BREAKING NEWS: Breach of Barack Obama's passport file leads to firings at State Department,

English (US)  March 20th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

Obama demands probe over passport breach

Barack Obama's campaign tonight is demanding a full investigation of reports that his passport files at the State Department were viewed without authorization.

“This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an Administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years. Our government’s duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes. This is a serious matter that merits a complete investigation, and we demand to know who looked at Senator Obama’s passport file, for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.

[More:]

Two contract employees of the State Department were fired and a third person was disciplined for inappropriately looking at the Democratic candidate's passoort file.

Spokesman Sean McCormack Thursday night confirmed instances of what he called "imprudent curiosity" by the State Department employees.

McCormack said the department itself detected the breaches, which occurred separately on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14.

The three people who had access to Obama's passport records were contract employees of the department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, NBC News reported.

A senior official told NBC News there was "no political motivation" to the incidents, adding that the three were low-level contract employees doing administrative work and accessed Obama's records out of "curiosity."

This official told NBC News that he does not believe any of the information was sent anywhere.

Burton, Obama's spokesman. demanded to know who looked at the file and why, and why the State Department did not reveal details of the security breach until now.

Monitoring systems are tripped when an employee accesses the records of the high-profile individual, a department official told NBC News. "When the monitoring system is tripped, we immediately seek an explanation for the records access. If the explanation is not satisfactory, the supervisor is notified."

Explaining why the contractors had access to the files, the official said: "The State Department uses cleared contractors to design, build and maintain our systems and cleared contract employees provide support to government employees and several steps of passport processing including data entry, file searches, customer service and quality control.

"Each time an employee logs on, he or she acknowledges the records are protected by the privacy act and that they are only available on a need-to-know basis," the official added.

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    Bush Hands Out New Jobs...Overseas, and all-American St. John McCain helps!

    English (US)  March 20th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

    This action is perverse on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin.

    By Tula Connell, Firedoglake

    So, Bush's Defense Department gives a massive tanker contract to Northrop Grumman and the European firm EADS. In doing so, it shunned Boeing, which bid on the contract.

    [More:]

    This action is perverse on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin.

    In handing out the contract--worth between $40 billion to $100 billion--for the construction of Air Force refueling tankers, the Bush administration claimed that 25,000 jobs would be created in Alabama and other southern states.

    That assertion obscures several key points: Far more jobs--44,000--would have been created had Boeing received the contract, with more than 300 suppliers in 40 states benefiting, according to Boeing. At Boeing plants, those jobs would be highly paid and the workers would be members of unions. The 25,000 jobs Bush claims the contract creates involve far lower-paying jobs assembling parts made overseas. And they're not union jobs.

    Since he's taken office, many of Bush's attacks on unions have been overt. But far more insidious are moves like this one, that surreptiously undermine the fundamental premise of the union movement: People who work should earn wages that support themselves and their families.

    And look who was instrumental to pushing through this un-American deal: the senator from Arizona, John McCain. Time magazine reports McCain wrote letters and pushed the Pentagon to change the bidding process so that EADS's government subsidies could not be considered when deciding to whom to award the contract. This placed Boeing, which receives no subsidies, at a clear disadvantage and conflicts with U.S. trade policy.

    Defense expenditures are supposed to comply with federal Buy American law provisions, which require purchasing certain products from American companies when possible. But this administration has granted more waivers of the Buy American provisions than any administration in history.

    Time also reveals that two current advisers to McCain worked on the deal for Northrop and EADS as lobbyists. They gave up their lobbying jobs when they came to work for McCain's campaign, but a third lobbyist, former Rep. Tom Loeffler (R-Texas), lobbied for EADS while serving as McCain's national finance chairman. OpenSecrets reports that McCain received $28,000 in contributions from EADS's American employees, including CEO Ralph Crosby, Senior VP Sam Adcock and lobbyists representing EADS.

    In Seattle, where much of the work for Boeing takes place, workers are outraged. Says Garth Fluart, member of Machinists (IAM) Local 751:

    I do not understand why American work in a time of a recession is getting sent overseas. It doesn't make any sense at all to me, my family, my friends that are overseas fighting a war right now in Iraq. And for them to say this is going to be a good thing for jobs in Alabama. Are you kidding me?

    Fluart and other members of Local 751 start each union meeting in South Seattle by pledging allegiance to the flag.

    Along with the Machinists, members of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) also work at Boeing. Says IFPTE President Gregory Junemann:

    By turning our backs on American workers, we have certainly missed a prime opportunity to reinvest American taxpayer dollars in our own workforce. Our tax dollars are still at work, but in this circumstance, they are working to the benefit of foreign workers, not U.S. workers.

    IAM and IFPTE combined represent 55,000 workers at Boeing.

    Boeing would have performed much of the tanker work in Everett, Wash., and Wichita, Kan., and used Pratt & Whitney engines built in Connecticut.

    Richard Spevak, a member of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace/IFPTE Local 2001 (SPEEA) in Wichita, speaks for many working people when he says:

    I'm so mad I could spit. As an American taxpayer and worker, this is the most blatantly stupid thing our government has done. I feel truly betrayed by the U.S. government.

    SPEEA members played a big role in designing the Boeing tanker.

    Boeing plans to formally challenge the decision. The company said it will ask the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to review the contract award.

    UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union's Aerospace Department, points out that neither EADS nor Northrop Grumman has ever built a tanker with a refueling boom. Boeing, on the other hand, has been building refueling tankers for the U.S. military for more than 75 years.

    So once again, the Bush administration has taken a major action based not on facts, but on extremist ideology.

    The AFL-CIO Executive Council is calling on Congress to defund the contract, as well as conduct a full investigation into the circumstances under which the contract was awarded to a foreign contractor. The Executive Council also urges all the presidential candidates to condemn the contract and call for it to be overturned. We also have an action here, where you can send a message to your representatives in Congress, urging them to overturn this decision.

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      Hillary's Ties to Religious Fundamentalists

      English (US)  March 20th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

      When it comes to unsavory religious affiliations, Hillary Clinton is a lot more vulnerable than Barack Obama.

      By Barbara Ehrenreich

      There's a reason why Hillary Clinton has remained relatively silent during the flap over intemperate remarks by Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. When it comes to unsavory religious affiliations, she's a lot more vulnerable than Obama.

      [More:]

      You can find all about it in a widely under-read article in the September 2007 issue of Mother Jones, in which Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet reported that "through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the "Fellowship," aka the Family. But it won't be a secret much longer. Jeff Sharlet's shocking exposé, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power will be published in May.

      Sean Hannity has called Obama's church a "cult," but that term applies far more aptly to Clinton's "Family," which is organized into "cells" -- their term -- and operates sex-segregated group homes for young people in northern Virginia. In 2002, writer Jeff Sharlet joined the Family's home for young men, foreswearing sex, drugs and alcohol, and participating in endless discussions of Jesus and power. He wasn't undercover; he used his own name and admitted to being a writer. But he wasn't completely out of danger either. When he went outdoors one night to make a cell phone call, he was followed. He still gets calls from Family associates asking him to meet them in diners -- alone.

      The Family's most visible activity is its blandly innocuous National Prayer Breakfast, held every February in Washington. But almost all its real work goes on behind the scenes -- knitting together international networks of right-wing leaders, most of them ostensibly Christian. In the 1940s, the Family reached out to former and not-so-former Nazis, and its fascination with that exemplary leader, Adolph Hitler, has continued, along with ties to a whole bestiary of murderous thugs. As Sharlet reported in Harper's in 2003:

      During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand "Communists" killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration, the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise.

      At the heart of the Family's American branch is a collection of powerful right-wing politicos, who include, or have included, Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, John Ashcroft, James Inhofe, and Rick Santorum. They get to use the Family's spacious estate on the Potomac, the Cedars, which is maintained by young men in Family group homes and where meals are served by the Family's young women's group. And, at the Family's frequent prayer gatherings, they get powerful jolts of spiritual refreshment, tailored to the already-powerful.

      Clinton fell in with the Family in 1993, when she joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. When she ascended to the Senate, she was promoted to what Sharlet calls the Family's "most elite cell," the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia's notoriously racist Sen. George Allen. This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, the Family's publicity-averse leader, that he is "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."

      Furthermore, the Family takes credit for some of Clinton's rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing "religious freedom" in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics.

      What drew Clinton into the sinister heart of the international right? Maybe it was just a phase in her tormented search for identity, marked by ever-changing hairstyles and names: Hillary Rodham, Mrs. Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and now Hillary Clinton. She reached out to many potential spiritual mentors during her White House days, including new age guru Marianne Williamson and the liberal Rabbi Michael Lerner. But it was the Family association that stuck.

      Sharlet generously attributes Clinton's involvement to the underappreciated depth of her religiosity, but he himself struggles to define the Family's theological underpinnings. The Family avoids the word Christian but worships Jesus, though not the Jesus who promised the earth to the "meek." They believe that, in mass societies, it's only the elites who matter, the political leaders who can build God's "dominion" on earth. Insofar as the Family has a consistent philosophy, it's all about power -- cultivating it, building it and networking it together into ever-stronger units, or "cells." "We work with power where we can," Doug Coe has said, and "build new power where we can't."

      Obama has given a beautiful speech on race and his affiliation with the Trinity Unity Church of Christ. Now it's up to Clinton to explain -- or, better yet, renounce -- her longstanding connection with the fascist-leaning Family.

      Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of 13 books, including the New York Times bestseller Nickel and Dimed. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Harper's, and the Progressive, she is a contributing writer to Time magazine. She lives in Florida.

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        WHY AMERICA CAN'T GET BEYOND RACE: GENOCIDE AND SLAVERY

        English (US)  March 20th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

        "In South Africa, we knew they intended to clobber us, and you had to deal with that and find ways to defend yourself and to survive. Here, there seemed to be a kind of conspiracy. And I have come to the conclusion that it seems to me that you are not going to be able to have normal relationships until you come to terms with the legacy of slavery and what happened to Native Americans. There seems to be a pain that is sitting in the pit of the tummy of almost all African Americans and Native Americans." -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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          An Open Letter to All Feminists: Support Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim Women

          English (US)  March 20th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

          Western feminists talk about honor killings and the misogyny of Islam, but hypocritically ignore the legal violence of military occupation.

          By Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira, Religion Dispatches. Posted March 20, 2008.

          As feminists and people of conscience, we call for solidarity with Palestinian women in Gaza suffering due to the escalating military attacks that Israel turned into an open war on civilians. This war has targeted women and children, and all those who live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, and are also denied the right to freedom of movement, health, and education.

          We stand in solidarity with Iraqi women whose daughters, sisters, brothers, or sons have been abused, tortured, and raped in U.S. prisons such as Abu Ghraib. Women in Iraq continue to live under a U.S. occupation that has devastated families and homes, and are experiencing a rise in religious extremism and restrictions on their freedom that were unheard of before the U.S. invasion, "Operation Iraqi Freedom," in 2003.

          [More:]

          At this moment in Afghanistan, women are living with the return of the Taliban and other misogynistic groups such as the Northern Alliance, a U.S. ally, and with the violence of continuing U.S. and NATO attacks on civilians, despite the U.S. war to "liberate" Afghan women in 2001.

          As of March 6, 2008, over 120 Palestinians, including 39 children and 6 women (more than a third of the victims), in Gaza were killed by Israeli air strikes and escalated attacks on civilians over a period of five days, according to human rights groups. Hospitals have been struggling to treat 370 injured children, as reported by medical officials. Homes have been destroyed as well as civilian facilities including the headquarters of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions. On February 29, 2008, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Valnai, threatened Palestinians in Gaza with a "bigger Shoah," the Hebrew word usually used only for the Holocaust. What does it mean that the international community is standing by while this is happening?

          Valnai's threat of a Holocaust against Palestinians was not just a slip of the tongue, for the war on Gaza is a continuation of genocidal activities against the indigenous population. Israel has controlled the land and sea borders and airspace of Gaza for more than a year and a half, confining 1.5 million Palestinians to a giant prison.

          Supported by the U.S., Israel has imposed a near total blockade on Gaza since June 2007 which has led to a breakdown in basic services, including water and sanitation, lack of electricity, fuel, and medical supplies. As a result of these sanctions, 30% of children under 5 years suffer from stunted growth and malnutrition. Over 80% of the population cannot afford a balanced meal. Is this humanitarian crisis going to approach a situation similar to that of the sanctions against Iraq from 1991-2003, when an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children died to lack of nutrition and medical supplies, and the woman who was then Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, proclaimed that the death of a half million Iraqi children was worth the price of U.S. national security?

          As feminists and anti-imperialist people of conscience, we oppose direct and indirect policies of ethnic cleansing and decimation of native populations by all nation-states.

          In the current climate of U.S.-initiated or U.S.-backed assaults on women in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we are deeply troubled by one kind of hypocritical Western feminist discourse that continues to be preoccupied with particular kinds of violence against Muslim or Middle Eastern women, while choosing to remain silent on the lethal violence inflicted on women and families by military occupation, F-16s, Apache helicopters, and missiles paid for by U.S. tax payers. This is a moment when U.S. imperialism brazenly uses direct colonial occupation, masked in a civilizational discourse of bringing Western "freedom" and "democracy." Such acts echo the language of Manifest Destiny that was used to justify U.S. colonization of the Philippines and Pacific territories in the 19th century, not to mention the genocide of Native Americans. U.S. covert, and not so covert, interventions in Central, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean have devastated the lives of countless indigenous peoples, and other civilians, in this region throughout the 20th century.

          The U.S., as well its proxy militias or client regimes, has inflicted violence on women and girls from Vietnam, Okinawa, and Pakistan to Chile, El Salvador, and Somalia and has avenged the deaths of its soldiers by its own "honor killings" that lay siege to entire towns, such as Fallujah in Iraq.

          It is appalling that in these catastrophic times, many U.S. liberal feminists are focused only on misogynistic practices associated with particular local cultures, as if these exist in capsules, far from the arena of imperial occupation. Indeed, imperial violence has given fuel to some of these patriarchal practices of misogyny and sexism. They should also know that such a narrow vision furthers a much older tradition of feminist mobilizing in the service of colonialism -- "saving brown, or black women, from brown men," as observed by Gayatri Spivak.

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            Israeli settlers attack shepherds near Al Khalil (Hebron)

            English (US)  March 20th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


            Illegal Israeli settleres in the Hebrob area

            By Ghassan Bannoura

            A group of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds from Towani village, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday.

            [More:]

            Villagers told IMEMC that several boys and old women were grazing their family herds on village land near the Ma'oun Settlement, a group of settlers and Israeli soldiers attacked them and beat them.

            Witnesses to the attack added that settlers stole some herbs gathered by the shepherds.

            Villagers called Israeli police who arrived at the area of the attack, who refused to press charges and told the villagers that if they want to file charges, they must go to the settlement. The Israeli army forbids locals entrance to the settlement.

            Ma'oun along with other two Israeli settlements is built on land stolen from the farmers of Towani in late 80's.

            International Middle East Media Center

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              Israel kills Palestinian farmer, 60, two others

              English (US)  March 20th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

              Israel has killed three Palestinians in separate incidents in Gaza, medics and media reports said.

              Hassan Abed, 60, was farming his land on Thursday in al-Qarara in the south eastern part of Gaza when he was shot, according to medics and witnesses. Medics confirmed that Abu Abed was shot in the chest with a live bullet.

              [More:]

              Witnesses said that the Israeli soldiers, manning the Gaza-Israel border line, opened fire at Abu Abed, causing his instant death on the spot.

              Israeli media sources reported that the Israeli army claimed its soldiers spotted a figure near the border-fence with Israeli, just east of aL-Qarrara town.

              The al-Qarrara town is an agricultural area, where many Palestinians have farm lands and earn a living.

              The Israeli military said it was examining reports of the incident.

              Israeli troops often shoot at Palestinians close to the border fence claiming they spotted fighters trying to plant explosives there or cross into Israel unnoticed.

              Meanwhile, conflicting reports said two Palestinian resistance fighters of the aL-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas, were killed and three others wounded in a new Israeli air strike on a Qassam post in the Tal aL-Hawa on the southern Gaza city shores.

              Dr. Moawiyeh Hasanin, chief of emergency department at the health ministry, identified the killed as Nour Jendia and Mohamad Bandar and confirmed that three others were wounded.

              Hasanin said that one of the wounded has been admitted to the surgery room of the aL-Shifa hospital for severity of his wounds.

              In a statement, faxed to press, the aL-Qassam brigades said two of their members were killed and three others were wounded during a 'Jihad (holy war) operation' in the Tal aLhawa neighborhood.

              Israeli army spokeswoman denied any involvement in the said incident, Israeli media sources reported.

              The Israeli army has been involved in many attacks on the coastal region since the Islamist Hamas group has taken over Gaza in June of last year, as of early March alone, the army killed more than 120 Palestinians including 40 children.

              Since Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks in late November, at least 356 people have been killed in violence, according to an AFP tally.

              In all, 6,319 people have been killed since the start of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, the vast majority of them Palestinians, according to a separate AFP count.

              Agencies

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                Five yeaars

                English (US)  March 19th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


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                  Fisk: The only lesson we ever learn is that we never learn

                  English (US)  March 19th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                  By Robert Fisk

                  Five years on, and still we have not learnt. With each anniversary, the steps crumble beneath our feet, the stones ever more cracked, the sand ever finer. Five years of catastrophe in Iraq and I think of Churchill, who in the end called Palestine a "hell-disaster".

                  But we have used these parallels before and they have drifted away in the Tigris breeze. Iraq is swamped in blood. Yet what is the state of our remorse? Why, we will have a public inquiry – but not yet! If only inadequacy was our only sin.

                  [More:]

                  Today, we are engaged in a fruitless debate. What went wrong? How did the people – the senatus populusque Romanus of our modern world – not rise up in rebellion when told the lies about weapons of mass destruction, about Saddam's links with Osama bin Laden and 11 September? How did we let it happen? And how come we didn't plan for the aftermath of war?

                  Oh, the British tried to get the Americans to listen, Downing Street now tells us. We really, honestly did try, before we absolutely and completely knew it was right to embark on this illegal war. There is now a vast literature on the Iraq debacle and there are precedents for post-war planning – of which more later – but this is not the point. Our predicament in Iraq is on an infinitely more terrible scale.

                  As the Americans came storming up Iraq in 2003, their cruise missiles hissing through the sandstorm towards a hundred Iraqi towns and cities, I would sit in my filthy room in the Baghdad Palestine Hotel, unable to sleep for the thunder of explosions, and root through the books I'd brought to fill the dark, dangerous hours. Tolstoy's War and Peace reminded me how conflict can be described with sensitivity and grace and horror – I recommend the Battle of Borodino – along with a file of newspaper clippings. In this little folder, there was a long rant by Pat Buchanan, written five months earlier; and still, today I feel its power and its prescience and its absolute historical honesty: "With our MacArthur Regency in Baghdad, Pax Americana will reach apogee. But then the tide recedes, for the one endeavour at which Islamic people excel is expelling imperial powers by terror or guerrilla war.

                  "They drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden, the French out of Algeria, the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Americans out of Somalia and Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon. We have started up the road to empire and over the next hill we will meet those who went before. The only lesson we learn from history is that we do not learn from history."

                  How easily the little men took us into the inferno, with no knowledge or, at least, interest in history. None of them read of the 1920 Iraqi insurgency against British occupation, nor of Churchill's brusque and brutal settlement of Iraq the following year.

                  On our historical radars, not even Crassus appeared, the wealthiest Roman general of all, who demanded an emperorship after conquering Macedonia – "Mission Accomplished" – and vengefully set forth to destroy Mesopotamia. At a spot in the desert near the Euphrates river, the Parthians – ancestors of present day Iraqi insurgents – annihilated the legions, chopped off Crassus's head and sent it back to Rome filled with gold. Today, they would have videotaped his beheading.

                  To their monumental hubris, these little men who took us to war five years ago now prove that they have learnt nothing. Anthony Blair – as we should always have called this small town lawyer – should be facing trial for his mendacity. Instead, he now presumes to bring peace to an Arab-Israeli conflict which he has done so much to exacerbate. And now we have the man who changed his mind on the legality of war – and did so on a single sheet of A4 paper – daring to suggest that we should test immigrants for British citizenship. Question 1, I contend, should be: Which blood-soaked British attorney general helped to send 176 British soldiers to their deaths for a lie? Question 2: How did he get away with it?

                  But in a sense, the facile, dumbo nature of Lord Goldsmith's proposal is a clue to the whole transitory, cardboard structure of our decision-making. The great issues that face us – be they Iraq or Afghanistan, the US economy or global warming, planned invasions or "terrorism" – are discussed not according to serious political timetables but around television schedules and press conferences.

                  Will the first air raids on Iraq hit prime-time television in the States? Mercifully, yes. Will the first US troops in Baghdad appear on the breakfast shows? Of course. Will Saddam's capture be announced by Bush and Blair simultaneously?.

                  But this is all part of the problem. True, Churchill and Roosevelt argued about the timing of the announcement that war in Europe had ended. And it was the Russians who pipped them to the post. But we told the truth. When the British were retreating to Dunkirk, Churchill announced that the Germans had "penetrated deeply and spread alarm and confusion in their tracks".

                  Why didn't Bush or Blair tell us this when the Iraqi insurgents began to assault the Western occupation forces? Well, they were too busy telling us that things were getting better, that the rebels were mere "dead-enders".

                  On 17 June 1940, Churchill told the people of Britain: "The news from France is very bad and I grieve for the gallant French people who have fallen into this terrible misfortune." Why didn't Blair or Bush tell us that the news from Iraq was very bad and that they grieved – even just a few tears for a minute or so – for the Iraqis?

                  For these were the men who had the temerity, the sheer, unadulterated gall, to dress themselves up as Churchill, heroes who would stage a rerun of the Second World War, the BBC dutifully calling the invaders "the Allies" – they did, by the way – and painting Saddam's regime as the Third Reich.

                  Of course, when I was at school, our leaders – Attlee, Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, or Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy in the United States – had real experience of real war. Not a single Western leader today has any first-hand experience of conflict. When the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq began, the most prominent European opponent of the war was Jacques Chirac, who fought in the Algerian conflict. But he has now gone. So has Colin Powell, a Vietnam veteran but himself duped by Rumsfeld and the CIA.

                  Yet one of the terrible ironies of our times is that the most bloodthirsty of American statesmen – Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfovitz – have either never heard a shot fired in anger or have ensured they did not have to fight for their country when they had the chance to do so. No wonder Hollywood titles like "Shock and Awe" appeal to the White House. Movies are their only experience of human conflict; the same goes for Blair and Brown.

                  Churchill had to account for the loss of Singapore before a packed House. Brown won't even account for Iraq until the war is over.

                  It is a grotesque truism that today – after all the posturing of our political midgets five years ago – we might at last be permitted a valid seance with the ghosts of the Second World War. Statistics are the medium, and the room would have to be dark. But it is a fact that the total of US dead in Iraq (3,978) is well over the number of American casualties suffered in the initial D-Day landings at Normandy (3,384 killed and missing) on 6 June, 1944, or more than three times the total British casualties at Arnhem the same year (1,200).

                  They count for just over a third of the total fatalities (11,014) of the entire British Expeditionary Force from the German invasion of Belgium to the final evacuation at Dunkirk in June 1940. The number of British dead in Iraq – 176 – is almost equal to the total of UK forces lost at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45 (just over 200). The number of US wounded in Iraq – 29,395 – is more than nine times the number of Americans injured on 6 June (3,184) and more than a quarter of the tally for US wounded in the entire 1950-53 Korean war (103,284).

                  Iraqi casualties allow an even closer comparison to the Second World War. Even if we accept the lowest of fatality statistics for civilian dead – they range from 350,000 up to a million – these long ago dwarfed the number of British civilian dead in the flying-bomb blitz on London in 1944-45 (6,000) and now far outnumber the total figure for civilians killed in bombing raids across the United Kingdom – 60,595 dead, 86,182 seriously wounded – from 1940 to 1945.

                  Indeed, the Iraqi civilian death toll since our invasion is now greater than the total number of British military fatalities in the Second World War, which came to an astounding 265,000 dead (some histories give this figure as 300,000) and 277,000 wounded. Minimum estimates for Iraqi dead mean that the civilians of Mesopotamia have suffered six or seven Dresdens or – more terrible still – two Hiroshimas.

                  Yet in a sense, all this is a distraction from the awful truth in Buchanan's warning. We have dispatched our armies into the land of Islam. We have done so with the sole encouragement of Israel, whose own false intelligence over Iraq has been discreetly forgotten by our masters, while weeping crocodile tears for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died.

                  America's massive military prestige has been irreparably diminished. And if there are, as I now calculate, 22 times as many Western troops in the Muslim world as there were at the time of the 11th and 12th century Crusades, we must ask what we are doing. Are we there for oil? For democracy? For Israel? For fear of weapons of mass destruction? Or for fear of Islam?

                  We blithely connect Afghanistan to Iraq. If only Washington had not become distracted by Iraq, so the narrative now goes, the Taliban could not have re-established themselves. But al-Qa'ida and the nebulous Osama bin Laden were not distracted. Which is why they expanded their operations into Iraq and then used this experience to assault the West in Afghanistan with the hitherto – in Afghanistan – unheard of suicide bomber.

                  And I will hazard a terrible guess: that we have lost Afghanistan as surely as we have lost Iraq and as surely as we are going to "lose" Pakistan. It is our presence, our power, our arrogance, our refusal to learn from history and our terror – yes, our terror – of Islam that is leading us into the abyss. And until we learn to leave these Muslim peoples alone, our catastrophe in the Middle East will only become graver. There is no connection between Islam and "terror". But there is a connection between our occupation of Muslim lands and "terror". It's not too complicated an equation. And we don't need a public inquiry to get it right.

                  ©independent.co.uk

                  1820 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                    The regime that needs changing

                    English (US)  March 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                    By Patrick Seale, Special to Gulf News

                    Bernard Lewis, 93, historian, scourge of Islamic radicalism and spiritual godfather of America's neocons, gave a word of advice to Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a meeting in Occupied Jerusalem this month. There could be no negotiation, he warned, with the regimes of Tehran and Damascus. They would have to be "replaced".

                    So it was back to "regime change"! As if nothing had happened since 2003! As if the catastrophic war in Iraq had not demonstrated the bankruptcy of the neocon fantasy of using American power to overthrow and "reform" Arab regimes to make the Middle East safe for Israel and the United States.

                    [More:]

                    If the region is to be spared another disastrous explosion of violence, one might argue, the one regime that urgently needs changing is that of Olmert and his defence minister, Ehud Barak. Both are failed prime ministers: Olmert for his lamentable, ill-conceived and destructive war in Lebanon in 2006, and Barak for his stubborn inability to seize the chance of peace with the Palestinians and Syria in 2000 - when, as a newly-elected prime minister, the chance was there to be seized.

                    Far from learning from their mistakes, these men appear to be stuck in a time warp of bad ideas. They seem convinced that Israeli colony expansion in Palestinian territory can continue unchecked whatever the world may say; that resistance movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah can be destroyed by brute force, sanctions and boycotts; that Iran poses an "existential threat", not just to Israel but to the whole world, and that it must at all costs be stopped, if necessary by force; that Israel has no need to return the Golan Heights to Syria; that deterrence is the key to Israel's security and that the United States will, for all time, guarantee Israel's "qualitative military edge" over the whole Arab world.

                    There is an extraordinary contrast between these head-in-sand attitudes and those of much of the Arab world. Indeed, most Arabs now seem eager to put an end to their conflict with Israel, once and for all, in order to get on with enjoying their bonanza of oil wealth, which offers them a unique chance to transform, develop and modernise their societies.

                    The Arab peace plan remains on the table. Syria's President Bashar Al Assad has signalled repeatedly that he is ready for unconditional peace talks with Israel. Hamas in Gaza has offered Israel a hudna, or cease-fire, of 10, 20 and even 50 years' duration.

                    Yet, Israel adamantly refuses to grasp these extended hands, and continues to maintain a negative stance. It is only playing at peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, even though US President George W . Bush says he wants a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians by the end of the year.

                    The same message was conveyed this week to Israel by another of its good friends, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy. At a state banquet in Paris for Israel's President Shimon Peres, Sarkozy reminded his guest that an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state was the best guarantee of Israel's future security.

                    Indeed, the whole of the international community is urging Israel to take the historic path of peace, in this its 60th anniversary year. But Israel shows no inclination to comply. The real question is why?

                    Is it that Israelis do not want peace? All the polls suggest the contrary. Two thirds of Israelis seem ready to give up the colonies for peace, and 64 per cent say the government must hold direct talks with Hamas.

                    The problem does not lie with Israeli public opinion but with the present configuration of Israeli politics. Israel's leadership is paralysed by the blocking strength of right-wing, ultra-nationalist forces, which threaten to bring down the government and demand the immediate cessation of talks with the Palestinians, if they go beyond empty, time-wasting exchanges.

                    Bloody events

                    This is what makes it impossible for Olmert to move boldly in the direction of peace. Hence the urgent need for regime change.

                    This conclusion was underlined by the bloody events of the past couple of weeks. They began when, in a bid to force Hamas to halt the Qassam rockets fired against Sderot and other Israeli towns, Israel launched a major assault on Gaza, killing more than 130 Palestinians - half of them women and children. It is worth recalling that the Qassams - the first of which was fired on April 16, 2001 - have so far killed 12 Israelis in seven years.

                    The response of an enraged young Palestinian to the slaughter in Gaza was to mount a terrorist attack on Occupied Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav religious school on the night of March 6, killing eight students and wounding several others. All Israelis not blinkered by zealotry will certainly recognise that the attack, whether on the yeshiva or on some other Jewish target, was a highly predictable response.

                    Bush, who after the lethal Gaza raids went no further than to urge restraint on Israel, called the attack on Mercaz Harav "barbaric and vicious". Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it "an act of terror and depravity". Hillary Clinton called it a "despicable act of terrorism" and Barack Obama, her challenger for the Democratic nomination, a "cowardly and outrageous attack". Britain's young and inexperienced Foreign Secretary David Miliband, called it "an arrow aimed at the Peace Process".

                    What peace process, Mr Miliband?

                    Mercaz Harav, where the attack took place, is a hotbed of Zionist religious extremism. It is a cradle of the colony movement. Apart from producing a long list of violent men, this yeshiva has spawned Gush Emunim, the movement of gun-toting Israeli thugs who steal land, uproot olive trees, squat in the heart of Arab towns, and make Palestinian life a misery in the Occupied Territories. This is the real obstacle to peace.

                    In terms of incitement and brainwashing of youngsters, Mercaz Harav's record is at least as bad as that of any extremist madrassa in Pakistan. Any Israeli government seriously interested in peace would close it down. Yet, in today's Israel, that would be unthinkable. After the killing of the young students, crowds started chanting the obscene slogan of "Death to the Arabs". Right-wing militants demanded the establishment of eight new colonies on the West Bank as "a proper Zionist response" to the murders.

                    Olmert himself bowed to the pressure and authorised the building of 750 new housing units in the East Jerusalem colony of Givat Ze'ev, driving another nail into the coffin of the all but dead peace process. Without East Jerusalem as its capital, there can be no viable Palestinian state and hence no peace process worthy of the name.

                    Meanwhile, Barak has rejected any notion of a ceasefire with Hamas. He has quashed rumours that Israel was engaged in indirect contacts with the Islamic movement, by way of Egypt. "Operational activity in Gaza is continuing and will continue," he declared belligerently.

                    Nothing can still be hoped for from the lame duck Bush, whose years in office have inflicted terrible damage on both the United States and the Middle East. Only if the next US president manages to unite with a resolute European Union in putting an end to this madness can peace stand a chance - for the benefit of Arabs and Israelis alike.

                    Patrick Seale is a commentator and author of several books on Middle East affairs.

                    Gulf News

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                      Abbas aids Zionist Israel by arresting West Bank Palestinians

                      English (US)  March 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                      President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian security arrest two Hamas affiliates in West Bank

                      Bethlehem – Ma'an – Hamas said on Tuesday that the Palestinian security services affiliated to the caretaker government in the West Bank seized two Hamas activists on Monday evening.

                      Hamas released a statement saying that the Palestinian security services seized Marwan Makhlouf from the village of Anabta in the Tulkarem district in the northern West Bank and Mahmoud Faris from 'Ein Beit Al-Mai refugee camp in western Nablus in the northern West Bank.

                      Maan News

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                        Lebanese newspaper: ISRAEL PLANS TO ASSASSINATE SENIOR HAMAS LEADER BEFORE PEACE BROKERING SUCCEEDS

                        English (US)  March 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                        OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - Israel is currently planning to assassinate a senior Hamas leader before Egypt succeeds in brokering a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, a reliable Hamas source told the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar daily newspaper on Tuesday.

                        The aim is to force Hamas to accept Israeli stipulations, the source said.

                        [More:]

                        The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hamas had received reliable information that Israel plans to assassinate a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip. According to the source, "Israel is focusing on four Hamas men; political leaders Isma'il Haniyeh, Mahmoud Az-Zahhar and military leaders Muhammad Deif and Ahmad Al-Ja'bary."

                        The source added that Israel has been postponing its response to the Egyptian ceasefire efforts, which Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed on. Israel is awaiting the assassination of a major Hamas figure in order to have the upper hand before responding to the ceasefire offer. This Israeli stalling comes, according to Hamas sources, after the Israeli failure of "Operation Warm Winter," which left about 130 Palestinians dead, most of whom were civilians and children.

                        The stated aim of the operation had been to halt Palestinian projectile fire from the Gaza Strip.

                        Maan News

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                          Palestinian presidency denies halting peace talks

                          English (US)  March 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                          Ramallah – Ma'an – The Palestinian presidency released a statement on Monday denying claims published on Israeli websites that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas intends to halt the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

                          According to the statement published by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, the Israeli news reports were "baseless and incorrect" and were "aimed at distorting the credibility of the Palestinian president and his commitment to the peace process."

                          The Israelis intend to renege on their commitments, especially suspending settlement activities, the statement added.

                          Maan News

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                            Israhell

                            English (US)  March 18th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

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                              International Red Cross Report: Iraq: Millions struggle to cope with the impact of five years of war

                              English (US)  March 17th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                              Full report: ICRC report: Iraq: no let-up in the humanitarian crisis.

                              GENEVA - Five years after the outbreak of the war in Iraq, the humanitarian situation in most of the country is among the most critical in the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report issued today.

                              Because of the conflict, millions of Iraqis have insufficient access to clean water, sanitation and health care. The current crisis is exacerbated by the lasting effects of previous armed conflicts and years of sanctions.

                              [More:]

                              “Better security in some parts of Iraq must not distract attention from the continuing plight of millions of people who have essentially been left to their own devices,” said Béatrice Mégevand Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa. “Among them are displaced and refugee families, and those who have returned to their homes, children, elderly people, disabled people, households headed by women and families of detainees.”

                              Although security has improved in some parts of the country, Iraqis continue to be killed or injured on a daily basis in fighting and attacks. Civilians are often deliberately targeted, in complete disregard for the rules of international humanitarian law. In many families there is at least one person who is sick, injured, missing or detained, or who has been forced to flee from home and live far away.

                              Health care, water and sanitation services and electricity supplies remain largely inadequate. Hospitals lack qualified staff and basic drugs, and therefore struggle to provide suitable care for the injured. Many health-care facilities have not been properly maintained, and the care they provide is often too expensive for ordinary Iraqis.

                              The water supply has continued to deteriorate over the past year. Millions of people have been forced to rely on insufficient supplies of poor-quality water as water and sewage systems suffer from a lack of maintenance and a shortage of engineers.

                              The ICRC regularly provides medical assistance and drugs for hospitals and carries out important repairs to water and sanitation systems. However, this is far from sufficient to ensure that all Iraqis have adequate access to these basic services.

                              “To avert an even worse crisis, more attention must be paid to the everyday needs of Iraqis,” said Ms Mégevand Roggo. “Everyone should have regular access to health care, electricity, clean water and sanitation.” The ICRC also called on those involved in the conflict and those who can influence them to do everything possible to ensure that civilians, medical staff and medical facilities are not harmed. This is an obligation under international humanitarian law that applies to all parties to an armed conflict – both States and non-State actors.

                              http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/iraq-report-170308

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                                Uri Avnery: Israel deliberately undermined ceasfire by sending assassins to kill Palestinians in bethelehem and Tulkarm

                                English (US)  March 17th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                "I Came, I Saw, I Destroyed!"

                                WHAT HAPPENED this week is so infuriating, so impertinent, that it stands out even in our familiar landscape of governmental irresponsibility.

                                On the near horizon, a de facto suspension of hostilities was taking shape. The Egyptians had made great efforts to turn it into an official cease-fire. The flame was already burning visibly lower. The launching of Qassams and Grads from the Gaza Strip into Israel had fallen from dozens a day to two or three.

                                And then something happened that turned the flame up high again: undercover soldiers of the Israeli army killed four Palestinians militants in Bethlehem. A fifth was killed in a village near Tulkarm.

                                [More:]

                                THE MODUS OPERANDI left no doubt about the intention.

                                As usual, the official version was mendacious. (When the army spokesman speaks the truth, he is ashamed and immediately hurries on to the next lie.) The four, it was said, drew their weapons and endangered the life of the soldiers, who only wanted to arrest them, so they were compelled to open fire.

                                Anyone with half a brain knows that this is a lie. The four were in a small car on the main street of Bethlehem, the road that has joined Jerusalem and Hebron since British (or Turkish) times. They were indeed armed, but they had no chance at all of drawing their weapons. The car was simply sprayed with dozens of bullets.

                                That was not an attempt to make an arrest. That was an execution, pure and simple, one of those summary executions in which the Shin Bet fulfils the roles of prosecutor, judge and executioner.

                                This time no effort was even made to pretend that the four were about to carry out a murderous attack. It was not claimed, for example, that they had anything to do with last week's attack on the Mercaz Harav seminary, the flagship of the settlers' fleet. Actually, no such pretense could be put forward, because the most important of the four had recently given interviews to the Israeli media and announced that he was availing himself of the Israeli "pardon scheme" - a Shin Bet program under which "wanted" militants give up their arms and undertake to cease resistance to the occupation. He was also a candidate in the last Palestinian elections.

                                If so, why where they killed? The Shin Bet did not hide the reason: two of the four had participated in attacks in 2001 in which Israelis were killed.

                                "Our long arm will get them even years later," Ehud Barak boasted on TV, "we shall get everyone with Jewish blood on his hands."

                                SIMPLY PUT: The Defense Minister and his men endangered today's cease-fire in order to avenge something that happened seven years ago.

                                It was obvious to all that the killing of Islamic Jihad militants in Bethlehem would cause the renewal of the Qassam launchings on Sderot. And so it happened.

                                The effect of a Qassam rocket is completely unpredictable. For the residents of Sderot, this is a kind of Israeli Roulette - the rocket may fall in an empty field, it may fall on a building, sometimes it kills people.

                                In other words, according to Barak himself, he was ready to risk Jewish lives today in order to take revenge on persons who may perhaps have shed blood years ago and have since given up their armed activity.

                                The emphasis is on the word "Jewish". In his statement, Barak took care not to speak about persons "with blood on their hands", but about those "with Jewish blood on their hands". Jewish blood, of course, is quite different from any other blood. And indeed, there is no person in the Israeli leadership with so much blood on his hands as him. Not abstract blood, not metaphorical blood, but very real red blood. In the course of his military service, Barak has personally killed quite a number of Arabs. Whoever shakes his hand - from Condoleezza Rice to this week's honored guest, Angela Merkel - is shaking a hand with blood on it.

                                THE BETHLEHEM killing raises a number of hard questions, but with very few exceptions, the media did not voice them. They shirk their duty, as usual when it concerns "security" problems.

                                Real journalists in a real democratic state would have asked the following questions:

                                1. Who was it who decided on the executions in Bethlehem - Ehud Olmert? Ehud Barak? The Shin Bet? All of them? None of them?
                                2. Did the decision-makers understand that by condemning the militants in Bethlehem to death, they were also condemning to death any residents of Sderot or Ashkelon who might be killed by the rockets launched in revenge?
                                3. Did they understand that they were also boxing the ears of Mahmoud Abbas, whose security forces, which in theory are in charge of Bethlehem, would be accused of collaborating with the Israeli death-squad?
                                4. Was the real aim of the action to undermine the cease-fire that had come about in practice in the Gaza Strip (and the reality of which was official denied both by Olmert and Barak, even while the number of rockets launched fell from dozens a day to just two or three?)
                                5. Does the Israeli government generally object to a cease-fire that would free Sderot and Ashkelon from the threat of the rockets?
                                6. If so, why?

                                The media did not demand that Olmert and Barak expose to the public the considerations that led them to adopt this decision, which concerns every person in Israel. And no wonder. These are, after all, the same media that danced for joy when the same government started an ill-considered and superfluous war in Lebanon. They are also the same media that kept silent, this week, when the government decided to hit the freedom of the press and to boycott the Aljazeera TV network, as punishment for showing babies killed during the Israeli army's recent incursion in Gaza.

                                But for two or three courageous journalists with an independent mind, all our written and broadcast media march in lockstep, like a Prussian regiment on parade, when the word "security" is mentioned.

                                (This phenomenon was exposed this week in CounterPunch by a journalist named Yonatan Mendel, a former employee of the popular Israeli web-site Walla. He pointed out that all the media, from the Channel 1 news program to the Haaretz news pages, as if by order, voluntarily use exactly the same slanted terminology: the Israeli army confirms and the Palestinians claim, Jews are murdered while Palestinians are killed or find their death, Jews are abducted while Arabs are arrested, the Israeli army always responds while the Palestinians always attack, the Jews are soldiers while Arabs are terrorists or just murderers, the Israeli army always hits high-ranking terrorists and never low-ranking terrorists, men and women suffering from shock are always Jews, never Arabs. And, as we said, people with blood on their hands are always Arabs, never-ever Jews. This, by the way, also goes for much of the foreign coverage of events here.)

                                WHEN THE GOVERNMENT does not disclose its intentions, we have no choice but to deduce its intentions from its actions. That is a judicial rule: when a person does something with a foreseeable result, it is assumed that he did it in order to obtain this result.

                                The government which decided on the killing in Bethlehem undoubtedly intended to torpedo the cease-fire.

                                Why does it want to do so?

                                There are several possible kinds of cease-fire. The most simple is the cessation of hostilities on the Gaza Strip border. No Qassams, Grads and mortar shells on the one side, no targeted assassinations, bombardments, shelling and incursion on the other side.

                                It is known that the army objects to that. They want to be free to "liquidate" from the air and raid on the ground. They want a one-sided cease-fire.

                                A limited cease-fire is impossible. Hamas cannot agree to it, as long as the blockade cuts the Strip off on all sides and turn life there into hell - not enough medicines, not enough food, the seriously ill cannot reach appropriate hospitals, the movement of cars has come to an almost complete standstill, no imports or exports, no production or commercial activity. The opening of all border crossings for the movement of goods is, therefore, an essential component of a cease-fire.

                                Our government is not willing to do that, because it would mean the consolidation of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. Government sources hint that Abbas and his people in Ramallah also object to the lifting of the blockade - a malicious rumor, because it would mean that Abbas is conducting a war against his own people. President Bush also rejects a cease-fire, even while his people pretend the opposite. Europe, as usual, is trailing along behind the US.

                                Can Hamas agree to a cease-fire that would apply only to the Gaza Strip but not to the West Bank? That is doubtful. This week it was proven that the Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza cannot stand idly by while its members are killed in Bethlehem. Hamas could not stand by in Gaza and enjoy the fruits of government if the Israeli army were to kill Hamas militants in Nablus or Jenin. And, of course, no Palestinian would agree that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are two separate entities.

                                A Gaza-only cease-fire would allow Barak to blow it to pieces at any moment by a Bethlehem-style provocation. This is how it could go: Hamas agrees to a Gaza-only cease-fire, the Israeli army kills a dozen Hamas members in Hebron, Hamas responds by launching Grad missiles at Ashkelon, Olmert tells the world: You see? The terrorist Hamas is violating the cease-fire, which proves that we have no partner!

                                This means that a real and durable cease-fire, which would create the necessary atmosphere for real peace negotiations, must include the West Bank, too. Olmert-Barak would not dream of agreeing to that. And as long as George Bush is around, there will be no effective pressure on our government.

                                A PROPOS: who is really in charge in Israel at this time?

                                This week's events point to the answer: the man who makes the decisions is Ehud Barak, the most dangerous person in Israel, the very same Barak who blew up the Camp David conference and persuaded the entire Israeli public that "we have no partner for peace".

                                2052 years ago today, on the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was assassinated. Ehud Barak sees himself as a latter-day local replica of the Roman general. He, too, would dearly want to report: "I came, I saw, I conquered."

                                But the reality is rather different: He came, he saw, he destroyed.

                                Uri Avnery's Column
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                                  Chomsky: We Own the World

                                  English (US)  March 16th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                  By Noam Chomsky

                                  You all know, of course, there was an election -- what is called "an election" in the United States -- last November. There was really one issue in the election, what to do about U.S. forces in Iraq and there was, by U.S. standards, an overwhelming vote calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces on a firm timetable.

                                  As few people know, a couple of months earlier there were extensive polls in Iraq, U.S.-run polls, with interesting results. They were not secret here. If you really looked you could find references to them, so it's not that they were concealed. This poll found that two-thirds of the people in Baghdad wanted the U.S. troops out immediately; the rest of the country -- a large majority -- wanted a firm timetable for withdrawal, most of them within a year or less.

                                  [More:]

                                  The figures are higher for Arab Iraq in the areas where troops were actually deployed. A very large majority felt that the presence of U.S. forces increased the level of violence and a remarkable 60 percent for all of Iraq, meaning higher in the areas where the troops are deployed, felt that U.S. forces were legitimate targets of attack. So there was a considerable consensus between Iraqis and Americans on what should be done in Iraq, namely troops should be withdrawn either immediately or with a firm timetable.

                                  Well, the reaction in the post-election U.S. government to that consensus was to violate public opinion and increase the troop presence by maybe 30,000 to 50,000. Predictably, there was a pretext announced. It was pretty obvious what it was going to be. "There is outside interference in Iraq, which we have to defend the Iraqis against. The Iranians are interfering in Iraq." Then came the alleged evidence about finding IEDs, roadside bombs with Iranian markings, as well as Iranian forces in Iraq. "What can we do? We have to escalate to defend Iraq from the outside intervention."

                                  Then came the "debate." We are a free and open society, after all, so we have "lively" debates. On the one side were the hawks who said, "The Iranians are interfering, we have to bomb them." On the other side were the doves who said, "We cannot be sure the evidence is correct, maybe you misread the serial numbers or maybe it is just the revolutionary guards and not the government."

                                  So we had the usual kind of debate going on, which illustrates a very important and pervasive distinction between several types of propaganda systems. To take the ideal types, exaggerating a little: totalitarian states' propaganda is that you better accept it, or else. And "or else" can be of various consequences, depending on the nature of the state. People can actually believe whatever they want as long as they obey. Democratic societies use a different method: they don't articulate the party line. That's a mistake. What they do is presuppose it, then encourage vigorous debate within the framework of the party line. This serves two purposes. For one thing it gives the impression of a free and open society because, after all, we have lively debate. It also instills a propaganda line that becomes something you presuppose, like the air you breathe.

                                  That was the case here. This is a classic illustration. The whole debate about the Iranian "interference" in Iraq makes sense only on one assumption, namely, that "we own the world." If we own the world, then the only question that can arise is that someone else is interfering in a country we have invaded and occupied.

                                  So if you look over the debate that took place and is still taking place about Iranian interference, no one points out this is insane. How can Iran be interfering in a country that we invaded and occupied? It's only appropriate on the presupposition that we own the world. Once you have that established in your head, the discussion is perfectly sensible.

                                  You read a lot of comparisons now about Vietnam and Iraq. For the most part they are totally incomparable; the nature and purpose of the war, almost everything is totally different except in one respect: how they are perceived in the United States. In both cases there is what is now sometimes called the "Q" word, quagmire. Is it a quagmire? In Vietnam it is now recognized that it was a quagmire. There is a debate of whether Iraq, too, is a quagmire. In other words, is it costing us too much? That is the question you can debate.

                                  So in the case of Vietnam, there was a debate. Not at the beginning -- in fact, there was so little discussion in the beginning that nobody even remembers when the war began -- 1962, if you're interested. That's when the U.S. attacked Vietnam. But there was no discussion, no debate, nothing.

                                  By the mid-1960s, mainstream debate began. And it was the usual range of opinions between the hawks and the doves. The hawks said if we send more troops, we can win. The doves, well, Arthur Schlesinger, famous historian, Kennedy's advisor, in his book in 1966 said that we all pray that the hawks will be right and that the current escalation of troops, which by then was approaching half a million, will work and bring us victory. If it does, we will all be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government for winning victory -- in a land that we're reducing to ruin and wreck.

                                  You can translate that word by word to the doves today. We all pray that the surge will work. If it does, contrary to our expectations, we will be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the Bush administration in a country, which, if we're honest, is a total ruin, one of the worst disasters in military history for the population.

                                  If you get way to the left end of mainstream discussion, you get somebody like Anthony Lewis who, at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, wrote in retrospect that the war began with benign intensions to do good; that is true by definition, because it's us, after all. So it began with benign intentions, but by 1969, he said, it was clear that the war was a mistake. For us to win a victory would be too costly -- for us -- so it was a mistake and we should withdraw. That was the most extreme criticism.

                                  Very much like today. We could withdraw from Vietnam because the U.S. had already essentially obtained its objective by then. Iraq we can't because we haven't obtained our objectives.

                                  And for those of you who are old enough to remember -- or have read about it -- you will note that the peace movement pretty much bought that line. Just like the mainstream discussion, the opposition of the war, including the peace movement, was mostly focused on the bombing of the North. When the U.S. started bombing the North regularly in February 1965, it also escalated the bombing of the South to triple the scale -- and the South had already been attacked for three years by then. A couple of hundred thousand South Vietnamese were killed and thousands, if not tens of the thousands, had been driven into concentration camps. The U.S. had been carrying out chemical warfare to destroy food crops and ground cover. By 1965 South Vietnam was already a total wreck.

                                  Bombing the South was costless for the United States because the South had no defense. Bombing the North was costly -- you bomb the North, you bomb the harbor, you might hit Russian ships, which begins to become dangerous. You're bombing an internal Chinese railroad -- the Chinese railroads from southeast to southwest China happen to go through North Vietnam -- who knows what they might do.

                                  In fact, the Chinese were accused, correctly, of sending Chinese forces into Vietnam, namely to rebuild the railroad that we were bombing. So that was "interference" with our divine right to bomb North Vietnam. So most of the focus was on the bombing of the North. The peace movement slogan, "Stop the bombing" meant the bombing of the North.

