Archive | April 16th, 2010


 Ethnic cleansing/Settlement/Destruction of Land and Property
In photos: Palestinians examine demolished homes

Ya’alon No need ever to remove any settlements
Israel should not have to remove any settlements in a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon has told The Jerusalem Post, adding that just as Arabs live in Israel, so, too, should Jews be able to live in a future Palestinian entity.

Report: Illegal outposts received state funds
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Residents of Hayovel, an illegal settlement outpost whose homes are due to be razed, received NIS 77,000 per family from the Israeli government when they settled the site, according to documents obtained by the Israeli daily Haaretz.  The status of Hayovel came before the High Court on Wednesday, the newspaper reported. Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the court to give the state another six months to respond to the question of when it plans to raze 12 illegal homes there and six others in Horsha.

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment
Dozens Suffered Form Gas Inhalation During Anti-wall Protest In Ni’lin
Dozens of residents from Ni’lin village near Ramallah in the northern West Bank took to the streets to protest the construction of the wall on their land.


All Palestinian political parties will join the 5th Bil’in International Conference on Nonviolent Resistance
The Palestinian village of Bil’in will host the next 21-23 April 2010 the conference “Khalas! Enough occupation! We’re winning! 5th Bil’in International Conference on Popular Resistance” All the Secretary Generals of the Palestinian Political Parties will participate in one of the panels of the conference in an unprecedented move since the breakup of the two main Palestinian political forces, Hamas and Fatah, four years ago.  For the second consecutive year a Spanish delegation led by the Solidarity Campaign “With Palestine in the heart” will participate in the Conference representing the Spanish Civil Society and Institutions.

Martin Luther King III: Refusing service important
Son of US legendary civil rights leader visits Israel, inspired to expound his doctrine on solving conflicts in non-violent ways. ‘We had conscientious objectors in the US army as well,’ he tells Ynet.,7340,L-3876881,00.html

Showdown for Human Rights in Berkeley, Rae Abileah
A former IDF soldier is speaking out in opposition to the occupation of Palestine. An 85-year old Holocaust survivor testifies to the peril of waiting to make a decision rather than saving lives now by stopping war machines. A queer Jewish Latino speaks about his own journey from living in a settlement in East Jerusalem to coordinating a national organization opposing the occupation. A Palestinian student shares the story of his own family’s loss and highlights the lost logic in the room. The Israeli Consulate General admits to the existence of an “occupation” and states that Israel wants to end it! An orthodox man calls in a metaphor of candlelight illuminating goodness, each of us a candle. Facts are flung around like snowflakes that melt on impact spilling into the subjective world of painful stories that pull at heartstrings and paint barbed pictures. It all went down in Berkeley, California on Wednesday night, April 14, as the world watched (and tweeted).

UC Berkeley Divestment Debate Shows Importance of Campus Divestment Movement
The UC Berkeley divestment debate was a 12-hour nail biter. At one point, the Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley (ASUC) cast their vote: 12 votes to overturn veto of divestment at UC Berkeley. 7 votes in favor of veto. 1 abstention.

Berkeley’s BDS epic continues; Despatches
The debate at U.C. Berkeley’s student Senate (ASUC) continued throughout last night, on whether to over-ride the veto the Senate president had cast against the recent divestment bill.   The divestment bill, if passed, would mandate that the ASUC divest from companies that actively support Israel’s occupation of the OPTs and the Apartheid Wall— and that it call on the far richer U.C. system as a whole to follow suit.

bill 118a
Palestinian students from the 1948 lands write to the berkley student senate: “The idea that Israeli universities and institutions adhere to the values of academic freedom, objectivity and meritocracy prevails widely in the West. However, we can attest from our experience – and, indeed, prove without a doubt – that this is not the case. We are systematically prevented from forming our autonomous student bodies, and racial discrimination is widely practiced against us when it comes to receiving scholarships and securing housing in the university residential halls – discrimination enacted under the pretext that we have not served in the Israeli army. The restrictions imposed on our freedom of expression are more stifling; our public gatherings are often violently interrupted by the police, called to intervene by the university administration.”

Anti-divestment talking points: Avoid the facts and charge anti-Semitism, Adam Horowitz
The following talking points were distributed on UC Berkeley’s campus in the days leading up to last night’s debate over divestment. Several sources on Berkeley’s campus have confirmed that they had seen them on campus, and that they were adhered to closely by anti-divestment advocates during the debate itself.

UC Berkeley divestment vote–it isn’t over yet
Being a part of the tremendous coalition effort to pass a divestment bill at Berkeley was quite simply an ecstatic experience.  As my colleague Sydney Levy said, “The movement grew by an enormous leap today.”  First, the vote itself: after the UC Berkeley Student Senate originally voted on March 18, by a margin of 16-4, to divest from companies that profit from the occupation, that vote was vetoed by the Senate president. The Senate needed 14 votes to overturn his veto, but early this morning, after an epic 10 plus hour meeting, senators found they had only 13 yes votes with one abstention. So the students tabled a vote to overturn the veto. This means the veto stands but can still be overturned later–there will be much continued lobbying and activism in the coming weeks. (Meanwhile, some weeks ago AIPAC openly threatened to take over the UC government to block the bill.)

ACTION ALERT: Write against issuing Canada-Israel stamp
On April 14th, Canada will be issuing a “Canada-Israel Diplomatic Relations” commemorative stamp to celebrate 60 years of relations. In light of on-going occupation, policies of racial segregation and war-crimes against the Palestinian people, we ask what is there to celebrate?  Please take a minute to send the following message to John Baird (bairdij@…), the Minister responsible for Canada Post Corporation and Rob Merrifield (Merrifield.R@…), the Minister of State (Transport) to express your anger at Canada Post’s joint issue stamp with Israel Post.

Artists on Israeli Apartheid
Artists speak out on Israeli Apartheid: in their own words Photo: Israeli missile strikes building in Beirut, Lebanon. Hundreds of Montreal artists have united in solidarity with Palestine, launching a public declaration this February signed by 500 artists from the city. Artists in Montreal from diverse disciplines, from dancers to poets, musicians to filmmakers, have issued the […]

Violence/Aggression and Provocations
IDF troops kill Palestinian in clashes at Gaza border
Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian in an exchange of fire near the northern Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on Friday, hospital officials and the Israeli military said.  The military said an army force patrolling the border identified a Palestinian gunman planting explosives near the security fence along the border, east of Gaza City.

Activist: 10-year-old boy shot with rubber bullet
Hebron – Ma’an – A 10-year-old boy was shot in the leg with a rubber-coated bullet on Wednesday, activists said Thursday.  The boy, Qusay Ahmad Abu Hashem, was reportedly injured in clashes with Israeli forces near Beit Ummar, north of Hebron.

Army Obstructs Firefighters Causing Further Damage, Losses near Jenin
IMEMC – Friday April 16, 2010 – 01:45, Palestinian sources reported Thursday that after several storehouses for households and sponge products were caught on fire, the Israeli army obstructed Palestinian firefighters and rescue teams from reaching the area an issue that increased the damage and losses.

Israeli forces surround, raid Al-Walaja homes
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Following an anti-wall protest in Al-Walaja on Friday, Israeli border police entered the village and surrounded the home of a detained Palestinian, trapping at least 40 people in the home for two hours.  The home of 40 year old Hatem Al-Araj was host to women and children when it was besieged. Witnesses said troops withdrew after two hours without incident, and said it was unclear what they wanted with those in the building.

Locals say settlers torched cars overnight
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Israeli settlers torched cars and sprayed graffiti on homes in the occupied West Bank overnight, locals said Friday.  Residents of Jinsafut, a village east of Qalqiliya, said the incident began at about 2am, when locals awoke to shouting.  The alleged assailants were identified by locals as residents of the illegal settlement of Qedumim east of Qalqiliya

Adding torture to injury
GAZA (IPS) – It was bad enough that Ahmad Asfour was severely maimed by an Israeli drone strike outside his house on 9 January 2009. But, his search for advanced treatment landed the journalism student, now 19, in Israeli prison where he remains.

‘Over 7,000’ Palestinians in Israel jails (AFP)
AFP – More than 7,000 Palestinians, including 270 who are under the age of 18, are currently held in Israeli prisons, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said on Friday.

