Friday, July 30, 2010
"On Friday U.S. Conducts Afghan massacre - On Tuesday Congress Votes to Fund More Death" -- By Kenneth J. Theisen
In the last few days, there have been several developments regarding the U.S. war of terror in Afghanistan. On Sunday, WikiLeaks released the Afghan War Diary which details some of the many crimes of the U.S. imperialists there in over 91,000 military reports. And on Monday, Afghan officials reported that 52 people were massacred in Rigi, Afghanistan in a Friday rocket attack launched against a house where women and children had taken shelter from fighting between NATO troops and Afghan insurgents.
And then on Tuesday evening Congress took stern action to stop this imperialist war. NOT! Instead Congress once again voted to fund the war in Afghanistan. In a 308 to 114 vote the U.S. House of Representatives under Democrat leadership passed a bill previously approved by the Democrat dominated Senate that funds a $33 billion, 30,000 plus Obama troop escalation in Afghanistan.
Obviously Congress could care less about civilian massacres in the wars it funds. In fact this latest massacre is reported in the press as just another controversy that may or may not have occurred. Despite the fact that the murders were reported by the U.S. puppet government, official U.S. government propagandists went into their usual cover-up mode.
In making its report the Afghan puppet government relied on its own intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security. But immediately the U.S. military command in Afghanistan claimed an investigation "has thus far revealed no evidence of civilians injured or killed."
Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith, director of communications for the American and NATO military coalition claimed, "Any speculation at this point of an alleged civilian casualty in Rigi village is completely unfounded. We are conducting a thorough joint investigation with our Afghan partners and will report any and all findings when known." But then Smith is paid to spew bull from his mouth.
This has been standard routine in Afghanistan. Typically the U.S. will deny the massacre and only months later when it is no longer in the news will it admit anything happened. The first U.S reports always claim those killed were insurgents or terrorists. Only when the evidence is undeniable will they come clean, but by then it is no longer news.
According to Afghan reports of this massacre, women and children from some eight families took shelter in the village at Rigi. Then at approximately 4:30 PM Friday the U.S. coalition launched an air attack against the village, killing 52, mostly women and children.
According to the New York Times, Mohammed Usman reported that he personally helped pull the bodies of 17 children and 7 women from the debris of the attack. Usman said, "They have ruined us, and they have killed small children and innocent women. God will never forgive them."
The enormity of this atrocity even forced the U.S. hand-picked Afghan President Hamid Kazai to condemn the attack as "both morally and humanly unacceptable." He had to do this in an attempt to maintain some credibility with the Afghan people.
Of course we have heard nothing from the White House or the Congress that enables these massacres and do not expect to hear any condemnation from either. But despite the role of the Obama administration and the Democrat led congress in this U.S. war of terror, we are told by many "progressives" that we need to elect more Democrats to congress and this will take care of the problem.
Typical of this wrong-headed thinking is this from David Swanson who wrote, "We need a new approach that not only seeks to keep anti-war representatives in power, and to replace Republicans with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Democrats in primaries with anti-war Democrats, and to replace pro-war Republicans in primaries with anti-war Republicans, but also to defeat pro-war incumbents even if their opponent is pro-war too and even if it means replacing a Democrat with a Republican. I don't see any other way of making these people listen to us in the coming months and years. And you can't get much worse than anyone who keeps funding wars." (See http://warisacrime.org/node/54280)
He is right that those who fund these wars should receive condemnation, but relying on Congress is a mistake that will not change anything. When will people learn that you can not rely on ruling class elections to end the imperialist wars of the U.S. Empire? Weren’t we told the same thing in the 2006 and 2008 elections? Vote for a Democrat Congress! Vote for Obama! This will make them change. The result - a massive escalation of the Afghan war and the spread of that war into Afghanistan. The U.S. has also expanded covert war into many other nations. Congress has funded all this.
Instead of misleading millions into relying on elections to end these imperialist wars we must mobilize these people to take to the streets, not the election booths which are a dead end. Only with the concerted actions of millions of people will we have any chance of ending the war of the U.S. Empire and all the resulting crimes of that Empire. Anything less will only condemn billions to suffer at the hand of imperialism for generations more.
In addition to Adalah-NY and the ADC, at least five other organizations have formed a coalition against American support of settlements.
Among their complaints is the US government's reluctance to deal with groups they say are in flagrant violation of stated US policy and the double standard applied to US-based Arab and Muslim charities. For example, the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Islamic charity in the United States, was shut down in 2007 on the grounds that funding it raised ended up in the hands of Hamas, which the US lists as a terrorist organization.
Adalah-NY members say the double standards are blatant and refer to the case of Noam Arnon, a spokesman of the Hebron Jewish community and an honoree at the 2009 Hebron Fund dinner.
"Noam Arnon openly praises the murder of Palestinians and praises individuals like terrorist Baruch Goldstein," Andrew Kadi, a Palestinian-American member of Adalah-NY, charged, citing a report by the Associated Press.
In 1994, Brooklyn-born doctor Baruch Goldstein entered Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque and opened fire, killing 29 Palestinians gathered for Friday prayer, before being lynched to death. His burial place in the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba became a site of pilgrimage honored by many, including Noam Arnon, until the Israeli high court ordered the shrine to be removed, enforcing an Israeli law against the building of monuments for terrorists.
"Look at the statements made by Noam Arnon," said Ethan Heitner, an activist with Adalah-NY. "Can you imagine a Palestinian making these statements that is affiliated with a US 501(c)(3)? They would get shut down immediately."
While non-profits funding settlements have operated under the radar for some time, the case can no longer be made that their work is unknown to government. "I think there is a lot of willful blindness," Heitner said.
Some of these organizations in fact do more than collect contributions and have become vocal in their challenge to the Obama administration's position on settlements. For example, the projects of the One Israel Fund range from sponsoring "defense equipment" and a Tactical Response Team of volunteers trained to respond to terrorist attacks to covering wedding expenses for settlers who lost their homes when they were evicted from Gaza.
"Next on the chopping block: Judea and Samaria," is the title of one of the Fund's fliers, which quoted President Obama's remarks about settlements at his Cairo speech. "We're used to hearing the same old rhetoric from politicians: obstacles to peace, painful concession," the flier continues, soliciting donations. "Now we have a new buzzword: illegitimate. The only thing that doesn't seem to change is the terror."
Another such group is Shuva Israel, The Return to Israel Fund, a Texas-based 501(c)(3) of "Evangelical Christians Lovers of Zion." "What is our response to President Obama's pressure on Israel to freeze building in the communities of the Biblical Mountains of Judea and Samaria?" the group asks in gigantic font on the homepage of its Stand with Israel campaign. A link leads to the answer: "Become part of 12,000 Christian Zionists to sign up and give $12 a month, equaling $144,000 monthly to support the Jewish community settlements in the eternal biblical heartland of Israel."
If the spirited level of fundraising by such groups says anything, it is that settlers and their American supporters do feel threatened and do fear they are running out of time. While, even pre-recession, charitable donations in general were declining, many pro-settler groups have had their contributions increase remarkably. Construction and expansion of the settlements, too, has been bustling, the Israeli group Peace Now reports, something confirmed by settlers themselves.