                                  In 1967 the leading specialist on Vietnam, Bernard Fall, a military historian and the only specialist on Vietnam respected by the U.S. government -- who was a hawk, incidentally, but who cared about the Vietnamese -- wrote that it's a question of whether Vietnam will survive as a cultural and historical entity under the most severe bombing that has ever been applied to a country this size. He was talking about the South. He kept emphasizing it was the South that was being attacked. But that didn't matter because it was costless, therefore it's fine to continue. That is the range of debate, which only makes sense on the assumption that we own the world.

                                  If you read, say, the Pentagon Papers, it turns out there was extensive planning about the bombing of the North -- very detailed, meticulous planning on just how far it can go, what happens if we go a little too far, and so on. There is no discussion at all about the bombing of the South, virtually none. Just an occasional announcement, okay, we will triple the bombing, or something like that.

                                  If you read Robert McNamara's memoirs of the war -- by that time he was considered a leading dove -- he reviews the meticulous planning about the bombing of the North, but does not even mention his decision to sharply escalate the bombing of the South at the same time that the bombing of the North was begun.

                                  I should say, incidentally, that with regard to Vietnam what I have been discussing is articulate opinion, including the leading part of the peace movement. There is also public opinion, which it turns out is radically different, and that is of some significance. By 1969 around 70 percent of the public felt that the war was not a mistake, but that it was fundamentally wrong and immoral. That was the wording of the polls and that figure remains fairly constant up until the most recent polls just a few years ago. The figures are pretty remarkable because people who say that in a poll almost certainly think, I must be the only person in the world that thinks this. They certainly did not read it anywhere, they did not hear it anywhere. But that was popular opinion.

                                  The same is true with regard to many other issues. But for articulate opinion it's pretty much the way I've described -- largely vigorous debate between the hawks and the doves, all on the unexpressed assumption that we own the world. So the only thing that matters is how much is it costing us, or maybe for some more humane types, are we harming too many of them?

                                  Getting back to the election, there was a lot of disappointment among anti-war people -- the majority of the population -- that Congress did not pass any withdrawal legislation. There was a Democratic resolution that was vetoed, but if you look at the resolution closely it was not a withdrawal resolution. There was a good analysis of it by General Kevin Ryan, who was a fellow at the Kennedy School at Harvard. He went through it and he said it really should be called a re-missioning proposal. It leaves about the same number of American troops, but they have a slightly different mission.

                                  He said, first of all it allows for a national security exception. If the president says there is a national security issue, he can do whatever he wants -- end of resolution. The second gap is it allows for anti-terrorist activities. Okay, that is whatever you like. Third, it allows for training Iraqi forces. Again, anything you like.

                                  Next it says troops have to remain for protection of U.S. forces and facilities. What are U.S. forces? Well, U.S. forces are those embedded in Iraqi armed units where 60 percent of their fellow soldiers think that they -- U.S. troops, that is -- are legitimate targets of attack. Incidentally, those figures keep going up, so they are probably higher by now. Well, okay, that is plenty of force protection. What facilities need protection was not explained in the Democratic resolution, but facilities include what is called "the embassy." The U.S. embassy in Iraq is nothing like any embassy that has ever existed in history. It's a city inside the green zone, the protected region of Iraq, that the U.S. runs. It's got everything from missiles to McDonalds, anything you want. They didn't build that huge facility because they intend to leave.

                                  That is one facility, but there are others. There are "semi-permanent military bases," which are being built around the country. "Semi-permanent" means permanent, as long as we want.

                                  General Ryan omitted a lot of things. He omitted the fact that the U.S. is maintaining control of logistics and logistics is the core of a modern Army. Right now about 80 percent of the supply is coming in though the south, from Kuwait, and it's going through guerilla territory, easily subject to attack, which means you have to have plenty of troops to maintain that supply line. Plus, of course, it keeps control over the Iraqi Army.

                                  The Democratic resolution excludes the Air Force. The Air Force does whatever it wants. It is bombing pretty regularly and it can bomb more intensively. The resolution also excludes mercenaries, which is no small number -- sources such as the Wall Street Journal estimate the number of mercenaries at about 130,000, approximately the same as the number of troops, which makes some sense. The traditional way to fight a colonial war is with mercenaries, not with your own soldiers -- that is the French Foreign Legion, the British Ghurkas, or the Hessians in the Revolutionary War. That is part of the main reason the draft was dropped -- so you get professional soldiers, not people you pick off the streets.

                                  So, yes, it is re-missioning, but the resolution was vetoed because it was too strong, so we don't even have that. And, yes, that did disappoint a lot of people. However, it would be too strong to say that no high official in Washington called for immediate withdrawal. There were some. The strongest one I know of -- when asked what is the solution to the problem in Iraq -- said it's quite obvious, "Withdraw all foreign forces and withdraw all foreign arms." That official was Condoleeza Rice and she was not referring to U.S. forces, she was referring to Iranian forces and Iranian arms. And that makes sense, too, on the assumption that we own the world because, since we own the world U.S. forces cannot be foreign forces anywhere. So if we invade Iraq or Canada, say, we are the indigenous forces. It's the Iranians that are foreign forces.

                                  I waited for a while to see if anyone, at least in the press or journals, would point out that there was something funny about this. I could not find a word. I think everyone regarded that as a perfectly sensible comment. But I could not see a word from anyone who said, wait a second, there are foreign forces there, 150,000 American troops, plenty of American arms.

                                  So it is reasonable that when British sailors were captured in the Gulf by Iranian forces, there was debate, "Were they in Iranian borders or in Iraqi borders? Actually there is no answer to this because there is no territorial boundary, and that was pointed out. It was taken for granted that if the British sailors were in Iraqi waters, then Iran was guilty of a crime by intervening in foreign territory. But Britain is not guilty of a crime by being in Iraqi territory, because Britain is a U.S. client state, and we own the world, so they are there by right.

                                  What about the possible next war, Iran? There have been very credible threats by the U.S. and Israel -- essentially a U.S. client -- to attack Iran. There happens to be something called the UN Charter which says that -- in Article 2 -- the threat or use of force in international affairs is a crime. "Threat or use of force."

                                  Does anybody care? No, because we're an outlaw state by definition, or to be more precise, our threats and use of force are not foreign, they're indigenous because we own the world. Therefore, it's fine. So there are threats to bomb Iran -- maybe we will and maybe we won't. That is the debate that goes on. Is it legitimate if we decide to do it? People might argue it's a mistake. But does anyone say it would be illegitimate? For example, the Democrats in Congress refuse to put in an amendment that would require the Executive to inform Congress if it intends to bomb Iran -- to consult, inform. Even that was not accepted.

                                  The whole world is aghast at this possibility. It would be monstrous. A leading British military historian, Correlli Barnett, wrote recently that if the U.S. does attack, or Israel does attack, it would be World War III. The attack on Iraq has been horrendous enough. Apart from devastating Iraq, the UN High Commission on Refugees reviewed the number of displaced people -- they estimate 4.2 million, over 2 million fled the country, another 2 million fleeing within the country. That is in addition to the numbers killed, which if you extrapolate from the last studies, are probably approaching a million.

                                  It was anticipated by U.S. intelligence and other intelligence agencies and independent experts that an attack on Iraq would probably increase the threat of terror and nuclear proliferation. But that went way beyond what anyone expected. Well known terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimated -- using mostly government statistics -- that what they call "the Iraq effect" increased terror by a factor of seven, and that is pretty serious. And that gives you an indication of the ranking of protection of the population in the priority list of leaders. It's very low.

                                  So what would the Iran effect be? Well, that is incalculable. It could be World War III. Very likely a massive increase in terror, who knows what else. Even in the states right around Iraq, which don't like Iran -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- even there the large majority would prefer to see a nuclear armed Iran to any U.S. military action, and they are right, military action could be devastating. It doesn't mean we won't do it. There is very little discussion here of the illegitimacy of doing it, again on the assumption that anything we do is legitimate, it just might cost too much.

                                  Is there a possible solution to the U.S./Iran crisis? Well, there are some plausible solutions. One possibility would be an agreement that allows Iran to have nuclear energy, like every signer of the non-proliferation treaty, but not to have nuclear weapons. In addition, it would call for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. That would include Iran, Israel, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and any U.S. or British forces deployed in the region. A third element of a solution would be for the United States and other nuclear states to obey their legal obligation, by unanimous agreement of the World Court, to make good-faith moves to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely.

                                  Is this feasible? Well, it's feasible on one assumption, that the United States and Iran become functioning democratic societies, because what I have just quoted happens to be the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the populations in Iran and the United States. On everything that I mentioned there is an overwhelming majority. So, yes, there would be a very feasible solution if these two countries were functioning democratic societies, meaning societies in which public opinion has some kind of effect on policy. The problem in the United States is the inability of organizers to do something in a population that overwhelmingly agrees with them and to make that current policy. Of course, it can be done. Peasants in Bolivia can do it, we can obviously do it here.

                                  Can we do anything to make Iran a more democratic society? Not directly, but indirectly we can. We can pay attention to the dissidents and the reformists in Iran who are struggling courageously to turn Iran into a more democratic society. And we know exactly what they are saying, they are very outspoken about it. They are pleading with the United States to withdraw the threats against Iran. The more we threaten Iran, the more we give a gift to the reactionary, religious fanatics in the government. You make threats, you strengthen them. That is exactly what is happening. The threats have lead to repression, predictably.

                                  Now the Americans claim they are outraged by the repression, which we should protest, but we should recognize that the repression is the direct and predictable consequence of the actions that the U.S. government is taking. So if you take actions, and then they have predictable consequences, condemning the consequences is total hypocrisy.

                                  Incidentally, in the case of Cuba about two-thirds of Americans think we ought to end the embargo and all threats and enter into diplomatic relations. And that has been true ever since polls have been taken -- for about 30 years. The figure varies, but it's roughly there. Zero effect on policy, in Iran, Cuba, and elsewhere.

                                  So there is a problem and that problem is that the United States is just not a functioning democracy. Public opinion does not matter and among articulate and elite opinion that is a principle -- it shouldn't matter. The only principle that matters is we own the world and the rest of you shut up, you know, whether you're abroad or at home.

                                  So, yes, there is a potential solution to the very dangerous problem, it's essentially the same solution: do something to turn our own country into a functioning democracy. But that is in radical opposition to the fundamental presupposition of all elite discussions, mainly that we own the world and that these questions don't arise and the public should have no opinion on foreign policy, or any policy.

                                  Once, when I was driving to work, I was listening to NPR. NPR is supposed to be the kind of extreme radical end of the spectrum. I read a statement somewhere, I don't know if it's true, but it was a quote from Obama, who is the hope of the liberal doves, in which he allegedly said that the spectrum of discussion in the United States extends between two crazy extremes, Rush Limbaugh and NPR. The truth, he said, is in the middle and that is where he is going to be, in the middle, between the crazies.

                                  NPR then had a discussion -- it was like being at the Harvard faculty club -- serious people, educated, no grammatical errors, who know what they're talking about, usually polite. The discussion was about the so-called missile defense system that the U.S. is trying to place in Czechoslovakia and Poland -- and the Russian reaction. The main issue was, "What is going on with the Russians? Why are they acting so hostile and irrational? Are they trying to start a new Cold War? There is something wrong with those guys. Can we calm them down and make them less paranoid?"

                                  The main specialist they called in, I think from the Pentagon or somewhere, pointed out, accurately, that a missile defense system is essentially a first-strike weapon. That is well known by strategic analysts on all sides. If you think about it for a minute, it's obvious why. A missile defense system is never going to stop a first strike, but it could, in principle, if it ever worked, stop a retaliatory strike. If you attack some country with a first strike, and practically wipe it out, if you have a missile defense system, and prevent them from retaliating, then you would be protected, or partially protected. If a country has a functioning missile defense system it will have more options for carrying out a first strike. Okay, obvious, and not a secret. It's known to every strategic analyst. I can explain it to my grandchildren in two minutes and they understand it.

                                  So on NPR it is agreed that a missile defense system is a first-strike weapon. But then comes the second part of the discussion. Well, say the pundits, the Russians should not be worried about this. For one thing because it's not enough of a system to stop their retaliation, so therefore it's not yet a first-strike weapon against them. Then they said it is kind of irrelevant anyway because it is directed against Iran, not against Russia.

                                  Okay, that was the end of the discussion. So, point one, missile defense is a first-strike weapon; second, it's directed against Iran. Now, you can carry out a small exercise in logic. Does anything follow from those two assumptions? Yes, what follows is it's a first-strike weapon against Iran. Since the U.S. owns the world what could be wrong with having a first-strike weapon against Iran. So the conclusion is not mentioned. It is not necessary. It follows from the fact that we own the world.

                                  Maybe a year ago or so, Germany sold advanced submarines to Israel, which were equipped to carry missiles with nuclear weapons. Why does Israel need submarines with nuclear armed missiles? Well, there is only one imaginable reason and everyone in Germany with a brain must have understood that -- certainly their military system does -- it's a first-strike weapon against Iran. Israel can use German subs to illustrate to Iranians that if they respond to an Israeli attack they will be vaporized.

                                  The fundamental premises of Western imperialism are extremely deep. The West owns the world and now the U.S. runs the West, so, of course, they go along. The fact that they are providing a first-strike weapon for attacking Iran probably, I'm guessing now, raised no comment because why should it?

                                  You can forget about history, it does not matter, it's kind of "old fashioned," boring stuff we don't need to know about. But most countries pay attention to history. So, for example, for the United States there is no discussion of the history of U.S./Iranian relations. Well, for the U.S. there is only one event in Iranian history -- in 1979 Iranians overthrew the tyrant that the U.S. was backing and took some hostages for over a year. That happened and they had to be punished for that.

                                  But for Iranians their history is that for over 50 years, literally without a break, the U.S. has been torturing Iranians. In 1953 the U.S. overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal tyrant, the Shah, and kept supporting him while he compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world -- torture, assassination, anything you like. In fact, President Carter, when he visited Iran in December 1978, praised the Shah because of the love shown to him by his people, and so on and so forth, which probably accelerated the overthrow. Of course, Iranians have this odd way of remembering what happened to them and who was behind it. When the Shah was overthrown, the Carter administration immediately tried to instigate a military coup by sending arms to Iran through Israel to try to support military force to overthrow the government. We immediately turned to supporting Iraq, that is Saddam Hussein, and his invasion of Iran. Saddam was executed for crimes he committed in 1982, by his standards not very serious crimes -- complicity in killing 150 people. Well, there was something missing in that account -- 1982 is a very important year in U.S./Iraqi relations. That is the year in which Ronald Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terrorism so that the U.S. could start supplying Iraq with weapons for its invasion of Iran, including the means to develop weapons of mass destruction, chemical and nuclear weapons. That is 1982. A year later Donald Rumsfeld was sent to firm up the deal. Well, Iranians may very well remember that this led to a war in which hundreds of thousands of them were slaughtered with U.S. aid going to Iraq. They may well remember that the year after the war was over, in 1989, the U.S. government invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to come to the United States for advanced training in developing nuclear weapons.

                                  What about the Russians? They have a history too. One part of the history is that in the last century Russia was invaded and practically destroyed three times through Eastern Europe. You can look back and ask, when was the last time that the U.S. was invaded and practically destroyed through Canada or Mexico? That doesn't happen. We crush others and we are always safe. But the Russians don't have that luxury. Now, in 1990 a remarkable event took place. I was kind of shocked, frankly. Gorbachev agreed to let Germany be unified, meaning join the West and be militarized within a hostile military alliance. This is Germany, which twice in that century practically destroyed Russia. That's a pretty remarkable agreement.

                                  There was a quid pro quo. Then-president George Bush I agreed that NATO would not expand to the East. The Russians also demanded, but did not receive, an agreement for a nuclear-free zone from the Artic to the Baltic, which would give them a little protection from nuclear attack. That was the agreement in 1990. Then Bill Clinton came into office, the so-called liberal. One of the first things he did was to rescind the agreement, unilaterally, and expand NATO to the East.

                                  For the Russians that's pretty serious, if you remember the history. They lost 25 million people in the last World War and over 3 million in World War I. But since the U.S. owns the world, if we want to threaten Russia, that is fine. It is all for freedom and justice, after all, and if they make unpleasant noises about it we wonder why they are so paranoid. Why is Putin screaming as if we're somehow threatening them, since we can't be threatening anyone, owning the world.

                                  One of the other big issues on the front pages now is Chinese "aggressiveness." There is a lot of concern about the fact that the Chinese are building up their missile forces. Is China planning to conquer the world? Big debates about it. Well, what is really going on? For years China has been in the lead in trying to prevent the militarization of space. If you look at the debates and the Disarmament Commission of the UN General Assembly, the votes are 160 to 1 or 2. The U.S. insists on the militarization of space. It will not permit the outer space treaty to explicitly bar military relations in space.

                                  Clinton's position was that the U.S. should control space for military purposes. The Bush administration is more extreme. Their position is the U.S. should own space, their words, We have to own space for military purposes. So that is the spectrum of discussion here. The Chinese have been trying to block it and that is well understood. You read the most respectable journal in the world, I suppose, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and you find leading strategic analysts, John Steinbrunner and Nancy Gallagher, a couple of years ago, warning that the Bush administration's aggressive militarization is leading to what they call "ultimate doom." Of course, there is going to be a reaction to it. You threaten people with destruction, they are going to react. These analysts call on peace-loving nations to counter Bush's aggressive militarism. They hope that China will lead peace-loving nations to counter U.S. aggressiveness. It's a pretty remarkable comment on the impossibility of achieving democracy in the United States. Again, the logic is pretty elementary. Steinbrunner and Gallagher are assuming that the United States cannot be a democratic society; it's not one of the options, so therefore we hope that maybe China will do something.

                                  Well, China finally did something. It signaled to the United States that they noticed that we were trying to use space for military purposes, so China shot down one of their satellites. Everyone understands why -- the mili- tarization and weaponization of space depends on satellites. While missiles are very difficult or maybe impossible to stop, satellites are very easy to shoot down. You know where they are. So China is saying, "Okay, we understand you are militarizing space. We're going to counter it not by militarizing space, we can't compete with you that way, but by shooting down your satellites." That is what was behind the satellite shooting. Every military analyst certainly understood it and every lay person can understand it. But take a look at the debate. The discussion was about, "Is China trying it conquer the world by shooting down one of its own satellites?"

                                  About a year ago there was a new rash of articles and headlines on the front page about the "Chinese military build-up." The Pentagon claimed that China had increased its offensive military capacity -- with 400 missiles, which could be nuclear armed. Then we had a debate about whether that proves China is trying to conquer the world or the numbers are wrong, or something.

                                  Just a little footnote. How many offensive nuclear armed missiles does the United States have? Well, it turns out to be 10,000. China may now have maybe 400, if you believe the hawks. That proves that they are trying to conquer the world.

                                  It turns out, if you read the international press closely, that the reason China is building up its military capacity is not only because of U.S. aggressiveness all over the place, but the fact that the United States has improved its targeting capacities so it can now destroy missile sites in a much more sophisticated fashion wherever they are, even if they are mobile. So who is trying to conquer the world? Well, obviously the Chinese because since we own it, they are trying to conquer it.

                                  It's all too easy to continue with this indefinitely. Just pick your topic. It's a good exercise to try. This simple principle, "we own the world," is sufficient to explain a lot of the discussion about foreign affairs.

                                  I will just finish with a word from George Orwell. In the introduction to Animal Farm he said, England is a free society, but it's not very different from the totalitarian monster I have been describing. He says in England unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. Then he goes on to give some dubious examples. At the end he turns to a very brief explanation, actually two sentences, but they are to the point. He says, one reason is the press is owned by wealthy men who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed. And the second reason -- and I think a more important one -- is a good education. If you have gone to the best schools and graduated from Oxford and Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled in you the understanding that there are certain things it would not do to say; actually, it would not do to think. That is the primary way to prevent unpopular ideas from being expressed.

                                  The ideas of the overwhelming majority of the population, who don't attend Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge, enable them to react like human beings, as they often do. There is a lesson there for activists.

                                  Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance.

                                  Information Clearinghouse

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                                    Palestinian president may announce failure of Annapolis conference

                                    English (US)  March 16th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                    BETHLEHEM – A high-ranking Palestinian political source claims that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has recently told an Arab state leader that he was pessimistic about the progress of the peace process, the website of the Jerusalem-based Al-Manar daily newspaper said on Sunday.

                                    According to Al-Manar's source, Abbas said that the Palestinians had agreed in the Annapolis peace conference in the US in November 2007 to begin negotiations which were supposed to end in a comprehensive peace agreement in 2008.
                                    However, nothing has been achieved so far and Israel has taken several unilateral steps aimed at creating a new de facto on the ground which renders an acceptable agreement impossible.

                                    The source added that Abbas expressed his fears that the peace process launched in Annapolis is likely to collapse thus leaving negative repercussions in the region.

                                    Maan News

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                                      THE MOTHER OF ALL CHUTZPAH: Zionizt Israeli foreign minister pushing for compensation from PA for slain and injured Israelis

                                      English (US)  March 16th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                      BETHLEHEM – Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni has given directives to enable Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks to sue the Palestinian Authority in Israeli courts in order to claim financial reimbursement.

                                      Israeli sources said that Livni will contact Israeli courts asking them to comply with her suggestion.

                                      These new directives will pave the way for dozens of cases to be filed against the Palestinian Authority by victims, or families of victims, seeking financial compensation for their casualties.
                                      The pretext given is that the Palestinian Authority failed to prevent military attacks against Israelis from its territories.

                                      However, the individual responsible for last weeks shooting in Jerusalem was a resident in the city and a holder of an Israeli ID card.

                                      The ministry of foreign affairs has signed a message to be sent to the central court in Jerusalem on behalf of 55 Israeli families who have filed cases demanding huge financial reimbursement from the Palestinian Authority. This message is expected to remove all impediments which have so far prevented suing the Palestinian Authority before Israeli courts.

                                      A high-ranking Israeli political source said that despite the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Livni wanted to explain that whilst Israel wants to reach a historic compromise with the Palestinians, "terrorism will not be accepted."

                                      The source added that the Palestinian Authority must take part in the war against terror.

                                      Maan News

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                                        An Israeli air strike on eastern Gaza leaves three killed

                                        English (US)  March 15th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                        Three Palestinians have been reportedly killed on Saturday after an Israeli drone fired a missile towards the vicinity of a local school in eastern Gaza city.

                                        Witnesses said that the air strike targeted the Aljaro street near the Ibn Al-arqam school to the east of Gaza city, as medics confirmed three people were killed in the air strike.

                                        [More:]

                                        The Israeli air strike came after buzzing of an Israeli drone has been non-stop in the area, witnesses added.

                                        In the meantime, three other Palestinians were reported by medics as wounded after an Israeli tank shelled the aLShayima' school in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Lahiya.

                                        Dr. Mo'awiya Abu Hasanin, chief of emergency and ambulance department at Gaza's health ministry, made clear that one of the wounded is in a critical condition as the two others are seriously wounded.

                                        Today's air strike on Gaza is the first in almost two weeks of calm in the region after the Israeli army had killed earlier this month more that 120 Palestinians, including 30 children, in a large ground offensive on northern Gaza.

                                        International Middle East Media Center

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                                          The road to Damascus

                                          English (US)  March 15th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                          Al Ahram
                                          The Damascus summit might end up just another tired Arab meeting, or maybe not, Dina Ezzat reports

                                          Today, Arab banners should start to dot the roads of Damascus in anticipation of the Arab summit to be inaugurated and chaired 29 March by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Damascus said this week that all logistical preparations had been completed for the top Arab congregation that Syria is hosting in line with the order of the alphabetically rotated presidency.

                                          The much-heated debate of the past few weeks over the participation or otherwise of key Arab League member states is also all but settled. Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul-Aziz ended speculation Monday over his country's participation. "Saudi Arabia would not give up on an Arab summit," he said. The level of participation is still to be decided, he added.

                                          [More:]

                                          Saudi sources tell Al-Ahram Weekly that the participation of the Saudi monarch "would be very difficult" in view of the continued "failure" of Syria to live up to the wide Arab demand for it to convince its allies in the Lebanese opposition to agree on the over-due election of a Lebanese president prior to their agreement with the Lebanese majority on power sharing and government seats. According to the source, the maximum level of representation that Saudi Arabia might condone in view of the current situation is the attendance of the Saudi foreign minister.

                                          The absence of the Saudi monarch, were that scenario to follow, would be particularly sensitive, not just due to his political weight but also because of the fact that he is the outgoing chair who should hand over the presidency to Al-Assad. Protocol advisors at the Arab League say that it is possible for the secretary-general to simply announce the handover without the actual handshake between outgoing and incoming chairs of the Arab summits. "It happened before in the Tunis summit when the monarch of Bahrain was not present for the handover," said one expert.

                                          Egypt is also planning a "participation of sorts". Well-informed Egyptian officials say that President Hosni Mubarak is not planning to go to Damascus "so far", unless a Lebanese president is elected before the summit, "and this looks increasingly unlikely." According to the same source, it is unlikely that Mubarak will even send his prime minister to chair the Egyptian delegation to the summit. Most probably, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit would represent Egypt.

                                          It is the participation of Lebanon that remains in question at this time. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa had affirmed the full participation of all member states upon their due invitation. According to repeated statements, this applies to Lebanon too.

                                          On the ground, however, the situation is unclear. Syria has yet to extend its invitation to Lebanon. Arab sources say that the Syrian permanent representative to the Arab League would most likely hand the invitation to Moussa for him to pass to the Lebanese permanent representative. Absent a Lebanese president, majority leader Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora -- opposed politically to Damascus -- is charged with all presidential duties. "There has been an effort to convince Al-Assad to envoy a low-level delegation to Lebanon [for the sake of formalities] but this has not been very successful," commented one informed source.

                                          Egyptian and Saudi sources alike say that both leading Arab countries decided that they did not want to push things to the limit by boycotting the summit in protest at what they perceive as negative Syrian influence in Lebanon. Sources add that Cairo and Riyadh concluded that a decision to boycott would not help the situation in Lebanon -- rather the opposite; it could trigger a harsher Syrian intransigence.

                                          Meanwhile, debate is intense in Lebanon on who should represent the country and whether or not Lebanon should take part if the Syrian chair fails to send a delegation to Beirut. Arab League sources say the Arab League secretariat is exerting maximum political efforts to ensure that the invitation from Syria is appropriately extended and duly accepted.

                                          "It is not in the interest of Lebanon to absent itself from the summit even if it convenes under harsh political differences between the Syrian and Lebanese [regimes] and even if it convenes prior to the election of a Lebanese president," commented one source on condition of anonymity. According to this source, the Arab League is confident that the Lebanese delegation would be received and treated in accordance with "adequate" protocol.

                                          For many Arab diplomats, it is not the participation, or lack thereof, of any particular Arab country that matters most. What matters is what this summit could produce in terms of regional polarisation between two regional axes: that of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and that of Syria and Iran. The aggravation of such existing polarisation could affect all items on the agenda of the summit, especially the Arab-Israeli struggle and political developments in Lebanon.

                                          "We are going to the Arab summit with Syria being a clear and all but declared ally of Iran in confrontation with leading Arab states, including former allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia," commented a senior Arab diplomat who asked for his name to be withheld. He added, "the question is whether or not we will go out of the summit with this situation emphasised or contained."

                                          Syrian sources say that Damascus is willing to work to make this year's Arab summit an opportunity for mending fences, especially with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, "but not at any price". As far as Damascus is concerned, there are certain basic foreign policy guidelines it is not willing to compromise. Its "close cooperation" with Iran is one thing it is not giving up on. For Syria, Iran is a strong ally in face of an Arab world geared against it by the US and "in favour of Israel".

                                          In press statements made during a visit to Cairo earlier this week, US Undersecretary of State David Welch openly and affirmatively attacked Damascus for being an opponent of peace and a supporter of extremist groups in the region.

                                          Judging by the atmosphere during an Arab foreign ministers meeting that convened Wednesday at the Arab League, the general trend seems one of containment rather than confrontation. "The Damascus summit is unlikely to witness an all-out showdown between the two groups. That was not the mood during the ministerial meeting," commented one source. According to this source, "the mood now is one of putting the confrontation on hold."

                                          Indeed, informed sources tell the Weekly that Syria has offered assurances that it does not intend to use the Arab summit as opportunity to apply hardline political positions, especially on matters like the fate of the Arab-Israeli conflict. During the recent Arab foreign ministers meeting there was agreement between Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal and Syrian counterpart Walid Al-Moallem that Arabs cannot continue pursuing a peaceful settlement when Israel is not reciprocating.

                                          "But Syria will not, for example, insist that the [Arab peace] initiative be pulled out if there is no collective Arab agreement on such a decision," commented one Arab source. He added that the maximum that Syria would do is to opt for firmer language to be adopted by the Arab summit.

                                          Tellingly, it was Moussa and not Al-Moallem who made the firmer statements on the fate of the Arab peace initiative in the wake of the Arab ministerial meeting late last week. "We are going to revise the strategy adopted by Arab countries on the peace process," Moussa said. And earlier this week, it was also Moussa who spoke of the seemingly inevitable "collapse" of the Annapolis process.

                                          On other fronts, including the situations in Iraq, Darfur and Somalia, the Damascus summit is not set to break the tradition of adopting consensual resolutions that tend to take a general stance and that do not upset ruling regimes, nor directly support them. Developments on the ground may change things for the Damascus summit, however. If calm prevails, business as usual appears the motto for Arab states. If something breaks, that intention may break with it.

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                                            Hamas waiting for Abbas' response to Rafah border proposal

                                            English (US)  March 15th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                            Egyptian security men watch Palestinians During a demonstration at the Rafah Crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border, that calls for the reopening of the crossing so that stranded Palestinians can pass into the Gaza Strip. July 25, 2007. MaanImages/Hatem Omar

                                            GAZA – Hamas is waiting for a response from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regarding a resolution to the crisis surrounding the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Hamas leader Ayman Taha said on Saturday.

                                            Hamas' view is that the central dispute is that "some of the parties" want to keep the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), while Hamas wants to scrap the treaty. The AMA gives significant power to Israel to open and close the crossing, and positions European observers at the border.

                                            Hamas says it has presented its vision to Egyptian officials who are mediating in the dispute over the border. Talks about the Gaza Strip's borders began after Palestinians breached the border wall into Egypt in January following months of economically suffocating Israeli sanctions.

                                            [More:]

                                            Taha said that Hamas is showing flexibility by accepting the presence of Palestinian Presidential Guards, loyal to Abbas, at the border. Taha said Hamas and Abbas' Fatah party should agree on the names of the guards beforehand because "the names should not be of those with bad reputation."

                                            Taha reiterated that Hamas would also accept the presence of the European monitors, so long as they lived in Egypt or the Gaza Strip, not in Israel. In the past, Israel was able to close the crossing simply by preventing the monitors from reaching Rafah.

                                            "We hope that the coming days will witness progress in this issue. The ball now in the presidency's field," Taha said.

                                            Responding to comments by US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, who said that Hamas leaves Israel with "bad options," Taha said, "The problem is the occupation … the occupation should be removed and all the Israeli aggressions should be stopped."

                                            "Hamas and the other factions are defending the Palestinians' rights and land; we are not responsible for what is going on," Taha said, adding that the United States is also at fault for its support of Israeli occupation.

                                            Taha also said, "We [Hamas] show a great deal of flexibility, we have accepted along range truce on the basis of 1967 borders [with] full sovereignty, and we show flexibility in the issue of calm ["Tahdiah"] and we have no other choice except defending our people"

                                            Taha was responding to Walsh's assertion, often repeated by American administration officials, that Hamas seeks to undermine the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian Authority and defy the demands of the international community.
                                            Maan News

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                                              Nasrallah, Haniyeh offer support to families of slain Bethlehem fighters

                                              English (US)  March 15th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                              Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah flags covering
                                              the bodies of the dead [Ma'anImages]

                                              BETHEHEM – The office of Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, placed a telephone call on Friday afternoon to the widow of Palestinian fighter Mohammad Shahada, who was assassinated by Israeli forces with three other Palestinians on Wednesday.

                                              Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, also the de facto Prime Minister of the Gaza Strip, personally called the families of the dead.

                                              Shahada's widow said that Nasrallah's staff vowed that Hizbullah would 'never give up on Palestine or the martyrs.'

                                              [More:]

                                              Hizbullah also pledged financial support for the families of those killed by the Israeli occupation.

                                              Haniyeh, according to the family of one of the men, said that "the blood of the martyrs will not be spilled without a price." Haniyeh pledged to rebuild Shahada's family house, which was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers the week before his assassination. Haniyeh is said to have reaffirmed his commitment to the unity of the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

                                              Shahada and Haniyeh spent two years together in Marj Az Zohour, in southern Lebanon, after they were deported by Israel in 1992.

                                              At Thursday's funeral, the four fighters were wrapped in the yellow flag of Hizbullah, considered a sign of the group's growing influence in the occupied Palestinian territories.
                                              Maan News

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                                                Another Arab Beeb

                                                English (US)  March 15th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                Al Ahram

                                                The BBC launched its Arabic TV news channel on Tuesday. Amira Howeidy grabs the remote

                                                As Israel was dealing Egypt, Syria and Jordan a drastic military defeat in June 1967 Egypt's state-run media was telling a completely different story. Egypt's forces were actually "victorious" according to Sawt Al-Arab (Voice of the Arabs) radio presenter Ahmed Said. It wasn't until millions of Egyptians and Arabs tuned into the Arabic service of the British Broadcasting Cooperation that they heard news of the humiliating defeat that would re-shape the Middle East.

                                                [More:]

                                                Forty-one years later the BBC has launched an Arabic TV channel. It began broadcasting on 11 March at 10:00 GMT and will initially air for 12 hours a day on three satellites. The media environment, though, could not be more different to that of 1967 when the BBC's Arabic service offered one of only a handful of alternatives to the total control of information exercised by Arab governments and while the BBC's Arabic radio service has remained a respected and trusted source of news the 300 million strong Arab audience has enjoyed a relatively free and professional flow of news and information for a decade now thanks to the advent of Arab satellite channels.

                                                BBC Arabic TV will be competing with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network, listed by Time magazine three years ago as one of the 100 most influential organisations in the world. Other competitors include Saudi Arabia's Al-Arabiya, Hizbullah's Al-Manar and Lebanon's LBC. Yet news of the BBC's Arabic TV launch has generated excitement and anticipation in media circles.

                                                "It's something to look forward to. The profession only flourishes when there is competition," Al-Jazeera's Cairo bureau chief Hussein Abdel-Ghani told Al-Ahram Weekly. "It adds to the camp of independent and free-media advocates."

                                                Abdel-Ghani, like hundreds of other journalists who work for Arab satellite channels, is worried that the relative freedom they've enjoyed so far could be threatened by last month's endorsement by 20 Arab governments of a charter that allows for punitive action against satellite channels that offend Arab leaders. The "Principles for Organising Satellite TV in the Arab World" permits broadcasting authorities to withdraw permits from Arab channels. The charter, which caused an uproar amongst satellite channels, will not apply to the BBC, a British-owned cooperation.

                                                BBC Arabic TV -- the first satellite channel to launch after the charter's endorsement -- will also be "the first to benefit from it", says media expert and editor of the Weghat Nazar cultural monthly Ayman El-Sayyad.

                                                "If Arab governments do impose restrictions on Arab satellite channels the result will be to control the transfer of news and not its reception. The skies are full of non-Arab satellites and viewers will still have free access to them." Yet the "mentality" that still governs decision-makers in the Arab world, says El-Sayyad, remains decades out of date, stuck in the period between the 1950s and 1990s when the authorities could control their local media.

                                                "In the Arab consciousness the BBC is associated with news in the absence of news," he said, "and history seems to be repeating itself as the BBC establishes a TV presence."

                                                That the Egyptian authorities are ready and willing to interfere in the running of TV stations was made clear when, recently, the Egyptian Al-Hayat (life) TV station was granted a licence only after it agreed to a list of conditions including a ban on talk shows. "The BBC will operate outside the conditions imposed by the Arab authorities," notes Al-Sayyad.

                                                BBC Arabic's top man Hossam El-Sokkari disagrees. "The charter has been overrated," he told the Weekly. "If unhappy with a particular broadcaster, governments either restrict the reporter's movement or close the office down. This would still be a risk and the charter does not make it any worse. I am not sure there is much change there."

                                                The BBC's Arabic TV station "will not change its professional editorial policy as a result of [the charter]. Our brand and the quality of our journalism has been appreciated for more than 70 years."

                                                The charter, El-Sokkari argues, is a sign of the frustration of Arab governments with the media which has repeatedly crossed what used to be considered red lines. But it is not anything that concerns the BBC, says El-Sokkari. "We do not allow our editorial integrity to be affected by government policies."

                                                "We are independent and funded by British tax payers. We don't want to push a political message to Arab viewers nor do we want to dictate or promote any values."

                                                Since BBC Arabic TV went on air, media pundits have been keen to compare it with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, two stations with very different editorial policies. On Tuesday Egypt's Dream TV devoted its "10 o'clock" show to the topic.

                                                While Al-Jazeera is generally viewed as pan-Arab and sympathetic to Arab causes, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya -- generally viewed as US-leaning -- seeks to project an image of non-biased, objective news coverage. The differences are most noticeable in the terminology used by the channels: Al-Arabiya will speak of "terrorism" and "suicide operations" while Al-Jazeera refers to "resistance" and "martyrdom". Al-Jazeera speaks of the "US occupation of Iraq" while Al-Arabiya prefers the neutral "US forces in Iraq". BBC Arabic TV seems to have settled for the "US campaign in Iraq".

                                                Opinion polls show that Al-Jazeera -- which broadcasts on 26 satellites -- is the most viewed Arab satellite news channel. Its early history, ironically perhaps, was closely linked to the BBC, which in 1994 launched a TV channel with Saudi Orbit as a partner. After two years of broadcasting, the project stalled, was taken over by the Qataris practically lock, stock and barrel, and the now influential Al-Jazeera was born.

                                                It will take time for the BBC's Arabic TV station to carve out a niche in the crowded satellite market. What the initial broadcasts reveal, though, are impressive editing, relaxed but lively presenters and hosts and an ultra sleek look unmatched by its competitors. But despite its long history in the region, BBC’s Arabic TV will still have to offer more than state of the art British broadcasting techniques to impress viewers in this part of the world.

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                                                  The One State Illusion: Reply to My Critics

                                                  English (US)  March 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                  By MICHAEL NEUMANN

                                                  Editors’ note: On Monday we ran Michael Neumann’s argument against the so-called “one state” solution for Israel and Palestine. The following three days featured critiques by Kathy Christison, Jonathan Cook and Assaf Kfoury. Michael Neumann now wraps up this series with some comments. AC/JSC

                                                  What follows is blunt, but this is not an expression of contempt. To the contrary, I have great respect for these critics.

                                                  [More:]

                                                  Kathy Christison

                                                  Christison says: "The case Neumann puts forth is ultimately an argument for the notion that might makes right." Nothing I said could conceivably support that notion. It's true that the Palestinians, in their weakness, have only one practicable alternative, the two-state solution, so it is right for them to pursue it. But the Israelis, in their strength, have all sorts of alternatives, and so it is wrong for them to impose the two-state solution. In other words, might makes wrong. To say that this is 'might makes right' is like saying the following: if concentration camp inmates try to escape rather than overthrow the state - on the grounds that the latter alternative isn't feasible - they're 'ultimately' giving in to 'might makes right'.

                                                  Christison also has some problems with my logic.

                                                  She says that 'Neumann uses as an example the Gaza settlers, who he says left "in a large hurry" when Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005. Yet a few paragraphs later... , he makes the evacuation of settlers from Gaza seem a much more serious problem: in this instance, he muses on how difficult it would be for Israel to relinquish its very raison d'être, when merely getting the settlements out of Gaza "took thousands of lives and many years."' As for getting out in a large hurry, that's indeed what the settlers did. What took time and lives was convincing Israel to stop sponsoring and protecting them. Once the time and lives were taken, the swift evacuation increased the credibility of a two-state solution: Israel has shown itself much more ready to get out of the occupied territories than, for instance, to give up on its pre-1967 borders. Also, it seems elementary and indeed proven that Israel does not consider the occupied territories fundamental to its existence; not so, obviously, Israel itself.

                                                  Christison sees another problem: first I say that a two-state solution is practicable, then that "Israel will not "by any means ...agree to a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state". What I actually said was: "This is not by any means to say that Israel will agree to a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state." There's nothing illogical in supposing that practicality isn't guaranteed to secure Israel's agreement, nor in supposing that the practicable two-state solution is immeasurably more likely to secure Israel's agreement than the impracticable one-state solution. If my meaning was unclear, I apologize.

                                                  Christison says: "Neumann dismisses totally the possibility that two antagonistic people[s] could ever live together in anything like harmony and ignores any comparison with countries where this has worked with some measure of success, such as South Africa and Northern Ireland." On no, I wouldn't make a blanket claim like that. At the same time it would be crazy to ignore the historical record, and I don't. I argue against the South African analogy in some detail at

                                                  http://www.counterpunch.org/neumann05152007.html

                                                  and claim that a single state is far more likely to resemble Lebanon in civil war than some happier place. I'd also caution against seeing South Africa, and the allegedly huge concessions of the whites, through rose-coloured glasses. Ask anyone who's been there. Northern Ireland isn't comparable because there is no land issue, no gross inequality of power, no paranoia about a people being wiped off the map, and no plausibility to regarding Ulster Protestants and Catholics as competing ethnicities in the Israel/Palestine sense.

                                                  At one point, at least, Christison has consistency problems of her own. First she says: "Neumann ...appears to believe that anything short of his notion of absolute justice is actually unjust and unacceptable." Then she asks what will happen if we (with Neumann) "discard justice" and "care only about practicality". It is not for us to discard or not to discard justice. Israel discarded justice long ago, and bleating about it won't change anything. I made it entirely clear that a two-state solution is unjust. If, as many believe, it's the best the Palestinians can get, then the Palestinians will do best to accept it. I suppose that means it's 'acceptable' in some impoverished sense of the word.

                                                  Christison says: "Probably most disturbing is Neumann's dismissal of any concept of justice as a reason for attempting to find an alternative solution." Hell no, I think that's a terrific reason. I merely think that, in the case of the one-state solution, the attempt fails miserably: just or unjust, one state is not an available option.
                                                  Jonathan Cook

                                                  Cook has me argue that "just because something is called a two-state solution, it will necessarily result in two sovereign states." No, I argue that calling something a two-state solution doesn't make it one. It's only a two-state solution if it results in two states, in the normal sense of two sovereign entities.

                                                  Cook apparently understood this because he asserts that when Bush, Olmert and Sharon called something a two state solution, it would not result in two sovereign states. On the other hand, maybe he doesn't understand, because he apparently thinks that a sovereign Palestinian state might lack a real army. He says Israel might not 'concede' such an army. No kidding. A real-two state solution is the most the Palestinians can get; it hardly follows that they are sure to get it.

                                                  Cook says: '"When Olmert warns that without two states ‘Israel is finished’, he is thinking primarily about how to stop the emergence of a single state. So, if Neumann is to be believed, Olmert is a dreamer, because he fears that a one- state solution is not only achievable but dangerously close at hand. Sharon, it seems, suffered from the same delusion, given that demography was the main impulse for his disengaging from Gaza.” But "Israel is finished" can mean all sorts of things other than a one-state solution. I see no point in speculating about just what, if anything, Olmert meant. Whatever he meant hardly transforms the realities, which include Israel's unwillingness to abolish itself. As for Sharon, he disengaged from Gaza when he decided that the dream of a Greater Israel was too costly. No doubt he also didn't want the demographic hassle of a Jewish state full of Arabs. How this proves he expected a single secular state is quite beyond me. He certainly didn't want one, just as I certainly don't want a vacation home in Kandahar - but I don't expect one either.

                                                  Cook speaks of "the unimaginable event that the Israel were to divide the land". I'm not sure how 1967 borders, which lasted almost forty years, can count as unimaginable, particularly when Israel has already evacuated Gaza.

                                                  Cook says there are practical problems with a two-state solution.

                                                  One is water. Yes, Israel might make a water agreement a condition of ending the occupation. What insurmountable obstacle does this pose? At least Israel within 1967 borders won't need water for the settlers' gardens and swimming pools. Then there's economic disruption. If the shift from a wartime to a peacetime economy were a deal-breaker, there would never be any peace, anywhere. No doubt the US, the EU and the Gulf States would fork up a lot of money to solve these problems. And with endless warfare as an alternative - a war which diverts untold economic resources - I don't see any economic argument against peaceful solutions. That Cook speculates on what water-wars Israel might or might not initiate hardly strengthens his case, especially since Israel hasn't enjoyed its recent wars very much. As for the idea that Israel's lucrative defense industries cannot flourish without the occupation - who's being naive?

                                                  Another alleged problem: the decline of "Israel's vital strategic alliance with the US in dividing the Arab world". Hello, if there's peace, the alliance isn't vital any more. And if Cook can speculate on all the “Jewish diaspora” subsidies Israel will lose, I can speculate on the big bucks Israel will make in trade with the Arab world. Many Arab governments find the Palestinians a pain in the ass and would be delighted to improve their economic relationship with Israel.

                                                  Cook tells us that the Palestinians living within pre-1967 Israel would demand equal rights.Well, they have always demanded such rights; it doesn't seem to have troubled Israel too much.

                                                  Cook raises the spectre of ethnic cleansing within Israel after the implementation of a two-state solution. I have no idea why this would be more likely or more violent than in a single state where the “demographic threat” posed by the Palestinians would be incomparably greater. And if Israel would resort to ethnic cleansing at the mere prospect of an eventual Palestinian majority, what would Israel not do to avoid a one-state solution, which entails both the certainty of a Palestinian majority and the end of Jewish sovereignty?

                                                  Under the two-state solution, the present smaller demographic threat is further reduced by the return of the settlers, and Israel can offer Palestinian Arabs all sorts of inducements to leave. In a single state, Jewish ethnic supremacy can be maintained only by civil war. For Israel's leaders, even two 'real' states are preferable: Israel has plenty of expertise in keeping real states, with real armies, in line. In short Cook greatly exaggerates both the internal and the external problems of defending Israel against the Palestinians in a two-state world.

                                                  Cook says that "As long as Israel is an ethnic state, it will be forced to deepen the occupation... ". Why would keeping millions more Palestinians within its borders improve Israel's chances of remaining an ethnic state? Is it to remain Jewish that Israel must hold on to all these non-Jews?

                                                  Finally Cook says: "The solution... reduces to the question of how to defeat Zionism.It just so happens that the best way this can be achieved is by ...explaining why Israel is in permanent bad faith about seeking peace." This conflates metaphor with reality. Zionism doesn't conquer, starve, dispossess and kill. The state of Israel does that. It is not fought, much less defeated, by explanations, nor by exposing bad faith. Nor is it defeated by "discrediting Israel as a Jewish state, and the ideology of Zionism that upholds it." The Palestinians have fought Zionism, not metaphorically. They may succeed in pushing Israel back to 1967 boundaries. To suppose they can go further, no doubt by moral suasion, presupposes such a good-hearted world that one wonders why there ever was a problem to start with.
                                                  Kfoury

                                                  Kfoury's position amounts to this: 'One-State is now an escapist fantasy, whatever form one would like to give it, while Two-State is stigmatized by the failed Oslo Accords, a discredited Palestinian leadership, and an "international community" that never enforced its own UN resolutions on Palestine.' In fact he spends most of his time attacking the one-state solution. Moreover his claims about the two-state solution do little to support the view that it's not a live option. That an option is 'stigmatized' doesn't mean it's not viable - indeed I write in fear that a viable option has been stigmatized. Besides, it's not clear why bad leadership, bogus accords, and bad enforcement should stigmatize the two-state solution, any more than, say, crappy musicians stigmatize music.

                                                  I do share Kfoury's belief that our discussions are sterile. Perhaps our opinions have some microscopic influence in the US - certainly not in Israel - but events are moving beyond our reach. More and more, what counts is the ability of the Palestinians, in the occupied territories and through Hezbollah, to create facts on the ground. No longer is that the prerogative of Israel and the United States. I also agree that it is not for us to tell the Palestinians what to do. Since most Palestinians appear resigned to a two-state solution, I see the one-state advocates as doing just that.

                                                  Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann's views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What's Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche has just been republished by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, "What is Anti-Semitism", to CounterPunch's book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. His latest book is The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca.

                                                  Counterpunch

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                                                    "One-State or Two-State?" - A Sterile Debate on False Alternatives

                                                    English (US)  March 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                    By ASSAF KFOURY

                                                    Editors’ note: On Monday we ran Michael Neumann’s argument against the so-called “one state” solution for Israel and Palestine. Kfoury’s is the final response in this series. AC / JSC.

                                                    In a review article a few years ago, Daniel Lazare argued that an honest discussion of Zionism is no longer off limits. Lazare wrote, "a longstanding taboo has finally begun to fall. ... Where before it was all but impossible to have an honest conversation about Zionism, it is now becoming impossible not to" (The Nation, November 3, 2003). This was perhaps a little too optimistic, or at least overlooked the many occasions when a little opening of the debate was blocked by a massive counter-attack.

                                                    Be that as it may, Lazare's other observation in the same article was closer to the mark, namely, that "this taboo is largely an American invention. In other countries, the field has been much more open -- including, irony of ironies, in Israel."

                                                    [More:]

                                                    Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, and increasingly since 1967, there were always a few Israeli journalists, academics, and even former politicians, who would reject prevailing views of Zionism without fear of being fired or hounded out of their jobs. True, these dissenters were few and largely ineffectual in blocking state policies, but they were tolerated nonetheless, and to this day there are many examples to prove it: journalists like Gideon Levy and Amira Haas (who write in Haaretz), academics like the "new historians," former politicians like Meron Benvenisti, and several others. Such tolerance is of course very selective and does not extend to dissidents among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, like Azmi Bishara for example, now forced to live in exile.

                                                    By contrast in the United States, this narrow margin was always narrower. One constant in mainstream politics and respectable opinion in the US has been unquestioned and unqualified support for extreme Israeli policies, ignorance of the facts, and indifference to the Palestinians' plight -- with severe retribution meted out to anyone straying from the official dogma in the form of vilification campaign (Noam Chomsky), political ostracism (Jimmy Carter), tenure denial (Norman Finkelstein), and other forms of banishment for those who do not conform or know how to exercise self-censorship.

                                                    A few cracks in the US mainstream started to appear since the mid-1990's, as it became clear that the much-hyped Oslo Accords of 1993-95 were only a cover for continuing Israeli expansion and had nothing to do with granting Palestinians even a modicum of self-determination. There have been further cracks since then, with more American commentators who had been silent, or even toeing the official line on Zionism and US policies in the Middle East, turning against it. This movement gained a little more momentum as the US became mired in the disasters it had created in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as hawkish Israeli politicians and generals kept cheering America on to pursue its reckless military adventures.