Humanitarian Issues/Human Rights/Restriction of Movement/SiegePupils in east Jerusalem get half funding of those in west
According to opinion written by city’s legal advisor, elementary schools in west Jerusalem receive NIS 408 per child, while pupil in east receives just NIS 214. ‘These gaps raise fear of discrimination,’ he writes. Jerusalem Municipality in response: Advisor using his opinion to promote his political views.,7340,L-3876882,00.html

Pitch black under siege
Dr Moawya Hassanein, head of Emergency Medicine at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, warns that the lives of thousands of patients with kidney failure who require dialysis three times a week are at risk because of power failures. “There is little we can do at hospitals for patients with heart disease, cancer, in the ICU or premature babies,” Hassanein declared. “We have power generators but no one can guarantee that they are enough or will not run out of fuel.”

Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 08-14 April 2010

Gaza: “If you really want to empower people…”
In a Red Cross Red Crescent Community Centre in Gaza city, 20 women sit in a circle and share their joys and sorrows. Umm Mahmood is here for the first time. She talks of not being shown respect by her family. Her husband is unemployed, her son is handicapped, and the economic plight, caused by the Israeli closure, is adding an increased burden. By telling her story, Umm Mahmood realizes that the other women face the same challenges, that she is not alone.

Israel’s Arab Helpers
Israel hails level of security cooperation with Abbas’s militias
The Israeli military commandership of the central region expressed its satisfaction of the level of security cooperation between its troops and Mahmoud Abbas’s militias.

Egypt police kill Eritrean migrant along border with Israel
Egyptian police shot dead a 42-year-old Eritrean migrant on Thursday as he tried to cross the border into Israel at dawn, a medical source and a security source said.

Hamas closes Gaza Strip tunnels as Israelis fear kidnapping
Hamas officials closed smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Wednesday following Israeli intelligence reports that militants planned to kidnap an Israeli tourist in Egypt and take him to Gaza. Hamas officials say they will not allow Gaza to become a base for terrorist attacks in Egypt.

PA cop sentenced for leaking police secrets to Israel
Jenin – Ma’an – A military court in the West Bank city of Jenin sentenced policeman to seven and a half years of hard labor after he was convicted of leaking classified information to Israel’s military.  The officer, identified only be his initials, SH.R., will also be dismissed from the martial service, the court determined Thursday.

Jordanian propagandist calls on Arabs to honor Rabin
This royal Jordanian columnist calls on Arabs to honor and elevate Rabin, as a smart Middle East policy. I am sure that Arabs everywhere will head his advice.

Media Restrictions/Bias
Israeli propaganda trash in the New York Times
It takes the Israeli government to make one unsubstantiated claim about Arabs and the New York Times will provide free space to air that claim. Here is an example. A whole article to air a claim by Israel–and only by Israel. I mean, if this is a paid ad, I can understand but it is not–as far as we can tell of course. Of course, I hope that Lebanon and anybody in Lebanon get all the missiles and weapons that they can get to defend Lebanon from Israeli aggression. Would you think that the New York Times will ever write a story about confirmed reports about Israeli WMDs????

PA orders 35 broadcasters shut down

Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian minister of telecommunications and information technology Mashhur Abu Daka on Thursday sent letters to more than 35 television and radio stations demanding that they stop broadcasting.  The move follows a dispute between a number of broadcasters protesting a rise in fees.

Freedom and Press According to Israel
These days the public debate in Israel is occupied by discussion about the freedom of press and the role and meaning of information in a democratic state. The debate has been provoked by the news of a 23-year-old Israeli journalist, Anat Kamm, secretly held under house arrest for more than three months. Ms Kamm is accused of having copied and leaked Israeli military documents during her military service – compulsory in Israel for young men and women from the age of 18 – concerning the killing of Palestinian militants in the West Bank. She passed the reports to Haaretz journalist, Uri Blau: based on the information included in the reports, he published an article in Haaretz in November 2008 about two Palestinians members of the Islamic Jihad group killings, which sparked a great stir. The article was approved at the time by the Military Censorship Bureau.

Israel Targets Ha’aretz, JONATHAN COOK
An Arab member of the Israeli parliament is demanding that a newspaper be allowed to publish an investigative report that was suppressed days before Israel attacked Gaza in winter 2008.  The investigation by Uri Blau, who has been in hiding since December to avoid arrest, concerned Israeli preparations for the impending assault on Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead.

Political Developments/Diplomacy
Fatah-aligned Sami Al-Ghoul Brigades call for resistance
Gaza – Ma’an – A small militant brigade aligned with the Fatah movement announced its committment to continued resistance in a statement made public on Friday.  The group, known as the Sami Al-Ghoul Brigades, last claimed an attack on Israel one year ago, on Friday 17 April 2009. In a statement released at the time, which was reiterated almost word for word in the Friday statement, said the group was committed to resistance activities and called on all military wings of Palestinian factions to declare a state of high alert and be ready to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem from colonizing settlers.

Israel must do more for peace: Clinton (Reuters)
Reuters – Israel must do more to pursue peace with the Palestinians and to strengthen their institutions or risk empowering militant groups such as Hamas, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.

Israel PM must show sincerity on peace: Clinton (AFP)
AFP – The United States called Thursday on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prove his commitment to a Palestinian state, warning that prolonged conflict only strengthened extremists.

Other News
U.S. Congressman lashes out at Obama over Israel remarks
Eric Cantor, a leading Republican official in the U.S. House of Representatives, on Thursday lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks about Israel at this week’s nuclear security summit.

Lauder to Obama: Palestinians to blame
In open letter to American president, head of WJC Ron Lauder expresses concern over US-Israel rift, says Palestinians refuse to negotiate; letter calls on Obama to quit public criticism of Jewish state.,7340,L-3876794,00.html

Israeli Public’s Support for Dismantling Most Settlements Has Risen to a Five-Year High
A survey of the Israeli general public and Israeli settlers taken in early March shows three-fifths of the Israeli public (60%) support “dismantling most of the settlements in the territories as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.” This is eleven points higher than the previous reading (49%) taken in December, 2009, and is the highest level recorded since 2005, during the debate over evacuating the Gaza Strip. Just one-third of the Israeli public (33%) opposes dismantling most settlements, including 13 percent very strongly opposed. This is the lowest level of strong opposition to dismantling settlements recorded by the Truman Institute for the 26 surveys in which this question has been asked since 2001. The survey was conducted by the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Israeli Hooliganism:Goldstone pressured into not attending grandson’s bar mitzvah
Arthur Chaskalson, a retired chief justice of South Africa, said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah.  “If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than Judge Goldstone,” Chaskalson said. “They should hang their heads in shame.”

Police: Suspicions against Olmert grave and well-founded
The Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court yesterday lifted its gag order on the identity of the ‘senior official’ suspected of taking bribes in the Holyland case, revealing the suspect to be none other than former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993-2003 and is already standing trial in three unrelated corruption cases.

Audio slideshow
Restoring classic cars in the Gaza Strip

Salman Abu Sitta – Hasbara or Za’bara
To maintain a façade of moral code, you do not kill a friend, you kill an enemy.  You do not rob another man’s house, you recover your long-forgotten property.  These are the principles adopted in all wars and conflicts.  That is why it was always the mission of the aggressor to depict the target of killing, i.e. the enemy, as an evil, bad person or people who deserve to be defeated, and if killed, that would be a natural end for their bad behaviour. Similarly it was the mission of the occupier to claim that he is not robbing someone else but merely recovering back his property which he neglected to do for centuries.

NYT: Obama ‘incensed’ by Netanyahu, Philip Weiss
The Times seems to be dealing with the embarrassment of Ethan Bronner by having Helene Cooper report on shifts in Obama’s policy on Middle East from Washington. This is a really good report from her (and Mark Landler) yesterday, saying flatly that Obama was “incensed” by Netanyahu’s East Jerusalem plans and their announcement when Joe Biden was in J’lem. The piece also highlights the important but obvious Petraeus doctrine, that the Israel/Palestine problem is hurting the U.S. across the Islamic world and costing lives too. Typically, the Times quotes three Israel lobbyists, Martin Indyk, Rob’t Wexler and Ronald Lauder. I wish it would quote some Arabs or Palestinians.

MJ Rosenberg: Times Reports Shift in US Mideast Policy
The New York Times reports today that recent months have seen “a far-reaching shift in how the United States views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how aggressively it might push for a peace agreement.”

Accelerating Fascism in Israel, Stephen Lendman
Occupied Palestinians and Israeli Arabs never had rights in a state affording them solely to Jews. Now even they’re at risk as democratic freedoms fast erode on their way to extinction; to wit, free expression, a right without which all others are endangered. It includes free speech, a free press, freedom of thought, culture,  intellectual inquiry, and the right to challenge government authority peacefully, especially in times of war and cases of injustice, lawlessness, incompetence, and abuses of power.