Double standards aside, what the activities of settlement supporters have exposed is the inconsistency between stated US foreign policy and the administration's capacity to enforce that policy, not only overseas but first and foremost at home.
Alice Speri is a freelance journalist who has worked for Al-Jazeera English, Agence France Presse and The Christian Science Monitor. She is currently based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and has previously lived in Jenin and Ramallah. This story is adapted from her year-long research project on US-funded settlement expansion.
"Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone"
“Palestine is not about a tiny spot on the map; it is about the awakening of human conscience.”
"[T]he whole state of Israel is one big gated community." -- Ron Nachman, Mayor of Illegal West Bank Settlement Ariel [And it's a racist one, to boot!]
"About 200 protestors; Palestinians, Israeli and Internationals were today carrying posters asking for a boycott of Israel, and also honoring Rachel Corrie's hometown Olympia, that recently introduced a boycott of Israeli goods."
Subject: [friends-of-freedom-and-justice-bilin] Dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation and stun grenades in Bil'ins weekly demonstration, two injuredTo: friends-of-freedom-and-
firstname.lastname@example.orgDozens suffered from tear gas inhalation and stun grenades in Bil'ins weekly demonstration, two injured
Today 30 July 2010 the people of Bil'in were joined by several groups of internationals, including a group of rappers from Britain and the US. A large part of the demonstrators
managed to approach the soldiers who had already entered the gate. Two people were detained for a while, following large amounts of tear gas, eventually forcing the protestors back towards the village. One Israeli protestor was hit by a tear gas canister in his leg, causing pain, while another British citizen was dragged several meters by soldier, causing his back bruising and bleeding.
About 200 protestors; Palestinians, Israeli and Internationals were today carrying posters asking for a boycott of Israel, and also honoring Rachel Corrie's hometown Olympia, that recently introduced a boycott of Israeli goods. 45 people were from Spain, another group from Italy and France, in addition to individuals coming to show solidarity. People were singing and dancing all the way up to the road leading to the illegal Wall. As the protestors were coming closer, a number of soldiers ran through the gate and lined up on the road, preventing people from coming closer to the gate. A large group of protestors started singing, and a truck with speakers approached playing music. Protestors asked to cross the soldier's barrier, but were prevented, and pushed back while trying to continue walking towards the gate, on Bil'in's land.
At one point the soldiers attacked one international protestor, and following that people tried to help him, they detained another. This British citizen was dragged several meters by the soldiers, causing damage to his back. He was heavily bruised and suffered from pain afterwards. In the middle of the chaos the army started shooting and throwing tear gas and stun grenades to the protestors. As people ran back towards the village, tear gas continued to be shot, making it hard to see and breathe. One Israeli was hit by a low flying tear gas canister in his leg, causing pain, though no medical treatment was needed.
Again the army showed that they don't hesitate to use brutality and violence again non-violent protestors in Bil'in. Also today there were two fires caused by tear gas canisters in the field, and luckily people were able to put it out. The demonstration was ended by the performance of one MC, coming with a group of other rappers in solidarity with Bil'in and Palestine. Bil'in is thankful for the great support this Friday, and welcomes anyone who wants to participate in the weekly demonstration in the future.
29 July 2010
The following open letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose elected mandate expired in July 2009 and who has remained in power under controversial emergency laws, was issued on 22 July 2010:
We are Palestinians of diverse perspectives and affiliations -- scholars, intellectuals, artists, activists, trade unionists, human rights advocates and civil society leaders, inside historic Palestine and in exile -- who are united in our commitment to the fulfillment of the fundamental rights of all Palestinians, particularly our inalienable right to self-determination. This universally sanctioned right encompasses, at a minimum, freedom from occupation and colonization in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
During a 9 June meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you reportedly said: "I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel," a statement that you have yet to retract. We regard this announcement, which adopts a central tenet of Zionism, as a grave betrayal of the collective rights of the Palestinian people. It is tantamount to a surrender of the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live in equality in their own homeland, in which they have steadfastly remained despite the apartheid regime imposed on them for decades. It also concedes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
No Palestinian institution or leader has ever accepted an exclusive Jewish claim to Palestine, which is irreconcilable with the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people. Our rights inhere in us as a people; they are not yours to do with as you please.
We, as Palestinians urgently need a legally and democratically elected leadership that is responsible, capable and committed to the fulfillment of our national rights and aspirations to live in freedom, dignity and just peace in our ancestral homeland. We call on all Palestinians to immediately revive the democratic processes that our people have struggled so hard to build, so that we can designate leaders with an effective vision and strategy for achieving our rights as a people.
Saleh Abdel-Jawad, Assoc. Prof. of History, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh, poet and academic (Jerusalem); Naseer Aruri, Prof. Emeritus, University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth); Mourid Barghouti, poet and author (Ramallah/Cairo); Omar Barghouti, commentator and human rights activist (Jerusalem); Ramzy Baroud, author and editor of the Palestine Chronicle (Seattle); George Bisharat, Prof., UC Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco); Haidar Eid, academic and boycott, divestment and sanctions activist (Gaza); Samera Esmeir, Assist. Prof. of Rhetoric, Univ. of California, Berkeley (Haifa); Wael Hallaq, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Nadia Hijab, author and human rights advocate (Washington, DC); Jamil Hilal, sociologist and author (Ramallah); Islah Jad, Assist. Prof. of Gender & Development, Birzeit Univ. (Ramallah); Hatem Kanaaneh, medical doctor and author (Sakhnin); Ghada Karmi, author and Fellow, Exeter University (Exeter); Nur Masalha, Prof. of Religion and Politics, St. Mary's Univ. College (London); Joseph Massad, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Jean Said Makdisi, author (Beirut); Saree Makdisi, Prof., University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles); Zakaria Muhammad, novelist (Ramallah); Karma Nabulsi, Fellow in Politics, University of Oxford (Oxford); Eyad Sarraj, psychiatrist (Gaza)
(alphabetical order - institutions for identification only)
Mohammed Abu Abdu, Pal. Student Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) (Gaza); Bashir Abu-Manneh, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Mohsen Abu Ramadan, civil society activist and independent political commentator (Gaza); Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine Land Society (London); Abdefattah Abusrour, President of Palestinian Theatre League, Jerusalem - General Director of Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society, (Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem); Majeed Al-Barghouthi, poet and writer (Amman); Musa Al-Hindi, Coord. Comm. member, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN); Hala Al-Yamani, Assist. Prof., Bethlehem University (Bethlehem); Lubna Arikat, community activist (San Diego); Huwaida Arraf, attorney and human rights activist, New York; Khaled Barakat, writer and activist, Vancouver; Nasser Barghouti, human rights activist (San Diego); Diana Buttu, lawyer (Ramallah); Yasmeen Daher, lecturer at Birzeit University and human rights activist (Jaffa); Seif Da'na, Prof. of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Parkside (Parkside); Lamis J. Deek, attorney and human rights advocate (New York); Noura Erakat, human rights attorney (Washington, DC); Leila Farsakh, Assoc. Prof., University of Massachusetts (Boston); Jess Ghannam, Prof., University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco); Lubna Hammad, lawyer and human rights activist, Adalah-NY (New York); Rema Hammami, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Nizar Hasan, filmmaker (Nazareth); Zaha Hassan, civil rights attorney and human rights advocate (Oregon); Kamel Hawwash, Assoc. Prof. in Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham (Birmingham); Monadel Herzallah, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), San Francisco; May Jayyusi, Exec. Director of Muwatin, Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy (Ramallah); Ray Jureidini, sociologist, Cairo; Jamal Kanj, author, (Nahr el Bared refugee camp); Osamah Khalil, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley); Suleiman Mansour, visual artist (Jerusalem); Dina Matar, academic, SOAS - University of London (London); Moammar Mashni, Co-Founder, Australians for Palestine (Melbourne); Mazen Masri, lawyer and human rights activist (Toronto); Fouad Moughrabi, Prof. and Head of Dept. of Political Science, Univ. of Tennessee (Chattanooga); Rana Nashashibi, activist, Coalition for Jerusalem (Jerusalem); Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Barrister, Palestine Legal Aid Fund (London); Mahmoud Oriqat, Engineer (San Diego); Mazin Qumsiyeh, Prof. (Bethlehem); Ahmad Sadi, Academic (Galilee); Grace Said, activist (Washington, DC); Dalal Yassine, lawyer and human rights advocate (Beirut); Raja Zaatry, journalist (Haifa); Elia Zureik, Prof. Emeritus of Sociology, Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario)
(alphabetical order - institutions for identification only)
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
South African Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Wednesday that he supports the Olympia Food Co-op's boycott of Israeli products.