                                                    The result has been a new critical current in the mainstream, all within proper limits to be sure, as well as renewed criticism outside the mainstream. This is probably what led Daniel Lazare to write, in 2003, that an honest discussion of Zionism was no longer off limits. Yes, there has been a little opening of the debate in the United States, but also an ever worsening situation for the Palestinians in the territories and the refugee camps. This is not the time to falter and shrink from the hard tasks of helping the Palestinian communities survive, and yet the temptation is greater than ever to speculate instead about a very distant post-Zionist future.

                                                    What makes this new current different is not its critique of Zionism and US-Israeli relations -- after all people like Noam Chomsky, the late Edward Said, and others have been at it for decades -- but the fact that a few (by no means all) of its protagonists go beyond the critique. They go beyond the critique or largely avoid it, and turn their notion of a far-off Israeli-Palestinian (or Jewish-Arab) coexistence into a topic of immediate importance or, even more, into a program of actions from now until the victorious end. Their far-off coexistence formula is typically a unitary state of some kind in old Palestine. Part of their reasoning is that the Oslo Accords were the last Two-State opportunity and, after their collapse, it is time to try a One-State alternative. Part of the controversy has been the blurring of lines, if not confusion, between a vision of something in the distant future and advocacy for things that can be now accomplished towards that goal.

                                                    The One-State proponents largely embrace the older (and continuing) anti-imperialist critique of Zionism and US-Israeli relations. In doing so they attract an approving audience on the left, broadly defined, and also choose their ideological camp (the left). They claim as their own several veterans of the older critique, most prominently Edward Said, and many other mostly US-based academics. They do so even though the older critique does not necessarily provide evidence to support the feasibility of their preferred unitary solutions -- or, at least, feasibility within a few years rather than several decades.

                                                    Two articles that refer to One-State stand out, if only because they appeared in prestige publications of the American elite: Edward Said's "The One-State Solution" in the New York Times Magazine (January 10, 1999) and Tony Judt's "Israel: The Alternative" in the New York Review of Books (October 23, 2003). Said's focus is mostly on the failures of the Oslo Accords, and Judt's main interest is to pry open the topic of Zionism and US-Israeli relations in America. References to One-State are only a small part of both articles, and for both Said and Judt, it takes the form of a binational Israeli-Palestinian state in a far-off future -- and they leave it at that, just a loose vision for a far-off future. Sensibly, neither follows the slippery path of proposing an agenda for how to achieve the long-term vision or define its final shape, something that other One-State proponents are not always careful to avoid.

                                                    Unfortunately, the mere idea of Israeli-Palestinian binationalism, however far-off into the future, remains anathema in the US. It triggers an immediate counter-attack and, in present conditions of overwhelming odds, can be turned into an opportunity for the opposite camp to step up almost unopposed its usual calumnies against the Palestinians. And on this, it seems that Said and Judt miscalculated, and Judt probably more than Said, as suggested below.

                                                    Said's and Judt's views, at the outer left limit of respectable opinion, were promptly rebuked by the guardians of liberal orthodoxy. Shortly after Judt's article, the New York Times, a few notches to the right of the Review, issued its warning: "An insidious argument is gaining ground that the historic moment for the two-state solution has passed. ... This is code for the end of Israel and must be strenuously opposed" (NYT Editorial, October 31, 2003). If polishing the liberal image calls for the occasional publication of outlandish views, then this is fine so long as the views remain insulated and ineffectual. So, instead of allowing an honest debate to develop -- not necessarily on this (One-State vs. Two-State), but on more pressing issues (the Wall, the settlements, the blockade) -- worn-out catchphrases of Palestinian terrorism and intransigence are dusted off to quickly foreclose it. Or, worse, the debate is turned around to justify even more extreme policies against the Palestinians, since they can be conveniently charged once again with fanaticism and genocidal intentions.

                                                    It is instructive to read the reactions to Judt's article, far more hostile than to Said's, perhaps because Judt wrote his article nearly four years later, at a time (end of 2003) when the Iraq disaster was beginning to unfold and more people were ready to question US policies in the Middle East; or because Judt is Jewish and therefore guilty of tribal disloyalty; or perhaps because Judt is outside the circle of diaspora Palestinian and Palestinian-American intellectuals who had been until then the main One-State proponents. (Beleaguered and hapless Palestinians can be allowed to publish their crazy ideas, which is good for the liberal image and also good for providing evidence that Palestinians can't be trusted to be reasonable, but only so long as these ideas remain isolated and limited to Palestinians.)

                                                    Judt was surprised, and distraught, by the vehemence of the attacks on his essay. There were letters to the Review as well as articles in other publications, from the usual commissars: Abraham Foxman, Michael Walzer, Leon Wieseltier, Alan Dershowitz, and several others. In his reply, where he seemed to retreat a little to appease his critics, Judt compared American and non-American reactions. He noted that "much of the American response verged on hysteria," heaping on him accusation after accusation of nefarious intentions. In marked contrast, his Israeli correspondents, including the director of the Yad Vashem Archives, "welcomed the disagreement." The only letter unequivocally coming to Judt's defense was from an Israeli, Amos Elon. That was not surprising. "This taboo is largely an American invention," as Daniel Lazare observed.

                                                    The circle of One-State proponents now includes many non-Palestinians. It is a loose grouping of intellectuals, most of them based in the US, with a few in Europe, and a handful in the territories.
                                                    They do not have a common political program, certainly not in the sense of belonging to the same political party, nor do they necessarily share a common understanding or focus on the conflict. For some, the conflict is between "Israelis and Palestinians", for others it is "the Jewish people and the Palestinian people," and for others still the focus is on "Jews and Arabs" or some more ambiguous formulation. For an example of the latter, consider this one: "a single democratic state for Jews, Christians and Muslims" -- a sectarian democracy, as it were, in the Holy Land -- which replaces national identities by religious identities. (What will happen to secularists among both Israelis and Palestinians, or to those among them who cannot be so classified, in such a state?) These are not minor differences, though innocuous now because they are far removed from the actual conflict; but they may confuse and undermine support for a just resolution in the future.

                                                    Who Is to Decide

                                                    "The one-state solution returns, riding on the backs of Israelis and Palestinians ..." Thus laments a good Israeli, the author Yitzhak Laor (London Review of Books, December 4, 2003)..

                                                    The One-State has "returned" because it was already raised in the 1940's, in the specific form of binationalism, by groups connected with the Communist Party, the League for Arab-Jewish Rapprochement and Cooperation, Hashomer Hatzair, and like-minded organizations. After the state of Israel was founded in 1948, the binational idea receded from attention and remained dormant for the next twenty years. In the United States, Noam Chomsky revived it in his first public lecture on the Middle East in March 1969. At the time there was a chance, just a tiny chance, for a One-State to succeed if Israel and its American supporters, Chomsky's target audience, could be blocked from embarking on a systematic policy of dispossessing Palestinians under occupation and annexing their lands. Right after 1967 and for a few short years into the early 1970's, a One-State was also a small possibility on the Palestinian side: The settlers and the settlements were a minor presence in the territories, the Palestinians were united under a credible and united PLO leadership, and even a few groups within the PLO dabbled with a One-State idea (though not in its binational form). By the mid-1970's, a One-State solution based on mutual rapprochement, however small its chances of succeeding, completely faded as a real option; by then Israel was pursuing its conquest of the territories unhindered, and various factions of the PLO first and then the PLO as a whole adopted a Two-State position.

                                                    And the One-State has returned "riding on the backs of Israelis and Palestinians." The result has been the cottage industry, centered in the United States, that has produced dozens of articles and books since the late 1990's. Palestinians and their few Israeli allies do not need to be told by their friends abroad, even their friends who go native, what is good for them. More bluntly, Palestinians are not in need of lessons for how to conduct their struggle. What they need from friends abroad is understanding and solidarity, neither of which necessitates a stand on One-State or Two-State in current conditions. (For example, the priority of stopping and then dismantling the ever-expanding settlements is independent of the question One-State vs. Two-State. On this particular issue, American activists can help by calling on the US government to end its consistent rejectionism that unilaterally blocks the international consensus. How to use such help is then up to the Palestinians.) Even worse would be when friends start to make their solidarity conditional on the Palestinians' taking a stand on One-State or Two-State, as some seem prone to do, especially at a time when the Palestinians themselves are not making the choice between the two an issue to be settled urgently.

                                                    In an article a few years ago, whose conclusions seem no less relevant today, Salim Tamari pointed out that, although some intellectuals in the Palestinian diaspora see in a One-State option an answer to the betrayals of the Oslo Accords and its aftermath, there is not one Palestinian political group (not even a minority one) that has adopted One-State as an objective ("The Binationalist Lure," The Boston Review, December 2001-January 2002). Nor is there an ongoing debate on the question of One-State versus Two-State between Palestinian organizations working among their own masses -- whether in the territories, in the refugee centers of Lebanon and Jordan, or inside the green line. There is no such debate, not even to clarify the implications of the two putative options. This stands to reason, as the Palestinians' most pressing concerns in the territories and refugee camps are elsewhere, now and for some years to come.

                                                    The closest the debate has come to the Palestinian arena, both geographically and politically, has been on the rare occasions when Israelis have been engaged in it. On any such occasion it was invariably between Israelis who are all opposed to the settlements, the Wall, and the occupation. The most publicized instance was a debate between Ilan Pappe (for One-State) and Uri Avnery (for Two-State) that took place in May 2007; sensibly, for all their differences, Pappe and Avnery also agreed that "the struggle against the occupation [was] point number one on the agenda." This kind of debate remains marginal and without noticeable positive effect on ongoing Israeli policies against the Palestinians.

                                                    To put things in a starker perspective, the handful of Israeli individuals who have adopted a One-State objective, binational or otherwise inclusive of Palestinians as equal, are in no position to challenge the powerful movement of a very different kind of One-State proponents. The latter are the racists on the far right of the Zionist political spectrum, who also want a unitary state in all or most of old Palestine, but ethnically cleansed of its non-Jewish population. The threats that these One-State racists spout with no compunction are real enough: They speak for powerful political parties and institutions inside Israel/Palestine proper, some of which are part of the current Israeli government coalition and, therefore, in a position to act on their beliefs. The point is not that One-State racists should not be challenged, but how to build a broad coalition that will eventually force them to back off and then start the slow process of reversing the occupation.

                                                    What Next

                                                    The question "One-State or Two-State?" offers a false alternative, as neither is a live option in the immediate future. One-State is now an escapist fantasy, whatever form one would like to give it, while Two-State is stigmatized by the failed Oslo Accords, a discredited Palestinian leadership, and an "international community" that never enforced its own UN resolutions on Palestine.

                                                    It will be a shame if the question keeps recurring and develops into a full-blown debate, now necessarily centered in the United States, as it will suck up a lot of good energy without helping to ease the Palestinians' hardships one iota. In this sense such a debate is callously self-indulgent. It will only divert attention from the plagues now eating away at the very existence of Palestinian society.

                                                    But setting aside a wasteful and useless debate is only one part. The other part is to define a clear agenda ahead so that supporters of Palestinian rights know what they are struggling for. In the long run, the biggest plagues threatening Palestinian existence are the settlements and the Wall. These will all have to go if the dispossession and economic strangulation are to be stopped and reversed. Doubtless the task will take many long years, but already supported by an international solidarity movement -- comprising many human-rights, grassroots and non-governmental organizations -- which are increasingly taking their cues from the anti-apartheid movement of South Africa. The legitimacy of this effort cannot be impugned, sustained as it is by international law that rejects collective punishment and expropriation of a people under occupation. Whether it will be a One-State or a Two-State at the end of the road, expropriated lands and resources will have to be returned to their Palestinian owners.

                                                    In the short run, long before the settlements are dismantled and the Wall is torn down, there are the other plagues faced by Palestinians under occupation. These are cruel, humiliating and deliberately intended to make Palestinians' daily routine miserable and unbearable: the curfews, the targeted assassinations and their "collateral" victims, the extra-judicial imprisonments, the checkpoints, the withholding of fuel and food supplies, the house demolitions, the land grabs, the Israeli-only "bypass" roads, and other regular atrocities. These will all have to be eliminated to help the Palestinian communities survive intact for a better day. Support groups abroad will have to reach out to all those who have kept Palestinian life going despite all the hardships -- from trade unions to health workers, educators, farmers, lawyers, and other segments of Palestinian society -- and provide them with moral and material sustenance for the long haul. There is enough to unite people of good will in common actions for years to come, and together lend a helping hand to the struggling Palestinians, without getting mired in a sterile debate of One-State versus Two-State.

                                                    Assaf Kfoury is a mathematician, computer scientist, and political activist. An Arab American who grew up in Beirut and Cairo, he is currently Professor of Computer Science at Boston University. He can be reached at kfoury@bu.edu

                                                    Counterpunch

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                                                      Abbas Accuses Israel of Ethnic Cleansing

                                                      English (US)  March 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                      By HEIDI VOGT

                                                      DAKAR, Senegal — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of implementing policies he claimed were part of an "ethnic cleansing" campaign in the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem.

                                                      Speaking at a summit of Islamic countries in the Senegalese capital Dakar, Abbas said Israel had carried out policies designed to force Palestinians out of the city.

                                                      "Our people in Jerusalem are under an ethnic cleansing campaign," Abbas said in a speech. "They are suffering from a series of decisions like tax hikes and construction prohibitions."

                                                      [More:]

                                                      Abbas said Palestinians "are facing a campaign of annihilation" by the Israeli state.

                                                      In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that "we would not use that term to describe the situation. I think it's probably an example of some overheated political rhetoric."

                                                      "We would urge both sides, both the Israelis and the Palestinians, to keep their focus on the political process," McCormack said.

                                                      At the summit of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Muslim organization, Abbas appealed to Muslim leaders for support during a difficult junction in the Mideast peace process.

                                                      Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the conference that recent unrest in Gaza showed that Israel "just kills innocent women and children, but the U.N. Security Council stays silent."

                                                      Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is chairing the OCI, condemned Israeli attacks but also called for unity among feuding Palestinian factions.

                                                      U.S.-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been strained by a recent surge in fighting. On Thursday, the militant Islamic Jihad group in Gaza fired dozen of rockets at southern Israel after Israeli undercover forces killed one of its West Bank leaders.

                                                      Abbas said Palestinians expect Israel to meet "commitments to put an end to its aggressions and settlements expansion ... Yet what is taking place on the ground today is totally in violation of that."

                                                      Palestinians are split between the moderate government led by Abbas in the West Bank and the militant Hamas group that has ruled Gaza since seizing the coastal strip by force last year.

                                                      "I should like to tell our brothers and sisters of Palestine that your unity is the first priority of success ... Please unite," Wade said. He also called Israel "an occupying power" and urged its government to "immediately stop its disproportionate use of force."

                                                      The Middle East has long been a core issue for the conference, which was founded in 1969 in response to an arson attack on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The group aims to promote Islamic unity and serve as a voice for the Muslim world.

                                                      Some 40 heads of state were attending the conference including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

                                                      A draft declaration to be adopted by the leaders "backs Palestine, and condemns Israel for what it is doing in Gaza," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said.

                                                      Associated Press Writer Rukmini Callimachi contributed to this report.

                                                      http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hS_4tUfS5rSJnJUYp8twZkJfIuJgD8VCS7M80

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                                                        Israel threatens Al-Jazeera with sanctions over Gaza coverage

                                                        English (US)  March 14th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                        Al-Jazeera's coverage of Gaza and the Occupied West Bank may be curtailed significantly if Israel makes good on its threat to impose sanctions on the Qatar-based TV network, which it accuses of siding with Hamas.

                                                        'Al-Jazeera caters to people's emotions and emotions run high in the Middle East today.'


                                                        By JACKSON ALLERS

                                                        BEIRUT/DOHA, MARCH 14, 2008 (MENASSAT) – Israel announced on Wednesday that it would be imposing sanctions on Al-Jazeera (Arabic) after accusing the Qatar-based TV network of taking the side of Hamas during the recent Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip in which more than 130 Palestinians were killed.

                                                        [More:]

                                                        Majalli Whbee, Israel's deputy foreign minister said the Israeli government would deny visas to Al-Jazeera's employees working in the Palestinian territories, but he stopped short of saying that Israel would strip Al-Jazeera's Israel-based employees of their work visas.

                                                        "We have seen that Al-Jazeera has become part of Hamas," Whbee told the Associated Press.

                                                        Officially, Al-Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar has received nothing explicitly stating that sanctions have been imposed.

                                                        "Al-Jazeera will take no official stance on the matter until we receive a formal letter from the Israeli government stating sanctions are being imposed on our activities in Israel and the surrounding Palestinian territories," Ahmed Sheikh, Al Jazeera's editor in chief in Doha told MENASSAT.

                                                        Walid al Omary, Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Jerusalem said earlier that Israel's sanctions were a means of trying a influence its coverage of events in Gaza, which Al-Jazeera maintains is unbiased and balanced.

                                                        'Bad public relations move'

                                                        Israel's attempts to limit the coverage of the situation in the Palestinian territories are "nothing new," said Habib Battah, a media analyst based in Beirut.

                                                        "Yes, it's a bad public relations move for Israel," Battah told MENASSAT. But he said that it's a symptom of a larger issue.

                                                        "The media has become a weapon for all the conflicts in the Middle East. And what is most worrying is that governments – be it Israel or Arab governments – are deciding what is objective and balanced, which TV channels are proper, which TV channels they approve of."

                                                        Habib cited the Arab satellite TV charter that was signed by the Arab League's Information Ministers in early February as a pan-Arab initiative to curtail the activities of media outlets critical of their governments, and to restrict any kind of "real journalism."

                                                        Qatar, Al-Jazeera's home base, was the only Arab country to criticize parts of the charter.

                                                        Al-Jazeera is the most watched television network in the Arab world, with an estimated 40-50 million viewers per day, but it has not always been smooth sailing.

                                                        Since its launch in 1996, Al Jazeera's correspondents have been threatened, jailed and killed.

                                                        Two U.S. presidential administrations have accused the network of being the mouthpiece of Al Qaeda due to its policy of airing unedited audio and videotapes of Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

                                                        And just as Israel is now accusing it of essentially being the media arm of Hamas, at least one Arab country, Bahrain, banned Al-Jazeera in 2002 for being a mouthpiece of... the Israeli government.

                                                        "Al Jazeera definitely has a reputation for providing coverage that caters to people's emotions, and emotions run high in the Middle East today," Battah told MENASSAT.

                                                        "For many people in the Middle East, Al-Jazeera is seen as friendly to the resistance movements against Israel, wheras Al-Jazeera's rival channel, al-Arabiya, is seen as friendly to the West and U.S. policies in the Arab world," Battah said.

                                                        Anti-Fatah?

                                                        President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank government has also complained that Al-Jazeera has shown bias against Abbas' Fatah party ever since Hamas' bloody takeover of Gaza in June 2007.

                                                        At the same time, Ismail Haniyeh, the ousted Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader, was seen praising Al-Jazeera for its Gaza coverage as recently as Wednesday.

                                                        The Israeli decision also sparked debate within the Jewish state, and an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post on Thursday discussed the pros and cons of boycotting Al-Jazeera.

                                                        Unnamed Israeli media experts on the pro-sanctions side accused Al-Jazeera of being "the media arm of an enemy state [Qatar] working on behalf of other enemy states."

                                                        But the Post also argued that to boycott Al-Jazeera would effectively deny the presence of Israeli perspectives in the homes of millions of Arabs.

                                                        And while it is difficult to make comparisons between Israel and the rest of the Middle East where the plurality of media is concerned, Israel's line of defense has always been that at least it allows Arab journalists to operate in Israel whereas Arab countries deny entry to Israeli journalists.

                                                        Israel's Foreign Ministry said it would send letters of complaint to the network and to the Qatari government about Al-Jazeera's coverage of Gaza.

                                                        It remains to be seen whether denying Al-Jazeera access to Israeli officials will become the official policy.

                                                        Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's editor in chief Sheikh told MENASSAT, "We will not alter our ways of covering the on-going crisis in Gaza regardless of what Israel decides."

                                                        Menasset

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                                                          MICHIGAN AND FLORIDA: WHO BROKE THE RULES?

                                                          English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                          By Patrick Cloutier

                                                          In the 2008 Presidential Primary season, the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committees stripped Michigan and Florida of some or all of their state primary delegates. This occurred because they "broke the rules" and scheduled their primaries ahead of Super-Tuesday, a mega-primary involving 22 states on February 5th. But who really broke the rules in America?

                                                          [More:]


                                                          Article I, Section 4 of the US Constitution states that "the times, places, and manner of holding elections...shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof." I assume that this law extends to primary elections as well.

                                                          Super Tuesday reduces the importance of individual states in the candidate selection process. And the narrow time frame only allows for drive-thru appearances, that give voters a superficial connection with candidates, at best.

                                                          When Michigan and Florida scheduled their primaries ahead of Super Tuesday, they acted in the best interests of their constituencies; they also exercised legal prerogatives of statehood; were "party rules" the only thing at issue when the DNC and RNC deprived Michigan and Florida of their delegates, or was it the fact that these states acted as states, rather than satraps?

                                                          Turning states into voting collectives suits big political machines well, but what do Soviet Republicans and Totalitarian Democrats do when states decide to reassert their sovereignty, their statehood? America now knows: they accuse the offending states of "breaking the rules" and strip them of delegate representation. States like Michigan and Florida can hold primaries if they want to, and their citizens can vote if they want to; their votes just won't be counted. It doesn't sound very American.

                                                          Not only do they harm the exercise of a state's constitutional right, the actions of the DNC and RNC may conflict with Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution, which says that the United States shall guarantee each state a representative form of government. Can a state have representation without a delegation?

                                                          It appears certain that the DNC and the RNC retaliated against Michigan and Florida for exercising legal state prerogatives. In a country whose national and state politics are so tightly interwoven with a two-party system, stripping states of delegates looks alot like depriving them of representation. If the Constitution's guarantees for representative government do extend to state primary delegations, what is the United States going to do about the Democratic and Republican National Committees?

                                                          Patrick Cloutier is a writer living in Hartford

                                                          _________________

                                                          403 words posted in Politics6 comments

                                                          6 response(s) to MICHIGAN AND FLORIDA: WHO BROKE THE RULES?

                                                          1. "A lie ain't a side of a story. It's just a lie." [Visitor] Email says:

                                                            Context in one’s interpretation of law, as in many things in life, is paramount.
                                                            As everyone knows, the primary in question is being held to select the Democratic candidate to compete for the office of the President. What Mr. Cloutier fails to take into account in his fervor to condemn the DNC, is that that Article I of the US Constitution deals exclusively with the Legislative Branch, and has no bearing on elections for the office of President. Let’s take a closer look at the quote on which he bases his thesis:

                                                            "the times, places, and manner of holding elections...shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof."

                                                            It’s hard to argue with that, it looks like Mr. Cloutier has, to borrow Stephen Colbert’s parlance, “Nailed ‘em!”.

                                                            But let’s take a closer look.

                                                            He quotes; “the times, places, and manner of holding elections… shall be prescribed”

                                                            The dot-dot-dot, an ellipsis, is used to indicate that one has intentionally omitted text, usually in the interest of saving space by removing irrelevant portions. So what chunk was removed between elections and shall? Four words; “for Senators and Representatives,” it would seem a key phrase when interpreting this particular passage, no?

                                                            The Constitution sets no provisions on when primaries must be held and who can set them. In fact primaries only garner mention once, in the 24th amendment, written in 1962. It is important to realize that Presidential Primaries came to being less 100 years ago, prior to which candidates were selected by convention goers, and members of Congress before that.

                                                          2. spook [Visitor] Email says:

                                                            Tsk,tsk Mr Cloutier see what can happen when one assumes.

                                                          3. Patrick Cloutier [Visitor] Email says:

                                                            What the Visitor fails to take note of is that primary delegates are themselves representatives of states at a Primary Convention. By process of the primary, delegates are selected to represent a state's choice (winner take all, RNC) or a portion of the electorate's choice (Democratic primaries) for party endorsement. As delegations, they are representatives.

                                                            The visitor may also apply to himself his own wit: "A lie ain't a side of a story. It's just a lie" He will observe that my criticism goes out equally to the RNC, for slashing Florida and Michigan's delegate representation by half. How would a state react if 50% of its Congressional delegation was cut? Cutting those state delegates in half may have affected the outcome of the Republican contest, as well. But the visitor's sole focus is on the DNC. This demonstrates partisanship in reading, or that the visitor overlooked certain aspects of the issue.

                                                            Also, by the visitor's own observation, states have selected the dates for primary elections for decades. This is essentially in agreement with that state prerogative in Article I, Section 4, and shows the precedent is long established.

                                                            ---the Author.

                                                          4. Patrick Cloutier [Visitor] Email says:

                                                            The Spook's contribution on making assumptions is well-taken!

                                                            The question on whether the US Constitution authority extends to primaries is well worth asking--most people in Connecticut for example, would not assume that Democratic and Republican party members who are elected within their party organizations to serve on Democratic or Republican town committees are considered "elected" officials, and are therefore protected by state laws covering elected officials. Town committee members of either cast are serving what could be defined as strictly party organs, since they do not have authority to enact town ordinances and such, yet state election law extends to these strictly party organs.

                                                            Therefore, since state primaries, and Democratic primaries in particular (since delegate representation is proportionately assigned according to voter percentages) are in essence votes for representation at a nominating convention, refusal to recognize a state's delegation constitutes depriving it of representation, the Constitution's protections ought to extend to these elections as well. If it hasn't been considered by a court before, perhaps now would be a good time.

                                                          5. "The bigger the lie, the more they believe it." [Visitor] Email says:

                                                            Come one P-man, just admit you gigged the quote to support your argument. Its obvious! My issue is with the fact you left out a key part of that sentence in order to justify your thesis, it’s bad juju brother. Put the issue aside, its not cool to misquote things, even if your argument relies on it.

                                                          6. Patrick Cloutier [Visitor] Email says:

                                                            In response to the Visitor addressing P-man, leaving out the word "Representatives" was a mistake. However, if you do place the word in, as I think you yourself have, you will see that it only strengthens the argument, for the reason cited above, but which I will again lay out for your benefit;

                                                            Voters in primary elections do not vote directly on candidates--they vote for a slate of delegates to represent them at a party convention that finally selects a candidate based on the delegate count.

                                                            Dictionary definition of delegate: "A person authorized to act for others; REPRESENTATIVE." (bold-type added)

                                                            In Republican primaries, delegate slates are awarded on a winner-takes all basis, and so is reminiscent of the electoral college. In Democrat primaries, however, delegates are awarded proportionately, based on the percentages each candidate wins. Thus, the idea of REPRESENTATION takes on even more importance, because voters are truly voting for representation at the Democratic Convention, whereas in the Republican primaries, the winner-takes-all delegates mechanics, the outcome more closely approximates a direct vote on the candidates, rather than delegates.

                                                            Also, it is very important to recall that states have scheduled their own primary election dates for 4 decades, so the practice is long established.

                                                            We might also take note that the US Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the state of Washington, in a challenge to their primary system, which allows any top two vote-getters to be placed on the general election ballot--even if they are both from the same party! Thus, if Clinton and Obama had more votes each than the highest Republican vote-getter, they would appear on the ballot.

                                                            Justice Clarence Thomas, voting with the majority, stated that upholding the challenge would have represented an unprecedented overthrow of the popular will.

                                                            Now, if the Constitution's guarantees of state prerogatives extend to Washington's unique primary system, it only seems reasonable that they would also apply to a states right to determine the manner, time, and places of elections for choosing a primary delegates [representatives,] as well as Congressional Representatives.

                                                            I hope you enjoy your weekend, reader, and thank you for challenging discussion.

                                                            Patrick

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                                                          Editorial: War Agenda

                                                          English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                          http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7&section=0&article=107796&d=13&m=3&y=2008
                                                          13 March 2008 -

                                                          IT is necessary to read between the lines in the statements that have
                                                          accompanied the resignation of Adm. William Fallon, commander of US forces
                                                          in the Middle East (CentCom). They show that the Bush administration remains
                                                          bent on aggression against Iran. Ever since the US Embassy hostage crisis,
                                                          Iran has been seen by America as a malign power, needing to be contained.
                                                          Such a containment objective must have been shared equally by Fallon and
                                                          Bush.

                                                          [More:]

                                                          It is over the tactics that the two men have fallen out. Bush, staring at a
                                                          two-term legacy of failure, sees the chance to quit next January, with one
                                                          last military huzzah. He made it perfectly clear to his hosts on his visit
                                                          to the Gulf in January that he was intent on confrontation - rather than the
                                                          negotiation that Iran's Arab neighbors, his hosts, were urging on him. Here
                                                          surely is the genesis of the rift between him and Fallon.

                                                          The admiral was being ordered to prepare an assault on Iran. This is a
                                                          highly respected sailor who, in his previous command in the Pacific, earned
                                                          a reputation for diplomacy as well as command. He is credited with
                                                          establishing good military relations with the Chinese despite the growing
                                                          suspicion with which each country views the other's military. If, indeed,
                                                          such orders as an assault on Iran came from the White House, Fallon will
                                                          have immediately realized their madness.

                                                          A strike on Iran, almost certainly with cruise missiles and Stealth bombers,
                                                          would be an unmitigated disaster for US interests in the Middle East. Iran
                                                          would immediately unleash its radical Shiite attack units in Iraq, plunging
                                                          that country into even bloodier chaos. It would also undoubtedly step up its
                                                          intervention in Afghanistan, tipping what is an already precarious security
                                                          situation toward outright failure. Tehran would also urge Hamas and
                                                          Hezbollah into action against US interests and, for good measure, it might
                                                          seek to punish Washington's long-standing friends in the region. A Bush
                                                          attack on Iran would, therefore, be a tactical disaster and, in the long
                                                          run, might not even advance objectives that Fallon says he shares with his
                                                          commander in chief. Fallon is too good an officer to make clear his real
                                                          feelings of the real reasons for his resignation.

                                                          Defense Secretary Gates, having said what a wonderful officer Fallon has
                                                          been, has added that it is "right" the admiral retire. Why "right"? Senior
                                                          US military officers do not normally resign when they are profiled in the
                                                          media. It is clear what has happened. Fallon has resisted one last crazy
                                                          play by the Bush administration and fed his views, on an off-the-record
                                                          basis to a journalist. The hope should not be that in retirement, Fallon
                                                          will not leave it too long before he adds his voice to the other retired
                                                          senior US commanders who have lambasted this learn-nothing US administration
                                                          for its ignorant and stupid international conduct. An attack by Washington
                                                          on Iran would be a colossal continuation of that policy and one from which
                                                          it might well be impossible to recover.

                                                          Copyright: Arab News © 2003

                                                          524 words posted in Iran, American EmpireLeave a comment

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                                                            Barhoum: Bethlehem massacre scandalizes Abbas and his team's collusion

                                                            English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                            GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Thursday urged all resistance factions in the West Bank to escalate attacks on the Israeli occupation forces in retaliation to the Israeli Occupation Forces' bloodbath in Bethlehem where four resistance fighters were killed in cold blood.

                                                            [More:]

                                                            Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that the relentless IOF troops targeting of resistance fighters reflect the IOF "hysteria" due to the success of the resistance strikes in the Zionist depth.

                                                            He charged that the massacre revealed the extent of collusion between PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage with the Israeli occupation after "selling resistance at the Annapolis and Paris conferences in return for protecting their personal interests and the corrupt group in Ramallah and Fayyad's illegal government".

                                                            The "vicious crime" paves the way for the tripartite meeting on Thursday grouping the American security delegation with Zionist and PA counterparts to further display the loyalty to Israeli occupation of the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank through liquidating Palestinian resistance and keeping Israeli security.

                                                            Barhoum held Abbas, Fayyad and their team in Ramallah responsible for not protecting "our people in the West Bank" and for "this malicious crime and others" and for justifying those crimes and preparing the atmosphere for more through forging further security coordination with occupation.

                                                            http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/en

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                                                              One state or two? Neither. The problem is Zionism

                                                              English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                              By JONATHAN COOK

                                                              Editors’ note: On Monday we ran Michael Neumann’s argument against the so-called “one state” solution for Israel and Palestine. This is the second of three replies. AC / JSC.

                                                              If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most intractable, much the same can be said of the parallel debate about whether its resolution can best be achieved by a single state embracing the two peoples living there or by a division of the land into two separate states, one for Jews and the other for Palestinans.

                                                              [More:]

                                                              The philosopher Michael Neumann has dedicated two articles, in 2007 and earlier this week, for CounterPunch discrediting the one-state idea as impractical and therefore as worthless of consideration. In response, Kathy Christison has mounted a robust defense, neatly exposing the twists and turns of Neumann’s logic. I will not trouble to cover the same ground.

                                                              I want instead to address Neumann’s central argument: that it is at least possible to imagine a consensus emerging behind two states, whereas Israelis will never accept a single state. That argument, the rallying cry of most two-staters, paints the one-state crowd as inveterate dreamers and time-wasters.

                                                              The idea, Neumann writes, “that Israel would concede a single state is laughable. … There is no chance at all [Israelis] will accept a single state that gives the Palestinians anything remotely like their rights.”

                                                              According to Neumann, unlike the one-state solution, the means to realizing two states are within our grasp: the removal of the half a million Jewish settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territories. Then, he writes, “a two-state solution will, indeed, leave Palestinians with a sovereign state, because that’s what a two-state solution means. It doesn’t mean one state and another non-state, and no Palestinian proponent of a two-state solution will settle for less than sovereignty.”

                                                              There is something surprisingly naive about his arguing that, just because something is called a two-state solution, it will necessarily result in two sovereign states. What are the mimimum requirements for a state to qualify as sovereign, and who decides?

                                                              True, the various two-state solutions proposed by Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and George Bush, and supported by most of the international community, would fail according to Neumann’s criterion because they were not premised on the removal of all the settlers.

                                                              But an alternative two-state solution requiring Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders might still not concede, for example, a Palestinian army -- equipped and trained by Iran? -- to guard the borders of the West Bank and Gaza. Would that count? And how likely does Neumann think it that Israel and the US would grant that kind of sovereignty to a Palestine state?

                                                              Correctly, Neumann repeatedly reminds us that those with power are the ones who dictate solutions. In which case we can be sure that when the time is right Israel and its sponsor, the United States, will impose their own version of the two-state solution and that it will be far from the genuine article Neumann advocates.

                                                              No matter. Let us leave aside that particular somersault of logic for the moment and return to the main argument: that the creation of two states is inherently more achievable and practical than the establishment of a single state.

                                                              Strangely, however, from all the available evidence, this is not how it looks to Israel’s current leaders.

                                                              Prime minister Ehud Olmert, for example, has expressed in several speeches the fear that, should the Palestinian population under Israeli rule -- both in the occupied territories and inside Israel proper -- reach the point where it outnumbers the Jewish population, as demographers expect in the next few years, Israel will be compared to apartheid South Africa. In his words, Israel is facing an imminent and powerful “struggle for one-man-one-vote” along the lines of the anti-apartheid movement.

                                                              According to Olmert, without evasive action, political logic is drifting inexorably towards the creation of one state in Israel and Palestine. This was his sentiment as he addressed delegates to the recent Herzliya conference:

                                                              “Once we were afraid of the possibility that the reality in Israel would force a bi-national state on us. In 1948, the obstinate policy of all the Arabs, the anti-Israel fanaticism and our strength and the leadership of David Ben-Gurion saved us from such a state. For 60 years, we fought with unparalleled courage in order to avoid living in a reality of bi-nationalism, and in order to ensure that Israel exists as a Jewish and democratic state with a solid Jewish majority. We must act to this end and understand that such a [bi-national] reality is being created, and in a very short while it will be beyond our control.”

                                                              Olmert’s energies are therefore consumed with finding an alternative political program that can be sold to the rest of the world. That is the reason he, and Sharon before him, began talking about a Palestinian state. Strangely, however, neither took up the offer of the ideal two-state solution -- the kind Neumann wants -- made in 2002. Then Saudi Arabia and the rest Arab world promised Israel peace in return for its withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. They repeated their offer last year. Israel has steadfastly ignored them.

                                                              Instead an alternative version of two states -- the bogus two-state solution -- has become the default position of Israeli politics. It requires only that Israel and the Palestinians appear to divide the land, while in truth the occupation continues and Jewish sovereignty over all of historic Palestine is not only maintained but rubber-stamped by the international community. In other words, the Gazafication of the West Bank.

                                                              When Olmert warns that without two states “Israel is finished”, he is thinking primarily about how to stop the emergence of a single state. So, if Neumann is to be believed, Olmert is a dreamer, because he fears that a one-state solution is not only achievable but dangerously close at hand. Sharon, it seems, suffered from the same delusion, given that demography was the main impulse for his disengaging from Gaza.

                                                              Or maybe both of them understood rather better than Neumann what is meant by a Jewish state, and what political conditions are incompatible with it.

                                                              In fact, the division of the land demanded by Neumann, however equitable, would be the very moment when the struggle for Israel to remain a Jewish state would enter its most critical and difficult phase. Which is precisely why Israel has blocked any meaningful division of the land so far and will continue to do so.

                                                              In the unimaginable event that the Israel were to divide the land, a Jewish state would not be able to live with the consequences of such a division for long. Eventually, the maintenance of an ethnic Israeli state would (and will) prove unsustainable: environmentally, demographically and ultimately physically. Division of the land simply “fast-forwards” the self-destructiveness inherent in a Jewish state.

                                                              Let us examine just a few of the consequences for the Jewish state of a genuine two-state solution.

                                                              First, Israel inside its recognized, shrunken borders would face an immediate and very serious water shortage. That is because, in returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, Israel would lose control of the large mountain aquifers that currently supply most of its water, not only to Israel proper but also to the Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied territories. Israel would no longer be able to steal the water, but would be expected to negotiate for it on the open market.

                                                              Given the politics of water in the Middle East, that would be no simple matter. However impoverished the new sovereign Palestinian state was, it would lose all legitimacy in the eyes of its own population were it to sell more than a trickle of water to the Israelis.

                                                              We can understand why by examining the current water situation. At the moment Israel drains off almost all of the water provided by the rivers and aquifers inside Israel and in the occupied territories for use by its own population, allowing each Palestinian far less than the minimum amount he or she requires each day, according to the World Health Organization.

                                                              In a stark warning this month, Israel’s Water Authority reported that overdrilling has polluted with sea water most of the supply from the coastal aquifer, that is the main fresh water source inside Israel’s recognized borders.

                                                              Were Palestinians to be allowed a proper water ration from their own mountain aquifer, as well as to build a modern economy, there would not be enough left over to satisfy Israel’s first-world thirst. And that is before we consider the extra demand on water resources from all those Palestinians who choose to realize their right to return, not to their homes in Israel, but to the new sovereign Palestinian state.

                                                              In addition, for reasons that we will come to, the sovereign Jewish state would have every reason to continue its Judaization policies, trying to attact as many Jews from the rest of the world as possible, thereby further straining the region’s water resources.

                                                              The environmental unsustainability of both states seeking to absorb large populations would inevitably result in a regional water crisis. In addition, should Israeli Jews, sensing water shortages, start to leave in significant numbers, Israel would have an even more pressing reason to locate water, by fair means or foul.

                                                              It can be expected that in a short time Israel, with the fourth most powerful army in the world, would seek to manufacture reasons for war against its weaker neighbors, particularly the Palestinians but possibly also Lebanon, in a bid to steal their water.

                                                              Water shortages would, of course, be a problem facing a single state too. But, at least in one state there would be mechanisms in place to reduce such tensions, to manage population growth and economic development, and to divide water resources equitably.

                                                              Second, with the labour-intensive occupation at an end, much of the Jewish state’s huge citizen army would become surplus to defense requirements. In addition to the massive social and economic disruptions, the dismantling of the country’s military complex would fundamentally change Israel’s role in the region, damage its relationship with the only global superpower and sever its financial ties to Diaspora Jews.

                                                              Israel would no longer have the laboratories of the occupied territories for testing its military hardware, its battlefield strategies and its booming surveillance and crowd control industries. If Israel chose to fight the Palestinians, it would have to do so in a proper war, even if one between very unequal sides. Doubtless the Palestinians, like Hizbullah, would quickly find regional sponsors to arm and train their army or militias.

                                                              The experience and reputation Israel has acquired -- at least among the US military -- in running an occupation and devising new and supposedly sophisticated ways to control the “Arab mind” would rapidly be lost, and with it Israel’s usefulness to the US in managing its own long-term occupation of Iraq.

                                                              Also, Israel’s vital strategic alliance with the US in dividing the Arab world, over the issue of the occupation and by signing peace treaties with some states and living in a state of permanent war with others, would start to unravel.

                                                              With the waning of Israel’s special relationship with Washington and the influence of its lobby groups, as well as the loss of billions of dollars in annual subsidies, the Jewish Diaspora would begin to lose interest in Israel. Its money and power ebbing away, Israel might eventually slip into Middle Eastern anonymity, another Jordan. In such circumstances it would rapidly see a large exodus of privileged Ashkenazi Jews, many of whom hold second passports.

                                                              Third, the Jewish state would not be as Jewish as some might think: currently one in five Israelis is not Jewish but Palestinian. Although to realize Neumann’s two-state vision all the Jewish settlers would probably need to leave the occupied territories and return to Israel, what would be done with all those Palestinians with Israeli citizenship?

                                                              These Palestinians have been citizens of Israel for six decades and live legally on land that has belonged to their families for many generations. They are also growing in number at a rate faster than the Jewish population, the reason they are popularly referred to in Israel as a “demographic timebomb”.

                                                              Were these 1.3 million citizens to be removed from Israel by force under Neumann’s two-state arrangement, it would be a violation of international law by a democratic state on a scale unprecedented in the modern era, and an act of ethnic cleansing even larger than the 1948 war that established Israel. The question would be: why even bother advocating two states if it has to be achieved on such appalling terms?

                                                              Assuming instead that the new Jewish state is supposed to maintain, as Israel currently does, the pretence of being democratic, these citizens would be entitled to continue living on their land and exercising their rights. Inside a Jewish state that had offically ended its conflict with the Palestinians, demands would grow from Palestinian citizens for equal rights and an end to their second-class status.

                                                              Most importantly, they would insist on two rights that challenge the very basis of a Jewish state. They would expect the right, backed by international law, to be able to marry Palestinians from outside Israel and bring them to live with them. And they would want a Right of Return for their exiled relatives on a similar basis to the Law of Return for Jews.

                                                              Israel’s Jewishness would be at stake, even more so than it is today from its Palestinian minority. It can be assumed that Israel’s leaders would react with great ferocity to protect the state’s Jewishness. Eventually Israel’s democratic pretensions would have to be jettisoned and the full-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens implemented.

                                                              Still, do these arguments against the “practicality” of Neumann’s genuine two-state arrangement win the day for the one-state solution? Would Israel’s leaders not put up an equally vicious fight to protect their ethnic privileges by preventing, as they are doing now, the emergence of a single state?

                                                              Yes, they would and they will. But that misses my point. As long as Israel is an ethnic state, it will be forced to deepen the occupation and intensify its ethnic cleansing policies to prevent the emergence of genuine Palestinian political influence -- for the reasons I cite above and for many others I don’t. In truth, both a one-state and a genuine two-state arrangement are impossible given Israel’s determination to remain a Jewish state.

                                                              The obstacle to a solution, then, is not about dividing the land but about Zionism itself, the ideology of ethnic supremacism that is the current orthodoxy in Israel. As long as Israel is a Zionist state, its leaders will allow neither one state nor two real states.

                                                              The solution, therefore, reduces to the question of how to defeat Zionism. It just so happens that the best way this can be achieved is by confronting the illusions of the two-state dreamers and explaining why Israel is in permanent bad faith about seeking peace.

                                                              In other words, if we stopped distracting ourselves with the Holy Grail of the two-state solution, we might channel our energies into something more useful: discrediting Israel as a Jewish state, and the ideology of Zionism that upholds it. Eventually the respectable façade of Zionism might crumble.

                                                              Without Zionism, the obstacle to creating either one or two states will finally be removed. And if that is the case, then why not also campaign for the solution that will best bring justice to both Israelis and Palestinians?

                                                              Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His new book, “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” is published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net

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                                                                One State or Two? The Debate Over Israel and Palestine

                                                                English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                By KATHY CHRISTISON

                                                                Editors’ note: On Monday we ran Michael Neumann’s argument against the so-called “one state” solution for Israel and Palestine. This is the first of three replies. AC / JSC.

                                                                Michael Neumann makes a strong case in the last issue of CounterPunch against a single Palestinian-Jewish state as the solution for the conflict in Israel-Palestine. But there are critical flaws in his argument.

                                                                Neumann correctly condemns the two-state solution as unjust because it “cements Zionist usurpation of Palestinian land,” perpetuating the existence of Israel as “a state based on racial supremacy.” But he finds the one-state alternative to this racist two-state solution to be simply impractical. And why? Essentially because Israelis – these same Israelis whom he accuses of racism, land theft, and dispossession of the Palestinians – couldn’t conceivably accept it. The notion, he says, “that Israel would concede a single state is laughable. … There is no chance at all they will accept a single state that gives the Palestinians anything remotely like their rights.”

                                                                [More:]

                                                                Apparently, this is the bottom line: if Israel opposes the idea of a single state, then a single state simply must be an impossible dream, not worth mentioning and certainly not worth struggling for. The case Neumann puts forth is ultimately an argument for the notion that might makes right. Israel has the power to impose its will and the power to avoid unpleasant concessions, and so one state in which Israel would “give up the reason for its existence” is unthinkable.

                                                                I find it sometimes difficult to navigate Neumann’s logic. He asserts that the two-state solution “is practicable” because “many Israelis can accept it”. That old argument again: that if it’s okay with Israel, it should be okay for the Palestinians. Furthermore, he says, a two-state solution is “practicable” because the Jewish settlers in the West Bank will leave voluntarily if Israel withdraws and the territory is given over to a sovereign Palestinian state. Neumann rightly makes it clear that anything less than a real, fully sovereign Palestinian state would be unacceptable. But then he brings his own dream of two states crashing down by asserting that Israel will not “by any means … agree to a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state”. Exactly. This is precisely why advocates of one state are pushing for this alternative.

                                                                Neumann, on the contrary, sees this Israeli intransigence as a major reason for disdaining a one-state solution, the idea being that if Israel will not agree to give the Palestinians rights in a separate state, it will certainly not relinquish its own status as an exclusivist Jewish state by allowing Palestinians equal rights with Jews in a single state. This is, indeed, a persuasive argument – the best in Neumann’s arsenal – but it does not take account of possibilities that are themselves practicable in the eyes of many serious analysts. Few foresaw, for instance, that white South Africans would willingly give up their racial supremacy, end the apartheid system, and turn over their fate to a huge majority of blacks. Nor did many foresee the breakup of the Soviet Union.

                                                                There are other inconsistencies. For instance, in arguing that a two-state solution is practicable because Jewish settlers would readily leave any territory from which Israel withdrew, Neumann uses as an example the Gaza settlers, who he says left “in a large hurry” when Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005. Yet a few paragraphs later, when he is trying to demonstrate how difficult it would be to induce Israel to give up its Jewishness, he makes the evacuation of settlers from Gaza seem a much more serious problem: in this instance, he muses on how difficult it would be for Israel to relinquish its very raison d’etre, when merely getting the settlements out of Gaza “took thousands of lives and many years.” Neumann is more correct in his second formulation about the Gaza settlers: they definitely did not leave in a large hurry but had to be removed bodily and with great trouble.

                                                                Neither would most of the West Bank settlers be easy to remove, even if Israel relinquished control, as Neumann believes. Indeed, the fate of the approximately 450,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is by far the most intractable problem facing any peacemaker. The huge numbers of religious zealots, who have moved to West Bank settlements because they believe they are fulfilling a divine mandate, would not under any circumstances “leave in a large hurry,” any more than the less zealous Gaza settlers did.

                                                                But the monumental problem of the settlers confronts the framers of a true two-state solution every bit as much as it does those who envision a single state. (The reference to a true two-state solution means, as Neumann himself makes clear, establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, not a “non-state” truncated by the continued presence of large blocs of Israeli settlements.) Neumann dismisses any suggestion that the settlers and their settlements could be incorporated into a single state, and does not appear to recognize that leaving the settlers in place would equally undermine a two-state solution.

                                                                Neumann frequently overstates the difficulties involved in achieving a single state and appears to believe that anything short of his notion of absolute justice is actually unjust and unacceptable. A “just solution,” he contends, would have to repair the injustice done to Palestinians by Zionism. Fair enough, but he seems to go to unnecessary lengths by requiring as a condition of true justice that Jews who came to Palestine as Zionists, along with their descendants, would have to leave. True justice would also require that Israeli Jews relinquish all homes and property that once belonged to Palestinians.

                                                                One-state advocates do not go this far – which, in fact, is the particular beauty of the one-state solution as it is being advocated: there might be, and indeed should be, a truth and reconciliation commission, as in South Africa, to rectify the worst injustices, but advocates of a single state are not vindictive or bloodthirsty and do not demand that injustice be inflicted on the Jews of Israel. The effort to rectify injustices committed against Palestinians – including repatriating those who wish to return, paying compensation for property destroyed or expropriated, and arranging for resettlement and compensation for those refugees who choose not to return to Palestine – would be a massive task, necessitating careful attention to millions of individual cases, as well as land redistribution and huge compensatory payments.

                                                                A single state would not, as Neumann points out, be the democratic paradise that its framers would like – certainly not immediately, and perhaps never. “Notoriously,” he says, “the democratic process does not ensure that the will of the majority really prevails. Dominant economic groups know how to confuse, divide and conquer,” and the dominant economic group now and into the future is Jewish. It is impossible to argue with this premise, but if Neumann thinks this reality would be different in any two-state situation, he is whistling in the dark. Even in a decent, fully sovereign Palestinian state, the economy would be heavily dependent on Israel: the state would be almost totally landlocked (except for Gaza, whose coastline would be under Israeli scrutiny, if not control), it would be surrounded on three sides by Israel, and it would be dependent on open borders for, among many other things, imports and exports, free movement between the West Bank and Gaza, and labor opportunities for Palestinians inside Israel. Israel will dominate, and could easily strangle, the economy of a separate Palestinian state. In a single state, Palestinians would at least have some say in regulating the state’s economy, its commerce and investment, its international relations. Not perfect, but more nearly so than any foreseeable two-state scenario.

                                                                There are other problems with Neumann’s argument. He dismisses totally the possibility that two antagonistic people could ever live together in anything like harmony, and ignores any comparison with countries where this has worked with some measure of success, such as South Africa and Northern Ireland, and uses flawed models to demonstrate that the one-state idea is not workable. He exhibits some misunderstanding of Palestinian politics and political sentiment when he contends that Fatah and Hamas together represent “roughly 100 per cent” of Palestinians in the occupied territories. In fact, there is a large and growing independent trend among Palestinians dissatisfied with both factions and eager for political alternatives.

