sderot after many Fatah members have been arrested in raids by the Israeli army. With this the al-Aqsa Brigades want to force the extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank. The spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza warns the al-Aqsa Brigades that their actions would prevent the lifting of the blockade and favour instead the narrower interests of a organisational and political nature.

29th June:
A delegation of farmers complain to Hamas' Ministry of Agriculture that because of the Israeli bombardment they can no longer cultivate their fields along the border fence.
4th August:
During a meeting of the Israeli labour party the Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak, threatens a ground invasion into the Gaza strip, despite Hamas' adherence to the ceasefire.

8th August:
The director of the secret service Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, thinks that a ceasefire would reduce the pressure on Hamas to release Shalit. He calls on the army to prepare for a major military offensive. (source: Ma'an 8.8.2008) These statements reinforce the impression among Palestinians that as far as the Israeli military leadership is concerned the purpose of the ceasefire is to gain time in order to prepare an offensive.

29th September:
The Israeli navy sinks a fishing boat (source: http://www.btselem.org/english/testimonies/20080910_israeli_navy_boat_charges_into_a_fishing_boat_witness_al_hasi.asp), after fishing boats were shot at and rammed several times.

4th November:
Israeli troops enter into Khan Yunis. Deliberately targeted projectiles kill six Hamas members and injure several people, including one woman. In the Deir al-Balah several rockets are fired at residential areas. Near Wadi Salqa two houses of the Hawaidi family are destroyed and seven family members, three of them women, are kidnapped and taken to Israel. The same day Israeli border guards prevent French consular officals, who want to get a picture of the situation, from entering the Gaza strip. (Some background information: the dubious tunneller Abu Dawabah is arrested and claims during interrogation that both Hamas and and al-Aqsa brigades had offered him money for kidnapping an Israeli soldier. (source: Ma'an 3.11.2008) One day later the Hamas Ministry of Internal Affairs issues a denial. (See also International Crisis Group: Ending the War in Gaza. Middle East Briefing No. 26, 5.1.2009, p.5)
5th November:
Residential areas in the north of the Gaza strip and Khan Yunis are bombarded. Israeli troops kill a leader of Jihad and six Hamas officials. Because of this, Hamas, the al-Aqsa Brigades and Jihad fire rockets into Israel. Until then Hamas fully observed the ceasefire. Jihad and the al-Aqsa Brigades state that the ceasefire will not prevent them from reacting to Israeli violations of the agreement. In spite of this, Hamas wants to continue the ceasefire and ask Egypt for mediation.

5th November:
The Gaza Strip is completely sealed off. Even food, medicine, fuel, spare parts for generators and water pumps, paper, telephones and shoes can no longer or only in minimal amounts enter the Gaza Strip.
8th November:
Israeli bulldozers enter into the strip at several points. This leads to armed clashes with the units of the DFLP.
9th November:
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniya declares to European delegates who had broken through the sea blockade with a boat of the Free Gaza Movement and visited Gaza that Hamas could live with a solution of the Palestine problem on the basis of UN Resolutions. (source: Ma'an 9.11.2008)
12th November:
A further four Hamas members are killed. Israeli airplanes fire rockets at residential areas. The Palestinian factions are getting ever more skeptical about the ceasefire. Israeli bulldozers cut a 150 metre swath into an area in the Gaza Strip for military patrols, destroying about 750 hectares of agrarian land. (source: Ma'an 21.11.2008)
13th November:
Israeli boarder patrols bar a UN food convoy from passing the border. The DFLP claims that for Israel this was not about the ceasefire, but about breaking resistance to the occupation. In the following days the PFLP, the DFLP, the Popular Committees and Hamas fire projectiles at Israeli places while Israeli airplanes bomb the north of the Gaza Strip.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Canadian Universities Come Down on Side of Apartheid

http://desertpeace.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/second-canadian-university-bans-israeli-apartheid-week-posters/
Following the undemocratic banning at Carleton University, the University of Ottawa joins in banning the display. (See THIS post and THIS one) The following is a Call to Action….
University of Ottawa Bans Israeli Apartheid Week Poster
Call to Action
On February 20, 2009, the University of Ottawa became the second Ottawa
administration to ban the posters of Israeli Apartheid Week 2009, following
the lead of Carleton University in a blatant violation of free expression
for students speaking out on human rights. Like Carleton University's
administration, the University of Ottawa's Communications Office used
spurious "human rights" claims to ban the poster. The Communications
Office's short communique to Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights reads:

"A poster from the campus group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights has
recently come to the attention of the Communications Office. All posters
approved by the Communications Office must promote a campus culture where
all members of the community can play a part in a declaration of human
rights recognizing the inherent dignity and equal rights of all students.
Consequently, we will not place this particular poster on our campus
billboards."


Please view the poster here:
http://www.apartheidweek.org/sites/apartheidweek.org/files/Israeli%20Apartheid%20Week%202009%20poster.jpg



This curt note notably fails to explain how the poster by noted cartoonist
Carlos Latuff, depicting an Israeli attack helicopter (labeled "Israel")
firing a missile at a Palestinian child (labeled "Gaza"), does not
"recognize the inherent dignity and equal rights of all students". In fact,
the banning of the poster is a failure to recognize the dignity and equal
rights of Palestinian students and those who seek to expose the violations
of human rights of Palestinians.


The poster is symbolic but it also depicts a factual situation. 430 children
were killed by the Israeli military in its latest attack on Gaza. It seems
that according to a growing number of campus administrations, depicting
these killings on a poster is some kind of human rights violation, while the
killings themselves, or the bombing of a University in Gaza, are not
(neither campus administration condemned the killings of civilians or the
bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza).


In contrast to these campus administrations, the movement for Palestinian
human rights is at the forefront of the struggle to recognize the inherent
dignity and equal rights of all students, and indeed, all people. As the
students at Carleton wrote when the poster was banned on their campus, "the
campaign is proudly anti-racist, and founded on the principles of opposition
to all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It draws its
inspiration from the global campaign to end South African apartheid and is
led by many of the same individuals who were at the forefront of that
earlier struggle."


We present the same demands to the University of Ottawa as the students at
Carleton University demanded of their administration:

1. Immediately lift the ban on the Israeli Apartheid Week poster and
publicly apologize for the banning.


2. Explain, publicly and precisely, how the profound error of banning the
poster was made and address how to prevent such violations from occurring in
future.

3. Sponsor a full public debate--ensuring generous access to the entire
university community--on the University of Ottawa's position on the proposed
institutional boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

4. Appoint a university/community Commission to investigate the record of
the University in relation to democratic discourse and equity around issues
of Palestine solidarity.


We call on student organizations, social justice groups and concerned
individuals around the world to support students at the University of Ottawa
and the broader fight for freedom of expression.