The Olympia Food Co-op, located in Olympia, Washington, the hometown of the International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie who was killed seven years ago in Gaza, announced last week that no Israeli products would be sold at its two grocery stores in the city.
“I, Desmond Tutu, fully support and endorse the Olympia Food Co-op's boycott of Israeli products," Tutu said in a statement. "The Olympia Food Co-op has joined a growing worldwide movement on the part of citizens and the private sector to support by non-violent tangible acts the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination."
Tutu also encouraged other cooperatives, grocers and businesses to boycott Israeli goods.
Re the recent Albany Nat'l Antiwar Conference:Whole article:
U.S. aid to Israel was the most contentious issue to arise at the conference. Israel supporters employed delaying tactics in an attempt to derail the Palestine Solidarity Caucus’s proposal for an “end to U.S. aid to Israel – military, economic, and diplomatic. End U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the blockade of Gaza.” Opponents claimed inclusion of the resolution would make it impossible for them to recruit labor activists into anti-war ranks [how many times have we heard this???? -- LJ] – as if Zionists rule everywhere in the House of Labor. After a series of dilatory maneuvers by the pro-Israel faction, the Conference overwhelming endorsed the Palestine Solidarity Caucus position. Yea!
The conference voted to support the October 2 March for Jobs in Washington, DC, sponsored by the NAACP and both feuding wings of organized labor, as well as Rev. Jesse Jackson’s joint venture with the United Auto Workers for an August 28 mobilization in Detroit.
This writer pressed union-affiliated attendees on whether, in the end, labor and the NAACP will turn the October 2 march into a “rah-rah” session for Obama and the Democrats? “Not this time,” said a Black labor activist from upstate New York.
We shall see. Conference organizers were determined that there be a large and vocal anti-war contingent to the October 2 action. Leaders of the Black is Back Coalition say they intend to take part, as well, unless march organizers impose political conditions that make it impossible.
In the longer run, a “bi-coastal mass spring mobilization” is planned for New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles on April 9, 2001. Organizers envision actions in the interim that build momentum to the big events, when once again the anti-war movement might put many thousands of peaceful “boots on the ground.” To accomplish this, the scope of organizing must be widened. “A prime component of these mobilizations will be major efforts to include broad new forces from youth to veterans to trade unionists to civil and human rights groups to the Arab, Muslim and other oppressed communities to environmental organizations, social justice and faith-based groups.”
In addition to the demand for unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, the Conference called for:
“The allocation of the trillions spent on wars and corporate bailouts to massive programs for jobs, education, health care, housing and the environment. Compensation to be paid to the peoples whose countries the U.S. attacked and occupied for the loss of lives and massive destruction they suffered,” and
“Reverse and end all foreclosures. Stop the government attacks on trade unions, civil and democratic rights, and immigrant communities.”
Conferees endorsed a flurry of other “action plans,” from opposition to U.S. military intervention in Africa, to “no war or sanctions against Iran,” to the “immediate freedom” of imprisoned human rights lawyer Lynn Stewart.
U.S. aid to Israel was the most contentious issue to arise at the conference. Israel supporters employed delaying tactics in an attempt to derail the Palestine Solidarity Caucus’s proposal for an “end to U.S. aid to Israel – military, economic, and diplomatic. End U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the blockade of Gaza.” Opponents claimed inclusion of the resolution would make it impossible for them to recruit labor activists into anti-war ranks – as if Zionists rule everywhere in the House of Labor. After a series of dilatory maneuvers by the pro-Israel faction, the Conference overwhelming endorsed the Palestine Solidarity Caucus position.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the weekend came when Ralph Poynter read a letter from his companion in struggle for nearly fifty years, Lynne Stewart, who had been part of the conference steering committee. “I have been out of the steering apparatus due to my unavailability,” she wrote. “Serve the people with honesty, kindness and respect. Love the struggle.”
If anyone ever wants to know why relations between Israel and the Arabs are so incredibly messed up, you have but to examine the story I’m about to tell. It will show you that Israel’s police, military and political leader are clueless when it comes to really understanding their Arab neighbors. In fact, one could say that decisions like the one described below indicate that Israel doesn’t want to understand Arabs, but rather wants to dominate them by force and even torture if necessary.
In 1994, the IDF kidnapped the alleged chief of security for Amal because he was believed to have held captured IDF Capt. Ran Arad for two years. They spirited Dirani to Israel for questioning. He was held for eight years. Mustafa Dirani afterward alleged that he was continuously tortured for one month by soldiers under the command of a "Captain George." (For the life of me I can’t understand why Haaretz can’t fully identify a man who is now nothing but a police officer. Does his former status as a military intelligence officer confer lifetime anonymity? Or would revealing his identity reopen the embarrassing story of torture at Camp 1391?)
Here is how the victim described his treatment:
In 2004, he testified in court about being raped with a baton by soldiers under "George’s" command. Dirani said he was threatened not to reveal what had happened to him, had suffered continuous torture for a month and throughout that period was not allowed any clothes, only adult diapers.
"George" denied Dirani’s claims, except to confirm that one soldier had been sent into the prisoner’s cell wearing only underwear to threaten him with a sexual act. The Military Police investigation did not result in an indictment.
George was a senior office in Unit 504 of IDF military intelligence. He served at the notorious top-secret military torture facility (Abu Graibh anyone?) called Camp 1391 located near Kibbutz Barkai. The prison became so notorious that Israel closed it down. But not before the damage it did to Dirani and countless others. If you read Hebrew, you can regale yourself with the full panoply of torture techniques used by George and his boys there.
Dirani sued Israel for $1.5-million, but subsequently was released and left Israel. And poor Captain George was sacked. Unfortunately, the case is now dormant.