                                                                Probably most disturbing is Neumann’s dismissal of any concept of justice as a reason for attempting to find an alternative solution. He mocks one-state advocates for being too visionary about the justice that a single state would embody. The one-state solution, by his lights, is an impossible dream, and not too well thought out or just in any case. Likewise, despite his greater advocacy of two states and his belief that this would give the Palestinians a “genuinely Palestinian state,” he makes it clear that this solution is not really likely either and to his mind is also unjust because it leaves Zionism untouched.

                                                                Neumann is no Zionist and, unlike those soft Zionists who want an end to the Israeli occupation but oppose the one-state solution, seems to have no particular desire to preserve Israel’s existence as an exclusivist Jewish state. He is totally condemnatory, in fact, of Zionism’s unjust, racist nature. Neither, apparently, is he particularly sold on the notion that Palestinians and the advocates of one state are inherently any more moral or just: he raises the suggestion that one-staters might actually intend a bloodbath against Jews and asserts that these advocates treat any Palestinians still working for two states as “sellouts, collaborators, or cowards.”This is quite untrue. The Fatah leadership of the Palestinian Authority is frequently labeled collaborationist, but this is not because it supports two states, but because it cooperates with Israel in economically strangling Gaza, scuttling Hamas despite its victory in democratic elections, failing to oppose Israel’s settlement program, and so on.

                                                                Neumann’s dismissal of any notion that Israelis will ever be able to do justice to the Palestinians, as whites in South Africa finally did to blacks, is unsettling. He obviously gives no credence to the substantial upsurge in probing discussion of the nature of Zionism and its uncertain future among Israelis and diaspora Jews. He apparently sees no redeeming qualities in Israelis, no possibility of Israelis submitting to a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation process, no possibility even that over the longer term Zionism will implode from the sheer weight of its injustice and the pressure of demographic realities.

                                                                His pessimism is understandable. It is obviously much more difficult to imagine militant religious zealots among Israeli settlers listening to moral appeals about the injustice they have inflicted on Palestinians than it ever was to imagine white racists in South Africa giving up their sinecures and their power. But it is just as difficult to imagine those religious zealots conceding anything to a separate Palestinian state. Which makes the two-state solution just as impracticable and unlikely as one state. And since we are all advocating the near impossible, why not advocate the more just impossibility?

                                                                If we discard justice, one wonders where we are left with respect to other critical issues. What use, for instance, is there in ending Israel’s occupation at all? If we care only about practicality and not justice, there is no particular reason for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. Bush likes the occupation; all the Democratic presidential candidates and even more so the Republican candidates like it; Israel, of course, loves it. The same question applies to other issues. What except the promise of justice fueled past struggles against oppressive but seemingly immovable systems? Justice may ultimately be the only, or at least the primary, reason for pursuing any political cause. For this reason, discussion and advocacy of all alternative solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must continue.

                                                                Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 35 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. She can be reached at kathy.bill.christison@comcast.net.
                                                                Tomorrow: Jonathan Cook addresses these themes.


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                                                                  The One-State Illusion: More is Less: The Debate over Israel and Pa;estome

                                                                  English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                  By MICHAEL NEUMANN

                                                                  The one-state solution is an attractive ideal mistaken for a live option.

                                                                  Most of the arguments for the one-state solution are not arguments about whether it's possible. They are argumentsabout whether the solution is just, and the two-state solution unjust.

                                                                  [More:]

                                                                  These arguments establish the obvious. Of course the two-state solution is unjust. It cements Zionist usurpation of Palestinian land. It lets the perpetrators of this usurpation go scott-free, without so much as compensation for their victims. Worst of all, it perpetuates a state based on racial supremacy. Israel's notion of Jewishness, the determinant of who should hold sovereignty, is ultimately a biological. It is based on kinship. In practice, this kinship does not, as in other countries, depend on tracing family lines back to residence in the sovereign state, but simply on closeness to anyone considered 'Jewish' in the racial sense of the term.

                                                                  What then of the one-state solution? I hear it's very just indeed. But what is it, exactly? Apparently it speaks of a society in which Jews and Palestinians enjoy the same democratic rights. One Jew, one vote, one Palestinian, one vote.

                                                                  In at least one respect, this sort of one-state solution is less just than the two-state solution. That's because it leaves 'Jewish property', including the settlements, in place. Some advocates of the one-state solution are explicit about this, though they never seem to mention it when criticizing the two-state solution. Others don't speak of the settlements, or make vague references to adjudication - not a promising way to expel committed fanatics.

                                                                  A just one-state solution has not been proposed by anyone engaged in the one-state-two-state debate. I'm not sure anyone in recent memory, including Hamas, has proposed it. A just solution would essentially repair the injustice done by Zionism. This would require far more than a democratic 'binational' state in Palestine. It would require that the Jews who came as Zionists to Palestine leave, and with them their descendants. (This is not ethnic cleansing; the original Jewish population and their descendants would remain.) Beyond this, it would require that massive compensation, in the billions, be paid to Palestinians who lost their homes and livelihoods. This compensation would have to remedy not only dispossession, primarily a crime against property, but all the deaths and agonies the Palestinians have suffered because of the Zionist project. There would have to be criminal proceedings against thousands of Israelis who have committed human rights violations, and convictions would have to involve further compensatory payments. Israeli firms that profited from and/or supported the occupation would be subject to yet further punitive and compensatory damages.

                                                                  Such a state would right, as much as possible, the wrongs of the Israel/Palestine conflict, but that of course doesn't mean the one state would be a just state. If one-state proponents are really so big on justice, why does it sound as if all we need is a single Palestinian state and justice will be done? Shouldn't we be hearing about justice for poor and the marginalized in this wonderful new future? Does resolving an ethnic conflict somehow ensure economic and social justice for all?

                                                                  Is this too much justice? Either one-staters are as serious about justice as they claim to be, or they're not. If they are, then they should be addressing all types of injustice in Palestine. But if they are willing to sacrifice justice to practicality, then it's time to consider what's practicable and what isn't.

                                                                  The two-state solution, despite some nonsense about the settlers being 'too deeply entrenched', is practicable. If Israel withdraws and the Palestinians get a sovereign state, the settlers will leave in a large hurry, just like the settlers who swore they would die before quitting Gaza. And a two-state solution will indeed leave Palestinians with a sovereign state, because that's what a two-state solution means. It doesn't mean one state and another non-state, and no Palestinian proponent of a two-state solution will settle for less than sovereignty.

                                                                  This is not by any means to say that Israel will agree to a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state. But that's just why the idea that Israel would concede a single state is laughable. It is one thing to vacate the settlements. They represent and benefit a smallish minority of Israelis. For many more Israelis, they are a great big headache. The occupation is expensive; it earns Israel near-universal opprobrium; it requires semi-open borders which constrain security arrangements; above all it requires Israel to spread its forces all over the landscape rather than concentrate them for efficient military operations.

                                                                  The two-state solution is practicable because many Israelis can accept it. A two-state solution doesn't challenge what Israel is all about; indeed that is the moralistic objection to two states. Israel is a Jewish state; it is committed to that. One-staters apparently believe that Israel will give up its reason for existence and at the same time expose itself not to the risk but to the certainty of being 'swamped by Arabs'. This in turn would indicate a willingness to accede to anything an 'Arab' majority might enact, including a full right of return and dispossession of Zionist usurpers. Can anyone seriously imagine this? If it took thousands and lives and many years to get the settlements out of Gaza - not Israel, which is still sovereign there, but only the settlements. How long is it supposed to take before Israel gives up its existence, its rationale, and the security of all its Jewish citizens?

                                                                  Well, never mind the time constraints. Maybe two-staters are too soft, too eager to see that ordinary Palestinians in the occupied territories are freed from their agonies. Suppose, in the leisurely, bloody, starvation-ridden fullness of time, a single state gets implemented. Then we come to the oddest illusion of all: that if you put two antagonistic peoples together in one state, their antagonism will vanish. Why? What issues are resolved? Will Palestinians and Jews cease to compete for state power? Will Israeli Jews, because they have lost their Jewish state, feel disposed to hand over their homes and businesses as well? Does binationalism turn men into angels?

                                                                  Recent history suggests otherwise. The binational state that bears closest comparison with Palestine is Lebanon,where many Palestinians now live. Even subtracting the toll exacted by Israeli invasions, the carnage there has exceeded by orders of magnitude that of the entire Israel/Palestine conflict. The most encouraging examples of binational states, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, are now dissolved or on the brink of dissolution. Then there is, or was, Yugoslavia. Is there such warmth between Israeli Jews and Palestinians that we may expect a better outcome there than in these countries?

                                                                  The fact is that a single state guarantees nothing. Notoriously, the democratic process does not ensure that the will of the majority really prevails. Dominant economic groups know how to confuse, divide and conquer. They may well, through a mixture or bribery and manipulation, remain dominant - why, in this day and age, does this need saying? In Palestine, the dominant economic group is composed of Israeli Jews. They may well push for further expansion of the settlements. This expansion may well be reinforced by a repressive binational state apparatus with a permanent presence all over the occupied territories - where, in the name of justice, no square inch will be retained for exclusively Palestinian use. Yes, there will be 'Arabs' in Haifa and Tel Aviv, just as there are today. There will also be Jews in Nablus, Jenin, and Ramallah, as well as everywhere else they can buy land from distressed Palestinians. This does not necessarily make for a love-feast.

                                                                  It is no good promising that all the nice stuff will come later. How? Presumably a single state is supposed to bring justice, not after mass slaughter, but after elections. Really? Will millions of Jews just leave if a majority says they should? Will they agree to crushing compensatory payments? Will they also agree to be sued or imprisoned for exercising what they consider their rights to self-determination and even survival? If not, if the one-staters actually are thinking of a bloodbath, they should let us know, and tell us why they think a bloodbath will really bring justice to the Palestinians.

                                                                  Against all this, one-staters keep repeating that a single state is just. If appeals to justice were enough to get the Israelis to abolish Israel, there would never have been a problem in the first place. Perhaps that is why the most recent expression of one-state ideology, The One State declaration, does not answer a single one of the hard questions the one state solution raises.

                                                                  For example, most Palestinian property in Israel is now occupied by Jews, who firmly believe they have a right to their homes. Will these people be expelled, or not? Another example: will the settlers be kicked out of their settlements? Will they be disarmed? by what army? Will Zionists be expelled from the armed forces? how? Not a whisper of an answer is to be found. Instead we get generalities.(Seehttp://www.counterpunch.org/onestate.html) Perhaps this is why neither Fatah nor Hamas, who together must represent roughly 100% of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, have no time for binationalism.

                                                                  That dispossessed Palestinians have a right of return is beyond obvious. It it equally obvious that we should all love one another and gather all the poor and oppressed into our bosom. What is less obvious is what should be done about it.

                                                                  It is said that the two-state solution renounces the right of return. This confuses the solution itself with the words that may accompany it. Indeed any agreement establishing a Palestinian state might involve the Palestinian representatives asserting such a renunciation. Both morals and historical realities put any such assertions in proper perspective.

                                                                  Morally, the right of return is not some contractual entitlement, like a royalty agreement, that you can just renounce, any more than you can just renounce your right to free speech. If you have it, it stays with you. Besides, the Palestinian leaders cannot on their own initiative annul the rights of the Palestinians themselves. Most important, in the real world, verbal renunciations don't stand up to changing power relations.

                                                                  For now, Israel will not honor a Palestinian right of return; to 'demand' it is the emptiest of gestures. That right will be honored only if the Palestinians become powerful enough to enforce it. If or when that happens, that some leaders verbally renounced the right will count for nothing. The Palestinians will be free to say: this was never our will; this was a renunciation obtained under duress; those who renounced it should not have done so. Or, more simply: we may have renounced that right, but now things our different. Right or no right, we want to go back to our homes, and we will apply pressure to return. History is full of paper renunciations that, when times change, lose every iota of their force.

                                                                  The longing for a single state is all too understandable, but the single-state ideology is not. It places a reliance on good will and moral argument that to me is literally incomprehensible. Perhaps this veneer of optimism covers an unwillingness to recognize that violence, justified or not, has brought results - the evacuation of the Gaza settlements and Israel's willingness to contemplate more evacuations. Moral appeals, on the other hand, have brought nothing whatever.

                                                                  Thousands of Palestinians suffered, sacrificed, even died for a sovereign Palestinian state. The two state solution offers that state on terms the Israelis might conceivably be induced to accept. There is no chance at all they willaccept a single state that gives the Palestinians anything remotely like their rights.

                                                                  In the name of realism, one-state ideologues abandon the goal of Palestinian sovereignty to pursue an illusion: that the Israels will give all of Palestine to the Palestinians, yet inhabit all of Palestine as well. If others fight for a smaller but genuinely Palestinian state, they are called sellouts, collaborators, or cowards. Should this have any effect, it will be to fragment the Palestinians and get them not more, but less.

                                                                  Editors’ note: Neumann’s article appeared in our CounterPunch newletter earlier this year, and provoked lively reactions from our readers. Starting with Kathy Christison’s Tuesday, we will be featuring three responses through next Thursday. AC / JSC .

                                                                  Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann's views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What's Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche has just been republished by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, "What is Anti-Semitism", to CounterPunch's book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. His latest book is The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca

                                                                  Counterpunch

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                                                                    Good thing the "surge" is working so well: Archbishop found dead in Iraq

                                                                    English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                    Paulos Faraj Rahho was taken as he left a prayer meeting in Mosul [AFP/Catholic Press Photo]

                                                                    A Chaldean Catholic archbishop who was abducted in Iraq last month has been found dead, according to church officials in Rome and Baghdad.

                                                                    It was not clear if Paulos Faraj Rahho died as a result of his poor health or if he was killed, they said on Thursday.

                                                                    RELATED:
                                                                    Death toll in Iraq clashes rises
                                                                    Iraq hit by further violence
                                                                    Five US soldiers killed in Iraq
                                                                    Bomber kills Iraqi tribal sheikh

                                                                    [More:]


                                                                    Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, said Rahho's captors had told the church in Mosul that he was very ill and later on Wednesday said he was dead.

                                                                    Rahho was taken by as he left a prayer service in Mosul on February 29. Three of his companions were killed during the abduction.

                                                                    "This morning they called us to tell us that they had buried him. Some of our young people followed the indications that the kidnappers had given to reach the site," the Catholic news agency SIR quoted Warduni as saying.

                                                                    "They dug there and found the bishop lifeless. We still don't know if he died of causes linked to his precarious health or if he was killed. The kidnappers only told us that he was dead."

                                                                    Local media reported that his body was found decapitated in the Intisaar district east of Mosul.

                                                                    The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI was immediately informed and was "profoundly moved and saddened" by the news.

                                                                    Chaldeans belong to a branch of the Roman Catholic Church and form the biggest Christian community in Iraq.

                                                                    Last year's International Religious Freedom Report from the US state department found that the Chaldean Catholic population comprised less than one million people in the predominantly Muslim country.

                                                                    'Troubled country'

                                                                    Reverend Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the Vatican, issued a statement after news of the death, saying: "Unfortunately the most absurd and unjustified violence continues to strike the Iraqi people and particularly the small Christian community.

                                                                    "Unfortunately the most absurd and unjustified violence continues to strike the Iraqi people and particularly the small Christian community" -- Reverend Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman

                                                                    "Our hope is that this tragic event will underscore and reinforce everybody's commitment, and particularly that of the international community, to bring peace to this troubled country."

                                                                    Churches, priests and businesses owned by Christians have been attacked repeatedly since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and many have fled the country.

                                                                    The US military regards Mosul as a stronghold for al-Qaeda in Iraq and is engaged in a campaign with Iraqi forces to root out fighters from that area.

                                                                    In an interview with AsiaNews, a Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency, last November, Rahho said that the situation in Mosul was not improving and "religious persecution is more noticeable than elsewhere because the city is split along religious lines".

                                                                    "Everyone is suffering from this war irrespective of religious affiliation, but in Mosul Christians face starker choices," he said.

                                                                    Continued violence

                                                                    In a separate development, up to 18 people were killed and at least 49 others wounded in the Bab al-Sharji area of central Baghdad by a suicide car bomb, police said.

                                                                    Iraqi police and soldiers were searching the area for another possible attacker who accompanied the bomber.

                                                                    Armed men also shot dead Qassim Abdul-Hussein of al-Muwatin newspaper in Baghadad, according to the Iraqi journalists' syndicate.

                                                                    North of the capital, near the city of Baiji, two people were killed and another two injured when armed men attacked a patrol of US-back neighbourhood security forces, police said.

                                                                    An Iraqi soldier was killed by a suicide car blast near in an attack on a security checkpoint near the city of Kirkuk, injuring 10 others.

                                                                    Overnight, US soldiers and al-Mahdi Army fighters exchanged rocket and mortar fire in the southern city of Kut.

                                                                    In response, a senior aid to Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of al-Mahdi Army, on Thursday ordered the fighters to observe a seven-month old ceasfire.

                                                                    Luwaa Sumaisem, al-Sadr's aide, said: "We call on them to calm down and to cease fire and to stop shedding the blood of Iraqis. This is the opinion of Sadr, whether it is in Kut or any other Iraqi provinces."
                                                                    Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

                                                                    699 words posted in American Empire, Iraq warLeave a comment

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                                                                      Gush Shalom: West Bank assassinations, “grave provocation” aimed to derail ceasefire; Zionists promise to continue murdering Palestinians

                                                                      English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                      The Israeli Peace Bloc, (Gush Shalom), described the assassination of four Palestinians in Bethlehem and Tulkarem, on Wednesday as a grave provocation and accused the Israeli government of deliberately obstructing cease-fire efforts.

                                                                      “The government does not want a ceasefire, but a new flare up” a press release by Gush Shalom stated.

                                                                      The statement also said that the army generals and intelligence officers who send the assassination units are willingly and knowingly aim at stopping chances for calm.

                                                                      “Those who sent the assassins to carry out “liquidations” today, in Tulkarm and Bethlehem, knew what they were doing – a grave act of provocation which might blow up the serious chance which had opened up, to reach ceasefire and calm.”

                                                                      As Bethlehem mourned the four men, the Israeli Defense minister, Ehod Barak, stated that the army will continue to hunt down Palestinian resistance fighters in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

                                                                      Commenting on Wednesday's Bethlehem attack, Barak told Israeli reporters "Yesterday in Bethlehem we demonstrated once again that the state of Israel will continue to pursue and strike all killers with Jewish blood on their hands,"

                                                                      Barak's comments were made during a ceremony for the Israeli army in the occupied city of Jerusalem today.

                                                                      [More:]

                                                                      The press release went on stating that “This is a wanton, completely irresponsible act, which might return the inhabitants of Sderot, Ashkelon and Gaza back into the hell from which they momentarily escaped.”

                                                                      Hamas has proposed a truce with Israel and for some days stopped the home-made shells attacks against Israeli targets adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

                                                                      The home-made shells attacks were resumed immediatly after the assassination of five Palestinians in Bethlehem and Tulkarem on Wednesday. The armed wing of the Islamic fired at elast 15 home-made shells at Sderot on Wednesday, no injuries, but damage was reported.

                                                                      The press release also slammed the demolition of the house of Ala Abu Dheim, the Palestinian who killed 8 Israelis in Jerusalem attack last week, saying that the government is inciting against and punishing the family who did not do the killing.

                                                                      “The incitement in the Knesset, even by the Speaker, to the vengeful destruction of a family house for a crime of which none of the people living there is guilty […] The rabbis who openly and insolently encourage their disciples to commit indiscriminate killings.”

                                                                      The group also said that approving the construction of more settlement in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is “spitting in the face of the entire world.”

                                                                      The Gush Shalom is one of the active groups in the West Bank and have been involved in direct actions against the Isreli occupation and the construction of the wall along with Palestinians in several West Bank areas.

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                                                                        Al-Quds Brigades unleash barrage of projectiles from Gaza in response to West Bank killings by Zionist "crimes of the occupation"

                                                                        English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                        Mourners in Bethlehem

                                                                        GAZA "There will be no calm in the light of the continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," said the spokesperson of Islamic Jihad's military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, Abu Ahmad, on Thursday.

                                                                        "The Israeli occupation wants calm in Gaza and opened fire on the resistance in the West Bank," he added.

                                                                        [More:]

                                                                        Three Islamic Jihad fighters were among four Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in a shooting attack in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Wednesday evening. Another Islamic Jihad activist was killed by Israeli forces near Tulkarem.

                                                                        The spokesperson, Abu Ahmad said that the Al-Quds Brigades will respond to the "crimes of the occupation," in the near future.

                                                                        Abu Ahmed called on the Palestinian leadership to withdraw from peace negotiations with Israel, and 'stand by the Palestinian people.'

                                                                        Since Wednesday night, the Al-Quds Brigades launched 18 homemade projectiles at Israeli positions and towns bordering the Gaza Strip. "No voice rises above the voice of rockets and resistance," Abu Ahmad said.

                                                                        The Brigades launched an additional 25 projectiles and mortars at the towns of Sderot, Zikim, and Nahal Oz.

                                                                        The Brigades claimed to have fired three mortar shells at the Kerem Shalom crossing point.

                                                                        The Al-Quds Brigades also claimed responsibility on Thursday morning for launching three projectiles at the city of Ashkelon.

                                                                        The brigades said that all of these attacks were in response to the assassination of five Palestinian fighters in the West Bank on Wednesday.

                                                                        Egyptian-brokered backchannel negotiations appeared to be on the verge of reaching a formal ceasefire on Wednesday afternoon, with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh publicly offering Israel a "bilateral, simultaneous and comprehensive" truce.

                                                                        The attacks in Bethlehem and Tulkarem appeared to shatter hopes for an end to hostilities.

                                                                        Maan News


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                                                                          50,000 Palestinians mourn four slain fighters in Bethlehem

                                                                          English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                          Mourners carry the body of Islamic Jihad leader
                                                                          Mohammad Shahada in front of the Nativity Church


                                                                          Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of four fighters during their funeral in the West Bank city of Bethlehem March 13, 2008. Undercover Israeli commandos drove into Bethlehem Wednesday evening and killed Mohammed Shahada, an Islamic Jihad leader, Issa Marzouq and Imad Al-Kamel, two of his comrades, and Ahmad Al-Balboul, a fighter from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed Fatah wing. MaanImages/Luay Sababa

                                                                          BETHLEHEM - About 50,000 Palestinians converged on Manger Square in the center of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday for the funeral of four Palestinian fighters who were assassinated by undercover Israeli forces on Wednesday night.

                                                                          Mourners carried the bodies of the four men, Mohammad Shahada, Issa Marzouq, Imad Al-Kamel, and Ahmad Bilboul on their shoulders to the homes families of the dead to the central square, and then into the adjacent Omar Bin Al Khattab mosque.

                                                                          Their bodies were wrapped in Hizbullah flags, in an apparent show of allegiance with the Lebanese resistance movement and political party.

                                                                          [More:]

                                                                          Schools, shops, restaurants and other businesses shuttered their doors in observance of a general strike across the city. Bethlehem's normally bustling downtown streets were largely empty.

                                                                          In a show of unity in the face of occupation, members of numerous Palestinian political factions attended the ceremony.

                                                                          In speeches to the assembled crowd, representatives of the the Higher Committee of National and Islamic Forces, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Islamic Jihad denounced ongoing Israeli aggression against Palestinians. The Palestinian People's Party, the communists, were also present.

                                                                          Kamil Hamid from the Fatah movement called for collaborators and spies who aid the Israeli occupation to be apprehended.

                                                                          Across the square from the mosque, the Nativity Church sounded funeral bells.

                                                                          The four Palestinian resistance activists were gunned down by Israeli special forces in their car on Wednesday night. Mohammad Shahada was a local leader in Islamic Jihad.

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                                                                            Jeremy Brecher letter-writing @ The Iraq Moratorium, Cornwall Edition, March 21

                                                                            English (US)  March 13th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                            The Cornwall Moratorium network is asking everyone in town who is concerned about the war in Iraq to take a simple act on March 21, the day of the monthly Iraq Moratorium: Write our congressman, Rep. Christopher Murphy (and anyone else you would like) a letter telling him WHAT IS IN YOUR HEART ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR and what you want him to do about it. Join us to write letters about the war together. We’ve now had six monthly “Cornwall Editions” of the Iraq Moratorium. We’ve successfully realized many of the ideas that we discussed at our first meeting. At the March 21 meeting we will also have a planning discussion of next steps to end the war. *How do we make opposition to the war effective in the context of the elections? *How do we make the war impossible to ignore?

                                                                            Iraq Moratorium: The Cornwall Edition
                                                                            http://imcornwall.collectivex.com/main/summary

                                                                            The IRAQ MORATORIUM is a series of escalating local activities throughout the country on the third Friday of every month demanding an end to the war. It’s a way of saying: “It’s got to stop! We’ve got to stop it.”

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            The CORNWALL MORATORIUM NETWORK aims to make Cornwall a flagship and a laboratory for the Moratorium.

                                                                            We recognize that the Iraq war is not just something of concern to those who are already committed to ending the war. The Iraq war, and its consequences, is something that the great majority of people, here and nationwide, are worrying about, whatever the current views on what should be done. We want to create mutually respectful dialogue among everyone in town about constructive ways to deal with the situation our country has got itself into.

                                                                            We recognize the sacrifice that has been made by the men and women in the armed forces who have been sent to the Iraq region. We are horrified at the failure of our country to provide them decent medical care and career opportunities on their return – and by the fact that one-quarter of all homeless Americans are veterans. We are committed to protecting the rights of veterans and those currently in the military, and will seek concrete ways to do so.

                                                                            We recognize that the U.S. involvement in Iraq is not going to be ended by one demonstration or one political campaign. We are likely to be living with this war, and certainly with its consequences, for years to come. We need to build a community of concern that can make create pressure for change on an on-going basis. The IRAQ MORATORIUM provides a way to go through this terrible time in connection with others. That way we will be organized to take the actions that are needed as the opportunity comes along.

                                                                            For those who oppose the war, the IRAQ MORATORIUM provides a chance to find your own way to take a stand.

                                                                            Take the pledge at The Iraq Moratorium Website

                                                                            I hereby make a commitment that on the Third Friday of each and every month, I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq. I PROMISE!

                                                                            530 words posted in Iraq war1 comment

                                                                            1 response(s) to Jeremy Brecher letter-writing @ The Iraq Moratorium, Cornwall Edition, March 21

                                                                            1. Scoville Soule [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                              I have not been able to attend the moratoriums,
                                                                              nor will I be able to attend future ones. No
                                                                              doubt the topic of impeachment proceedings
                                                                              have been thoroughly explored. My initial
                                                                              reactions to such proceedings were negative as
                                                                              being historically unproductive and time con-
                                                                              suming. However the Bush veto of congressional
                                                                              vote to abolish out and out torture of war
                                                                              prisoners, heinously upheld by a supine congress
                                                                              makes it patriotically imperative for our
                                                                              citizenry to make a statement that we are better
                                                                              than that. And the only meaningful proof
                                                                              available to us is to throw out our administratio

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                                                                            Israeli forces murder four Palestinians in Bethlehem: Bethlehem University closes in mourning

                                                                            English (US)  March 12th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                            Muhammad Shahada, who was killed
                                                                            by Israeli special forces on Wednesday

                                                                            Dear Friends, Alumni and Benefactors,

                                                                            When tragedy and violence come upon us, we are called to pray for peace – work for justice – pray for peace -- and to do our best to continue moving forward with life in hope!

                                                                            It is just after 10:00pm on Wednesday, 12 March 2008 and the streets of Bethlehem are quiet. As reported on the the Maan News website (report below), just a few hours ago the Israel Special Forces dressed in civilian clothes and driving a civilian car with a Palestinian license plate, entered Bethlehem and opened fire on another civilian car that was parked outside a bakery about 2 blocks from Bethlehem University, killing the four Palestinian civilians.

                                                                            [More:]

                                                                            Brother Robert Smith, FSC, Acting Vice Chancellor, just announced that Bethlehem University will be closed on Thursday, 13 March 2008, mourning the killing of four Palestinian men in Bethlehem on Wednesday, 12 March 2008.

                                                                            Unfortunately, it was only six and a half weeks ago that I shared with you similar sad news when one young Palestinian was killed in Bethlehem by the Israeli military forces.

                                                                            Please join us in praying for peace – working for justice – praying for peace.

                                                                            Together with your prayerful support and solidarity we will continue to move forward and provide the students entrusted to our care with the best education possible. This we must do! To do so for us is what it means to pray for peace and to work for jusitice.

                                                                            Thank you for your ever faithful and kind support and solidarity.

                                                                            Brother Jack

                                                                            PS Even though it may seem strange to also share the positive news about Bethlehem University along with this sad news of the tragic loss of life here in Bethlehem today, we must continue to move forward with hope - this is what it means to be people of hope! Please visit our website (www.bethlehem.edu) to read more about the Annual Science Fair which attracted more than 1,500 students and teachers from local secondary schools and also about the generosity of recent pilgrims from Liverpool who passed along a generous financial gift to support the University.
                                                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                                            BETHLEHEM - Israeli special forces gunned down four Palestinians in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Wednesday evening, including a leader in Islamic Jihad, witnesses said.

                                                                            Islamic Jihad leader Mohammad Shahada, Issa Marzouq, Imad Al-Kamal, and Ahmad Bilboul were killed in the attack.

                                                                            Marzouq and Al-Kamal were also an Islamic Jihad activists. Bilboul was an activist with the armed wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades.

                                                                            The Israeli forces entered the area between the Cinema neighborhood and Duheisha refugee camp and opened fire on car from another civilian car.

                                                                            Passersby pulled the bodies of the four men from the small red car, which had been parked in front of a bakery when the Israelis opened fire.

                                                                            According to one witnesses, the car appeared to have been "showered with bullets."

                                                                            The Palestinian security services said that they transferred the four dead bodies to Al-Hussein hospital in neighboring Beit Jala.

                                                                            Hundreds of Palestinians congregated at the hospital, expressing their deep anger

                                                                            A life of resistance

                                                                            Veteran activists in the armed Palestinian resistance movement, Shahada and his comrades had evaded the forces of the Israeli occupation for years.

                                                                            On Wednesday the four activists were in Bethlehem meeting with other Fatah activists in preparation for Fatah's sixth movement conference.

                                                                            The activists visited the offices of Ma'an News Agency earlier on Wednesday, saying: "The Israeli occupation doesn’t want to arrest us. Really, they want to assassinate us."

                                                                            As if foreseeing his own death, Shahada repeated this sentence to Ma'an's chief editor, Nasser Lahham.

                                                                            Israeli bulldozers destroyed Shahada's house last Thursday night, immediately following the deadly shooting attack at Jewish religious school in Jerusalem.

                                                                            Ma'an's chief editor, Nasser Lahham, spoke with Shahada at Bethlehem's Christmas Eve celebrations on Manger Square last December.

                                                                            Shahada was smiling on Christmas Eve, radiating confidence: "The Palestinian people are capable of raising the flag of liberty and completing their mission. Israel has to realize that military occupation of Palestine does not solve its problems, either now or in the future."

                                                                            Asked about the US-backed peace initiative, Shahada said, "The Annapolis conference did not reach a brave level of addressing the Palestinian rights. It instead took us back to the Road Map plan trying to vision that the Palestinian problem was only one of security chaos, which every body knows is incorrect."

                                                                            Finally, asked why he rejected amnesty in favor of continuing with armed struggle, he said "it is the revolutionaries who have the right to give amnesty to the occupation, and not the opposite."

                                                                            http://www.maannews.net/en/

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                                                                              Hamas sets terms for Israeli truce

                                                                              English (US)  March 12th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                              Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh

                                                                              Hamas has publicly laid out its conditions for a ceasefire with Israel, calling for a break in fighting that has left dozens dead in recent weeks.

                                                                              [More:]


                                                                              Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader, on Wednesday demanded an end to Israeli raids in Palestinian territory and the re-opening of Gaza's border crossings, which have been sealed since June.

                                                                              The terms mirrored proposals by Egyptian mediators, who have been trying to broker a truce that would also end rocket attacks by Palestinian fighters from Gaza into Israel.

                                                                              At the centre of the arrangement would be the deployment of officers loyal to rival Fatah at Gaza's crossings.

                                                                              Haniya said: "There must be a commitment by Israel, to end all its aggression against our people, assassinations, killings and raids, and lift the [Gaza] siege and reopen the crossings."

                                                                              A ceasefire deal, he said, should be "reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous" and apply both to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

                                                                              "We will not abandon you, our people in the West Bank," Haniya said. "Aggression against you is aggression against us."

                                                                              A truce could be key to the success of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, whose Fatah faction lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas after bloody Palestinian in-fighting last June.

                                                                              The number of rocket attacks from Gaza has decreased sharply since Israel ended an offensive in the territory nine days ago. The raids left at least 120 Palestinians dead, about half of whom were identified as civilians.

                                                                              Negotiations

                                                                              A spokesman for Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, in response to Haniya's comments, said there was "no need for negotiations" on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                              Israeli leaders insist that they will not negotiate with Hamas, which the West has labeled it a "terrorist" organisation.

                                                                              Mark Regev, the spokesman, said: "We can have calm in the south if there is a total absence of rocket and missile fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, if Hamas ceases terrorist operations against Israelis, and if there is an end to illegal smuggling of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip."

                                                                              "If there is quiet and these conditions are met, there will be quiet."

                                                                              Israel tightened its Gaza border restrictions - a move Palestinians said has turned the territory into a huge prison - and created a humanitarian crisis, after the Hamas takeover nine months ago.

                                                                              Alaa Araj, an adviser to Haniya, said Hamas accepts a deployment of Fatah-loyal forces to Gaza's borders in principle, even though it means giving up some control, and that they have given Egypt names of pro-Abbas officers who would be acceptable.

                                                                              A deal to re-open crossings could also include a prisoner exchange involving Palestinians held in Israeli jails and an Israeli soldier seized by Gaza fighters in 2006.

                                                                              However, Regev appeared to rebuff the idea of halting Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank, saying it would be irresponsible "not to defend ourselves against ... hard-core terrorists" there.

                                                                              Source: Agencies

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                                                                                Tragedy of Israel and Palestine

                                                                                English (US)  March 11th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                The father of 18 days-old newborn Palestinian baby girl Amira Abu Asr, who was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers, mourns during her
                                                                                funeral on March 5

                                                                                By Mark Levine

                                                                                Americans have grown so accustomed to the disastrous dynamics operating between Israelis and Palestinians today that the failure to reach a peace deal amid the soaring death tolls assumes an aura of normalcy in their minds.

                                                                                This reflects a situation we imagine ourselves to be powerless to help change and only adds to the tragedy unfolding in the Occupied Territories and Israel as well.

                                                                                Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, has himself admitted, the day Palestinians give up on the dream of an independent state will be the day Israel will "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                Today the world's attention has turned to the aftermath of the murder of eight students of an ultra-Zionist Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, established by the founder of religious zionism, Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook in 1924.

                                                                                Last week the focus was the ongoing war in Gaza, which will likely be the centre of attention next week as well.

                                                                                The attacks on religious students in the midst of study and prayer - coupled with the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza on the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon - are already being offered as the latest examples of continued Palestinian unwillingness to make peace with Israel more than two years after its unprecedented withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.


                                                                                Shanbo Heinemann, a pro-Palestinian activist,
                                                                                is injured in a protest against the wall

                                                                                World's largest prison
                                                                                But there are many problems with this argument; firstly, most of the acts of Palestinian resistance to the occupation have always been non-violent.

                                                                                Equally important is the fact that while Israeli civilians no longer live in Gaza, Israel's military presence has never ended.

                                                                                Tel Aviv withdrew civilian settlers and then threw away the key to what has now become the world's largest prison.

                                                                                Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister and the architect of the settlement movement, was willing to sacrifice Gaza in order to ensure Israel held onto the major settlement blocs of the West Bank, which today house more than 250,000 settlers (almost double that number if one includes the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem).

                                                                                The settler population of the West Bank also doubled during the years of the Oslo "peace" process - which began when Abu Dahim was about 12 and ended when he was 19 - without a whimper of complaint from the United States.

                                                                                By the time Yitzhak Rabin, the former prime minister, was assassinated in 1995, Palestinian leaders were warning that the continued settlement expansion was "killing" the peace process and would sooner or later lead to a "revolution" from the street.

                                                                                Matrix of control
                                                                                The presence of well over 100 settlements has necessitated a matrix of control in which 80 per cent of the West Bank be declared off limits to Palestinians.

                                                                                It also meant the destruction of thousands of homes and olive and fruit trees (the backbone of an otherwise closed Palestinian economy), the confiscation of 35,000 acres of Palestinian land, and the creation of a network of bypass roads, military bases.

                                                                                The 400-kilometre, 8-metre-high "separation wall" also pierces deep into Palestinian territory, cutting into at least three isolated cantons.

                                                                                Together, the settlement system has made the idea of creating a territorially and economically viable Palestinian state impossible to implement.

                                                                                With the eruption of the al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000 whatever infrastructure of peace had been created during Oslo was quickly dismantled by both sides.

                                                                                By mid-2002 Israel began deploying a strategy of managed chaos, in which a near total closure of the Territories, coupled with a destruction of much of their economic and political infrastructure, turned the intifada into what Palestinians term an "intifawda," a neologism that brings the violence of the intifada together with the chaos, or "fawda" of a society living in a barely functioning state and economy.


                                                                                Israel's separation wall cuts a broad path
                                                                                through Palestinian olive groves

                                                                                Dividing Palestine
                                                                                Israeli planners gambled that by splitting the West Bank from Gaza, deepening the occupation of the former while freeing itself of the settlements in the latter, and routinely deploying disproportionate violence (including tanks, helicopter gunships, F-16s, and heavily armed troops) against all signs of resistance, Palestinian society would begin turning on itself.

                                                                                Indeed, Israel hoped for this when it clandestinely supported the emergence of Hamas two decades ago, with the goal of building up a rival to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) that would have them fighting each other rather than figuring out more successful strategies of fighting the occupation.

                                                                                But, even as Palestinians fight each other, resistance to the occupation has continued. Most of it is comprised of various forms of non-violence (marches, sit-ins, and attempts to stop home demolitions or replant uprooted fields or groves).

                                                                                These are rarely covered by the international media, and are usually met with violence by the Israeli military or settlers.

                                                                                Fairly or not, however, it has been Palestinian violence, and especially suicide bombings and now rocket attacks on civilians, that have defined their resistance to the ongoing occupation.

                                                                                Suicidal suicide attacks
                                                                                And in this regard the actions have been nothing short of suicidal - Palestinian "resistance" to the occupation seems to have been scripted by Israel as it has suited the interests of the Israeli governments in power since 2000. As Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston recently put it:

                                                                                "The Palestinians have kept their ultimate doomsday weapon under tight wraps for 40 years ... Israeli senior commanders could only pray that the Palestinians would never take it out and put it to actual use ... non-violence. This is one reason why, for decades, Israel did its best to head off, harass, and crack down on expressions of Palestinian non-violence."

                                                                                If Palestinians ever decided to just "get up and walk" en masse to the Erez Crossing separating Gaza from Israel and the major West Bank check points like Qalandiya and used hammers and picks to tear them down, there would be almost nothing Israel could do, short of a massacre in full view of the world's cameras.

                                                                                But Palestinians have become so stuck in the ideology of summud, (which naturally become a national imperative after a million Palestinians were uprooted in the 1948 and 1967 wars), or defiantly staying put, that they have rarely taken the strategic or moral offensive.

                                                                                When they applied the moral approach during the first intifada, Israel's harsh crackdown coupled with PLO dominance of Palestianian politics, ensured the de-politicisation and disempowerment of the first "intifada generation".

                                                                                Two weeks ago, when a few brave Palestinians tried to organise a peaceful march to the Erez border crossing to build on the momentum gained by breaching the border fence between Gaza and Egypt, they were stopped far from the border by a line of heavily armed Hamas policemen.

                                                                                Soon after, the day's ration of rockets was fired into the nearby Israeli town of Sderot, wounding two Israeli children.

                                                                                Israel responded with a new rounds of attacks by Israel, killing and wounding more Palestinians.

                                                                                How to stop?
                                                                                A few years ago, in a particularly violent moment of the intifada, I interviewed a senior Hamas leader at his office in Gaza. After the usual boiler plate questions and answers, I finally grew exasperated and said to him, "Look, let's put aside the question of whether you have the right to use violence, particularly against civilians, to pursue your ends. The simple fact is that the strategy has not worked."

                                                                                His response stunned me with its honesty: "We know the violence doesn't work, but we don't know how to stop."

                                                                                In a mirror image of Israeli strategic thinking, Hamas has remained unable to break free of the dangerously outdated paradigm that says violence, particularly against civilians, can only be met by even more violence until the other side yields.

                                                                                Aside from the moral turpitude of such thinking by both sides - not to mention blatant illegality according to international law - the reality, at least in the near term, is that the human and political cost of such a policy for Israel is far lower than for Palestinians, who have very little time left before their dreams of independence are crushed for good.

                                                                                Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, has himself admitted, the day Palestinians give up on the dream of an independent state will be the day Israel will "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

                                                                                Israeli settlements
                                                                                In 1987, Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, concluded his well-known "West Bank Data Base Project" report by arguing that the West Bank settlements were too integrated into Israel to separate them as part of any future peace deal
                                                                                But so dysfunctional are the current dynamics that neither side seems willing to take the first step away from the abyss.

                                                                                Dysfunctional dynamics
                                                                                In such a situation, only a strong outside party can force the warring sides to make the hard compromises necessary to achieve a just and lasting peace.

                                                                                This was the job the US signed up for in 1993, when Bill Clinton, then president, witnessed the signing of the first Oslo agreement on the White House lawn. But we have failed miserably in our self-appointed role as "honest broker."

                                                                                It's not just that US has unapologetically taken Israel's side on almost every major issue since then.

                                                                                During the Oslo years the US worked hand in glove with the Israeli and Palestinian security services to stifle dissent within Palestinian civil society, or the Legislative Council, to a process that was moving away from rather than towards a just and lasting peace.

                                                                                And with the militarisation of US foreign policy after September 11 and the sullied occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel has had even greater carte blanche to inflict precisely the kind of damage upon Palestinian society we are witnessing now in Gaza.

                                                                                Blood of children
                                                                                By refusing to press Israel - as many Israeli commentators, and an increasing number of US policy-makers as well, urge - to negotiate with Hamas we have not just enabled the current violence, but are directly responsible for it.

                                                                                Hamas has declared its willingness to negotiate a two-state solution, albeit under conditions to which Israel has little incentive to accept.

                                                                                The blood of Israeli and Palestinian children that appears on TV is on our hands too.

                                                                                It would be nice if we could imagine that the next US president will have the courage to "change" this dynamic. But there is little chance of that.

                                                                                The only hope is that Israeli and Palestinian societies come together to stop the violence their leaders keep inflicting on them before the delusions of victory on both sides cross the line into psychosis.

                                                                                Mark LeVine is professor of history at UCI Irvine and author or editor of half a dozen books dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and globalisation in the Middle East, including Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, Reapproaching Borders: New Perspectives on the Study of Israel and Palestine, Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil, and the forthcoming An Impossible Peace: Oslo and the Burdens of History.

                                                                                Al Jazeera

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                                                                                  HAMAS AND ISRAEL IN TRUCE MEDIATION

                                                                                  English (US)  March 10th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                  Hamas wants an end to Israeli raids and the blockade of Gaza, plus the reopening of Rafah crossing

                                                                                  Israeli and Hamas officials are discussing a possible ceasefire through Egyptian mediators after Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, ordered a halt to raids on the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                  The order was issued on Monday in response to a significant drop in the number of rockets and mortars being fired from the territory, offficials said.

                                                                                  "We certainly appear to have entered a period of talking rather than fighting now," Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reported from Gaza.

                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                  "For more than three days now there have been virtually no rocket attacks into Israel ... and also there have been no Israeli air strikes, no overflights of Gaza."

                                                                                  Both Israeli defence officials and Hamas leaders have insisted that no formal truce has been agreed so far, but officials in Olmert's office told said that he had ordered the army to scale back its operations to allow talks to proceed.

                                                                                  "It seems that Hamas has decided for now not to shoot, and we're not shooting either," said an Israeli government official.

                                                                                  "This could well become a ceasefire, but the ball is in Hamas' court," he said.

                                                                                  Ahmed Youssef, an advisor to Hamas told Al Jazeera: "We hope the Israelis will understand that the time has come to lift the sanctions."

                                                                                  "We would like to lay the foundations for peaceful discussions," he said.

                                                                                  'Period of calm'

                                                                                  "What we are seeing is a period of shuttling backwards and forwards to Egypt by Hamas representatives, and on Sunday we know that in Egypt there was an Israeli official," Rowland reported.

                                                                                  "But the Egyptians are being very careful that they are not even in the country at the same time."

                                                                                  Hossam Zaki, spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, confirmed that Cairo had been in contact with representatives from both sides and there had been some progress.

                                                                                  "There is an interest on both parties in a period of calm and the issue now is to discuss whether there will be guarantees ... that the military confrontations and operation will not occur again," he told Al Jazeera.

                                                                                  Hamas sources told Al Jazeera that the Palestinians are not only calling for an end to the military action, but also the reopening of the Rafah crossing and the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

                                                                                  Zaki told Al Jazeera that the border issue was one of the top priorities for the Egyptians after thousands of Gazans poured into Sinai when Israel stopped deliveries of essential items to the strip.

                                                                                  "They have their vision of how the crossing should work, they are entitled to put their vision, after all they are controlling the Gaza Strip," he said.

                                                                                  "But the issue of reopening the crossings is dealt with in a different concept."

                                                                                  Negotiations suspended

                                                                                  Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, briefly called off negotiations with Israel in response to an Israeli military operation in Gaza in which more than 125 Palestinians, many of them civilians, were killed, according to Palestinian medical officials.

                                                                                  Israel said it launched the raids in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on the south of the country.

                                                                                  Hamas officials have said in recent days that the armed wing of the group would stop firing homemade missiles if Israel halted its military operations.

                                                                                  That mirrored a remark by Olmert on Wednesday that Israel would have no reason to attack Gaza if the rocket launchings ceased.

                                                                                  He also said on Monday that Israel was prepared to take a "significant, important and dramatic step" to advance peace.

                                                                                  Although conditions in Gaza were relatively peaceful, Israel carried out several raids into the West Bank arresting at least 29 Palestinians on Monday.

                                                                                  The army sealed off the West Bank on Friday night after eight Jewish students were shot dead in an attack on a religious seminary.

                                                                                  Jewsish settlements

                                                                                  On Monday, the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in west Jerusalem said it would not welcome a visit from Olmert because of his support for the idea of withdrawing from some Jewish settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

                                                                                  "We cannot receive a prime minister who advocates against the spirit of the Torah and accept that Israel withdraws from a part of the land of Israel," Rabbi Haim Steiner, one of the Yeshiva's senior officials, told public radio.

                                                                                  The seminary is considered the centre of Israeli religious nationalism and is a strong proponent of the settler movement.

                                                                                  A number of plans to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank were approved by Olmert on Sunday.

                                                                                  Israel Radio reported that the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a key coalition partner, had threatened to quit the government unless the construction at the Givat Ze'ev settlement, 8km from central Jerusalem, was approved.

                                                                                  Olmert had barred ministries from ordering new Israeli construction in the West Bank without his approval because of its political rammifications.

                                                                                  The settlements are illegal under internation law because they are built on occupied land. Their ongoing expansion contravenes agreements under the road map peace plan and Annapolis final status talks.
                                                                                  Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                    Israel imposes West Bank lockdown

                                                                                    English (US)  March 8th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                    We cannot expect much analysis in the media of why the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva might have been chosen as a target. Was it mere coincidence that the school, named for Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and led after his death by his son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, is the ideological cradle of the militant, Jewish supremacist settler movement Gush Emunim?

                                                                                    Unlike other sects in Israel which sought exemption of their students from military service, Gush Emunim encouraged its followers to join the army and become the armed wing of religious nationalist Zionism. Gush Emunim settlers, many of them, like Moshe Levinger, graduates of Mercaz HaRav, founded the most extreme and racist settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including the notorious colonies in and near Hebron whose inhabitants have made life miserable for Palestinians in the city and forced many of them out of their homes. It is the militant settlers of Gush Emunim who still honor Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in February 1994. It is in Hebron that the Gush Emunim settlers spray "Arabs to the gas chambers" on Palestinian houses. -- Ali Abunimah


                                                                                    The man was identified as Alaa Abu Dheim, a Palestinian from east Jerusalem

                                                                                    Israel has imposed further restrictions on the West Bank, following the shooting of eight students at a seminary in Jerusalem.

                                                                                    The occupied territory already has more than 500 Israeli roadblocks, according to UN figures, and Palestinians in the West Bank on Saturday were fearful of what further Israeli response to the shootings might be.

                                                                                    [More:]


                                                                                    Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from the West Bank, said:"The closure will now mean any task of daily life will become much more difficult."

                                                                                    "If you're living in Nablus for example - where the siege is very strict - and you need to get to a hospital or university inside Nablus city it will take you sometimes hours to get there when it should take you no more than 15 minutes."

                                                                                    The attack in the library of the Merkaz Harav Jewish religious school shattered four years of relative calm in Jerusalem.

                                                                                    Funeral march

                                                                                    On Friday, thousands of mourners marched in funeral processions outside the seminary, where eight students were shot dead by a man identified as Alaa Abu Dheim, a 25-year-old Palestinian from occupied east Jerusalem.

                                                                                    Abu Dheim's family said he had been distraught over last week's carnage in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                    A rabbi at the seminary, a flagship of Israel's West Bank settlement movement, recited Hebrew psalms that the crowd repeated.

                                                                                    Israel has continued to build settlements on occupied land, illegal under international law, and in contradiction of its stated commitment to the road map peace plan.

                                                                                    Israel prevented men under 45 years old from praying at Jerusalem's main mosque as part of its restrictions.

                                                                                    Washington has insisted that fighting not be allowed to affect the peace process and and Israel has said, despite the shootings, it will continue to hold talks with the West Bank's Palestinian leadership.

                                                                                    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, briefly suspended talks after more than 130 Palestinians were killed, including large numbers of civilians, in an Israeli campaign against Palestinian rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                    Abbas later backed down under pressure from Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state.

                                                                                    Al Jazeera's Odeh said the latest incident could prompt greater willingness to negotiate.

                                                                                    "The political buzz in the Palestinian territory is that this attack has really awakened the politicians on both sides to a reality - the status quo will not work and they need to work on reaching a ceasefire," she said.

                                                                                    "This is the second attack [inside Israel] in one month, something that Israelis haven't seen in a very long time. They don't want to be subjected to that again. The calls for a ceasefire, mutual and reciprocal between Israelis and Palestinians, will be a lot stronger."

                                                                                    Odeh was referring to a suicide attack in the Israeli town of Dimona that killed the bomber and one other person.

                                                                                    Possible ceasefire

                                                                                    Egypt, backed by the US, is exploring a truce deal between Israel and Hamas that would stop rocket fire on Israel in exchange for an end to Israeli attacks and the resumption of trade and travel from Gaza, where border crossings have been closed since Hamas seized control of the territory in June.