Please take the following actions:
* Email/Fax/Call the President of the University of Ottawa, Allan Rock,
demanding that he immediately restore the Charter rights of students and
send a copy of your message of support to the Director of the Communications
Office, Andree Dumulon. Please send a copy of your letter to
sphr.uofo@gmail.com
Allan Rock: email president@uOttawa.ca, fax (613)562-5103, phone
(613)562-5809

Director of communications: email adumulon@uOttawa.ca, phone (613)562-5800
ext. 315

"Israelis Start to Worry U.S.Might Distance Itself" -- Jonathan Cook

Link to original: http://www.jkcook.net/Articles2/0375.htm#Top

JERUSALEM // Apprehension is mounting in Israel over the damage that its “special relationship” with Washington will suffer if, as expected, the Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, puts together a far-right government in the coming weeks.

A rift with US officials is already opening over the kingmaker role of Avigdor Lieberman, who leads Yisrael Beiteinu, an anti-Arab party, and is being widely touted as a senior cabinet minister in the incoming government.

His demand for loyalty legislation that threatens to strip the country’s Arab population of citizenship would, US officials note, put Israel’s government publicly at odds with the new, more inclusive era being promised by Barack Obama.

Israeli officials are worried that a US backlash could strengthen the hand of the president’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, whose task it is to revive the moribund peace process with the Palestinians.

Last week, Maariv, an Israeli daily newspaper, reported on concerns that Mr Mitchell might recommend economic sanctions against Israel, including cuts to the billions of dollars of annual aid, if a Netanyahu government allowed further expansion of West Bank settlements.

On Friday, as Mr Netanyahu was asked to form a government, the Obama administration publicly denied that it was seeking to interfere in the outcome of the coalition negotiations.

However, behind the scenes, according to the Israeli media, Mr Netanyahu is facing stiff pressure to abandon a government with the far-right parties.

Only hours after Mr Netanyahu was given his mandate, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, stressed that Washington would be pushing for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu favours what he calls “economic peace” rather than a territorial agreement with the Palestinians.

Equally, the US administration is believed to be concerned about allegations that Mr Netanyahu’s key partner in government, Mr Lieberman, once belonged to the Kach movement, outlawed as a terrorist group in 1994. Michael Ben-Ari, of the National Union, a right-wing party, and a self-declared former Kach member, would also be included in any far-right coalition.

The White House is said to prefer that Mr Netanyahu instead join forces with his chief rival, Tzipi Livni of the centrist party Kadima.

So far Ms Livni has insisted she will not serve under Mr Netanyahu, but has hinted she may accept a “rotation” that would see both leaders alternating as prime minister. The two are due to meet today.

Not-so-veiled warnings to the Likud leader were issued last week by two former US ambassadors to Israel. Daniel Kurtzer, who served under George W Bush, advised that the inclusion of Mr Lieberman in the incoming government would be a “bad combination for American interests”.

In comments reported by the Israeli media, he told an audience at Georgetown University: “There will be an image problem for an American administration to support a government that includes a politician who was defined as racist.”

In a separate speech, Martin Indyk, Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel, recalled Mr Netanyahu’s “considerable trouble” with Washington when he was prime minister in the late 1990s.

Israel’s shift rightward has aggravated press coverage in the United States. One leading US newspaper has even gone as far as to break a taboo by questioning Israel’s democratic credentials.

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times asked: “Can a nation founded as a Jewish homeland – with a ‘right of return’ for diaspora Jews but no one else, a Star of David on the flag and a national anthem that evokes the ‘yearning’ of Jews for Zion – ever treat non-Jews as true, equal citizens?”

Visits by three US Democratic politicians to Gaza late last week were also seen as a possible harbinger of souring relations with Israel. All three voiced shock at the destruction wrought on Gaza.

These developments have added to the concern of leading US Jews that the special relationship is under threat.

Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organisation of America, told The Jerusalem Post newspaper that Mr Lieberman’s “image is so tarnished, it wouldn’t be good for Israel” if he held a prominent cabinet position.

According to Mike Prashker, the director of Merchavim, an organisation in Jerusalem promoting shared Israeli citizenship, “when it comes to core democratic values, American and Israeli Jews are headed in diametrically opposite directions. These elections have revealed Israeli democracy as dangerously hollow.”

StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter

"Book Review: Avraham Burg and the Denying of Denial" -- Raymond Deane

UPDATE: a review with a different spin sent by a friend: http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/2007/06/avraham-burg-suggests-that-israelis.html

Link to original: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10332.shtml
Western liberals have a great need of "good Israelis." Hitherto, the novelists Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman have fit the bill: they are against the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they dislike the settlers, they are "for" peace and "against" violence ("on both sides"). In approvingly citing their names, western liberals both attest to their own philosemitic credentials and perpetuate the illusion that Israel is a "vibrant liberal democracy" with a robust diversity of opinion. Of late, however, these bellicose peaceniks have blotted their copybooks by supporting one or two of Israel's wars too many. A new "good Israeli" was urgently required, and he may have arisen in the shape of Avraham Burg.

The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), published in Hebrew in 2007 as Defeating Hitler and now translated by Israel Amrani, claims that the Shoah (the Nazi holocaust) has been "nationalized" and "privatized" and seeks to reclaim its memory for a universalist vision. Only thus, claims Burg, can Israelis be rescued from their obsession with spurious victimhood, and Hitler finally be defeated. Burg's concerns, unlike those of, say, political scientist Norman Finkelstein, are ultimately theological: the English title is taken from his penultimate chapter -- "Make God Smile Again" -- which may make the secularist frown.

As chair of both the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization in the 1990s Burg had precociously scaled the heights of the Zionist pyramid; he subsequently became speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and even interim president of Israel for 20 days after Ezer Weizman's resignation in 2000. Having published articles in the UK's Guardian and Israel's Yediot Ahronot in 2003 that were frankly heretical from a Zionist point of view, he resigned from politics in 2004 to devote himself to business. For western liberals, aghast at Israel's refusal to behave liberally, Burg is a plump catch indeed. Not surprisingly, therefore, The Holocaust Is Over has gleaned plaudits both from liberal Jewish commentators (Tony Judt, J.J. Goldberg) and gentiles (John Mearsheimer, Rupert Neudeck, Eric Rouleau). And yet both this book and the homages paid to it fill me with despair. At the heart of Burg's vision is an egregious denial of reality, most blatantly exposed in Chapter 6, "Lessons from the Holocaust":

"Although the creation of Israel led to the problem of [Palestinian] refugees, it does not mean that Israel's existence prevents the solution. Yet the refugee problem haunts us relentlessly and is used to justify the harshest criticism of Israel ... The heirs and descendants of our old European persecutors, who had slaughtered us and expelled us from Europe beaten and injured, take advantage of Israel's toughness ... to continue persecuting us by other means. They use the refugee problem to denounce our leadership in every possible way ..." (p. 84).