But here’s the kicker. Capt. George left military service and transferred to the Israeli police, where he was just promoted to be the official liaison between the Jerusalem police force and the city’s Arab community. So get this, an intelligence agent accused of conducting the brutal torture interrogation of an Arab is now performing a job described thus:
"The adviser must be an accepted and welcome figure in the Arab community, with excellent interpersonal skills – someone they feel they can trust, otherwise he cannot succeed in the job," a senior police officer said.
Given his reputation as a butcher, the police appear highly satisfied with his work so far:
The police said: "There is no link between the previous role held by Major D. ["George"] and his current position. The officer is carrying out his duties to Franco’s satisfaction, and is contributing a great deal to the good relationship between Jerusalem police and the Arabs of East Jerusalem."
You bet there’s a link. He was a torturer before and he’ll be a torturer again. If the police think this man can have anything but a bitter relationship with any self-respecting Arab in East Jerusalem, they’ve taken leave of their senses. But the statement above is window-dressing. What the police really want George to do is be as brutal with the local Arabs as he was with the Hezbollah prisoner. Brutality. That is what wins awards as far as Israel is concerned. The Arabs according to this code can’t be reasoned with. They can only be dominated. Weakness is death. Overwhelming force commands respect. That’s the ethos of Captain George and his fellow torturers.
And this, in a nutshell, is why there has not been peace and may never be peace between the two peoples.
For a highly militarised society, such developments have proved incredibly lucrative. The growing demands of the global homeland security industry are being met by small specialist Israeli companies, usually run by former generals, whose business is devising hardware to keep suspect groups and populations under surveillance and control. It only takes a small additional step to customise these machines to eliminate the suspects. Drones seem to fascinate and appal us in equal measure.
Most of us, however, instinctively recoil from the idea of killing by remote control. Why does it so offend our sensibilities? One suggestion is that it violates ancient codes of chivalry. Should the warrior not be forced to confront his opponent directly before dispatching him? In executing someone remotely, do we not strip them of the respect they deserve for fighting and dying in a different cause?
Such reasoning is overly romantic. Mortal combat has not been the norm in warfare since long before joysticks were invented. In fact, remote-control killing is just the latest stage in the evolution of waging war from afar that probably began with the bow and arrow, and has progressed through the gun, tank and warplane.
Remote killing does, however, justifiably arouse deep-seated fears about a future in which machines not only do the killing for us but decide who dies – or even turn against their makers. What limits should be placed on automation: should machines only carry out operators’ instructions, or should they be allowed a degree of independence? And in cases of mistakes, who is to be held accountable?
While valid, these concerns are largely hypothetical. Unmanned machines are – for the time being at least – still operated by humans. Is there really a moral difference between a drone operator firing a missile using a joystick and a pilot doing the same seated in a cockpit? It is not clear that there is.
A more significant ground for our revulsion is that automation makes killing cheaper. Shlomo Bron, a retired Israeli general and now a defence analyst, says the demand for remote-controlled machines is stoked by the large savings in defence costs. A drone operator can be trained in a day; a pilot may need years of expertise to fulfil the same mission.
It is this cheapening of life and death – financially, politically and socially – that ultimately appals us, because it makes state-sponsored killing easier and therefore far more likely.
What is to deter our rulers from waging wars if few, or no, practical costs accrue? Typically, fighting comes to an end only when the price – in treasure, blood or domestic political damage – becomes too high to bear. Remote killing could be a prescription for endless wars.
Nowhere has the danger become more apparent than in Gaza, where not only has Israel imprisoned the Palestinians behind walls but is starting to create an infrastructure of automated armed guards. Gaza’s skies are filled with drones, its coast is patrolled by remotely-controlled boats, and its walls topped by unmanned machine guns.It sounds like a scene from a dystopian horror film, but it may not end there. If governments lose authority and legitimacy, may they not one day consider turning those remotely controlled guns and missiles on their people too?
But why must these systems be operated by relatively expensive Israeli conscripts? Why not farm out the job to workers in the equivalent of a call centres in other countries, as has occurred with so many services in our globalised economies?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Jerusalem (CNN) -- Police evicted 200 Bedouins from their homes in a southern Israeli village on Tuesday and demolished their dwellings, an act decried by residents who said they are on ancestral land.
The move occurred five miles north of Beer Sheva in a village called Al-Araqeeb, an enclave not recognized by the state of Israel.
Witnesses told CNN that the Israeli forces arrived at the village accompanied by busloads of civilians who cheered as the dwellings were demolished. They said armed police deployed with tear gas, water cannon, two helicopters and bulldozers.
But Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were no disturbances and the operation went according to plan.
He said the move was in response to a court order and people had been settling there illegally. Rosenfeld said there were about 30 shacks and 200 people removed.
Villagers said they've lived in the region for years back to the Ottoman days before Israel was founded, and have original deeds to the land.
After the Israeli forces left the scene, some villagers immediately started rebuilding their dwellings.
"The state of Israel is treating us like cockroaches," said Sulaiman Abu Mdian, 29, a father of four who works as a chicken farmer.
Bedouins are Arabs who live in the desert regions of the Middle East. Some are nomadic and others are sedentary and remain in one location.
CNN's Paul Colsey, Kareem Khadder and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.
Monday, July 26, 2010
The Casey Sheehan "End to War" Bill:
Immediately upon the president signing this bill into law, forced military conscription will begin.
The bill will have NO EXEMPTIONS to those who are eligible to the draft and the age limit is 18 to no upper limit. This bill seeks to draft those eligible from both genders and all gender and sexual preferences.
There will be very limited health exemptions as most people can perform a skill that is valuable to the military. As University is now open to all ages and attended by old and young alike, there will be no education exemptions. The draftees can resume or attend college when their stint in the armed forces is up. There will be no GI education benefits extended to the draftees, as they will be members of the wealthy of the US.
Citizens will be drafted in this order in the event of a Constitutionally declared war, or un-constitutionally started war, or any of these euphemisms (but not limited to) for war: police action, entanglement, theater, hostilities, occupation, special operations, interventions, cluster-fu@k, pacifications, war on drugs, peace-keeping, fighting for "freedom and democracy," etc:
The President and his/her Cabinet and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above.
Senators and Congress Members and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above.
CEO's of the Federal Reserve and Banks and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above.
CEO's of any company (including the media) that profit directly or indirectly from war and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above.
Anyone who by word or deed supports the entry into war, or any of the euphemisms associated with war, and their age appropriate dependents. This includes media pundits, male or female and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above.
Any citizen of the United States of America who does not fall into one of the above categories is categorically ineligible for this forced conscription draft.
This bill will also provide college tuition grants to anyone who does not fall into one of the above categories and who wishes to go to college-without having to join the military.
Today, Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres will walk out of prison after 30 years behind bars. He was convicted of seditious conspiracy - conspiring to use force against the lawful authority of the United States over Puerto Rico. Torres was punished for being a member of an armed clandestine organization called the FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation), which had taken responsibility for bombings that resulted in no deaths or injuries. He was not accused of taking part in these bombings, only of being a member of the FALN.
In 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States by Spain as war bounty in the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War. Nevertheless, the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico and has occupied it ever since. Puerto Ricans have always resisted foreign occupation of their land and called for independence.
The Puerto Rican independence movement enjoys wide support internationally. Every year for 29 years the United Nations Decolonization Committee has passed a resolution calling for independence. There have been similar declarations of the Non-Aligned Movement, and recent submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review.