                                                                                    But the continuing assaults has undermined ceasefire hopes and raised the possibility of more Israeli attacks on Gaza, especially if Hamas was behind the seminary shootings.

                                                                                    Hamas radio said on Friday it took responsibility, but later retracted the report, while Israeli television stations said security officials believed the man may have acted alone.

                                                                                    However, it is virtually impossible for a Palestinian Jerusalem resident to obtain a weapon legally, raising the likelihood he received some assistance.

                                                                                    Abu Dheim's relatives said they did not know of his plot, but were not surprised as he had been transfixed recently by the bloodshed in Gaza.

                                                                                    "He told me he wasn't able to sleep because of the grief," said Iman Abu Dheim, his sister.

                                                                                    Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                      MARCH 8 - International Women's Day

                                                                                      English (US)  March 8th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                      In today's globalised world, women are united in their efforts to achieve equality, peace and development. March 8 commemorates the great strides women have made, but also reminds us that everyone must continue in their endeavours to reach those elusive goals.

                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                      MIDEAST: No Day Is a Woman's Day in Gaza
                                                                                      By Mohammed Omer
                                                                                      GAZA CITY - Mahasen Darduna suffers in ways the world recognises; her suffering comes at the hands of the Israelis. But there are many Palestinian women whose suffering the world does not see, because their hell is inflicted on them by Palestinians.
                                                                                      http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41498

                                                                                      *****
                                                                                      KENYA: Equal Pay in Theory, Not Always in Fact
                                                                                      By Kwamboka Oyaro
                                                                                      NAIROBI - On Mar. 8, a century ago, thousands took to the streets of New York in demonstrations aimed at improving life for women. Burning issues of the day included the need for better working conditions -- higher pay, a shorter work day -- and winning the right to vote.
                                                                                      http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41499

                                                                                      *****
                                                                                      WASHINGTON - Eagle Forum, a leading pro-family organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, author of Feminist Fantasies, condemns the U.S. Government's endorsement of the worldwide feminist event, International Women's Day.
                                                                                      www.foxbusiness.com

                                                                                      *****
                                                                                      KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — More than 1,000 Afghan women have gathered in Kandahar to call for peace and equality with women around the world.
                                                                                      http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5i4Lt27OFrzdDvdURAXCgBqDXIkhA

                                                                                      *****
                                                                                      PAKISTAN: Women Push For Political Space In Patriarchy
                                                                                      By Ashfaq Yusufzai
                                                                                      PESHAWAR - Saeeda Anwar is a 38-year-old Pakistani schoolteacher. She works in a school here in the capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), but she is not allowed to exercise her franchise.
                                                                                      http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41496

                                                                                      *****
                                                                                      ITALY: Right to Abortion Being Sought Again
                                                                                      By Sabina Zaccaro
                                                                                      ROME - Women scientists, intellectuals and professionals are asking women to oppose a new "clerical assault on women." They are fighting attempts by centre-right politicians and Catholic doctors associations to limit the current abortion law.
                                                                                      http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41495

                                                                                      *****
                                                                                      IRAQ: Surviving Somehow Behind a Concrete Purdah
                                                                                      Analysis by Dahr Jamail
                                                                                      WASHINGTON - Iraq, where women once had more rights and freedom than most others in the Arab world, has turned deadly for women who dream of education and a professional career.
                                                                                      http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41479

                                                                                      *****
                                                                                      Fund to Fight Gender Violence Puts Donors to the Test
                                                                                      By Thalif Deen
                                                                                      UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. "Trust Fund to End Violence against Women" has risen significantly over the last year: from 3.5 million dollars in 2006 to over 15 million dollars in 2007.
                                                                                      http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41488

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

                                                                                      IPS Women's Day - Special Coverage
                                                                                      Read more at: http://www.ipsnews.net/new_focus/womensday/index.asp

                                                                                      442 words posted in World, Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                                        Life goes on

                                                                                        English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                        LIFE GOES ON: A Palestinian schoolgirl on her way home after yet another day of violence in the occupied territories

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                                                                                          Commentary: Unwavering commitment to inequality

                                                                                          English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                          As Israel escalates its violence against Palestinians the media continues to insist that it is the fault of Gazans, writes Ramzy Baroud*

                                                                                          Death was hovering over Gaza long before locally-made Palestinian rockets struck near the Israeli town of Sderot on 27 February, killing Roni Yechiah and sparking an Israeli retaliation that has already claimed 115 Palestinian lives.

                                                                                          Yechiah's death was the first of its kind in nine months. The crude Palestinian rockets have often been criticised by Palestinians as useless in the tit-for-tat war underway, though they are easily used by Israeli officials as an excuse for keeping Gaza contained, i.e. on the brink of starvation.

                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                          For Israel, the rockets are important as a pretext to maintain its siege of Hamas, a low-intensity war that creates a smokescreen for the confiscation of Palestinian land and the expansion of illegal settlements, and also as justification for the slow moving "peace process". But while pro-Israeli pundits in the US and elsewhere are prepared to defend Israel's actions, many Israelis are no longer buying into their government's excuses.

                                                                                          According to a recent Tel Aviv University poll, cited by the Israeli daily Haaretz on 27 February, "64 per cent of Israelis believe the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza in an attempt to secure a ceasefire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit".

                                                                                          The mayor of the Israeli town of Sderot -- which borders Gaza and is the main target of rockets -- told The Guardian on 23 February: "I would say to Hamas, let's have a ceasefire. Let's stop the rockets for the next 10 years and we will see what happens."

                                                                                          Hamas was actually the first to issue calls for a ceasefire, and for years it has abstained from carrying out suicide bombings inside Israel.

                                                                                          The uneven number of casualties speak volumes. While Yechiah's death is tragic, he was the "first person killed by rocket attacks from Gaza since May 2007, and the 14th overall since the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian armed clashes in September 2000," according to a Human Rights Watch press release on 29 February which quoted the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem.

                                                                                          B'Tselem reports that "1,259 of the 2,679 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip [since September 2000] were not participating in hostilities when they were killed, and 567 were minors."

                                                                                          News agency reports published in Al-Arabiya website on 22 February report that 190 Palestinians have been killed since the resumption of the peace process in Annapolis last November. That number grew when the Israeli army escalated its attacks against the Gaza Strip, killing 34 Palestinians in 48 hours between 27-28 February. And more Palestinians were killed in the West Bank during the same period. Yet Israel's actions are characterised by most of the media as a legitimate "response" to Palestinian violence.

                                                                                          In an article published days before Yechiva's death, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the death of three Palestinians killed by Israeli tank missile. The men were picnicking at the time, according to eyewitness accounts. However, the article seemed to report an entirely different story, featuring a photo of a Palestinian rocket that landed in an empty field. "Deadly rain", read the caption, conveniently forgetting that the rockets had not caused any deaths. The article also undermined the fact that the killed Palestinians had been picnicking, citing this as yet another Palestinian claim.

                                                                                          Donald Macintyre of the Independent, usually much more objective than his counterparts elsewhere, reported on the killing of four Palestinian children: "Four boys playing football have been killed in Gaza by Israeli air strikes... as Israel responded to the death of a man from a barrage of rocket attacks with a bloody escalation of violence." The perpetuation of the idea of Israel responding to events rather than initiating them remains one of the most insidious forms of pro-Israeli bias.

                                                                                          When the utter desperation of Gazans forced them to storm the border with Egypt in search of food and medicines their cries fell on deaf ears. Palestinians were herded back into Gaza and the border resealed. The number of troops guarding the border was increased, reportedly beyond the limit set in Egypt's 30-year-old peace accord with Israel.

                                                                                          Besieged, browbeaten and starved -- in a way every major human rights group has decried as illegal and inhumane -- Palestinians are told to expect more of the same. Only this time the terminology used is much more frightening. Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatened Palestinians in the Gaza Strip with a "holocaust". "The more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," he said.

                                                                                          The Hebrew word shoah has been used almost exclusively to describe Nazi attempts at Jewish genocide. While many media commentators attempted to limit the damage caused by Vilnai's words, the acknowledgment of the Israel-imposed crisis on Palestinians -- and the term "bigger" in particular -- is but another reminder of the horrors under which Gaza lives, and for which Gaza is blamed.

                                                                                          US and Israeli celebrities -- including Sylvester Stallone, John Voight and Paula Abdul -- rallied at an LA benefit concert for Sderot. Speaking via Satellite, Clinton, McCain and Obama also expressed their allegiance to Israel, as if only Israel's dead counted and only Israel's security mattered. Clinton -- like the other presidential contenders -- took full advantage of a golden opportunity to express her "unwavering commitment" to Israel.

                                                                                          When will US officials begin to acknowledge that Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights and equal responsibilities? When will the media begin to provide a context and stop manipulating terms and numbers in such a way that the Palestinians are always at fault? When will we accept that military occupation and state-sponsored terror begets violence and breeds more terror. This is the case in Palestine, as everywhere else. It will remain so until circumstances change.

                                                                                          * The writer is editor of PalestineChronicle.com.

                                                                                          Al Ahram

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                                                                                            What words for this?

                                                                                            English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                            Palestinians are being indiscriminately killed in Gaza. Is the world deaf and blind, asks Saleh Al-Naami


                                                                                            An Israeli army helicopter shoots flares into the air during a military operation in Gaza as Palestinian children take part in a demonstration against the Israeli assault

                                                                                            By Saleh Al-Baanu

                                                                                            Following numerous attempts, Khaled Attallah finally convinced his wife Saturday afternoon that they should leave their apartment on the third floor of the family home on Yarmouk Street in downtown Gaza City and go to his parents and two sisters on the first floor. Khaled assumed that the higher floors would be more vulnerable to harm from Israeli shells and missiles as the Israeli army intensified its "warm winter" military campaign, the first stage of which ended at dawn last Monday. When Khaled went down to the first floor he found that his brother Ibrahim, and his wife, who lived on the second floor, had arrived before them.

                                                                                            As Khaled and Ibrahim were chatting with their parents at around 6pm that evening, their wives sitting near, an Israeli F-16 jet fired three missiles on their home, turning it immediately to rubble. Khaled and Ibrahim, their parents, their sister Raja Attallah -- a well-known Palestinian lawyer -- and their youngest sister Ibtisam were all killed. Khaled's wife, their child Anis, and Ibrahim's wife were all severely wounded, as was a neighbour when part of the building collapsed upon him. About 20 homes in the area were damaged.

                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                            Ehab Al-Ghasin, Interior Ministry spokesman in the dismissed Haniyeh government told Al-Ahram Weekly that 25 homes had been destroyed over the heads of their residents during the Israeli campaign that resulted in the death of 116 and the injuring of 480. The Palestinian Ministry of Health has announced that 80 of those killed and 450 of those injured were ordinary civilians.

                                                                                            The Israeli army, which withdrew its forces from the northern Gaza Strip at dawn Monday, has made it clear that the "warm winter" campaign has not ended. Rather, its first stage has ended, the second due to begin within days when other areas of the Gaza Strip will be invaded. Roni Daniel, military commentator for Israeli Channel Two, says that the Israeli withdrawal is a manoeuvre that aims to lull Palestinian resistance fighters into a false sense of relief so that they can be taken by surprise anew.

                                                                                            Ehud Barak, Israeli minister of defence, has made it clear that the "warm winter" campaign aims to pave the way for a wide-scale land campaign leading to the direct re-occupation of most of the Gaza Strip. In interview with Israeli Army Radio Sunday, Barak noted that the Israeli military campaign aims not only to topple Hamas but also to definitively prevent arms smuggling operations across the Egypt-Gaza border. The ultimate goal, Barak stressed, is the complete severance of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

                                                                                            Matan Vilnai, Barak's deputy, said that in order to meet these goals the Israeli army must undertake assassination operations against Hamas activists and political leaders. Vilnai mentioned by name Mahmoud Al-Zahar, Khalil Al-Haya and Said Siyam as potential targets. According to Vilnai, the civil and security institutions of Hamas and its government must also be destroyed, preventing the government from offering services to the Palestinian people, presumably so that they rise up against it.

                                                                                            Haim Ramon, Israeli vice premier, spelled out in interview with Hebrew- language Israeli radio Sunday morning that Israel was "taxing a price" from the Palestinian public and not only the Palestinian resistance, so as to drive the former to rise up against the resistance. "Palestinians must know that as long as they don't move against the terrorists, they will only have more suffering before them," he said. All indications are that the Israeli army intends to harm Palestinian civilians.

                                                                                            Salwa Asliya, a university student who lives with her family in the eastern section of Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip, where the Israeli army invaded, was overcome with worry last Friday night after her sister, Samah, had gone out to the balcony to see what had happened after hearing the sound of explosions near their house. As Salwa was dragging Samah towards their shared bedroom, a shell fired by Israeli troops stationed on the border between the Strip and Israel beat them to it. Both sisters were killed and major damage was caused to the second floor of the building housing their family's apartment. Um Sabry Asliya, a relative and neighbour, told the Weekly that an even greater catastrophe had been avoided, for the rest of the family was on the first floor.

                                                                                            What happened to Bassam Abid, a resident of the same neighbourhood, was even more tragic. Abid was terrified when the shelling around his house intensified, and he decided to leave with his two sons, Mohamed and Khalil, and go to the western section of Jabaliya Camp. As Bassam was leaving their home, a shell killed him and Mohamed, 12, and severely injured Khalil, nine. The family's neighbours speak of Abid as a man who loved his children to the point of madness, and that this was what had driven him to take them out of the area.

                                                                                            The same scene was repeated with Jacqueline Abu Shibak, 17, and her brother Iyad, 14. Jacqueline succeeded in bringing back her brother who had gone to check on the situation around the house after the shelling had intensified. After they returned to the house, a missile fired by a pilot-less reconnaissance drone hit and killed them both instantly.

                                                                                            The family of Mohamed Badrouneh also met with an Israeli shell. The family was together in their living room when the shelling intensified, and they didn't know what to do. Before they could make a decision, a shell struck the home and injured all 13 members of the family.

                                                                                            During the five days of the first stage of "warm winter", the Israeli army refused to allow the bodies of those killed to be removed. Emad Qadoura, who lives in Izbat Hamoudeh, which Israeli soldiers also invaded, told the Weekly by telephone that the bodies of the dead were lying in the streets and in homes and gardens, and were beginning to decompose, and that occupation tanks were rolling over them.

                                                                                            Due to the large number of those killed and injured, hospitals have been unable to accept patients. The situation has reached the point of hospital hallways being turned into operating rooms after operating theatres became filled with the wounded and killed. Raid Al-Arini, public relations director in the Dar Al-Shifa Hospital, told the Weekly that the hospital administration had no option other than to turn other hospital departments, in addition to the hallways, into temporary emergency wards. Al-Arini also said that injuries requiring minor operations had been sent to health clinics with modest means outside of the hospital.

                                                                                            For its part, Hamas considers that the Israeli campaign failed to reach its goals and has sworn to continue the resistance. Sami Abu Zahiri, Hamas spokesperson, told the Weekly : "We continue to offer to Israel a comprehensive truce, on which basis the resistance would halt its operations in return for Israel stopping its operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and lifting the siege on the Palestinian people."

                                                                                            For Saleh Zidan, politbureau member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Israel would not have undertaken this attack "without getting a green light from America". In interview with the Weekly, Zidan said that American collusion with Israel reveals the lie of Bush administration claims that 2008 will be the year of the Palestinian state. Zidan called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to halt negotiations entirely and to tie any resumption to a halt of Israel's aggression and settlement construction in Palestinian territories. Zidan said that Israel was exploiting Palestinian internal rifts to widen its aggression against the Palestinian people, and called on Fatah and Hamas to return immediately to dialogue and halt all propaganda campaigns.

                                                                                            The position of President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA has been contradictory. Riyad Al-Maliki, minister of information in Salam Fayyad's government, held Hamas responsible for the massacres. He said the firing of rockets on Israel had given it justification for its aggression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Abbas announced the suspension of peace negotiations in protest at the Israeli aggression against Gaza, but according to Israel, this position is not contradictory but rather "official Palestinian approval" for continued aggression against the Strip. Last Sunday's edition of Haaretz newspaper reported Israeli political sources as saying that Al-Maliki's statements form "Palestinian support for what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

                                                                                            The same sources hold that Arab responses to what is taking place give the impression that Arab governments are dealing with the campaign against the Gaza Strip as though it were against Hamas and not the Palestinian people. At the same time, Israel has benefited from international positions on the attack, including that of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon. The general director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Ibrahim Abramovich, expressed pleasure with the position taken by Ban as it does not direct clear criticism against Israel, but rather demands that the Palestinians stop firing rockets. Abramovich says that despite the images broadcast on television around the world, no campaign of criticism has gathered against Israel in the global media.

                                                                                            The massacres that the Gaza Strip has been subjected to in the first stage of "warm winter" might be followed with worse in the days to come. As long as the Palestinian rift persists, and Arab silence and international collusion prevail, Israel's appetite for aggression will only be whetted.

                                                                                            Al Ahram

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                                                                                              Where do you stand?

                                                                                              English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                              With scores of Gazans killed by Israel, the position of President Abbas and the PA comes into focus, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

                                                                                              By Khaled Amayreh

                                                                                              With Gazans being killed and maimed in the thousands, and with Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatening them a "bigger holocaust", Palestinians -- intellectuals and ordinary people -- are wondering if the present calamity won't unite them, whatever will?

                                                                                              The question is not rhetorical. Israel is taking advantage of the enduring national rift between Hamas and Fatah to wreak as much death and havoc on the Palestinians as the international community -- i.e. the West -- can tolerate, which to say get away with tolerating.

                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                              Shamelessly, Israel is telling the world that the killing of children, women and innocent civilians is for the sake of peace and in order to "strengthen" Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas's response to such statements, which only serve to degrade the Palestinian Authority (PA) further in the eyes of the Palestinian people, was an offer to "mediate" between Hamas and Israel.

                                                                                              Akin to Abbas, Information Minister Riyadh Al-Maliki also shirked the burden of national unity in times of necessity, sounding in some measure callous in his response. "We condemn the firing of these futile rockets as much as we condemn the Israeli massacres," Al-Maliki told reporters in Ramallah this week.

                                                                                              Al-Maliki, a former Communist-turned-"realist", further claimed that Hamas was "enabling Al-Qaeda to consolidate a presence in Gaza". President Abbas himself made the same accusation -- which is unfounded -- a few days earlier. These statements have been widely condemned by Hamas as well as by non-Islamist sectors of Palestinian society, with some columnists opining that blaming Hamas amounts to "exonerating Israel" and "inviting an Israeli genocide".

                                                                                              "Al-Maliki is effectively supporting the view that what Israel is doing in Gaza is part and parcel of the worldwide war on terror, and this helps Israel explain its case to the world," wrote one columnist in the Ramallah-based daily Al-Ayam. Veteran Fatah leader Jebril Rajoub reacted as strongly, calling Al-Maliki's remarks " really stupid".

                                                                                              Stupid or not, such remarks undoubtedly undermine further whatever modicum of respect remains for the PA government in Ramallah. Despite Abbas's symbolic suspension of manifestly futile peace talks with Israel, he seems yet unwilling to swallow his pride and reach out to Hamas.

                                                                                              Al-Ahram Weekly asked veteran Palestinian politician Hassan Khreishe why Abbas is still reluctant to reach a rapprochement with Hamas. "Because these people [PA leaders] care more about their own parochial interests than they do about the people's interests," the independent lawmaker said. Khreishe pointed out that the "carnages in Gaza have united the street against Israel". Unfortunately, he added, "the leaders, the politicians, have their own calculations, and it seems that they are awaiting a greater holocaust to realise that they should say 'No' to Israel and the United States."

                                                                                              According to Palestinian columnist Hani Al-Masri, the PA is reluctant to enter into any new partnership with Hamas for two main reasons. First, a new partnership with Hamas would raise the "ceiling of Palestinian demands", especially with regard to Jerusalem and the right of return, which would be unacceptable to Israel. "Israel would then argue that it could not negotiate with a government that includes in its ranks a terrorist organisation that doesn't recognise Israel's right to exist," Al-Masri said.

                                                                                              Second, a Fatah-Hamas rapprochement would likely lead to the reinstitution of American-led international sanctions on the Palestinian Authority as well as the possible cancellation of most or all of the financial assistance pledged by international donors at the Paris conference three months ago.

                                                                                              But even these rationales, which may have some superficial logic, are in the final analysis mere excuses and pretexts, especially in the absence of any meaningful progress towards ending the Israeli occupation. Indeed, Israeli leaders themselves are making no secret of the fact that in addition to trying to topple the Hamas government in Gaza, the main strategic motive behind Israel's atrocities is to clear opposition to a "compromise solution" or "realistic peace deal", which of course means "peace" on Israel's terms.

                                                                                              Israel's terms entail the final liquidation of the Palestinian problem. Of this, despite all supporting evidence, Abbas appears ignorant. Two weeks ago, one Palestinian writer asked Abbas in a private conversation about what alternatives the Palestinian leadership was considering in case peace talks with Israel failed. Baffled, Abbas reportedly admitted that this was "a confusing, embarrassing and frustrating question for which I have no answer".

                                                                                              Perhaps the reason Abbas has no answer relates to the hundreds of millions of dollars the Bush administration has invested in building-up and maintaining the PA regime. This week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived in Cairo Tuesday, is expected to hold talks with Abbas in Ramallah where reportedly she will warn him against "rebuilding bridges with Hamas", pressing instead for the peace process to resume.

                                                                                              Adding to the woes of Abbas, American magazine Vanity Fair published a meticulously researched exposé of PA coordination with the Bush administration in the months leading up to the countercoup that Hamas staged in Gaza in June 2007. The lengthy article alleges that Abbas and his aide Mohamed Dahlan actively conspired with the US administration to provoke civil war in order to bring down the Hamas government.

                                                                                              The following are excerpts from the article:

                                                                                              "Dahlan worked closely with the FBI and the CIA... Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn't ready for elections in January [2006]... 'Everyone was against the elections,' Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush... The elections went forward as scheduled. On 25 January, Hamas won 56 per cent of the seats in the Legislative Council.

                                                                                              "Few inside the US administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. Washington reacted with dismay when Abbas began holding talks with Hamas in the hope of establishing a 'unity government'. On 4 October 2006, Rice travelled to Ramallah to see Abbas... America's leverage in Palestinian affairs was much stronger than it had been in Arafat's time. Abbas had never had a strong, independent base, and he desperately needed to restore the flow of foreign aid -- and, with it, his power of patronage. He also knew that he could not stand up to Hamas without Washington's help.

                                                                                              "At their joint press conference, Rice smiled as she expressed her nation's 'great admiration' for Abbas's leadership. Behind closed doors, however, Rice's tone was sharper, say officials who witnessed their meeting. Isolating Hamas just wasn't working, she reportedly told Abbas, and America expected him to dissolve the Haniyeh government as soon as possible and hold fresh elections.

                                                                                              "Weeks passed with no sign that Abbas was ready to do America's bidding. Finally, another official was sent to Ramallah. Jake Walles, the consul- general in Jerusalem... His purpose was to deliver a barely varnished ultimatum to the Palestinian president. We know what Walles said because a copy was left behind, apparently by accident, of the 'talking points' memo prepared for him by the State Department.

                                                                                              "'We need to understand your plans regarding a new [Palestinian Authority] government,' Walles's script said. 'You told Secretary Rice you would be prepared to move ahead within two to four weeks of your meeting. We believe that the time has come for you to move forward quickly and decisively.'

                                                                                              "The memo left no doubt as to what kind of action the US was seeking: 'Hamas should be given a clear choice, with a clear deadline: ... they either accept a new government that meets the Quartet principles, or they reject it. The consequences of Hamas's decision should also be clear: If Hamas does not agree within the prescribed time, you should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government explicitly committed to that platform.'

                                                                                              "'If you act along these lines, we will support you both materially and politically," the script said. Abbas was also encouraged to 'strengthen' his team to include 'credible figures of strong standing in the international community'. Among those the US wanted brought in, says an official who knew of the policy, was Mohamed Dahlan.

                                                                                              "'[US Assistant Secretary] David Welch didn't fundamentally care about Fatah,' one of his colleagues says. 'He cared about results, and [he supported] whatever son of a bitch you had to support. Dahlan was the son of a bitch we happened to know best. He was a can-do kind of person. Dahlan was our guy.'

                                                                                              "Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, who had been appointed the US security coordinator for the Palestinians in November 2005, was in no position to question the president's judgement of Dahlan. In November 2006, Dayton met Dahlan for the first of a long series of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

                                                                                              "The two men agreed that they would work towards a new Palestinian security plan. The idea was to simplify the confusing web of Palestinian security forces and have Dahlan assume responsibility for all of them in the newly created role of Palestinian national security adviser. The Americans would help supply weapons and training.

                                                                                              "'We want to help you,' Dayton said. 'What do you need?'

                                                                                              "A State Department official adds, 'Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, "Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Mohamed Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this." The expectation was that this was where it would end up -- with a military showdown.' There were, this official says, two 'parallel programmes' -- the overt one, which the administration took to Congress, 'and a covert one, not only to buy arms but to pay the salaries of security personnel.'

                                                                                              "Legal or not, arms shipments soon began to take place. In late December 2006, four Egyptian trucks passed through an Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza, where their contents were handed over to Fatah. These included 2,000 Egyptian-made automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips, and two million bullets.

                                                                                              "The State Department quickly drew up an alternative to the new unity government. Known as 'Plan B', its objective, according to a State Department memo that has been authenticated by an official who knew of it at the time, was to 'enable [Abbas] and his supporters to reach a defined endgame by the end of 2007. The endgame should produce a [Palestinian Authority] government through democratic means that accepts Quartet principles.'

                                                                                              "Like the Walles ultimatum of late 2006, Plan B called for Abbas to 'collapse the government' if Hamas refused to alter its attitude towards Israel. The Bush administration's goals for Plan B were elaborated in a document titled An Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency. This action plan went through several drafts and was developed by the US, the Palestinians, and the government of Jordan. Sources agree, however, that it originated in the State Department.

                                                                                              "The drafts called for increasing the 'level and capacity' of 15,000 of Fatah's existing security personnel while adding 4,700 troops in seven new 'highly trained battalions on strong policing'. The plan also promised to arrange 'specialised training abroad', in Jordan and Egypt, and pledged to 'provide the security personnel with the necessary equipment and arms to carry out their missions'.

                                                                                              "The final draft of the Action Plan was drawn up in Ramallah by officials of the Palestinian Authority. This version was identical to the earlier drafts in all meaningful ways but one: it presented the plan as if it had been the Palestinians' idea. It also said the security proposals had been 'approved by President Mahmoud Abbas after being discussed and agreed [to] by General Dayton's team'.

                                                                                              "On 30 April 2007, a portion of one early draft was leaked to a Jordanian newspaper, Al-Majd. The secret was out. From Hamas's perspective, the Action Plan could amount to only one thing: a blueprint for a US-backed Fatah coup."

                                                                                              The Weekly sought responses from PA officials in Ramallah to the Vanity Fair article. All officials contacted refused to comment.

                                                                                              Al Ahram

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                                                                                                Nakba again

                                                                                                English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                Clearing the Palestinians out of Gaza appears the ultimate aim of Israel's declared strategy of genocide in the Strip, writes Jonathan Cook


                                                                                                Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli air strike in Gaza as they demonstrate against the brutish Israeli assault on defenceless civilians

                                                                                                Jonathan Cook

                                                                                                Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai's much publicised remark about Gaza facing a "bigger shoah" -- the Hebrew phrase for the Holocaust -- was widely assumed to be unpleasant hyperbole about the army's plans for an imminent full-scale invasion of the Strip.

                                                                                                More significantly, however, the comment appears to indicate the direction of Israel's longer-term strategy towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                Vilnai, a former general, was interviewed by Army Radio last Friday as Israeli forces were in the midst of unleashing a series of air and ground strikes on populated areas of Gaza that by Monday had killed more than 100 Palestinians. Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi claimed that almost all the dead were armed; however, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem revealed that at least half of those killed were not involved in hostilities, and 25 were children.

                                                                                                In the wake of a rocket fired from Gaza that killed a student in Siderot and other rockets that hit the centre of the southern city of Ashkelon, Vilnai stated: "The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they [the Palestinians of Gaza] will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

                                                                                                His comment, picked up by Reuters, was soon making headlines around the world. Presumably uncomfortable with an Israeli minister comparing his government's policies to the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jewry, many news services referred to Vilnai's clearly articulated threat as a "warning", as though he was prophesying a cataclysmic natural event over which he and the Israeli army had no control.

                                                                                                Nonetheless, Israeli officials understood the damage that the translation from Hebrew of Vilnai's remark could do to Israel's image abroad. Over the weekend Palestinian leaders exploited the comparison, with both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stating that a "holocaust" was unfolding in Gaza.

                                                                                                The Israeli Foreign Ministry launched a large hasbara (propaganda) campaign through its diplomats, and, in a related move, a spokesman for Vilnai explained that the word "shoah" also meant "disaster". This, rather than a holocaust, was what the minister had apparently been referring to. Clarifications were issued by many media outlets.

                                                                                                However, no one in Israel was fooled. "Shoah" -- which literally means burnt offering -- was long ago reserved for the Holocaust, much as the Arabic word Nakba, or catastrophe, is nowadays used only to refer to the Palestinians' dispossession by Israel in 1948. Certainly, Israeli media in English translated Vilnai's use of "shoah" as "holocaust".

                                                                                                But this is not the first time that Vilnai, along with other Israeli leaders, has expressed extreme views about Gaza's future. Last summer he began quietly preparing a plan on behalf of his boss, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, to declare Gaza a "hostile entity" and dramatically reduce essential services supplied by Israel to its inhabitants, including electricity and fuel. The cuts were finally implemented late last year after Israeli courts gave their blessing.

                                                                                                Vilnai and Barak, both military men, have been "selling" the policy of choking off basic services to Gaza to Western public opinion ever since. Under international law, Israel as the occupying power has an obligation to guarantee the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza. Tendentiously, the two claim that the humanitarian needs of Gazans are being safeguarded, and that therefore the measures do not constitute collective punishment.

                                                                                                Last October, after a meeting of defence officials, Vilnai said of Gaza: "Because this is an entity that is hostile to us, there is no reason for us to supply them with electricity beyond the minimum required to prevent a crisis." Three months later Vilnai went further, arguing that Israel should sever "all responsibility" for Gaza, though, in line with the advice of Israel's attorney general, he has been careful not to suggest that this would punish ordinary Gazans excessively. Instead he said disengagement should be taken to its logical conclusion: "We want to stop supplying electricity to them, stop supplying them with water and medicine, so that it would come from another place". He suggested that Egypt might take responsibility.

                                                                                                These various comments are a reflection of new thinking inside the Israel's defence and political establishments about where next to move Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. After the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, a consensus in the Israeli military quickly emerged in favour of maintaining control through a colonial policy of divide and rule, by factionalising the Palestinians and then keeping them feuding. As long as the Palestinians were too divided to resist the occupation effectively, Israel could carry on with its settlement programme and a "creeping annexation", as Moshe Dayan called it, of the occupied territories.

                                                                                                Israel experimented with various methods of undermining the secular Palestinian nationalism of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which threatened to galvanise Palestinian resistance to the occupation. In particular Israel established local anti-PLO militias known as the Village Leagues and later backed the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which would morph into Hamas.

                                                                                                Rivalry between Hamas and the PLO controlled by Fatah has been the backdrop to Palestinian politics in the occupied territories ever since, moving centre stage since Israel's "disengagement" from Gaza in 2005. The culmination of this antagonism was the physical separation of a Fatah-run West Bank from a Hamas-ruled Gaza last summer. Fatah and Hamas are now divided not only geographically but also by their diametrically opposed strategies for dealing with the Israeli occupation.

                                                                                                Fatah's control of the West Bank is being shored up by Israel because its leaders, including President Abbas, have made it clear that they are prepared to cooperate with an interminable peace process that will give Israel the time it needs to annex yet more Palestinian territory. Hamas, on the other hand, is under no illusions about the peace process, having seen Jewish settlers leave but Israel's military control and its economic siege only tighten from arm's length.

                                                                                                In charge of an open-air prison, Hamas has refused to surrender to Israeli diktat and has proven invulnerable to Israel's machinations to topple it. Instead it has begun advancing the only two feasible forms of resistance available: rocket attacks over the fence surrounding Gaza, and popular mass action.

                                                                                                And this is where the concerns of Vilnai and others emanate from. Both forms of resistance, if Hamas remains in charge of Gaza and improves its level of organisation and the clarity of its vision, could over the long term unravel Israel's plans to annex the occupied territories, once their Palestinian inhabitants have been removed.

                                                                                                First, Hamas's development of more sophisticated and longer-range rockets threatens to move Hamas's resistance to a much larger canvas than the backwater of the small development town of Siderot. The rockets that landed over the past few days on Ashkelon, one of the country's largest cities, could be the harbingers of change in Israel's political climate.

                                                                                                Hizbullah proved in the 2006 Lebanon war that Israeli domestic opinion quickly crumbled in the face of sustained rocket attacks. Hamas hopes to achieve the same outcome. After the strikes on Ashkelon, the Israeli media was filled with reports of angry mobs taking to the city's streets and burning tires in protest at their government's failure to protect them. That is their initial response. But in Sderot, where the attacks have been going on for years, the mayor, Eli Moyal, recently called for talks with Hamas. A poll published in the Haaretz daily showed that 64 per cent of Israelis now agree with him. That figure may increase if the rocket threat grows.

                                                                                                The fear among Israeli leaders is that "creeping annexation" of the occupied territories cannot be achieved if the Israeli public starts demanding that Hamas be brought to the negotiating table. Second, Hamas's mobilisation last month of Gazans to break through the wall at Rafah and pour into Egypt has demonstrated to Israel's politician-generals that the Islamic movement has the potential, as yet unrealised, to launch a focussed mass peaceful protest against the military siege of Gaza.

                                                                                                Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, noted that this scenario "frightens the army more than a violent conflict with armed Palestinians". Israel fears that the sight of unarmed women and children being executed for the crime of trying to free themselves from the prison Israel has built for them may terminally damage the occupation's image.

                                                                                                When several thousand Palestinians held a demonstration a fortnight ago in which they created a human chain along part of Gaza's fence with Israel, the Israeli army could hardly contain its panic. Heavy artillery batteries were brought to the perimeter and snipers were ordered to shoot protesters' legs if they approached the fence.

                                                                                                As Amira Hass, Haaretz's veteran reporter in the occupied territories, observed, Israel had so far managed to terrorise most ordinary Gazans into paralysed inactivity. Palestinians have refused to take the "suicidal" course of directly challenging their imprisonment, even peacefully: "The Palestinians do not need warnings or reports to know the Israeli soldiers shoot the unarmed as well, and they also kill women and children." But that may change as the siege brings ever-greater misery to Gaza.

                                                                                                As a result, Israel's immediate priorities are: to provoke Hamas regularly into violence to deflect it from the path of organising mass peaceful protest; to weaken the Hamas leadership through regular executions; and to ensure that an effective defence against the rockets is developed, including technology like Barak's pet project, Iron Dome, to shield the country from attacks.

                                                                                                In line with these policies, Israel broke the latest period of "relative calm" in Gaza by initiating the executions of five Hamas members last Wednesday. Predictably, Hamas responded by firing into Israel a barrage of rockets that killed the student in Siderot, in turn justifying last week's bloodbath in Gaza.

                                                                                                But a longer-term strategy is also required, and is being devised by Vilnai and others. Aware both that the Gaza prison is tiny and its resources scarce, and that the Palestinian population is growing at a rapid rate, Israel needs a more permanent solution. It must find a way to stop the growing threat posed by Hamas's organised resistance, and the social explosion that will come sooner or later from the Strip's overcrowding and inhuman conditions.

                                                                                                Vilnai's "holocaust" remark hints at that solution, as do a series of comments from cabinet ministers over the past few weeks proposing war crimes to stop the rockets. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for example, has said that Gazans cannot be allowed "to live normal lives"; Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter believes Israel should take action "irrespective of the cost to the Palestinians"; and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit advocates the Israeli army "decide on a neighbourhood in Gaza and level it" after each rocket attack.

                                                                                                This week, Barak revealed that his officials were working on the last idea, finding a way to make it lawful for the army to direct artillery fire and air strikes at civilian neighbourhoods of Gaza in response to rocket fire. Vilnai proposed a related idea, of declaring areas of Gaza "combat zones" in which the army would have a free hand and from which residents would have little choice but to flee. In practice, this would allow Israel to expel civilians from wide areas of the Strip, herding them into ever-smaller spaces.

                                                                                                All these measures -- from the intensification of the siege to prevent electricity, fuel and medicines from reaching Gaza to the concentration of the population into more confined spaces, as well as new ways of stepping up the violence inflicted on the Strip -- are thinly veiled ways of targeting and punishing the civilian population. They necessarily preclude negotiation and dialogue with Gaza's political leaders.

                                                                                                The ultimate goal appears to be a variation on Vilnai's "shoah": Gaza's depopulation, with the Strip squeezed on three sides until the pressure forces Palestinians to break out again into Egypt. On that occasion, it can be assumed, there will be no chance of return.

                                                                                                Al Ahram

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                                                                                                  A defeated policy, not a defeated people

                                                                                                  English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                  By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 7 March 2008

                                                                                                  Young relatives of newborn baby Amira Abu 'Aser mourn during her funeral in Gaza City, 5 March 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

                                                                                                  Compared with the international silence that surrounded Israel's recent massacres of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Gaza Strip, condemnation and condolences for the victims of the shooting attack that killed eight students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem has been swift.

                                                                                                  "I have just spoken with [Israeli] Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert to extend my deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and to the people of Israel," US President George W. Bush said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added his "condemnation" and "condolences," as did EU High Representative Javier Solana.

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                                                                                                  The day before the Jerusalem attack, Amira Abu 'Aser was buried in Gaza. She had lived just 20 days on this earth before being shot in the head by Israeli occupation forces who attacked the house of friends she and her family were visiting. Needless to say, she had not been firing rockets at Sderot when she was killed. One of the house's inhabitants was found the next day, shot dead and his head crushed by an army jeep, an apparent victim of an extrajudicial murder by Israeli forces.

                                                                                                  But confirming their status in the eyes of the "international community" as less than complete human beings, neither Amira's killing, nor any of the dozens of Palestinian civilian victims of Israel's onslaught in Gaza have merited condemnation or condolences.

                                                                                                  The fallacy that lies behind the differential concern for the lives of innocent Israelis and Palestinians is that the massacre in Jerusalem and the massacres in Gaza can be separated. Israeli deaths are "terrorism," while Palestinian deaths are merely an unfortunate consequence of the fight against "terrorism." But the two are intricately linked, and what happened in Jerusalem is a direct consequence of what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades.

                                                                                                  Let me be clear that the killing of civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, is wrong, repugnant, and cannot bring this one-hundred-year war caused by the Zionist colonization of Palestine to an end. There will be an Israeli propaganda effort -- as always -- to present Palestinian violence as being simply motivated by hatred, and divorced from the context of brutal occupation that Palestinians live under. What greater proof could you need than an attack on religious students, devoting their life to the study of the Torah?

                                                                                                  We cannot expect much analysis in the media of why the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva might have been chosen as a target. Was it mere coincidence that the school, named for Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and led after his death by his son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, is the ideological cradle of the militant, Jewish supremacist settler movement Gush Emunim?

                                                                                                  Unlike other sects in Israel which sought exemption of their students from military service, Gush Emunim encouraged its followers to join the army and become the armed wing of religious nationalist Zionism. Gush Emunim settlers, many of them, like Moshe Levinger, graduates of Mercaz HaRav, founded the most extreme and racist settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including the notorious colonies in and near Hebron whose inhabitants have made life miserable for Palestinians in the city and forced many of them out of their homes. It is the militant settlers of Gush Emunim who still honor Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in February 1994. It is in Hebron that the Gush Emunim settlers spray "Arabs to the gas chambers" on Palestinian houses.

                                                                                                  It is possible that the Mercaz HaRav gunman did not know or care about any of this, that any target he could identify as Israeli would have satisfied his desire to exact revenge.

                                                                                                  In 2002, Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon declared that "the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." This would be achieved by the massive and constant application of force until they got the message. The same philosophy was elaborated in 2004 by Professor Arnon Soffer, one of the architects, with former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, of the 2005 Gaza "disengagement."

                                                                                                  Soffer, an avid supporter of turning Gaza into a hermetically-sealed pen for unwanted Palestinians, explained that if Palestinians fire a single rocket over the fence into Israel, "we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won't allow their husbands to shoot Qassams [rockets], because they will know what's waiting for them."

                                                                                                  Soffer predicted that in a few years' time, "when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam." With Palestinians closed in, "The pressure at the border will be awful," Soffer predicted. "It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day."

                                                                                                  To be fair, Soffer did display a human side: "The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings" ("It's the demography, stupid," The Jerusalem Post, 21 May 2004).

                                                                                                  For decades Israel has been exercizing with ever-escalating brutality this deliberate strategy to crush through force and starvation a civilian population in rebellion against colonial rule. To Israel's vexation, the Palestinians are not playing their part. After sixty years of expulsions, massacres, assassinations of their leaders, colonization, torture, and mass imprisonment, the Palestinians have utterly failed to understand that they are a "defeated people."

                                                                                                  The vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank endure unprecedented oppression by the Israeli army and settlers without resorting to violence in response, but they maintain an inextinguishable determination to endure until they regain their rights. If the methods the Palestinian resistance has sometimes used are reprehensible, they have also been typical for anti-colonial resistance movements throughout time, as William Polk shows in his book Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism and Guerilla War from the American Revolution to Iraq, and Robert Pape demonstrated through his study of suicide bombing in Dying to Win.

                                                                                                  Is it not time for the rest of the world to step in and force Israel at last to understand the same thing, so that the senseless bloodshed can finally stop and all the people of the country -- Israelis and Palestinians -- can begin to imagine a future other than an endless parade of funerals?

                                                                                                  Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

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                                                                                                    Finding the thousand words

                                                                                                    English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                    US documentary filmmaker Errol Morris discusses Standard Operating Procedure, his award-winning film about torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, with Hannah Mintz

                                                                                                    Two stills from Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure (top and above) and Morris on set (middle)

                                                                                                    After being awarded the Silver Bear trophy at last month's Berlin International Film Festival, Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure is sure to make a giant splash when it hits cinemas in the US in April. Morris spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly about his film, which digs into the nightmare behind the infamous photographs of Iraqi prisoners taken at Abu Ghraib that shocked the world in 2004.

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                                                                                                    "The Abu Ghraib photographs serve as both an exposé and a cover up," Morris told the Weekly. "They peel back a curtain so that you get a glimpse of Abu Ghraib, but they fool you into thinking that that is all there is." The photographs depicting physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in autumn 2003 are horrifically familiar the world over. In Standard Operating Procedure, Morris seeks to investigate the less-known reality behind the photographs that people only think they understand.

                                                                                                    Morris described his film, like a cake, as having three ingredients: "the photos themselves, which are the evidence, the retrospective accounts in interviews with the soldiers involved, and reenacted elements, which attempt to take you into the world of the photos."

                                                                                                    "At the centre of the film is the story of the photos. Who took them? And in what order were they taken? This was a way of burrowing into that story of what happened on cellblock One-Alpha," Morris said. Even though the film includes more than 200 photos from the prison, Morris chose not to quickly riffle through them as filmmakers sometimes do. "I wanted each to have some kind of resonance," he said of the photos, which would churn even the strongest of stomachs.

                                                                                                    The film's consideration of the photos as evidence is guided by an interview with Brent Pack, the US Army investigator charged with scrutinising the photos during the prosecution of the seven soldiers. Pack addresses the topic of Abu Ghraib by analysing exactly what the pictures depict. The interview with Pack reveals one of the film's strongest and most shocking points, which is highlighted in its title: that many of the famous and gruesome photographs from Abu Ghraib, including the hooded man with wires on his hands, do not depict criminal acts, but rather standard operating procedure of the US Military.

                                                                                                    Another unsettling reality revealed in the film is that many of the abused prisoners were normal citizens, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The hooded man with wires, for example, was completely innocent and, ironically, well liked by the soldiers. He was even allowed out of his cell to assist with chores in exchange for cigarettes.

                                                                                                    While the photographs act as a framework for the film, Morris's deeply personal and emotional interviews steer the investigation. The viewer is able to look into the eyes of the young American soldiers who perpetrated the abuses photographed at Abu Ghraib. Remarkably, Morris succeeded in securing interviews with all five of the seven "bad apples," as they were dubbed by the Bush Administration, who were not serving jail sentences while the film was in production.

                                                                                                    Morris's patented interviewing contraption, called the "Interrotron," allows his subjects to look directly into a camera, which is hidden behind a projected live image of himself. "The Interrotron focuses the relationship. It creates a kind of intimacy, a kind of frame," he said. "It creates this private place where people can talk and I can listen. I'm not there to pass judgment," Morris added of his interviews, which sometimes go on for days.

                                                                                                    In addition to the first-person retrospective interviews, the film includes handwritten letters from Sabrina Harman, one of the "bad apples," the letters offering a glimpse of the thoughts of one of the soldiers around the time the abuses took place. "They are remarkable," Morris said, "because they are contemporaneous; they come from Abu Ghraib itself."

                                                                                                    Morris acknowledged that he is drawn to subjects who have been blamed for crimes, and who it seems no one else is listening to. "Part of being an artist is extending sympathy where it has never been extended before." In his previous film, The Fog of War, which won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Morris interviewed the vilified Robert McNamara, who served as US Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. "It's difficult not to come to like the people that I'm interviewing," Morris said.

                                                                                                    But listening and extending sympathy does not mean absolution. "My being sympathetic with McNamara and my willingness to listen to him, doesn't mean I don't think he is a war criminal," Morris added. Similarly, "My liking these soldiers doesn't mean that I don't think that they did wrong. Quite the contrary, I know that they did wrong."

                                                                                                    Morris hopes his film will raise introspective questions for the audience. "You are being introduced to a reality that people have not seen, and you have to ask yourself: what would you do? What kind of predicament were those soldiers put in? Untrained, understaffed, ill-supplied. What does all of it mean about our military, our society? I would like everybody who watches the film to ask themselves the simple question: what would I do if I had been put in this position?"

                                                                                                    Interestingly, like McNamara, the soldiers from Abu Ghraib do not apologise for their actions during their interviews. "The purpose of this movie was not to get these people to apologise, but to try to give an account of a reality that they were in, and that they helped to create," Morris said. "Maybe I don't exactly believe in redemption. Certain things can never be redeemed."

                                                                                                    Morris was personally fascinated by the differences among the soldiers. "What they did, the reasons, and the excuses that they made to themselves: they're all different. But they all got trapped in this kind of evil nightmare," Morris said. "These soldiers were not innocent of bad behaviour, but they nonetheless were scapegoated. And many of the people responsible have never been held to account. In a Frank Capra film, it would be like Jimmy Stewart taking the fall, and Potter getting away with theft. It seems inherently wrong."

                                                                                                    Reenactments of the infamous scenes comprise the final element of Morris's investigation. While some critics have said that the reenactments make the film less valid, Morris said they are "a way of putting yourself into the past and trying to think about the interviews." Morris has also received criticism for infusing his film with a hauntingly beautiful score by composer Danny Elfman. "Pursuing the truth isn't a matter of stylistic choices," he said. "I like to think that I am grappling with the idea of truth."

                                                                                                    The stylized reenactments, which include vicious attack dogs and shadows of brutal interrogations, help Morris recreate the nightmare that was Abu Ghraib. "Everything in that place was a violation of the Geneva Conventions," he said. "Reenactments dramatize the horror of what was done there and show the terror and insanity of the place."

                                                                                                    The reenactments attempt to capture the horrors from the prisoners' standpoint. "I think you feel the Iraqi sensibility all through the movie," he responded. "It doesn't exist in the form of interviews, but I think it exists even more powerfully in how the film is put together." Nevertheless, Morris has faced criticism for not including interviews with Iraqi prisoners. To this he has responded that this is primarily a film about America and Americans, although he has said that he attempted to find some of the prisoners in the best-known photographs.

                                                                                                    One of the most haunting elements of the story Morris tells is that of Al-Jamadi, the Iraqi prisoner who was killed during an interrogation, likely by the US Central Intelligence Agency, and whose corpse was later photographed by one of the seven "bad apples". None of the soldiers who were punished were involved with Al-Jamadi's death, and to date, none of the CIA officers or others suspected to be involved in the murder have been prosecuted. This story serves to remind the audience that the infamous photos, while they depict abuse, do not necessarily depict torture. "I do not think that the whole issue of torture is at the centre of this story," Morris said. "The smoking gun is Abu Ghraib itself. The seven "bad apples" are a sideshow. It is all part of a much bigger picture. The worst stuff was not in the photographs," he added.

                                                                                                    Morris's longstanding interest in the medium of photography, which predates the Abu Ghraib pictures, lies at the heart of this film. "In 100 years, I think the iconic photos of the war in Iraq will be those Abu Ghraib photos," Morris said. "Why does an iconic photo become iconic? Why do certain photos become famous?" Morris thinks there is more to the Abu Ghraib photographs than just their shock value: "They deeply capture something truly unpleasant about the war in Iraq," he said.

                                                                                                    For Morris, it's all about humiliation. "You hear people say this is a war for oil, or this is an imperialist war to reassert America's hegemony. I see it in much simpler terms. To me it's a war of humiliation. Whoever started it, it started as a war of retaliation, revenge, spite, and humiliation. George W Bush wanted to show that he was more of a man, more important, a stronger leader," Morris said.

                                                                                                    "This is a horrendous story of humiliation and re-humiliation. The US was humiliated during 9/11, then the US was trying to humiliate Saddam Hussein, regardless of whether he had anything to do with 9/11," he added. "These are pictures of sexual humiliation, that's what's so striking about them. Then the photos get out and humiliate the president. He then in turn humiliates the soldiers, deflecting blame from his own administration."

                                                                                                    Morris said he would like to see the insanity of the war in Iraq come to an end, expressing dismay that the US has created a new face of evil to fill the vacuum left by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. "The idea of American foreign policy -- if you can dignify it by calling it foreign policy -- is that the solution of the problems of the world should be through violence," he said. "I would like the Arab world to be our friends, and I hope that the film might play some small role in that regard."

                                                                                                    Although this film does not directly try to pin the crimes of Abu Ghraib on officials higher up the chain of command, such as former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Morris says Standard Operating Procedure "is the tip of an iceberg." He added, "Frankly I would like to see the people who were responsible for this punished."

                                                                                                    Morris's self-described "non-fiction horror film," Standard Operating Procedure, will be released along with a book of the same title written by Morris and Philip Gourevitch, who is the editor of The Paris Review, which deals with the topic in more detail. "I'd like all of this to trigger a new investigation into what happened there," Morris said.

                                                                                                    "Making this movie is in some way my attempt to deal with my feelings about this war, which includes a mixture of anger, shame, powerlessness, embarrassment. I'm very glad that I've done it."