This passionate outburst, quite different in tone from the rest of the book, does not suggest that Burg has progressed very far from the "lacrimose" interpretation of Jewish history that he elsewhere criticizes as a counter-productive embrace of victimhood. The phrase "persecuting us" implies a self-pitying inability to confront soundly-based criticism on its own terms, even if it emanates not only from "our old European persecutors" but from Jews like Ilan Pappe or Richard Falk. Yet it gets worse:

"The state was born, some refugees were taken in and others were forced out ... The victims of this war became political persecutors, using propaganda as a weapon against us everywhere on the planet. They torment us in the major capitals, in the diplomatic arenas and in the media" (p. 84)

Leaving aside the preposterous obfuscation involved in the claim that "some refugees were taken in," this passage shamelessly transfers the role of persecutor from wicked Europeans to Arab refugees, tormenting poor little Israel "everywhere on the planet," presumably from the comfort of their miserable camps in Lebanon, Jordan or Gaza. And there is more:

"Only a comprehensive recognition by Israel, the Arab states and the international community regarding the moral responsibility for this necessary historical event will enable the opening of hearts and minds" (p. 85).

The Nakba (or Palestinian catastrophe) was apparently "a necessary historical event" in order to facilitate the establishment of what Burg calls "the Jewish people's state." One might even overlook this self-seeking sharing and disavowal of responsibility were the universalist Burg's "opening of hearts and minds" to point towards a just resolution of the Israel/Palestine issue in the shape of a single democratic state shared by Jews, Muslims, Christians and others. But nothing is further from his mind: "Restitution will be discussed in lieu of the refugees' return to their properties. My mother will not return to her home in Hebron ... Likewise the Naqbas [sic] and the refugees of 1948 will not return to Jaffa, Jerusalem, Majdal or Acre."

For Burg, 1948 was "a stunning national enterprise" and "an epic achievement on a mythical scale," marred only by the unfortunate but "necessary" ethnic cleansing of the natives. Burg's vision of a new Israel that will have "left Auschwitz behind" and will have truly become "a light unto the nations," seat of the "International Court of Crimes Against Humanity" and the "World Religion Organization," becomes less inspiring in view of the fact that this utopia will apparently continue to sit smugly on the spoils of dispossession. It is unclear to me, therefore, how Avraham Burg can claim to be a "post-Zionist" or indeed an "anti-Zionist," given how comfortably his views of history and historical responsibility sit alongside those of, say, the earlier Benny Morris. There is much to admire in The Holocaust is Over. Many of its criticisms of the Israeli polity and of US Jewry are incisive to the point of savagery. And yet, it is a book premised on self-deception and denial. Burg's admirers display culpable irresponsibility in failing to confront and analyze these flaws, having apparently learned nothing from their earlier misplaced adulation of Oz and company.

As a small but growing number of good Israelis (without quotation marks) know, only when the Palestinians find justice will Hitler truly be defeated.

The Jokers -- Mr. Fish

via Palestine Think Tank

Monday, February 23, 2009

Israel 'evicts Jerusalem families' -- al Jazeera

Link to original: http://english.aljazeera.net//news/middleeast/2009/02/2009222211021436690.html

More than 1,500 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem could be made homeless after Israel told them their homes are illegal and are to be demolished.

"The owners of 80 houses in the al-Bustan neighbourhood have received eviction notices saying that the structures will be destroyed because they are illegal," Hatem Abdel Kader, an official responsible for Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government, said.

Kader said that several of the houses served with demolition orders had been built before the 1967 war, when Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan, but that numerous extensions have been built since.

"The [Jerusalem] municipality used this as a pretext to issue the demolition orders despite appeals by the residents," he said.

No comment was immediately available from the city authorities.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital and has annexed the Arab east of the city, but under international law east Jerusalem is considered to be occupied and has not been recognised by world powers as the Israeli capital.

According to B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, Israeli authorities have demolished about 350 houses in east Jerusalem since 2004, saying that they were built without permits.



One in Ten (Coming Soon to a Society Near You)



UB40 (1981):
I am the one in ten
A number on a list
I am the one in ten
Even though I don`t exist
Nobody knows me
Even though i`m always there
A statistic, a reminder
Of a world that doesn`t care

My arms enfold the dole queue
Malnutrition dulls my hair
My eyes are black and lifeless
With an underprivileged stare
I`m the beggar on the corner
Will no-one spare a dime?
I`m the child that never learns to read
`cause no-one spared the time

(chorus)

I am the one in ten .... etc

I`m the murderer and the victim
The licence with the gun
I`m a sad and bruised old lady
In an ally in a slum
I`m a middle aged businessman
With chronic heart disease
I`m another teenaged suicide
In a street that has no trees

(chorus)

I am the one in ten .... etc

I`m a starving third world mother
A refugee without a home
I`m a house wife hooked on valium
I`m a pensioner alone
I`m a cancer ridden spectre
Covering the earth
I`m another hungry baby
I`m an accident of birth.

(chorus)

I Know Keynes Talked About Digging Holes & Filling Them But This Is Ridiculous!

Amnesty International Urges Freeze on Arms Sales to Israel -- Amira Hass

Link to original: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1066231.html
More than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during Operation Cast Lead could constitute war crimes and might pose serious infractions of international law, according to a report to be released by Amnesty International on Monday.

The United States is at the top of the list of arms exporters to Israel, but France, Romania, Bosnia and Serbia are listed as well. Amnesty's report, entitled, "Fueling Conflict: Foreign Arms supplies to Israel/Gaza," details arms sales to Israel between 2004 and 2007, and publishes some of the organization's findings on the use of such weapons against civilians and civilian targets.

"Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks are war crimes," the report states, describing such attacks during the war in Gaza. The organization recommends that all arms sales to Israel be frozen until "there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses."

The report further noted that Hamas and other Palestinian groups also used weapons indiscriminately against civilians. Although Amnesty cannot determine the direct supplier of non-homemade weapons (which are manufactured in Iran and Russia), it also calls for a moratorium on weapons sales and shipments to the Palestinians. The report also mentions that the types and quantity of weapons in Hamas' hands are much smaller than those in Israel's possession.

"Even before the three-week conflict, those who armed the two sides will have been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by the parties. They must take some responsibility for the violations perpetrated with the weapons they have supplied and should immediately cease further transfers," the report states."

Since 2001, the Unites States has been Israel's main supplier of conventional weapons, the report states. The figures Amnesty obtained show that from 2004 to 2007, the total value of U.S.-supplied arms to Israel stood at some $8.3 billion.