Israel’s manufactured outrage over a presidential palace
Israel’s hysterical reaction — and the US support of it — to the building of a Palestinian Authority presidential compound on a street named after a Hamas military commander, is hardly surprising. Of note however is the double-standard exhibited by Israel and its patron, the US. The assumption throughout is that Israel’s actions are just, defensive and in pursuit of peace for all. Conversely, Palestinian actions are aggressive and evil, and worthy of worldwide condemnation. Stephen Maher comments for The Electronic Intifada.

Israeli actions are turning Jerusalem into a settlement
Thanks to an attempted settler takeover of the Sheikh Jarrah quarter, that quiet neighborhood of East Jerusalem has turned into a kind of microcosm of the illnesses that are poisoning relations between Jews and Arabs. The worst of these is the refusal to recognize the finality of the situation that was created at the end of the War of Independence. It is possible to understand the settler right, whose existential aim is the continued conquest of the land. But how is it possible that state institutions will lend a hand to an act that destroys the very land under our feet?

Film review: Missed opportunities in “Checkpoint Rock”
Sometime early this decade the Israeli army issued a military order banning Palestinian musicians from using simile and metaphors. This order also prevented them from singing about anything but the occupation. Ok, that’s not actually true. But if your only contact with Palestinian music was through the documentary Checkpoint Rock you could be forgiven for coming to that conclusion. Jimmy Johnson reviews for The Electronic Intifada.

Thursday: 22 Iraqis Killed, 6 Wounded
An old mass grave believed to contain 14 al-Qaeda victims was unearthed near Samarra. Meanwhile, the formation of the new government is slowly plowing ahead as the Iraqiya bloc met with Iranian officials to gain Shi’ite support. Overall, at least 22 Iraqis were killed, including those found in the mass grave, and another six were wounded.

Three killed in shoot-out near Baghdad airport (AFP)
AFP – Iraqi troops on Thursday killed three men in a shoot-out near the main highway to Baghdad airport, while north of the capital police found the corpses of 14 Al-Qaeda kidnap victims, officials said.

Gunmen kill Iraq singer Qassem Abou Amer

Gunmen assassinated Iraqi singer Qassem Abou Amer in front of his house in Al Sheala District on Thursday overnight. Clashes erupted in Al Bayaa region between the police and gunmen. Three gunmen were killed in clashes while their weapons were confiscated, police said.

Iraqi PM says next government has to include Sunnis (Reuters)
Reuters – Iraq’s incumbent Shi’ite Muslim prime minister said the next government to be formed after an inconclusive election in March had to include the Sunni-backed coalition that won the most seats.

The role of Iraq’s Arab neighbours | Ranj Alaaldin
As Iraq moves away from the orbit of Iran’s influence, relations with neighbouring Arab countries becomes more significant.   Iraq continues to be marred politically by its Sunni-Shia divide. In last month’s elections, no single group emerged with a cross-sectarian appeal. This divide also exists externally in the form of a rift between the Sunni Arab world and Shia Iran, which is played out on Iraqi soil. But while the counterproductive Iranian role in Iraqi affairs is often highlighted, the other side of the coin receives less attention.

Lebanese tear down Israeli fence in disputed area (AFP)
AFP – Residents of southern Lebanon on Friday dismantled a barbed wire fence set up by Israeli troops in a disputed border area earlier this week, a military spokesman said.

Jumblatt to make second Syria trip in a month
BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt is set to visit Damascus on Friday, for his second such trip in under a month. Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the latter’s residence in downtown Beirut, Jumblatt didn’t disclose whether he would meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Southerners ready for any conflict with Israel
TYRE: If it weren’t for the resistance’s rockets that hit Israel during the country’s 2006 war against Lebanon, Israeli tanks would have reached the southern borders of Syria. This is the view taxi driver Abbas Atwi shares with his passengers as he heads to the south of the Litani river, an area of UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) operations as stipulated

U.S. and Other World News
Jon Heavey: Kids Shouldn’t Be Collateral Damage in a Combat Zone: They Should be Treated
Last week, front line combat footage from an Apache helicopter was released to the public. After watching the clips, I sat wishing I had been surprised by what I saw. But I wasn’t. Having rolled outside the wire in combat myself, I have to admit that the carnage did not strike me as anything beyond the brutal reality of war. What I was struck by instead is a detail that is largely left out of the video.

Report: Afghans in secret jail ‘made to dance’ to use bathroom, Bagram prisoners ‘moved around in wheelchairs with goggles and headphones on’

The US military is operating a “secret jail” at an Afghan airbase where prisoners are deprived of sleep and “made to dance” by US troops whenever they want to use the toilet, a BBC report states.

Egypt urged to protect peaceful demonstrators
The authorities have been urged to allow peaceful protests after police violently repressed another anti-government demonstration in Cairo this week.  Amnesty International has urged the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to protect demonstrators, after police violently repressed another anti-government demonstration in Cairo on Tuesday, beating and injuring demonstrators with batons and detaining and abusing at least one.

Egypt’s Presidential Elections: Kuwait Casts Its Vote
More than 250,000 Egyptians live and work in the oil-rich country of Kuwait. Yet when just three met at a local café to attend a small meeting of supporters of Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, former IAEA head and possible Egyptian presidential contender—they were arrested.

Is the Arab world ready for a reading revolution?
Abdo Khal’s ‘Arabic Booker’-winning novel is effectively banned in his native Saudi Arabia. But he says a new generation of readers is seeking out his work.  The latest winner of the International prize for Arabic fiction – the “Arabic Booker” – puts Arab countries’ censorship in the spotlight. I met the Saudi novelist Abdo Khal in Abu Dhabi, as he picked up his $60,000 award at a gala dinner in March. All his books are effectively banned in his home country, he told me, as well as in Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan. So I was startled to find the Saudi culture minister, Abdul Aziz Khoja, praising Khal as an “ambassador for creativity“, whose win is a victory for Saudi literature.

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A Roundup of the Week’s Best Political Cartoons

By Daniel Kurtzman

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Secretive buildup of elite teams reflects view that time is short to degrade Afghanistan opposition

* By Julian E. Barnes Los Angeles Times *

The Pentagon has increased its use of the military’s most elite special operations teams in Afghanistan, more than doubling the number of the highly trained teams assigned to hunt down Taliban leaders, according to senior officials.

The secretive buildup reflects the view of the Obama administration and senior military leaders that the U.S. has only a limited amount of time to degrade the capabilities of the Taliban. U.S. forces are in the midst of an overall increase that will add 30,000 troops this year and plan to begin reducing the force in mid-2011.

Operations aimed at Taliban leaders have intensified as the military also gears up for an expected offensive this summer in Kandahar, the southern Afghan city that is the Taliban’s spiritual heartland.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to negotiate with the Taliban, and U.S. and allied forces are trying to lure rank-and-file fighters away from extremist leaders. By hunting Taliban leaders, the specialized units hope to increase pressure on foot soldiers to switch sides.

With such an abbreviated timeline, the elite manhunt teams are the most effective weapon for disrupting the insurgent leadership, senior officials said. The officials contend that stepped-up operations by teams inserted in recent months already have eroded the Taliban leadership.

Defense officials specifically single out the work of special operations forces in eliminating mid-level Taliban leaders before the February offensive in the Helmand province town of Marja. They say the forces have begun similar operations in nearby Kandahar province.

“You can’t kill your way out of these things, but you can remove a lot of the negative influences,” said a senior Defense official. “A significant portion of the leadership has fled over the border, been captured or removed from the equation.”

But the buildup carries risks. Special operations forces have been involved in some botched strikes that ended up killing civilians, mistakes that Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has said could undermine the overall mission. For years, Karzai and other officials have complained bitterly about civilian deaths in military actions by the U.S. and its allies.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

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Obama DOJ Pulls Bone-headed NSA Prosecution

 by Michael Leon

President Obama: Progress for Whom?
President Obama: Progress for Whom?

Thank you Glenn Greenwald.

President Obama, you’re screwing up here. If we want a Republican protecting the national security state, we will vote for a Republican or some dingbat like Sarah Palin. Hard to believe, Mr. Obama, that you are this foolish or cowardly.

By Glenn Greenwald

The more I think and read about the Obama DOJ’s prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, the more I think this might actually be one of the worst steps the Obama administration has taken yet, if not the single worst step — and that’s obviously saying a lot.  

During the Bush years, in the wake of the NSA scandal, I used to write post after post about how warped and dangerous it was that the Bush DOJ was protecting the people who criminally spied on Americans (Bush, Cheney Michael Hayden) while simultaneously threatening to prosecute the whistle-blowers who exposed misconduct.  

