Thursday, January 31, 2013

What I Learned about Empire in the West Bank -- Nathan Schneider

From a link on Mazin Qumsiyeh's blog []

Link for the article:


There was a woman on the Freedom Bus, a middle-aged social worker from New York, who wanted to see Playback Theatre of this sort practiced by Israelis and Palestinians together, sharing their stories and thereby learning to coexist. She reported to me at one point, however, that she’d asked one of the actors about this idea, and the actor was not interested.

The Palestinian-American literary critic Edward Said once observed of the many polite dialogues he participated in that, “as the weaker, less organized party, the Palestinians could not really benefit from the uneven exchange.” Under occupation, the likely effect of such productions is the further pacification of the losing side. The activists we talked with in the West Bank asked not for dialogue, but for more bodies at protests, and more boycotts, divestments and sanctions against the occupation.

Said described the problem of diplomacy — also a kind of dialogue — in geographic terms: “They had the plans, the territory, the maps, the settlements, the roads: we have the wish for autonomy and Israeli withdrawal, with no details, and no power to change anything very much.” On the Israeli concrete wall that lines the border of the Aida Refugee Camp, someone painted these words of Nelson Mandela’s: “Only free men can negotiate.”

U.N. Rights Inquiry Says Israel Must Remove Settlers

4:20pm GMT
GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.
A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respected human rights.
"Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights," Christine Chanet, a French judge who led the U.N. inquiry, told a news conference.
The settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations report said.
"To transfer its own population into an occupied territory is prohibited because it is an obstacle to the exercise of the right to self-determination," Chanet said.
All U.N. member states must comply with their duty under international law on the settlements, she said. "We have highlighted states' responsibility because the facts we denounce are known. The problem is nobody is doing anything about it."
In December, the Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit what they said were further war crimes by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood, and said Israel must be held accountable.
Israel has not cooperated with the probe set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.
Israel's foreign ministry swiftly rejected the report as "counterproductive and unfortunate". Palestinians welcomed the report saying it vindicated their struggle against Israel.
"The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions. Counterproductive measures - such as the report before us, will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict," Israel's Yigal Palmor said.
But Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO official, told Reuters in Ramallah: "This is incredible. We are extremely heartened by this principled and candid assessment of Israeli violations."
The independent U.N. investigators interviewed more than 50 people who came to Jordan in November to testify about confiscated land, damage to their livelihoods including olive trees, and violence by Jewish settlers, according to the report.
"The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand," it said.
About 250 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been established since 1967 and they hold an estimated 520,000 settlers, according to the U.N. report. The settlements impede Palestinian access to water and farmland.
The settlements were "leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination," it said.
Chanet said firms working in the territories must uphold human rights. France's Veolia, which built Jerusalem's light rail linking the western side of the city to the eastern side annexed by Israel after the 1967 war, won a case brought against it in a Nanterre court, whose ruling that it had not violated the Geneva Conventions is now on appeal, she said.
After the General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians status at the world body, Israel said it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Palestinians wanted for a future state, along with the Gaza Strip.
"I think that maybe it will help in the negotiation just to see that now, and especially when Palestine has been recognised as a state, things might change. Maybe, we hope. And now there is a new government in Israel," Chanet said.
"So things are moving. So we hope that our report will be in the middle of this movement."
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Noah Browning in Ramallah; Editing by Stephen Powell)

Talk Nation Radio: Marcy Wheeler: Brennan Is Obama's Cheney -- David Swanson's Blog