                                                                                                    Hannah Mintz worked as an intern/researcher on Standard Operating Procedure in 2006.

                                                                                                    Al Ahram

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                                                                                                      Palestians in Gaza mourn four killed by Zionist Israeli forces

                                                                                                      English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                      The procession in Khan Younis [Ma'anImages]

                                                                                                      GAZA – Crowds of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza City and Khan Younis on Friday for the funeral processions of four Palestinians killed by Israeli forces on Thursday.

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                                                                                                      The funeral of Islamic Jihad fighters Fadi Abu Haddaf, Sa'id Abu Haddaf and Zakariyya Al-'Imawi were held in Khan Younis. The procession began at at Nasser Hospital, proceeded to houses of the families of the death for before prayer at Sheikh Hammuda Mosque and finally to the eastern cemetery in the city.

                                                                                                      Meanwhile, the funeral procession of Nafidh Abu Karsh, a member of the armed wing of Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, was held in the Saftawi neighborhood in Gaza City.

                                                                                                      The mourners in both processions shouted slogans condemning what they see as criminal Israeli attacks on Gaza and calling on all Palestinian military groups to take revenge. Militants who led the processions fired into the air, expressing their anger.

                                                                                                      The Al Qudes brigades the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad said that the four are members of the brigades.

                                                                                                      Medics said that they managed to retrieve two of the bodies by the other two are still on the location because the medics said that Israeli tanks opened fire at their ambulance.

                                                                                                      Agencies

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                                                                                                        PCHR Weekly Report: 114 Palestinians killed, 236 wounded by Israeli forces

                                                                                                        English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                        By Saed Bannoura

                                                                                                        According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)'s Weekly Report, during the week of 28 Feb.- 05 Mar. 2008, 114 Palestinians were killed, and 28 were injured by the Israeli military. Of those killed, 77 were killed by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. 27 were children, including two babies, 6 were women, and one was a paramedic. 69 of the victims were killed by Israeli forces in Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip during a massive air and ground assault. 236 Palestinians, including 154 civilians (this figure includes 56 children and 11 women) were wounded by Israeli forces.

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                                                                                                        Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:

                                                                                                        Over the last week, at least 80 missiles were fired in 52 air strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, killing 77 Palestinians. An additional 43 Palestinians were killed by Israeli ground invasions into Gaza over the last week.

                                                                                                        The ground operation was preceded by intense air strikes against targets in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces employed their full-fledged arsenal and used excessive force without any consideration of the lives of Palestinian civilians. Israeli aircraft pursued activists of the Palestinian resistance using missiles in the middle of densely populated areas. Israeli aircraft launched 24 air strikes against the northern Gaza Strip, during which they fired 36 missiles. As a result, 44 Palestinians, including 14 children and a woman, were killed. Israeli forces obstructed the work of medical crews and even fired at them, killing a paramedic and wounding another one seriously. A number of ambulances were also damaged by Israeli gunfire. A number of the wounded bled to death. During the military operation in the northern Gaza Strip, 175 Palestinians, including 44 children and 5 women, were wounded.

                                                                                                        The following facts highlight a number of the crimes committed by Israeli forces during the military operation in the northern Gaza Strip:

                                                                                                        · 4 Palestinian children, including 3 from one same family, were killed by an Israeli air strike when they were playing football near their home. Their bodies were completely dismembered. They were identified as Mohammed Na’im Hammouda, 9; 'Ali Munir Dardouna, 8; Dardouna Deeb Dardouna, 12; and 'Omar Hussein Dardouna, 14. Another 2 children were seriously wounded. Investigations by PCHR fieldworkers confirmed there were no Palestinian resistance fighters in the targeted area, which was calm when the children were attacked. On the same day, a 5th child was killed by Israeli forces while shepherding animals in Beit Lahia.

                                                                                                        · 7 children were killed by an Israeli air strike because they happened to be standing on the street near a car that was targeted for extrajudicial assassination

                                                                                                        · 2 civilians, including a child, were killed when a missile fired by Israeli forces hit their home.

                                                                                                        · A 2-year-old child was killed when a missile fired by Israeli forces hit her family’s home.

                                                                                                        · 3 children were killed by an Israeli artillery shell fired by an invading tank.

                                                                                                        · 2 children were killed when Israeli forces opened fire at their house during the ground invasion.

                                                                                                        · A child and his father were killed by Israeli forces when they were on their way to work.

                                                                                                        · A child was killed and his father was seriously wounded when Israeli forces fired at their house.

                                                                                                        · A woman was killed when Israeli forces fired at her house.

                                                                                                        · A child was wounded by Israeli forces and she bled to death as medical crews were denied access to her house.

                                                                                                        · A boy was wounded by Israeli forces and he bled to death as medical crews were denied access to his house.

                                                                                                        These are just a few examples of the Israeli attacks on the population of the Gaza Strip this week.

                                                                                                        In other areas of the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces launched 28 air strikes, during which they fired 44 missiles, against various targets. As a result, 33 Palestinian, including 3 women and a child, were killed, and 57 others, including 12 children and 6 women, were wounded. In one of these attacks, Israeli forces bombarded a house in Gaza City, killing 6 civilians from one same family, including 3 women, and wounding 8 others, including 4 children.

                                                                                                        12 civilian facilities, including the office of the dismissed Palestinian Prime Minister, the headquarters of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions and the office of Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Hamas, were destroyed. 7 houses were destroyed and a mosque was heavily damaged. Israeli forces destroyed 3 houses completely and 70 others partially and razed at least 90 donums of agricultural land in Jabalya town in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                        Israeli attacks in the West Bank:

                                                                                                        In the West Bank, 3 Palestinians, including a child, were killed by Israeli forces and a 4th one was killed by an Israeli settler. 29 Palestinians, including 11 children, were wounded by Israeli forces in the West Bank.

                                                                                                        Israeli forces conducted 45 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During those incursions, Israeli forces abducted 65 Palestinian civilians and transformed 2 houses into military sites.

                                                                                                        3 Palestinian civilians were abducted by Israeli forces at various checkpoints in the West Bank.

                                                                                                        On 28 February 2008, Israeli forces killed 2 members of the Palestinian resistance and wounded 2 others during an incursion into Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus. On 2 March 2008, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian child and wounded another 2 civilians in Beit ‘Aawa village, southwest of Hebron, when they fired at hundreds of Palestinian civilians who were demonstrating in protest to attacks by Israeli forces against the Gaza Strip. On 3 March 2008, an Israeli settler shot dead a Palestinian civilian in al-Mazra’a village, northwest of Ramallah. Dozens of school students who were demonstrating in protest to attacks by Israeli forces against the Gaza Strip headed towards an Israeli settlement near the village. Additionally, 25 Palestinian civilians were wounded when Israeli forces used force to disperse peaceful demonstration organized in protest to attacks by Israeli forces against the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                        Israeli settlement activities:

                                                                                                        Israeli Forces have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.

                                                                                                        One Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler this week. At approximately 08:30, dozens of Palestinian school students demonstrated in al-Mazra'a village, northwest of Ramallah, in protest to attacks by Israeli forces against the Gaza Strip. The demonstrators moved towards "Tilmon B" settlement to the southwest of the village. Immediately, an Israeli settler who gathered with other settlers near the settlement fired at the demonstrators. As a result, Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Shraitah, 18, was seriously wounded by a gunshot to the head. He died on the way to the hospital. The Israeli radio claimed that the settler stated in interrogation by the Israeli police that "dozens of demonstrators attacked him with stones when he was walking near the settlement, so he fired in the air, but they did not stop attacking him, and consequently, he fired at them." Eyewitnesses to the event counter the settler's account, saying that he fired at the crowd entirely unprovoked. Israeli forces usually take no action towards attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians.

                                                                                                        Israeli Annexation Wall:

                                                                                                        Israeli forces have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside West Bank territory. During the reporting period, Israeli forces used force against a peaceful demonstration organized by Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders in protest to the construction of the Wall in Bil’in village, west of Ramallah.

                                                                                                        Following the Friday Prayer on 29 February, dozens of Palestinian students organized a peaceful demonstration in Bil’in village, west of Ramallah, to protest the attacks by Israeli forces against the Gaza Strip. The students moved towards the Annexation Wall that stands on the lands of the village. Immediately, Israeli forces fired at them. We’am Mohammed Bernat, 18, was wounded by 3 gunshots to the legs. Israeli forces held him bleeding for more than an hour and would not allow an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

                                                                                                        Recommendations to the International Community:

                                                                                                        The PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal and moral obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure Israel's respect for the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. PCHR believes that the conspiracy of silence practiced by the international community has encouraged Israel to act as if it is above the law and encourages Israel continue to violate international human rights and humanitarian law.

                                                                                                        The PCHR reiterates that any political settlement not based on international human rights law and humanitarian law cannot lead to a peaceful and just solution of the Palestinian question. Rather, such an arrangement can only lead to further suffering and instability in the region. Any peace agreement or process must be based on respect for international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law.

                                                                                                        Click on the link below for the full report.
                                                                                                        http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/W_report/English/2008/06-...8.htm

                                                                                                        http://imemc.org/article/53329

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                                                                                                          Iraqis mourn twin blasts; at least 68 victims

                                                                                                          English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                          Funerals have been held for many of the victims of a twin bombing in a crowded Baghdad shopping district that killed at least 68 people.

                                                                                                          The funerals were held on Friday in the primarily Shia, middle-class Baghdad neighbourhood of Karradah, where the back-to-back attacks took place.

                                                                                                          There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack on Thursday, but police said it was designed to hit as many people as possible.

                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                          Iraqi interior ministry officials said on Friday that 68 people were killed and 120 injured after several people died from their injuries overnight.

                                                                                                          The streets were packed at the time of the blasts with vendors selling goods on sidewalks and residents shopping at the start of the weekend.

                                                                                                          Iraqi and US officials said a roadside bomb exploded first. Minutes later, as Iraqi security forces and locals rushed in to help the injure, a second, larger blast occured.

                                                                                                          Women and children were among the casualties.

                                                                                                          Police and the US military said they believed the second explosion was caused by a suicide bomber.

                                                                                                          Last month, two women killed 99 people when they detonated explosives in packed animal markets, with 62 dying in the deadlier of the two bombings.

                                                                                                          Mosul attack

                                                                                                          Another suicide bomber blew himself up near a police station in northern Iraq on Friday and killed four policemen.

                                                                                                          The bomber attacked the Al-Waqhas police station in the Ras al-Jadha neighbourhood of Mosul at around 7am (04:00 GMT), police officials said.

                                                                                                          Four policemen were killed and 17 others, including 15 policemen, were wounded in the attack that once again highlighted the danger Iraqi security forces face.

                                                                                                          "We have received bodies of four policemen killed," doctor Ghanim Ahmed at the Mosul general hospital said.

                                                                                                          Another medic there confirmed admitting 15 wounded policemen.

                                                                                                          A police officer said the targeted neighbourhood housed several government offices, including one belonging to the interior ministry.

                                                                                                          Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                            Israelis mourn Jerusalem victims; Zionist government seals off occupied West Bank

                                                                                                            English (US)  March 7th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                            Police said the attacker entered through the school's main gate before opening fire in the library

                                                                                                            Thousands of mourners turned out on the streets of Jerusalem to pay their last respects to eight students killed by a Palestinian man at a Jewish religious school.

                                                                                                            [More:]


                                                                                                            The attacker, identified as an East Jerusalem resident, was shot dead after he opened fire with an automatic weapon in the library of the Merkaz Harav Jewish religious school.

                                                                                                            Reuters news agency said that Hamas has claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack. No further details were immediately available.

                                                                                                            The group had earlier praised the "heroic operation" while thousands of Gazans poured onto the streets to celebrate.

                                                                                                            The attack came days after Israel ended a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip, that left 120 Palestinians dead.

                                                                                                            Al-Aqsa restrictions

                                                                                                            Israel has deployed thousands of police and set up road blocks across Jerusalem on Friday, Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman said.

                                                                                                            Police were also limiting Palestinian access to the al-Aqsa mosque due to fears violence could break out in the Old City as both Jews and Muslims gathered for prayers.

                                                                                                            The Israeli military, meanwhile, sealed off the occupied West Bank until Saturday night.

                                                                                                            Thousands of Israelis poured into Jerusalem to take part in open-air funerals for the victims, aged 15 to 26.

                                                                                                            It was the bloodiest attack on Israelis in two years and the first such in four years in Jerusalem.

                                                                                                            "The time for us has come to understand that an external struggle as well as an internal struggle are raging," Rabbi Yaakov Shapira told mourners outside the Merkaz Harav seminary.

                                                                                                            Shapira, who runs the well-known centre for Jewish studies linked to those leading the Jewish settler movement in the occupied West Bank, called for "stronger leadership" in Israel.

                                                                                                            The seminary serves some 400 high school students and young Israeli soldiers, many of whom carry arms.

                                                                                                            Thursday's shooting could further complicate US-backed efforts to broker a deal for the creation of Palestine by the end of 2008.

                                                                                                            It followed a visit to the region by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, who persuaded Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to resume peace talks he suspended over Israel's attacks on Gaza.

                                                                                                            Washington has tried to pressure Israel to ease some travel restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, but the attack makes that far less likely to happen soon.

                                                                                                            Condemnations

                                                                                                            Abbas condemned the Jerusalem attack.

                                                                                                            Saeb Erekat, an Abbas aide, said: "President Mahmoud Abbas condemns the attack in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of many Israelis and he reiterated his condemnation of all attacks that target civilians, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis."

                                                                                                            Mark Regev, spokesman for Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said Abbas must go further and rein in Palestinian armed groups.

                                                                                                            He said: "They have clear obligations to act against terrorist cells, to act against the infrastructure of terrorism.

                                                                                                            "While we understand they have limitations on their capabilities today, we believe that they could be doing much more and it is incumbent upon them to do so."

                                                                                                            Israel has yet to meet its own commitments under a long-stalled peace "road map" to halt all settlement activity and to remove Jewish outposts in the West Bank.

                                                                                                            A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said that those responsible for the shooting were "killing chances for peace" and vowed to "continue our fight against terrorists".

                                                                                                            But Arye Mekel added that Israel would carry on with the negotiations.

                                                                                                            The US and Israel blamed Libya for the failure to pass a UN resolution against the attack, which said it wanted to link any condemnation of the shooting to its own resolution pressing for censure of Israel over its deadly land and air assault on the Gaza Strip last week.

                                                                                                            While not claiming responsibility for the attack, Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said "this heroic attack in Jerusalem is a normal response to the crimes of the occupier and its murder of civilians".

                                                                                                            Attacker's identity

                                                                                                            Israeli defence officials said the attacker came from east Jerusalem, the predominantly Arab section of the city which Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

                                                                                                            In contrast to Palestinians in the West Bank, those in Jerusalem have Israeli identification cards, allowing them relatively free movement inside Israel.

                                                                                                            Police said the attacker, believed to be in his early 20s, worked for a private transport company but did not elaborate.

                                                                                                            Residents of East Jerusalem named the attacker as Ala Abu Dhaim.

                                                                                                            Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said Dhaim walked through the seminary's main gate and entered the library, armed with an assault rifle and pistol.

                                                                                                            At least six empty bullet clips were found on the floor, Rosenfeld said.

                                                                                                            Israeli police have arrested more than 10 relatives and friends of the Palestinian suspect, including his father who was released hours later.

                                                                                                            Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                              Gilad Atzmon - Freedom of Speech: the right to equate Gaza with Auschwitz

                                                                                                              English (US)  March 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                              By Gilad Atzom

                                                                                                              (A talk given on the First of March 2008 at Invitation to Learn’s weekend retreat) At the left, “Innocent” by Ben Heine

                                                                                                              “They (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves” (Matan Vilnai, Israeli Deputy Defence Minister, 29 February 2008)

                                                                                                              It is clear beyond any doubt that the Israeli Deputy Defence Minister was far from being reluctant to equate Israel with Nazi Germany when revealing the genocidal future awaiting the Palestinian people, yet, for some reason, this is precisely what Western media outlets refrain from doing. In spite of the facts that are right in front of our eyes, in spite of the starvation in Gaza, in spite of an Israeli official admitting genocidal inclinations against the Palestinians, in spite of the mounting carnage and death, we are still afraid to admit that Gaza is a concentration camp and it is on the verge of becoming a deadly one. For some peculiar reason, many of us have yet to accept that as far as evil is concerned, Israel is the world champion in mercilessness and vengeance.

                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                              Liberty and Authority

                                                                                                              In his invaluable text On Liberty, John Stuart Mill argued that struggle always takes place between the competing demands of liberty and authority. In other words, freedom and hegemony are set to battle each other. However, Western egalitarian liberal ideology is there to introduce a political alternative. It is there to nourish the myth that ‘authority’ and ‘freedom’ could be seen as two sides of the same coin.

                                                                                                              Today, I will try to elaborate on the structural dynamic of liberal discourse and the different elements that are involved in maintaining the false image of ‘freedom’, ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘freedom of thought’. I will try to argue that it is our alleged ‘freedom’ that actually stops us from thinking freely and ethically. As you may notice I said ‘false image of freedom’ because I am totally convinced that, as far as Liberal discourse is concerned, freedom is nothing more than a mere image. In practice, there is no such a thing. The image of ‘freedom’ is there to fuel and maintain our righteous self-loving discourse so we can keep sending our soldiers to kill millions in the name of ‘democracy’.

                                                                                                              Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Thought

                                                                                                              I would like to introduce this with an elaboration of the distinction between ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘freedom of thought’.

                                                                                                              Freedom of speech can be realised as one’s liberty to expresses one’s own thoughts.

                                                                                                              Bearing in mind that humans are expressive creatures, there is no easy policing method to guarantee the silencing of the dissident voice. Since speaking is inherent to human nature, any exercise of litigation to do with the curtailing of such an elementary right is rather complicated: You ban one’s books? One would then spread leaflets in the streets. You confiscate one’s flyers? One would then agitate over the net. You cut one’s power, confiscate one’s computer? One may start to shout one’s head off. You chop off one’s tongue? One would then nod in approval when others are repeating one’s manifesto. You are then left with no other option but chopping one’s head off, but even then, all you do is make one into a martyr.

                                                                                                              Two available methods are used by liberals to silence the dissident:

                                                                                                              a. prohibition (financial penalty and imprisonment);

                                                                                                              b. social exclusion.

                                                                                                              However, it is crucial to mention that within the so-called liberal discourse, any attempt to ban an idea or a dissident voice is counter-effective, if anything it reflects badly on the liberal authority and the system. This is why liberals try to facilitate some rather sophisticated methods of censorship and thought policing that would involve very little authoritarian intervention. As we will see soon, in liberal society, censorship and thought policing is mostly self-imposed.

                                                                                                              As much as it is difficult to curtail freedom of speech, suppressing freedom of thought is almost impossible.

                                                                                                              Freedom of thought could be realised as the liberty to think, to feel, to dream, to remember, to forget, to forgive, to love and to hate.

                                                                                                              As difficult as it may be to impose thought on others, it is almost unfeasible to stop people from seeing the truth for themselves. Yet, there are some methods to suppress and restrain intuitive thinking and ethical insight. I am obviously referring here to guilt.

                                                                                                              Guilt, inflicted mostly via a set of axioms conveyed as ‘political correctness’, is the most effective method to keep society or any given discourse in a state of ’self-policing’. It turns the so-called autonomous liberal subject into a subservient, self-moderated, obedient citizen. Yet, the authority is spared from making any intervention. It is the liberal subject who curtails oneself from accepting a set of fixed ideas that support the egalitarian image of freedom and ecumenical society.

                                                                                                              However, at this point I see the necessity to suggest that in spite of the liberal claim for peace seeking, liberal societies in general and the Anglo-American ones in particular are currently involved in crimes against humanity on a genocidal scale. Consequently, the more horrid the West is becoming, the greater is the gap between ‘freedom of thought’ and ‘freedom of speech’.

                                                                                                              This gap can easily evolve into a cognitive dissonance that in many cases mature into some severe form of apathy. It is said that ‘all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing’. This summarizes perfectly well the apathetic negligence of the Western masses. Not many care much about the genocide in Iraq that is committed in our name or the mass murder in Palestine that is committed with the support of our governments. Why are we apathetic? Because when we want to stand up and say what we feel, when we want to celebrate our alleged freedom and to equate Gaza with Auschwitz, or Baghdad with Dresden, something inside us stops us from doing so. It is not the Government, legislation or any other form of authority, it is rather a small and highly effective self-inflicted ‘guilt microchip’ acting as policing regulator in the name of ‘political correctness’.

                                                                                                              I will now try to follow the historical and philosophical evolution that leads us from the liberal-egalitarian-utopia to the current ethical and intellectual self-castration disaster.

                                                                                                              The Harm Principle

                                                                                                              John Stuart Mill, the founder of modern liberal thinking, tells us that any doctrine should be allowed the light of day no matter how immoral it may seem to everyone else. This is obviously the ultimate expression of liberal thinking. It ascribes absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, ethical, political, religious or theological.

                                                                                                              Though Mill endorsed the fullest form of liberty of expression, he suggested a limitation attached to freedom set by the prevention of ‘harm to others’. It is obviously very difficult to defend freedom of speech once it leads to the invasion of the rights of others. The question to ask is therefore, “what types of speech may cause harm?” Mill distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate harm. According to Mill, only when speech causes a direct and clear violation of rights, can it be limited. But then, what kind of speech may cause such violation?

                                                                                                              Feminists, for instance, have been maintaining that pornography degrades, endangers, and harms the lives of women. Another difficult case is hate speech. Most European liberal democracies have limitations on hate speech. Yet, it is debatable whether a ban of pornography or hate speech can be supported by the harm principle as articulated by Mill. One would obviously have to prove that such speech or imagery violates rights, directly and in the first instance.

                                                                                                              Consequently, Mill’s harm principle is criticised for being too narrow as well as too broad. It is too narrow for failing to defend the right of the marginal. It is too broad because when interpreted extensively, it may lead to a potential abolishment of almost every political, religious or socially orientated speech.

                                                                                                              The Offence Principle and Free Speech

                                                                                                              Bearing in mind the shortcomings of the ‘harm principle’, it didn’t take long before an ‘offence principle’ had been called into play. The offence principle can be articulated as follows:

                                                                                                              ‘One’s freedom of expression should not be interfered with unless it causes an offence to others.’

                                                                                                              The basic reasoning behind the ‘offence principle’ is trivial. It is there to defend the rights of the marginal and the weak. It is there to amend the hole created by the far-too-broad harm principle.

                                                                                                              The offence principle is obviously pretty effective in curtailing pornography and hate speech. As in the case of violent pornography, strictly speaking, the offence that is caused by a Nazi march through a Jewish neighbourhood cannot be avoided and must be addressed.

                                                                                                              However, the offence principle can be criticized for setting the bar far too low. Theoretically speaking, everyone can be ‘offended’ by anything.

                                                                                                              The Jewish Lobbies and the Liberal Discourse

                                                                                                              There is no doubt that the vast utilization of the offence principle ascribes a lot of political power to some marginal lobbies in general and Jewish lobbies in particular. Counting on the premise of the ‘offence principle’, Jewish nationalist ethnic activists claim to be offended by any form of criticism of the Jewish state and Zionism. But in fact it goes further, in practice it isn’t just criticism of Zionism and Israel which we are asked to avoid. Jewish leftists insist that we must avoid any discussion having to do with the Jewish national project, Jewish identity and even Jewish history. In short, with the vast support of the offence principle, Jewish ethnic leaders both on the left and right have succeeded in demolishing the possibility of any criticism of Jewish identity and politics. Employing the offence principle, Jewish lobbies right, left and centre, have managed to practically silence any possible criticism of Israel and its crimes against the Palestinians. More worryingly, Jewish leftist political activists and intellectuals outrageously demand to avoid any criticism of the Jewish Lobby in the USA and in Britain.

                                                                                                              As we can see, the ‘offence Principle’ regulates and even serves some notorious Zionist as well as Jewish leftist political lobbies at the heart of the so-called liberal democratic West. In practice we are terrorized into submission by a group of gatekeepers who limit our freedom via an elastic dynamic operator that is there to suppress our thoughts before they mature into an ethical insight. Manipulation set by political correctness is the nourishing ground of our shattering cognitive dissonance. This is exactly where freedom of expression doesn’t agree with freedom of the thought.

                                                                                                              Auschwitz Versus Gaza in the light of Political Correctness

                                                                                                              We tend to agree that marginal discourses should be protected by the offence principle, so the marginal subject maintains his unique voice. We obviously agree also that such an approach must be applicable to the manifold of Jewish marginal discourses (religious, nationalist, Trotskyite, etc.). Seemingly, Jewish political lobbies want far more than just that, they insist upon delegitmising any intellectual reference to current Jewish political lobbying and global Zionism. As if this is not enough, any reference to modern Jewish history is prohibited unless kosherly approved by a ‘Zionist’ authority. As bizarre as it may be, the Jewish Holocaust has now been intellectually set as a meta-historical event. It is an event in the past that won’t allow any historical, ideological, theological or sociological scrutiny.

                                                                                                              Bearing in mind the offence principle, Jews are entitled to argue that any form of speculation regarding their past suffering is “offensive and hurtful”. Yet, one may demand some explanations. How is it that historical research that may lead to some different visions of past events that occurred six and a half decades ago offends those who live amongst us today? Clearly, it is not an easy task to suggest a rational answer to such a query.

                                                                                                              Plainly, historical research shouldn’t cause harm or an offence to the contemporary Jew or any other human subject around. Unless of course, the Holocaust itself is utilized against the Palestinians or those who are accused as being the ‘enemies of Israel’. As we learn from Matan Vilnai recently, the Jewish State wouldn’t refrain from bringing a Shoah on the Palestinian people. The Israelis and their supporters do not stop themselves from putting the holocaust into rhetorical usage. Yet, the Jewish lobbies around the world would do their very best to stop the rest of us from grasping what Shoah may mean. They would use their ultimate powers to stop us from utilizing the holocaust as a critical tool of Israeli barbarism.

                                                                                                              As one may predict by now, in order to censor historical research into Jewish history and a further understanding of current Israeli evil, political correctness is called into play. Political correctness is there to stop us from seeing and expressing the obvious. Political correctness is there to stop us realising that truth and historical truth in particular is an elastic notion. Yet, you may wonder what exactly political correctness is.

                                                                                                              Political correctness, for those who failed to understand it, is basically a political stand that doesn’t allow political criticism. Political correctness is a stand that cannot be fully justified in rational, philosophical or political terms. It is implanted as a set of axioms at the heart of the liberal discourse. It operates as a self -imposed silencing regulator powered by self-inflicted guilt.

                                                                                                              Political correctness is in fact the crudest assault on freedom of speech, freedom of thought and human liberty, yet, manipulatively, it conveys itself as the ultimate embodiment of freedom.

                                                                                                              Hence, I would argue as forcefully as I can that political correctness is the bitterest enemy of human liberty and those who regulate those social axioms and plant them in our discourse are the gravest enemies of humanity.

                                                                                                              I would argue as forcefully as I can that since the Palestinians are facing Nazi-like State terrorism, the holocaust narrative and its meaning belongs to them at least as much as it belongs to the Jews or anyone else.

                                                                                                              I would argue as forcefully as I can that if the Palestinians are indeed the last victims of Hitler, then the holocaust and its meaning do belong to them more than anyone else.

                                                                                                              Bearing all that in mind, equating Gaza with Auschwitz is the right and only way forwards. Questioning the holocaust and its meaning is what liberation of humanity means today and in the near future.

                                                                                                              [Via: PeacePalestine]

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                                                                                                                Noam Chomsky: International Terror Most-Wanted List

                                                                                                                English (US)  March 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                If Washington turned its definition of terror on the U.S., America could rise to the top of its own most-wanted list.

                                                                                                                One of Noam Chomsky's latest books -- a conversation with David Barsamian -- is entitled What We Say Goes. It catches a powerful theme of Chomsky's: that we have long been living on a one-way planet and that the language we regularly wield to describe the realities of our world is tailored to Washington's interests.

                                                                                                                Juan Cole, at his Informed Comment website, had a good example of the strangeness of this targeted language recently. When Serbs stormed the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, he offered the following comment (with so many years of the term "Islamofascism" in mind): "...given that the Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians, will the Republican Party and Fox Cable News now start fulminating against 'Christofascism?'"

                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                Of course, the minute you try to turn the Washington norm (in word or act) around, as Chomsky did in a piece entitled What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?, you've already entered the theater of the absurd. "Terror" is a particularly good example of this. "Terror" is something that, by (recent) definition, is committed by free-floating groups or movements against innocent civilians and is utterly reprehensible (unless the group turns out to be the CIA running car bombs into Baghdad or car and camel bombs into Afghanistan, in which case it's not a topic that's either much discussed, or condemned in our world). On the other hand, that weapon of terror, air power, which is at the heart of the American way of war, simply doesn't qualify under the category of "terror" at all -- no matter how terrifying it may be to innocent civilians who find themselves underneath the missiles and bombs.

                                                                                                                It's with this in mind that Chomsky turns to terror of every kind in the Middle East in the context of the car bombing of a major figure in Lebanon's Hizbollah movement. By the way, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a new collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published and is highly recommended. Introduction by TomDispatch editor, Tom Engelhardt.

                                                                                                                The Most Wanted List
                                                                                                                International Terrorism

                                                                                                                By Noam Chomsky

                                                                                                                On February 13, Imad Moughniyeh, a senior commander of Hizbollah, was assassinated in Damascus. "The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said: "one way or the other he was brought to justice." Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell added that Moughniyeh has been "responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden."

                                                                                                                Joy was unconstrained in Israel too, as "one of the U.S. and Israel's most wanted men" was brought to justice, the London Financial Times reported. Under the heading, "A militant wanted the world over," an accompanying story reported that he was "superseded on the most-wanted list by Osama bin Laden" after 9/11 and so ranked only second among "the most wanted militants in the world."

                                                                                                                The terminology is accurate enough, according to the rules of Anglo-American discourse, which defines "the world" as the political class in Washington and London (and whoever happens to agree with them on specific matters). It is common, for example, to read that "the world" fully supported George Bush when he ordered the bombing of Afghanistan. That may be true of "the world," but hardly of the world, as revealed in an international Gallup Poll after the bombing was announced. Global support was slight. In Latin America, which has some experience with U.S. behavior, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama, and that support was conditional upon the culprits being identified (they still weren't eight months later, the FBI reported), and civilian targets being spared (they were attacked at once). There was an overwhelming preference in the world for diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of hand by "the world."

                                                                                                                Following the Terror Trail

                                                                                                                In the present case, if "the world" were extended to the world, we might find some other candidates for the honor of most hated arch-criminal. It is instructive to ask why this might be true.

                                                                                                                The Financial Times reports that most of the charges against Moughniyeh are unsubstantiated, but "one of the very few times when his involvement can be ascertained with certainty [is in] the hijacking of a TWA plane in 1985 in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed." This was one of two terrorist atrocities the led a poll of newspaper editors to select terrorism in the Middle East as the top story of 1985; the other was the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro, in which a crippled American, Leon Klinghoffer, was brutally murdered,. That reflects the judgment of "the world." It may be that the world saw matters somewhat differently.

                                                                                                                The Achille Lauro hijacking was a retaliation for the bombing of Tunis ordered a week earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. His air force killed 75 Tunisians and Palestinians with smart bombs that tore them to shreds, among other atrocities, as vividly reported from the scene by the prominent Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk. Washington cooperated by failing to warn its ally Tunisia that the bombers were on the way, though the Sixth Fleet and U.S. intelligence could not have been unaware of the impending attack. Secretary of State George Shultz informed Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Washington "had considerable sympathy for the Israeli action," which he termed "a legitimate response" to "terrorist attacks," to general approbation. A few days later, the UN Security Council unanimously denounced the bombing as an "act of armed aggression" (with the U.S. abstaining). "Aggression" is, of course, a far more serious crime than international terrorism. But giving the United States and Israel the benefit of the doubt, let us keep to the lesser charge against their leadership.

                                                                                                                A few days after, Peres went to Washington to consult with the leading international terrorist of the day, Ronald Reagan, who denounced "the evil scourge of terrorism," again with general acclaim by "the world."

                                                                                                                The "terrorist attacks" that Shultz and Peres offered as the pretext for the bombing of Tunis were the killings of three Israelis in Larnaca, Cyprus. The killers, as Israel conceded, had nothing to do with Tunis, though they might have had Syrian connections. Tunis was a preferable target, however. It was defenseless, unlike Damascus. And there was an extra pleasure: more exiled Palestinians could be killed there.

                                                                                                                The Larnaca killings, in turn, were regarded as retaliation by the perpetrators: They were a response to regular Israeli hijackings in international waters in which many victims were killed -- and many more kidnapped and sent to prisons in Israel, commonly to be held without charge for long periods. The most notorious of these has been the secret prison/torture chamber Facility 1391. A good deal can be learned about it from the Israeli and foreign press. Such regular Israeli crimes are, of course, known to editors of the national press in the U.S., and occasionally receive some casual mention.

                                                                                                                Klinghoffer's murder was properly viewed with horror, and is very famous. It was the topic of an acclaimed opera and a made-for-TV movie, as well as much shocked commentary deploring the savagery of Palestinians -- "two-headed beasts" (Prime Minister Menachem Begin), "drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle" (Chief of Staff Raful Eitan), "like grasshoppers compared to us," whose heads should be "smashed against the boulders and walls" (Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir). Or more commonly just "Araboushim," the slang counterpart of "kike" or "nigger."

                                                                                                                Thus, after a particularly depraved display of settler-military terror and purposeful humiliation in the West Bank town of Halhul in December 1982, which disgusted even Israeli hawks, the well-known military/political analyst Yoram Peri wrote in dismay that one "task of the army today [is] to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim living in territories that God promised to us," a task that became far more urgent, and was carried out with far more brutality, when the Araboushim began to "raise their heads" a few years later.

                                                                                                                We can easily assess the sincerity of the sentiments expressed about the Klinghoffer murder. It is only necessary to investigate the reaction to comparable U.S.-backed Israeli crimes. Take, for example, the murder in April 2002 of two crippled Palestinians, Kemal Zughayer and Jamal Rashid, by Israeli forces rampaging through the refugee camp of Jenin in the West Bank. Zughayer's crushed body and the remains of his wheelchair were found by British reporters, along with the remains of the white flag he was holding when he was shot dead while seeking to flee the Israeli tanks which then drove over him, ripping his face in two and severing his arms and legs. Jamal Rashid was crushed in his wheelchair when one of Israel's huge U.S.-supplied Caterpillar bulldozers demolished his home in Jenin with his family inside. The differential reaction, or rather non-reaction, has become so routine and so easy to explain that no further commentary is necessary.

                                                                                                                Car Bomb

                                                                                                                Plainly, the 1985 Tunis bombing was a vastly more severe terrorist crime than the Achille Lauro hijacking, or the crime for which Moughniyeh's "involvement can be ascertained with certainty" in the same year. But even the Tunis bombing had competitors for the prize for worst terrorist atrocity in the Mideast in the peak year of 1985.

                                                                                                                One challenger was a car-bombing in Beirut right outside a mosque, timed to go off as worshippers were leaving Friday prayers. It killed 80 people and wounded 256. Most of the dead were girls and women, who had been leaving the mosque, though the ferocity of the blast "burned babies in their beds," "killed a bride buying her trousseau," and "blew away three children as they walked home from the mosque." It also "devastated the main street of the densely populated" West Beirut suburb, reported Nora Boustany three years later in the Washington Post.

                                                                                                                The intended target had been the Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who escaped. The bombing was carried out by Reagan's CIA and his Saudi allies, with Britain's help, and was specifically authorized by CIA Director William Casey, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's account in his book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987. Little is known beyond the bare facts, thanks to rigorous adherence to the doctrine that we do not investigate our own crimes (unless they become too prominent to suppress, and the inquiry can be limited to some low-level "bad apples" who were naturally "out of control").

                                                                                                                "Terrorist Villagers"

                                                                                                                A third competitor for the 1985 Mideast terrorism prize was Prime Minister Peres' "Iron Fist" operations in southern Lebanese territories then occupied by Israel in violation of Security Council orders. The targets were what the Israeli high command called "terrorist villagers." Peres's crimes in this case sank to new depths of "calculated brutality and arbitrary murder" in the words of a Western diplomat familiar with the area, an assessment amply supported by direct coverage. They are, however, of no interest to "the world" and therefore remain uninvestigated, in accordance with the usual conventions. We might well ask whether these crimes fall under international terrorism or the far more severe crime of aggression, but let us again give the benefit of the doubt to Israel and its backers in Washington and keep to the lesser charge.

                                                                                                                These are a few of the thoughts that might cross the minds of people elsewhere in the world, even if not those of "the world," when considering "one of the very few times" Imad Moughniyeh was clearly implicated in a terrorist crime.

                                                                                                                The U.S. also accuses him of responsibility for devastating double suicide truck-bomb attacks on U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Lebanon in 1983, killing 241 Marines and 58 paratroopers, as well as a prior attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, a particularly serious blow because of a meeting there of CIA officials at the time.

                                                                                                                The Financial Times has, however, attributed the attack on the Marine barracks to Islamic Jihad, not Hizbollah. Fawaz Gerges, one of the leading scholars on the jihadi movements and on Lebanon, has written that responsibility was taken by an "unknown group called Islamic Jihad." A voice speaking in classical Arabic called for all Americans to leave Lebanon or face death. It has been claimed that Moughniyeh was the head of Islamic Jihad at the time, but to my knowledge, evidence is sparse.

                                                                                                                The opinion of the world has not been sampled on the subject, but it is possible that there might be some hesitancy about calling an attack on a military base in a foreign country a "terrorist attack," particularly when U.S. and French forces were carrying out heavy naval bombardments and air strikes in Lebanon, and shortly after the U.S. provided decisive support for the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which killed some 20,000 people and devastated the south, while leaving much of Beirut in ruins. It was finally called off by President Reagan when international protest became too intense to ignore after the Sabra-Shatila massacres.

                                                                                                                In the United States, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is regularly described as a reaction to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist attacks on northern Israel from their Lebanese bases, making our crucial contribution to these major war crimes understandable. In the real world, the Lebanese border area had been quiet for a year, apart from repeated Israeli attacks, many of them murderous, in an effort to elicit some PLO response that could be used as a pretext for the already planned invasion. Its actual purpose was not concealed at the time by Israeli commentators and leaders: to safeguard the Israeli takeover of the occupied West Bank. It is of some interest that the sole serious error in Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is the repetition of this propaganda concoction about PLO attacks from Lebanon being the motive for the Israeli invasion. The book was bitterly attacked, and desperate efforts were made to find some phrase that could be misinterpreted, but this glaring error -- the only one -- was ignored. Reasonably, since it satisfies the criterion of adhering to useful doctrinal fabrications.

                                                                                                                Killing without Intent

                                                                                                                Another allegation is that Moughniyeh "masterminded" the bombing of Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992, killing 29 people, in response, as the Financial Times put it, to Israel's "assassination of former Hizbollah leader Abbas Al-Mussawi in an air attack in southern Lebanon." About the assassination, there is no need for evidence: Israel proudly took credit for it. The world might have some interest in the rest of the story. Al-Mussawi was murdered with a U.S.-supplied helicopter, well north of Israel's illegal "security zone" in southern Lebanon. He was on his way to Sidon from the village of Jibshit, where he had spoken at the memorial for another Imam murdered by Israeli forces. The helicopter attack also killed his wife and five-year old child. Israel then employed U.S.-supplied helicopters to attack a car bringing survivors of the first attack to a hospital.

                                                                                                                After the murder of the family, Hezbollah "changed the rules of the game," Prime Minister Rabin informed the Israeli Knesset. Previously, no rockets had been launched at Israel. Until then, the rules of the game had been that Israel could launch murderous attacks anywhere in Lebanon at will, and Hizbollah would respond only within Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory.

                                                                                                                After the murder of its leader (and his family), Hizbollah began to respond to Israeli crimes in Lebanon by rocketing northern Israel. The latter is, of course, intolerable terror, so Rabin launched an invasion that drove some 500,000 people out of their homes and killed well over 100. The merciless Israeli attacks reached as far as northern Lebanon.

                                                                                                                In the south, 80% of the city of Tyre fled and Nabatiye was left a "ghost town," Jibshit was about 70% destroyed according to an Israeli army spokesperson, who explained that the intent was "to destroy the village completely because of its importance to the Shi'ite population of southern Lebanon." The goal was "to wipe the villages from the face of the earth and sow destruction around them," as a senior officer of the Israeli northern command described the operation.

                                                                                                                Jibshit may have been a particular target because it was the home of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, kidnapped and brought to Israel several years earlier. Obeid's home "received a direct hit from a missile," British journalist Robert Fisk reported, "although the Israelis were presumably gunning for his wife and three children." Those who had not escaped hid in terror, wrote Mark Nicholson in the Financial Times, "because any visible movement inside or outside their houses is likely to attract the attention of Israeli artillery spotters, who... were pounding their shells repeatedly and devastatingly into selected targets." Artillery shells were hitting some villages at a rate of more than 10 rounds a minute at times.

                                                                                                                All of this received the firm support of President Bill Clinton, who understood the need to instruct the Araboushim sternly on the "rules of the game." And Rabin emerged as another grand hero and man of peace, so different from the two-legged beasts, grasshoppers, and drugged roaches.

                                                                                                                This is only a small sample of facts that the world might find of interest in connection with the alleged responsibility of Moughniyeh for the retaliatory terrorist act in Buenos Aires.

                                                                                                                Other charges are that Moughniyeh helped prepare Hizbollah defenses against the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, evidently an intolerable terrorist crime by the standards of "the world," which understands that the United States and its clients must face no impediments in their just terror and aggression.

                                                                                                                The more vulgar apologists for U.S. and Israeli crimes solemnly explain that, while Arabs purposely kill people, the U.S. and Israel, being democratic societies, do not intend to do so. Their killings are just accidental ones, hence not at the level of moral depravity of their adversaries. That was, for example, the stand of Israel's High Court when it recently authorized severe collective punishment of the people of Gaza by depriving them of electricity (hence water, sewage disposal, and other such basics of civilized life).

                                                                                                                The same line of defense is common with regard to some of Washington's past peccadilloes, like the destruction in 1998 of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. The attack apparently led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, but without intent to kill them, hence not a crime on the order of intentional killing -- so we are instructed by moralists who consistently suppress the response that had already been given to these vulgar efforts at self-justification.

                                                                                                                To repeat once again, we can distinguish three categories of crimes: murder with intent, accidental killing, and murder with foreknowledge but without specific intent. Israeli and U.S. atrocities typically fall into the third category. Thus, when Israel destroys Gaza's power supply or sets up barriers to travel in the West Bank, it does not specifically intend to murder the particular people who will die from polluted water or in ambulances that cannot reach hospitals. And when Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of the al-Shifa plant, it was obvious that it would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. Human Rights Watch immediately informed him of this, providing details; nevertheless, he and his advisers did not intend to kill specific people among those who would inevitably die when half the pharmaceutical supplies were destroyed in a poor African country that could not replenish them.

                                                                                                                Rather, they and their apologists regarded Africans much as we do the ants we crush while walking down a street. We are aware that it is likely to happen (if we bother to think about it), but we do not intend to kill them because they are not worthy of such consideration. Needless to say, comparable attacks by Araboushim in areas inhabited by human beings would be regarded rather differently.

                                                                                                                If, for a moment, we can adopt the perspective of the world, we might ask which criminals are "wanted the world over."

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                                                                                                                  The mega prison of Palestine

                                                                                                                  English (US)  March 6th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                  Mourners stand beside the body of Salsabeel Abu Jalhoumm, a 21-month-old girl who was killed early on Sunday when an Israeli air strike hit near her home in the northern Gaza Strip, 2 March 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

                                                                                                                  By Ilan Pappe, The Electronic Intifada, 5 March 2008

                                                                                                                  In several articles published by The Electronic Intifada, I claimed that Israel is pursuing a genocidal policy against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, while continuing the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. I asserted that the genocidal policies are a result of a lack of strategy. The argument was that since the Israeli political and military elites do not know how to deal with the Gaza Strip, they opted for a knee-jerk reaction in the form of massive killing of citizens whenever the Palestinians in the Strip dared to protest by force their strangulation and imprisonment. The end result so far is the escalation of the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians -- more than one hundred in the first days of March 2008, unfortunately validating the adjective "genocidal" I and others attached to these policies. But it was not yet a strategy.

                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                  However, in recent weeks a clearer Israeli strategy towards the Gaza Strip's future has emerged and it is part of the overall new thinking about the fate of the occupied territories in general. It is in essence, a refinement of the unilateralism adopted by Israel ever since the collapse of the Camp David "peace talks" in the summer of 2000. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his party Kadima, and his successor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, delineated very clearly what unilateralism entailed: Israel would annex about 50 percent of the West Bank, not as a homogeneous chunk of it, but as the total space of the settlement blocs, the apartheid roads, the military bases and the "national park reserves" (which are no-go areas for Palestinians). This was more or less implemented in the last eight years. These purely Jewish entities cut the West Bank into 11 small cantons and sub-cantons. They are all separated from each other by this complex colonial Jewish presence. The most important part of this encroachment is the greater Jerusalem wedge that divides the West Bank into two discrete regions with no land connection for the Palestinians.

                                                                                                                  The wall thus is stretched and reincarnated in various forms all over the West Bank, encircling at times individual villages, neighborhoods or towns. The cartographic picture of this new edifice gives a clue to the new strategy both towards the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The 21st century Jewish state is about to complete the construction of two mega prisons, the largest of their kind in human history.

                                                                                                                  They are different in shape: the West Bank is made of small ghettos and the one in Gaza is a huge mega ghetto of its own. There is another difference: the Gaza Strip is now, in the twisted perception of the Israelis, the ward where the "most dangerous inmates" are kept. The West Bank, on the other hand, is still run as a huge complex of open air prisons in the form of normal human habitations such as a village or a town interconnected and supervised by a prison authority of immense military and violent power.

                                                                                                                  As far as the Israelis are concerned, the mega prison of the West Bank can be called a state. Advisor to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Abed Rabbo, in the last days of February 2008, threatened the Israelis with a unilateral declaration of independence, inspired by recent events in Kosovo. However, it seemed that nobody on the Israeli side objected to the idea very much. This is more or less the message a bewildered Ahmed Qurei, the Abbas-appointed Palestinian negotiator, received from Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, when he phoned to assure her that Abed Rabbo was not speaking in the name of the PA. He got the impression that her main worry was is in fact quite the opposite: that the PA would not agree to call the mega prisons a state in the near future.

                                                                                                                  This unwillingness, together with Hamas' insistence of resisting the mega prison system by a war of liberation, forced the Israelis to rethink their strategy towards the Gaza Strip. It transpires that not even the most cooperative members of the PA are willing to accept the mega prison reality as "peace" or even as a "two state settlement." And Hamas and Islamic Jihad even translate this unwillingness into Qassam attacks on Israel. So the model of the most dangerous ward developed: the leading strategists in the army and the government embrace themselves for a very long-term "management" of the system they have built, while pledging commitment to a vacuous "peace process," with very little global interest in it, and a continued struggle from within, against it.

                                                                                                                  The Gaza Strip is now seen as the most dangerous ward in this complex and thus the one against which the most brutal punitive means have to be employed. Killing the "inmates" by aerial or artillery bombing, or by economic strangulation, are not just inevitable results of the punitive action chosen, but also desirable ones. The bombing of Sderot is also the inevitable and in a way desirable consequence of this strategy. Inevitable, as the punitive action cannot destroy the resistance and quite often generates a retaliation. The retaliation in its turn provides the logic and basis for the next punitive action, should someone in domestic public opinion doubt the wisdom of the new strategy.

                                                                                                                  In the near future, any similar resistance from parts of the West Bank mega prison would be dealt with in a similar way. And these actions are very likely to take place in the very near future. Indeed, the third intifada is on its way and the Israeli response would be a further elaboration of the mega prison system. Downsizing the number of "inmates" in both mega prisons would be still a very high priority in this strategy by means of ethnic cleansing, systematic killings and economic strangulation.

                                                                                                                  But there are wedges that prevent the destructive machine from rolling. It seems that a growing number of Jews in Israel (a majority according to a recent CNN poll) wish their government to begin negotiations with Hamas. A mega prison is fine, but if the wardens' residential areas are likely to come under fire in the future then the system fails. Alas, I doubt whether the CNN poll represents accurately the present Israeli mood; but it does indicate a hopeful trend that vindicates the Hamas insistence that Israel only understands the language of force. But it may not be enough and the perfection of the mega prison system in the meantime continues unabated and the punitive measures of its authority are claiming the lives of many more children, women and men in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                  As always it is important to be reminded that the west can put an end to this unprecedented inhumanity and criminality, tomorrow. But so far this is not happening. Although the efforts to make Israel a pariah state continue with full force, they are still limited to civil society. Hopefully, this energy will one day be translated into governmental policies on the ground. We can only pray it will not be too late for the victims of this horrific Zionist invention: the mega prison of Palestine.

                                                                                                                  Ilan Pappe is chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter.

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                                                                                                                    Gazan Holocaust: The Day the Earth and Sky Traded Places

                                                                                                                    English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                    By Jennifer Loewenstein

                                                                                                                    Around 10:30pm on the night of February 28, M and his wife S spoke in low tones in a dark room dimly lit by a battery-operated lamp. They were trying to decide if it was still safe to send their children to school and decided in favor because the elementary school building is in a safer part of the city near a number of international offices. The electricity in the building had been out 10 hours by then and the couple pulled blankets around them to keep warm in the damp winter air. They live on the 6th floor of Shifa Tower, an 11-story apartment building housing more than a hundred families.

                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                    When the blast occurred that took out the Interior Ministry building across the street, there was no time to think about what to do. M flew into his children's bedroom and threw himself over the sleeping body of his son, Basel, to shield the young boy's body from the glass shattering in the windows beside his bed. Then after a matter of seconds the three young children, two girls and the boy, were taken to the windowless kitchen, all of them now fully awake and crying out in terror. M threw blankets and pillows around them where they huddled for the night in restless sleep and dreams of horror, their mother sobbing silently over them as she caressed their faces.

                                                                                                                    M returned to the children's room in time for the second deafening blast that made him put up his arms instinctively. When he let them down and looked out into the night sky, it was all brown, the earth from underneath the destroyed buildings was swirling around outside the bedroom windows and he could see nothing but flying debris, smoke and a wall of dirt. For some time he could not hear well, only watch-dazed- hypnotized by the silence after the aerial strikes.

                                                                                                                    In the morning, no one went outside. "This is a black day in Gaza," M wrote; "a holocaust as (Israeli deputy defense minister Matan) Vilnai put it. There is an attack every five or ten minutes. It keeps our nerves on edge and our senses strained. There is so much rage at what is happening; especially the scenes of murdered children and babies. I am so busy I don't know how to describe my feelings. I work to avoid feeling because right now that's too unbearable."