But the Bush DOJ never actually followed through on those menacing threats; no NSA whistle-blowers were indicted during Bush’s term (though several were threatened).  It took the election of Barack Obama for that to happen, as his handpicked Assistant Attorney General publicly boasted yesterday of the indictment against Drake.Aside from the indefensible fact that only crimes committed by high-level Bush officials — but nobody else — enjoy the benefits of Obama’s “Look Forward, Not Backward“ decree, think about the interests being served by this prosecution.  

Most discussions yesterday suggested that Drake’s leaks to The Baltimore Sun’s Sibohan Gorman were about waste and mismanagement in the “Trailblazer” project rather than controversial NSA spying activities, but that’s not entirely accurate.  

Just consider this May 18, 2006, article by Gorman, describing how and why the NSA opted for the “Trailblazer” proposal over the privacy-protecting “Thin Thread” program, in the process discarding key privacy protections designed to ensure that the NSA would not eavesdrop on the domestic calls of U.S. citizens (h/t ondelette).  In that article — which really should be read to get a sense for the whistle-blowing that is being punished by the DOJ – Gorman described at length how then-NSA head Michael Hayden rejected technologies that could “rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy” and “that monitored potential abuse of the records.” 

 As she put it: “Once President Bush gave the go-ahead for the NSA to secretly gather and analyze domestic phone records — an authorization that carried no stipulations about identity protection — agency officials regarded the encryption as an unnecessary step and rejected it.”

It’s not hyperbole to say that Bush’s decision to use the NSA to spy domestically on American citizens was one of the most significant stories of this generation.  It was long recognized that turning the NSA inward was one of the greatest dangers to freedom, as Sen. Frank Church warned back in 1975, after he investigated America’s secret surveillance apparatus:  

“That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything:  telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.” 

It was, of course, the December 16, 2005, New York Times articleby Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau which first disclosed that the Bush NSA was illegally eavesdropping on American citizens inside the U.S., but Gorman’s articles regarding the Trailblazer program — in the time period covered by the indictment, using NSA sources (almost certainly including Drake) — provided crucial details about how and why the Bush NSA dispensed with key safeguards to protect innocent Americans from such invasive domestic surveillance.

And then there’s the massive fraud and waste which Gorman also exposed as a result of Drake’s whistle-blowing.  The primary focus of her stories was that the Trailblazer project turned into a massive, billion-dollar “boondoggle” which vastly exceeded its original estimates, sucked up enormous amounts of the post-9/11 intelligence budget explosion, and produced very little of value. 

But look at the coalition of corporations which was contracted to develop this Trailblazer project, the familiar cast of Surveillance State interests who were the recipients of the “boondoggle” which Gorman and Drake exposed:

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) today announced a contract award from the National Security Agency to be the provider of the technology demonstration platform phase of the TRAILBLAZER program.

The TDP phase of the TRAILBLAZER program is currently estimated at $280 million and will be performed over a period of 26 months.

The NSA selected the SAIC-led Digital Network Intelligence Enterprise team that includes Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, The Boeing Company, Computer Sciences Corporation and SAIC wholly-owned subsidiary Telcordia Technologies to contribute to the modernization of the NSA’s signals intelligence capabilities.

SAIC itself is, by its own description, an enormous defense contractor devoted to ”customers in the U.S. Department of Defense, the intelligence community, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, other U.S. Government civil agencies and selected commercial markets.” 

Just like its Trailblazer partners — Boeing, Booz Allen and Northrop Grumman — SAIC feeds off the massive Pentagon and intelligence budgets.  In other words, Drake’s leaks to Gorman exposed serious wrongdoing on the part of (a) the NSA and its illegal domestic spying activities and (b) the vast private intelligence and defense industry that has all but formally merged with the CIA, NSA and Pentagon to become the public-private National Security and Surveillance State that exercises more power, by far, than any single faction in the country. 

Think about to whose interests the Obama DOJ is devoted given that — while they protect the most profound Bush crimes based on the Presidential decree of “Look Forward, Not Backward” — they chose this whistle-blower to prosecute (and Drake, incidentally, is apparently impoverished, as he’s been assigned a Public Defender to represent him).

 In the process, of course, the Obama DOJ also intimidates and deters future whistle-blowers from exposing what they know, thus further suffocating one of the very few remaining mechanisms Americans have to learn about what takes place behind the virtually impenetrable Wall of Secrecy surrounding the Surveillance State — a Wall of Secrecy which the Obama administration, through its promiscuous use of “state secrets” and immunity claims, has relentlessly fortified and expanded.

 Anyone who doubts that whistle-blower prosecutions like this are intended to prevent any further disclosures of wrongdoing should simply review the 2008Pentagon reportwhich identified WikiLeaks as a major threat to the U.S. and proposed that exposure and prosecution of their sources would crush their ability to obtain further leaks.

It’s true that leaking classified information is a crime.  That’s what makes whistleblowers like Drake so courageous.  That’s why Daniel Ellsberg — who literally risked his liberty in an effort to help end the Vietnam War — is one of the 20th Century’s genuine American heroes. 

And if political-related crimes were punished equally, one could accept whistle-blower prosecutions even while questioning the motives behind them and the priorities they reflect.  But that’s not the situation that prevails.

Instead, here you have the Obama DOJ in all its glory:  no prosecutions (but rather full-scale immunity extended) for war crimes, torture, and illegal spying.  For those crimes, we must Look Forward, Not Backward.  But for those poor individuals who courageously blow the whistle on oozing corruption, waste and illegal surveillance by the omnipotent public-private Surveillance State: the full weight of the “justice system” comes crashing down upon them with threats of many years in prison. 

UPDATE:  John Cole, proving once again that one can be an enthusiastic Obama admirer without reflexively excusing and justifying everything he does, writes today:

The message is clear- you torture people and then destroy the evidence, and you get off without so much as a sternly worded letter. 

If you are a whistle blower outlining criminal behavior by the government, [] you get prosecuted. 

Cole is referring to the revelation todaythat, once he learned it was done, then-CIA-Director Porter Goss approved of the destruction of CIA interrogation videos (an act which the co-Chair of the 9/11 Commissions said constituted an obstruction of justice), and the message Cole describes is exactly the one being sent by the Drake prosecution. 



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Morocco uses Torture to Silence Sahrawi Activists

by Sherwood Ross

 by Konstantina Isidoros
Worldwide appeals have been launched in support of thirty-six Saharawi hunger strikers reaching their 29th day of protests. The wave of hunger strikes, which have spread across seven Moroccan jails, began on 18 March with the political prisoners of conscience now experiencing desperately critical symptoms of medical deterioration.

International observers and local NGOs monitoring the hunger strikes in the Moroccan Occupied Territory of Western Sahara, are warning of the risk of an imminent humanitarian tragedy and an urgent need to intervene for the immediate release of the Saharawi prisoners.

Fears about their critical medical conditions suggest they are nearing irreversible deterioration that could result in death, exacerbated by chronic illnesses resulting from previous years of incarceration and beatings in these Moroccan prisons.

The thirty-six Saharawi human rights advocates are on hunger strike in protest against Morocco’s illegal invasion and occupation of Western Sahara, as well as grave human rights and judicial violations such as arbitrary arrest, ‘disappearance’, false imprisonment, unfair trials and torture.

Morroccan Police Brutality

These Sahrawi political prisoners of conscious are well-known human rights campaigners, many of whom are recipients of prestigious international peace prizes. Yet they are subjected to various forms of repression by Moroccan authorities such as arbitrary restrictions on the right to travel; denial of the right to peaceful assembly, association, and expression; and detention without trail in Moroccan prisons for many months at a time.

For thirty-five years, Morocco has persistently ignored the International Court of Justice’s 1975 legal opinion, which rejected Morocco’s claims over Western Sahara, and reaffirmed indigenous Sahrawi rights to decolonization and self-determination. 1 Since its 1975 invasion, Morocco has subverted the decolonisation process by moving Moroccan settlers into the Occupied Territory, and defied more than 100 UN resolutions on the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination.

Still today, Morocco continues to refuse independence and self-determination to the indigenous Saharawi population despite the fact that a growing group of international campaigners, lawyers, NGO’s and analysts question Morocco’s bending of international rules.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center), Western Sahara Resource Watch, the United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group on Western Sahara, War on Want, Western Sahara Campaign and Free Western Sahara Network have published statements (some directly to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon), demanding that the United Nations extends a mandate to monitor Morocco’s human rights violations, and halts Morocco’s illegal territorial violations that exploit the Western Sahara’s natural resources.