All of these expressions call on the U.S. government to release Puerto Rican political prisoners who have served 30 and 29 years of their disproportionately long 70 year sentences in U.S. prisons for cases related to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence. They include Torres (who was sentenced to 30 years) and Oscar López Rivera (sentenced to 29 years), as well as Avelino González Claudio, who was recently sentenced to seven years. None of these men was convicted for harming anyone or taking a life.
Torres’ attorney, National Lawyers Guild member Jan Susler of Chicago, notes, “Carlos is being released from prison due to the unflagging support of the Puerto Rican independence movement and others who work for human rights. The more than 10,000 letters of support from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Mexico and other countries sent a strong message to the Parole Commission.”
Supporters from all over the United States will flock to the welcoming celebration in Chicago, which will take place in the heart of the Puerto Rican community. Tomorrow, Torres, his family and attorney will fly to Puerto Rico, where thousands will greet him with a concert of the nation’s finest musicians and artists.
Yet there is a damper on the celebration, as Torres leaves behind his compatriot Oscar López, a 67 year old decorated Viet Nam veteran. López did not accept the terms of President Clinton’s 1999 clemency offer, which would have required him to serve an additional 10 years in prison with good conduct. Though he declined the offer, López has now served the additional 10 years in prison with good conduct. Had he accepted the deal, he would have been released last September. Those who did accept are living successful lives, fully integrated into civil society. There is no reason to treat him differently.While we celebrate this remarkable day in the life of Torres and the movement for Puerto Rican independence, let us commit ourselves to continue to struggle until Oscar López Rivera and Avelino González Claudio, as well as all political prisoners in U.S. prisons, also walk free.
FREE LEONARD! FREE MUMIA! FREE LYNNE!
WHAT'S THE CALL? FREE 'EM ALL!
EXCERPT from movie synopsis:
Between the years of 1973 and 1975, over sixty Native Americans were murdered during the “Reign of Terror” on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. On June 26, 1975 tension erupted with a shootout on the Jumping Bull Ranch between FBI and American Indian Movement (AIM) members resulting in the deaths of two FBI agents and one American Indian.
In 1977, Indian Activist, Leonard Peltier was convicted for the murder of the two agents and since has served thirty-four years in Federal prison. Despite proof that he was convicted on a combination of fabricated and suppressed evidence and false testimony, he continues to languish behind bars.
Wind Chases the Sun is currently budgeted at $370,000. Preston Randolph, along with his research crew is the driving force behind the documentary script. Accumulating hands-on knowledge – garnered from extensive research and interviews – Preston exposes new & highly relevant information concerning the atrocities of the Peltier case, to aid viewers in finding the truth.
Leonard Peltier is in full support of this production and hopes the facts Preston brings to light will be the final chapter in his hell-behind-bars story and finally return him home to his family.
“This is the film of an innocent man, imprisoned by the lies of a guilty government.”
The extreme poverty of the Pine Ridge Reservation, along with the never-before-heard testimony, will be projected on screen through a revolutionary High-Definition Production. The cinematography will also include aerial footage of the Pine Ridge Reservation shot with a Cineflex HD camera by Aerial Filmworks.
The horrific details of the “Reign of Terror” and the plight of Leonard Peltier will be presented through vintage archival footage and groundbreaking, accurate and violent reenactments. Wind Chases the Sun not only wants to educate the masses on this genocidal case, but also to wow the audience, sending them away from the theater shocked and outraged from what they have just witnessed.
The film spans the life of Leonard Peltier, from early years to present, in a way never before seen on the screen. The audience will witness the experiences and principals that formed him into the man he now is. He grew up while dealing with prejudice and injustice, being shuffled to boarding schools while struggling to adapt to societal changes during the 1960’s.
The chronological account of Peltier’s recruitment into AIM and his earliest chapters of political activism will present vivid insights into what motivations took Peltier to the Pine Ridge Reservation during the 1970’s.
Another story line of the film focuses on tensions of the Pine Ridge Reservation, including the hardships and extreme poverty that remains to this day. This period included the murders – never investigated – of over sixty Native Americans by members of death squads funded and armed by the US Government and FBI. This segment will invoke extreme emotions, and the violent reenactments offer samples of the despair of this bleak, dark period in American History.
Amidst these horrific events, the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation cried out to the American Indian Movement for help. On June 26, 1975, Special Agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams sought to serve an out-standing arrest warrant and purposely entered the area where the AIM was camped. These two ill-advised and un-prepared young agents had entered a documented “war zone.”
via The Jerusalem Fund website
TROY, New York — The Dogans were a quiet family little noticed by their neighbors here in upstate New York. Ahmet Dogan had come to the area from Turkey to study accounting at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
He was a serious student; the Dogans did little entertaining. But when their younger son, Furkan, was born in 1991, the family threw a party and a neighbor recalled a toast “to the first U.S. citizen in the family.”
Furkan Dogan would live just two years in Troy, returning to Turkey with his family in 1993. But he was proud of his American passport and dreamt of coming back after completing medical school. Five Israeli bullets — at least two of them to the head — ended that dream on May 31. Dogan was 19.
The young American, who had just completed high school with excellent grades in the central Turkish town of Kayseri, had seen an online advertisement for volunteers to deliver aid to Gaza. The ad, from a Turkish charity called the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or I.H.H, said the goal of the trip was to show that Israel’s “embargo/blockade can be legally broken.”
Little interested in politics, but with an aspiring doctor’s concern for Palestinian suffering, Dogan won a lottery to go.
How he was killed is disputed — as is just about everything concerning the Israeli naval takeover of the six-boat Gaza-bound flotilla — but his father suspects a video camera carried by his son may have provoked Israeli commandos.
Black is Back -- "Glen Ford: Breaking the Obama Spell, at the United National Peace Conference 7/23/2010"
Mr. Cumings argues that the Korean War was a civil war with long, tangled historical roots, one in which America had little business meddling. He notes how “appallingly dirty” the war was. In terms of civilian slaughter, he declares, “our ostensibly democratic ally was the worst offender, contrary to the American image of the North Koreans as fiendish terrorists.”
Mr. Cumings likens the indiscriminate American bombing of North Korea to genocide. He writes that American soldiers took part in, or observed, civilian atrocities not dissimilar to those at My Lai. An official inquiry is needed into some of these events, he writes, for any kind of healing to begin. (He also writes that this war, during which nearly 37,000 American soldiers died, deserves a memorial as potent and serious as Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial.)
Among the most important things to understand about North Korean behavior then and now, Mr. Cumings writes, is the longtime enmity between Korea and Japan. Japan took Korea as a colony in 1910, with America’s blessing, and replaced the Korean language with Japanese. Japan humiliated and brutalized Korea in other ways. (During World War II the Japanese Army forcibly turned tens of thousands of Korean women into sex slaves known as “comfort women.”) About this history Mr. Cumings writes, “Neither Korea nor Japan has ever gotten over it.”
North Korea, which is virulently anti-Japan, remains bitter and fearful of that country and of the United States. It will do whatever it can to stay out of the hands of South Korea, where leaders have long-standing historical ties to Japan.