Marcy Wheeler blogs as Emptywheel at She says John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director, has been Obama's Dick Cheney, operating outside the law, lying about bin Laden, and lying about drones; the White House has killed an American for his speech; the CIA has stopped lying to Congress only by starting to tell Congress nothing at all; Senator Diane Feinstein is complicit in the drone kill program; Congress has asked President Obama 10 times for a legal basis for the drone kill program and been blown off every time; the prosecutorial abuse in the case of Aaron Swartz is not uncommon, but evidence suggests retribution for Swartz's making accessible the Department of Justice's own public information, requesting of information on the treatment of Bradley Manning, and possible (entirely legal) assistance to WikiLeaks.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Impunity to kill: Six Palestinians Shot Dead by Israeli Forces in Less than a Fortnight -- Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Yesterday, as media outlets focused on the outcome of the elections in Israel, it was business as usual in Israeli-occupied Palestine. Two Palestinians lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces, bringing to six the number of young Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the past fortnight alone. These deaths have gone largely unreported in the Irish media and Israeli aggression continues apace. The Israeli government and its military continue to kill, maim and destroy lives and livelihoods with impunity, unchecked by the international community.
Yesterday, 23rd January 2013, Lubna Munir Hanash, a young 22-year-old Palestinian woman was shot in the head and died from her injuries. Witnesses told the Ma’an News Agency that Israeli soldiers travelling in a civilian car opened fire at a group of people near Arroub refugee camp between Bethlehem and Hebron. Hanash, a student in her fourth year at Al-Quds University, had reportedly been visiting her sister in the camp.
Earlier yesterday a Palestinian child died in hospital as a result of gunshot wounds. 15-year-old Salih al-Amarin had been shot in the head on Friday by the Israeli military in Bethlehem and tragically succumbed to his injuries.
Another four young Palestinians were killed in the preceding fortnight, two in Gaza and two in the West Bank.
On 11 January, 22-year-old Anwar Mamlouk was shot by Israeli soldiers outside the Jabaliya regugee camp in Gaza. Mustafa Jarad a 21-year-old farmer from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip was shot in the forehead by an Israeli sniper on 14 January while working his land 1,200 metres away from the border. Doctors tried to remove the bullet from his severely injured brain but Jarad died after surgery.
On 12 January 21-year-old Odai al-Darawish was shot dead. Although Israeli sources claimed they had shot al-Darawish in the legs according to their “rules of engagement”, medical reports show that he was hit in the back, indicating that he was likely shot while trying to run to safety. Samir Awad, a 17-year-old from Budrus, a village near Ramallah famed for its non-violent resistance to occupation, was shot from behind in the head, torso and leg while running away from Israeli soldiers on 14th January. Samir had just completed his last exam before the school break and had joined a group of friends to protest at Israel’s illegal apartheid wall.
The wall, which cuts through and steals Palestinian land, has led to the Awad family losing five acres of their land and 3,000 olive trees. The wall is just one of the ways in which Israel further dispossess Palestinians and according to the International Court of Justice, which in 2004 ruled that the wall was illegal, “construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law”.
Often when incidents such as these do received coverage in the Irish and/or western media, there has been an overreliance on official Israeli sources and a failure to challenge a narrative in which the term “rules of engagement” is used to obfuscate the shooting of young Palestinians in the back, and the euphemistic phrases “forbidden territory” and “infiltrators” are employed to place the blame on the victims of these cold-blooded crimes.
Indeed, it is important to point out something that has not been widely covered in our media. Since the announcement of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in Gaza after the Israeli attack on the region last November, Israel has consistently broken the terms of the agreement. Over the past two months, 4 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, and 77 have been injured, including 16 children. There have been five military incursions, regular fire from border posts into the coastal strip, and numerous attacks on Palestinian fishermen by the Israeli navy at sea. Furthermore, Gaza remains under an Israeli-imposed siege and unilaterally declared Israeli ‘buffer zones’ remain in place around the border denying farmers access to their lands. Palestinian fighters, on the other hand, have stuck to the terms of the ceasefire.
In the same time period, Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have faced continued Israeli military and illegal settler violence and repression. 6 people, including 3 children have been killed; 79 people have been injured, including 18 children; there have been over 530 military incursions and around 30 settler attacks on people and property; over 2100 olive trees have been uprooted, destroyed or damaged;  plans for around 9,000 illegal settlement units have been announced; and in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem more than 440 people have been detained, including almost 70 children, along with a further 6 international and Israeli human rights defenders.
Therefore, it is clear that whatever the final outcome of the election process in Israel, there will be little change for Palestinians in the region – whether they live in occupied Palestine or inside Israel. While Israel purports to be the “only democracy in the Middle East”, and is often uncritically lauded as such despite the many very real problems with the practice of Israeli democracy, the reality is that Palestinians face systematic discrimination and apartheid and are met with an array of Israeli offences every day.
The Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, wrote recently in defence of the use of skunk, a foul smelling liquid used against unarmed Palestinian, Israeli and international demonstrators.  He stated that “[w]hile in dictatorial regimes across the Middle East, demonstrations are met with live ammunition, Israel as always seeks to use minimum force to deal with disturbances”. However, peaceful protests in occupied Palestine are routinely met not only with skunk but with live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, concussion grenades and truncheons. Moreover, one does not even have to be involved in a demonstration for the Israeli army to use live ammunition on you. Simply being Palestinian seems to be enough of an offence to deserve being gunned down in the street, as Lubna Hanesh was yesterday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An [un]Ode to Soda Stream by Dave Lippman

P.S. -- Paul's gonna be mad at you, Dave!!  ;)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Special Report: Why All Americans Should Care About the Holy Land Foundation Case By Stephen Downs, Esq. & Kathy Manley, Esq.