International pressure is escalating to resolve the crisis and save the lives of the Saharawi human rights advocates by putting pressure on the Moroccan authorities to meet their human rights obligations.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper in December 2009, British filmmakers Paul Laverty and Ken Loach suggested that ‘the king and his government respect international law and join the civilised world’.3 Morocco’s persistent failure to do so generates an ever-increasing groundswell of condemnation by governments, civil society groups and human rights organisations around the world.

Campaigners taking these urgent measures to save the lives of the Saharawi human rights advocates state that they are defending freedom, human dignity, and international law.

The Saharawi hunger strikers

Six of the Salé-imprisoned ‘Casablanca 7’ began their hunger strikes from 18 March 2010 in protest of their indefinite imprisonment and lack of clear charges. These are Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane, Yehdih Ettarrouzi, Ahmed Naciri, Saleh Labaihi and Rachid Sghayer.

The hunger strikers issued this statement on 18 March:

‘Our detention has been condemned by governments and parliaments around the world as well as human rights organisations, trade unions and civil society groups. We are being persecuted for exercising our right to express political opinion and engage in legitimate activities to protect the human the rights of our people.

In protest at our detention we are today beginning an open hunger strike in order to expedite our claim to a fair trial and our release without condition. We call on democratic forces in the world to support our fight for our release and that of all Saharawi political prisoners held in Moroccan jails.’

Another 19 hunger strikers are in Tiznit prison and their hungerstrikes started from 20 March. These are Moustapha Abd-Dayem, Hreish Hassan, Mohamed Berkaoui, Bachir Isamïli, Mohamed Taghioullah Fekallah, Brahim Khalil Meghimiah, Khalihenna Abouhassan, Moulay Ali Bouamoud, Fadli Binhau, Mahmud Aboughassem, Sheiahu Hamza, Fathi Sid Ahmed, Daihani Abdallah, Mohamed Salami, Sawakh Djamal, Mahdjub Ailal, Hassan Mohamed Lehassen, Nourdinne Taher, Lehmam Salama.

And there are a further 3 hunger strikers in Boulmharez prison in Marrakech (El Waaban Said, Brahim Bariaz, Ali Salem Ablag), 3 in Layouune prison4 (Bachri Bentaleb, Ameidan Chej and Mohamed Berkan), 2 in Taroudant prison (Louali Amaidan and Jalad Hasan), 2 in Kenitra prison (Laaseiri Salec and Amaidan Saleh) and 1 in Bensliman prison (Hasan Abdelahi).5

Detailed medical information from the hunger strike monitoring groups draw attention to the dangerous symptoms the prisoners are experiencing at this stage of 29 days. These are listed variously among the prisoners as loss of consciousness, fatigue, migraines, asthma, acute cardiac and intestinal pain, asthma, vomiting and diarrhoea. Blood pressure and sugar levels are reported as decreasing alarmingly, with growing kidney, liver and gallbladder complications.6

The Saharawi Lawyers Association has also reported cases of neglect by Moroccan prison administrations, lack of proper medical assistance from prison clinics and staff, and Saharawi prisoner Hassan Abdullah in Bin Sliman is said to have been severely beaten by Moroccan prisoners at the incitement of prison staff.

To join the Urgent Campaign Action worldwide appeal and receive up-to-date and accurate Western Sahara news, please join the following campaign groups for further detailed information:

- Free Western Sahara Network
- Western Sahara Campaign UK
- Western Sahara Resource Watch
- Australia Western Sahara Association

Konstantina Isidoros is a doctoral researcher in anthropology at University of Oxford. Her field of study is the Sahara desert with special interest in the hassaniya-speaking populations of the western Sahara. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author. This document is an original transcript and copyrighted property of the author. Changes to this original transcript are not permitted without prior approval from the author.


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Israel Targets Haaretz Newspaper, Still Hunts Top Journalist

 by Michael Leon
NAZI Brutality, by Ben Shahn, U.S. Gov, (1943) - Released in the aftermath of the destruction of the Czech town of Lidice NAZI Brutality, by Ben Shahn, U.S. Gov, (1943) – Released in the aftermath of the destruction of the Czech town of Lidice

Journalist Uri Blau remains in hiding, hunted by the state of Israel. The liberal Haaretz newspaper staff has roused a siege-like mentality.

And the Israeli public would have the blood of any Israeli citizen and human rights activist who blew the whistle on Israel’s crimes against humanity in its well-planned 2008 Gaza massacre. Or not, let the secret police head decide, and let whatever happens, happen.

Writes an incensed Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy in “If it were up to the [Israeli] people, Anat Kamm would be executed“:

“The head of the Shin Bet [Israel’s secret police] threatens a journalist, and it’s business as usual, nobody says a word.  Nobody got into a tizzy after these brutal words were uttered, nobody even asked what exactly Diskin [director of Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin] was getting at. Nobody even bothered to ask if it was in fact the Shin Bet that broke into Blau’s apartment and ransacked it.”

Anat Kamm leaked documents detailing facts of the coming Israeli Gaza atrocity to Haaretz journalist Uri Blau in 2008.

Kamm is now under house arrest and stands accused of “espionage with intent to harm the state, a charge that carries [up to] 25 years in jail.” (Cook)

Former IDF soldier Anat Kam
Former IDF soldier Anat Kam

What was the December 2008 Gaza massacre?

Think of the World War II NAZI atrocity, the 1942  massacre of the village of Lidice (then Lidice, Czechoslovakia) in retaliation for killing a NAZI whom the NAZIs viewed as protected by their Christian God. Now multiply Lidice by ten and you get Gaza, December 2008, that followed years of “protracted collective punishment.”

Well, we can write about Israel in these pages. Object, and declare that its crimes are not committed in our names.

Most of the American public would agree. Most of American Jewry agrees.

The U.S. Congress on the other hand is on record supporting Israel and trashing the U.N. Goldstone Report; though on January 21, 2010 a letter signed by 54 members of Congress was sent to President Obama calling for a halt to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, describing the siege as an “ongoing crisis” that would lead to “disastrous” political and humanitarian consequences.

That’s the most we have accomplished so far as the “ongoing crisis” works its magic against those not-chosen people in the Middle-East.

A Shin Bet State



An Arab member of the Israeli parliament is demanding that a newspaper be allowed to publish an investigative report that was suppressed days before Israel attacked Gaza in winter 2008.

The investigation by Uri Blau, who has been in hiding since December to avoid arrest, concerned Israeli preparations for the impending assault on Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead.

In a highly unusual move, according to reports in the Israeli media, the army ordered the Haaretz newspaper to destroy all copies of an edition that included Blau’s investigation after it had already gone to press and been passed by the military censor. The article was never republished.

Blau has gone underground in London after the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, demanded he return to Israel to hand back hundreds of classified documents they claim are in his possession and to reveal his sources.

He published several additional reports for Haaretz in 2008 and 2009 that severely embarrassed senior military commanders by showing they had issued orders that intentionally violated court rulings, including to execute Palestinians who could be safely apprehended.

Haneen Zoubi, an MP who previously headed an Israeli media-monitoring organization, said it was “outrageous” that the suppressed report was still secret so long after the Gaza attack. She is to table a parliamentary question to Ehud Barak, the defense minister, today demanding to know why the army suppressed the article and what is preventing its publication now. Barak must respond within 21 days.

She said publication of the article was important both because Israel had been widely criticized for killing many hundreds of civilians in its three-week assault on Gaza, and because subsequent reports suggested that Israeli commanders sought legal advice months before the operation to manipulate the accepted definitions of international law to make it easier to target civilians.

“There must be at least a strong suspicion that Mr Blau’s article contains vital information, based on military documentation, warning of Israeli army intentions to commit war crimes,” she said in an interview. “If so, then there is a public duty on Haaretz to publish the article. If not, then there is no reason for the minister to prevent publication after all this time.”

Zoubi’s call yesterday followed mounting public criticism of Haaretz for supporting  Blau by advising him to stay in hiding and continuing to pay his salary. In chat forums and talkback columns, the reporter has been widely denounced as a traitor. Several MPs have called for Haaretz to be closed down or boycotted.

A Haaretz spokeswoman refused to comment, but a journalist there said a “fortress mentality” had developed at the newspaper. “We’ve all been told not to talk to anyone about the case,” he said. “There’s absolute paranoia that the paper is going to be made to suffer because of the Blau case.”

Amal Jamal, a professor at Tel Aviv University who teaches a media course, said he was concerned with the timing of the Shin Bet’s campaign against  Blau. He observed that they began interviewing the reporter about his sources and documents last summer as publication neared of the Goldstone report, commissioned by the United Nations and which embarrassed Israel by alleging it had perpetrated war crimes in Gaza.