The report also notes that since 2002, Israel has received military and security aid to the tune of $21 billion, of which $19 billion was direct military aid. "Put simply, Israel's military intervention in the Gaza Strip has been equipped to a large extent by U.S.-supplied weapons, munitions and military equipment paid for with U.S. taxpayers' money."

A 10-year agreement, in force until 2017, stipulates that the United States will supply Israel with military aid totaling $30 billion.

"The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East director, said ahead of the report's release.

Between 2004 to 2007, France exported military equipment to Israel to the tune of 59 million Euros. Romania exported equipment worth approximately 20 million Euros, while Britain provided the equivalent of some 10 million pounds sterling's worth. Serbia sold Israel approximately $15 million worth of weapons and munitions, whereas Germany provided some $1.5 million in military aid.

The report also mentions civilian targets, including The American School in Beit Lahia, Gaza, destroyed by F-16 aircraft. Amnesty's report further states that three ambulance crew-members and a boy who showed them the way to a group of injured were killed on January 4 by an Israeli guided missile that was manufactured jointly by Hellfire Systems and Lockheed Martin/Boeing as part of a U.S. military contract.

The Amnesty representative in the Gaza Strip also found extensive evidence of the use of U.S.-made phosphorus bombs against civilian targets and densely populated areas.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Army Charity Hoards Millions While 1.6 Vets Live in Poverty

Portion below; whole thing here: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1110ap_armys_stingy_charity.html?source=mypi

FORT BLISS, Texas -- As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Between 2003 and 2007 - as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures - Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.

Tax-exempt and legally separate from the military, AER projects a facade of independence but really operates under close Army control. The massive nonprofit - funded predominantly by troops - allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans - sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training, the AP found.

AER was founded in 1942 to soften the personal financial hardships on soldiers and their families as the country ramped up its fight in World War II.

Today, AER's mission is to ease cash emergencies of active-duty soldiers and retirees, and to provide college scholarships for their families. Its emergency aid covers mortgage payments and food, car repairs, medical bills, travel to family funerals, and the like.

Instead of giving money away, though, the Army charity lent out 91 percent of its emergency aid during the period 2003-2007. For accounting purposes, the loans, dispensed interest-free, are counted as expenses only when they are not paid back.

During that same five-year period, the smaller Navy and Air Force charities both put far more of their own resources into aid than reserves. The Air Force charity kept $24 million in reserves while dispensing $56 million in total aid, which includes grants, scholarships and loans not repaid. The Navy charity put $32 million into reserves and gave out $49 million in total aid.

AER executives defend their operation, insisting they need to keep sizable reserves to be ready for future catastrophes.

"Look at the stock market," said retired Col. Dennis Spiegel, AER's deputy director for administration. Without the large reserve, he added, "We'd be in very serious trouble."

Navy- and Air Force-sponsored charities also are deeply intertwined with their services, but they impose controls that help safeguard their independence.

Officers in those services are expected to keep their noses out of requests for aid. Sailors should "be comfortable coming to us without any fear that the command is going to be involved," says retired Rear Adm. Jan Gaudio, executive vice president of Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

Meanwhile, civilian charities for service members and veterans say they are swamped by the desperate needs of recent years, with requests far outstripping ability to respond.

According to 2007 U.S. Census Bureau figures, 1.3 million veterans - or 6 percent - lived in poverty, with 537,000 unemployed.

"I have so many people who are losing their homes, they're behind on their mortgage payments, they're losing their jobs because of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or the medication they're taking - and the Army Emergency Relief can't help them," says Outreach Director Sema Olson at U.S. Welcome Home Foundation, which finds aid for combat veterans.

Viva Palestine!

"The Real Israel-Palestine Story is in the West Bank" -- Ben White

Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/20/israelandthepalestinians-israeli-elections-2009

It is quite likely that you have not heard of the most important developments this week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the West Bank, while it has been "occupation as normal", there have been some events that together should be overshadowing Gaza, Gilad Shalit and Avigdor Lieberman.

First, there have been a large number of Israeli raids on Palestinian villages, with dozens of Palestinians abducted. These kinds of raids are, of course, commonplace for the occupied West Bank, but in recent days it appears the Israeli military has targeted sites of particularly strong Palestinian civil resistance to the separation wall.

For three consecutive days this week, Israeli forces invaded Jayyous, a village battling for survival as their agricultural land is lost to the wall and neighbouring Jewish colony. The soldiers occupied homes, detained residents, blocked off access roads, vandalised property, beat protestors, and raised the Israeli flag at the top of several buildings.

Jayyous is one of the Palestinian villages in the West Bank that has been non-violently resisting the separation wall for several years now. It was clear to the villagers that this latest assault was an attempt to intimidate the protest movement.

Also earlier this week, Israel tightened still further the restrictions on Palestinian movement and residency rights in East Jerusalem, closing the remaining passage in the wall in the Ar-Ram neighbourhood of the city. This means that tens of thousands of Palestinians are now cut off from the city and those with the right permit will now have to enter the city by first heading north and using the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Finally – and this time, there was some modest media coverage – it was revealed that the Efrat settlement near Bethlehem would be expanded by the appropriation of around 420 acres land as "state land". According to Efrat's mayor, the plan is to triple the number of residents in the colony.

Looked at together, these events in the West Bank are of far more significance than issues being afforded a lot of attention currently, such as the truce talks with Hamas, or the discussions about a possible prisoner-exchange deal. Hamas itself has become such a focus, whether by those who urge talks and cooption or those who advocate the group's total destruction, that the wider context is forgotten.

Hamas is not the beginning or the end of this conflict, a movement that has been around for just the last third of Israel's 60 years. The Hamas Charter is not a Palestinian national manifesto, and nor is it even particularly central to today's organisation. Before Hamas existed, Israel was colonising the occupied territories, and maintaining an ethnic exclusivist regime; if Hamas disappeared tomorrow, Israeli colonisation certainly would not.

Recognising what is happening in the West Bank also contextualises the discussion about Israel's domestic politics, and the ongoing question about the makeup of a ruling coalition. For the Palestinians, it does not make much difference who is eventually sitting around the Israeli cabinet table, since there is a consensus among the parties on one thing: a firm rejectionist stance with regards to Palestinian self-determination and sovereignty.

Al-Zaidi Unbowed!

Portion below; whole thing (via Uruknet.info) here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/19/AR2009021900322.html?hpid=topnews

Zaidi, 30, who is charged with assaulting a foreign head of state, posited that Bush's Dec. 14 trip to Baghdad was not an official visit by a foreign dignitary because he arrived in the country without notice and did not leave the Green Zone, which at the time was under U.S. control.