                                                                                                                    Watch as A, a Hamas soldier, runs for his life into his house. His pursuers miss shooting him so they launch three rockets into the house on the edge of Jabalya camp killing everyone inside (four family members). They are angry now so every house in the way gets the same treatment and without the "militant" to guide their next moves: rockets fired into the interiors of homes with no knowledge of who is inside. Eye-witnesses report this and worse: a six month old baby girl becomes tiny body parts with her mother and brother. A small child is cut apart by shrapnel and screams that she doesn't want to die just before leaving this world. The mothers and fathers cannot protect them so they weep and scream at the funerals that this side of the world never views, especially during basketball season.

                                                                                                                    Who really cares about these children? Every Palestinian is a militant because everyone (sooner or later) wants Israel off their land, out of their lives, and forgotten like a horrible dream. It is for this reason that they are all equal targets: none of them is intelligent enough to understand that their land isn't their land, their lives are not their lives, and their horrible dream is their present and future. Have no pity on those who don't get it.

                                                                                                                    The night strikes from F-16s and helicopter missiles continued throughout the day on Friday the 29 and into the first weekend in March, unceasing in their ferocity and indiscriminate killing ­ revenge for the death early last week of an Israeli student at Sapir College outside Sderot. For every one Israeli life, scores of Palestinians must die. God help us now that two Israeli soldiers have been killed fighting on occupied land, against unwilling slaves; killing innocent people to maintain a 60-year-old injustice. Brace yourself, Gaza. You will pay dearly for the continuation of this crime.

                                                                                                                    Let us not reflect too much on what all this means. How, for example, would the 47-year-old Sapir College student like to know that his death has been far more useful to his State than his life? For in death he provided another pretext to carry out mass murder of the Arab Untermenschen blocking the otherwise pleasant view to the sea in the southeastern Promised Land. His death challenged the Israeli rules of combat: the "We kill and You Die" warfare, the only type allowed by the Neo-Jewish Masters and their allies in the United States who have no intention of making a just peace with the lower forms of life in their midst. The sanctimonious demand that the Qassams must be stopped is a deliberate lie intended to make you forget that the Qassams provide a near fool-proof pretext for grabbing more of Gaza and setting more of it to ruin; and that the Qassams are the result of systematic national torture and evisceration, borne themselves of occupation, caused by it, improved upon by periods of siege, sadism and mass killing.

                                                                                                                    Peace would require relinquishing regional hegemony. Peace would demand sharing the land and the resources equally. Peace might, heaven forbid, require democratic decision making in a region where the Israelis are not better, more entitled, more deserving of Their Way than everyone else in the neighborhood. Well, sorry, but these are not on Israel's agenda. The leaders of the hapless Sderot student's racially pure dreamland are grateful for his dying: Now the angry flames of intolerance can burn on feverishly. Into those flames the bodies of each dead Gazan man, woman or child should be flung, like books, to consecrate the ritual, the burnt offering, of those who owe the latter-day Israelites their Modern Day Zion. In Holy Victimhood shall We Reign Supreme.

                                                                                                                    Surely this would satisfy Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit who bellowed that if it were up to him, Israeli soldiers going into Gaza should shoot "everything that moves" ­like babies and toddlers, grandfathers and mothers, orange trees and wasted-away donkeys pulling cartloads of rotten vegetables; like flowers and seabirds, chickens and goats, rats and cockroaches. A scorched-earth policy will suffice. They'll create their apocalyptic wilderness and will call it peace.

                                                                                                                    No one needed Sheetrit to legitimize the strategy of creating oblivion from hell. Untermenschen who can be denied food, water, fuel, electricity, medical supplies, the right to leave and return home, the right to not to die in an ambulance that without the proper permits, the right to their own land and their own nationhood precisely because they are lesser human beings can also be picked off one by one or in groups or in families or because they are "militants," or all of the above, who deserve no fair hearing, due process, photographs, names, headlines, stories, grief or televised tear-jerker funerals to commemorate their sacrifices. In such a world contexts are an insult to the intelligence of the policy-makers.

                                                                                                                    Plea after plea from human rights organizations, legal organizations, religious charities and leaders, children's welfare organizations, medical aid projects, refugee relief societies, international humanitarian agencies, celebrities, parliamentarians, foreign policy analysts and countless others go not only unheeded but unread, unheard, a waste of one's time. Is there a reason why the carnage in Gaza is continuing before our very eyes and no State or Non-state actor strong enough to make a difference is bothering to step in? The shame is ours, for Israel and its US Master have long since resided in the lowest circle of Hell for betraying the name of humanity.

                                                                                                                    Jennifer Loewenstein is the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a member of the board of the Israeli Coalition against House Demolitions-USA branch, founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and a freelance journalist. She can be reached at: amadea311@earthlink.net

                                                                                                                    Counterpunch

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                                                                                                                      Human crisis in Gaza 'is worst for 40 years'

                                                                                                                      English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                      By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem

                                                                                                                      Gaza's humanitarian crisis is more acute today than at any time since Israel took control of the territory in the 1967 war, aid agencies say.

                                                                                                                      More Gazans are dependent on food aid than ever before, hospitals suffer the longest power cuts yet experienced, record levels of raw sewage are being pumped daily into the sea and the economy has never been worse, says a report.

                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                      Prepared by aid groups including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Care International UK, The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion is the most definitive assessment of conditions in the territory produced for years.

                                                                                                                      While critical of Palestinian militants firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, the report lays most of the blame for the crisis on the Jewish state for seeking to apply pressure by limiting the inflow of humanitarian goods.

                                                                                                                      The report accuses Israel of effectively creating a "blockade", something that breaks international law as it punishes all Gazans, including the vast majority who are not members of militant groups.

                                                                                                                      "Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, but as the occupying power in Gaza it also has a legal duty to ensure Gazans have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care," said Kate Allen, a director of Amnesty International UK.

                                                                                                                      "Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible."

                                                                                                                      According to the report the blockade of Gaza has dramatically worsened poverty and unemployment and has led to a deterioration in education and health services.

                                                                                                                      More than 1.1 million people out of a population of 1.5 million are now dependent on food aid and of 110,000 workers previously employed in the private sector only 35,000 still have jobs.

                                                                                                                      The loss of jobs is caused almost entirely by Israel's closure of the frontier because all produce from Gaza has to go through Israel. "The recent escalation in violence, both from rocket attacks and military strikes, will make life even more unbearable in Gaza," said Geoffrey Dennis, the chief executive of Care International UK.

                                                                                                                      "Water and sewage infrastructure is on the point of total collapse. Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed."

                                                                                                                      The agencies also urge a rethink by Britain over its boycott of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza.

                                                                                                                      "The UK government should acknowledge that a new strategy is needed for Gaza," said Daleep Mukarji, a director of Christian Aid.

                                                                                                                      "Humanitarian aid can help stave off total collapse but it will not provide a long-term solution. Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the international community engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future," he said.

                                                                                                                      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/06/wgaza106.xml

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                                                                                                                        Rights Group: More than 50% of Gaza casualties weren't militants

                                                                                                                        English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                        The human rights organization B'Tselem on Monday said in a statement that more than half of the Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip in Israel Defense Forces operations in recent days did not take an active part in the fighting. This statement came after the IDF Chief of Staff issued a statement saying that 90 percent of those killed were in fact armed militants.

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                                                                                                                        In their statement, B'Tselem outlined a string of incidents in which IDF allegedly killed innocent bystanders in the course of military operations aimed at battling the escalating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.

                                                                                                                        According to data gathered by B'Tselem, 106 Palestinians were killed between February 27 and march 3. Fifty four of them were civilians who didn't take part in the fighting, and 25 were under 18, the statement said.

                                                                                                                        The human rights group cites as an example an incident that occurred on Thursday, in which four children were killed and two others were wounded in an Israel Air Force strike targeting rocket launchers. The children had been playing soccer in a street east of the Jabaliya refugee camp. The organization's inquiry into the incident revealed that the Qassam launcher may have been situated 100 meters from the site of the strike, and no militants were harmed in the strike.

                                                                                                                        Another incident cited by B'Tselem is the death of a brother and sister aged 16 and 17 while they were watching the violence from the window of their home east of Jabaliya. According to witnesses, the two were shot in the head and the chest.

                                                                                                                        B'Tselem expressed concern over the high number of civilians, especially children, who have been killed recently in the Gaza Strip. "Israel has a right to defend its citizens from rockets, which are in themselves a war crime, and it is what it must do," the organization wrote. "Israel must do so within the confines of the law, which must conform to the criteria of differentiation and proportionality as defined by international humanitarian law."

                                                                                                                        Haaretz

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                                                                                                                          Parents of detainees from Jerusalem protest, demand probe into a death of a detainee

                                                                                                                          English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                          IMEMC Staff

                                                                                                                          Dozens of residents, families of Jerusalem residents imprisoned by Israel, held a protest on Wednesday in front of the Red Cross in the city demanding an immediate probe into the death of detainee Fadil shaheen who died recently in Be’er Shiva Israeli prison.

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                                                                                                                          Shaheen was seriously ill and died of medical negligence, an issue which hundreds of detainees are suffering from especially since some of them have serious health issues such as cancer, heart diseases, kidney failure and other health issues that need immediate and adequate medical attention.

                                                                                                                          Father of detainee Abu Ammar Gheith, spokesperson of the Parents of Detainees Committee, stated that the Red Cross vowed to probe the death of Shaheen, and demanded the Red Cross to pressure Israel to allow visitations to second degree relatives.

                                                                                                                          Mother of detainee Mohammad Odeh said that she has been barred from visiting her son since three months and that she was not informed of the reasons.

                                                                                                                          She added that she used to go to Nafha prison, where her son is imprisoned, and every time soldiers told her that she is barred from visiting her son. Odeh is sentenced to nine life-terms and 10 years.

                                                                                                                          Mother of detainee Wissam Al Abbasy said that soldiers also delay the entry of the families into the facility and conduct extended searches and procedures. Al Abbasy is sentenced to 26 consecutive life-term and 40 years.

                                                                                                                          The mother of detainee Ismail Affana appealed the Red Cross and several human rights groups to intervene in order to end the solitary confinement of her son especially since he has been confined to solitary since two years in Be’er Shiva Prison and now he is in solitary confinement in Nafha prison.

                                                                                                                          The wife of detainee Abdul-Aziz Omar, who is sentenced to four life-terms, appealed the Red Cross to practice pressure on the prison authorities to allow his family to visit him without the glass barrier, especially since Omar has eight children and cannot be in direct body contact with them due to the barriers in the visitation room.

                                                                                                                          The mother of detainee Na’el Al Jallad stated that the administration in Be’er Shiva prison does not allow the families to bring clothes to their detained family members and that if the families arrive to the facility without the birth certificate of their children, the children would not be allowed in.

                                                                                                                          Meanwhile, the sister of detainee Fuad Al Razim demanded the Palestinian negotiators to hold serious talks with Israel for the release of all Palestinians detainees, especially the sick and the detainees who have been imprisoned since long periods.

                                                                                                                          Wife of detainee Ismail Jom’a complained of the bad treatment against the families of the detainees and added that her detained husband is hospitalized in Al Ramla prison hospital since 13 years.

                                                                                                                          Mother of detainee Malik Bkeirat stated that prison administration violates the rights of the detainees and their families and treat them in an inhuman way.

                                                                                                                          Nearly 11000 Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel, among them hundreds of children and women. Hundreds of detainees suffer serious health issues and need immediate medical attention.

                                                                                                                          194 detainees died of medical negligence and torture in Israeli prisons since 1967.
                                                                                                                          imemc.org

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                                                                                                                            Palestinian farmer critically wounded by Israeli army gunfire in Bil’in

                                                                                                                            English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                            Burnat being evacuated by ambulance (Photo: IMEMC's Haitham Khatib)
                                                                                                                            IMEMC Staff Report

                                                                                                                            A Palestinian young man was wounded by Israeli army gunfire in the village of Bil’in near the northern West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday afternoon.


                                                                                                                            Israeli troops surrounding Burnat as medics ready to take him to hospital (Photo: IMEMC's Haitham Khatib)

                                                                                                                            Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that Wala’ Burnat, 18 was wounded as he was working in his family’s farmland in the village. Apparently Burnat came near the wall, Israel is building on the village’s land, when the troops shot him.

                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                            Burnat received at least five bullets to his, legs and thigh, and was detained by the soldiers for around half an hour. Local sources said that troops banded his wounds to stop the bleeding, until he was taken by the Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance to Sheikh Zaid hospital in Ramallah where he is being operated on. HIs condition was described as seriouse as a result of blood loss.

                                                                                                                            Relatives of Burnat confirmed that he was shot by unprovoked fire and that the situation in that area was extremely calm. Eyad Burnat, head of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in told IMEMC over the phone that the Israeli army open fire at any moving object that comes near the wall in most cases. He added that the soldiers revenge from the residents of Bil’in because of their ongoing nonviolent resistance to the wall.

                                                                                                                            The village of Bil’in has been conducting weekly nonviolent protests since three years in bid to prevent the construction of the wall on their land. Few months ago, the Israeli High Court ruled a shift of the route of the wall releasing almost half of the confiscated land.

                                                                                                                            imemc.org

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                                                                                                                              Israeli troops open fire at a taxi near Ramallah, injure driver

                                                                                                                              English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                              By Ghassan Bannoura

                                                                                                                              Israeli soldiers opened fire on Wednesday at midday at a Palestinian taxi in the village of Rantis, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, injuring the driver.

                                                                                                                              Joudat Shaloudah, 43, was driving his taxi behind a convoy of three Israeli army jeeps when a soldier opened the back door of one of the vehicles and shot rubber-coated steel bullets at his car, Shaloudah stated.

                                                                                                                              One bullet hit Shaloudah in his neck, injuring him lightly. Villagers from Rantis report that the Israeli army invades the village on a daily basis and regularly attacks civilians.

                                                                                                                              imemc.org

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                                                                                                                                Israeli forces devastate Palestinians properties in al-'Aroob refugee camp in Hebron

                                                                                                                                English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                By Nisreen Qumsieh

                                                                                                                                On Wednesday morning, Israeli forces renewed their vandalizing operations for the third consecutive day in al-Aroob refugee camp, eastern of the West Bank city of Hebron, but no abductions have been reported.

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                                                                                                                                The operation caused a large amount of damage to the civilian properties as troops used random and heavy gunfire during the attack. Troops detained large numbers of civilians and badly assaulted them.

                                                                                                                                Residents reported that reinforcements with military vehicles renewed the attack on Wednesday at dawn and terrifying civilians.

                                                                                                                                During the operation troops used sound and tear gas bombs, caused damages in properties and searched homes claiming that the objective of the operation was to search for "wanted Palestinians."

                                                                                                                                imemc.org

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                                                                                                                                  26 Palestinians kidnapped across the West Bank

                                                                                                                                  English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                  By IMEMC staff

                                                                                                                                  Israeli forces invaded several parts of the West Bank in the early hours of Wednesday morning and kidnapped at least eight Palestinians, among those 11 from the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                  Sources reported that at least 20 military vehicles invaded Jenin city and ransacked several civilian homes in different neighborhoods of the city.

                                                                                                                                  Sources added that the Palestinian resistance clashed with the invaded troops during the operation, but no causalities were reported. Most of the abducted Palestinians are Hamas affiliated, said the sources.

                                                                                                                                  The army also invaded al-Ymoun town and kidnapped two, one is a member of the al-Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of Fatah named as, Iyad Hosheya.

                                                                                                                                  Also in the northern part of the West Bank, mainly in Qalqilia city, several military vehicles invaded the city, ransacked several neighborhoods and kidnapped four Palestinians. Among the abducted were, Mohamad Khalaf,20 and Mahdi J'eidi,20 and they were moved to an undisclosed detention center.

                                                                                                                                  Elsewhere, the army kidnapped a Palestinian from al-Fare'ah refugee camp, near Nablus after invading and searching the area.

                                                                                                                                  The remaining abductees are from different areas of the West Bank and there is still no further information from the sources.
                                                                                                                                  imemc.org

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                                                                                                                                    Israeli government orders military to step up attacks on Gaza

                                                                                                                                    English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                    By Ghassan Bannoura

                                                                                                                                    The Israeli government announced on Wednesday that it had approved stepping up attacks targeting the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                    The announcement came after today's cabinet meeting, headed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

                                                                                                                                    Israeli media sources said that the Israeli army will continue operations targeting areas allegedly used by Palestinian resistance groups to shoot homemade shells into nearby Israeli areas. The raids will also target Hamas-run institutions.

                                                                                                                                    According to reports, the army will also attack specific targets to be personally approved by Olmert, his Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The new orders do not specifically mention a wide scale military offensive against the Palestinian coastal region.

                                                                                                                                    Haim Ramon, the Israeli Vice-Premier voted against the new orders, Israeli media reported. Instead he proposed that Israeli should announce a ceasefire.

                                                                                                                                    Ramon said that Israel should inform all foreign ambassadors of their halt in the attacks on Gaza, then allow for deliveries of fuel and food, but if one homemade shell were to be fired from Gaza, the army most respond and cut fuel and food supplies again.

                                                                                                                                    The Vice-Premier was quoted by Israeli online Haaretz as saying,
                                                                                                                                    "This will give Israel a public relations victory and fully legitimize any [military] action." He added, "Either we do that or we will be forced to reoccupy the Strip and pay a much higher humanitarian price".

                                                                                                                                    The Israeli attacks on Gaza, which escalated last Wednesday and continued through Monday morning, have left 120 Palestinians dead and over 300 injured. Of those killed during the five day offensive, at least 95 have been civilians.

                                                                                                                                    The Hamas movement, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, after a bitter power struggle with President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, stated that the latest Israeli statement is "a continuation of the Israeli war against the Palestinians living in the coastal region".

                                                                                                                                    Fouzi Barhum, Hamas spokesperson, told IMEMC that "its no strange [decision that] Israel will decide to attack Gaza, Olmert's government only knows the language of blood and war." Barhum added, "this is part of the ongoing Israeli war on the Palestinians and their resistance."

                                                                                                                                    imemc.org

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                                                                                                                                      Abbas: Peace talks will be resumed if Israel stops attacks on Gaza

                                                                                                                                      English (US)  March 5th, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                      By Ghassan Bannoura

                                                                                                                                      The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that he would continue peace talks with Israel if the latter agreed to halt attacks on the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                      On Sunday, President Abbas halted talks with Israeli officials in protest of the military attacks on the Palestinian coastal region. The military ground operation, dubbed "Operation Hot Winter", targeted the northern part of the Gaza Strip, beginning on Saturday at dawn and continuing through Monday morning. During this attack, 86 Palestinians were killed, among them children, as well as nearly 300 injured.

                                                                                                                                      B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, issued a report on Tuesday, stating that 54 of those killed in the three day offensive on northern Gaza were civilians, among them 25 children.

                                                                                                                                      The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice arrived in the region on Tuesday for a two day visit, in an attempt to persuade President Abbas to return to the negotiating table.

                                                                                                                                      On Tuesday, Secretary Rice meet Egyptian and Palestinian officials, and was set to meet Israeli officials today.

                                                                                                                                      Yesterday, President Abbas told Secretary Rice, "The negotiations must be started, but after the truce, once the truce is achieved, the road will be open for negotiations."

                                                                                                                                      President Abbas offered his truce on Monday, which involves the halt of attacks on Gaza, in return for Hamas, which controls Gaza, to stop the launching of homemade shells into southern Israeli areas. In addition, Egypt will open the borders with the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                      Olmert stated on Tuesday that he is willing to return to negotiations with the Palestinians, but the army will continue to attack Gaza.

                                                                                                                                      Palestinian homemade shells have killed 13 Israelis since 2001, while Israeli attacks in just three days over the weekend left 86 Palestinians dead.

                                                                                                                                      Hamas took total control of Gaza in June 2007 after six months long of bloody infighting with President Abbas' rival Fatah faction.

                                                                                                                                      imemc.org

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                                                                                                                                        Isreal re-enters Gaza, kills baby

                                                                                                                                        English (US)  March 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                        Troops in 25 armoured vehicles entered Gaza through
                                                                                                                                        the Kissufim crossing

                                                                                                                                        Israeli forces have killed a month-old baby girl and a senior Islamic Jihad fighter after re-entering Gaza.

                                                                                                                                        [More:]

                                                                                                                                        Soldiers in 25 armoured vehicles entered Gaza on Tuesday night and clashed with Palestinian fighters before pulling back about two hours later.

                                                                                                                                        Several Islamic Jihad fighters were also arrested in the operation.

                                                                                                                                        The clashes come just a day after Israel ended a six-day ground operation in Gaza which left 120 Palestinians dead.

                                                                                                                                        Israeli defence officials said it was a "pinpoint'" operation aimed at fighters but medics said the baby was killed in the crossfire and at least eight fighters and three civilians were wounded.

                                                                                                                                        The armoured column entered Gaza through the Kissufim crossing. Witnesses said that, during the clashes, Israeli tanks fired shells and helicopters fired missiles.

                                                                                                                                        Talks in limbo

                                                                                                                                        The operation came as the visiting US secretary of state failed to win a public commitment from the Palestinian president on Tuesday to resume negotiations towards a peace treaty with Israel.

                                                                                                                                        Mahmoud Abbas, who on Sunday suspended negotiations in protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, urged Israel to halt military operations to create the atmosphere for talks.

                                                                                                                                        Condoleezza Rice told a joint news conference with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah that "we look forward to the resumption of those negotiations as soon as possible".

                                                                                                                                        But Abbas sidestepped a question on when talks might get under way.

                                                                                                                                        "I call on the Israeli government to halt its aggression in order that we can afford the necessary atmosphere to conduct the negotiations," he said, without setting any timeframe for their resumption.

                                                                                                                                        Rice blamed Hamas for obstructing talks and having "no interest in peace".

                                                                                                                                        But while she said the "US understands the right of Israel to defend itself" against rocket attacks, she said many innocent people had been caught in the crossfire.

                                                                                                                                        "Israel needs to be very cognisant of the effect of its operations on innocent people," she said.

                                                                                                                                        Israel had pulled back its troops from the Gaza Strip on Monday, before Rice's arrival in the region.

                                                                                                                                        But a senior Israeli official said that the pull-back would only be a "two-day interval" during her visit.

                                                                                                                                        Source: Agencies

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                                                                                                                                          Israel's continuing deathfest: Airstrikes kill three Palestinians; three other succumb to wounds

                                                                                                                                          English (US)  March 4th, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                          Israeli airstrokes kill three Palestinians in Gaza Tuesday

                                                                                                                                          [Ma'anImages]

                                                                                                                                          GAZA - Three Palestinians have been killed and four others injured in two separate Israeli raids on Gaza City and Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, sources in Gaza said.

                                                                                                                                          [More:]

                                                                                                                                          Twenty-three-year-old Ayman Al-Qahwaji, a fighter with the military wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in the attack, the Al-Qassam Brigades said.

                                                                                                                                          The dead body of a Palestinian has at arrived at Kamal Udwan hospital, medics said. The body has not yet been identified.

                                                                                                                                          Israeli warplanes also dropped two bombs on a deserted house in eastern Gaza City. No casualties have been reported in that attack.

                                                                                                                                          One Palestinian killed in Israeli shelling of northern Gaza

                                                                                                                                          A Palestinian activist was killed on Monday afternoon as the Israeli artillery shelled the area of Izbat Abid Rabbu in the northern Gaza Strip, and three others to succumb to their wounds sustained earlier.

                                                                                                                                          Muawiya Hasanain, the director of ambulance and emergency service in the Palestinian health ministry said that Muhammad Abu Hajar, an activist within Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades was killed in Israeli artillery shelling. A number of others were injured in the Israeli shelling.

                                                                                                                                          Egyptian medical sources said Monday that Walid Abu Yousif, an officer in the Palestinian police affiliated to the Hamas-led de facto government succumbed to his wounds sustained in an air raid on the Nusairat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip a few days earlier.

                                                                                                                                          Two more activists affiliated to the Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades died on Monday of their wounds sustained in the Israeli incursion in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday. Sources in Al-Quds Brigades named them as Hasan Jasir and Ghassan Abid Rabbu.

                                                                                                                                          Maan News

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                                                                                                                                            The Gaza Bombshell

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  March 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                            After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.


                                                                                                                                            Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush, whose secret Palestinian intervention backfired in a big way.

                                                                                                                                            By David Rose / Vanity Fair

                                                                                                                                            “A Dirty War”

                                                                                                                                            The Al Deira Hotel, in Gaza City, is a haven of calm in a land beset by poverty, fear, and violence. In the middle of December 2007, I sit in the hotel’s airy restaurant, its windows open to the Mediterranean, and listen to a slight, bearded man named Mazen Asad abu Dan describe the suffering he endured 11 months before at the hands of his fellow Palestinians. Abu Dan, 28, is a member of Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamist organization that has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, but I have a good reason for taking him at his word: I’ve seen the video.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                            It shows abu Dan kneeling, his hands bound behind his back, and screaming as his captors pummel him with a black iron rod. “I lost all the skin on my back from the beatings,” he says. “Instead of medicine, they poured perfume on my wounds. It felt as if they had taken a sword to my injuries.”

                                                                                                                                            On January 26, 2007, abu Dan, a student at the Islamic University of Gaza, had gone to a local cemetery with his father and five others to erect a headstone for his grandmother. When they arrived, however, they found themselves surrounded by 30 armed men from Hamas’s rival, Fatah, the party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. “They took us to a house in north Gaza,” abu Dan says. “They covered our eyes and took us to a room on the sixth floor.”

                                                                                                                                            The video reveals a bare room with white walls and a black-and-white tiled floor, where abu Dan’s father is forced to sit and listen to his son’s shrieks of pain. Afterward, abu Dan says, he and two of the others were driven to a market square. “They told us they were going to kill us. They made us sit on the ground.” He rolls up the legs of his trousers to display the circular scars that are evidence of what happened next: “They shot our knees and feet—five bullets each. I spent four months in a wheelchair.”

                                                                                                                                            Abu Dan had no way of knowing it, but his tormentors had a secret ally: the administration of President George W. Bush.

                                                                                                                                            A clue comes toward the end of the video, which was found in a Fatah security building by Hamas fighters last June. Still bound and blindfolded, the prisoners are made to echo a rhythmic chant yelled by one of their captors: “By blood, by soul, we sacrifice ourselves for Muhammad Dahlan! Long live Muhammad Dahlan!”

                                                                                                                                            There is no one more hated among Hamas members than Muhammad Dahlan, long Fatah’s resident strongman in Gaza. Dahlan, who most recently served as Abbas’s national-security adviser, has spent more than a decade battling Hamas. Dahlan insists that abu Dan was tortured without his knowledge, but the video is proof that his followers’ methods can be brutal.

                                                                                                                                            Bush has met Dahlan on at least three occasions. After talks at the White House in July 2003, Bush publicly praised Dahlan as “a good, solid leader.” In private, say multiple Israeli and American officials, the U.S. president described him as “our guy.”

                                                                                                                                            The United States has been involved in the affairs of the Palestinian territories since the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel captured Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan. With the 1993 Oslo accords, the territories acquired limited autonomy, under a president, who has executive powers, and an elected parliament. Israel retains a large military presence in the West Bank, but it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

                                                                                                                                            In recent months, President Bush has repeatedly stated that the last great ambition of his presidency is to broker a deal that would create a viable Palestinian state and bring peace to the Holy Land. “People say, ‘Do you think it’s possible, during your presidency?’ ” he told an audience in Jerusalem on January 9. “And the answer is: I’m very hopeful.”

                                                                                                                                            The next day, in the West Bank capital of Ramallah, Bush acknowledged that there was a rather large obstacle standing in the way of this goal: Hamas’s complete control of Gaza, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, where it seized power in a bloody coup d’état in June 2007. Almost every day, militants fire rockets from Gaza into neighboring Israeli towns, and President Abbas is powerless to stop them. His authority is limited to the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                            It’s “a tough situation,” Bush admitted. “I don’t know whether you can solve it in a year or not.” What Bush neglected to mention was his own role in creating this mess.

                                                                                                                                            According to Dahlan, it was Bush who had pushed legislative elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, despite warnings that Fatah was not ready. After Hamas—whose 1988 charter committed it to the goal of driving Israel into the sea—won control of the parliament, Bush made another, deadlier miscalculation.

                                                                                                                                            Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

                                                                                                                                            But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

                                                                                                                                            Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.

                                                                                                                                            Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser, the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a month after the Gaza coup.

                                                                                                                                            Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says.

                                                                                                                                            The botched plan has rendered the dream of Middle East peace more remote than ever, but what really galls neocons such as Wurmser is the hypocrisy it exposed. “There is a stunning disconnect between the president’s call for Middle East democracy and this policy,” he says. “It directly contradicts it.”

                                                                                                                                            Preventive Security

                                                                                                                                            Bush was not the first American president to form a relationship with Muhammad Dahlan. “Yes, I was close to Bill Clinton,” Dahlan says. “I met Clinton many times with [the late Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat.” In the wake of the 1993 Oslo accords, Clinton sponsored a series of diplomatic meetings aimed at reaching a permanent Middle East peace, and Dahlan became the Palestinians’ negotiator on security.

                                                                                                                                            As I talk to Dahlan in a five-star Cairo hotel, it’s easy to see the qualities that might make him attractive to American presidents. His appearance is immaculate, his English is serviceable, and his manner is charming and forthright. Had he been born into privilege, these qualities might not mean much. But Dahlan was born—on September 29, 1961—in the teeming squalor of Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp, and his education came mostly from the street. In 1981 he helped found Fatah’s youth movement, and he later played a leading role in the first intifada—the five-year revolt that began in 1987 against the Israeli occupation. In all, Dahlan says, he spent five years in Israeli jails.

                                                                                                                                            From the time of its inception as the Palestinian branch of the international Muslim Brotherhood, in late 1987, Hamas had represented a threatening challenge to Arafat’s secular Fatah party. At Oslo, Fatah made a public commitment to the search for peace, but Hamas continued to practice armed resistance. At the same time, it built an impressive base of support through schooling and social programs.

                                                                                                                                            The rising tensions between the two groups first turned violent in the early 1990s—with Muhammad Dahlan playing a central role. As director of the Palestinian Authority’s most feared paramilitary force, the Preventive Security Service, Dahlan arrested some 2,000 Hamas members in 1996 in the Gaza Strip after the group launched a wave of suicide bombings. “Arafat had decided to arrest Hamas military leaders, because they were working against his interests, against the peace process, against the Israeli withdrawal, against everything,” Dahlan says. “He asked the security services to do their job, and I have done that job.”

                                                                                                                                            It was not, he admits, “popular work.” For many years Hamas has said that Dahlan’s forces routinely tortured detainees. One alleged method was to sodomize prisoners with soda bottles. Dahlan says these stories are exaggerated: “Definitely there were some mistakes here and there. But no one person died in Preventive Security. Prisoners got their rights. Bear in mind that I am an ex-detainee of the Israelis’. No one was personally humiliated, and I never killed anyone the way [Hamas is] killing people on a daily basis now.” Dahlan points out that Arafat maintained a labyrinth of security services—14 in all—and says the Preventive Security Service was blamed for abuses perpetrated by other units.

                                                                                                                                            Dahlan worked closely with the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., and he developed a warm relationship with Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, a Clinton appointee who stayed on under Bush until July 2004. “He’s simply a great and fair man,” Dahlan says. “I’m still in touch with him from time to time.”

                                                                                                                                            “Everyone Was Against the Elections”

                                                                                                                                            In a speech in the White House Rose Garden on June 24, 2002, President Bush announced that American policy in the Middle East was turning in a fundamentally new direction.

                                                                                                                                            Arafat was still in power at the time, and many in the U.S. and Israel blamed him for wrecking Clinton’s micro-managed peace efforts by launching the second intifada—a renewed revolt, begun in 2000, in which more than 1,000 Israelis and 4,500 Palestinians had died. Bush said he wanted to give Palestinians the chance to choose new leaders, ones who were not “compromised by terror.” In place of Arafat’s all-powerful presidency, Bush said, “the Palestinian parliament should have the full authority of a legislative body.”

                                                                                                                                            Arafat died in November 2004, and Abbas, his replacement as Fatah leader, was elected president in January 2005. Elections for the Palestinian parliament, known officially as the Legislative Council, were originally set for July 2005, but later postponed by Abbas until January 2006.

                                                                                                                                            Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn’t ready for elections in January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and inefficiency—a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit. Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several from Fatah.

                                                                                                                                            “Everyone was against the elections,” Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush. “Bush decided, ‘I need an election. I want elections in the Palestinian Authority.’ Everyone is following him in the American administration, and everyone is nagging Abbas, telling him, ‘The president wants elections.’ Fine. For what purpose?”

                                                                                                                                            The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council.

                                                                                                                                            Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t caught off guard by Hamas’s strong showing.”

                                                                                                                                            “Everyone blamed everyone else,” says an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’ ”

                                                                                                                                            In public, Rice tried to look on the bright side of the Hamas victory. “Unpredictability,” she said, is “the nature of big historic change.” Even as she spoke, however, the Bush administration was rapidly revising its attitude toward Palestinian democracy.

                                                                                                                                            Some analysts argued that Hamas had a substantial moderate wing that could be strengthened if America coaxed it into the peace process. Notable Israelis—such as Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency—shared this view. But if America paused to consider giving Hamas the benefit of the doubt, the moment was “milliseconds long,” says a senior State Department official. “The administration spoke with one voice: ‘We have to squeeze these guys.’ With Hamas’s election victory, the freedom agenda was dead.”

                                                                                                                                            The first step, taken by the Middle East diplomatic “Quartet”—the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations—was to demand that the new Hamas government renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept the terms of all previous agreements. When Hamas refused, the Quartet shut off the faucet of aid to the Palestinian Authority, depriving it of the means to pay salaries and meet its annual budget of roughly $2 billion.

                                                                                                                                            Israel clamped down on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, especially into and out of the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. Israel also detained 64 Hamas officials, including Legislative Council members and ministers, and even launched a military campaign into Gaza after one of its soldiers was kidnapped. Through it all, Hamas and its new government, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, proved surprisingly resilient.

                                                                                                                                            Washington reacted with dismay when Abbas began holding talks with Hamas in the hope of establishing a “unity government.” On October 4, 2006, Rice traveled to Ramallah to see Abbas. They met at the Muqata, the new presidential headquarters that rose from the ruins of Arafat’s compound, which Israel had destroyed in 2002.

                                                                                                                                            America’s leverage in Palestinian affairs was much stronger than it had been in Arafat’s time. Abbas had never had a strong, independent base, and he desperately needed to restore the flow of foreign aid—and, with it, his power of patronage. He also knew that he could not stand up to Hamas without Washington’s help.

                                                                                                                                            At their joint press conference, Rice smiled as she expressed her nation’s “great admiration” for Abbas’s leadership. Behind closed doors, however, Rice’s tone was sharper, say officials who witnessed their meeting. Isolating Hamas just wasn’t working, she reportedly told Abbas, and America expected him to dissolve the Haniyeh government as soon as possible and hold fresh elections.

                                                                                                                                            Abbas, one official says, agreed to take action within two weeks. It happened to be Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast during daylight hours. With dusk approaching, Abbas asked Rice to join him for iftar—a snack to break the fast.

                                                                                                                                            Afterward, according to the official, Rice underlined her position: “So we’re agreed? You’ll dissolve the government within two weeks?”

                                                                                                                                            “Maybe not two weeks. Give me a month. Let’s wait until after the Eid,” he said, referring to the three-day celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. (Abbas’s spokesman said via e-mail: “According to our records, this is incorrect.”)

                                                                                                                                            Rice got into her armored S.U.V., where, the official claims, she told an American colleague, “That damned iftar has cost us another two weeks of Hamas government.”

                                                                                                                                            “We Will Be There to Support You”

                                                                                                                                            Weeks passed with no sign that Abbas was ready to do America’s bidding. Finally, another official was sent to Ramallah. Jake Walles, the consul general in Jerusalem, is a career foreign-service officer with many years’ experience in the Middle East. His purpose was to deliver a barely varnished ultimatum to the Palestinian president.

                                                                                                                                            We know what Walles said because a copy was left behind, apparently by accident, of the “talking points” memo prepared for him by the State Department. The document has been authenticated by U.S. and Palestinian officials.

                                                                                                                                            “We need to understand your plans regarding a new [Palestinian Authority] government,” Walles’s script said. “You told Secretary Rice you would be prepared to move ahead within two to four weeks of your meeting. We believe that the time has come for you to move forward quickly and decisively.”

                                                                                                                                            The memo left no doubt as to what kind of action the U.S. was seeking: “Hamas should be given a clear choice, with a clear deadline: … they either accept a new government that meets the Quartet principles, or they reject it The consequences of Hamas’ decision should also be clear: If Hamas does not agree within the prescribed time, you should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government explicitly committed to that platform.”

                                                                                                                                            Walles and Abbas both knew what to expect from Hamas if these instructions were followed: rebellion and bloodshed. For that reason, the memo states, the U.S. was already working to strengthen Fatah’s security forces. “If you act along these lines, we will support you both materially and politically,” the script said. “We will be there to support you.”

                                                                                                                                            Abbas was also encouraged to “strengthen [his] team” to include “credible figures of strong standing in the international community.” Among those the U.S. wanted brought in, says an official who knew of the policy, was Muhammad Dahlan.

                                                                                                                                            On paper, the forces at Fatah’s disposal looked stronger than those of Hamas. There were some 70,000 men in the tangle of 14 Palestinian security services that Arafat had built up, at least half of those in Gaza. After the legislative elections, Hamas had expected to assume command of these forces, but Fatah maneuvered to keep them under its control. Hamas, which already had 6,000 or so irregulars in its militant al-Qassam Brigade, responded by forming the 6,000-troop Executive Force in Gaza, but that still left it with far fewer fighters than Fatah.

                                                                                                                                            In reality, however, Hamas had several advantages. To begin with, Fatah’s security forces had never really recovered from Operation Defensive Shield, Israel’s massive 2002 re-invasion of the West Bank in response to the second intifada. “Most of the security apparatus had been destroyed,” says Youssef Issa, who led the Preventive Security Service under Abbas.

                                                                                                                                            The irony of the blockade on foreign aid after Hamas’s legislative victory, meanwhile, was that it prevented only Fatah from paying its soldiers. “We are the ones who were not getting paid,” Issa says, “whereas they were not affected by the siege.” Ayman Daraghmeh, a Hamas Legislative Council member in the West Bank, agrees. He puts the amount of Iranian aid to Hamas in 2007 alone at $120 million. “This is only a fraction of what it should give,” he insists. In Gaza, another Hamas member tells me the number was closer to $200 million.

                                                                                                                                            The result was becoming apparent: Fatah could not control Gaza’s streets—or even protect its own personnel.

                                                                                                                                            At about 1:30 p.m. on September 15, 2006, Samira Tayeh sent a text message to her husband, Jad Tayeh, the director of foreign relations for the Palestinian intelligence service and a member of Fatah. “He didn’t reply,” she says. “I tried to call his mobile [phone], but it was switched off. So I called his deputy, Mahmoun, and he didn’t know where he was. That’s when I decided to go to the hospital.”

                                                                                                                                            Samira, a slim, elegant 40-year-old dressed from head to toe in black, tells me the story in a Ramallah café in December 2007. Arriving at the Al Shifa hospital, “I went through the morgue door. Not for any reason—I just didn’t know the place. I saw there were all these intelligence guards there. There was one I knew. He saw me and he said, ‘Put her in the car.’ That’s when I knew something had happened to Jad.”

                                                                                                                                            Tayeh had left his office in a car with four aides. Moments later, they found themselves being pursued by an S.U.V. full of armed, masked men. About 200 yards from the home of Prime Minister Haniyeh, the S.U.V. cornered the car. The masked men opened fire, killing Tayeh and all four of his colleagues.

                                                                                                                                            Hamas said it had nothing to do with the murders, but Samira had reason to believe otherwise. At three a.m. on June 16, 2007, during the Gaza takeover, six Hamas gunmen forced their way into her home and fired bullets into every photo of Jad they could find. The next day, they returned and demanded the keys to the car in which he had died, claiming that it belonged to the Palestinian Authority.

                                                                                                                                            Fearing for her life, she fled across the border and then into the West Bank, with only the clothes she was wearing and her passport, driver’s license, and credit card.

                                                                                                                                            “Very Clever Warfare”

                                                                                                                                            Fatah’s vulnerability was a source of grave concern to Dahlan. “I made a lot of activities to give Hamas the impression that we were still strong and we had the capacity to face them,” he says. “But I knew in my heart it wasn’t true.” He had no official security position at the time, but he belonged to parliament and retained the loyalty of Fatah members in Gaza. “I used my image, my power.” Dahlan says he told Abbas that “Gaza needs only a decision for Hamas to take over.” To prevent that from happening, Dahlan waged “very clever warfare” for many months.

                                                                                                                                            According to several alleged victims, one of the tactics this “warfare” entailed was to kidnap and torture members of Hamas’s Executive Force. (Dahlan denies Fatah used such tactics, but admits “mistakes” were made.) Abdul Karim al-Jasser, a strapping man of 25, says he was the first such victim. “It was on October 16, still Ramadan,” he says. “I was on my way to my sister’s house for iftar. Four guys stopped me, two of them with guns. They forced me to accompany them to the home of Aman abu Jidyan,” a Fatah leader close to Dahlan. (Abu Jidyan would be killed in the June uprising.)

                                                                                                                                            The first phase of torture was straightforward enough, al-Jasser says: he was stripped naked, bound, blindfolded, and beaten with wooden poles and plastic pipes. “They put a piece of cloth in my mouth to stop me screaming.” His interrogators forced him to answer contradictory accusations: one minute they said that he had collaborated with Israel, the next that he had fired Qassam rockets against it.

                                                                                                                                            But the worst was yet to come. “They brought an iron bar,” al-Jasser says, his voice suddenly hesitant. We are speaking inside his home in Gaza, which is experiencing one of its frequent power outages. He points to the propane-gas lamp that lights the room. “They put the bar in the flame of a lamp like this. When it was red, they took the covering off my eyes. Then they pressed it against my skin. That was the last thing I remember.”

                                                                                                                                            When he came to, he was still in the room where he had been tortured. A few hours later, the Fatah men handed him over to Hamas, and he was taken to the hospital. “I could see the shock in the eyes of the doctors who entered the room,” he says. He shows me photos of purple third-degree burns wrapped like towels around his thighs and much of his lower torso. “The doctors told me that if I had been thin, not chubby, I would have died. But I wasn’t alone. That same night that I was released, abu Jidyan’s men fired five bullets into the legs of one of my relatives. We were in the same ward in the hospital.”

                                                                                                                                            Dahlan says he did not order al-Jasser’s torture: “The only order I gave was to defend ourselves. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t torture, some things that went wrong, but I did not know about this.”

                                                                                                                                            The dirty war between Fatah and Hamas continued to gather momentum throughout the autumn, with both sides committing atrocities. By the end of 2006, dozens were dying each month. Some of the victims were noncombatants. In December, gunmen opened fire on the car of a Fatah intelligence official, killing his three young children and their driver.

                                                                                                                                            There was still no sign that Abbas was ready to bring matters to a head by dissolving the Hamas government. Against this darkening background, the U.S. began direct security talks with Dahlan.

                                                                                                                                            “He’s Our Guy”

                                                                                                                                            In 2001, President Bush famously said that he had looked Russian president Vladimir Putin in the eye, gotten “a sense of his soul,” and found him to be “trustworthy.” According to three U.S. officials, Bush made a similar judgment about Dahlan when they first met, in 2003. All three officials recall hearing Bush say, “He’s our guy.”

                                                                                                                                            They say this assessment was echoed by other key figures in the administration, including Rice and Assistant Secretary David Welch, the man in charge of Middle East policy at the State Department. “David Welch didn’t fundamentally care about Fatah,” one of his colleagues says. “He cared about results, and [he supported] whatever son of a bitch you had to support. Dahlan was the son of a bitch we happened to know best. He was a can-do kind of person. Dahlan was our guy.”

                                                                                                                                            Avi Dichter, Israel’s internal-security minister and the former head of its Shin Bet security service, was taken aback when he heard senior American officials refer to Dahlan as “our guy.” “I thought to myself, The president of the United States is making a strange judgment here,” says Dichter.

                                                                                                                                            Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, who had been appointed the U.S. security coordinator for the Palestinians in November 2005, was in no position to question the president’s judgment of Dahlan. His only prior experience with the Middle East was as director of the Iraq Survey Group, the body that looked for Saddam Hussein’s elusive weapons of mass destruction.

                                                                                                                                            In November 2006, Dayton met Dahlan for the first of a long series of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Both men were accompanied by aides. From the outset, says an official who took notes at the meeting, Dayton was pushing two overlapping agendas.

                                                                                                                                            “We need to reform the Palestinian security apparatus,” Dayton said, according to the notes. “But we also need to build up your forces in order to take on Hamas.”

                                                                                                                                            Dahlan replied that, in the long run, Hamas could be defeated only by political means. “But if I am going to confront them,” he added, “I need substantial resources. As things stand, we do not have the capability.”

                                                                                                                                            The two men agreed that they would work toward a new Palestinian security plan. The idea was to simplify the confusing web of Palestinian security forces and have Dahlan assume responsibility for all of them in the newly created role of Palestinian national-security adviser. The Americans would help supply weapons and training.

                                                                                                                                            As part of the reform program, according to the official who was present at the meetings, Dayton said he wanted to disband the Preventive Security Service, which was widely known to be engaged in kidnapping and torture. At a meeting in Dayton’s Jerusalem office in early December, Dahlan ridiculed the idea. “The only institution now protecting Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in Gaza is the one you want removed,” he said.

                                                                                                                                            Dayton softened a little. “We want to help you,” he said. “What do you need?”

                                                                                                                                            “Iran-Contra 2.0”

                                                                                                                                            Under Bill Clinton, Dahlan says, commitments of security assistance “were always delivered, absolutely.” Under Bush, he was about to discover, things were different. At the end of 2006, Dayton promised an immediate package worth $86.4 million—money that, according to a U.S. document published by Reuters on January 5, 2007, would be used to “dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza.” U.S. officials even told reporters the money would be transferred “in the coming days.”

                                                                                                                                            The cash never arrived. “Nothing was disbursed,” Dahlan says. “It was approved and it was in the news. But we received not a single penny.”

                                                                                                                                            Any notion that the money could be transferred quickly and easily had died on Capitol Hill, where the payment was blocked by the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. Its members feared that military aid to the Palestinians might end up being turned against Israel.

                                                                                                                                            Dahlan did not hesitate to voice his exasperation. “I spoke to Condoleezza Rice on several occasions,” he says. “I spoke to Dayton, to the consul general, to everyone in the administration I knew. They said, ‘You have a convincing argument.’ We were sitting in Abbas’s office in Ramallah, and I explained the whole thing to Condi. And she said, ‘Yes, we have to make an effort to do this. There’s no other way.’ ” At some of these meetings, Dahlan says, Assistant Secretary Welch and Deputy National-Security Adviser Abrams were also present.

                                                                                                                                            The administration went back to Congress, and a reduced, $59 million package for nonlethal aid was approved in April 2007. But as Dahlan knew, the Bush team had already spent the past months exploring alternative, covert means of getting him the funds and weapons he wanted. The reluctance of Congress meant that “you had to look for different pots, different sources of money,” says a Pentagon official.

                                                                                                                                            A State Department official adds, “Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, ‘Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this.’ The expectation was that this was where it would end up—with a military showdown.” There were, this official says, two “parallel programs”—the overt one, which the administration took to Congress, “and a covert one, not only to buy arms but to pay the salaries of security personnel.”

                                                                                                                                            In essence, the program was simple. According to State Department officials, beginning in the latter part of 2006, Rice initiated several rounds of phone calls and personal meetings with leaders of four Arab nations—Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. She asked them to bolster Fatah by providing military training and by pledging funds to buy its forces lethal weapons. The money was to be paid directly into accounts controlled by President Abbas.

                                                                                                                                            The scheme bore some resemblance to the Iran-contra scandal, in which members of Ronald Reagan’s administration sold arms to Iran, an enemy of the U.S. The money was used to fund the contra rebels in Nicaragua, in violation of a congressional ban. Some of the money for the contras, like that for Fatah, was furnished by Arab allies as a result of U.S. lobbying.

                                                                                                                                            But there are also important differences—starting with the fact that Congress never passed a measure expressly prohibiting the supply of aid to Fatah and Dahlan. “It was close to the margins,” says a former intelligence official with experience in covert programs. “But it probably wasn’t illegal.”

                                                                                                                                            Legal or not, arms shipments soon began to take place. In late December 2006, four Egyptian trucks passed through an Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza, where their contents were handed over to Fatah. These included 2,000 Egyptian-made automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips, and two million bullets. News of the shipment leaked, and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli Cabinet member, said on Israeli radio that the guns and ammunition would give Abbas “the ability to cope with those organizations which are trying to ruin everything”—namely, Hamas.

                                                                                                                                            Avi Dichter points out that all weapons shipments had to be approved by Israel, which was understandably hesitant to allow state-of-the-art arms into Gaza. “One thing’s for sure, we weren’t talking about heavy weapons,” says a State Department official. “It was small arms, light machine guns, ammunition.”

                                                                                                                                            Perhaps the Israelis held the Americans back. Perhaps Elliott Abrams himself held back, unwilling to run afoul of U.S. law for a second time. One of his associates says Abrams, who declined to comment for this article, felt conflicted over the policy—torn between the disdain he felt for Dahlan and his overriding loyalty to the administration. He wasn’t the only one: “There were severe fissures among neoconservatives over this,” says Cheney’s former adviser David Wurmser. “We were ripping each other to pieces.”

                                                                                                                                            During a trip to the Middle East in January 2007, Rice found it difficult to get her partners to honor their pledges. “The Arabs felt the U.S. was not serious,” one official says. “They knew that if the Americans were serious they would put their own money where their mouth was. They didn’t have faith in America’s ability to raise a real force. There was no follow-through. Paying was different than pledging, and there was no plan.”

                                                                                                                                            This official estimates that the program raised “a few payments of $30 million”—most of it, as other sources agree, from the United Arab Emirates. Dahlan himself says the total was only $20 million, and confirms that “the Arabs made many more pledges than they ever paid.” Whatever the exact amount, it was not enough.

                                                                                                                                            Plan B

                                                                                                                                            On February 1, 2007, Dahlan took his “very clever warfare” to a new level when Fatah forces under his control stormed the Islamic University of Gaza, a Hamas stronghold, and set several buildings on fire. Hamas retaliated the next day with a wave of attacks on police stations.

                                                                                                                                            Unwilling to preside over a Palestinian civil war, Abbas blinked. For weeks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had been trying to persuade him to meet with Hamas in Mecca and formally establish a national unity government. On February 6, Abbas went, taking Dahlan with him. Two days later, with Hamas no closer to recognizing Israel, a deal was struck.