"In 2008, five directors of the Holy Land Foundation, formerly the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., were convicted on charges of material support for terrorism—essentially for feeding the poor and for building schools and hospitals in Palestine. Although none of the defendants were accused of violence or even encouraging violence, some of them received sentences of up to 65 years, and are incarcerated in mostly Muslim isolation prisons.
At their first trial in 2007, the government conceded that no foundation money had gone to any terrorist organizations; rather, some money went to the same zakat (charity) committees in Palestine that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.N., the Red Crescent and many NGOs used to distribute aid to the Palestinian community during the same period. The zakat committees were not designated as terrorist organizations, and no practical way existed to distribute aid except through these committees, which is why other charities and the U.S. government itself used them. The first trial ended with a hung jury, without a single conviction on any count, and with some outright acquittals.
At the second trial, the government called an "anonymous expert" to testify that some of these zakat committees were "controlled" in part by Hamas—a designated terrorist organization but also, since January 2006, Palestine's lawfully elected government. The U.S. government claimed that channeling the foundation's charitable activities through these "controlled" committees helped raise the prestige of Hamas and thus constituted material support for terrorism.
A known expert can be cross-examined by the defense and shown to be ignorant about the subject, but an "anonymous expert" cannot be challenged because he is unknown—he could be a man off the street, or the prosecutor's brother. By definition, an expert must have a public identity that establishes the claimed expertise. The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to confront (cross-examine) the witnesses against the defendant. Anonymous expert witnesses violate this fundamental principle. Yet on the basis of this anonymous "expert" opinion, all the defendants were convicted at the second trial. On Oct. 29, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the Holy Land Five's appeals, and let stand the criminalizing of charitable intent using the opinion of an anonymous expert to do so.
Well, one may say, injustices are everywhere. Why should I care about this particular case? The reason goes back to a 2010 Supreme Court case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project,which involved two groups that sued the government to determine if merely giving advice to a designated terrorist organization on how to stop engaging in terrorism would constitute material support. The Court held that it would, because even advice on how to live peacefully was material support.
Under this ruling, then, coordinated free speech, peacemaking, charitable activities and social hospitality could all constitute material support, even if the defendant did not intend to engage in terrorism and in fact opposed it.
The plaintiffs in the original Humanitarian case (as opposed to the Supreme Court appeal) argued that the government should have to prove that a person intended to engage in terrorism—otherwise, anyone (like the directors of the Holy Land Foundation) could be convicted of terrorism without even realizing that he or she was doing anything wrong; due process requires that criminal laws give fair notice as to what conduct is prohibited. The Supreme Court disagreed with this argument, saying it was absolutely clear what is prohibited. The secretary of state publishes a list of designated terrorist organizations: just avoid all contact with organizations on the list, and no one will violate the law.
But that is exactly what the Holy Land Foundation directors did: they avoided providing aid to any designated terrorist organization on the list. On their own and through a former congressman, they even repeatedly asked the State Department and the Department of Justice for guidance on where they should and should not send their humanitarian aid. But the government refused to provide any guidance other than to refer them to the State Department list—which did not include the zakat committees. Yet by dealing with these committees, which were not on the list, the directors were found to have violated the law anyway, in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court's holding in the Humanitarian case.
By refusing to review the case, the Supreme Court signaled that due process no longer requires fair notice of prohibited conduct. Legal transactions could now be made criminal by discovering "associations" that were previously unknown to the parties involved. Moreover, the government could establish these "associations" by anonymous experts—mouthpieces for the government—that could not be confronted or cross-examined within the meaning of the 6th Amendment.
The implications are enormous. The government can now criminalize political, religious and social ideology and speech. Donating to peace groups, participating in protests, attending church, mosque or synagogue, entertaining friends, and posting material on the Internet, for example, could later be found to be illegal because of "associations," manufactured by anonymous experts, which in some way supposedly supported designated terrorist organizations one has never heard of.
In this decade during which our civil liberties have steadily eroded, Americans have seen their government claim, under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the right to hold citizens without charges indefinitely, and we've seen the president of the United States claim the right to assassinate American citizens anywhere in the world without due process by using a presidential "kill list." Now the government can convict any American of terrorism crimes he or she was not even aware of committing—based on information provided by an "anonymous expert" who can be neither challenged nor confronted."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vigil for a FREE PALESTINE. Saturday Jan 19, 12-2pm, Westlake 4th&Pine

Please join us this Saturday to call for an end to THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE.
Come join us to demand Justice, Equal rights and an End to Ethnic Cleansing!
 What: Vigil for a FREE PALESTINE
Where: Westlake 4th&Pine
When: Jan 19, 12-2pm
See you there......
Amin Odeh
"Stand up for what is right,even if you are standing alone"

Friday, January 04, 2013

5 Broken Cameras -- Great Movie Showing in Seattle + Palestinian Leader Iyad Burnat


Documentary - Feature
"5 Broken Cameras"
"The Gatekeepers"
"How to Survive a Plague"
"The Invisible War"
"Searching for Sugar Man"


On January 13th at 7pm, please come hear Iyad Burnat speak. This event is free.
Iyad Burnat is head of the Bil’in Popular Committee and a leader in the village’s non-violent popular resistance movement. Since 2005 citizens of Bil’in have held weekly demonstrations against the building of the Israeli separation wall through the community’s agricultural lands, and the steady encroachment of illegal settlements. These demonstrations are the subject of the recent award-winning documentary film 5 Broken Cameras, which was made by Iyad’s brother, Emad Burnat. During his American tour, Iyad will tell the stories of Bil’in and life in the occupied West Bank, and talk about strategies for non-violent popular resistance with a goal of peace and prosperity for all people.

On January 17th at 7pm, please come see 5 Broken Cameras, a film made by Iyad's brother. $0-$10 sliding scale. Nobody turned away. All money will go to Iyad Burnat for his speaking tour.

5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the footage was later given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi to edit. Structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat's cameras, the filmmakers' collaboration follows one family's evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost.

Both events take place at Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

Washington Hall is wheelchair-accessible. Please be fragrance free.

Sponsored by
Jewish Voice for Peace Seattle
UW Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013