“The goal in this case appears to be not only to intimidate journalists but also to delegitimize certain kinds of investigations concerning security issues, given the new climate of sensitivity in Israel following the Goldstone report.” He added that Blau, who had quickly acquired a reputation as Israel’s best investigative reporter, was “probably finished” as a journalist in Israel.

Shraga Elam, an award-winning Israeli reporter, said Blau’s suppressed article might also haverevealed the aims of a widely mentioned but unspecified “third phase” of the Gaza attack, following the initial air strikes and a limited ground invasion, that was not implemented.

He suspected the plans involved pushing some of Gaza’s population into Egypt under cover of a more extensive ground invasion. The plan had been foiled, he believed, because Hamas offered little resistance and Egypt refused to open the border.

On Monday, an MP with the centrist Kadima Party, Yulia Shamal-Berkovich, called for Haaretz to be closed down, backing a similar demand from fellow MP Michael Ben-Ari, of the right-wing National Union.

She accused Haaretz management of having “chosen to hide” over the case and blamed it for advising Mr Blau to remain abroad. She said the newspaper “must make sure the materials that are in his possession are returned. If Haaretz fails to do so, its newspaper licence should be revoked without delay.”

Another Kadima MP, Yisrael Hasson, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet, this week urged Haaretz readers to boycott the newspaper until Blau is fired. A petition calling on the Shin Bet to end its threat to charge  Blau with espionage has attracted the signatures of several prominent journalists in Israel.

“We believe the Blau case is unique and are concerned this unique case will create a dangerous precedent,” their letter states. “Until now, prosecution authorities have not sought to try reporters for the offence of holding classified information, an offence most of us are guilty of in one way or another.”

A group of Israeli human rights organisations is due to submit a letter this week to the government demanding that the investigation concentrate on lawbreaking by the army rather the “character assassination” of Blau and his sources.

Yesterday, the supreme court tightened restrictions on Anat Kamm, one of  Blau’s main informants, who has been under house arrest since December for copying up to 2,000 military documents while she was a soldier. She is accused of espionage with intent to harm the state, a charge that carries a tariff of 25 years in jail.

The papers copied by Kamm, 23, included military orders that violated court rulings and justified law-breaking by soldiers.

Judge Ayala Procacciasaid: “The acts attributed to the respondent point to a deep internal distorted perception of a soldier’s duties to the military system he or she is required to serve, and a serious perversion from the basic responsibility that a citizen owes the state to which he or she belongs.” Kamm, the court decided, must not leaveher apartment and must be watched by a close relative at all times.

Media coverage of the case in Israel has been largely hostile to both Kamm and Blau. Gideon Levy observed in Haaretz today: “The real betrayal has been that of the journalists, who have betrayed their profession — journalists who take sides with the security apparatus against colleagues who are doing their job bringing light to the dark.”

Calling Israel “a Shin Bet state”, Levy added: “If it depended on public opinion, Kamm and Blau would be executed and Haaretz would be shut down on the spot.”

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Egyptian Regime Acts in Support of Israel and United States

Mubarak and Egyptian Regime Attempt to Destroy Solidarity With Gaza

The following is a message from the organisers of the Gaza Freedom March and Jewish Peace News.

The regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, which has consistently worked with Israel and the United States to reimpose the rule of Fatah stooges over Gaza, including supporting Israel’s attack on and invasion of Gaza earlier this year, is now seeking to destroy international solidarity action with Gaza.

The regime of Mubarak receives the 2nd highest US military aid after Israel. It is a vicious, pro-US dictatorship, which unfortunately Palestinian leaders, including Arafat, turned to for help, despite the deal his predecessor Anwar Sadat made with Israel in the Camp David agreement.

As can be seen, the ‘help’ of this regime is only offered if it helps divide Palestinians and give succour and support to Israel. There is a clear message here for Palestinian solidarity activists in Britain and elsewhere. There is no solution to the Palestinian dispossession and oppression which does not tackle the Arab regimes too, those creatures and clients of the United States and Israel.

Whether one likes it or not, the solution to the Palestinian question is a regional one which cannot be solved within the confines of Palestine only. In this there is a clear divergence from the situation in South Africa where the Black regimes were not only marginal, but those surrounding South Africa had alread liberated themselves from British and Portuguese imperialism.

The road to Jerusalem goes through Cairo and Riyadh.




Palestine Solidarity Campaign Executive Scabs on the Boycott Movement

Last September the Trades Union Conference passed policy in support of the Boycott of Israeli Goods.

At least that is what PSC Executive argued had happened. In fact the TUC had voted for a policy of boycotting Israeli settlement goods not a boycott of Israel’s economy. A more radical Fire Brigades Union motion, which called on the TUC ‘to develop an effective Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign by working closely with the PSC’ was undermined by a statement from the TUC’s General Council which only supported a boycott of settlement goods ‘where trade union members should not put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with such products’.

Statements from the General Council take precedence over successful motions that unions have put forward. That is how the TUC undermines any radical and effective motions or policy (not that it passes a lot anyway!). It was, of course, understandable that PSC Executive and its trade union officer, Bernard Regan, should want to talk up their achievements.

Even if this meant at times that PSC AGM could have been forgiven for believing that the TUC had come out in favour of a unitary, secular and democratic state!

Having no other achievements worthy of the name, PSC Executive talked this achievement up out of all proportion. The mouse had become a mountain. Unfortunately reality sooner or later set in as all that emerged was a joint PSC-TUC postcard campaign which, if past experience is anything to go by, will result in most of said material taking up permanent residence in the PSC basement.

In launching their campaign with the TUC for the boycott of settlement goods, PSC and the TUC issued a joint press statement (below)  Much of the statement is unremarkable as most people would support a boycott of goods produced on stolen land. However what makes the statement unacceptable is that it also makes it clear that it is explicitly opposed to any general boycott of the Israel economy.

This is a flagrant and direct attack on the call by PACBI (Palestinian Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) and the BNC (Boycott Divestment & Sanctions National Committee) and dozens of Palestinian grassroots organisations to Boycott all Israeli institutions – economic, cultural and academic.

The BNC in a statement on its home page makes clear that:

‘The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement.

The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.’

The statement that PSC has put its name to explicitly opposes a wider boycott of Israeli goods.

‘’This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers. Nor should workers in Britain put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with goods from the settlement goods. Instead, we’re calling for targeted, consumer-led sanctions to send a clear message against the settlements.’

There was absolutely no reason for PSC to put its name to this statement. It could have quite easily refused on the grounds that nowhere did the TUC state that a Boycott hurt Palestinian workers. 

The TUC Congress by endorsing the TUC General Council statement supporting a Boycott of settlement goods had not opposed a more general boycott. It had left it to individual unions. Indeed, given that the FBU motion did include a call for a wider boycott, it could be argued that the TUC Congress, in the absence of a motion to the contrary, had actually endorsed a wider boycott.

Unions such as my own (UNISON) and UNITE have already passed wider motions of support for the Boycott campaign (whilst doing little about them). Instead the TUC has issued a call, with PSC Executive’s agreement, to actually oppose a wider boycott.

And they have done it using exactly the same arguments as Thatcher and Reagan used when opposing sanctions on South Africa.

Thatcher’s argument was that sanctions against Apartheid would hurt Black South Africans. No one bar supporters of Apartheid gave this any credence. PSC by adding its name to a statement which says that a general boycott of Israeli goods, cultural, academic and sporting organisations, ‘would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers.’ is scabbing on the Palestinians, who have made it clear that because they are already suffering so much from Israel’s apartheid policies, the added sacrifice on their part is worth it in order to improve the situation of Palestinians as a whole.

It is understandable that a New Labour apparatchik like Brendan Barber supports Israel and opposes a Boycott. This is a man who has never ever worked other than in TUC headquarters. The only thing he has ever fought for is a good place at a restaurant. But why did PSC Executive think it was necessary to give in to his demands?

No one doubts that Israeli workers would be hurt by such a boycott. That is the idea! Since Israel workers are complicit in the oppression of the Palestinians, indeed they are the most racist element of Israeli society, to refuse to penalise them would enable them to continue to attack Palestinian workers (e.g. taking jobs off Palestinians in times of recession).

The reason why a Boycott of Israel is absolutely vital, and why it is gaining increasing support, is because the settlements would not exist but for the occupation by the Israeli state. To oppose a boycott of Israel per se means that no pressure whatsoever is being exerted on the occupying power. Additionally, Israel had made it clear that it is quite happy for settlement industries and produce to be marketed as coming from Israel rather than the Occupied Territories, so any such boycott call will be ineffectual even in terms of settlement industry.

This is the logic of PSC’s 2 States position. 2 States means that one has nothing to say about Israel. It means accepting the existence of a Jewish and a colonialist state as it is now. It means running up the white flag of surrender just at the very time the Boycott campaign is meeting with increasing success.

This is the direct consequence of PSC AGM giving the Socialist Action/Communist League Executive of PSC a blank cheque. They have used this in order to undermine the whole Boycott campaign. Although it hasn’t been reported to PSC membership (like much else) 4 out of the 5 members of PSC’s own Boycott Committee have resigned.

This was because of the control freakery of an Executive determined to tightly control their activities. In essence PSC has no Boycott campaign now worthy of the name.

Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, has always been hostile to the idea of Boycott. Three years ago at a PSC fringe meeting at TUC Congress, he hotfooted it from the Trade Union Friends of Israel meeting to tell PSC that he opposed any Boycott and that PSC should explicitly support a 2 State solution.

At one point I interrupted him and asked how else, in that case, would he suggest applying pressure to Israel to change its behaviour? His answer? After recovering from the shock of being interrupted, was to continue reading from his script. He simply had no answer and today neither does PSC Executive.

This is also the logical consequence of the position Bernard Regan and his unelected Trade Union Action Committee adopted at PSC AGM where they effectively voted not to call for breaking links with Histadrut because, as Regan explained, the Histadrut is a changed animal.

What is the solution?

With the formation of the Boycott Israel Network (BIN) and the successful conference at Coalbrookdale 2 weeks ago followed by the disruption of the Jerusalem Quartet concert on March 29th and last week the acquittal of all 5 members of Scottish PSC who had also disrupted a Jerusalem Quartet concert, the BDS campaign was clearly making ground in Britain.

That is still the case but it is a campaign which must now also face the fact that PSC has now committed itself to opposing a boycott of Israel.

There is no easy answer to what to do now. But if PSC is not to be written off entirely then it is even more essential to remove PSC Executive, none of whom are activists (at the weekend’s large Veolia demonstration there wasn’t a single PSC Executive member present).

Although this hasn’t been discussed in BIN yet, there is no alternative but to try and call an Emergency General Meeting of PSC to no confidence the Executive and elect a leadership committed to solidarity with the Palestinians.

Tony Greenstein @

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Thursday, 08 April 2010 14:24 Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
Five Palestine campaigners who contested the relevancy of a “racially aggravated conduct” charge in relation to their protest against Israel’s blockade of Gaza had all charges against them dropped today.

The campaigners, all members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), had interrupted the August 2008 Edinburgh Festival concert by the Jerusalem Quartet. Tours by the classical musicians are regularly sponsored by the Israeli Government, which the campaign group claims makes them a legitimate target for protest.

The campaigners had been accused of making “comments about Jews, Israelis, and the State of Israel”, but during a three-day legal debate at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, a BBC audio recording of the event revealed that there had been no reference made to “Jews”. Comments included “They are Israeli Army musicians”, “End the Siege of Gaza”, “Genocide in Gaza”, and “Boycott Israel”.

Sheriff James Scott ruled that “the comments were clearly directed at the State of Israel, the Israeli Army, and Israeli Army musicians”, and not targeted at “citizens of Israel” per se. “The procurator fiscal’s attempts to squeeze malice and ill will out of the agreed facts were rather strained”, he said.

The Sheriff expressed concern that to continue with the prosecution would have implications for freedom of expression generally:

“if persons on a public march designed to protest against and publicise alleged crimes committed by a state and its army are afraid to name that state for fear of being charged with racially aggravated behaviour, it would render worthless their Article 10(1) rights. Presumably their placards would have to read, ‘Genocide in an unspecified state in the Middle East’; ‘Boycott an unspecified state in the Middle East’ etc.

“Having concluded that continuation of the present prosecution is not necessary or proportionate, and therefore incompetent, it seems to me that the complaint must be dismissed.”

Mr Fraser, the Procurator Fiscal Depute, said he would be appealing the ruling.

Today’s ruling will disappoint the musicians whose concerts now attract regular protest. After a similar disruption of their Wigmore Hall concert last week they issued a statement claiming to “have no connection with or patronage by the [Israeli] Government”. However, organisers of their November 2009 Australia tour acknowledged that “The Israeli Government provided about $8000 towards the costs of the tour”, but explained, “this was only a minuscule proportion of the total cost.”

Outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court, supporters held banners reproducing the ‘racist’ slogans, and a number of enlarged concert programs indicating Israeli Embassy sponsorship of the quartet’s tours were on display. Human rights lawyer, Aamer Anwar, representing Mr Napier, read a statement on behalf of his client: “We welcome today’s judgment which impacts on civil liberties nationally. A dangerous precedent would be set if demonstrators were criminalised for racism for protesting against state genocide by Israel or any other country.”

SPSC chair, Mick Napier had mixed feelings about the ruling:

“While this particular attempt to criminalise solidarity with Palestine has failed, British Government support for Israel continues. In England, more than 20 prison sentences – some for over 2 years – have been handed out to those who protested Israel’s massacre of 1400 mostly civilians in Gaza last year. On the subject of racism, of the 78 charged, all but two are young Muslims.

“If our case had gone to trial, it would have been Israel in the dock, not us. We had a string of witnesses from Palestine, Israel, and South Africa lined up to discuss the real racism and apartheid that Palestinians face daily. As long as the ethnic cleansing of Palestine continues, Israel’s political, cultural, and sporting ambassadors will face boycott protest similar to that faced by the racist apartheid South African regime in the last century.

“It’s time for politicians to fall into line with public opinion. Alex Salmond’s recent call for a review of trade relations with Israel is a step in the right direction, but what that means in practice remains to be seen.”

[A link to the written judgement by Sheriff James Scott will be available shortly]


1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches and groups of supporters in several Scottish cities and universities, as well as individual members across Scotland and elsewhere.

For further information, contact:
SPSC Chair, Mick Napier: 0131 620 0052; 07958002591

2. The campaigners interrupted the Aug 29th 2008 Edinburgh Festival performance of the Jerusalem Quartet at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. They were originally charged with Breach of the Peace, but weeks after last year’s violence in Gaza which took the lives of 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, the Procurator Fiscal changed the charge to “racially aggravated conduct”.
The campaigners maintained that their criticism was focussed on the State of Israel, and that as the Jerusalem Quartet are sponsored by their state to “promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art” [contract between the Jerusalem Quartet and Israel’s Foreign Ministry], their concert was a legitimate target for protest.

Quote on Israeli Government funding taken from Australian newspaper, The Age:

Boycott urged on quartet October 29, 2009:

“The Israeli Government provided about $8000 towards the costs of the tour. Mary-Jo Capps, the chief executive of Musica Viva, the Australian touring organisation that has brought the quartet out annually for the past four years, said this was only a minuscule proportion of the total cost.”

See also, US Library of Congress, concert program:

Saturday, December 8, 2007 at 8:00 pm
JERUSALEM QUARTET Co-sponsored by the Embassy of Israel
The group’s sponsors, the Jerusalem Foundation, describes the quartet as “Prestigious Cultural Ambassadors Representing Israel and Jerusalem”:

This and other details of the musicians’ state-sponsorship here:

The Jerusalem Quartet’s statement distancing themselves from the Israeli Government can be found on their website:

3. The campaigners challenged the validity of the “racially aggravated conduct” charge in relation to a political protest focused on the State of Israel. The case is still at the pre-trial stage and no plea has been tendered.

Judgement on the legal debate was given at 11am on Thursday 8th April 2010 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. If the challenge had failed, a date would have been set for trial.

4. The debate lasted three days: 21st + 22nd January 2010; and 29th Mar 2010. A report of the January debate, including a partial transcript of the BBC recording can be found here:

The Mar 29th 2010 diet had to be transferred to a larger courtroom to accommodate around 100 supporters.

5. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond called for a review of the UK’s trade relationship with Israel, after it emerged that Israel’s Mossad had forged British passports for use in the assassination of a Palestinian Hamas leader.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time in Glasgow, 25th March 2010, Alex Salmond told the audience, “you can’t have normal relationships if you believe another country has been involved in what Israel has been involved in”.

Salmond said the response “should be more than expelling a diplomat”, which he derided as a “diplomatic dance”, and added, “this has implications for example in trading relationships”.
Report and transcript here:

Salmond’s statements come 3 minutes into this clip (55 mins, 16 secs)

6. Deborah Fink is a member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, and is a professional classical singer. During her protest at London’s Wigmore Hall on 29th March, she sang

Jerusalem is occupied:
Settlers destroy her peace.
We’ll sing out, until apartheid
And ethnic cleansing cease.

The live BBC Radio 3 broadcast was stopped halfway through her song.

Of the Scottish case, Fink said:

“It is the charges themselves that are racist. For the prosecutor to submit that it is ‘racist’ to say ‘End the Siege of Gaza’ shows callous indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians. While Israel’s crimes go on, we must speak out.”

Deborah Fink can be contacted on request.

The Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign press release of Mar 29th 2010 reporting the Wigmore Hall protest can be found here:

7. Hundreds of individuals and organisations, including Journalist John Pilger, actor Tam Dean Burn, Palestinian professor Haidar Eid, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network have signed an “Open letter in defence of the right to boycott Israel”:

Many have sent messages of support:
John Pilger writes that the case “should be laughed out of court”.

8. The Aug 29th 2008 protest was endorsed by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI):

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) fully endorses the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s call on the Edinburgh Festival to withdraw its invitation to the Jerusalem Quartet. Members of this Israeli Quartet began their career with active service in the Israeli army, where they served as “Distinguished Musicians,” enjoying the sponsorship of mainstream Israeli cultural institutions such as the Jerusalem Foundation, which regards them as “prestigious cultural ambassadors, representing Israel and Jerusalem.”

From the beginning, the Quartet’s international tours have been actively promoted by the Israeli government. As such, and since the Quartet has not taken any clear position on the various forms of oppression of the Palestinian people, PACBI supports the Scottish PSC’s call to boycott the Jerusalem Quartet as an institution that is complicit in maintaining Israel’s occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.

Posted by Tony Greenstein at:



The BDS divestment campaign in Berkeley suffered a setback. Here’s a summary of the main events:

A vote early Thursday by the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority to overturn a veto of the bill by students’ association President WIll Smelko, though the bill could be reconsidered as early as next week…Following a lengthy discussion that began Wednesday night and concluded in the early hours of Thursday, the Associated Students Senate voted 12-7, with one abstention, to uphold Smelko’s veto.

The veto was upheld despite high-profile support for the bill from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Noam Chomsky. In the wake of the initial 16-4 adoption of the bill in March, Jewish campus groups mobilized to engineer its defeat.

Hundreds attended the Wednesday-night session, including Israel’s consul general in San Francisco, Akiva Tor…Following the vote, a procedural motion resulted in two more hours of discussion. The Senate then moved to table the bill. (Jerusalem Post)

The setback is temporary. The dramatic vote divided the Berkeley student community on predictable lines. On the one side, organized Jewish power, with its lines of support in the local Jewish community but even more so in Israel and Washington. On the other side, pretty much everyone else who is politically aware and active.
What appears as a deep fissure in the student body is therefore in fact an overwhelming unity in support of Palestinian rights. This unity is more important than the actual vote, and the voting process, culminating in an all night session yesterday, helped its emergence and its self-conscious articulation.
The Berkeley senate’s inability to uphold the resolution despite their own majority view as represented in the original vote should be understood primarily as another case of the failure of representative politics, which works in a place like Berkeley better than at the national level, but not better enough. Senators voted their understanding of their political future in US machine politics, a future beholden to serving and maintaining privilege, not challenging it.

It was also an appalling reminder to what today most commonly hides behind the adjective ‘Jewish’. First, it is worth noting that the resolution that targeted two US companies directly benefiting from the occupation, not Israel, not even Israeli companies, was not merely opposed by, but a mobilizing flash point for, the whole of mainstream organized Jewish bodies, including J-Street. Namely, when push come to shove, the occupation itself, not just Israel, has the full support of organized US Jews.

The slightest attempt to confront the occupation is beyond the pale; mainstream Jewish organizations, whatever horse manure they may propose as “criticism” of the occupation, mobilize to defend the continuation of the policy of settlements and ethnic cleansing. That helps understand the real import of the false distinction between the occupation and “Israel proper.”
The settlers’ slogan “Judea and Samaria is here (i.e. in Tel Aviv)” is not only true, but understood as such by the US Jewish mainstream, from AIPAC to J-Street and Hillel. These soft Zionist groups talk about two states for two people but mobilize to shield the one apartheid state of Israel from the river to the sea. They use “two states” as a cover up for support of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

The talking points the organized Jewish machine distributed to its student cadres in Berkeley were leaked. It is an interesting document. First, the talking points urge supporters to avoid debating the issue. That’s an admission of sort. There is no real argument in defense of Israel, only rhetorical noise, and even that isn’t very effective.

Second, apparenlty learning from mistakes, the talking points urge

DON’T mention that Israel is being singled out (don’t mention crimes committed by other countries). Don’t suggest divesting from other countries. It is a weak argument and implies that Israel has committed
war crimes.

A retreating army, apartheid apologists leave behind them positions that they can no longer defend. Do not expect them to admit that they used these fake arguments effectively for years to defend of indefensible. May someone informs, for example, Stephen Walt, that this particular argument has been officially declared exhausted?

The most important point is however the following, which is repeated in a number of variants:

The message: The bill is an attack on our Jewish community. It silences our voices….

The Bill is out of context and based on questionable sources (no need to go into detail). Thus, the bill is in fact an attack on the JEWISH COMML]NITY.

An unjustified attack on Israel is an attack on my Jewish identity. It is attacking ME. (Indybay)

Two important observations need to be made about this strategy. First, Jewish organizations are borrowing the language of marginalization and victimization in the name of the most affluent U.S. identity. Silencing Jews? You gotta be kidding? With leading op-ed writers in practically every newspaper, presenters, editors, anchors and writers in every TV station, over-representation in Congress, a whole cast of members of every US administration in the last few decades, and a slew of top positions in the Forbes list of richest individuals, who can even think of “silencing the voices of Jews”?
This not just wrong and silly on the facts, but also an absolutely offensive and disgusting appropriation of the language of empowerment, taking for a ride the real victims of the persistent racism, sexism, homophobia and intolerance that runs deep in US society. That Jewish student organizations can afford spitting in the face of Black, Latino, Queer, Muslim and other students who really belong to groups that are regularly and systematically silenced is a measure of the power they yield. They can talk about racism until the cows come out, but in their actions they put Jews on the side of the perpetrators of racism, not on the side of victims.

Second, the attack on the divestment resolution continues to establish a series of equivalences that testify to deep Jewish folly: US corporations equal the occupation equal Israel equal the Jewish community of Berkeley. No antisemitic demagogue has made this equivalence so convincingly. The equation between capitalism and Jews was (and still is) a figment of the antisemitic imagination.

The equation between world Jews and the actions of the state of Israel is universally recognized as racist, and is even part of wretched EUMC “working definition of antisemitism”, which lists as an example of antisemitism, “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”.
But thanks to AIPAC, J-Street and Hillel, putting pressure on General Electric because it profits from the occupation of the West Bank is now claimed as “an attack on the Jewish community”. Jewish organizations could not better promote an antisemitic understanding of the world if they went and painted Swastikas on the doors of their offices themselves.

To be clear, the claims of the anti-divestment organizers are also false. The Berkeley divestment declaration was supported by many Jews in the student body, as well as emphatically defended by two of the most prominent Jewish professors at UCB, Daniel Boyarin and Judith Butler. What isn’t false is the clear line that divide US Jews today, a dominant establishment that supports racism, promotes antisemitism and benefits from both, and an opposition that supports Palestinian liberation and rejects racism in all its forms, including antisemitism.

UPDATE PS. Magnes Zionist responds to the events in Berkely by explaining why even liberal Zionists should support BDS. But even he admits not talking to the organizations that effectively mobilized in defense of the occupation. That only strengthens the point above: the Jewish establishment is not salvagable.

Also, on the impact of the effort that is already a victory, see more by Cecilie Surasky:

…the feeling on campus and in the room was electric. We filled an enormous room that fits 900. Most stayed through the entire night. If you can imagine, the evening started with remarkable statements by divestment supporters Judith Butler, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, Richard Falk, Hatem Bazian and George Bisharat. And then the extraordinary parade of students and community members who spoke on both sides of the issue until it was past sunrise.

And though the final vote still hangs in the balance, the fact remains that the vast majority of the Senate voted to divest. The bill garnered the support of some of the most famous moral voices in the world, a good chunk of the Israeli left (9 groups and counting), nearly 40 campus groups (almost all student of color groups and one queer organization) plus another 40 US off-campus groups.

In addition, the room was filled with Jewish divestment supporters of every age including grandmothers and aunts and uncles and students. Our staff, activist members, and Advisory Board members like Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, Daniel Boyarin, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Noam Chomsky each played critical roles in the effort. And of course, all of you who generated over 5,000 letters of support. (MondoWeiss)


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