"I am charged now with attacking the prime minister's guest," he said stoically, making his first public remarks since the incident. "We Arabs are famous for being generous with guests. But Bush and his soldiers have been here for six years. Guests should knock on the door. Those who come sneaking in are not guests."

Roughly an hour into the hearing, the judge, Abdul Amir al-Rubaie, announced that he would postpone the proceeding until March 12 to seek an opinion from the Iraqi government about whether Bush's final visit to Baghdad was indeed an "official" one.

Zaidi, a journalist employed by the Cairo-based al-Baghdadia satellite television channel, said he was tortured by Iraqi guards who took him into custody after the incident. He bore no visible scars in court Thursday, but he was missing a tooth, which relatives said was knocked out during one of the beatings he endured in custody.

The hearing was the first time Zaidi provided a public account of the indelible moment that embarrassed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and enthralled millions of critics of the United States during the waning days of Bush's presidency.

After being meticulously searched by American guards, Zaidi said, he took a seat in the small briefing room in Maliki's office, where the news conference was to take place. "The occupation forces started annoying and provoking us because we are Iraqis, on Iraqi soil, inside the office of the Iraqi prime minister," he said.

During the news conference, Zaidi said, he became enraged as Bush provided an upbeat assessment of the security situation. "I did not know what achievements he was talking about," Zaidi said. "I was seeing a million martyrs, seas of Iraqi blood, the desecration of mosques, the raping of Iraqi women and the humiliation Iraqis endure every day, every hour. Because I am a journalist, I know all about that."

Bush smirked "icily" as he spoke, Zaidi said, and flashed a "smile with no spirit." As the news conference was winding down and the two heads of state were preparing to dine together, Zaidi said he was overtaken by rage.

"In that moment, I only saw Bush," he said. "I was feeling the blood of innocent people flow under my feet as he was smiling. I felt that he is the killer of my people, and I am one of those people. I became emotional because he's responsible for what is going on in Iraq, so I hit him with my shoe."

After narrowly missing with the first volley, the journalist added, he reached for his other shoe without thinking and hurled it toward the podium. Bush ducked, spared again.

Zaidi said his initial statements about the incident to investigators were provided as he received electric shocks.

Contrary to what he told investigators then, Zaidi said, the act was not premeditated. He denied an assertion he said he provided under duress: that he attempted to assault Bush in 2006 in Amman, the Jordanian capital.

Rubaie asked Zaidi whether he had carried out the stunt on behalf of a group. "Of course not," he replied. "What pushed me to do this were the violations against human rights carried out by occupation forces."

After the judge adjourned the hearing, the man who came to represent the visceral anger many Iraqis feel toward the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and its aftermath was whisked out of the courtroom by Iraqi police officers.

A handful of American soldiers stood silently near the entrance of the courthouse, with rifles slung over their shoulders. A few Americans in business attire who attended the hearing with badges concealed in shirt pockets stood quietly behind a throng of relatives and admirers of the defendant who gathered outside the courtroom clapping and cheering.

A uniformed Iraqi soldier, apparently moved by the moment, raised his hands in the air and joined the applause.

Some attendees left the courtroom crying. But the scene was largely jubilant, as women in black abayas ululated triumphantly, their high-pitched shrieks reverberating in the courthouse lobby.

"Imam Ali is with you, hero!" the crowd chanted, referring to the relative of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, revered by Iraqi Shiites.

Israeli Military Shoot Gaza Farmer -- Free Gaza Movement



On Wednesday, February 18, Israeli forces shot a twenty year-old Palestinian farmer as he worked his land in the village of Al-Faraheen, east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.

International Human Rights Activists were accompanying the group of farmers at the time as they worked approximately 500m from the Green Line.

Mohammad al-Breem, 20, was shot in the right leg as the farmers, together with the international Human Rights Activists, attempted to leave the area having worked on their land for 2 hours in full view of the Israeli forces situated along the Green Line.

As the farmers were loading up the parsley and spinach from the agricultural lands shots were fired from Israeli forces on the border. Mohammad was shot in the right leg and evacuated, while still under fire, to hospital.

International Human Rights Activists have repeatedly witnessed Palestinian farmers being shot at by Israeli forces as they attempt to work on agricultural land situated within 700m of the Green Line.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Escort Service" -- Amira Hass

Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=51977&s2=21
The soldiers also took over Katari's house [in Gaza] on Sunday night, January 4. The Kataris, too, were rounded up and taken to the ground floor. There was shooting all around. The soldiers took up positions on one of the upper floors and turned the northeast window, close to the Abu Hatem home, into a firing position. "There was one nice soldier who told us that where we were sitting was dangerous and moved us next to an inner wall," one of the women related.

At about 9 A.M. on Monday, the soldiers took Katari's son Jamal from the house. During the next four days Jamal accompanied the soldiers and performed several tasks. He was made to enter what he estimates were 10 houses, going in first and calling on the occupants to come downstairs. He preceded the huge army bulldozer that forced its way through the neighborhood, ripping up the streets. "I am afraid the soldiers will shoot me," he told a soldier, who replied: "Don't be afraid."

In the meantime, that same Monday morning, Shafiq Daher, too, was continuing his mission of protecting Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The second house he was made to check was also empty. It belonged to the Al-Ajarmi family. Daher did not know that his two oldest sons were accompanying other groups of soldiers, and were being forced to smash holes in the walls of houses using sledgehammers. Nor did he know that at that very moment, a soldier was jamming his rifle into the back of his third son, standing at the door of Abed Rabbo's home.

Abed Rabbo himself, after being forced to smash a hole in the wall that separated his roof from his neighbors' roof and to accompany the soldiers inside, was made to enter several houses near the mosque, break into a car and then go into the Zeydan house. He was then taken to the Katari family's home, where he met Shafiq Daher and told him that his son was all right. At about 2 P.M., a soldier took him outside, pointed to the Abu Hatem house and said, according to Abed Rabbo's testimony: "There were armed people in that house. We killed them. Take off their clothes and take their weapons." At first he refused and said that was not his job. "Obey orders," he was told.

Dead or alive?

Abbed Rabbo went to the Abu Hatem house, shouting in Arabic that he was the owner. In the house, he found three very much alive members of Iz al-Din al-Qassam. They told him to leave and threatened him not to come back, "because we will shoot you." He returned to the soldiers, who made him undress and turn around, and then told them that the three were alive. The officer on hand asked to see his ID card and discovered that Abed Rabbo was a member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' intelligence. He was handcuffed and moved aside. He heard shooting. Then he was again sent to check the Abu Hatem house, after being told the three militants were now dead; he found one wounded and the others "all right." One of them said: "Tell the officer that if he is a man, he can come up here himself."