Mr. Cumings, in “The Korean War,” details the north’s own atrocities, and acknowledges that current “North Korean political practice is reprehensible.” But he says that we view that country through “Orientalist bigotry,” seeing only its morbid qualities. We wrongly label the country Stalinist, he argues. “There is no evidence in the North Korean experience of the mass violence against whole classes of people or the wholesale ‘purge’ that so clearly characterized Stalinism,” he writes.
The most eye-opening sections of “The Korean War” detail America’s saturation bombing of Korea’s north. “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” Mr. Cumings writes, “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.” The United States dropped more bombs in Korea (635,000 tons, as well as 32,557 tons of napalm) than in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. Our logic seemed to be, he says, that “they are savages, so that gives us the right to shower napalm on innocents.”
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Two recent reports discuss it, a July Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-IL) one titled, " A Situation Report on Obstacles Facing Gaza Residents in Need of Medical Treatment," and a June one titled, " Who Gets to Go," jointly prepared by PHR-IL, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. All cite Israeli medical ethics and international law violations by discriminating on the basis of need, denying adequate treatment to seriously ill Gazans by:
- preventing the restoration and development of the Strip's healthcare system; and
- restricting travel to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel, or neighboring countries for treatment.
In its July report, PHR-IL said Gaza's healthcare system is getting progressively worse "due to a lack of medical expertise, medicine(s) and medical equipment," the ICRC recently saying it's "at an all time low."
In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Israel blocked delivery of essential equipment, including a CT scanner, defibrillators and monitors. In addition, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Israel confiscated seven oxygen machines, donated by a Norwegian development agency, and blocked x-ray machine deliveries, claiming they were dual-use, meaning possibly for military purposes.
As a result, critical shortages of most everything exist, including vital medicines, essential equipment, and other supplies expected to run out this summer, harming chronic disease sufferers the most, hampered by draconian impediments for permission to leave Gaza for treatment - what PHR-IL calls "an inexcusable breach of medical ethics" based on political, not medical considerations, most non-life threatening cases denied, including ones PHR-IL calls urgent, such as for:
"Paraplegia; retinal detachement; SLE (Lupus); foreign body in vitreous; subluxated lens; chronic severe febrile anemia; fever(s) of unknown origin (FUO); traumatic macular hole; psychomotor retardation; anemia; suspected abdominal abnormal vascular pressure; suspected chronic intestinal disease; psedoarthrosis (non-union of fractured bones) - arms, hand; infected plate - hip; deformation of cornea; recurrent dislocation of shoulder; lumbar discopathy; opacity of vitreous; (and) malformation of urinary tract."
Numerous other non-urgent/non-life-threatening ones are also denied, some chronic, severe, painful and/or disabling, badly in need of treatment, including a 24 year old Gaza resident shot in the arm in October 2007, unable to use his hand because of atrophied muscle tissue around the wound area.
As a result, he suffers severe pain, orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Yosef Leitner, saying a tendon transfer is the only hope to restore proper hand functioning, Gaza's Al Shifaa Hospital (the Strip's largest and most advanced) with neither the means or staff to perform it.
In August 2009, an exit request was submitted to receive treatment in East Jerusalem's Al Makassed Hospital. Initially denied, it was appealed and again denied - unprincipled, unethical, illegal, and common practice against Gazans under siege, PHR-IL saying:
"....all patients are entitled to the best available medical treatment, regardless of the urgency....or the severity of their clinical state," legitimate distinctions only permissible in cases of limited resources (such as after a natural disaster), even then for the shortest time possible to restore proper care to everyone in need.
Under international law, denying medical care is illegal, Fourth Geneva's Article 3 saying all non-combatants and those having laid down their arms "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely" with no distinctions for any reasons.
Article 16 states:
"The wounded and sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect."
The UN's Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment prohibits mistreatment in any form (including denying medical treatment), as do the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Constitution of the International Criminal Court (the Rome Statute), and civilized countries globally, Israel and America not among them.
An Israeli Supreme Court decision provides an example, approving restrictions to exit Gaza for treatment, with narrow exceptions, ignored by government officials because the ruling left final authority in their hands, an easy cop-out to permit cruel and unusual punishment to continue, what PHR-IL calls "routine, permanent policy," unethical, immoral, illegal, and deplorable.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.
Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.
Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.
The Palestinian-American academic told Haaretz that although he will participate in the fundraising event for the ship, he will not be sailing in the planned flotilla itself. In a reference to the Israel Defense Forces, he added: "Given the national-religious hierarchy which determines what the IDF can do to whom, the fact that the ship is American will make it harder to deal with it as the Mavi Marmara was dealt with."
The Mavi Marmara was boarded by the Israel Navy at the end of May while part of a flotilla attempting to run the blockade. Nine people on board the ship were killed in the confrontation with naval commandos.
Khalidi said he visited relatives in the Gaza Strip a number of years ago. He characterized the blockade as a measure "imposed on a population of 1. 5 million people who are effectively imprisoned, and most of whom are deprived of living a normal life."
When asked by Haaretz if he was aware of the proposed name of the ship and whether the choice of name was appropriate, Khalidi said: "I am not one of the organizers of this effort, and had no knowledge that this name had been chosen. If the name is a problem for the [Obama] administration, it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege. That of course would require it to respond to the systematic mendacity of those in Congress and elsewhere who support the siege. It is shameful that the U.S. and Egyptian governments are complicit in this indefensible siege."
Via Friends of Peltier blog
More than 50 tribal nations peacefully took control of the Marine Life Protection Act's Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in California Wednesday. Their message: The state will no longer impose its will on indigenous people.
"This is about more than a fouled-up process that attempts to prohibit tribes from doing something they have done sustainably for thousands of years," said Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok tribal citizen and organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition. "It is about respect,acknowledgement and recognition of indigenous peoples' rights."
The group of more than 300 met up at 11a.m. on the Main Street of Fort Bragg, CA. and hiked up a half mile to the C.V. Star Community Center with a unified voice that pulsed: M-L-P-A Taking Tribal Rights Away! Just before heading into the meeting tribal community members standing twenty deep chanted "No Way M.L.P.A.!" to the Blue Ribbon Task Force Members waiting inside.
"The Blue Ribbon Task Force had given us no indication that they were listening to North Coast Tribes' call to respect our sovereignty," Dania Rose Colegrove, a Hoopa tribal citizen. "We felt that we needed show them a small symbol of what we are willing to do to pass on our culture to future generations."
The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is a public and privately funded partnership between the State of California and a few deep-pocketed foundations — chiefly the Resources Legacy Fund to — implement the Marine Life Protection Act, which was signed into law in 1999. That Act calls for the creation of marine reserves with varying levels of protection from one end of the state to the other. The Blue Ribbon Task Force is charged with making recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission of where to put the protected areas. To date, the Task Force has said it will view traditional tribal gathers in the same light as recreational fishermen, which is largely offensive to tribal people.
Citizens from tribal nations as far away as the Choktaw Nation attended the meeting to stand in solidarity with the North California Tribes. Many pointed out the absurdity and pain caused by asking Native Americans to give something else.
"Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is it systematically decimates our ability to be who we are," Myers said. "That is the definition cultural genocide."
Coastal indigenous people collect mussels, seaweed and other ocean resources for sustenance and ceremonial regalia. All of these resources were abundant until Europeans commercialized them.
"We should have had better immigration laws," tribal citizen and Air Force Veteran Wally Obie told the Blue Ribbon Task Force. "That's not funny."
Friday, July 23, 2010
"She came in through and it wasn’t clear she was injured. Suddenly a lot of blood came from her nose and she vomited. All of the family saw this – her little brothers were very scared. She had just been playing in the front of the house."
This is a mother describing to us her daughter, 9-year-old Sammah as she came in to her home at 4pm after the Israeli army reportedly shelled and fired four bombs into and around a residential area in Beit Hanoun, Northern Gaza. She is now in a semi-critical condition in hospital, suffering extensive blood loss and very low haemoglobin. She was hit by shrapnel and 'flechettes’ from a nail bomb that landed 100m away, causing internal bleeding to the chest, severe head trauma and nails embedded in her body. Shells containing flechettes are illegal under international law if fired into densely populated civilian areas and SamahEid El-Massry is one of four children injured in the attack yesterday, July 21st.
Two young men were killed: Mohammad Al-Kafarneh, 23, from severe shrapnel injuries in his back and chest and Kasim Al-Shinbary, 19, caused by injuries from nails embedded in his skull and shrapnel wounds to the back. It was unclear earlier whether they were resistance fighters or if they were civilians – the Israeli Occupation Force called them 'militants’ – just as they called the four children, aged between 4 and 11, who were left hospitalised by their injuries 'militants’. Their parents could be found weeping over their loved ones in Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City last night.
We first visited Haitham Thaer Qasem a four year old boy and a first and only child. He was sleeping on the hospital bed, occasionally gasping for breath through the strapping around his nose. He had suffered deep nasal trauma, and flechette darts from the nail bomb were still embedded in his tiny body, where they had pierced his back, right elbow and right leg. He was 200m from the impact of the bomb.
In his hospital ward his mother was standing to one side crying quietly and another relative at Haitham’s bedside explained what had happened.
"We had asked Haitham to get shopping for her from the market…then we heard the bombings and somebody came to our home and told our family that he was in the hospital and was injured in the bombing. We came quickly to the hospital."
New Israeli Report on Operation Cast Lead Confirms Goldstone Report’s Main Findings -- Yaniv Reich (via Aletho News)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak described it as “false, distorted, and irresponsible“. Information Minister Yuli Edelstein called it “anti-Semitic“. Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said it “insidiously… portrayed the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents“. Foreign Minister Lieberman argued that its true purpose “was to destroy Israel’s image, in service of countries where the terms ‘human rights’ and ‘combat ethics’ do not even appear in their dictionaries“. And the US House of Representatives banded together in bipartisan harmony to pass a resolution (344–36) that called “on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration” of it.
For nearly a year now, vicious attacks on the Goldstone report and on Judge Goldstone himself have been the thing for Israel’s numerous apologists to do.
There is just one not-so-minor problem with this knee-jerk criticism of the report and infinite stream of ad hominem libel against its main author. A majority of the most damning—and damaging—war crimes that are alleged to have taken place have now been confirmed by the IDF’s own investigations into the matter, themselves only conducted in an effort to derail the Goldstone report’s referral to the International Criminal Court.
IDF confirms over 20 gravest findings of the Goldstone Report
Several of the most dramatic instances of war crimes, which previously stirred Israel’s defenders into fits, are now publicly admitted by the IDF in the recent update to its official response (which can be found here).
Some examples of war crimes include:
- White phosphorous in urban areas: This one is probably the most famous admission that emerged after a series of easily disproved lies. Israel’s initial response was one of absolute denial, indeed indignation, that people would suggest it had used banned chemical weapons in densely populated areas. But the steady stream of photos and videos depicting phosphorous burns on children and buildings eventually forced Israel to admit it had used these prohibited weapons.
- The murder of two unarmed Palestinians carrying white flags of surrender.
- The Al-Fakhura Street incident: Israeli mortar fire at a site adjacent to a UN Relief Works Agency compound resulted in multiple civilian deaths.
- The use of innocent Palestinians as human shields: The Goldstone report explains that in order “to carry out house searches as human shields the Israeli soldiers took off AD/03’s blindfold but he remained handcuffed. He was forced to walk in front of the soldiers and told that, if he saw someone in the house but failed to tell them, he would be killed. He was instructed to search each room in each house cupboard by cupboard. After one house was completed he was taken to another house with a gun pressed against his head and told to carry out the same procedure there. He was punched, slapped and insulted throughout the process.” The new Israeli report identifies this anonymous human shield AD/03 and confirms this episode. Other cases of human shield use, e.g. Abbas Ahmad Ibrahim Halawa and Mahmoud Abd Rabbo al-Ajrami, were also confirmed.
- Al-Samouni family massacre: The Israelis attacked two houses of the Samouni family, killing 23 people in total. Subsequently, they prevented the Red Cross and PRCS from providing care to the wounded and dying for three days. Confirmed by Israel and the subject of a military investigation.
- Firing on Al Maqadmah and other mosques during prayer time.
In total, a quick scan through the IDF’s new report provides direct confirmation of more than 20 of Goldstone’s findings.
Both El-Khodary and Brown chastise the US for pumping money into the West Bank and building up Salam Fayyad but not engaging Hamas or actively working to democratize the PA.
US policy has been the most significant contributor to the continued split, she said. By backing the West Bank seemingly against Gaza, the West Bank and Gaza are turning more and more into separate entities, making reconciliation more difficult to effect.
In his discussion of what the US expects to do and gain in the region, Katulis gave a point-by-point overview, focused mainly on PA-Israeli engagement.
He admitted in his discussion of US policy that building security and institutions does not create political legitimacy, as Brown demanded. Moreover, he said, state-building does not connect directly to a two-state solution.
As for the US policy toward Gaza (or lack thereof), it has been "illogical and immoral," Katulis said.
Some have criticized the Obama administration's approach to the Middle East, saying its no different than those who came before him. Katulis offered as an explanation but not an excuse that President Obama took on the presidency saddled with two wars and an economic crisis.
There simply are not enough hours in the day to give the Palestinian-Israeli issue the attention it merits, and the flaws in the management of the Obama's Palestine plan begun to emerge, especially during the flotilla crisis, he said without much elaboration.
He closed his overview of US policy in on the issue saying the US should keep its eyes on intra-Palestinian political development instead of simply hoping Hamas will go away, as Brown put it. Intra-Palestinian divisions impede US goals in the region, Katulis said simply.
Despite this fact, El-Khodary had little hope for the US endorsing a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. It would be the end of Salam Fayyad, she said.
There is no love for Fayyad within Hamas, as the PM kept Hamas members out of key ministries before the split, she said. And he has no popular base in Gaza, she continued, because he represents a government that turned its back on its own people.
And without a political base of his own, the American-backed Fayyad would have no toe-hold in a reconciled government.
The US has a history of supporting personalities over institutions, she said, pointing to Fayyad, Abbas, and deceased PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Where is the sustainability in a system like that, she asked.
Hamas, on the other hand, is sustainable as a movement and a government - if any of its key leaders were to be lost, another would enter his place with little disruption. When it comes to the PA or Fatah, discussions deal in names, Brown said. But not Hamas - it has proven to be bigger than the personalities in it.
Where does this leave the two-state solution the US hopes to effect?
With Palestine divided, the two-state solution has little chance of success, and despite the seeming inevitability of this reality, it appeared from the panelists commentary that the US is still disinterested in backing a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
The end of the lecture was not entirely hopeless. Both sides express that they do want reconciliation, and Brown said he could conceive of a power-sharing government as a possibility. And while it could mean the end of Salam Fayyad and his state-building initiatives, for the panel, building a state cannot begin with Gaza and the West Bank divided.
Asma Amin Tubasi from Rafah remembers her father telling her to stop studying using the old oil lamp after a series of accidents in the Gaza Strip saw children injured and homes burned due to unsafe fuel smuggled in from Egypt.
"She would study 18 hours a day, and she has made me so proud today, scoring 99.4 on the literary stream of the Tawjihi, the highest score in all of Gaza," her father said.
From September to January, Asma's family had an average of 2-8 hours of blackouts each day, but in January, when the Palestinian Authority took over fuel transfers to Gaza from the EU, a shortage of funds and fuel lead to blackouts of 8-12 hours day.
"These power cuts exacerbate the already difficult living conditions in Gaza and disrupt almost all aspects of daily life, including household chores, health services, education and water and sanitation services," a special UN report on the electricity crisis in Gaza reported in May.
"I was just hoping for a better ending," Asma said, explaining that when the oil lamp was no longer an option she would use the light on her phone.
Her father, who works for the Ministry of Waqf (religious endowments) in Gaza, said he worried she would damage her eyes reading in such low light, with rolling power cuts spreading darkness over the Gaza Strip by 10 in the evening.
Her achievement is all the more impressive given the troubles plaguing the education system in Gaza. Statistics from the UN have shown that attendance and performance in public schools have declined as a result of aging education infrastructure, overcrowding, and frequent disruptions caused by military operations.
In the first semester of the 2007-2008 school year, only 20% of 16,000 sixth graders in Gaza passed standardized exams in Math, Science, English and Arabic, a study by Gaza's Ministry of Education found.
When Asma saw the result of the exams for which she had spent the year preparing, "I screamed, I cried, I laughed, I could not believe I had done it," she explained.
"She is a dedicated girl, she read all the time amidst a very difficult situation," her father explained, adding that he believed she was so determined to succeed because she wanted "a better future for herself, and a better future for Gaza."
Thursday, July 22, 2010
With a little help from his friends!
via Aletho News
As if the preponderance of discriminatory laws already swelling the Israeli legal system were not enough, the Israeli parliament — the Knesset — is slated to debate a fresh instalment of anti-Arab draft laws aimed at “reasserting the Jewish nature of Israel”.
One of these draft laws, tabled by a pro- settler party called Habayt ha Yahudi, or the Jewish Home, would force all citizens and would-be citizens of Israel to declare their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. The draft law specifically targets Palestinians married or wishing to marry other Palestinians who are already Israeli citizens — ie Palestinians living in Israel proper.
A declaration of loyalty to “a Jewish state” is not just a procedural matter. It implies, for Arabs or others, recognition of one’s inferiority vis-à-vis Jewish citizens of the state. Indeed, the ramifications of such recognition are enormous and far-reaching.
Israel usually claims to be both a Jewish and democratic state. However, it is widely known that the “democratic” epithet is preserved for Jews, not Arabs, and that the state can’t be both “Talmudic”, as demanded by the growing Jewish religious sector, and democratic, as asserted by secular segments, given the intrinsic contradictions between the two concepts.
Democratic dismissed, the “Jewish” epithet leaves non-Jews living in Israel as a Jewish state, even if they happen to be indigenous inhabitants, estranged and unwanted, by virtue of being non-Jews. Their status as “citizens” is not owed to the laws of the land, but mainly to Jewish magnanimity and/or charity.
“This legislation [is] organised racism whereby citizenship is granted in exchange for recognition by a citizen of his inferior status as a second or third class citizen,” said Arab Knesset member Ahmad Tibi.
Tibi, who denounced the new draft laws as “products of a depraved mentality,” said the camp that holds power in Israel is trying to communicate a message to more than 1.5 million Arabs in Israel proper that “if you want to have your rights guaranteed and if you want to live freely and happily, then you will have to leave this country.”
Tibi responds: “But we won’t leave this country, because this country is our country. We were born here, our forefathers were born and are buried here.”
Another Arab Knesset member, Hanin Zubi, scoffed at Israel’s notion of democracy, calling it “a joke”. “How can democracy be practised or even survive in a fascist environment?” The Knesset, Zubi said, “is becoming a fascist Jewish club, which is why it is difficult for free voices to be heard.”
Two weeks ago, Israeli Jewish MPs ganged up on Zubi while speaking at the rostrum of the Knesset, with some extremist Jewish lawmakers calling her obscene names and even trying to drag her to the ground for defending her participation in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The Israeli navy brutally attacked the flotilla on 31 May, killing at least nine aid activists and injuring many, drawing angry reactions around the world.
Zubi’s family has been living in the city of Nazareth since time immemorial. The Jewish MP who assaulted Zubi is a recent immigrant from the former Soviet Union who doesn’t even speak fluent Hebrew.
But if the Knesset is a reflection of the state of affairs permeating Israel, and if the Israeli parliament is succumbing to an extremist onslaught, Israel itself — government and society alike — is embracing what is widely now deemed “fascism” in a most cordial manner.
This week, an Israeli court in Jerusalem decided to keep Sheikh Mohamed Abu Tir in jail for refusing to leave the city of his birth. Sheikh Abu Tir, who spent more than 25 years in jail for his opposition to the Israeli occupation, was elected in 2006 as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing East Jerusalem. However, an Israeli judge recently issued a decree banishing Abu Tir from East Jerusalem for affiliation with a “terrorist organisation” — in reference to the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, an arm of Hamas.
Abu Tir denied that he was a member of Hamas, saying he was representing the people of Jerusalem who elected him and that he took part in an election that was okayed by Israel and closely monitored by the United States and the rest of the international community. His argument was rejected by the Israeli judge. Abu Tir was then asked to pay $95,000 in bail. He refused, prompting the Israeli authorities to return him to jail.
Abu Tir, like dozens of other Islamic lawmakers, had just spent 48 months in jail for taking part in the 2006 elections. Following his release, the Israeli domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, demanded that he leave his hometown within one month. He refused to heed the order, arguing that Jerusalem was his hometown and the city of his birth, and that nothing would make him leave his hometown.
Abu Tir’s lawyer Osama Al-Saadi described the trial of his client as “political and ideological from A to Z.” “This is part of the battle over Jerusalem. They are trying to convince themselves that the Palestinians of Jerusalem are only temporary citizens who can be expelled at any time.” Al-Saadi underscored the stark discrimination against the Arab community in a state that doesn’t stop claiming to be democratic.
“Imagine a Jew who is affiliated with a terrorist organisation, or who belongs to an outlawed Jewish political party. Would he ever be banished from Israel, irrespective of the enormity of his crime?” “You see the mendacity of this slogan, that Israel is a ‘democracy’? Do democratic states expel citizens because they adhere to a different religion?”