                                                                                                                                            Under its terms, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas would remain prime minister while allowing Fatah members to occupy several important posts. When the news hit the streets that the Saudis had promised to pay the Palestinian Authority’s salary bills, Fatah and Hamas members in Gaza celebrated together by firing their Kalashnikovs into the air.

                                                                                                                                            Once again, the Bush administration had been taken by surprise. According to a State Department official, “Condi was apoplectic.” A remarkable documentary record, revealed here for the first time, shows that the U.S. responded by redoubling the pressure on its Palestinian allies.

                                                                                                                                            The State Department quickly drew up an alternative to the new unity government. Known as “Plan B,” its objective, according to a State Department memo that has been authenticated by an official who knew of it at the time, was to “enable [Abbas] and his supporters to reach a defined endgame by the end of 2007 The endgame should produce a [Palestinian Authority] government through democratic means that accepts Quartet principles.”

                                                                                                                                            Like the Walles ultimatum of late 2006, Plan B called for Abbas to “collapse the government” if Hamas refused to alter its attitude toward Israel. From there, Abbas could call early elections or impose an emergency government. It is unclear whether, as president, Abbas had the constitutional authority to dissolve an elected government led by a rival party, but the Americans swept that concern aside.

                                                                                                                                            Security considerations were paramount, and Plan B had explicit prescriptions for dealing with them. For as long as the unity government remained in office, it was essential for Abbas to maintain “independent control of key security forces.” He must “avoid Hamas integration with these services, while eliminating the Executive Force or mitigating the challenges posed by its continued existence.”

                                                                                                                                            In a clear reference to the covert aid expected from the Arabs, the memo made this recommendation for the next six to nine months: “Dahlan oversees effort in coordination with General Dayton and Arab [nations] to train and equip 15,000-man force under President Abbas’s control to establish internal law and order, stop terrorism and deter extralegal forces.”

                                                                                                                                            The Bush administration’s goals for Plan B were elaborated in a document titled “An Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency.” This action plan went through several drafts and was developed by the U.S., the Palestinians, and the government of Jordan. Sources agree, however, that it originated in the State Department.

                                                                                                                                            The early drafts stressed the need for bolstering Fatah’s forces in order to “deter” Hamas. The “desired outcome” was to give Abbas “the capability to take the required strategic political decisions … such as dismissing the cabinet, establishing an emergency cabinet.”

                                                                                                                                            The drafts called for increasing the “level and capacity” of 15,000 of Fatah’s existing security personnel while adding 4,700 troops in seven new “highly trained battalions on strong policing.” The plan also promised to arrange “specialized training abroad,” in Jordan and Egypt, and pledged to “provide the security personnel with the necessary equipment and arms to carry out their missions.”

                                                                                                                                            A detailed budget put the total cost for salaries, training, and “the needed security equipment, lethal and non-lethal,” at $1.27 billion over five years. The plan states: “The costs and overall budget were developed jointly with General Dayton’s team and the Palestinian technical team for reform”—a unit established by Dahlan and led by his friend and policy aide Bassil Jaber. Jaber confirms that the document is an accurate summary of the work he and his colleagues did with Dayton. “The plan was to create a security establishment that could protect and strengthen a peaceful Palestinian state living side by side with Israel,” he says.

                                                                                                                                            The final draft of the Action Plan was drawn up in Ramallah by officials of the Palestinian Authority. This version was identical to the earlier drafts in all meaningful ways but one: it presented the plan as if it had been the Palestinians’ idea. It also said the security proposals had been “approved by President Mahmoud Abbas after being discussed and agreed [to] by General Dayton’s team.”

                                                                                                                                            On April 30, 2007, a portion of one early draft was leaked to a Jordanian newspaper, Al-Majd. The secret was out. From Hamas’s perspective, the Action Plan could amount to only one thing: a blueprint for a U.S.-backed Fatah coup.

                                                                                                                                            “We Are Late in the Ball Game Here”

                                                                                                                                            The formation of the unity government had brought a measure of calm to the Palestinian territories, but violence erupted anew after Al-Majd published its story on the Action Plan. The timing was unkind to Fatah, which, to add to its usual disadvantages, was without its security chief. Ten days earlier, Dahlan had left Gaza for Berlin, where he’d had surgery on both knees. He was due to spend the next eight weeks convalescing.

                                                                                                                                            In mid-May, with Dahlan still absent, a new element was added to Gaza’s toxic mix when 500 Fatah National Security Forces recruits arrived, fresh from training in Egypt and equipped with new weapons and vehicles. “They had been on a crash course for 45 days,” Dahlan says. “The idea was that we needed them to go in dressed well, equipped well, and that might create the impression of new authority.” Their presence was immediately noticed, not only by Hamas but by staff from Western aid agencies. “They had new rifles with telescopic sights, and they were wearing black flak jackets,” says a frequent visitor from Northern Europe. “They were quite a contrast to the usual scruffy lot.”

                                                                                                                                            On May 23, none other than Lieutenant General Dayton discussed the new unit in testimony before the House Middle East subcommittee. Hamas had attacked the troops as they crossed into Gaza from Egypt, Dayton said, but “these 500 young people, fresh out of basic training, were organized. They knew how to work in a coordinated fashion. Training does pay off. And the Hamas attack in the area was, likewise, repulsed.”

                                                                                                                                            The troops’ arrival, Dayton said, was one of several “hopeful signs” in Gaza. Another was Dahlan’s appointment as national-security adviser. Meanwhile, he said, Hamas’s Executive Force was becoming “extremely unpopular I would say that we are kind of late in the ball game here, and we are behind, there’s two out, but we have our best clutch hitter at the plate, and the pitcher is beginning to tire on the opposing team.”

                                                                                                                                            The opposing team was stronger than Dayton realized. By the end of May 2007, Hamas was mounting regular attacks of unprecedented boldness and savagery.

                                                                                                                                            At an apartment in Ramallah that Abbas has set aside for wounded refugees from Gaza, I meet a former Fatah communications officer named Tariq Rafiyeh. He lies paralyzed from a bullet he took to the spine during the June coup, but his suffering began two weeks earlier. On May 31, he was on his way home with a colleague when they were stopped at a roadblock, robbed of their money and cell phones, and taken to a mosque. There, despite the building’s holy status, Hamas Executive Force members were violently interrogating Fatah detainees. “Late that night one of them said we were going to be released,” Rafiyeh recalls. “He told the guards, ‘Be hospitable, keep them warm.’ I thought that meant kill us. Instead, before letting us go they beat us badly.”

                                                                                                                                            On June 7, there was another damaging leak, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas and Dayton had asked Israel to authorize the biggest Egyptian arms shipment yet—to include dozens of armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. A few days later, just before the next batch of Fatah recruits was due to leave for training in Egypt, the coup began in earnest.

                                                                                                                                            Fatah’s Last Stand

                                                                                                                                            The Hamas leadership in Gaza is adamant that the coup would not have happened if Fatah had not provoked it. Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas’s chief spokesman, says the leak in Al-Majd convinced the party that “there was a plan, approved by America, to destroy the political choice.” The arrival of the first Egyptian-trained fighters, he adds, was the “reason for the timing.” About 250 Hamas members had been killed in the first six months of 2007, Barhoum tells me. “Finally we decided to put an end to it. If we had let them stay loose in Gaza, there would have been more violence.”

                                                                                                                                            “Everyone here recognizes that Dahlan was trying with American help to undermine the results of the elections,” says Mahmoud Zahar, the former foreign minister for the Haniyeh government, who now leads Hamas’s militant wing in Gaza. “He was the one planning a coup.”

                                                                                                                                            Zahar and I speak inside his home in Gaza, which was rebuilt after a 2003 Israeli air strike destroyed it, killing one of his sons. He tells me that Hamas launched its operations in June with a limited objective: “The decision was only to get rid of the Preventive Security Service. They were the ones out on every crossroads, putting anyone suspected of Hamas involvement at risk of being tortured or killed.” But when Fatah fighters inside a surrounded Preventive Security office in Jabaliya began retreating from building to building, they set off a “domino effect” that emboldened Hamas to seek broader gains.

                                                                                                                                            Many armed units that were nominally loyal to Fatah did not fight at all. Some stayed neutral because they feared that, with Dahlan absent, his forces were bound to lose. “I wanted to stop the cycle of killing,” says Ibrahim abu al-Nazar, a veteran party chief. “What did Dahlan expect? Did he think the U.S. Navy was going to come to Fatah’s rescue? They promised him everything, but what did they do? But he also deceived them. He told them he was the strongman of the region. Even the Americans may now feel sad and frustrated. Their friend lost the battle.”

                                                                                                                                            Others who stayed out of the fight were extremists. “Fatah is a large movement, with many schools inside it,” says Khalid Jaberi, a commander with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which continue to fire rockets into Israel from Gaza. “Dahlan’s school is funded by the Americans and believes in negotiations with Israel as a strategic choice. Dahlan tried to control everything in Fatah, but there are cadres who could do a much better job. Dahlan treated us dictatorially. There was no overall Fatah decision to confront Hamas, and that’s why our guns in al-Aqsa are the cleanest. They are not corrupted by the blood of our people.”

                                                                                                                                            Jaberi pauses. He spent the night before our interview awake and in hiding, fearful of Israeli air strikes. “You know,” he says, “since the takeover, we’ve been trying to enter the brains of Bush and Rice, to figure out their mentality. We can only conclude that having Hamas in control serves their overall strategy, because their policy was so crazy otherwise.”

                                                                                                                                            The fighting was over in less than five days. It began with attacks on Fatah security buildings, in and around Gaza City and in the southern town of Rafah. Fatah attempted to shell Prime Minister Haniyeh’s house, but by dusk on June 13 its forces were being routed.

                                                                                                                                            Years of oppression by Dahlan and his forces were avenged as Hamas chased down stray Fatah fighters and subjected them to summary execution. At least one victim was reportedly thrown from the roof of a high-rise building. By June 16, Hamas had captured every Fatah building, as well as Abbas’s official Gaza residence. Much of Dahlan’s house, which doubled as his office, was reduced to rubble.

                                                                                                                                            Fatah’s last stand, predictably enough, was made by the Preventive Security Service. The unit sustained heavy casualties, but a rump of about 100 surviving fighters eventually made it to the beach and escaped in the night by fishing boat.

                                                                                                                                            At the apartment in Ramallah, the wounded struggle on. Unlike Fatah, Hamas fired exploding bullets, which are banned under the Geneva Conventions. Some of the men in the apartment were shot with these rounds 20 or 30 times, producing unimaginable injuries that required amputation. Several have lost both legs.

                                                                                                                                            The coup has had other costs. Amjad Shawer, a local economist, tells me that Gaza had 400 functioning factories and workshops at the start of 2007. By December, the intensified Israeli blockade had caused 90 percent of them to close. Seventy percent of Gaza’s population is now living on less than $2 a day.

                                                                                                                                            Israel, meanwhile, is no safer. The emergency pro-peace government called for in the secret Action Plan is now in office—but only in the West Bank. In Gaza, the exact thing both Israel and the U.S. Congress warned against came to pass when Hamas captured most of Fatah’s arms and ammunition—including the new Egyptian guns supplied under the covert U.S.-Arab aid program.

                                                                                                                                            Now that it controls Gaza, Hamas has given free rein to militants intent on firing rockets into neighboring Israeli towns. “We are still developing our rockets; soon we shall hit the heart of Ashkelon at will,” says Jaberi, the al-Aqsa commander, referring to the Israeli city of 110,000 people 12 miles from Gaza’s border. “I assure you, the time is near when we will mount a big operation inside Israel, in Haifa or Tel Aviv.”

                                                                                                                                            On January 23, Hamas blew up parts of the wall dividing Gaza from Egypt, and tens of thousands of Palestinians crossed the border. Militants had already been smuggling weapons through a network of underground tunnels, but the breach of the wall made their job much easier—and may have brought Jaberi’s threat closer to reality.

                                                                                                                                            George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice continue to push the peace process, but Avi Dichter says Israel will never conclude a deal on Palestinian statehood until the Palestinians reform their entire law-enforcement system—what he calls “the chain of security.” With Hamas in control of Gaza, there appears to be no chance of that happening. “Just look at the situation,” says Dahlan. “They say there will be a final-status agreement in eight months? No way.”

                                                                                                                                            “An Institutional Failure”

                                                                                                                                            How could the U.S. have played Gaza so wrong? Neocon critics of the administration—who until last year were inside it—blame an old State Department vice: the rush to anoint a strongman instead of solving problems directly. This ploy has failed in places as diverse as Vietnam, the Philippines, Central America, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, during its war against Iran. To rely on proxies such as Muhammad Dahlan, says former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, is “an institutional failure, a failure of strategy.” Its author, he says, was Rice, “who, like others in the dying days of this administration, is looking for legacy. Having failed to heed the warning not to hold the elections, they tried to avoid the result through Dayton.”

                                                                                                                                            With few good options left, the administration now appears to be rethinking its blanket refusal to engage with Hamas. Staffers at the National Security Council and the Pentagon recently put out discreet feelers to academic experts, asking them for papers describing Hamas and its principal protagonists. “They say they won’t talk to Hamas,” says one such expert, “but in the end they’re going to have to. It’s inevitable.”

                                                                                                                                            It is impossible to say for sure whether the outcome in Gaza would have been any better—for the Palestinian people, for the Israelis, and for America’s allies in Fatah—if the Bush administration had pursued a different policy. One thing, however, seems certain: it could not be any worse.

                                                                                                                                            Vanity Fair

                                                                                                                                            1 response(s) to The Gaza Bombshell

                                                                                                                                            1. spook [Visitor] Email says:

                                                                                                                                              I detect a faint odor of peanuts and suspect there is an unseen elephant in the US government's rooms.

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                                                                                                                                            Bush's Man Mukasey Blocks Probe of Bush Aides

                                                                                                                                            English (US)  March 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                            By Laurie Kellman

                                                                                                                                            WASHINGTON — Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to refer the House's contempt citations against two of President Bush's top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers committed no crime.

                                                                                                                                            As promised, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has given the Judiciary Committee authority to file a lawsuit against Bolten and Miers in federal court.

                                                                                                                                            "The House shall do so promptly," she said in a statement.

                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                            Mukasey said Bolten and Miers were right in ignoring subpoenas to provide Congress with White House documents or testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.

                                                                                                                                            "The department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers," Mukasey wrote Pelosi.

                                                                                                                                            Pelosi shot back that the aides can expect a lawsuit.

                                                                                                                                            "The American people demand that we uphold the law," Pelosi said. "As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that."

                                                                                                                                            The suit had a political purpose too. Democrats have urged that the filing occur swiftly so that a judge might rule before the November elections, when all 435 House seats and a third of the Senate are up for grabs. Criticism of Bush's use of executive power is a key tenet of the Democrats' platform, from the presidential race on down.

                                                                                                                                            The House voted two weeks ago to cite Bolten and Miers for contempt of Congress and seek a grand jury investigation. Most Republicans boycotted the vote.

                                                                                                                                            Pelosi requested the grand jury investigation on Thursday and gave Mukasey a week to reply. She said the House would file a civil suit seeking enforcement of the contempt citations if federal prosecutors declined to seek misdemeanor charges against Bolten and Miers. The plaintiffs would be the entire Judiciary Committee, who would be represented by the House's lawyers, according to aides to Pelosi and committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.

                                                                                                                                            Mukasey took only a day to get back to her. But he had earlier joined his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, in telling lawmakers they would refuse to refer any contempt citations to prosecutors because Bolten and Miers were acting at Bush's instruction.

                                                                                                                                            A civil suit would drag out a slow-motion crawl to a constitutional struggle between a Democratic-run Congress and a Republican White House that has been simmering for more than a year.

                                                                                                                                            Democrats say Bush's instructions to Miers and Bolten to ignore the House Judiciary Committee's subpoenas was an abuse of power and an effort to block an effort to find out whether the White House directed the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 for political reasons.

                                                                                                                                            Republicans call the whole affair a political game and walked out of the House vote on the contempt citations in protest.

                                                                                                                                            The 223-32 House vote on a resolution approving the contempt citations Feb. 14 was the first of its type in 25 years. The White House pointed out that it was the first time that such action had been taken against top White House officials who had been instructed by the president to remain silent to preserve executive privilege.

                                                                                                                                            In his letter, received by the House early Friday evening, Mukasey pointed out that not only was Miers directed not to testify, she also was immune from congressional subpoenas and was right to not show up to the hearing to which she had been summoned.

                                                                                                                                            "The contempt of Congress statute was not intended to apply and could not constitutionally be applied to an executive branch official who asserts the president's claim of executive privilege," Mukasey wrote, quoting Justice policy.

                                                                                                                                            "Accordingly," Mukasey concluded, "the department has determined that the noncompliance by Mr. Bolten and Ms. Miers with the Judiciary Committee subpoenas did not constitute a crime."

                                                                                                                                            Though they were not surprised, Democrats reacted to Mukasey's letter with outrage.

                                                                                                                                            "Today's decision to shelve the contempt process, in violation of a federal statute, shows that the White House will go to any lengths to keep its role in the U.S. attorney firings hidden," said Conyers. "In the face of such extraordinary actions, we have no choice but to proceed with a lawsuit to enforce the committee's subpoenas."

                                                                                                                                            Associated Press

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                                                                                                                                              Robert Fisk: The Gardens of the Devil

                                                                                                                                              English (US)  March 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                              By Robert Fisk

                                                                                                                                              Originally published in The Independent.

                                                                                                                                              The first time I saw one, my first instinct was to pick it up. It shone in the sunlight, bright green, something new and fresh amid the dry grass of the south Lebanon hills. The little cluster bomblet seemed to have been made to hold in the hand. No wonder the little children died.

                                                                                                                                              Israel rained more than a million bomblets into the orchards and fields of southern Lebanon in 2006 – after the ceasefire to the 34-day Israel-Hizbollah conflict had been announced. So far, post-war, they have killed more than 40 men, women and children. Some of the mine disposal men and women who turned up in Lebanon found that the cluster bombs had themselves been dropped on minefields left behind by the Israelis in 2000.

                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                              And these minefields, in some cases, had been laid over old Palestinian minefields. And some of these minefields – and here the 20th century’s most titanic war threatens us yet again – had been inadvertently placed over carpets of mines dug into Lebanon’s red earth by French Vichy forces in 1941, as they awaited British and Free French invasion from Palestine.

                                                                                                                                              As usual, the Second World War turns out to be the foundation for so many of the Middle East’s present-day horrors. In Tripoli, they publish a “White Book” on Libya’s legacy from the 1939-45 war, the tens of thousands of mines buried in the sands around Tobruk and Benghazi by the Italians and Germans, the British and the Australians and New Zealanders and South Africans.

                                                                                                                                              “The Italians lay mines,” says the caption beneath a photograph of Berti’s engineers placing landmines in the desert. “The British lay more mines. The Germans lay more and more mines. Then they leave but the mines are still there!”

                                                                                                                                              Twenty years after the war – when at least 800 Libyan farmers and family members had already been blown up by mines – an Italian journalist was describing the continuing carnage during mine-clearance.

                                                                                                                                              “These mines are so sensitive that a light footstep is enough to make them jump into the air like a grasshopper – all we found of the two men were a few rags of flesh and clothing.”

                                                                                                                                              Egypt calls its own Second World War minefields “the Gardens of the Devil”, and they run from El Alamein to Mersa Matruh, east of the Libyan border. Add to these the vast minefields laid by Egyptian and Israeli forces in the eastern deserts in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 – the Israelis have maps of 5.5 million landmines they planted in Sinai and the surrounding area after 1967 – and you have a good idea how deadly, how poisonous the sands remain.

                                                                                                                                              As the Egyptian Mail pointed out last month, we in the West remember the dead of Alamein every year. But who remembers the dead of Egypt? And just for the record, although the British and Italians and Germans have all forwarded their ancient minefield maps to the Egyptians – and although the Egyptian army cleared 2,976 mines between 1983 and 1999 – there remain about 17.6 million landmines beneath the Egyptian coastal strip, according to the country’s clearance organisation.

                                                                                                                                              Since 1982 alone, 700 Egyptians have been killed by them and another 7,600 wounded. And while they die, our survivors grow older. When I wrote about the film Atonement a few weeks ago – with its graphic five minute tracking shot of the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation beaches, and the landmine destruction of Balham Tube station – I little realised how many memories it would awake.

                                                                                                                                              A lady from Scotland wrote to tell me how as a child during the Blitz she “regularly slept down the Underground – I missed the landmine which dropped in the Balham High Street, the resultant flood drowned many people [including Cecilia in Atonement]. I recall the Tube station being closed for a long time to clean [out] the bodies. I also remember seeing the tide mark high on the wall afterwards”.

                                                                                                                                              More dramatic was a letter from 90-year-old former Second Lieutenant Hal Crookall, a Dunkirk veteran in the East Yorkshire Regiment. In my article, I noted how the first sight of the Dunkirk beaches in the film provoked my cry of “Fuck me!"– and how these were the first words to be uttered by a young corporal in the movie a few seconds later. So imagine my shock – and the smile that spread over my face – when I read the following words from Mr Crookall.

                                                                                                                                              “Most of the men from my platoon were dockers from Hull. We had been left behind to fight rear guard actions, and had to make our own way towards the beach, which we did largely by following the noise made by the Navy’s guns and the shells screeching over our heads, and the noise of the Stuka bombers attacking the beaches. When we did finally find our way on to the beach and came over the sandhills to see the scene, most of my chaps said in broad Yorkshire: ‘Fooking ’ell!’ which in some cases was abbreviated to ‘King-ell!’.”

                                                                                                                                              In 1943, Second Lieutenant Crookall was wounded in – of all places – the Libyan desert. Not by a mine – he and his soldiers placed sandbags in the bottom of their Bren carrier to prevent the mine blasts hurting them – but by a German shell splinter which penetrated the vehicle’s 3/8 inch plating and smashed into Crookall’s arm. He was invalided out of his infantry division, posted around the Middle East and ended up in Damascus.

                                                                                                                                              “My wound practically finished me off as a violinist,” he told me this week. “But I was in Damascus when Josephine Baker arrived to give a concert to the Free French and she asked me to accompany her. Then I played again.” After the war, Crookall returned many times to the Middle East, a guest of Ali Ayoubi, the son of a Syrian president, he says – I think he would have been the son of the Syrian prime minister. “My father had two bodyguards,” Crookall remembers Ali telling him. “[President] Assad has about 10,000!” In Libya and in Egypt, of course, the people of the desert have no bodyguards. The foundation of their lives remains the war that was fought before they were born and which is still killing and maiming them, just as it maimed Second Lieutenant Crookall 65 years ago. I suppose the moral can only be expressed in a cliché. In the Middle East, the Second World War has not ended.

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                                                                                                                                                Palestinian student killed as protesters confront Israeli troops near Ramallah

                                                                                                                                                English (US)  March 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                BETHLEHEM - A Palestinian student was killed on Monday morning after Israeli forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in the West Bank against the Israeli mass killings in the Gaza Strip

                                                                                                                                                19-year-old Muhammad Shreitih was killed at the student rally in the village of Al-Mazra'a Al-Qibliya, near the city of Ramallah.

                                                                                                                                                [More:]

                                                                                                                                                Palestinians across the West Bank took to the streets for a second day on Monday, confronting Israeli troops and expressing solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                Relatives of the deceased told Ma'an that students marched to the Israeli settlements near the village. Clashes erupted between the students and Israeli soldiers near the Talmon settlement. Shretih, a student in his third year of secondary school, was shot in the head and died on the way to Khalid Hospital in Ramallah.

                                                                                                                                                A funeral procession for Shreitih is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

                                                                                                                                                Israeli media reported that an Israeli settler named Moshe Benbenishti, a student in a Jewish school in the settlement opened fire at the Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                                Israeli security sources commented on the incident, saying, "The settler felt he was endangered when 200 Palestinians were pelting his car with stones, so he fired at them."

                                                                                                                                                Meanwhile, Israeli forces stormed the village of Ni'lin, also west of Ramallah, closing all entrances to the town as fierce clashes erupted between the invading forces and Palestinian youths.

                                                                                                                                                Maan News

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                                                                                                                                                  Israeli forces kill seven more Palestinians before withdrawing from Gaza

                                                                                                                                                  English (US)  March 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )


                                                                                                                                                  The bodies of Palestinians killed in Jabalia
                                                                                                                                                  on view before burial on Sunday[Ma'anImages]

                                                                                                                                                  GAZA – Israeli forces withdrew from the Gaza Strip on Monday morning after a five-day incursion that left more than 115 Palestinians dead.

                                                                                                                                                  Before withdrawing the Israeli military killed seven more Palestinians in Jabalia refugee camp during four separate raids on Monday. The attacks also left dozens dead and massive destruction of Palestinian houses.

                                                                                                                                                  [More:]

                                                                                                                                                  Ma'an's reporter said that Israeli warplanes and naval squadrons killed seven activists, six of whom were affiliated to Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades and one affiliated to the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades.

                                                                                                                                                  Palestinian medical sources confirmed the deaths of three Hamas fighters in Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                  The sources named two of the victims as 20-year-old Ibrahim Al-Masri, from Ash-Shati refugee camp, and Darweesh Miqdad, from Nusairat refugee camp, who’s age was not given.

                                                                                                                                                  The Israeli army also attacked the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) headquarters in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday, injuring five people.

                                                                                                                                                  At midnight on Sunday, two members of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades were killed when Israeli warplanes fired on a group of fighters in Jabalia. Medical sources named the killed fighters as Ra'id Junaid and Na'im Abu Husni.

                                                                                                                                                  The Israeli air forces also targeted a blacksmith workshop in Gaza City causing material damage. No casualties have been reported in that airstrike.

                                                                                                                                                  The death toll in the Gaza Strip since Wednesday has risen to 115 according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. One third of the victims were children. 320 people were injured.

                                                                                                                                                  Maan News

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                                                                                                                                                    Hamas calls for restoration of Palestinian national unity

                                                                                                                                                    English (US)  March 3rd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                    GAZA – The Palestinian de facto government led by Hamas in the Gaza Strip called on Sunday for an immediate un-conditional Palestinian national agreement, the formation of a unity government as well as an emergency session of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) attended by all parties.

                                                                                                                                                    [More:]

                                                                                                                                                    The spokesperson of the Interior Ministry affiliated to the de facto government, Tahir An-Nunu, said at a press conference in Gaza City that all Palestinian detainees held by rival Palestinian factions should be released, and that all Palestinians should be allowed to organize rallies in the West Bank showing solidarity with Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                    Both Hamas and the Fatah-controlled government in the West Bank have detained members of opposing factions. The Palestinian Authority has also cracked down on Hamas-organized demonstrations.

                                                                                                                                                    An-Nunu also called on the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank to re-arm resistance fighters, regardless of their political affiliation. He said this measure would be a first step towards restoring Palestinian unity.

                                                                                                                                                    "The de facto government responded positively to all the calls for dialogue by Arab countries and Palestinian factions in order to stop the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. However, the problem was that the Israelis refused all attempts at ceasefire, and they continued to kill Palestinians instead," An-Nunu said.

                                                                                                                                                    He explained his view that the Israeli aggression aims to force the Palestinian people to surrender and accept any compromise, however unjust.

                                                                                                                                                    "The Israeli threats to commit Holocaust in Gaza, killing children, women and elderly people, are evidence that the Israeli military forces failed to break the Palestinian resistance. Threats to target the Palestinian resistance will not scare us as leaders and their sons lead the struggle," he added.

                                                                                                                                                    An-Nunu added that since the beginning of the latest Israeli aggression, de facto Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyeh contacted Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League Amr Mousa and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, asking them to intervene and stop the Israeli onslaught in the Gaza Strip.

                                                                                                                                                    Maan News

                                                                                                                                                    339 words posted in Human RightsLeave a comment

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                                                                                                                                                      Saving the Palestinian sinking boat

                                                                                                                                                      English (US)  March 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )



                                                                                                                                                      As Israel makes up its mind it will continue pounding Gaza [AFP]

                                                                                                                                                      By Lamis Andoni

                                                                                                                                                      Israel's military assault on Gaza appears to ignore the desire of most of the Israeli people to see talks opened with the territory's Hamas leadership. But rather than exposing a conflict in Israeli attitudes, it actually reveals two sides of a calculated perennial method of manipulating the leaders of the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                                                      The Israeli establishment's purpose is to ensure that whichever group leads the Palestinians – Hamas, Fatah or any other group or coalition – it will protect Israel by containing Palestinian resistance, while Israel is free to continue its systematic violence aimed at crushing opposition to its power over the territory.

                                                                                                                                                      [More:]

                                                                                                                                                      The support of the Israeli public for talks with Hamas follows the same logic, that Israel should talk to the party that can control the Palestinian population and the Palestinian resistance.

                                                                                                                                                      As the Palestinian Authority has lost control over the Gaza Strip, Israelis only support negotiations with Hamas if they will lead to armed groups being controlled and rocket attacks stopped.

                                                                                                                                                      Thus both the threats against Hamas and the calls for talks with Hamas are not aimed at opening negotiations with the movement, but are two ways of subduing Palestinian resistance.

                                                                                                                                                      As Israel decides, it will continue pounding Gaza to force its people to either bring down Hamas or surrender.

                                                                                                                                                      Punishment and assassinations

                                                                                                                                                      The two options do not preclude assassinations: Israel's constant message to the Palestinians' leaders is that, if they fail to carry out what Israel wants, they will be punished - with imprisonment or by assassination - regardless of their political positions.


                                                                                                                                                      For Israel, Abbas is a "failed partner", unable
                                                                                                                                                      to control the Palestinian people

                                                                                                                                                      The notion that Palestinian leaders are only tolerated if they police their own people without defending them from Israeli aggression is not new.

                                                                                                                                                      It preceded Hamas's ascension to power, the launching of Qassam rockets into Israel and suicide bombings there.

                                                                                                                                                      Israel applies the concept to leaders who "recognise Israel" such as Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, and those who do not, like Hamas.

                                                                                                                                                      Israel never forgave Arafat as he refused to give up national Palestinian rights in return for a fragmented and powerless entity and supported the second Palestinian Intifada that followed.

                                                                                                                                                      Today, Israel assassinates Hamas leaders in Gaza while imprisoning hundreds of Hamas and Fatah activists for resisting its diktats.

                                                                                                                                                      It recently assassinated three members of Al Aqsa brigades in the Balata refugee camp and continues to kill Hamas fighters on a daily basis.

                                                                                                                                                      And while Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is received with a smile by Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, he is treated as "a failed partner" who did not stand the test of controlling the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                                                      Neither Abbas's condemnations of Hamas nor his refusal to stop unpopular negotiations with Israel – seen by Palestinians as being futile and a cover for Israel's ongoing military operations - have led to him being anointed "a trusted partner".

                                                                                                                                                      US support

                                                                                                                                                      Right from the onset of the Madrid Peace Conference, in 1991, Israel, with full US backing, refused to abide by the Fourth Geneva Conventions that ban an occupying power from confiscating lands, dispossessing populations, imposing closures, and bombing a population under its occupation.

                                                                                                                                                      This continued throughout the Oslo process as Israel stipulated in consecutive agreements that the Palestinian leadership should assume key security task containing the Palestinian population as a prerequisite to Israeli troop redeployments from Palestinian areas.

                                                                                                                                                      The noose was further tightened on the Palestinian leadership's neck when, in 1998, George Shultz, the former US secretary of state, offered guarantees that Israel was the only party to an American "letter of guarantees" which authorised Israel to define its security requirement as it saw fit.

                                                                                                                                                      The letter, believed to have been drafted by the then openly pro-Israeli Dennis Ross, then assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, provided Israel with a pretext for delaying its troop withdrawals.

                                                                                                                                                      More significantly it gave a green light for Israeli military actions against the Palestinians under the pretext that the latter did not fulfill "the security requirements".

                                                                                                                                                      It was the formalisation of an existing Israeli policy that aimed to restrict the Palestinian leadership's room to manoeuvre as Israel continued to expand Jewish settlement construction, refuse to release Palestinian prisoners and delay any moves towards an end of the occupation.

                                                                                                                                                      Yet, without exonerating the American government, Israel and complicit Arab governments from their own responsibility, it was also the self delusion of the Palestinian leadership that reduced its role to trying to prove to the world its "credentials" in controlling the Palestinian people.

                                                                                                                                                      Leadership failure

                                                                                                                                                      The failure of a conciliatory leadership to deliver hope for independence was, to a large part, the reason why Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006.

                                                                                                                                                      But again it was the mentality of the Palestinian leadership which, tragically, wanted to prove that it alone could deliver Israeli security that played a big role in the ensuring internal conflict that culminated in the Hamas military over the Gaza Strip last June.

                                                                                                                                                      But the most tragic and ironic turn of events is that the Hamas leadership in Gaza has entangled itself in the same game.

                                                                                                                                                      It has used its new-found authority in the Gaza Strip to send messages to Israel that it alone can deliver a truce - thus joining in the very game that it opposes.

                                                                                                                                                      It is an open secret that both leaderships in Ramallah and Gaza are vying to prove to the world that Israeli security is in their hands.

                                                                                                                                                      It is an understandable tactic as part of a strategy to force Israel to enter serious negotiations to end the occupation.

                                                                                                                                                      However, the power struggle between the two Palestinian leaderships is eclipsing the scenes of death and devastation.

                                                                                                                                                      Ramallah and Gaza are competing for Arab and international recognition - but to their detriment, as the Palestinian territories risk being turned into two fragmented and powerless entities.

                                                                                                                                                      Supporters of Hamas, who are buoyed by the Israeli calls for talks to end the rocket fire, should learn from Fatah's painful experience - that the "security arrangements" do not amount to a meaningful political agreement to end the Israeli occupation.

                                                                                                                                                      And supporters of the Palestinian Authority have to remember that security co-ordination does not exonerate any Palestinian leadership from Israeli wrath in the event it outlives its usefulness.

                                                                                                                                                      Both leaderships are in the same boat: Abbas's niceties no longer please the Israelis, while Hamas's obdurate position of proving to the world that they are the alternative partner comes with a high price tag that threatens its legitimacy.

                                                                                                                                                      As the situation stands, and unless the two leaderships get serious about a national reconciliation, a frustrated and angry Palestinian population will take the initiative and erupt in a third intifada.

                                                                                                                                                      Both Ramallah and Gaza will then have to follow or witness their own demise.

                                                                                                                                                      The writer is an Al Jazeera Middle East analyst.


                                                                                                                                                      Source: Al Jazeera

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                                                                                                                                                        Zionist Israel continues attacks -- at least 10 more Palestinians dead on Sunday

                                                                                                                                                        English (US)  March 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                        After days of Israeli air attacks on Gaza with a death toll of at least 110 Palestinians killed, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has finally and formally suspended all contact with Israel over its continuing five-day offensive on the the sea coast territory.

                                                                                                                                                        The European Union, the United Nations and even the Catholic pope joined the Palestinian president on Sunday in demanding an immediate halt to the violence.

                                                                                                                                                        [More:]


                                                                                                                                                        Israel says its massive air and ground raids are "self-defence," aimed at curbing homemade rockets being fired over the border from the Hamas-controlled territory. By comparison to the massive number of Palestinian deaths, the homemade rockets have killed two Israelies since the beginning of the year.

                                                                                                                                                        The government of the Jewish state has repeatedly rebuffed offers from Hamas for a long term truce lasting 20, 30, or even 50 years. Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, speaking from exile in Damascus, against offered a truce on Sunday: "If the world fails to support us diplomatically, to bring the occupation to an end ... why not give a truce a chance?"

                                                                                                                                                        Nine rockets were fired into southern Israel, wounding four people on Sunday, Israeli ambulance workers said.

                                                                                                                                                        Two people, meanwhile, were killed by Israeli artillery shelling at the Jabaliya refugee camp, raising the number of Palestinians killed on Sunday to 10.

                                                                                                                                                        At least a third of the estimated 110 Palestinians killed over the past five days have been children, according to medical sources.

                                                                                                                                                        International outcry

                                                                                                                                                        Slovenia, the current EU president, issued a statement on Sunday condemning Israel's attacks as Javier Solana, the European body's foreign policy chief, was dispatched to meet leaders in Israel and the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                        "The presidency rejects collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Such activities are contrary to international law," the statement said.

                                                                                                                                                        Gaza's rocket men
                                                                                                                                                        "The presidency at the same time reiterates its condemnation of continued firing of rockets into Israeli territory and calls for its immediate end."

                                                                                                                                                        Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, joined his voice to growing global denunciations of the attacks that left more than 60 Palestinians dead on Saturday alone.

                                                                                                                                                        Addressing an emergency session of the security council in New York, Ban also called on Palestinian fighters to stop firing rockets into Israel.

                                                                                                                                                        He said: "While recognising Israel's right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children ... I call on Israel to cease such attacks."

                                                                                                                                                        "I [also] condemn Palestinian rocket attacks and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism."

                                                                                                                                                        Suspended relations

                                                                                                                                                        Abbas designated Sunday a day of mourning.

                                                                                                                                                        He ordered "the suspension of negotiations ... until [Israeli] aggression is stopped", a senior aide to Abbas said in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday.

                                                                                                                                                        Nabil Abu Rudeina, an Abbas spokesman, said in a statement: "The negotiations are suspended, as are all contacts on all levels, because in light of the Israeli aggression such communication has no meaning."

                                                                                                                                                        Arye Mekel, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said Abbas's decision was a mistake and expressed hope that the talks would resume "in the very near future".

                                                                                                                                                        However, there is no sign that the Israeli government is ready to call off an offensive that has taken troops deeper into and in larger numbers than at any time since Israel ended a military occupation of Gaza in 2005.

                                                                                                                                                        Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said: "Nothing will prevent us from continuing activities to defend our residents. No one has the right to preach morals to the state of Israel for taking elementary steps of self-defence."

                                                                                                                                                        Speaking on national radio, Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, followed up, saying: "We will continue our action with all our strength and we need to prepare for escalation, because a broad ground operation is real and tangible."

                                                                                                                                                        The director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza however, told Al Jazeera the attacks on the strip were in nobody's interest.

                                                                                                                                                        Speaking about the situation in territory, John Ging said: "The crossing points have been closed for days. [We are] struggling to keep our food aid going - remember a million people are food aid dependent - and we're at our wits end to understand how this will lead to the peace and stability that we all so desperately need."

                                                                                                                                                        West Bank clashes

                                                                                                                                                        As Gazans mourned the dead, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops erupted in the Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, Hebron, and Belin as well as other areas across the West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                        Mahmoud Masalmeh, a Palestinian youth from Beit Awa village in west Hebron, was shot dead by Israeli troops during confrontations in the village.

                                                                                                                                                        More than 40 Palestinians were injured, three of them seriously, as the demonstrators clashed with Israeli troops.

                                                                                                                                                        Hundreds of West Bank residents holding Hamas and Fatah flags staged rallies and appealed for national unity in an atmosphere that is being compared to the situation at the start of the second intifada in 2000.

                                                                                                                                                        Egypt, meanwhile, has agreed to open the Rafah border crossing to let injured Palestinians receive medical treatment.

                                                                                                                                                        Responding to a request by the Palestinian Authority, Egyptian authorities permitted 250 injured Gazans to enter Egypt through the controversial crossing.

                                                                                                                                                        The bloodshed in Gaza jeopardises US-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, is due to meet Abbas and Olmert later in the week.

                                                                                                                                                        Olmert said striking at Hamas only advanced the cause of peace, and "the Palestinian leadership - the one with which we wish to make peace - understands this".

                                                                                                                                                        The Israeli prime minister has been under pressure to launch a broader offensive, especially after Palestinian fighters began firing longer-range Katyusha rockets at Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people 11km north of Gaza.


                                                                                                                                                        Hamas has said such salvoes would stop if Israel abandoned operations in the Gaza Strip and raids against activists in the occupied West Bank.

                                                                                                                                                        Overnight the empty offices of Ismail Haniyah, another senior Hamas leader, were hit by rockets.

                                                                                                                                                        Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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                                                                                                                                                          Shadow Report documents U.S. racism, apartheid

                                                                                                                                                          English (US)  March 2nd, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                          By Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

                                                                                                                                                          SAN FRANCISCO - More than 500 years after Europeans invaded and colonized the ''New World,'' annihilating most of its original inhabitants and expropriating their resources, human rights violations and an institutionalized racism against indigenous peoples is alive and thriving in the United States, according to the Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report.

                                                                                                                                                          The report, prepared by the International Indian Treaty Council and the Western Shoshone Defense Project, was submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in February in Geneva, Switzerland, to be considered in its upcoming examination of the United States.

                                                                                                                                                          Full story at Indian Country Today

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                                                                                                                                                            Human Rights Hypocrisy: Hidden In Plain Sight

                                                                                                                                                            English (US)  March 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                            By Robert Weissman

                                                                                                                                                            There was a time, not so long ago, when U.S. governmental hypocrisy on human rights and corporate interests was at least acknowledged.

                                                                                                                                                            But now it seems that the Bush administration has so degraded society’s standards, and Big Business so routinely claims that it is bound by no ethical standard except to make money and follow the law — even as it aims to define that very law, and then frequently flouts the remaining legal restraints — that the hypocrisy is no longer even acknowledged.
                                                                                                                                                            >

                                                                                                                                                            [More:]

                                                                                                                                                            At his news conference yesterday, George Bush angrily said they he could not and would not meet with the new President of Cuba, Raul Castro, because of Cuba’s human rights record. Then, eight minutes later, he explained how excited he was to visit China for the Summer Olympics — a visit during which he will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Just a month-and-a-half ago, the same George Bush visited with the Saudi King Abdullah, having a grand time with the King on his extravagant ranch.

                                                                                                                                                            Won’t talk to Castro. Conferring with Hu. Relaxing with King Abdullah. Hmm.

                                                                                                                                                            Why not talk with adversaries in Cuba, Bush was asked.

                                                                                                                                                            His reply: “What’s lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs? What’s lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It will give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.”

                                                                                                                                                            The questioner pressed: “No one is saying embrace him, they’re just saying talk.”

                                                                                                                                                            Bush responds: “Right, okay, good, thank you for reminding me to use a different word. Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, look at me, I’m now recognized by the President of the United States.”

                                                                                                                                                            Then again using the term “embrace,” he adds: “Now, somebody would say, well, I’m going to tell him to release the prisoners. Well, it’s a theory that all you got to do is embrace and these tyrants act. That’s not how they act. That’s not what causes them to respond.”

                                                                                                                                                            Eight minutes later came the question about China and the Olympics.

                                                                                                                                                            What messages does it send when you go to China, where human rights are suppressed?

                                                                                                                                                            Bush said he was going primarily to enjoy a sporting event. However, Bush added, it was especially useful for him to go to China, because he could meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao! “And maybe I’m in a little different position. Others don’t have a chance to visit with Hu Jintao, but I do.” (Note how a meeting in Cuba is an “embrace,” but a meeting in China is a “visit.”) “And every time I meet with him I talk about religious freedom and the importance of China’s society
                                                                                                                                                            recognizing that if you’re allowed to worship freely, it will benefit the society as a whole; that the Chinese government should not fear the idea of people praying to a god as they see fit. A whole society, a healthy society, a confident society is one that recognizes the value of religious freedom. I talk about Darfur and Iran and Burma. And so I am not the least bit shy of bringing up” human rights concerns.

                                                                                                                                                            There certainly is a lot to discuss related to China’s human rights conditions. The U.S. State Department’s most recent human rights report notes: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state. … The government’s human rights record remained poor, and in certain areas deteriorated. There were an increased number of high-profile cases
                                                                                                                                                            involving the monitoring, harassment, detention, arrest, and imprisonment of journalists, writers, activists, and defense lawyers, many of whom were seeking to exercise their rights under law. … Other serious human rights abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; and the use of forced labor, including prison labor.

                                                                                                                                                            Then there’s China’s repression in Tibet, its support for the Sudanese government, and on and on.

                                                                                                                                                            Of course, it’s not as if Hu Jintao won’t have a shockingly long list of human rights complaints to raise as regards the United States, from authorized torture to the mass slaughter in U.S.-occupied Iraq.

                                                                                                                                                            China is not unique. President George Bush is quite happy to meet with leaders of countries characterized by pervasive human rights abuses. In January, Bush visited with his friend Saudi King Abdullah. He spent time with the King at his palace, and at his horse farm, which is reported to provide air-conditioned stables and aqua-therapy for the horses,
                                                                                                                                                            according to the BBC.

                                                                                                                                                            Bush and King Abdullah talked about the weather. They talked about Iran. They talked a lot about oil. There is no indication they talked about human rights in Saudi Arabia, though the Saudi King did actually raise a human rights issue — Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

                                                                                                                                                            Just fyi, here’s an excerpt from the State Department human rights report for Saudi Arabia:

                                                                                                                                                            “The following significant human rights problems were reported: no right to peacefully change the government; infliction of severe pain by judicially sanctioned corporal punishments; beatings and other abuses; inadequate prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, sometimes incommunicado; denial of fair public trials; exemption from the rule of law for some individuals and lack of judicial independence; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence; and significant restriction of civil liberties–freedoms of speech and press, including the Internet; assembly; association; and movement. The government committed severe violations of religious freedom. There was a widespread perception of serious corruption and a lack of government transparency, as well as legal and societal
                                                                                                                                                            discrimination and violence against women. Other religious, ethnic, and minority groups faced discrimination. There were strict limitations on worker rights, especially for foreign workers.”

                                                                                                                                                            After the Tiananmen Square massacre, Big Business spent more than a decade trying to fully normalize U.S.-China relations. Corporations and their government allies offered their standard line about how commercial engagement would spur political freedom, but not many people took that seriously. It was widely understood that the government simply
                                                                                                                                                            subordinated whatever concern it had for advancing human rights to its aim of advancing corporate interests.

                                                                                                                                                            One has to be very cautious in making blanket statements in this area, but in general the idea of refusing to meet with national leaders is foolish. If there are legitimate objections over other countries’ policies, top-level meetings can be helpful to voice those concerns and perhaps improve conditions. So, the objection to Bush’s varying standards with regard to Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia is not that he chooses to meet with the Chinese and Saudi leaders.

                                                                                                                                                            But the differing treatment for the countries, so obviously correlated with U.S. economic and corporate interests, mocks whatever claim the United States still makes to advancing democracy and human rights. It is no small commentary on the state of affairs in the United States that this hypocrisy barely raises an eyebrow.

                                                                                                                                                            Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and director of Essential Action. With Russell Mokhiber, he is editor of a weekly column, Focus on the Corporation, archived at http://lists.essential.org/pipermail/corp-focus.

                                                                                                                                                            Commondreams

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                                                                                                                                                              Obama, Being Called a Muslim Is Not a Smear

                                                                                                                                                              English (US)  March 1st, 2008 by admin ( Email )

                                                                                                                                                              By Naomi Klein

                                                                                                                                                              Hillary Clinton denied leaking the photo of Barack Obama wearing a turban, but her campaign manager says that even if she had, it would be no big deal. “Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.”

                                                                                                                                                              Sure she did. And George W. Bush put on a fetching Chamato poncho in Santiago, while Paul Wolfowitz burned up YouTube with his antimalarial African dance routines when he was World Bank prez. The obvious difference is this: when white politicians go ethnic, they just look funny. When a black presidential contender does it, he looks foreign. And when the ethnic apparel in question is vaguely reminiscent of the clothing worn by Iraqi and Afghan fighters (at least to many Fox viewers, who think any headdress other than a baseball cap is a declaration of war on America), the image is downright frightening.

                                                                                                                                                              [More:]

                                                                                                                                                              The turban “scandal” is all part of what is being referred to as “the Muslim smear.” It includes everything from exaggerated enunciations of Obama’s middle name to the online whisper campaign that Obama attended a fundamentalist madrassa in Indonesia (a lie), was sworn in on a Koran (another lie) and if elected would attach RadioShack speakers to the White House to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer (I made that one up).

                                                                                                                                                              So far, Obama’s campaign has responded with aggressive corrections that tout his Christian faith, attack the attackers and channel a cooperative witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee. “Barack has never been a Muslim or practiced any other faith besides Christianity,” states one fact sheet. “I’m not and never have been of the Muslim faith,” Obama told a Christian News reporter.

                                                                                                                                                              Of course Obama must correct the record, but he doesn’t have to stop there. What is disturbing about the campaign’s response is that it leaves unchallenged the disgraceful and racist premise behind the entire “Muslim smear”: that being Muslim is de facto a source of shame. Obama’s supporters often say they are being “Swiftboated,” casually accepting the idea that being accused of Muslimhood is tantamount to being accused of treason.

                                                                                                                                                              Substitute another faith or ethnicity, and you’d expect a very different response. Consider a report from the archives of this magazine. Thirteen years ago, Daniel Singer, The Nation’s late, much-missed Europe correspondent, went to Poland to cover a hotly contested presidential election. He reported that the race had descended into an ugly debate over whether one of the candidates, Aleksander Kwasniewski, was a closet Jew. The press claimed his mother had been buried in a Jewish cemetery (she was still alive), and a popular TV show aired a skit featuring the Christian candidate dressed as a Hasidic Jew. “What perturbed me,” Singer wryly observed, “was that Kwasniewski’s lawyers threatened to sue for slander rather than press for an indictment under the law condemning racist propaganda.”

                                                                                                                                                              We should expect no less of the Obama campaign. When asked during the Ohio debate about Louis Farrakhan’s support for his candidacy, Obama did not hesitate to call Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments “unacceptable and reprehensible.” When the turban photo flap came up in the same debate, he used the occasion to say nothing at all.

                                                                                                                                                              Farrakhan’s infamous comments about Jews took place twenty-four years ago. The orgy of hate that is “the Muslim smear” is unfolding in real time, and it promises to greatly intensify in a general election. These attacks do not simply “smear Barack’s Christian faith,” as John Kerry claimed in a campaign mailing. They are an attack on all Muslims, some of whom actually do exercise their rights to cover their heads and send their kids to religious school. Thousands even have the very common name Hussein. All are watching their culture used as a crude bludgeon against Obama, while the candidate who is the symbol of racial harmony fails to defend them. This at a time when US Muslims are bearing the brunt of the Bush Administration’s assaults on civil liberties, including dragnet wiretapping, and are facing a documented spike in hate crimes.

                                                                                                                                                              Occasionally, though not nearly enough, Obama says that Muslims are “deserving of respect and dignity.” What he has never done is what Singer called for in Poland: denounce the attacks themselves as racist propaganda, in this case against Muslims.

                                                                                                                                                              The core of Obama’s candidacy is that he alone–who lived in Indonesia as a boy and has an African grandmother–can “repair the world” after the Bush wrecking ball. That repair job begins with the 1.4 billion Muslims around the world, many of whom are convinced that the United States has been waging a war against their faith. This perception is based on facts, among them the fact that Muslim civilians are not counted among the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan; that Islam has been desecrated in US-run prisons; that voting for an Islamic party resulted in collective punishment in Gaza. It is also fueled by the rise of a virulent strain of Islamo