The soldiers didn't like what they heard. One of them cursed, said Abed Rabbo, who was handcuffed again and made to wait. It began to grow dark when he heard a helicopter approaching, followed by the sound of a missile exploding. One of the soldiers said: Now we have killed them, with a missile. Come over here. Abed Rabbo complied and saw, with horror, that the missile had struck his house.

He told the soldier that the missile had missed. "Are you majnoun [nuts]?" the soldier asked him. "No," Abed Rabbo replied. "The missile hit my house."

There was a huge mess: Water was bursting out of pipes, pieces of concrete were lying all over. And all around the shooting continued unabated, interspersed with the sounds of many explosions and helicopters flying overhead.

At about midnight, between Monday and Tuesday, Abed Rabbo was forced to go for a third time, to ascertain whether the three Hamas militants were dead. The soldiers lit the way for him. He found two of the gunmen, still alive, but buried under the rubble; the third was still holding his weapon. Abed Rabbo returned to the soldiers, stripped down again and repeated that the three were alive.

"Are you majnoun?" they demanded.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Month on from Gaza Ceasefire Up to 100,000 People Remain Homeless

A Palestinian woman washes clothes outside a tent erected close to her destroyed home in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip
http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=51961&s2=20
At least 100,000 people, including up to 56,000 children, remain displaced with many continuing to take shelter in tents or crowding into remaining homes with other families, one month since the Gaza ceasefire was declared.

Monday 16 February 2009

"As hopes for a truce are dashed Save the Children are deeply concerned for all these people dependent on aid for their daily existance and everyone else affected by the conflict", Save the Children UK's chief executive Jasmine Whitbread speaking from Gaza City, said today.

Save the Children is calling on the new Israeli administration, however it is configured, to focus immediate attention on the Gaza crisis and provide free access for humanitarian assistance to aid agencies.

Around 500,000 people including 280,000 children were forced from their homes at some point during the conflict. Where whole neighborhoods were destroyed 'tent cities' have sprung up and are now home to hundreds of people, many without access to clean drinking water and toilets.

"Whole communities have pitched tents so they can be close to the remains of their homes," said Ms Whitbread. "However, the tents are small and offer no protection from the low temperatures at night that can reach less than 7-8 degrees Celsius. There is also not enough clean drinking water, while some camps of up to 40 families have to share only one or two toilets between them. This poses obvious health risks.

"Thousands of children are now living in poor conditions, struggling to keep warm and fed. Many are already severely distressed from having witnessed the fighting and now they are having to cope with losing their homes with little prospect of returning to any sense of normality," Ms Whitbread added.

It is also thought that more than 70,000 people, including 40,000 children, have been forced into cramped accommodation, sharing with friends and families, who are struggling to find enough food, water and items such as blankets and clothes for everyone. Save the Children staff have come across small apartments, with no access to water, where as many as 18 people are sharing floor space.

Ms Whitbread continued: "As it's one of the most densely populated areas in the world, for those who can't return to their homes few options remain. Thousands of families are faced with either having to live in tents or living with other families in overcrowded homes. Children cannot continue to live in these conditions

"Save the Children desperately hope that any truce will allow an easing of the tight border controls to allow unrestricted humanitarian and commercial access with a steady flow of goods allowed in and out so Gaza can be rebuilt and its economy revived so that people can begin to return to some semblance of normality.

"However the new Israeli Government is configured they, along with other world leaders, have to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza."

We are also calling for the proposed ceasefire to be used as a chance to broker a more sustainable peace deal with world leaders throwing their full support behind it to help ensure there is no chance for fighting to be renewed.

Throughout the recent conflict in Gaza, we've provided humanitarian relief to children and families affected by the violence, reaching more than 58,000 people with lifesaving food and water, and hygiene kits for babies and families. Please help us to reach more families.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vigil for Gaza continues....This Saturday Feb 21, at Westlake, noon - 2:00 (Seattle)



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EicbgiOsD4o&feature=channel_page

What: Vigil for Gaza

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

Where: Westlake Center on 4th & Pine

==================================

Amin Odeh
VoicesofPalestine.org

Choose Life! A View From the Gazan Cliff -- Deb Reich

Link to original: http://www.counterpunch.org/reich02192009.html

Most people will say I'm delusional; that's okay. I will say what I have to say anyway. When your opinion is way out on the periphery, it may mean you are delusional - or it may just mean that the so-called center has gradually drifted closer and closer to a very high cliff, and finally fallen off the edge, while the majority of the population follows along like a horde of doomed lemmings. In that scenario, someone needs to stake out a position at the other extreme and drag the locus of the center back from oblivion. So here goes.

After this futile, criminal, pornographic war in Gaza (Shmuel Amir rightly termed it a "hunt" rather than a war) and yet another national election in Israel ending basically in impasse, but this time with a distinctly fascist motif, we are no closer to sustainable peace in the Middle East. We need a drastic revisioning of what we are doing here.

So we start with this: Speaking as an Israeli Jew, I say that we (Israeli Jews and our friends abroad) ought to embrace EVERYONE who wants to live here among us, so long as they truly love the land and have some reasonable claim to it. This would not include, say, tourists from Zanzibar or Antarctica - but would naturally include the Palestinians, whose claim to the land is (or ought to be) beyond dispute and whose deep and enduring love for the land is richly evident to any observer not in a vegetative state.

I say we bring all the long-suffering, besieged, shell-shocked Gazans home to Israel now! They miss their homes. They want to come home. Let us welcome them! We can all move over a little bit and make room. Believe me, there is still plenty of room.

Dayenu! (Enough!).Enough suffering inflicted on the surviving families in Gaza who are hungry, thirsty, cold, frightened, wounded, traumatized for life, and bereaved. Enough. And enough suffering on the other side of the fence in Sderot and environs, too. (Their fates are inextricably intertwined; all our fates are inextricably intertwined.)

The generals and the militants have had their day, for the nth time - and at the end of it, as usual, all that we (any of us) have now, as a result, is war crimes and grief. War crimes and grief and fear. War crimes, grief, fear, hatred, and despair… with thousands of injured and disabled people bearing the burden most directly, forever.

Enough! Israelis are more afraid now than before, and more at risk, too. Time to ABANDON this insane strategy that we (any of us) can force people to love us, or anyhow accept us, by killing them!

Let us in Israel who have so much, open our homes and our communities to the victims of this insane war who have so little - exactly as we once opened our homes to refugees from northern Israel when the Katyushas were falling. Our traditional ethos is full of charity and generosity; we know all about providing refuge and succour; we have taken in wave after wave of refugees over the decades, most recently more than a million Russian émigrés deemed essential to our future, for whom we moved over and made room.

So let's get going. Let every family in Israel who wants to live in peace in this region, open their home to a Gaza family until new housing can be built. Let the participating families declare a hudna between themselves. Now. Today.

You start by not picturing these neighbors as "the enemy"; picture them instead as families who have suffered a tsunami like the one that flattened coastal Indonesia a few years ago - and in fact, the order of magnitude of what they have been through is about the same. Presto! Reaching out to help suddenly makes perfect sense. Moreover, professional planners have already minutely addressed the question of exactly where Palestinians coming home to Israel could reside, eager to make their best contribution to a shared future. What is missing in Israel is not sufficient space, but sufficient imagination to envision how much there is to be gained by all concerned. Now is a good time to change that.

The Gaza disaster can become the turning point. Let the Gazan expatriates whose families came from Ashdod (Issdod) be matched with Ashdod-area families. Let the expatriates from Lod (Lydd) be matched with Lod/Lydd-area families - Jewish or Palestinian. And so forth. And let no time be lost! They have lost everything and their situation is dire. We in Israel have lost our moral compass and we want to reclaim it. Bingo!

Let the governments of the world, led by the USA, immediately stop sending Israel aid for military ordnance, and earmark it instead for a massive rehabilitation and reconciliation program.

Let all the tens of thousands of Palestinian professionals who are citizens of Israel, born and raised here - doctors, social workers, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists, lawyers, engineers, teachers, designers, journalists - join gladly and wholeheartedly in this effort, finally and at long last, to bring their fellow Palestinians home from exile in Gaza. Let us bind up the wounds and become whole, together. All of us. Let us build a really wonderful society together, for the sake of ALL OUR CHILDREN. Rewrite the national anthem! Why not? It's a SONG, folks. No song is holier than the life of even one child (anyone's child).

The Gaza families who actually lived in Gaza before 1948 will want to stay and rebuild their homes and communities. Volunteers would doubtless throng to Gaza from all over the world to help them. Imagine them turning what was the world's largest open-air prison into the world's largest open-air Reconciliation Park - with facilities for tourism, education, environmental studies, cultural attractions, and museums (including a Palestinian Nakba Museum). Imagine Gaza as the reconciliation capital of the world - people in Israel could commute to work in Gaza for a change, instead of the other way around. Very refreshing.

This is a blueprint for a SHARED LIFE. If it sounds crazy, just ask yourself: Which is crazier -- rampant slaughter, or rampant cooperation? Rivers of blood, or the free flow of joint prosperity? Rampant mass cooperation could break out here tomorrow - and in a week or two, or maybe a month or two, we would feel like we have always believed in it.

A political accommodation would follow the humanitarian one - probably some creative form of federation, with complete, reciprocal, national-cultural autonomy based on each group's granting the other group the same perks it wants for itself. The technical restructuring follows the vision, not the other way around. There are several good plans, already fully elaborated, for political power-sharing here. Anyone can read them; they're on the web. Once we dare to envision a shared future, we can make it happen. And if not now, when?

We Jews consider it rational and wonderful to rejoice in our emergence as a modern nation in the ancient homeland, after… not twenty years, not two hundred years, but two thousand years of exile!! Yet the idea of repatriating all those homesick Palestinian families, exiled from their homes a mere 60 years ago, is considered delusional. Something there does not compute.

So think it over and let's put the guns away for good. Let the tribunals meet to apportion blame and responsibility, by all means, but as for the rest of us: we have other tasks. Treat the wounded, yes, of course, and heal the traumatized… And beat the swords into ploughshares and recycle the tank parts into computer equipment. Retool the death factories to make swimsuits instead of parachutes, irrigation pipes for farmers instead of M16 rifles. No time for missiles; we'll all be too busy getting a life. The only phosphorous I ever want to see around here again is in a spelling contest for the kids (ALL our kids). Haul out the welcome mat for the long-lost cousins and let's get busy – there's a lot of work to do here. It's not too late, even now, but you have to take the first step: Choose life!

Bloodsucking Banks Ripping Off Unemployed

In Missouri, for instance, 94,883 people claimed unemployment benefits through debit cards from Central Bank. Analysts say a recipient uses a card an average of six to 10 times a month. If each cardholder makes three withdrawals at an out-of-network ATM, at a fee of $1.75, the bank would collect nearly $500,000. If half of the cardholders also call customer service three times in any given week, the bank's revenue would jump to more than $521,000. That would yield $6.3 million a year.

Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/02/19/us/AP-Bank-Fees-Jobless-Benefits.html?pagewanted=all

First, Arthur Santa-Maria called Bank of America to ask how to check the balance of his new unemployment benefits debit card. The bank charged him 50 cents.

He chose not to complain. That would have cost another 50 cents.

So he took out some of the money and then decided to pull out the rest. But that made two withdrawals on the same day, and that was $1.50.

For hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs during the recession, there's a new twist to their financial pain: Even when they're collecting unemployment benefits, they're paying the bank just to get the money -- or even to call customer service to complain about it.

Thirty states have struck such deals with banks that include Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., JP Morgan Chase and US Bancorp, an Associated Press review of the agreements found. All the programs carry fees, and in several states the unemployed have no choice but to use the debit cards. Some banks even charge overdraft fees of up to $20 -- even though they could decline charges for more than what's on the card.

''They're trying to use my money to make money,'' said Santa-Maria, a laid-off engineer who lives just outside Albuquerque, N.M. ''I just see banks trying to make that 50 cents or a buck and a half when I should be given the service for free.''

The banks say their programs offer convenience. They also provide at least one way to tap the money at no charge, such as using a single free withdrawal to get all the cash at once from a bank teller. But the banks benefit from human nature, as people end up treating the cards like all the other plastic in their wallets.

Some banks, depending on the agreement negotiated with each state, also make money on the interest they earn after the state deposits the money and before it's spent. The banks and credit card companies also get roughly 1 percent to 3 percent off the top of each transaction made with the cards.

''It's a racket. It's a scam,'' said Rachel Davis, a 38-year-old dental technician from St. Louis who was laid off in October. Davis was given a MasterCard issued through Central Bank of Jefferson City and recently paid $6 to make two $40 withdrawals.

Neither banks nor credit card companies will say how much money they are making off the programs, or what proportion of the revenue comes from user versus merchant fees or interest. It's difficult to estimate the profits because they depend on how often recipients use their cards and where they use them.

But the potential is clear.

In Missouri, for instance, 94,883 people claimed unemployment benefits through debit cards from Central Bank. Analysts say a recipient uses a card an average of six to 10 times a month. If each cardholder makes three withdrawals at an out-of-network ATM, at a fee of $1.75, the bank would collect nearly $500,000. If half of the cardholders also call customer service three times in any given week, the bank's revenue would jump to more than $521,000. That would yield $6.3 million a year.

Rachel Storch, a Democratic state representative, received a wave of complaints about the fees from autoworkers laid off from a suburban St. Louis Chrysler plant. She recently urged Gov. Jay Nixon to review the state's contract with Central Bank with an eye toward reducing the fees.

''I think the contract is unfair and potentially illegal to unemployment recipients,'' she said.

Central Bank did not return two messages seeking comment.

Glenn Campbell, a spokesman for Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., said the congressman would support a review of the debit card programs nationwide.

Another 10 states -- including the unemployment hot spots of California, Florida and South Carolina -- are considering such programs or have signed contracts. The remainder still use traditional checks or direct deposit.

With the national unemployment rate now at 7.6 percent, the market for bank-issued unemployment cards is booming. In 2003, states paid only $4 million of unemployment insurance through debit cards. By 2007, it had ballooned to $2.8 billion, and by 2010 it will likely rise to $10.5 billion, according to a study conducted by Mercator Advisory Group, a financial industry consulting firm.

Sameh Habeeb Announces Youth-run Newspaper from Gaza

Coming soon:

www.paltelegraph.com

- Hide quoted text -

www.gazatoday.blogspot.com

by Sameh Habeeb: "In less than 7 days; we are changing your world"


The Palestine Telegraph

"We Will Change Your world"

About us

The Palestine Telegraph/PT is a professionally driven online newspaper envisioned by a few thoughtful Palestinian youths in Gaza. They were inspired to do something to change their world and shared their dream with Photojournalist Sameh A. Habeeb, a life-long resident of Gaza and Founder and Editor in Chief of The Palestine Telegraph/The PT.

The PT is committed to disseminating the voices of the People of Palestine, the Middle East and other indigenous people around the world who are ignored by corporate controlled media. Our online only publication is staffed by internationally recognized experts in news analysis and reporters who know no borders.

We guarantee to host photos and videos that corporate controlled media will not.


The PT will showcase a variety of Palestine-specific topics in News, Entertainment, Business, Health, Science, Sports and even Quirks in the News.

The Palestine Telegraph's goal is to change the world by bringing the voices and images of the world to the global community.

The PT is staffed by volunteers who are professionals in their fields.

The staff of PT are committed to being a media that is a sanctuary for dissent, by disseminating the voices of the marginalized and oppressed.


Services:

-The PT will provide translators and assist with hotel and transportation arrangements for journalists and internationals who desire to visit Gaza .

-The PT will work with other newspapers, websites and organizations by providing videos, photos, and feature photo-stories.

-The PT will arrange for special media interviews with officials from all parties.

Note: the service would be a self-funding issue only.

Donate:

As a volunteer international and independent endeavor we receive no government funding. The PT is a non-profit project that depends on donations from people of good will committed to freedom of speech for all people.

We welcome all to take a part in our changing world!

The Tale of Two Apartheids -- Paul D'Amato

This bit stops at a provocative spot and you'll have to go to the original to see the rest. :)

Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/20505

IN APRIL 1976, John Vorster, president of the then-racist apartheid regime of South Africa, paid an official state visit to Israel, where he was given the red-carpet treatment.

Israeli television showed him on his first day, visiting the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. At an official state banquet held for Vorster, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin toasted the "ideals shared by Israel and South Africa."

Why was an outspoken member of a Nazi militia in South Africa during the Second World War and a leading member of the party that crafted official apartheid policies in South Africa being feted in Israel?

A statement in the South African government's yearbook made two years after Vorster's visit provides an answer: "Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."

These close ties came from the identification that both states had for each other's cause. Both were settler states that claimed to be bringing "civilization" to so-called backward peoples. And both were committed to using any and all means to maintain their regional domination over the "natives" that they had conquered--in South Africa, to create a white state based on the exploitation of Black labor; in Israel, to create an exclusively Jewish state through the systematic removal of the indigenous Palestinian population.

In an excellent two-part article in the Guardian in 2006, Chris McGreal quotes Ronnie Kasrils, then the intelligence minister in the post-apartheid government led by the African National Congress. Kasrils, who is Jewish and had co-authored a petition protesting Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, explained why such a close affinity could develop between the two countries:

Israelis claim that they are the chosen people, the elect of God, and find a biblical justification for their racism and Zionist exclusivity.

This is just like the Afrikaners of apartheid South Africa, who also had the biblical notion that the land was their God-given right. Like the Zionists who claimed that Palestine in the 1940s was "a land without people for a people without land," so the Afrikaner settlers spread the myth that there were no black people in South Africa when they first settled in the 17th century. They conquered by force of arms and terror and the provocation of a series of bloody colonial wars of conquest.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

VORSTER'S VISIT signaled an acceleration of economic, diplomatic and military cooperation between the two countries, a collaboration that already had a lengthy history.

South African Gen. Jan Smuts, who had a close relationship with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizman, Israel's first prime minister, had been instrumental in convincing Britain to sign the Balfour Declaration that agreed to the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." After 1948, South Africa was one of the first countries to recognize Israel.

N. Kirschner, a veteran South African Zionist leader, wrote in 1960 in an Israeli publication: "There exists a bond between Jewish aspirations and the aspirations of the people of South Africa."

That bond was expressed chiefly in growing military and secret nuclear cooperation. Each country shared its intelligence and counterinsurgency techniques with the other, and South Africa purchased arms from Israel. Israel purchased nuclear materials from South African in order to develop its secret weapons program, and in return, Israel provided scientific and technical assistance to help South African build its nuclear bombs.

Hundreds of white South Africans graduated from Israeli military training schools. "It is a clear and open secret," wrote an Israeli journalist in 1976, "that in army camps, one can find Israeli officers in not insignificant numbers who are busy teaching white soldiers to fight black terrorists, with methods imported from Israel."

The parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa are striking. In South Africa, the white colonial settler minority conquered the Black majority, forcing them into Bantustans--so-called independent African homelands--that covered only 13 percent of the country. This allowed the whites to declare South Africa a white country.

Blacks, who outnumbered whites by 4-to-1, became the cheap labor that built South Africa's economy, but they couldn't be citizens.

Likewise, Theodore Herzl, known as the father of Zionism, sold the Jewish state to its potential imperial backers as "an outpost of civilization against barbarism."

Variations on statements such as this one from Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency's Colonization Department, can be found scattered throughout the writings of the founders of the state of Israel: "There is no room for both peoples together in this country...There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries. To transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe should be left."

These principles guided the Zionist armies and paramilitary gangs that used massacres and terror to drive 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948 in order to create the state of Israel, and again led to the expulsion of 325,000 Palestinians from their land after the 1967 war.

These are not old, outdated views, but the deeply held conviction of leading Zionists today. Listen to the ravings of Israeli Professor Arnon Soffer, head of the Israel Defense Force's National Defense College, speaking to the Jerusalem Post in 2004 about Israel's unilateral pullout from Gaza: