Archive | September 25th, 2010




East Jerusalem still on edge as 14-month-old baby asphyxiated by Israeli tear gas

Sep 24, 2010

Adam Horowitz

The news from East Jerusalem has only grown more grim. Ma’an News and others are reporting on the death of Muhammed Abu Sneneh, a 14-month-old boy who suffocated to death from Israeli tear gas used in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Al-Isawiya. Ma’an reports:

A Palestinian toddler was reported dead late Friday after Israeli forces fired tear gas amid clashes in a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Medics said 14-month-old Muhammed Abu Sneneh suffocated after the gas was fired at residents and their houses in Al-Isawiya.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said he had not received any reports of injuries and that police were using minimum force to respond to incidents in Al-Isawiya, Silwan and Ras Al-Amoud.

Clashes in the occupied city have been ongoing since Wednesday, when a settler security guard shot dead two Palestinians in Silwan.

This is an unfolding story and twitter seems to be the best way to get up-to-date news. Joseph Dana (@ibnezra) has been on the scene and sending tweets. Below is his twitter feed. It should update as he sends more news.

Bibi & Barney: Spring Pollard for 3-month freeze extension

Sep 24, 2010

Ira Glunts

Rep. Barney Frank is attempting to get House members to sign a letter to President Obama which requests the release of Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel. In exchange for Pollard, the US would get a three-month extension on the temporary and partial Israeli freeze on settlement construction on the West Bank. This deal is the brainchild of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu according to the Hebrew language version of Ha’aretz.

Frank is peddling Netanyahu’s deal as a US gesture of good intentions toward Israel. Gee, hasn’t the Obama administration made enough such gestures already?   Frank’s office released the following statement which

…notes the positive impact that a grant of clemency would have in Israel, as a strong indication of the goodwill of our nation towards Israel and the Israeli people…. This would be particularly helpful at a time when the Israeli nation faces difficult decisions in its long-standing effort to secure peace with its neighbors…

Frank, who is supported by JStreet, the “moderate” Jewish lobby, surely knows how humiliating the terms of his proposed agreement would be for our government.  A three-month extension on a freeze agreement which would only be selectively enforced is a ridiculously small price to pay for the return of a spy who many people believe did more damage to US security than any other.  It is widely believed that then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir sold much of Pollard’s stolen information to the Soviet’s in the 80s.

The terms of the deal are so one-sided it is difficult to not dismiss it as anything but political grandstanding.  If Frank and Netanyahu were serious about this exchange they would have used a less public forum for communicating it to the White House.  But the Israelis and their supporters in the US can never get enough of seeing a powerful US politician make that “I love Israel” gesture.  Frank probably owes a favor to someone at AIPAC or he is planning a big Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall for his nephew and wants to make sure that he and his family get the ultimate in VIP treatment.

Frank’s House letter is not the first time the Pollard clemency issue has arisen.   Israel has periodically attempted to negotiate for Pollard, who is considered to be a hero and legendary spy there.  President Clinton purportedly agreed to release him during the negotiations with Netanyahu which led to the Wye Agreement.  However, when CIA head George Tenet threatened to resign, Clinton nixed the deal.

For years, contrary to all evidence and logic, Israel claimed that Pollard participated in a “rogue” intelligence operation.   Finally, they admitted that Pollard was part of a Mossad spying operation in the US which was government-sanctioned.  Israel gives so many different fanciful explanations about so many different illegal operations it is difficult for even government officials to keep up with the most current versions.  Recently, Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, contradicted the new official government line by declaring that Pollard was not an official Israeli spy.  Oren went on to claim that Israel does not spy on the United States.  Right….

The chances that Netanyahu and Frank can spring Pollard anytime soon seem slim. There is a long history of denying clemency requests for Pollard and Obama is not one that is likely to ignore precedent.  Also, US defense establishment has traditionally been against granting clemency, and Obama is said to stand in awe of the military. 

You have to figure, however, that Netanyahu still believes that “America is something that can be moved easily” or he would never have proposed the Pollard-for-a-freeze-extension deal. 

Obama’s peace plan? ‘Annexation first, mini-statehood maybe later’

Sep 24, 2010

Adam Horowitz

Israel’s self-declared settlement building “moratorium” is set to expire this Sunday, and few expect that it will be extended. Even though the moratorium has meant little on the ground, this decision would still present a challenge to the Obama administration who hopes to keep its peace process moving forward despite the obvious fact that expanding Jewish colonies in the middle of the prospective Palestinian state isn’t really the best way to negotiate in good faith.

Mondoweiss contributor Josh Ruebner has a great piece in today’s USA Today that predicts one way the administration might attempt to square this circle:

To forestall a breakdown of this charade, into which Obama, Clinton, and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell have already invested so much political capital, the Obama administration appears to be playing a dangerous game to massage these seemingly irreconcilable positions.

Although not yet an officially declared policy of the United States, its contours emerge from hints emanating from Clinton during the most recent round of negotiations. On her way to Egypt on Sept. 13, Clinton said, “We recognize that an agreement that could be forged between the Israelis and the Palestinians on actions that would be taken by both sides that would enable the negotiations to continue is in the best interests of both sides. This has to be understood as an effort by both the prime minister and the president to get over a hurdle posed by the expiration of the original moratorium in order to continue negotiations that hold out the promise of resolving all the core issues.”

And how would she propose the parties jump this hurdle? “I think there’s a lot of ways to get to the goal. Remember, the goal is to work toward agreement on core issues like borders and territories that would, if agreed upon, eliminate the debate about settlements, because some areas would be inside Israel and some areas would not be inside Israel. So I think that there are obligations on both sides to ensure that these negotiations continue.”

In other words, the difference can be bridged by arm twisting the Palestinians to agree up front on the land that Israel will annex, permitting unfettered colonization, in exchange for the privilege of continuing negotiations in the ever-dimming hope that some crumbs will eventually get tossed their way in the undetermined future. Call this policy “Annexation First, Mini-Statehood Maybe Later.

Thank you, we’ve reached our fundraising goal!

Sep 24, 2010

Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz

Thank you everyone! We’ve reached our goal of raising $10,000. This was our quickest fundraising drive to date having hit our mark just nine days from when we posted the appeal.

In addition to all the financial support we’ve received, we also want to thank you for all the kind words of encouragement and affirmation you’ve send our way, including some wonderful endorsements in unexpected places. We appreciate all of it immensely.

Thank you again. We are humbled by your amazing generosity and promise to keep the site charging forward into the future.

Giuliani and Bolton take the stage in NY to call for war on Iran & anoint the neocon choice for Iran’s next leader

Sep 24, 2010


Yesterday Mahmoud Ahmadinejad restaged his “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” (or rather, New York) show again, this time using new insane conspiracy theories to dominate the headlines. I’ll do here as we all should — ignore his provocations — as the real issue to follow is the desperate game he’s playing to retain his power in Iran, as well as his populist internationalist savvy of speaking out on what are commonly held (if irrational) views shared by many outside the West. Behind the scenes in Iran he has suffered a number of humiliating knocks to his status, from the do-si-do involved in his attempt to stage the release of Sarah Shroud as an act of personal grace (his conservative opponents refused to allow him to put on a show along the line of his giving of gift-bags to the British sailors released in 2008, Shourd left Iran with no ceremony and kiss from Mahmoud), and he has been undermined in other ways as well. Coming to NY and making a stink is one of his tried and true gambits to consolidate support and quell his domestic conservative opposition.

Unsurprisingly, yesterday a number of Green Movement groups, such as the good folks in Where Is My Vote NY and United 4 Iran, organized on a grassroots level to bring together a demonstration against Ahmadinejad. This video summarizes the decent demands of this movement: We will not remain silent, We are here, No sanctions, Free political prisoners, Free speech, New diplomacy, No war.

What those of us who support the the green opposition didn’t expect was that the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (PMOI, also known as MEK or MKO) would be showing up in NY as well. A sign of the utter disconnection of the PMOI from the legitimate opposition to the present regime is the secrecy and lack of coalition or coordination with other groups that characterizes their activities. So out of the clear blue sky an elaborate stage materialized in Dag Hammerskjold Plaza, and several hundreds of unfamiliar people gathered — wearing not green but purple? But we knew them from their ensign: the hoisted pictures of their adored leaders, Masoud and Maryam Rajavi.

The rally was clearly a further attempt to mainstream the North Korea-like face of the PMOI, although I can’t say it seemed a convincing spectacle. This event was a much smaller affair than their coming-out rally in France over summer. The speakers included a range of soft spoken types, such as Reverend Doctor David B Lowery, Dean of the Mercer School of Theology. It also included mainstay advocates of the PMOI such as Raymond Tanter, a long-standing Israel Lobby professional, formerly an “expert” at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a cofounder of the neocon Iran Policy Committee.

But the surprise of the day was yet to come. Striding the steps of the elaborate staging, while appropriate music was cued, none other than Rudy Giuliani took the podium to extol the virtues of the PMOI, while also making the case for war on Iran. He included appropriate references to Israel as well, in idealizing an PMOI-led Iran that “does not threaten its neighbors with annihilation.” The audience, nearly all seemed to be PMOI drones sapped of individual will, waved and applauded in disturbing symmetry. After a peculiar nostalgic digression theorizing how Reagan would have dealt with Iran (and eliding the fact that Reagan did deal with Iran — it was called the Iran-Contra affair). He climaxed with a bit of saber rattling: “They must be confronted with America’s strength…” “It is not negotiable [for Iran] to have nuclear weapons! Giuliani’s speech came to close with a call for a removal of the PMOI from the State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. As he left the stage the MCs whipped up the crowd with an awkward chant: “Ahmadinejad no no, Rajavi yes yes!”

Giuliani was followed by British Tory MP David Amess, who wikipedia terms “a leading member” of the Conservative Friends of Israel. He followed the formula, if blandly. But his was a prime spot on the lineup, as he had the honor of introducing PMOI leader Maryam Rajavi to a soundtrack of bugles and a storm of confetti. But of course the leader was not actually there — she was only a video image on the screen, waving to her self-sacrificing compatriots from a video-stage in what appeared to be a French garden. Wearing her standard uniform, a matching light blue-green suit and scarf, she did her earnest best to mainstream the message of the organization, focusing on human rights and democracy as themes. But again the overproduction of the event gave a slip to the cult-of-personality centered around Rajavi, and the absolutely non-democratic heart of the PMOI. Her speech ended to another unnecessary flurry of streamers and confetti.

Then Raymond Tanter returned to the stage, to introduce MKO mainstay John Bolton, who also spoke on behalf of the group in their rally in France. His place on the speaking list — directly after Rajavi — seemed to confirm that the PMOI is moving more and more to take on the mantle of being the neoconservatives’ acceptable opposition. As always, the center of neocon concerns is Israel, and the PMOI, which once was anti-Zionist, are now playing lapdog to the Israel Lobby. Bolton as usual could hardly contain himself, gave a speech full of snide innuendo about the UN and Obama’s lilly-livered approach on Iran, and ended by threatening war on Iran (“the only long-term solution […] is to overthrow this regime in Tehran, and sooner rather than later”). He was followed by Susan Kone, a staunchly pro-Israeli GOP candidate for a NY congressional seat, who cited “anti-semitism cloaked as anti-Zionism” as one of the worldly ills that the PMOI would help to defeat.

The PMOI stage show at the UN seems to be part of a mounting campaign to give legitimacy to the group as the case for war is amplified — as with Iraq and Chalabi’s group’s role in providing a cover of a “leadership in exile”, the PMOI is maneuvering to be given the scepter and crown before the “liberation” of Tehran. As before, the strange thing is how poorly the PMOI discern the fascistic quality of their messaging. We’ll see what the next months bring, but it seems the neocons and the Israel Lobby have found their acceptable Iranian allies as they try to drive the US to an attack on Iran. 

Israeli troops also use live rounds against anti-Wall protesters In Nil’in

Sep 24, 2010


And more news from Today in Palestine:

* Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Settlers plan burst of quick, ‘light’ construction as freeze nears end
Outpost homes planned using cheap, environmentally friendly methods that enable building a house in two months or less for less than NIS 200,000.

Settlement construction to be resumed, “limited”
Washington leading efforts for creative compromise which would allow peace talks to continue despite renewed building in West Bank.,7340,L-3959225,00.html

Settlement freeze has barely slowed construction (AP)
AP – How much of a freeze has there actually been on West Bank Jewish settlement building by Israel?*

West Bank settlements freeze: ‘It’s a joke’
Anticipation mounts among developers that Israel will end its freeze this weekend.  Giant bulldozers churn up the ground, turning the air a dusty red. Further off, the clack of building machinery and tools punctuate the tranquillity of a warm West Bank morning.  After nine months of an official Israeli freeze on settlement new builds, developers sense their moment is coming again. If, as expected, Israel ignores international entreaties and ends its freeze on settlement building this weekend, the ominous soundtrack of metal on cement will again reverberate across the West Bank, clanging out the death knell of recently revived peace talks.

Bulldozers prepare as deadline on West Bank settlement freeze looms
Anticipation mounts among developers that Israel will end its freeze on settlement building this weekend.

Berlusconi will ask EU to pressure Israel on settlements
ROME: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday said he would ask other European governments to pressure Israel into extending a partial settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank.

Officials: Palestinians will consider compromise
JERUSALEM — Hopes of averting a breakdown in Middle East peace talks grew Thursday as senior Palestinian officials said their side would consider an expected U.S.-brokered compromise on Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank., At issue is the 10-month-old Israeli slowdown on settlement building — a near-halt to new projects aimed at coaxing the Palestinians into talks with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Settlements of Hebron; A Stumbling Block for Middle East Peace Talks
Hebron is the West Bank in miniature. While diplomats and leaders seek to find a path to Middle East peace, Jewish settlers in the heart of the West Bank’s second biggest city insist that they are going nowhere. Indeed, their thirst for settlement construction is far from sated.,1518,719203,00.html

Settlers outraged by Obama’s call to continue freeze
Settler leaders accuse U.S. President of ‘unacceptable intervention’ in Israel’s affairs; call Netanyahu to resume building in West Bank settlements.

* Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment

Man shot with live ammunition at Bil’in wall protest, Adam Horowitz
Ashraf Al-Khatib was shot in the leg with a 0.22” caliber live bullet at the weekly demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall. An international nonviolent activist was also hit in the shoulder with a low-flying tear gas canister. The hundreds of other participants were attacked with huge quantities of tear gas.   The weekly protest is against land theft by the illegal apartheid wall and the Israeli occupation in general. This week, the marchers also expressed solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem (al-Quds) where a Silwan resident was shot dead by an Israeli settler security guard on Wednesday morning.

Troops Use Live Rounds Against Anti Wall Protesters In Nil’in
Nil’in – PNN – the central West Bank village of Nil’in organized on Friday its weekly anti wall protest on Friday midday.  Villagers along with international and Israeli supporters conducted the midday prayers at lands owned by villagers near the Israeli wall, later they marched up to the gate of the wall that separates villagers from their lands.  Troops stationed at the gate fired live rounds and tear gas at the protesters; five were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.  Later Israeli soldiers chased the demonstrators back to the village where clashes erupted between the invading troops and local youth, the clashes ended without any injuries on either side.

Bethlehem Villages Protest The Israeli Wall, Soldiers Use Tear Gas
Bethlehem – PNN – on Friday villagers from Al Ma’ssara and Al Walajeh, near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.  In Al Ma’ssara, the protest started at midday, Israeli and international protesters joined the villagers and marched to farmer’s land were Israel is building the wall. Troops stopped the protest at the village entrance.  People set fire to settlements products that are being marketed by Rami Levie stores. After the Palestinian Authority made it illegal to buy or sell Israeli products in West Bank cities.  Rami Levie, an Israeli business man and member of Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, opened stories near West Bank settlements in areas that can be reached by Palestinians.

Israeli Arabs prepare for month to commemorate October 2000 riots
Police killed 13 Israeli Arabs in October of 2000, during riots that broke out during the second intifada.

More than 500 academics have endorsed the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, says USACBI
From the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (a member group of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)… “Endorsements by US academics and scholars recently crossed 500, and there are now 150 cultural workers who have also endorsed USACBI! This is a major victory for the growing academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and for the movement for justice and equality in Israel, as defenders of the status quo in Israel have repeatedly observed that the legitimacy of the state of Israel in the global court of public opinion is threatened by the boycott movement. There is a growing shift in the tide of public opinion in the U.S. which has only swelled in the wake of Israel’s massacre of international activists and relief workers on humanitarian aid flotilla’s off the coast of Gaza in international waters on May 31…”

Bar-Ilan lecturer reportedly denied tenure due to views
Colleagues say remarks against occupation kept Ariella Azoulay, who teaches visual culture and contemporary philosophy, from promotion.

New pressure on UJ to sever Israel ties
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Unisa vice-chancellor Barney Pityana and author Breyten Breytenbach have added their voices to calls for the University of Johannesburg to sever academic ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Adalah-NY to Batsheva Dance Company: “Don’t Dance Around Apartheid!”
“About 40 protesters gathered this evening to call upon New Yorkers to boycott the Israeli dance troupe Batsheva Dance Company during their performances at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan. Backed by the music of the radical marching band, Rude Mechanical Orchestra, demonstrators handed out programs to dancegoers and pedestrians explaining the reasons for the boycott. At least one dance patron heeded the call, giving his ticket to a protest organizer saying he was no longer comfortable seeing the performance.”

Israel’s settlement industry under boycott pressure
Palestinian activists in the occupied West Bank have called for the boycott of the popular Rami Levy Israeli supermarket chain which has several stores inside Israel’s illegal settlements. Activists say they will call on fellow Palestinians to “avoid supporting the occupation and settlements’ economy by boycotting Israeli goods and settlement stores.”

Youth Against Normalization: for the boycott of Israel
“The repression against BDS activists in France is reaching a new scale with the prosecution of a French MP, Alima Boumediene-Thiery (member of the French Senate) who has participated in a BDS action in the Paris region one year ago and who is a supporter of the BDS campaign. Her trial is due to take place in Pontoise (North of Paris) on Thursday October 14. She is accused (like all the other French BDS activists prosecuted) of “incitation to racial hatred” and “discrimination against the Israeli nation”.

Abdel Nasser Amer’s “Intelligent dreams”
Abdel Nasser Amer is an artist who lives and works in the city of Khan Younis in the occupied Gaza Strip. During Israel’s 2008-09 winter invasion of Gaza, Amer’s studio and some of his art were destroyed. Amer won a competition for a six-month residency with the Swiss Visual Artists Association in Neuchatel, Switzerland where he is working on his latest project, Rehaan (intelligent dreams). The Electronic Intifada contributor Adri Nieuwhof interviews Amer to discuss his life and work.

Sheikh Jarrah Sukkot, David Shulman
It may sound unlikely, but we’re in ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan Street in Sheikh Jarrah and, together with Salah and other Palestinian friends from the neighborhood, we’re building a succah. The Succot holiday, my favorite, starts tonight. Religious Jews build little booths covered with palm fronds and eat and sleep in them for seven nights, a memory of the forty years of wandering in the desert and a reminder of the precariousness of all that exists, all that we value and love. You’re supposed to be able to see the stars through the fronds that provide a make-shift roof; honored guests, beginning with the Patriarchs and ending on day seven with King David, are invited to visit each day.

* The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian/Restriction of Movement/Human Rights/Racism

Jerusalem remains on lockdown following clashes
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Checkpoints were erected at the entrances to several Jerusalem neighborhoods on Friday, with soldiers preventing residents from leaving the areas in several cases, witnesses said.  Hundreds of police and border officers were deployed around the Old City, with 3,000 in total across East Jerusalem, officials estimated.  Israeli Police Commander in Chief Dudi Cohen reportedly decided to maintain the state of alert declared Friday morning in the city, extending it through the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Shopping mall filled with goods masks Gaza’s crippled economy
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: The shelves are packed with imported food, but the ersatz prosperity of the newly opened “Gaza Mall” hides the lingering malaise haunting the impoverished territory.

Official says PA responsible for cars in Gaza
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority Transport Ministry assistant undersecretary said Thursday the PA hoped to deliver more cars into Gaza, following the import of cars on Monday for the first time since 2007.  Akram Awawda said 20,000 cars were needed in the enclave.  Under Israel’s blockade, Gaza’s residents are forced to rely on primitive means of transport, Awawda said, while smugglers bringing cars in from Egypt via tunnels are the only ones to benefit from the siege policy.  The ministry official said smugglers were responsible for projectiles launched towards the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, but the rockets have not prevented the delivery of cars.

Violence/Aggression & Provocations (also see Activism section at the top)
Israeli navy kills Gaza fisherman
Military spokesperson says troops opened fire on the Palestinian man’s boat because it was “heading towards Israel”.

Israeli police, Palestinians clash in Jerusalem (AFP)
AFP – Stone-throwing youths clashed with Israeli police in an Arab area of east Jerusalem on Thursday, an AFP journalist said, a day after violence was sparked when a Jewish settlement guard shot dead a Palestinian.*

Report: Jerusalem settler opens fire; no injuries
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli settler in East Jerusalem fired his gun in the air during an altercation with a Palestinian resident of the Silwan neighborhood on Thursday, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.  There were no reports of injury or damage, although both unidentified men were reportedly taken for questioning.  Israeli police have maintained a state of alert throughout the city following clashes sparked by a deadly incident 24 hours earlier in which a settlement guard shot dead two Palestinians in the flashpoint district.

Jerusalem Syndrome: A report from Silwan, Daniel Argo
This post originally appeared on the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity website. You never know what kind of a day you’ve woken up to in this city. Will it be a lazy and serene day, the first day of a vacation that I’ve waited so long for, or a day where the entire city turns into a Kafkaesque story. But perhaps it’s not the city – but the people who live here. So here’s the story: it’s about murder; the police; detainees; missing people; hate; lies and loads of stupidity and folly. In short a typical day in East Jerusalem.
Media center says Jerusalem reporters in danger
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms condemned on Thursday Israel’s arrest of four journalists, and settler violence that injured another four a day earlier in occupied East Jerusalem.  In a statement, the Palestinian press freedom group demanded “the immediate intervention of the international community and human rights organizations to protect Palestinian journalists and to halt all attacks against them.”

Palestinian journalists denounce Jerusalem violence
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Two leading Palestinian press advocacy groups spoke out Thursday against what they called Israel’s escalation in arrests and violence against journalists in occupied East Jerusalem.  Israeli forces assaulted four journalists and arrested four others amid protests following a deadly shooting attack Wednesday in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem in which a settler guard opened fire on a Palestinian car.

Israel ‘stonewalling’ over West Bank boy’s sex assault claim
JERUSALEM — A complaint by a 14-year-old Palestinian boy that he was beaten by Israeli soldiers then physically and sexually assaulted by an interrogator is being blocked by Israel, rights groups charged on Thursday. The accusation is laid out in a letter sent to the military, the police and the attorney general by Defence For Children International (DCI) and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI).  The boy, known as ‘A’, filed a complaint in August in which he alleged ill-treatment by the Israeli soldiers who arrested him, and physical and sexual assault during his interrogation at Etzion police station in the southern West Bank.

* Detainees

Sixteen Palestinians held after Jerusalem clashes (AFP)
AFP – Sixteen Palestinians have been detained in connection with clashes in east Jerusalem, police said on Friday.*

Palestinian Detainees To Go On Hunger Strike
Approximately 7500 Palestinian political prisons held by Israel will start, on Saturday September 25, a hunger strike demanding Israel to halt its violations and attacks against them, and to improve their living conditions.

War Criminals
Expert: UN could ‘bury’ Goldstone report
Chicago – Ma’an – A year after Israel’s assault on Gaza, bureaucratic wrangling is threatening to bury a UN report that accuses Israel and Palestinian militias of committing war crimes, a UN expert on the issue said on Wednesday.  Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, made the remarks ahead of a Friday vote at the UN General Assembly, which is expected to give Israeli and Palestinian authorities five more months to investigate war crimes charges outlined in the Goldstone report.

Turkey lauds UN report on Gaza flotilla
UN Human Rights Council report: Israel flotilla raid broke international law; UN appointed experts say that the military raid on the flotilla was ‘brutal and disproportionate’.

Israel accused of war crimes by UN expert panel
A United Nations panel of human rights experts has accused Israel of war crimes through wilful killing, unnecessary brutality and torture in its ”clearly unlawful” assault on a ship attempting to break the blockade of Gaza in May.

Turkish president demands apology for flotilla at UN
Gul calls ‘Marmara’ raid an “unacceptable act in international law,”; calls on Israel to put an end to the “humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.”

Israel’s Arab Helpers
Egypt Detonates Two Tunnels In Rafah
The Egyptian Authorities detonated, Thursday evening, two siege-busting tunnels east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Jordan’s king warns of war by year’s end
In Daily Show interview, Abdullah says if issue of settlement construction freeze is not solved, violent conflict could break out by end of 2010. He also criticizes Iranian involvement, saying Palestinian issue ‘hijacked by non-Arab elements’.,7340,L-3959234,00.html

Hamas lawmaker to file suit against PA security
TULKAREM (Ma’an) — A Hamas lawmaker said Thursday that he had started proceedings to file a lawsuit against Palestinian Authority security forces to the West Bank’s attorney general.  Abdel Rahman Zaidan said more than 100 PA security officers raided his home in Deir Al-Ghusun north of the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Tuesday, violating his parliamentary immunity.  The elected official said forces insulted him and abused his family, and seized his personal documents and laptop before arresting him. He was taken to national security headquarters, he said, adding that the forces had no warrants to search his home or detain him.

Egypt releases Hamas top official: security (AFP)
AFP – Egyptian authorities on Friday released a top official of the Palestinian Hamas group who had been held for almost two weeks, an Egyptian security official told AFP.*

From a Dahlan to Fahlanists
So Mahmud Abbas (a Dahlanist) reassures Dahlanist Americans.

Muslim Golani fighter in sukkah with Ashkenazi
Zaid Horani, who was enlisted into IDF combat unit two years ago, chosen to represent his brigade in army’s annual Sukkot event.,7340,L-3959339,00.html

* “Peace” Talks/Political Developments

U.S. congressmen to Obama: Free Pollard to facilitate Mideast peace
Jonathan Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in U.S. prison in 1987 on charges of spying for Israel.

Netanyahu Instructs His Envoy To Remain In the U.S.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, instructed his envoy to peace talks, Yitzhak Molcho, to remain in the United States in an attempt to find a solution to the issue of settlement freeze in the occupied territories.

Abbas in New York; “No Settlement Freeze Means No Talks”  [wink, wink]
Speaking to dozens of Palestinians at the Egyptian embassy in New York, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, stated that the Palestinian Authority will withdraw from peace talks should Israel refrain from halting its settlement activities.

Israel should start ‘rolling back’ occupation now: Fayyad (AFP)
AFP – Israel should loosen restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza immediately as a sign of good faith that new peace talks can produce a deal within a year, the Palestinian prime minister said Thursday.*

Fatah leader to meet Hamas chief, official says
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas leader Ayman Taha said Thursday that exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mash’al would meet Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad in Damascus to continue efforts to achieve national unity.  Taha said a delegation of Fatah leaders would arrive in Syria on Thursday a day ahead of the meeting, and he expressed hope that the meeting would bring conciliation closer.
Al-Ahmad: Hamas must ratify Egyptian paper
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad and Hamas conciliation leader Mousa Marzouq on Thursday arranged a meeting between a Fatah delegation and Hamas leaders in Damascus.  Al-Ahmad said he would be joined by Sakher Bsesu and Samir Ar-Refa’e, who would try to convince Hamas leaders to ratify the unity paper proposed by Egypt and to begin the process of national reconciliation.

Haniyeh praises Syrian role in Palestine issue
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Receiving a Syrian delegation in Gaza City, Hamas government Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh said the “good faith of Damascus” had done much to maintain the integrity of the Palestinian national project.  Made up of Syrian parliamentary leaders and members of the state teachers union, the delegation sat with Haniyeh on Thursday. The Hamas leader called the meeting “a historical gathering of Syrians and Palestinians on this liberated patch of earth.”

Norway: Israel misconstrued Fayyad meeting
BETHELHEM (Ma’an) — A Norwegian representative said Wednesday that the country’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, regretted Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s “distortion of facts” regarding a tense meeting in New York days earlier. Israeli news reports quoted Ayalon as saying that a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, a group of donors to Palestine that meets every six months to coordinate efforts, “ended abruptly” after a disagreement over the two-state solution.

Rightist MKs slam Obama remarks at UN
President’s call for extension of settlement freeze ‘inappropriate interference,’ rightist Knesset members say.,7340,L-3959014,00.html

* Other News

UN atomic agency rejects Arab-led move targeting Israel
Measure urging Israel to join Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty rebuffed; outcome of close vote seen as a diplomatic victory for the U.S., Israel.

Egypt envoy to IAEA: Israel’s stand on nukes is a ‘chutzpah’
Israel criticized at IAEA conference for its refusal to sign non-proliferation treaty; continues efforts to prevent condemnation.

Turkish president seeks Israeli apology
Speaking at UN, Abdullah Gul says Turks waiting for compensation over deadly flotilla raid.,7340,L-3958921,00.html

PLO official says Carter to visit Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Former US president Jimmy Carter will visit the Gaza Strip in October in a bid to negotiate a national reconciliation agreement between the rival Hamas and Fatah movements, a PLO official said Thursday.  Carter told Fatah leader and member of the PLO-Israel negotiations team Nabil Sha’ath of the upcoming trip, Sha’ath said, in a meeting during which the former president addressed Israel’s 4-year siege of the coastal enclave.  According to the official, Carter would be joined by a delegation from The Elders, a group of global leaders brought together by former South African President Nelson Mandela.  A spokeswoman for the former president did not immediately return calls to confirm the trip.  An Elders delegation recently visited Israel and the West Bank but not Gaza.

Poll: 21% of Jews ‘more religious’
Survey conducted by Central Bureau of Statistics suggests 200,000 of adult Israeli Jews define themselves as newly religious; 42% consider themselves secular.,7340,L-3952847,00.html

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest
Al Jazeera English: Ali Anuminah: Obama’s UN speech ‘nothing new’
Barack Obama, the US president, has urged countries in the United Nations to get behind Middle East peace efforts in an address at the UN General Assembly. But Ali Hasan Abunimah, a Palestinian-American journalist and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, an independent web site about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, said Obama’s speech did not represent anything new. “That bodes very ill for the peace process that he’s so invested in,” Abunimah told Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, speaking from the US state of Indiana. “Let’s judge him not by what he says, but what he does.”

Obama UN Speech on Mideast Talks “Filled With Empty Words” – Palestinian Attorney Diana Buttu
President Obama makes the Israel Palestine conflict the centerpiece of his address to the UN General Assembly. Urging the international community to support his plan for peace, the President called on Palestinians to move ahead with “genuine reconciliation” with Israel and said Israel should extend it’s “settlement moratorium” We speak attorney Diana Buttu, a former advisor to Palestinian negotiators.

When Obama spoke of “the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams” I thought of her (graphic), Ali Abunimah
In his speech to the UN General Assembly on 23 September, U.S. President Barack Obama had a throwaway line typical of folksy American campaign speeches to justify why “this time” the so-called “peace process” would be different:  “This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire”.  When he uttered those words, this was the image that came to my mind. It is of the body of a young girl from the al-Daya family dug out of the rubble after her family’s home was destroyed by an Israeli bombing on 6 January 2009.

What if Peace Talks “Succeed?”
Many commentators expect the direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians to fail. But there is a much worse scenario: What if they “succeed?” The United States appears determined to push for a framework agreement within a year and both Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), are aiming for that goal. Such an agreement, U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell explained in a September 2 press conference, would be more than a declaration of principles but less than a peace treaty. In it, the two sides would reach the “fundamental compromises” necessary for a peace accord. Like its predecessor, the Obama administration has already indicated that the accord would still have to be fleshed out and then implemented over the course of several years – which virtually ensures that it will be delayed if not derailed as happened to past peace accords.

Empty Promises: Obama takes his Middle East peace plan to the UN, Phyllis Bennis
“International law is not an empty promise” – except for Palestinians. President Obama’s General Assembly speech called on the international community to mobilize behind the U.S.-led “peace process.” He called on the Palestinians to “reconcile with a secure Israel” and waxed eloquent on the illegality of killing Israeli civilians. He called on the Palestinians’ friends to implement the Arab Peace Plan’s proposed normalization with Israel without ever mentioning the plan’s clear understanding that ending Israel’s 1967 occupation must come first. And he called on Israel to – talk nicely.

Why Mitchell Said ‘No’: Hamas is Not Ready to be ‘Engaged’, Ramzy Baroud
One key difference between Hamas and its rival, the Fatah movement in the West Bank, is that Hamas is accountable to a much more complex set of priorities and expectations. While Fatah is effortlessly co-opted, Hamas remains confined by ideological standards and the stringiest political space. Although, on one hand this represents Hamas’ greatest strength, on the other it shows just how truly arduous is its political undertaking.  The difference is relevant in light of the resumption of talks between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, followed by another round of talks in the Middle East. Both once more raised the question: can Israel and Fatah achieve peace without Hamas’ involvement?

Abbas and Bibi Need Help,  By George S. Hishmeh – Washington. D.C.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must have been very disappointed when she returned home last week virtually empty handed. She was not able to announce that the Israeli and Palestinian leaders with whom she had 11 sessions had agreed on a formula for maintaining the moratorium on building new Israeli colonies in the occupied West Bank. And all this despite the pleas of President Barack Obama and herself that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extend the 10-month ban, even for a short period, on additional construction in the occupied Palestinian territories where some 500,000 Israeli colonialists had moved since the 1967 Arab-Israel war. The ban expires on September 26.

Is the Mideast Peace Process a Charade?, Mamoon Alabbasi – London
A debate over the seriousness of the Middle East peace process was held in London, where six analysts argued for and against the motion that the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were merely a charade.  Shlomo Ben-Ami, historian and former Israeli minister, expressed “serious doubts” on the validity of the negotiations, where both sides were in a “sate of indifference” and not ready to make any significant commitments.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben-Ami argued, does not have the political power and right-wing backing to make peace, and all that he is willing to offer clashes with the concept of a “sovereign Palestinian state.”

Occupation reality check – Daoud Kuttab
Just when one thought that the direct peace talks might be able to produce a breakthrough, one got an awakening jolt.  Crossing the bridge over the Jordan River must be the world’s worst gift that keeps giving. This gift gives grief, anger, frustration and an overall realization of what the occupation is all about. September 18 is a case in point. Palestinians, and others, wishing to cross the nearly dried up river into the West Bank faced an unnecessary wait of over 10 hours. Women, men, senior citizens and infants were caught up in this 44-year-old ongoing drama.

Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
Gideon Levy is the most hated man in Israel – and perhaps the most heroic. This “good Tel Aviv boy” – a sober, serious child of the Jewish state – has been shot at repeatedly by the Israeli Defence Force, been threatened with being “beaten to a pulp” on the country’s streets, and faced demands from government ministers that he be tightly monitored as “a security risk.” This is because he has done something very simple, and something that almost no other Israeli has done. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda. “My modest mission,” he says, “is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say, ‘We didn’t know.’” And for that, many people want him silenced.

The Daily Show is listening to King Abdullah. Is anyone else?
On the Daily Show tonight, Jon Stewart is hosting Jordan’s King Abdullah. Abdullah gets full points for hipness, but restoring his country’s influence is another matter.

* Lebanon

Second Israeli telecom ‘spy’ arrested in Lebanon
Lebanon has arrested a suspected accomplice of a telecom technician who stands charged with spying for Israel, a source close to the investigation said on Thursday.  “A Lebanese citizen named Tarek al-Rabaa was arrested four days ago and he is likely an accomplice of Charbel Azzi at the company Alfa,” one of Lebanon’s two mobile service providers, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.  The source’s comments came after the high-profile arrest of Charbel Azzi, a technician at Alfa, last month, as part of a national crackdown on suspected Israeli espionage rings.

Hariri case ‘could cause civil war’
Politician warns of sectarian violence if UN-backed tribunal indicts members of Hezbollah movement.  A Lebanese politician has warned that a sectarian war could break out in Lebanon if a UN-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister, issues indictments against members of the Hezbollah movement. “If the indictments come out against Hezbollah in the trial of the Hariri assassination, there is war in Lebanon … and today the atmosphere is just waiting for a spark,” Suleiman Franjieh, the leader of the Marada movement, told Lebanese television channel LBC on Thursday.

Qassem says STL wants to quiz more Hizbullah members
BEIRUT: Hizbullah’s second in command Naim Qassem has revealed that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) asked to interview a second group of Hizbullah supporters as part of its probe into the 2005 killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Hariri – Hezbollah Gap Widening; Lebanon in the Eye of the Storm
The gap between Hezbollah and PM Saad Hariri’s Future Movement continues to deepen at this very delicate stage in Lebanon. Formally announcing a deadlock could have to wait until the end of September, when the Saudi-Syrian-French effort to stop the country from sliding into the abyss, is expected to end. Until now, there are no indications that point to progress in this regard.

* Iraq

Thursday: 10 Iraqis Killed; 12 Iraqis, 1 Foreign Contractor Wounded
Iraq’s political deadlock was high on the agenda at the 7th Interior Ministers Meeting. The ministers of several neighboring countries acknowledged that Iraq’s politics are an internal matter, but they also stressed a “regional need” for Iraq to seat its new government. Meanwhile, 10 Iraqis were killed and 12 more were wounded in new violence. A foreign contractor was also wounded.

Iraqi Police Say Blast Kills 4 Children in Baghdad
BAGHDAD (AP) — A bomb attached to the car of a government worker exploded Thursday with his family and relatives inside, killing four children, officials said.

5 killed, 7 wounded in 2 IED blasts in Baghdad
Five people were killed and seven others wounded in blasts from two improvised explosive devices in Baghdad, according to a security source on Thursday.

Four Killed in Weapons Explosion
At least four people were killed and 67 others injured after a weapons storage facility explodes in Iraq.

Gunmen shoot dead civilian inside his house in Mosul
Two unidentified gunmen killed a civilian inside his house in western Mosul city on Thursday, according to a police source in Ninewa.

Fallujah raid highlights Iraq’s security concerns (AP)
AP – For a few hours last week, a part of Fallujah was a flashback to the depths of the Iraq war when insurgents ruled the city and its streets were shooting galleries.*

Al-Qaida in Iraq claims Baghdad bombings (AP)
AP – Al-Qaida’s front group in Iraq claimed responsibility Friday for two Baghdad bombings last week that killed at least 31 people at a government security agency and what it called an “evil” mobile phone provider.*

Temporary Marriages Stir Iraqi Sensitivities
As the lunchtime lull descends over Basra’s Al-Ashaar market, two women weave through dwindling crowds to a store owned by Adel, a grocer in his early forties.   After they enter, the door is locked and a sign appears, declaring the shop shut for the afternoon.  The women – a mother and her daughter, both widowed – were once regular customers of Adel’s. Now they see him only weekly, choosing a time when they are least likely to be spotted by other shoppers. Their dealings with Adel are no longer commercial. Though the manner of the visit is covert, its purpose is lawful.

Polygamy Promoted to Tackle Plight of Anbar’s Women
Campaign encouraging men to take more than one wife draws controversy in province awash with war widows.  Widowed by an American air-strike, Walaa Ahmed spent four years sharing a house with a hostile sister-in-law before she decided to remarry.

French scientists discover new Sumerian temple in southern Iraq
The Antiquities Department says French archaeologists have recently unearthed a new Sumerian temple in the southern Province of Dhiqar.  The department’s information officer, Abdulzahra al-Talaqani, said a team of French excavators did a short season of digging at al-Rafaai, the district where the Sumerian temple was found.  The French were expected to resume digging to provide a good picture of the new discovery, he said.  Details are sketchy but Talaqani said the department would provide by December “the engineering details that will elucidate (the temple’s) archaeological significance and its contents.”\2010-09-24\kurd.htm

Johnny Cash Died in Great Distress About Iraq Invasion
Country legend Johnny Cash died frustrated and disappointed about America’s invasion of Iraq. The singer/songwriter’s daughter Rosanne has revealed the conflict occupied her dying father’s thoughts during his final waking hours and caused him great distress. She insists he wanted to protest the war but didn’t have the strength. Rosanne Cash tells The Progressive, “We invaded Iraq in March (2003), and he died in September, and because his health was so fragile, he couldn’t take the controversy of making a public statement against the war.”   She reveals that doctors put her father into medically induced coma just before the invasion of Iraq – and when he woke, his first thoughts were about the conflict. Cash adds, “He went to sleep not knowing if we had invaded Iraq. It was the last thought on his mind.”

* Iran

Gulf States Order $123 Billion of U.S. Weaponry to Counter Iran, FT Says
The United Arab Emirates has signed contracts to buy military kit worth $35.6 billion, the FT said.

Obama urges diplomacy on Iran
US President Barack Obama has called for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear issue, despite Washington’s disregard for Tehran’s diplomatic initiatives.

World powers seek talks with Iran
AlJazeera 23 Sep 2010 – US and other world powers announce diplomatic overture to come to “early negotiated solution” on nuclear issue.

Iran criticizes Russia over S-300 missile deal ban
Iranian defense minister says Russia is violating a 2007 contract; Russia says UN sanctions prevent it from delivering the sophisticated systems to Iran.

Iran To Produce Missile System Similar To Russia’s S-300
Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi has announced that Iran will produce an advanced anti-aircraft missile system, similar to S-300 in the near future after Russia scraps missile delivery plan to Iran, Mehr News Agency said.

What is new? Zionist racism
Do those racists know that Persian cuisine is one of the most delicious and sophisticated cuisine of the whole world?  “The New York Post reported that hotels guests complained of a foul odor in the hotel caused by the food cooked especially for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The leader of the Islamic Republic does not eat the food prepared by the hotel chefs for guests, but instead brought his own personal chef from Iran to cook his meals for him.  Guests told the New York Post that his meals “stunk up the hotel,” prompting them to leave the hotel and seek lodging elsewhere.”

Letter to Rachel Maddow
Are you a journalist or are you Fox News?  Certainly you could have covered his statements at the UN without making sexist remarks, i.e., making fun of his stature by referring to him as “little man” and saying he must have needed to use a ladder to reach the podium.  Is it OK to use these types of physical characteristics to describe people?  Sure.  But, it’s shocking to see a journalist not affiliated with Fox news participate in such infantile behavior.  Rachel, would you have referred to Ariel Sharon as fat when he was slaughtering Palestinians in any of the various attacks he waged against them?  The mocking manner in which you said the word “Zionist” to mock Ahmadinejad also irked me.  As if you were implying that only a madman would ever blame anything on Zionism.

* U.S. and Other World News

Teresa Lewis, Mentally Disabled Woman, Executed In Virginia Amid Outcry
JARRATT, Va. — The first woman to be executed in the U.S. in five years has been put to death in Virginia for arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a $250,000 insurance payment. Forty-one-year-old Teresa Lewis died by injection at 9:13 p.m. Thursday. She became the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly a century. Supporters and relatives of the victims watchedd her execution at Greensville Correctional Center.

U.S. covert paramilitary presence in Afghanistan much larger than thought
On an Afghan ridge 7,800 feet above sea level, about four miles from Pakistan, stands a mud-brick fortress nicknamed the Alamo. It is officially dubbed Firebase Lilley, and it is a nerve center in the covert war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Afghanistan security ‘deteriorating:’ Feds
Afghanistan’s security situation is “deteriorating,” with a rise in insurgent violence and intimidation of civilians, according to a new report on the war by the Harper government.

CIA Killed U.S. Citizens in Pakistan
CIA drones killed “many Westerners, including some U.S. passport holders” in Pakistan’s tribal area during the George W. Bush administration, the new book by Bob Woodward says.

Pakistani scientist sentenced in US
Aafia Siddiqui, branded “Lady Qaeda” by the media, gets 86 years in jail for trying to kill US officers in Afghanistan.

US Businessman: Blackwater Paid Me to Buy Steroids and Weapons on Black Market for its Shooters, Jeremy Scahill
A Texas businessman who has worked extensively in Iraq claims that Blackwater paid him to purchase steroids and other drugs for its operatives in Baghdad, as well as more than 100 AK47s and massive amounts of ammunition on Baghdad’s black market. Howard Lowry, who worked in Iraq from 2003-2009, also claims that he personally attended Blackwater parties where company personnel had large amounts of cocaine and blocks of hashish and would run around naked. At some of these parties, Lowry alleges, Blackwater operatives would randomly fire automatic weapons from their balconies into buildings full of Iraqi civilians.  Lowry described the events as a “frat party gone wild” where “drug use was rampant.” Lowry says he was told by Blackwater personnel that some of the men using the steroids he purchased were on the security detail of L. Paul Bremer, the original head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Lowry also claims that Blackwater’s owner Erik Prince tried to enlist his help to win contracts for Blackwater with the Iraqi government using an off-shore security company, Greystone, which Prince owns. The purpose, Lowry says, was to conceal Greystone’s relationship to Blackwater.

David Miliband gave green light for interrogations in ‘torture nations’
David Miliband faced fresh questions over torture yesterday after it emerged that he gave the green light for interrogations of terrorist suspects in countries where there was a risk of abuse.

Clegg likely to cause surprise with veiled attack on Gulf war
In a gesture likely to startle as much as gratify a wide coalition of world leaders, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will take the podium at the United Nations today and acknowledge, albeit obliquely and without identifying the country by name, that the invasion of Iraq was misconceived.

Muslims Say They Face More Work Discrimination
At a time of growing tensions involving Muslims in the United States, a record number of Muslim workers are complaining of employment discrimination, from co-workers calling them “terrorist” or “Osama” to employers barring them from wearing head scarves or taking prayer breaks.

Feds’ Guide To Snitching on Your Terrorist Neighbor
Here’s a handy pamphlet prepared by federal law enforcement to help you navigate the uncertainties of an age of homegrown terrorism, helpfully illustrated with pictures of New Mexico-born extremist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki and New York food-cart guy/sleeper agent Najibullah Zazi.

Dilip Hiro, The Waning of America
This has been the week of American decline at TomDispatch.  On Sunday, Michael Klare considered that decline in the context of the rise of China as an energy superpower.  I gave a muted cheer-and-a-half for it on Tuesday.  Today, Dilip Hiro, who has been following the subject for this site, lays out what our power outage means in geopolitical terms.  The last time Hiro (author most recently of After Empire: The Birth of a Multi-Polar World) appeared at TomDispatch, he noticed a striking stylistic sign of American decline in action, what might be called the Obama flip-flop.  In one case after another, from Central America to China, Israel to Afghanistan, the Obama administration would pressure a foreign leader to bend to Washington’s will, threaten dire consequences, and then, when he refused to back off, move into a placatory mode.  Strangely — a sign of domestic power outages as well — it hasn’t been hard to spot a similar style in action at home.,_the_waning_of_america/#more

Arabic National Geographic launched
The National Geographic Society regards the launch of an Arabic-language version of its magazine and its existing TV channel as “vanguards” for further growth in the Middle East.  The society says it could explore further business opportunities in the region after the launch of National Geographic Al Arabiya. The magazine, which was officially launched at an event in Abu Dhabi last night and hits the news-stands on October 1, is published under licence by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also owns and publishes The National.

A Blurred Line in Bahrain, RANNIE AMIRI
The situation in Bahrain has deteriorated to such an extent that it can no longer be called a political crisis; it is now a human rights crisis. And the silence of those in the Middle East and West, particularly the United States, has been shameful.  The Persian Gulf state is currently in the throes of unrest. The ruling al-Khalifa family, led by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, is imposing increasingly draconian security measures in an effort to silence the outcry of the island’s Shia Muslim majority over sweeping arrests of opposition figures in the run-up to October parliamentary elections.

Man shot with live ammunition at Bil’in wall protest

Sep 24, 2010 

Adam Horowitz

A scene from today’s protest in Bil’in. (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahmah )

The following was just sent out by organizers in Bil’in:

Ashraf Al-Khatib was shot in the leg with a 0.22” caliber live bullet at the weekly demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall. An international nonviolent activist was also hit in the shoulder with a low-flying tear gas canister. The hundreds of other participants were attacked with huge quantities of tear gas.

The weekly protest is against land theft by the illegal apartheid wall and the Israeli occupation in general. This week, the marchers also expressed solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem (al-Quds) where a Silwan resident was shot dead by an Israeli settler security guard on Wednesday morning.

Two hundred Palestinians accompanied by around thirty international and Israeli activists assembled at the village’s Mosque after noon and marched towards the apartheid wall, chanting “no, no, to the wall” and “Free! Free! Palestine.” Around forty Israeli soldiers ran out of the gate to the settlement as they saw the march approaching, blockading the road.

Protesters marched up to the soldiers and confronted them, demanding to be allowed to walk on the village’s land, which even the Israeli High Court conceded was Palestinian in 2007. The soldiers did not allow anyone through, using their shields to aggressively push back the peaceful demonstrators. One Palestinian activist tried to fasten a poster to a soldier’s shield saying “Free Adeeb Abu Rahma,” referring to one of Bil`in’s four political prisoners held by Israel for organizing the weekly protests. The commander was seen indicating to his soldiers that he wants them to target Ashraf Al-Khatib.

The group demonstrated with the soldiers for thirty minutes until a youth threw a stone and the soldiers responded by firing huge quantities of tear gas at the peaceful crowd, many of whom proceeded to suffer breathing difficulties. One international activist was hit in the shoulder with a low-flying tear gas canister. A group of youths began throwing stones towards the soldiers, and three photographers stood next to the soldiers were hit.

Ashraf Al-Khatib, a Bil`in resident aged 31, was shot with 0.22” caliber live bullet which hit him in the lower leg. No warning shots were heard beforehand. Unable to stand, he was hurriedly carried by Palestinian and international demonstrators towards the village as he bled heavily from his calf. When Al-Khatib first fell, all of the soldiers ran forwards in an attempt to arrest him, but the demonstrators were able to successfully load him into a car before the soldiers caught them. As the car drove away the soldiers retreated, and the demonstrators walked back to the village, the demonstration lasting around one hour in total.

Upon Al-Khatib’s arrival at hospital, it was found the 0.22” caliber round had smashed the bone in his leg.

Many people are worried what will happen when current peace talks fail, but will it be worse if they ’succeed’?

Sep 24, 2010

Adam Horowitz

Here’s the introducation to a very interesting piece by Nadia Hijab published by Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network:

Many commentators expect the direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians to fail. But there is a much worse scenario: What if they “succeed?” The United States appears determined to push for a framework agreement within a year and both Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), are aiming for that goal. Such an agreement, U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell explained in a September 2 press conference, would be more than a declaration of principles but less than a peace treaty. In it, the two sides would reach the “fundamental compromises” necessary for a peace accord. Like its predecessor, the Obama administration has already indicated that the accord would still have to be fleshed out and then implemented over the course of several years – which virtually ensures that it will be delayed if not derailed as happened to past peace accords.

If the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and PA were unable to secure a sovereign state and rights through U.S.-brokered negotiations with Israel between 1993 and 2000, when they were in a much stronger position, they are highly unlikely to do so today with such a badly skewed Israeli-Palestinian power dynamic. Instead, next year is likely to see a grand ceremony where Palestinian leaders will sign away the right of return and other Palestinian rights in an agreement that would change little on the ground. The plan of the PA’s appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to declare a Palestinian state in 2011 could unwittingly contribute to this outcome by providing the appearance of an “end of conflict” while the reality remains unchanged. If the rest of the world sees that the government of “Palestine” is satisfied with international recognition and a U.N. seat, they will be happy to move on to other problems leaving the Palestinians at Israel’s mercy.

Such a scenario could sound a death-knell for Palestinian human rights. The Palestinian people have shown a remarkable capacity to regenerate resistance and evolve new strategies after suffering harsh setbacks over the past century. But there may be no recovery this time around. A “peace agreement” would end the applicability of international law to the resolution of the conflict; permanently fragment the Palestinian people; and demobilize Arab and international solidarity.

What can Palestinians do to forestall abrogation of their fundamental rights and to ensure just peace? In a contribution to the debate around this question, this brief examines five areas that are key to Palestinians determined to persevere until rights are realized: Unifying the Palestinian body politic; espousing common goals; applying international law; using appropriate tactics; and strengthening the Arab and international movement of solidarity. It concludes with some suggestions for strategies in each area.

Read the entire piece here.

Letter to Rachel Maddow

Sep 24, 2010


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It’s a shame that Ahmadinejad didn’t utilize his moment in the media spotlight to actually say something that might have resonated with Americans instead of discussing 9/11 truther theories.  He could have made his case for why he feels that Iran needs nuclear weapons to protect itself from Israel, a country which has been threatening Iran since before Ahmadinejad was elected, a country in violation of so many UN Resolutions which has waged war on all of its neighbors and has been holding the native Palestinian population hostage in a criminal and barbaric occupation.  Reasonable people wouldn’t be able to argue with those facts.  But, I did think it was an inappropriate forum for Ahmadinejad to discuss 9/11 especially in light of the post 9/11 backlash against Muslims in the U.S.  

That being said, I was shocked by your attack on him last evening.  Are you a journalist or are you Fox News?  Certainly you could have covered his statements at the UN without making sexist remarks, i.e., making fun of his stature by referring to him as “little man” and saying he must have needed to use a ladder to reach the podium.  Is it OK to use these types of physical characteristics to describe people?  Sure.  But, it’s shocking to see a journalist not affiliated with Fox news participate in such infantile behavior.  Rachel, would you have referred to Ariel Sharon as fat when he was slaughtering Palestinians in any of the various attacks he waged against them?  The mocking manner in which you said the word “Zionist” to mock Ahmadinejad also irked me.  As if you were implying that only a madman would ever blame anything on Zionism.

Rachel have you ever done a show on Palestine?  Have you ever covered the occupation, the siege on Gaza, the attack on the humanitarian flotilla, the daily crimes of settlers against Palestinians, the continued theft of Palestinian land, thewar on Gaza?  Ever?  I guess actual crimes against Palestinians don’t work you up as much as mere words by A hmadinejad. Why not?

Tutu and Breytenbach join call for for the Univ of Johannesburg to sever ties with Israeli institution

Sep 24, 2010

Adam Horowitz

The Mail and Guardian report:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Unisa vice-chancellor Barney Pityana and author Breyten Breytenbach have added their voices to calls for the University of Johannesburg to sever academic ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The cooperation between the two universities dates from the 1980s, when the local partner was called Rand Afrikaans University. The agreement now under fire involves scientific interaction and was signed in August last year, renewing a controversial apartheid-era collaboration, its critics say. .

Tutu, Pityana and Breytenbach are recent signatories to an online petition launched after the May senate meeting. It calls for “the suspension of UJ’s agreement with Ben-Gurion” and this week had notched up nearly 200 signatories.

Law professor John Dugard, theologian Allan Boesak, ANC stalwart Kader Asmal, struggle veteran and language-rights expert Neville Alexander, poet Antjie Krog, former Freedom of Expression Institute director Jane Duncan and Wits University sociologist Ran Greenstein are among other recent additions to the petition.

The decision on the relationship will be made next Wednesday, September 29th, by the University of Johannesburg’s Senate. The text of the petition reads:

As members of the academic community of South Africa, a country with a history of brute racism on the one hand and both academic acquiescence and resistance to it on the other, we write to you with deep concern regarding the relationship between the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). The relationship agreement, presented as ‘merely the continuation’ of a ‘purely scientific co-operation’ is currently being reviewed owing to concerns raised by UJ students, academics and staff.

For reasons explained below and detailed in the attached Fact Sheet, we wish to add our voices to those calling for the suspension of UJ’s agreement with BGU.

As academics we acknowledge that all of our scholarly work takes place within larger social contexts – particularly in institutions committed to social transformation. South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of ‘purely scholarly’ or ‘scientific work’.

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had disastrous effects on access to education for Palestinians. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception, by maintaining links to both the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and the arms industry BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation. An example of BGU’s complicity is its agreement with the IDF to provide full university qualification to army pilots within a special BGU programme. Furthermore, BGU is also complicit in the general discrimination at Israeli universities against Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

It is clear to us that any connection with an institution so heavily vested in the Israeli occupation would amount to collaboration with an occupation that denigrates the values and principles that form the basis of any vibrant democracy. These are not only the values that underpin our post-apartheid South Africa, but are also values that we believe UJ has come to respect and uphold in the democratic era.

We thus support the decision taken by UJ to reconsider the agreement between itself and BGU. Furthermore, we call for the relationship to be suspended until such a time that, at minimum, the state of Israel adheres to international law and BGU, (as did some South African universities during the struggle against South African apartheid) openly declares itself against the occupation and withdraws all privileges for the soldiers who enforce it.


Posted in Middle EastComments Off on MONDOWEISS ONLINE NEWSLETTER



And yet its [Ariel] proximity to Israel’s most thriving metropolis is misleading: Ariel is some 13 miles inside the Green Line, as the 1967 borders of Israel are known, and its location could hinder the territorial contiguity of an independent and viable Palestinian state, presenting a grave challenge to the direct peace talks newly revived by Barack Obama. [item 5]


Dear Friends,

There are 8 items below, including a five minute video (item 2) about how Gaza is trying to deal with the traumas that youngsters have experienced.  Most of the articles and reports are long, so you might need more than just a single sitting to get through them.  But all are informative, so I hope that you will try. 

For the past 2 days I have sent reports about the unrest in Silwan since the killing of Samer Sirhan.  Item one is on the same subject, but from a Palestinian viewpoint. 

Item 2 is, as I said, the link to a video that is 5 minutes.  We have heard much about the traumas that the children in Sderot and surrounding areas have endured from missiles shot from Gaza.  But Israeli and international commercial media are pretty quiet about what the children of Gaza have endured.  The video does not show you the terror that Israel inflicts on Gaza, but rather how one institution tries to help youngsters who have been traumatized.  I do not mean to say that the youngsters in Israeli communities that have experienced missile attacks are not traumatized.  But I think it also important to call attention to the fact that children in Gaza suffer too, having experienced more than their share of tragic events.  You might want to share this video with friends.

Item 3 relates that despite promises, nothing has really changed with respect to Gaza’s border crossings. Gaza remains a territory under siege.  Had there been no Hamas, then Israel and the United States would have had to invent it for excuses to keep Gaza wrapped up.  Israel would be overjoyed if Egypt would take Gaza.  But Egypt wants it not, and I’m not at all sure that Gazans would be overjoyed to once again experience Egyptian rule.

Items 4 and 5 are about Israel’s colonies in the West Bank (inclusive of the greater Jerusalem area).  Item 4 is most informative and helps greatly to understand why the annual population increase in the WB is 5-6% versus 2% in Jerusalem and much less elsewhere.  We learn about the perks that lure Israelis to ‘settle’ in the WB.  That, my friends, is Israel’s secret weapon of expansion.  Israel has no money for social benefits, for education, for health in Israel proper.  But for expansion, the sky’s the limit!

Item 5 is a portion of a report in the Independent, noting the larger consequences of the colonies, namely Israel’s plan to divide the WB by means of them.  Indeed, if Israel really wanted peace, why didn’t it start removing the colonies with the onset of the ‘direct’ talks?  As concerns the paragraph at the top of this page, what the depiction of Ariel lacks is the information that it is built on the lands of at least 4 Palestinian villages—Marda, Yasuf, Kief l-Hares, and Salfit.  All the colonies are on stolen land, and the colonists, whether they are fundamentalist idealists or just people who can’t afford to live in Israel—are living on stolen land.  Of course they don’t consider themselves thieves, but the person who buys stolen property is not less guilty than the thief, in this case the Governments of Israel.

Item 6 is about 2 new innovations—1 that allows you with the touch of a finger to decide whether or not to purchase—that is, it reveals the origin of the product—if its origin is a colony, and  you prefer not to purchase products made by Israeli firms in the WB then this is a big help.  The second innovation allows you to keep track of the colonies also with a click.  Both presume that you have the right equipment. 

Item 7 relates the events of the attack on the Mavi Marmara by one of its passengers, and how the persons on the ship were treated afterwards.  The title, Rough Passage, is decidedly apropos. 

Item 8 is a demand by Israeli and Palestinian Human Rights Organizations for International Criminal Justice, and a request for letter writing on the subject.The world has indeed allowed Israel to do as it wishes when it wishes.  It is time to pressure not only Israel’s leaders but also the world’s leaders to stop allowing Israel with impunity to torture, to kill, to imprison, to demolish, to steal!

I can’t wish you to ‘enjoy,’ but I hope that you will find your reading worth your time. 

All the best,



1. September 25, 2010

Hello all

Here is a report, in English, from Marwan Ghoul, program director of the Silwan Club, about what has happened there in the last few days

I know Marwan personally – he is a man of peace, who is always looking for ways to work with Israelis in peace and social justice, and to create a much better reality for people of all ages…

Please feel free to pass on this report to anyone you think would be interested

There is almost no reporting of what is happening in Silwan in the mainstream media, and we must help get the message out


Julia Chaitin, Ph.D.

Dept. of Social Work – Sapir Academic College

Home address: Kibbutz Urim, D.N. Hanegev, ISRAEL

Phone (h):       972-8-9920445       ;  Phone (c) :       972-54-7976090      

e-mail: or

Report from Silwan – September 24, 2010

By Marwan (resident of Silwan)

It all started on Wednesday early morning the 22nd of August 2010 when a 32 year old Palestinian man, who was leaving for work, was shot by a security guard for the Israeli settlers for reasons that are still unknown. We only know that the Palestinian was killed by this killing settler. The Palestinian, Samer Sirhan, was murdered in a cold blood because he was shot more than once from four different directions and he crawled about 200 meters on ground bleeding. The people of Silwan woke up to this terrible news and they sadly and angrily buried their martyr. While they were doing this, the Israeli soldiers started throwing tear gas bombs at the people who participated in the funeral.

When the funeral ended, people of Silwan started to react to this unjust, meaningless and provocative killing by throwing rocks, but this time it was the soldiers who came in a hurry to protect the killers, because this is how it goes in the occupier government – the settler killer always gets protection. The Israeli forces started to separate the protestors using tear gas bombs in different directions. Many women, children and old men were suffocated by the gas and many had to go to Palestinian hospitals to receive immediate care.

Despite what happened and despite the presence of the Israeli forces, settlers kept on using their guns to shoot at the Palestinians, but this time under the supervision of these forces.

On the 23rd of September, things kept on going in the same way: Palestinians throwing rocks with soldiers and settlers replying with rubber bullets, life bullets, tear gas and light grenades. On this day more Palestinians were sent to the hospitals for many different reasons. There were many cases of suffocation because when Israeli soldiers threw these bombs they threw it toward areas which are inhabited by Palestinians, and these areas have children and women who are inside their houses. They can’t bear the smell of these bombs, and believe me,  no one would ever be able to bear this smell…..

Today, Friday the 24th of September, Palestinians under the age of fifty were forbidden from going to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque and this for sure helped in increasing the tension. The situation became even more and worse but this time the thing spread throughout Jerusalem, Isawieh, Al-Tur and of course Silwan which couldn’t have a peaceful night since Samer was murdered. This morning the Israeli injustice forces spread all over Silwan and arrested a number of Palestinians without any justified reason. In the meantime the one who committed the murder was out on bail, by a court order. A complete irony but no one can say anything because this is how killers are treated in this unjust occupying state…..

Anyway I write this brief report and I still can smell the gas from outside and I can still hear the boys shouting and throwing rocks toward the Israeli soldiers, and I pray to God that things could calm down as soon as possible before any more Palestinians get killed. I say Palestinians because with such force the only side that is going to be harmed and treated bad is our side (the Palestinian)….   

You, who are going to read this report, should know that words can never capture the real story, and being here is VERY different from reading a report….


2. Guardian

A Week in Gaza

 Video 5 minutes worth watching 


3. PCHR 

State of the Gaza Strip’s Border Crossings (01 – 15 September 2010)

[The full report is available online at: ]

Almost two and a half months have passed since Israel’s declaration on the alleged easing of the illegal closure regime imposed on the Gaza Strip.  However, to date, no meaningful changes have taken place regarding the state of the border crossings.  Statistics documented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) on the state of border crossings during the reporting period refute Israeli claims with respect to the easing of the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. Specifically, PCHR refutes claims that the entry of goods has increased in quantity and quality due to the reduction of restrictions imposed on the entry of goods since the beginning of August. Most of the goods allowed are consumables which do not meet the minimal level of the actual needs of the Gaza Strip. Raw materials, used for production, and construction materials needed for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip are completely denied entry.  In addition, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued to impose a complete ban on the export of agricultural and industrial goods.  As a result of the ongoing stoppage of production and the lack of development opportunities the Gaza Strip remains dependant on humanitarian aid.

Ongoing restrictions imposed by IOF with regard to movement causes immense suffering to the population of the Gaza Strip. IOF restricts movement from the Gaza Strip to Israel and/or the West Bank, including Jerusalem or abroad via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, excluding limited numbers of ‘humanitarian cases.’ IOF started to prevent a new category of patients, those suffering from blindness and amputation of limbs, from traveling via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing to receive medical treatment. IOF states that these patients do not need urgent medical treatment instead claiming it is a luxury. As a result, the number of patients denied access to hospitals in Israel and/or those in Jerusalem and the West Bank have increased.

On the other hand, Rafah International Crossing Point has been opened for more than three and a half months. The operation of the crossing point compared to the previous periods has also improved, which is seen by PCHR as a positive step. However, although the crossing point is open daily only limited categories are allowed to travel. These categories include patients officially referred by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to Egypt for medical treatment and urgent cases; persons working abroad and holding residency permits in foreign countries; students enrolled at universities in Egypt and who hold residency permits there; students enrolled at universities abroad; Palestinians holding foreign passports and foreigners who are married to Palestinians; Palestinians obtaining “private coordination from the Egyptian authorities”; Palestinians holding valid residency permits in Egypt; international delegations, including human rights delegations and diplomatic ones; international journalists; and Palestinians holding diplomatic passports.  PCHR believes that these measures are a positive step but it hopes that they will make additional steps to promote Gazans’ right to full freedom of movement, including traveling freely from and to the Gaza Strip via Rafah International Crossing Point.

According to the observations of PCHR during the reporting period the daily average of trucks allowed into Gaza decreased to 110 trucks compared to 142 that were allowed on a daily basis into Gaza last August. This represents a decrease of 22%.  This daily average of trucks allowed represents less than 25% of the trucks that were allowed before the imposition of the siege in mid June 2007.  PCHR noticed that most of the goods allowed into the Gaza Strip include food items, excluding limited quantities of wood, aluminum, glass, electric and gas ovens, electricity cables, air conditioners, construction materials, furniture, plastic chairs, clothes, shoes, and limited quantities of construction materials and iron used for Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU).  PCHR believes that if IOF continue to allow only limited types of goods into the Gaza Strip, the situation will deteriorate and there will be no positive change.


4.   The Guardian Saturday,

September 25, 2010

‘We were looking for a nice, peaceful place near Jerusalem’

If the construction of settlements in the West Bank is meant to be on hold, why are Israeli buyers being offered new properties on Palestinian land at knock-down prices?

Rachel Shabi

New housing under construction in Almon: ‘Residents do not fit the headline-grabbing stereotypes of fanatical settlers. There is a marked paucity of Israeli flags.’

The housing project currently under construction in Almon offers enticingly priced, spacious family homes with a garden and a view. The surrounding neighbourhood, also known as Anatot, sits on a ridge overlooking the Judean hills, near Jerusalem, a blaze of cultivated greenery in the parched landscape. Residents have a relaxed air, and newcomers who have recently relocated from Jerusalem wish they’d made the move years ago. If I were a prospective house-buyer, I’d be charmed. But I would not be looking here – because Almon is in the occupied West Bank.

It is a Jewish settlement with a population of around 1,000, established in the early 80s. Like all Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, Almon is illegal according to international law. But its residents do not fit the headline-grabbing stereotypes of fanatical settlers, motivated by a national-religious drive to claim land. There is a marked paucity of Israeli flags and no settler-slogan banners bedeck the streets. If the West Bank became part of an autonomous Palestinian state, residents of Almon would be unlikely to put up a fight, as the ideological settler movement has sworn to do. Instead, they would pack up and move back to Israel.

The settlement movement began almost immediately after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, seized as the spoils of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Settlers were initially ideological but, by the 80s, the rightwing government that came to power realised that greater numbers of, perhaps less politically-motivated, Israelis would have to be enticed on to Palestinian land. Israel has always argued that settlements are a strategic and military asset. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon – one of the settler movement’s biggest supporters – summed up Israel’s approach in 1998 when he said of the occupied territories: “Everyone there should move, should run, should grab more hills, expand more territory. Everything that’s grabbed will be in our hands. Everything we don’t grab will be in their hands.”

Yet in 2007, when the Israeli organisation Peace Now polled settlers about their motivations for living where they do, 77% cited “quality of life”, suggesting that economic factors and proximity to Israeli cities were primary considerations. That percentage can be split into two camps: there is the rapidly expanding, low-income, ultra-Orthodox community, which, priced out of Jerusalem, has migrated to nearby settlements such as Modin Illit and Beitar Illit; then there are secular or mixed community settlements, such as Almon. These are often located close to the Green Line, the internationally recognised border between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. And they exist primarily because the state wants them to.

In Jerusalem – just as in the rest of Israel – decades of state planning has priced people out of the city and into settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Meanwhile, ideologically-motivated budgeting has resulted in enticements and benefits for Israelis who live on occupied Palestinian land.

Settlements, and the resources, infrastructure and military might required to keep them going, are a major impediment to negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under international pressure, for the past 10 months, Israel has operated a partial freeze on settlement construction. However, the incentives still offered to Israelis to live on Palestinian land are so considerable that, leaving politics aside, it would be silly not to take advantage of them.

To find out how easy it would be to buy a settlement home on Palestinian land in the midst of this supposed freeze, I pose as an Israeli buyer, looking for a reasonably priced property for myself, my fictitious husband and the family we’re planning. Walking into a Jerusalem estate agency with an imaginary spend of £200,000, a realistic sum for an average Jerusalem couple, it comes as no surprise when the agent says, “With that sort of budget, you need to get beyond the city.”

I’ve already checked the housing market online and seen that the price for a home in West Jerusalem – four bedrooms across around 100 square metres – can start at around £400,000. Jerusalem’s housing problem is blamed variously on its lack of high-rise housing (in part because many observant Jews do not use lifts on Saturdays); on environmentalists, who have prevented the city’s expansion to the west (the only direction within Israel’s borders); and on the “ghost town” effect in well-heeled parts of the city, where foreign Jewish buyers have snapped up second homes, pushing up the prices. The housing market is under such stress that, last year, Jerusalem’s mayor wrote to absentee home-owners, asking them to rent out or sell up.

The agent suggests Pisgat Ze’ev or Neve Yaakov, both in East Jerusalem. Though these areas are defined as settlements by the international community, Israel views them as neighbourhoods of Jerusalem and has prioritised rapid Jewish development here, at the expense of affordable housing in West Jerusalem. However, at £250,000 for around 120 square metres, these houses might still be too pricey.

I certainly can’t afford a decent-sized property in the plusher Ramot or Gilo – also settlements, or “neighbourhoods”, within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. So the estate agent suggests Givat Ze’ev, a secular settlement a 10-minute drive north-east of Jerusalem. The agent doesn’t currently have homes to view there, but properties in this settlement – and many others – are advertised online under the category “Jerusalem and surrounding area”. A quick call to each settlement’s secretariat would provide me with agents’ phone numbers, and sometimes the numbers of private sellers, too.

Givat Ze’ev is a pretty settlement of 10,000 residents living in semi-detached homes on leafy, winding streets. It is spacious and organised, with shops, schools and health services. Everything about its planning is designed to make you feel as though you’re in a satellite of Jerusalem – there are no demarcation lines, no checkpoints back into the city, and the Palestinian villages, if visible, are behind a wall. Like so many settlements that hug the Green Line, Givat Ze’ev is on the Israeli side of the separation barrier that cuts into the West Bank for around 80% of its path. The barrier route runs, in some places, up to 12 miles deep into the West Bank, but settlements on the Israeli side of it are, broadly speaking, “consensus settlements” – ones that Israelis assume will be conceded to the Jewish state in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

At Givat Ze’ev there are plenty of large, affordable houses for sale, but the only new properties are on a recently-finished ultra-Orthodox project. I ask residents about new secular housing, but their response is, “Don’t you read the news?” They’re referring to the current 10-month freeze, but in August, Peace Now found that building on at least 600 settlement housing units had begun during that period, in more than 60 different settlements. Of those, it says, at least 492 were in direct violation of the freeze.

My search for affordable, secular housing leads me, eventually, to Almon. It’s a short drive east of Jerusalem, and I’ve had to cross an Israeli checkpoint, but it’s specifically for settler use – a nod, the “right” appearance and Israeli number plates get me waved through. Outside, a billboard advertises the number of the contractor, who confirms that 70 units are under construction at the site. The four-bedroom houses vary in size from 130 to 140 square metres, with gardens of up to 70 square metres, and they are shifting fast. The settlement is not officially exempt from the construction freeze, but Palestinian constructors are currently working on the site and homes could be ready within a year. The starting price is £175,150.

It is staggeringly cheaper than an equivalent property on the Israeli side of the Green Line, because it is on Palestinian land, confiscated by Israel. There are no market forces to dictate land value here, as there would be in Tel Aviv or West Jerusalem. Instead, the Israeli housing ministry regulates prices, keeping them low to attract settlement. Campaigners say the contractor will also have received considerable state subsidies for connecting new settlement buildings to water and electricity mains – another saving that’s passed on to me, the buyer.

Calculating my hypothetical mortgage allowance gives me yet more incentive to live across the Green Line. All Israelis qualify for a state allowance, an add-on to the mortgage lent by the bank, but with more favourable repayment terms. Points are added to your basic state allowance if you have children, have served in the army, or if you are a new Jewish migrant. Then there is a top-up if you live in areas defined as “national priority zones”, which include some under-populated parts of Israel and all settlements.

For a new property in Almon, I’d get almost £11,600 as a special allowance. But the allowances rise sharply for Israeli couples who pick homes in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Betar Illit, near Jerusalem, or in Ariel, around 25km east of the Green Line, or in Kiryat Arba, a hardline settlement near Hebron. For each of those, I’d get a total allowance of around £40,200. When I ask, the housing ministry says that state subsidies vary according to the “security threat assessments” pertinent to each area, adding that properties on the Israeli border with Lebanon qualify for similar amounts.

Israeli settlements expert Dror Etkes describes how, at times, mortgages given in the West Bank have “included loans which, after a period of time, turned into grants”. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reports that, between 1997 and 2002, the state put 419m shekels (around £72m) into state-subsidised “association mortgages” for 1,800 apartments, most of them in the West Bank. The state comptroller, investigating these payments, found they were not included in the housing ministry’s budget. Responding to queries over this funding, the ministry said it was not intended for “the entire public” and that announcing it would have caused “unnecessary confusion”.

The veteran Israeli journalist and author Danny Rubinstein remembers a time in the late 80s when contractors offered free cars to those who bought settlement homes. Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem council member for the leftwing Meretz party, claims that at around the same time, Israelis invested in settlement property, left uninhabited, in the knowledge that at some point the state would offer compensation to evacuate it. He says the practice was “an open secret among settlers”.

Today, on top of my mortgage incentive, I’d get free nursery care for my children from the age of three, instead of five, as I would in Israel. Settlement schools are better funded, health services are allocated more state funds. I’d no longer get a 7% discount on income tax – that incentive was scrapped in 2003; I’d pay lower local taxes, but my local council would be twice as flush as those inside Israel, because of a central government funding bias. In 2006, the Adva Centre, an Israeli policy analysis organisation, found settlers pay 60% of the national average in local tax.

There are currently more than 200 settlements, including West Bank outposts and neighbourhoods in annexed East Jerusalem, and half a million Israelis live on the Palestinian side of the Green Line. B’Tselem says it is impossible to calculate the total state spend in settlement benefits, because “government ministries obscure documentation of the moneys in their budgets that are directed to the settlements”. But Peace Now estimates that settlements cost Israel $556m (around £355m) a year – and it is clear that this cost is keenly felt by those living within Israel, since the state seems to prioritise settlements at their expense.

Responding to international pressure, in 2008 the Israeli government debated a plan to offer settlers cash to leave the West Bank, a move designed to target economic settlers rather than ideological ones. The proposal – backed by then prime minister Ehud Olmert – couldn’t get through government. Yet there are currently thought to be lists of settlers who have expressed interest in leaving the West Bank, if compensated.

For as long as Israel has occupied Palestinian lands, there has been a dominant force within government that has kept the settlements project going. Driven by a mix of national-religious conviction, expansionist politics and military tactics, the settlements project has wholly controlled state agenda. B’Tselem describes the project as one of Israel’s main national enterprises. State efforts to pull Israelis over the Green Line have been so forceful that, as Rubinstein puts it, “You could say it was a bribe on a national scale.”

Israel has always played up the pain of dismantling the settlements. Yet as Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar writes in Lords Of The Land: The War For Israel’s Settlements In The Occupied Territories, the “elixir of life” for these settlements is their infrastructure: the electricity, water pipes and military forces that guard them. Remove these, “and this project collapses like a house of cards”. Today, Eldar describes Israel’s purported inability to do so as “a myth perpetrated by the government to make us believe that it is impossible”.

How hard would it really be to divert funds from the occupied West Bank back into Israel, thus encouraging settlers to move back – especially from somewhere like Almon, where residents have already said they will relocate if political realities dictate that they should?

One man who has lived there for 20 years says of the settlement, “It is not fanatic in a religious sense and not fanatic politically, either.” Other residents agree. “We came here because we were looking for a nice, peaceful place near Jerusalem,” says one woman, who still votes for the Israeli Labour party. “We didn’t want to annoy anyone, and we are not ideological… The settler movement does not represent us.” 

The problem, as Rubinstein points out, is that what starts off as economics can eventually become ideological. “When you move [to the settlements],” he says, “you can’t say, ‘Well, I went there because I’m greedy.’ You change your political opinion.”


5.   The Independent Saturday,

September 25, 2010

How far away is a Middle East peace deal? It could be as little as 13 miles

With Jewish settlements the biggest barrier to any agreement, Catrina Stewart visits Ariel, deep inside the occupied West Bank.

Unfurling a large map of the West Bank, Palestinian cartographer Khalil Tafakji picks out Ariel, a large Jewish settlement that lies deep in the occupied West Bank.

With his finger he traces an outline of Israel’s vision for annexing this area that would, he says, effectively carve a Palestinian state into two halves.

A small town of 20,000 residents, Ariel is just a short drive from Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean coastline along a purpose-built highway. It boasts an impressive sports centre and a new theatre that is to open shortly, and its college was recently upgraded to a university.

And yet its proximity to Israel’s most thriving metropolis is misleading: Ariel is some 13 miles inside the Green Line, as the 1967 borders of Israel are known, and its location could hinder the territorial contiguity of an independent and viable Palestinian state, presenting a grave challenge to the direct peace talks newly revived by Barack Obama.

The settlements, illegal under international law and never so numerous in the West Bank as they are now, have unexpectedly emerged as one of the most serious challenges to achieving an historic peace deal.

When an Israeli freeze on construction in West Bank Jewish settlements expires tomorrow, it will pave the way for an avalanche of new building by ideological settlers, who remain deeply opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.

“This is a problem,” says Mr Tafakji, pointing out on the map, how Israel only has to insert a well-placed checkpoint along Route 60, the West Bank’s main north-south axis, to control movement. “If Israel were to annex this whole area, it would mean dividing the West Bank into two parts – north and south.”

Ariel is regarded as part of Israel’s so-called national consensus, a term that refers to the settlement blocs, encompassing many acres of unspoiled land, that are expected to remain in Israeli hands under a final peace deal. Unlike the other blocs, however, Ariel is situated many miles away from the Green Line.

Refer to Ariel as a settlement within earshot of its fiery mayor, Ron Nachman, and one will be given short shrift. “This is a city. I don’t want it called a settlement,” he says angrily. “Give me the [due] respect as mayor of the city.”

Terminology is important. The residents of Ariel do not see themselves as settlers. Most of them are Russian immigrants, who moved here in search of affordable housing and good schools. “I live here because it’s a nice city. It’s good for children and it’s good for housing,” says Rueven Cohen, an Anglo Israeli who works in the mayor’s office.

But Ariel received a rude awakening last month when some of Israel’s most renowned writers, actors and directors pledged to boycott five theatre companies’ performances in Ariel’s new cultural centre. Israeli academics added their support to the boycott, saying they would not lecture at the university or indeed any other institution in occupied territory.

The boycott reignited the debate on the settlements, long seen as a cancer by left-wingers, but largely ignored by mainstream Israelis. For the first time, it appeared that Ariel might not be as much a part of the consensus as its supporters thought. As Mr Cohen admits, “it was an insight into how Ariel is seen by other Israelis”. 

Since Israel captured the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967, some 300,000 Israeli settlers have made their homes among the hilltops there. While economic factors are for many the primary consideration, a core of extremist settlers is fired by a religious zeal to reclaim biblical Israel.

. . . [for the remainder, which is mainly about whether or not construction will continue and its implications for the talks. D]


6.  Haaretz Saturday,

September 25, 2010

New app makes boycotting West Bank settlements a touch easier

Ahead of settlement freeze expiration, Israeli bloggers release ‘Buy no Evil’ Android application to raise consumer awareness.

By Guy Grimland and Haaretz Service

Israeli bloggers have recently released a new Android application geared toward informing users whether or not their potential purchases were manufactured in one of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The bloggers behind the new application are Noam Rotem, Itamar Shaltiel, and Boris Boltianski, who run the “Activism is an Open-Source Code,” blog, recently released the settlement-boycotting app, naming it “Buy no Evil.”

In a message posted on the blog ahead of the app’s release, Shaltiel wrote that Buy no Evil was “developed as part of the open-source project, and allows the insertion of a detailed product list, thus allowing consumers to deicide whether or not they wished to support this or that product.”

“It can be used to, for example, avoid buying products tested on animals, products originating from settlements in the occupied territories, or to support green products,” the message said.

However, citing the upcoming expiration of Israel’s settlement freeze, Shaltiel said the “first list fed into the app is that of products made in settlements, based on the information gathered by the Gush Shalom organization.”

“Buying a product means supporting the producer, and while we do not advocate a consumer ban, we do believe that people should be aware of which manufacturers they support,” the message added, saying that the Android app could be downloaded free at the Android market.

The announcement of the new Android app came after the leftist non-profit Peace Now introduced a new iPhone app earlier this week, meant to aid users track the growth of settlements in the West Bank.

The application presents a map on which the settlements are marked as little blue houses. When clicking on a house, the user sees the settlement’s name and the territory it occupies.

Another click brings up a window with more detailed information, such as the year of establishment, whether the settlement is economic or ideological, population type (secular/religious and national-religious ), the expanse of private Palestinian used by the settlement and a graph tracking population growth. Outposts are presented on the map in red.

Right group Peace Now promised to update the map in real time, including the setting up and dismantling of outposts, and to track “violence by Palestinians or by settlers.” The organization hopes the application becomes an instrument of tracking the situation in the West Bank as it evolves, and promises to develop Hebrew and Android versions. The application is free to download and to use.

“We get a lot of phone calls and emails with all kind of inquiries about the settlements and we wanted to have one place with all the information,” said Uri Nir, spokesman for Americans for Peace Now. 

“We realized we have a lot of data and a lot of graphic information, and then there’s this wonderful tool, Google Maps. So we brought together aerial photographs and Central Bureau of Statistics information and other data and made it into a website, and then we decided to tap into the popularity of iPhone and iPad apps.”


7. Haaretz Friday,

September 24, 2010

Rough passage

On May 31, former U.S. Marine Kenneth O’Keefe was aboard the Mavi Marmara in the Free Gaza flotilla. He witnessed the passengers’ preparations for a clash and the confused takeover by Israel troops that resulted in nine dead.

By Noam Sheizaf

BELFAST – “I don’t remember exactly how long we were at sea. Maybe three-four days. There were all kinds of delays, but the atmosphere was good and our spirits were high. I was certain we would succeed in entering Gaza. I brought my expensive possessions – a computer, cameras. People came to me two-three hours before [the takeover of the ship] and told me, ‘There will be an attack.’ I replied, ‘No, that can’t be.’ I really didn’t believe it. In the 2008 flotilla I was the captain of one of the ships and there, too, Israel said they would stop us by force, but in the end let us through. I was convinced that it would be the same this time.”

Belfast, Northern Ireland. Kenneth O’Keefe is sitting at the bar of the Europa Hotel in the center of town. Guests are seating themselves all around on comfortable couches for afternoon tea. Nina Simone and Louis Armstrong play softly in the background while O’Keefe describes his one-on-one combat with an Israeli commando unit.

Kenneth O’Keefe has no hesitations about saying that he failed completely to foresee the Israeli naval operation against the Gaza flotilla, even though he had a convenient observation point aboard the Mavi Marmara.

On the night of May 31, the former U.S. marine who became a devoted activist for Gaza found himself at the center of one of the major fiascos of the Israel Defense Forces in recent years. The confused takeover by naval commandos of the flagship in the flotilla that aimed to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip ended in a pitched battle, the killing of nine of the passengers, the temporary capture of three soldiers, 10 soldiers and dozens of passengers wounded, a revision of Israel’s blockade policy and a rash of investigative commissions, Israeli and international alike.

O’Keefe, who lives in Ireland with his wife and son, devotes most of his time to Aloha Palestine CIC, created to promote trade with Gaza. According to him, he boarded the Turkish ship in order to reach Gaza and advance his organization’s goals. After seizing the ship, the IDF claimed that O’Keefe wanted to get to the Gaza Strip in order to set up and train a Hamas commando unit, a charge O’Keefe denies vehemently (see box). O’Keefe maintains his political activity is out in the open and he offered to be interrogated while in Israel. Our conversation is his first meeting with an Israeli journalist.

“We knew there was at least a theoretical possibility that the Israelis would try to stop us, and Fehmi Bulent, the president of IHH [the Turkish NGO that organized the flotilla], told us from the outset that this time we were not simply going to sit and wait for the soldiers,” O’Keefe continues. “He said this publicly even before the flotilla set out. When we were at sea, the IHH asked some of us, the passengers, if we would agree to take part in the defense. I was asked whether I wanted to film or help out. Team leaders were assigned to every area of the ship. Our area was the stern. I was one of a group of six and there was a Turk who was in charge of us. Because of my background and military experience, I was appointed his deputy.

“On the night before the attack, a meeting was held of all those who had volunteered to take part in the ship’s defense. We were told that our goal was to prevent the soldiers from boarding the vessel, and that if they did board, maybe to try to disarm them. We were told explicitly not to use knives; even before we set sail we were told not to bring knives. I had a small knife that I used to peel fruits, but when I heard that no knives would be allowed on board I left the knife in Antalya.

“We were told in the briefing, ‘If they throw a rope with a hook onto the deck, throw it back.’ Things like that. They said explicitly not to kill. I don’t remember anything being said about the possibility that we would seize a few of the soldiers.

“That night we were told to rest now, because the closer we would get to Gaza, the more likely it was that something would come up. We were surprised to be attacked in international waters. We weren’t afraid. It was only just before the assault, when we saw the ships, the helicopters and the drones, that people really began to be afraid.

“We were resting in the sector that had been assigned to us when the boats carrying the commandos arrived. There must have been 10 or 12 boats behind the Mavi Marmara. We could see them getting closer, and when they drew close they threw stun, gas and smoke grenades at the ship. Most people don’t know the difference between a stun grenade and a real grenade. It was about 4 A.M. It didn’t feel like an innocent boarding of the ship, it felt like an assault.

“After they threw the stun grenades and approached the ship, people threw chairs at them and whatever came to hand. I tried to tell one of the Turks not to throw anything – I must still have been under the notion that they wouldn’t try to board – but within a few minutes I already saw the first dead body. It was the Turkish photographer. He was killed even before the first soldier landed on the deck. That man was not even on the upper deck. He was not in any contact with the soldiers. He took a bullet in the forehead and then he was carried to the stern, where I was. When I saw him he was already dead.” (For the IDF response, see box.)

“Less than five minutes after the [soldiers in] the boats failed to board the ship, the helicopters appeared. Now there was no longer any doubt about what was happening, but people around me were still in shock, not believing that it was really happening. Now there was also fear. I have been in difficult and dangerous situations in my life and I learned that at moments of tension the way to overcome fear is to control your breathing and focus on the things that have to be done.

“I went from the stern to the middle deck, below the upper deck, on which the soldiers landed. Just as I got there, one of the commandos fell from the upper deck, just a meter and a half from me, in front of my eyes. I think it was the soldier whose photograph was later published looking straight into the camera. The first thing I saw was the 9 mm pistol he was carrying, and I immediately tried to take it. The soldier was conscious but pretty much in shock, and it was easy to deal with him. I took his firearm but didn’t know what to do with it. The whole time I heard shots from the upper deck, both the sound of paintball guns and firearms, simultaneously. It wasn’t automatic fire, but there were a lot of single shots. There were many shouts all around.

“In the meantime, more people arrived and took the soldier inside. I went on from there to the middle deck holding the pistol in my hand, close to my chest and pointed upward. People passed me saying, ‘They are killing people, they are using live ammunition.’ I saw more wounded being rushed inside, and another body.

“One of the Turks asked me what I was doing with the pistol and I told him I didn’t know. I tried to find one of the IHH leaders to ask him what I should do with the pistol. I didn’t find the person who was in charge of our sector in the stern, so I went to the other side of the ship and then went back again, but none of the leaders was [sic] there. I went up to the command bridge and asked the captain if he could take the pistol from me. He said, ‘No, I don’t want firearms here.’ In the end I decided to separate the weapon from the bullets. I gave the bullets to someone and hid the pistol. The logic was that if I succeeded in getting out of there the pistol would serve as evidence of the attack on the ship. I thought the pistol was evidence, so it shouldn’t be thrown into the sea.

“After hiding the weapon I went back to the middle deck from the other side, when another commando was thrown down. This soldier had an assault rifle and was fully conscious. It was a lot harder to cope with him than with the first soldier. I and another Turk tried to take his firearm, but the strap was tied behind his back and he lay on his back and fought us. I saw that he was trying to reach the trigger, so we both made sure not to be opposite the barrel. He held the weapon so tightly that I had to pry his fingers loose from it. In the end we managed to get the rifle away from him and the Turk who was with me took it. Another two people arrived from midship and took this soldier inside, too.

“After a few minutes I went into the room where our wounded were. The three soldiers were there, too. They were without their masks, helmets and communications equipment and they were frightened. Very frightened. That was clear. They didn’t speak. They looked like scared kids whose dad is about to beat them. I think they thought that we would do to them what they had done to us. They thought they were going to die, or at least they feared for their lives, you could see that on them.

“On this deck there were people who had lost their dear ones at the hands of the Israeli army and there were people who had lost their friends just now, in front of their eyes. By this stage I had already seen two bodies and a few more wounded. In these circumstances, there is no doubt that there were very angry people who wanted revenge of some sort, but they were an absolute minority. We all felt anger, but from the point of view of the absolute majority and from the point of view of the leaders there was no question of revenge, or even anything like it. The moment the soldiers were below they received medical treatment and no one hurt them anymore. Before they were taken there they took a few blows, there is no doubt of that. I think most of the blows were quite superficial, even though some of them may have been more than just blows. As far as I know, no soldier absorbed an injury he will not recover from or that will remain with him all his life, and the moment they got below they were given medical care.

“After about 15 minutes the order came to release the soldiers. I don’t remember if it came over the speaker system or was given orally, but an order like that came through and six or seven of our people took the three soldiers and went out with them toward the bow of the ship. One of the soldiers was in worse condition than the two others. He had taken more blows and was in shock. The two who were in better shape jumped into the water and the third remained at the bow, from where the other soldiers rescued him.

“The IDF account according to which the soldiers escaped under cover of the melee and the shooting is simply untrue. I was inside the ship with the soldiers. There were at least a hundred people around the soldiers when the order came to release them. There was a small group of people, six or seven, who took the three soldiers from the room to the bow. There were shots or stun grenades there, and because they were about to be released anyway, our people just turned around and went back inside. Otherwise, from their point of view, what was the point of taking the soldiers outside? After all, there were helicopters and snipers there. If we had wanted to hold on to them, the right thing would have been to leave them inside.

“After the soldiers were released I saw another two-three bodies and I heard more explosions and shots, but less consecutively. A little more time passed and then the ship’s captain announced over the speaker system, ‘They have taken control of the command bridge, stop resisting.’ And that was the end.”

No invitation to tea

O’Keefe’s body is covered with political tattoos such as “Citizen of the world” and “Truth, justice, peace.” He is against all forms of nationalism (“It’s ironic that because of opposition to the occupation I find myself supporting a Palestinian national struggle. I long for the day where all people see each other part of one human family, regardless of lines drawn on a map.” ). He believes that the United States government was involved in the 9/11 attacks and views Zionism as an offshoot of Western imperialism. Personally, he does not call for an armed struggle and thinks that “the most powerful weapon the Palestinians have is the truth; violent resistance is nothing in comparison.”

In a BBC interview he referred to some of Hamas’ actions as “violation of human rights” but in the conversations with me he was adamant not to condemn Hamas: “I am against such attacks in the same measure that I am against state terror. Hamas has not perpetrated suicide attacks for years now, and when they won the 2006 elections everyone who prevented them from taking part in the political process is as much to blame as they are for the violence that followed. You hate them because they are violent, but what do you do when they take part in the elections? You kick them out and push them into a corner.”

O’Keefe has devoted himself to the Palestinian cause since 2004. He has visited Israel and the West Bank twice. The first time he was caught by the IDF trying to enter the Gaza Strip without a permit, was incarcerated for 20 days and then deported. In the flotilla of 2008, he was the captain of one of the two ships that eventually reached Gaza. He spent a few weeks in Gaza before managing to leave via the Rafah crossing. The suffering of the population in Gaza, he says, which he witnessed firsthand, together with the sense of honor and pride that the Gazans showed, reinforced his determination to continue the struggle for Gaza.

Were you present when Bulent said the flotilla participants would struggle to defend the ship?

“I knew before we set out that the Turks are not like the other Westerners, that there would be no passive resistance in this case. The Turks are a tough people. They are people you don’t mess with too much. In the United States or Britain people are asleep, there is no danger of rebellion. The Turks are different. I knew that if the Israelis boarded that ship, it would be a disaster. Not only from the aspect of the people who would be killed, but that it would also be a disaster for the Israelis.”

Did you see them sawing the beams in preparation for the attack?

“I knew we would defend the ship. That was stated publicly a great many times. You have to be an idiot to board that ship and think it will be a ship of passive resistance.”

So the same things would have happened even if the confrontation had taken place in the territorial waters of Gaza?

“That is my feeling, yes. Even though the fact that it was done in international waters – every Israeli will agree that that was a terrible mistake. If you attack, do it in the region of dispute. Apparently the army wanted to do it at night, because a trained force equipped with night-vision instruments possesses a tremendous tactical advantage. You know, the Israelis didn’t send police or riot units to handle the demonstrations. They sent commando troops who are trained to kill. Ehud Barak said he would stop the flotilla at any price – and that is what they set out to do.

“If they thought we were a group of passive peace activists and that there would be no resistance to boarding the ship, what was the logic in coming in the middle of the night and using grenades? It’s an insult to the intelligence to say that. Is Israeli intelligence so useless that they didn’t even bother watching international newscasts, in which the leader of IHH said explicitly that we would defend the ships bodily? Did they know so little about the mood on the Turkish street that they thought boarding the ships would be an invitation to tea? Or did they know all that and because of it came at night, with stun, gas and smoke grenades and sought to gain a tactical advantage, in the clear knowledge that there would be a confrontation?

“There were helicopters there with snipers. The first to be killed was the photographer. That’s the proof of the way the army behaved there, that and the 250 bullet holes in the ship itself, including places where there was no fighting.”

Israel claims there was a planned ambush for the soldiers by a few dozen passengers.

“How exactly did they plan to attack? That’s bullshit. When someone comes aboard with a rifle and shoots you, you don’t start to think, ‘Is it moral to raise an iron bar and protect myself?’ You do what you have to do. The theory about 40 or 80 extremists is simply nonsense. Where is the proof? Israel says the passengers shot at the soldiers. Where are the gunshot wounds? Where are the weapons, the shells?”

Didn’t the resistance to the soldiers make their reaction legitimate?

“I am not even going to pretend to persuade the Israeli public to adopt my point of view. It’s clear that the Israelis believe that the army had every right to board the ship, international waters or not. It’s clear that they believe we were terrorists or connected to terror. It’s clear that the Israelis believe that we had no right to resist, because you are right and we are wrong and that’s that.

“But if you look at it from a different perspective, there are a million and a half people in Gaza of whom the overwhelming majority are not Hamas, there are 800,000 children who are suffering from trauma and diseases. We wanted to help them. And in my opinion, that is also an Israeli interest, because the present approach to the Palestinians will not bring you security. We defended not only ourselves but also the mission, to aid innocent people. How is it possible to believe that it’s justified to punish 800,000 children? If you see things like I do and like the people aboard the ship, it’s as though they are your children. What would you do to save your child?”

But how could Israel be sure there were no weapons on the ship?

“Do you think there was any chance that the Turks would have transported weapons on their ship to Gaza? Israel could easily have approached the Turkish authorities and received guarantees that there would be no weapons and no terrorists on the ships. All that could have been done through diplomatic channels, if they were really interested in doing it.

“Personally, I have no desire or interest to bring weapons into Gaza, and I don’t think anyone else wanted that. It’s beyond stupidity. And what exactly could you bring that would be able to cope with the IDF? I don’t believe armed resistance against Israel is anything but a losing battle. One flotilla is better than 10,000 rockets.”

Fault line

The second time I was to meet O’Keefe, the road adjacent to the center of Belfast was blocked by the police because of a suspicious object. The convoy of armored vehicles and vans of the security forces illustrates the fragility of the Good Friday Agreement that ended what everyone had claimed was an intractable conflict. In addition, one could not avoid seeing the support of the Catholic community for the Palestinian cause. Not far from Sinn Fein headquarters, two Britons were collecting donations for a new convoy to Gaza. It is those civil society activists who were shocked by operation Cast Lead in ways Israelis don’t always appreciate. During our interview, O’Keefe asked me at least twice whether I thought that the estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the Israeli public supported Cast Lead was realistic. “It’s very hard to accept that,” he says. “In the eyes of the world, support on that scale for bombing civilians with phosphorus is gross.”

Nothing in O’Keefe’s past indicated the course he would follow as an adult. He is from an affluent family and grew up in the suburbs of San Diego. He liked soccer and football, but gave them both up in favor of surfing. Politically, he leaned toward the Republicans and admired President Reagan.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 19. He was, he says, a good soldier, popular with his buddies, until during a six-month mission aboard a ship in the Mediterranean he complained about unbecoming behavior on the part of a veteran sergeant. His life then became hell; he still becomes overwrought when he tells the story. In the First Gulf War, in 1991, he took part in the ground invasion of Iraq. There was “no serious resistance,” he says. He paid no particular attention to the residents of the country he invaded.

“I was like all Americans, spoon-fed what I needed to know. I was so dumb that I didn’t grasp that Saddam Hussein had been our boy for years, because he had fought against Iran; that he received weapons from us with which he killed Kurds; and that suddenly he had become a new Hitler who had invaded a defenseless sovereign country. At the time I was also an avowed supporter of Israel. I would have told you then that the Palestinians are a gang of terrorists who want to throw the Jews into the sea.

“That’s why I don’t hate the Israelis: I see myself in them. I also bought into that stuff. I would be happy to meet with the Israeli commandos who boarded the ship. I would like to sit down with them and talk to them respectfully. I would tell them, ‘Considering the circumstances and what you were told, you are doing what you think is right. And you are fighters – I respect that. But I’m sorry, if you move away from the conditioning and the propaganda, if you are honest and fair and know history, you understand what these people are resisting.’ Ehud Barak said himself that if he were a Palestinian, he would join the resistance.”

After his discharge, O’Keefe entered college and underwent a conceptual revolution. He went to Hawaii and became a diving instructor, took part in activity to preserve marine life and started to take an interest in the indigenous population and in the “dispossession and land theft” that they were subjected to, as he puts it. In 2001 he renounced his American citizenship. Two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks he left the United States and requested political asylum in Holland.

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, O’Keefe initiated Operation Human Shields in which hundreds of citizens of Western countries took part, in an effort to protect the Iraqi people bodily against the American bombs. “It was an extraordinarily powerful idea that simply took off, because people understood that the invasion was a disaster and was based on lies,” he recalls. “Before going there I gave media interviews and made it clear that I did not support Saddam Hussein, who was a tyrant, a murderer and a dictator. That’s why I wasn’t invited to Saddam’s palaces, as others were, but that didn’t bother me.

“In the end,” he continues, “the mission failed. People told the media stupid things that made it look as though we were working for Saddam Hussein. Saddam prevented us from visiting hospitals and from deploying where we wanted to. Ten days before the invasion I was deported from Iraq.”

Do you understand that in the eyes of most people, if you go to Baghdad you are Saddam’s ally and that if you go to Gaza you are the ally of Hamas? How could it be otherwise?

“Easily. At least hundreds of thousands of people died because of the invasion of Iraq. They could have been alive today. They are the proof that I went for the right reasons. How could I try to help those people without being accused of supporting Saddam? I guess there is no way. It’s the same with Gaza. Probably the most beautiful moment of my life took place on August 23, 2008, when we arrived in Gaza with the first flotilla. There was a special atmosphere in the port. There was excitement like we had just won the World Cup. Tens of thousands of people were there. No one believed we would get through, but we did. We knew it wouldn’t break the blockade, but it showed that it was possible to reach Gaza via the sea. For one day there was total euphoria. They looked at us like we were heroes, when actually we respected them more for what they had gone through. At that moment there was no other place in the world that I wanted to be.”

After his return from Gaza, O’Keefe founded Aloha Palestine together with Lauren Booth, the half-sister of Cherie Blair, Tony Blair’s wife. The organization’s goal is to maintain civil trade with the Gaza Strip. Among those who have endorsed the organization are Noam Chomsky and the Dalai Lama.

“In Gaza I understood that people cannot live only from aid. They have to be capable of buying food themselves, of working. I called the initiative Aloha Palestine because the Palestinians very much reminded me of the people of Hawaii: despite everything, they have remained courteous and welcoming. Aloha is actually a way of life. The Palestinians may not have much, but what they have they will share with you. As an American, you can’t go to Baghdad, but you can walk around without any problem in Gaza or the West Bank. People will look after you.”

In the sun without water

O’Keefe did not make it back to the Gaza Strip. The battle for the Marmara ended around 5 A.M. and the ship made for the port of Ashdod. “It took another two hours before it was decided that we would go one by one to the stern with our hands raised,” O’Keefe says. “A few dozen soldiers were waiting for us, tied our hands and searched us. I was kicked a few times, but it was very superficial, nothing serious. More attention was paid to people with a distinctly Muslim appearance. From there we were taken to a few points on the upper deck and told to kneel and wait.

“We were kept in that position until the Marmara reached Ashdod, at about 7 P.M. There was no shade on the deck and we had no food or water. An elderly man urinated on himself after all his requests to be taken to the toilet were ignored. At one point I tried to raise myself to stretch my muscles and a soldier shouted at me to sit down. When I refused he kicked me. A few others were also roughed up. It was unnecessary and unprofessional, but in comparison to the big picture it wasn’t serious.

“From Ashdod we were taken to a facility in the Negev [Ela jail in the Be’er Sheva prison], where we stayed two days. The treatment we received also changed radically. True, we were not allowed to contact anyone and had no access to a lawyer, but we had food and water and were allowed to smoke.

“Gradually the number of people in the jail decreased until only 50 of us were left, and in the end we too were taken to be deported. We arrived at the airport and there was someone in charge wearing civilian clothes. Under his command were policemen in special uniforms, black or very dark blue. [There were policemen, Border Police and members of the police special patrol unit at the airport.] It was obvious that they despised us. We sat in the airport and a few meters in front of me was an American named Paul Larudee. Paul had a black eye and deep contusions on his right arm and he was in handcuffs. Apparently he had been told that he had to go somewhere and he would not do it and lay down on the floor. He was picked up by the hand and started to scream with the pain of his injuries. We all got up and started to shout at them to let him go. The police came over and shouted at us and hit us. One policeman hit me on the head with a truncheon and blood started to run down my face. I did not resist but told them everything I thought, that they were shits and cowards, so one of them started to choke me and the others kicked me in the ribs.

“There were four or five of them on me. I couldn’t breathe. Just as I started to black out, they got off. That was the only moment I thought I might not survive this story. Others were also beaten in the airport and one of the Turks had his arm broken.

“I was on the floor. They handcuffed me and started to drag me. At that point I started to resist, because I didn’t understand where they were taking me, so they threw me on the floor again and one of them kicked me in the head while I was lying on the floor and my head was bleeding.

“When the guy in charge brought the policemen under control again I no longer wanted anything from them. Someone wanted to wipe the blood off my face and I told him to back off. Probably they didn’t want me to fly with fresh wounds and all the blood on me, so they took me to some detention facility in the airport, where I ended up staying two more days while the others had already flown back.

“I was held in a cell alone in the airport. I was not allowed to see a lawyer or to call anyone. The Irish consul general came to see me and begged me to agree to leave. I told him I wanted to see a judge. On the day before I left someone came in and said, ‘A judge will see you now.’ I entered a room and there was a judge there and he asked me questions and I answered him. Half an hour later he called me in and said, ‘You are being deported from Israel.’

“The night before I left I was attacked in my cell by two guards or policemen. I don’t know who they were. I was sleeping, they came in, beat me and left. So I had blood on my face when I was released. I would not agree to wash my face, even though the Irish consul general asked me to. I told him, ‘This is the way I was treated and I will keep the blood on my face. That’s how I will stay, or that’s how I will leave.'”


8. Physicians for Human Rights, Badil, Public Committee against Torture, Addameer, Fidh, DCI, PCHR

23 September 2010

A Demand for International Criminal Justice

For decades impunity has prevailed – and been allowed to prevail – in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Despite significant evidence indicating the widespread perpetration of international crimes, not once has a senior military or government official been investigated and prosecuted in accordance with the obligations of international law. This pervasive impunity has resulted in systematic violations of international law, and the continuing suffering of civilian populations.

Israel’s 27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009 offensive on the Gaza Strip is testament to this reality. During the 23 day offensive, international humanitarian law (IHL) was systematically violated and civilians and civilian infrastructure were directly targeted; 83% of the dead were civilians, the so-called ‘protected persons’ of international humanitarian law.

The Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict acknowledged this reality, noting that “the prolonged situation of impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action.” To this end, and in keeping with the requirements of international law, the Mission’s recommendations focused on the pressing necessity of criminal accountability.

To-date, effective investigations – conducted in accordance with the requirements of international law – have not been conducted either by Israel or the Palestinian authorities. This conclusion was recently confirmed by the UN Committee of Independent Experts. In particular the Committee noted that that no criminal procedures had been initiated on the Palestinian side, and that “there is no indication that Israel has opened an investigation into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw “Operation Cast Lead”.”

Procedures on the Israeli side have been characterised by an unwillingness to conduct genuine investigations and prosecutions. The Israeli investigative system suffers from fundamental flaws which render the effective pursuit of justice impossible. Of particular concern is: the reliance placed on ‘operational debriefings’; the excessively narrow scope of investigations; the decisive role of the Military Advocate General (who is implicated in a number of the alleged crimes) in the decision to open or close an investigation; and the lack of adequate civilian supervision (characterised by the margin of appreciation awarded by the Supreme Court to the decisions of the Military Advocate General, and the Attorney General).

 Only 47 military police investigations – subject to the abovementioned flaws – have been opened. These have resulted in only one conviction for the theft of a credit card, and the further indictment of three individuals. While those opened investigations fail to meet international requirements, the overwhelming majority of allegations have simply been ignored. In violation of its obligations under customary international humanitarian law, Israel has proven itself unwilling to conduct genuine investigations and prosecutions; it must be unequivocally concluded that no effective mechanisms are available on the Israeli side.

Palestinian procedures have not resulted in any form of accountability, and have failed to ensure victims’ legitimate right to an effective judicial remedy, in violation of General Assembly Resolution A/Res/64/10. In light of the reality of procedures initiated to date and the practicalities of the situation (including a divided judicial and political system) it must be unequivocally concluded that no effective mechanisms are available on the Palestinian side. 

Based on our organisation experience we believe that this failure is not an anomaly, but rather is in keeping with longstanding previous experiences. Effective domestic investigations and prosecutions are an impossibility. All Parties are unwilling or unable to fulfil the obligations of customary international law, and General Assembly Resolution A/Res/64/10. 

Justice is unattainable within these systems.

Given this reality, and as recommended in the Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission, it is imperative that immediate urgent recourse be had to mechanisms of international criminal justice. Those suspected of committing the most serious crimes of the international community cannot continue to be granted impunity. Victims’ rights cannot continue to be denied.

This is an international responsibility: “To deny modes of accountability reinforces impunity, and tarnishes the credibility of the United Nations and of the international community.” This tarnished credibility is evident consequent to the UN Secretary-General’s repeated failure to fulfil his duty to report on the status of domestic investigations, “with a view to the consideration of further action”.

As representatives of Palestinian and Israeli civil society we state clearly that political processes cannot continue to be allowed to displace the rule of Physicians for Human Rights, Badil, Public Committee against Torture, Addameer, Fidh, DCI, PCHR.

·         Request that the Government of Switzerland, as depository to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, urgently convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties with the aim of ensuring respect for the Conventions in Israel and the oPt, in keeping with, inter alia, General Assembly Resolution A/Res/64/10.

Physicians for Human Rights, Badil, Public Committee against Torture, Addameer, Fidh, DCI, PCHRinternational law and fundamental human rights, and:

·         Condemn the failure to initiate effective investigations and prosecutions into all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law;

·         Request that the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, ensure accountability through the legal or other tools available to the international community, including referring the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory to the International Criminal Court;

·         Remind all States of their obligation to investigate and prosecute all those suspected of perpetrating grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, in accordance with the principle of universal jurisdiction;

·         Request that the Government of Switzerland, as depository to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, urgently convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties with the aim of ensuring respect for the Conventions in Israel and the oPt, in keeping with, inter alia, General Assembly Resolution A/Res/64/10.

Physicians for Human Rights, Badil, Public Committee against Torture, Addameer, Fidh, DCI, PCHR


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An-Nabi Salih,

September 25, 2010  

Something new is happening in Palestine . I saw and heard things today that are relatively rare in my experience. I saw conflict erupt in the village between those who wanted to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers, as in the past, and the cooler but no less passionate people who intervened fiercely to prevent this from happening. I heard tough words of peace and hope. I saw the most gentle and dignified and brave demonstration I’ve ever seen. I also saw the army react with its usual foolishness, which I’ll describe, and I also saw the soldiers hold back when they could easily have started shooting. It wasn’t an easy day by any means, but it was good. 

An-Nabi Salih is a hard place. When Ezra heard me say yesterday, in Sheikh Jarrah, that I was going to the village, he said, “Take a helmet. They’re violent there, all of them” (he meant:  settlers, soldiers, and villagers). Yesterday, at the usual Friday demonstration in the village, the soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition along with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas and stun grenades. I was expecting more of the same today.

The village, north and west of Ramallah, has the great misfortune of having the hard-core settlement of Halamish as its unwanted neighbor. An-Nabi Salih lost some of its lands to the settlement along with access to a fresh-water spring, a precious thing in this arid landscape of dusty rocks and thorns; the settlers stole the spring, but the villagers were not prepared to surrender it, so there have been many violent clashes, spread over years. The settlers do whatever they can to make the villagers’ life miserable, with much success, and the soldiers, as always, back them up. All this is standard practice. Yet that is no longer the whole story. 

Today is International Peace Day, and the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violent Resistance, run by Ali Abu ‘Awad from Beit Jala, has planned a celebration-cum-workday in An-Nabi Salih. Hundreds of Palestinian activists were supposed to arrive from all over the West Bank —but the army has turned all the buses away and closed the roads. We run into the same roadblocks at the main turn-off from Highway 60 running north through the West Bank . The soldiers laugh at us when we tell them we’re going to An-Nabi Salih. No chance of getting through.

But this is the West Bank, and there is always a way, maybe not an easy way, but some back road or goat track or dirt path that will get you where you’re going; so we wind our way for close to two hours, through Jiljiliya and other villages close to Ramallah until we fetch up at Qarawat Beit Zeid, quite close to our goal. But there is, we know from Ali and Alison, a set of further army roadblocks at the entrance to the village. The Tel Aviv contingent tried to get past them by running over the hills, and several of the activists were caught and arrested. Do we want to attempt the same tactic?

At least some of us may get through, but we hesitate: is it worth the hassle of the arrests and the violence? On the other hand, having come so far, how can we simply turn back? There are seven of us prepared to run the gauntlet. Finally, at high noon, Ali leads us down into the rocky terraces and olive groves underneath An-Nabi Salih. We descend to a level that is hopefully beyond the soldiers’ range of vision, and  for twenty minutes or so we creep stealthily from tree to tree and rock to rock, in near-total silence, playing hide-and-seek, outflanking them, crouching, holding our breath, hoping to emerge far enough past the roadblock to elude capture. It’s very hot, and I’m thirsty and, by the end, physically depleted; it’s been 33 years, I calculate, since I last engaged in such games, in my Basic Training in the army.

So absorbed am I in the play that I hardly take in the splendor of the hills rolling dizzily toward the horizon, but at one point I do see, just above my head, an olive branch laden with green fruit almost exploding with ripeness. Soon autumn will come; on the way in the minibus, bouncing over the back roads, there was even a sweet moment of rain, with the sharp smell, unlike all others, of wet dust settling to the ground.

There are eleven of us:  six Ta’ayush volunteers, four Palestinian women in modern dress, head covered, from Beit Jala, and Ali himself, tall, graceful, careful, prescient. At one point we almost make a bad mistake, start climbing up too soon, too close to the soldiers; but Ali catches this in time and leads us back down through the trees and brambles. When we do emerge onto the road, we are very much inside the village, welcomed warmly by two elderly gentlemen, who come to shake my hand, and then by a contingent of teenagers. The first thing I see is a huge sign, in Arabic and English: “The children of this land deserve our struggle and sacrifices for peace.” Fifteen yards down the road, another one: “We believe in non-violence, do you?

We are making social change, are you?” A few yards further along: “La salam ma’a wujud al-ihtilal, “Making peace means ending the occupation.” Biggest of all, draped over the entrance to the town meeting place: “Keeping our political prisoners behind the bars of tyranny and injustice is inexcusable on International Peace Day.” 

Do I believe in non-violent struggle? Yes, with all my heart. And I see that I’m not alone—indeed, far from it. We sit at first, re-hydrating, under the enormous tree in the village square, just like in India . Our hosts serve us Turkish coffee and mineral water. We make some friends. One of the village elders says to me: “Welcome to Eden .” Actually, he just might be right. The heat intensifies. Eventually, inevitably, it is time for the speeches. Popular Arabic music is blaring at deafening volume from the loudspeakers as we take our seats under a wide canvas. It goes on and on, until, mercifully, a young poet takes the microphone and recites a poem. He introduces the speakers one by one. A passage from the Qur’an is sung. I’m weary and, at first, a bit bored.

Normally, I have no patience with political speeches in the villages (how many hours of rhetorical Arabic have I sat through?), but today’s surprise me again and again, shake me awake: we are against violence, we want to be free, the occupation with its hatred is destroying hope but we persevere for the sake of our children and we will win.  More poems, dramatically sung or recited, punctuate these orations.

Now Ali rises to speak—in English, so that all the Israelis and the foreign volunteers can understand:  “I bow my head to all the volunteers who came to An-Nabi Salih today, who struggled past the soldiers and the roadblocks and didn’t turn back. Our struggle is complicated and hard, a struggle that we share—local leaders of the villages, women, children, families—the first Palestinian non-violent movement on the ground, aimed a building a just peace with Israel . When I see Israeli activists coming here to the village, my heart weeps with happiness; I am honored to have these people with us. To all the Jews I say:  you are not my enemy. The occupation is your enemy, as it is ours.

The Israeli state is a state that eats its children by sending them with weapons to kill and be killed. When you hurt us to the point where we lose our fear of dying, all of us together lose our love of living. They closed off An-Nabi Salih today to keep us out; they know how to put up checkpoints, but they do not know how to fight the feeling of freedom we hold in our hearts. We say to you today, on the Day of Peace:  Peace itself is the way to peace, and there is no peace without freedom. I am proud to be in An-Nabi Salih, and I can tell you: we’re gonna make it.” 

As if on cue, soldiers roll into the village in their jeeps; they do what soldiers do, that is, they make arrests, they make threats, they bully, they take their hostages to an olive grove on the other side of the houses, facing Halamish. Our hosts ask us if we would be prepared to take water to the new arrestees (they don’t want to approach the soldiers themselves), so of course we set off through the village streets and down the hill until we find them. Some ten to fifteen soldiers, weighed down by what looks like tons of equipment, green camouflage netting on their helmets, are guarding a group of twenty-some students from Bir Zeit university who came to join today’s festivities.

We bring them water, we chat with them, and suddenly it transpires that we’ve been added to the list of hostages; the soldiers won’t allow us back into the village. They don’t want outsiders in there. After a few minutes, we tire of this and strike out uphill, dodging the soldiers, who are clumsy, weighed down by their guns and all the rest, as they join hands to create a wall and hold us back, and skirmishes develop, and then the first stun grenade, and it ends with four Jerusalem activists caught, handcuffed and forced to the ground. I am too quick for them, as often, and escape their clutches by darting further into the trees.

By the time I regain the village, the main procession is already forming. I hear mothers telling their young boys to go home, to stay out of it, watch them pushing them away. Originally the idea was to reach the stolen spring, but the soldiers, waiting for us in force at the turn in the road, put an end to this dream. The tear-gas canisters and the cartridges of rubber-coated bullets are loaded on to the rifles pointed at the crowd of women, children, men, young and old, many carrying in their arms green saplings that we wanted to plant around the spring.

We sit on the pavement with the soldiers almost close enough to touch, they’re aiming at us, and I’m a little afraid they might open fire like yesterday, and even more afraid that one of the kids will throw a rock and all hell will break loose, but there’s also suddenly no end to the happiness that is washing over me in this crazy late-afternoon moment that I am lucky enough to witness as the light softens into gold and purple and a light wind rises through the trees. People are singing: freedom songs. They swell to a sweet and strident chorus.

If the Israeli army had a brain, which it apparently doesn’t; if the government of Israel had even a modicum of generosity of spirit, which it doesn’t; if the people of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world could open their ears and hear the voices I heard today, in Arabic and English, but they can’t; if the world weren’t all upside down and crooked and often cruel, but it is—if all these ifs could only stop being ifs, then they, whoever gave the orders, wouldn’t have tried to stop us from coming to An-Nabi Salih today, in fact they would have welcomed the arrival of this new generation of proud peace activists from Hebron and Ramallah and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violence wouldn’t be pushing the heavy rock uphill, day after day.  I guess it’s in the nature of such movements to struggle with the rock. Human hearts are heavy as stone.

            Something new is happening in Palestine .

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on INTERNATIONAL PEACE DAY @ NABI SALEH



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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Speech at the United Nations

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2010

by crescentandcross   




2 Responses to “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Speech at the United Nations”

  1. This is an intelligent speech until he gets to the point where he says, Mohammed was the LAST prophet. That simply is not true.

  2. Every American should hear this speech to make them realize what kind of ‘leasders’ we have and what the United Nations is all about.I could not disagree with anything Ahmadinejad’s said. It was an excellent speech!!!

Posted in WorldComments Off on AHMADINEJAD’S SPEECH @ U.N



It’s soooo much in the news these days, isn’t it, that 3-letter word, and especially in keeping the present anti-Islamic inferno fanned to near-apocalyptic temperatures…

72 virgins…Child brides in Gaza…Female circumcision…Mohammed the pedophile…

Sound familiar?…If not, it certainly should, given the fact that as a people we are gang-banged with it on a daily basis by Zionist interests who own and control the media.

Left or right, it makes no difference–Some Middle Easterner gets caught with his or her pants down, no pun intended, and in a New York minute Zionistas immediately get to work with one goal in mind–stimulating the intellectual loins of all those good, God-fearin’, comfortably numb ‘mericans living in GlennBeckistan so as to make easier the business of sending beloved Johnny or Joannie off for a weekend visit with Uncle Sam and Old Aunt Israel, after which time they become winners of an all-expense paid trip to hell on earth in either Iraq, Afghanistan or where-the-hell-ever the Jewish state demands they go.

And you’d think–YOU’D THINK–that the same peeping Toms in America with 20/20 vision and ears like a hound dog when it comes to tracking the latest sexploits–real or contrived–involving the most conservative group of people on earth when it comes to matters below the waist (the Muslims) you’d THINK that these good, God-fearin’, comfortably numb, ’merican know-it-alls living in GlennBeckistan would be cognizant of the fact that when it comes to that 3-letter word we hear so much about these days, no one, and I mean NO ONE, beats the Zionist at their own game.

Yes, “their game”…Just as that old Carly Simon song goes “Nobody does it better…Makes me feel sad for the rest…Nobody does it half as good as you, ’cause Baby you’re the best…”

Besides the incontestably-Kosher character of the porn industry in the “Christian” West (both soft and hardcore) and the near-daily arrest of some filthy, syphilitic Rabbi for sexually abusing children in Orthodox Jewish communities worldwide, there is that other eensy, weensy, teensy, embarrassing little item involving Israel as–not just a minor player, but rather THE headquarters–when it comes to international trafficking of sex slaves. By last count, in Tel Aviv alone there are over 400 brothels where girls–primarily from the former Soviet Union–are forced to service as many as 20 non-Gentile Johns a day. And since sex slavery is legal in Israel (provided of course the slaves in question are not Jews) there is little that can be done about it other than the occasional bitching and moaning by human rights groups, again, no pun intended.

But despite all this, nevertheless the only “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby” we hear taking place in the West today is when they–meaning the same Jewish interests responsible for getting us all hot-n-bothered about Islam–can somehow use it to further push those in the Western world into proving their love for Israel by “going all the way” with regards to the present war of the worlds.

Let’s take as but a tiny example a recent news story appearing in the mainstream press in America re-printed below–

Jeffrey Epstein Goes Free, Reunites With His ‘Sex Slave’

Guess who’s been released from prison? That would be Jeffrey Epstein, the secretive money manager who pleaded guilty in 2007 to soliciting underage teen girls for sex. Epstein has spent the last year or so in a Palm Beach prison, although he hasn’t had to spend every minute of the day confined to a cell. As part of a work-release program, Epstein was allowed to leave his cell during the day and work from an “office” in West Palm Beach, work that reportedly involved helping the government build a case against the Bear Stearns hedge fund that imploded last year and cost Epstein the $67 million he’d invested in the fund.

His cooperation helped shave six months off his sentence and early this morning Epstein skipped out of jail, using a side entrance to avoid the reporters that had gathered outside to greet him. But while his lawyer told a reporter that Epstein is thrilled that “this part of his life is over,” and he’s “ready to move on to other things,” it doesn’t look like he’s totally put his past behind him.

Jail records indicate that Epstein was visited on more than 70 occasions by Nadia Marcinkova, a woman who was at the center of Epstein’s prostitution case in 2007. Marcinkova, who has described herself as a real estate broker in the past, served as Epstein’s “assistant,” helped wrangle underage girls for the billionaire, and even took part in the sex play herself, according to testimony given the Palm Beach police. And she may have also been a victim herself, since Epstein reportedly bragged to friends and associates that he’d “purchased her from her family in Yugoslavia” and “brought her to the United States to be his Yugoslavian sex slave.”

Marcinkova wasn’t the only person connected to Epstein’s prostitution case to visit him behind bars. Sarah Kellen, who also allegedly helped procure girls for the money manager, stopped by on a few occasions. As did a handful of shady characters, including one Igor Zinoviev, “a Russian extreme fighter,” and Jean-Luc Brunel, who co-owns a modeling agency in Miami and has been accused of abusing underage models in the past.–end

Can we just imagine–no, let’s keep the syntax, semantics, and theme consistent here–can we just FANTACIZE what kind of noise this would generate were it anyone OTHER than a Jew? Moreso, if it were a MUSLIM??? Someone PURCHASING human flesh for his own personal pleasure???

No, we don’t need to elaborate. We all know the answer.

Now, while some will simply chalk all this up to some scumbag shyster whose immense wealth changed him from a “nice” Jewish boy into a dirty old man, think again. Furthermore, those who would run to the defense of that “old time religion”–Judaism–by saying he is not a “good Jew’ in the “biblical” sense of the word need to get their collective head out of their collective rear ends and spend just a few minutes reading some of the same material that they claim would never, I repeat NEVER allow such business…

Let’s keep in mind that the first recorded sex slave–at least as far as the history of Western Civilization is concerned–was Sarah, the wife of Abraham. According to the ordeal as described in the bible, TWICE the father of Judaism sold his wife into prostitution for his own personal enrichment. Giving credence to that old saying concerning an apple not falling far from the tree we have Abraham’s son Isaac who–following in his father’s footsteps–attempted the same thing with his wife Rebecca. A few chapters later we see Lott, Abraham’s nephew, giving away his two virgin daughters to a group of sex maniacs, encouraging them to gang-rape his own daughters, saying “abuse them as you see fit”. Later, these same daughters, no doubt having lost their minds after being handed over by their own father and “abused” the entire night in exactly the fashion he intimated, engage in incestuous relations with him.

And it just gets better and better. When the Israelites invade the land “promised” them by God, they are ordered by no less than Moses himself to kill everything that breathes except “all the little girls who have not known man, which you may keep for yourselves and do with as you please”–in other words the same “child brides“ we constantly hear about in Islam. We hear all about how Muslim men are permitted to have 4 wives, but do we hear anything about how the biblical character Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (sex slaves)?


So the idea that this “nice Jewish boy” Jeffrey Epstein somehow blew a gasket that resulted in him buying human flesh for his own personal sexual pleasure is on its face nothing but a dirty joke. He is doing exactly what his religion and his tradition command him to do. He can ask any biblical authority within his community, making his case by citing the exploits and sexploits of his tribal forefathers as handed down in all the “holy” books of Judaism and they will tell him he is perfectly within his rights as a Jew to own another human being for reasons of sex and to “abuse” such persons as he sees fit.

Where, oh where are you Pamela Geller, with your shrill, shrieking, hysterical, lying voice, warning about how the Muslims are coming to impose a deviant sexual culture upon America? Where are your buddies in crime–Robert Spencer, Geert Wilders, Daniel Pipes, and all the rest who pretend to be offended at the sexual “enslavement” they fraudulently claim exists within Islam while saying nothing of it when it happens amongst their (your) own?

And not just today, yesterday or last week, but indeed FOR THE LAST 6,000 YEARS.

Indeed, let’s talk about sex, baby, the lowdown and the dirty, for as your history, your religion and your traditions have proven now for centuries, nobody does it better.

(c) 2010 Mark Glenn


Posted in LiteratureComments Off on LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX & SOLOMON 700 WIVES ?



Palestinian community in US: Ab-A$$ only met with Zionist community

[ 25/09/2010

WASHINGTON, (PIC)– The Palestinian community in the US has denied that de facto Palestinian Ab-A$$ had met with its members, affirming that he only met with a limited number of PA employees other than meeting the Zionist community.

The Palestinian community said in a statement on Saturday that the alleged meeting with Ab-A$$ never happened.

“We challenge the PA in Ramallah to declare the name of one Palestinian institution or society that participated in this alleged meeting,” it said.

The community noted that the only meeting for Ab-A$$ with Palestinians was the one held in New York with very few people most of whom working with the PA missions in New York and Washington. It added that the only community Ab-A$$ met with during his visit was the Zionist community in the presence of representative of 50 Zionist, racist organizations.

The community declared its objection to the policies of Ab-A$$, describing them as “catastrophic”.

It condemned the detention of innocent people in the West Bank and the security coordination with the Zionist illegal  occupation, adding that it would not meet with Ab-A$$ or provide a cover for his capitulatory policy.

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on AB-A$$ LIES




September 25, 2010

by Gordon Duff  


Sukkot Thoughts-Rededicating Ourselves To Those Who Have No Homes, Or Whose Homes Are Endangered

By Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Introduction by Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun Magazine

Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s note below raises for us a very important question: is it anything more than hypocrisy for Jews to dwell in Sukkot this holiday***, pretending to make ourselves vulnerable to material insecurity, when in fact we have huge material and military security but instead are imposing insecurity on the Palestinian people? It’s a troubling question. Meanwhile, please read Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s thoughts–he is the courageous chair of the Israeli branch of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, and his experience this week inthe Silwan section of East Jerusalem gives us a better understanding of what is at stake in the demand by Palesitnians that Israel continue its temporary ban on settlement building or expansions or home demolitions or eviciting Palestinians from East Jerusalem at least while the negotiations are continuing.

We in the U.S. might also add a note of our domestic hypocrisy in claiming to care about the poor and the oppressed, but allowing the Democrats to have spent this past year and a half providing almost no relief to those who are being thrown out of their homes for inability to pay off outrageously high mortgage rates that were imposed on them by banks who made loans without adequately alerting the borrowers to the liielihood thatn their mortgages would be much more expensive soon, We Jews at least should be giving this issue a much higher priority than our Jewish community has done so far. I’m also including a commentary by Mark Kirschbaum who does the weekly commentary on Torah that you can find on the Tikkun website each week in the Rabbi Lerner box.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun Magazine

*** P.S. Many Jews and non-Jews have never heard of the holiday of Sukkot which began last Wednesday night and continues till the 8th day of Assembly and Simchat Torah next Thursday and Friday. Sukkot is the Jewish Thanksgiving and Jews are commanded to rejoice, to be happy, to dwell in a temporary dwelling that is flimsily constructed with only leaves or tree parts for the roof with enough space so that the rain can get in–so that we can experience the lack of security that we in fact all share in life as we face an inevitable death. Yet the point is to share what we have with others, invite as many others as possible to be with us in the sukkah, and to celebrate life and our bounty to the greatest extent possible.

Sukkot Thoughts-Rededicating Ourselves To Those Who Have No Homes, Or Whose Homes Are Endangered

Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel

Today was quite a day. Shots rang out in Silwan at 3:30 am and a young Palestinian man is dead. One witness says he saw a jeep with private settler security guards far from any of the houses taken over by various Jewish groups in the East Jerusalem neighborhood. A guard claims his life was in danger. I was the first Israeli human rights activist to arrive on the scene. We didn’t know at that point how many people were injured or killed, and we were trying to help the residents get information from Magen David Adom and the hospitals. Internet news sites asked for permission to use a picture I took of the bloodstained spot where the man fell. Later Silwan erupted with stone throwing and tear gas. When the terrible truth came out, things got worse. One Israeli was stabbed, cars and busses damaged, rioting on the Temple Mount, arrests.

Meanwhile, we had planned for the Ghawi family to put up a Sukkah. We hoped that the police would not tear it down as they tore down their various tents opposite their now taken over home in Shekh Jarakh, since the eviction in August 2009. We thought that maybe Jewish and Palestinian children decorating together might soften their hearts. The Sukkah was torn down and destroyed.

However, none of this is what I had wanted to write about:

On Sunday I finally had an opportunity to meet with representatives of the 40 families in Beit Sha’an who have received eviction notices from their Amidar homes (Public housing). I was floored. Even in the Occupied Territories, I have rarely seen such terrible housing conditions. One family was crowded into a poorly built and probably dangerous roos, with a makeshift outhouse without a roof. Sukkot always raises my consciousness about housing.

As I tell my children, living in a rickety and fragile structure in to which the rain penetrates should sensitize us to those who live in such conditions all year long, or who have been thrown out of their homes, or whose homes have been demolished. I therefore hope that all of you will make the effort this Sukkot to participate in at least one of our holidaty activities in El-Arakib or Sheikh Jarakh. (And sign up for the olive harvest.) As Beit Sha’an demonstrates, those we must be thinking of, praying for, and committing to act on behalf of are not just residents of East Jerusalem or unrecognized villages.

We are also approaching the 10th anniversary of the bloody events of October 2000. We should remember the as yet unheeded recommendations of the Orr Commission, and their determination that discriminatory land policies implemented by all Israeli governments towards Israeli Arabs leads to home demolitions and potentially explosive anger.

Although I met the families in Beit Sha’an for the first time this week, dedicated activists have been working with them for months. Many of the activists are the same activists to be found in Sheikh Jarakh, giving lie to the canard that they are concerned only about non-Jews. More amazingly, some of the Beit Sha’an residents have come to Sheikh Jarakh. Just as common oppression has led to amazing partnership between Jewish participants (now former participants) in the Israeli Wisconsin Plan from Hadera and Arab participants from Wadi Ara, we can gain some comfort from the fact that oppression sometimes helps people see beyond their own situation to grasp a wider picture.

I wish it would happen otherwise. Sukkot was also the holiday that in the Temple we offered sacrifices for all the nations of the world and prayed for rain for all, perhaps understanding that there are certain blessings that all enjoy, or none enjoy. If we can build on our universal consciousness, the fragility of life we recall on Sukkot can re-motivate us to activism that could really make Sukkot the “Season of Our Joy” we are told that it should be.

Khag Sameakh (For A Joyous Holiday of Activism),


Making Space in the Sukka: Social Justice and Joy

The period of time in the Hebrew calendar reaching from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur is thought of generally as one unit, in English commonly referred to as the High Holidays, whereas Sukkot, the festival which follows four days after Yom Kippur, is generally thought of as a festive holiday, one of the three biblical Temple festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot), entirely distinct from the Days of Awe which happen to precede it. The mystics, however, view the period from Rosh Hashana until the end of Sukkot as one long arc, not as distinct notes on the page but as one continuous unfolding melody reaching its crescendo not at Yom Kippur, as we might guess, but at Hoshana Rabba (the last day of Sukkot prior to the final festival of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah). As this tradition is unfamiliar to most people, we may have an easier time in resacralizing it in a way that would be meaningful for our contemporary situation.

The first step would be to depart from our usual hierarchy regarding seriousness over joy. Mardi Gras is always first, followed by Lent; one parties first and then when that is done, one can graduate to solemnity. However, the difference to be emphasized here is that the apogee of repentance and life transformation comes not at Yom Kippur, during the ‘serious’ service, but at Sukkot, the holiday described biblically as ‘the time of our rejoicing’. Rather than attempt to summarize the roots of this concept, I will quote R. Pinchas of Koretz, one of the earliest Hassidic thinkers, who was contemporary with the Baal Shem Tov, and whose analogy is quite memorable:

‘the time of our rejoicing’: Sukkah is the unification of HVYH and ADNY (the male and female names of Gd- numerically Sukka=91=the two names of Gd combined). This unification brings about Da’at (which is the Kabbalistic term for the interface between the two highest male/female names of Gd, and literally means Understanding. For context, Moshe, who brings the Torah from Sinai, represents Da’at), and when there is knowledge, there is joy.

The proof (for the superiority of joy over sadness, sukkot over the high holy days) is, that if one observes a newborn, who has very little understanding- already at birth he is capable of crying. It is only much later, when their understanding grows- that a baby can smile’

Thus, there is a greater spiritual and cognitive message implicit in the joy of the Sukkah experience than in all the crying meant to occur during the High Holidays! Any baby can cry, but it takes deeper understanding to smile. Perhaps we can this more than a cute metaphor when we recognize the reasoning behind this: that the repentance and spiritual growth seen in the High Holidays is a personal, individual one, whereas the joy of Sukkot reflects an interpersonal, social level (the analogy to the newborn is even more apt using modern pediatric developmental terminology- this facial expression which the baby achieves as a significant milestone of development is referred to as the ‘social smile’).

There is support for the social nature of Sukkot back at the source; for example, the Torah tells us that the people were meant to gather with the king in the event known as ‘hakhel’ (‘congregate’) every seven years specifically on Sukkot. A global perspective is taken by the Talmud, as the seventy sacrificial cows brought on Sukkot during the Temple period were read as being offered for the sake of all the nations of the world. The Sukka itself, as an image, suggesting a remembrance of the plight of the refugee, can certainly be read in this way, as does the Midrash and the medieval thinkers, and as did Rabbi Arthur Waskow in a recent issue of The Nation. Rav Tzadok Hacohen of Lublin, in fact, explains that Sukkot follows the High Holiday period as a penitential exercise, that is, should we have been found guilty of sins requiring exile, we are, as it were, paying the price.

However, when one keeps in mind the emphasis on this being a time of joy, it seems more in tune with joy to read into the Sukka a “positive” value, that is, whereas the refugee imagery stresses the Sukka as symbolic of a “negative” value, a lack, a deficiency, (as per Hanna Arendt’s concept of the refugee being morally superior, given the lack of ability to oppress anyone, etc), clearly, to the mystics, a symbol associated with the highest Divine Union must contain within itself also a postive spiritual sense. Interestingly, even when using the “negative” reading of the Sukka, there is an implied positive undercurrent.

Thus, for example, the Bat Ayin, who spins the negative transient quality of Sukka living into a positive, for creating a permanent dwelling would impede the continuous ascent that we make; he reads the verse in Kohelet 7:23, which is read on the Sabbath of Sukkot- “I thought I would be wise (echkimah), but she is ever further from me”, as suggesting that the ideal is not reaching (or inhabiting) a fixed goal, but rather a more fluid, never-ending attainment of higher and higher divine states.

If not only a negative space, then what is the positive element signified by the Sukka? Geographically, as it were, the Sukka is viewed as encompassing a novel, even privileged spiritual space- ‘I love Sukkot because it is the one commandment which I can be immersed in with my boots on’ goes the line attributed to R. Shmelkie of Nicholsburg. This viewing of the material substance as reflecting a divine containment (the Hida points out that the word Sukka itself in Hebrew, contains the two names of Gd not only in its total numerical value, but in the form whereby the outside two letters, S-H, equal the male term, and the inner letters, V-K equal the female name) is that seized upon by the Tiferet Shlomo. In the biblical proof text instructing the people to sit in the Sukka, the verse which reads ‘

In Sukkot teshvu (shall you sit) seven days, in order that your generations shall know”, he adds another possible reading of the word teshvu as being derived not only from lashevet, to sit, but from the word teshuva, return, repentance, and thus the knowledge, the da’at, the level of relationship with Gd that was vivdly experienced by the generation liberated from Egypt, can be recreated by the act of teshuva, repentance, specific to the Sukka. But what is that element that is specific to the Sukka that brings about this unique and high level of spiritual attainment?

For this the Tiferet Shlomo cites another verse with a word similar to Sukka (more specifically, to the Halachically critical aspect of the Sukka- it is not the walls of the Sukka that are central, but rather the Sechach, the ecologically signifying roof, which must be made of organic substances only). The word sechach used as a verb is found in the verse regarding the Cherubim, the sculpture which adorned the ark which was meant to contain the Tablets upon which were inscribed the original ten commandments. These Cherubim were described as creating a canopy with their wings (sochichim b’kanfeihem) the covering of the ark (the kaporet, which is itself similar to the word kapara, atonement).

In other words, according to the Tiferest Shlomo, Sukkot is the highest possibility of repentance, of world transformation (his exact phrase is ‘Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the hakdama, the prologue to Sukkot’), and the specific defining feature of the superiority of Sukkot is found in the continuation of the verse about the Cherubim- who are described as being situated ‘with their faces one to another’. Thus, the possibility for change for the better is highest on Sukkot, because in the Sukka, at the table, one is contained within the same space as another, face to face as it were, and thus the emphasis must be one’s responsibility for the Other.

This concept, of Sukkot being primarily about the encounter with others, and not simply the spiritual growth of the Self, is seen in the well known, but not fully understood, tradition of the Ushpizin, the supernal visitors (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc) who are welcomed into the Sukka each night. This tradition, which has become very widely accepted, is of late origin and is first found in the Zohar (III:103b). What is less well known is that this passage in the Zohar is meant to encourage the invitation of the needy to the festival table. The Ushpizin come to partake not of the Sukka per se but of the meals placed for the poor, and as the Zohar states- ‘woe is he to whom a portion for the poor is not placed!’.

This theme of inclusiveness as the central motif of the Sukkot experience is emphasized in the readings of the other unique symbol of this holiday, the four species which are bound together and waved originally as part of the Temple service, now during the synagogue prayers. There are a series of midrashim attempting to explain this odd agricultural service, but the one that concerns us likens the four species to differing types of people within the community: the etrog (citron), which is fragrant and tasty, represents those who are both well versed and act for the common good, the lulav (palm frond), produces edible fruit but has no fragrance, is like those who are well versed but don’t act for the common good, the hadassim (myrtle branches) are fragrant but produce no fruit, symbolizing those who do good but haven’t studies, whereas the aravah (willow branch), has neither fruit nor fragrance, and stands in for those members of the community who neither know nor volunteer. The midrash continues that together, they will atone one for another.

It is not to be assumed, however, that the midrash means that the three more worthy types will atone for the ‘arava’, for that is not the language used, particularly in a parallel teaching in the Talmud (BT Menahot 27.) which stresses that Israel does not achieve appeasement until all four are bound as one unity. The arava can’t be depreciated, even in the Midrashic reading, for in other Midrashim, brought in conjunction with this one, the arava is symbolic of any of the following highly positive references: the lips, Joseph, the matriarch Rachel, the court scribes, the name of Gd. Furthermore, on the final day of Sukkot, on the day which according to the Mishna the divine allotment of water for the whole world is decreed, the day on which (as a result of this Mishnaic view) according to the mystics, the absolutely final judgement on each individual is sealed (a view already found as early as Ramban), on this momentous day it is precisely the arava alone that is paraded around the altar, from Temple times to this very day.

So what, then, do the ‘aravot’, the unschooled, inactive people bring to the communal table? According to the Sefat Emet, they represent the ability to transcend the given situation of an individual, through prayer (hence the midrash comparing the arava to lips). Similarly, according to the Pri Ha’aretz, the arava symbolized pure emunah, pure faith, transcendent of the fragrance and flavor of either intellect or praxis.

At any rate, we see that it is the total community, with its strengths and weaknesses, that are bound together in a mutually compensatory relationship (In fact, according to the Tiferet Shlomo, the obscure custom of hitting the arava on the ground on Hoshana Rabba, a custom so obscure that it is labeled ‘of prophetic origin’, is meant to demonstrate that any segment of the people that breaks away from concern for all, that travels its own solitary way without regard for the others, as does the arava on its solo circuit around the altar on Hoshana Rabba, is doomed to a bad end).

So perhaps we are not veering too far from the original message of Sukkot by suggesting that Hoshanna Rabba become synonymous with community-wide efforts to combat poverty. Perhaps that is a day when trans-denominational efforts to deal with local poverty, world-wide hunger, an end to war, can be institutionalized and inscribed into the calendar, and celebrated as a holiday, perhaps the way it was originally intended. True joy is in the negation of suffering, it is the overcoming of sadness and grief we must celebrate.

(If anyone wants to seriously put this thought into action, I would be glad to be of assistance, contact me via email at

Mark H. Kirschbaum, MD


Posted in EducationComments Off on RABBIS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS




September 25, 2010by Debbie Menon

Cameron  came from nowhere to lead a party that’s said to be 80 percent loyal to Israel. This patron of the Jewish National Fund then became prime minister… with Clegg’s help.


Nick Clegg and David Cameron

 In the space of a few short years Nick Clegg has shot from obscurity to stardom in British politics, joining Conservative leader David “I’m-a-Zionist” Cameron at the head of Britain’s new coalition government.

Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, is deputy prime minister and gets to play PM from time to time, like now when Zionist Dave appears to still be enjoying a perk that’s laughably called ‘paternity leave’.

Cameron too came from nowhere to lead a party that’s said to be 80 percent loyal to Israel. This patron of the Jewish National Fund then became prime minister… with Clegg’s help.

But what exactly is Clegg’s little game on the foreign affairs front? Last year he seemed to be his own man and was writing this about Gaza in The Guardian:

“…And what has the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis.

No doubt the febrile sensitivities of the Middle East have deterred governments, caught between recriminations from both sides. No doubt diplomats have warned that exerting pressure on Israel and Egypt may complicate the peace process.

But surely the consequences of not lifting the blockade are far more grave?”

It was shockingly provocative stuff in the cesspit of pro-Israel Westminster.

Around the same time he was telling the Jewish Chronicle:

“There is simply not a shred of racism in me….The very suggestion that I might explicitly or tacitly give cover for racism, I find politically abhorrent and personally deeply offensive.”

I presumed this to be a warning not to count on his support for the Zionist Project.

But now, following the freaky electoral good fortune that catapulted him to the top, and in the wake of Israel’s murderous assault on the Mavi Marmara, Clegg has begun to change his tune. He welcomed the appointment of Lord Trimble to the racist entity’s farcical inquiry into its own entrails, well aware that Trimble is a founding member of the new international movement “Friends of Israel Initiative”.

And at the Liberal Democrats’ annual conference a few days ago he abandoned any non-racist credentials he may have had by attending a fringe meeting of his party’s Friends of Israel group along with the new deputy Israeli ambassador to the UK.

According to a report in Middle East Monitor Clegg thanked Friends of Israel for all the work they had done to promote themselves within the party and declared himself an admirer of “the democratic traditions and liberal ethos of life within Israel”.

Clegg has a lot to learn if he seriously thinks Israel is some kind of western-style liberal democracy. He wasn’t even-handed enough to attend a meeting of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine where Britain has helped crush a blossoming, non-racist democracy.

And, in harmony with the puppet-masters in the White House, he said that so much hinges on “the talks”. It is remarkable how those who promote “the talks” never speak of the Israelis’ automatic peace-wrecking tactics – their defiance of international law requiring them to get the hell off Palestinian territory and their continuing killing spree and land thieving, which continue unabated while Palestinians are required to meekly submit to the humiliation of going through the motions of negotiation.

Instead, they whisper respectfully of Israel’s partial “moratorium” on its illegal construction of settlements, as if suspending a criminal programme to seize more land and insert more armed squatters to terrorise Palestinian villagers amounts to a major concession.

The international community has unfinished business

And how can Clegg or any other respectable leader go along with talks that stand democratic principle on its head and invite Abbas, whose presidential term ran out long ago, who has no popular mandate from the Palestinians and who assumes brutal, dictatorial powers?

Are they all barmy? Their idea appears to be to get an agreement – any agreement, even one signed by a chancer like Abbas who has no legitimacy – just to save a few worthless faces rather than deliver justice to millions and resolve the decades-old bloody conflict.

They show no respect whatever.

Hamas’s chief is right when he says that the massive imbalance of power on the ground makes negotiation at the present time grossly unfair and would play into the enemy’s hands. That’s another fundamental point of principle studiously ignored by the West’s political élite.

The international community has unfinished business to take care of before meaningful talks can take place. And it stands to reason that the correct sequence of events should be (1) Israel ends the occupation and siege, (2) Israel withdraws behind its pre-1967 borders in compliance with UN resolutions and international law, (3) talks begin with no gun to the Palestinians’ head, (4) the Palestinians are properly represented by their elected leadership, even if that’s Hamas.

If the Americans have a problem with these basics they should keep away from the process and let the UN handle it. Actually the UN should have insisted on handling it in the first place. Why don’t they get a grip on their responsibilities?

Meantime Nick Clegg might find it refreshing to stop and re-read the Preamble to his own party’s Constitution, a very fine document indeed especially where it says:

“We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience…”

“We reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. Recognising that the quest for freedom and justice can never end, we promote human rights and open government…

“Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.”

These principles are as good as any for guiding a person through political life. But how many of them are reflected in the coalition’s policy dealing with the scandal of the Holy Land and in Clegg’s recent pronouncements?

I wait with interest to see how he and Cameron react when Israel’s “moratorium” on squatter settlements expires this weekend.

Will our dynamic duo call for sanctions against Israel for persistent land theft, endless breaches of international law, ongoing lethal violence and continuing defiance of UN resolutions?

And, if necessary, will they show the way and take unilateral action, as principled leaders should?

Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit

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September 25, 2010by Debbie Menon  

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh discusses the rejection by the 51 mostly Western countries of a resolution urging Israel — reportedly the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East — to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allow UN inspections of its covert nuclear facilities.

Iran’s envoy to IAEA Credit Press TV

The following is the transcript of Press TV’s interview with Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh in Vienna.  In the interview Soltanieh discusses the rejection by the 51 mostly Western countries of a resolution urging Israel — reportedly the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East — to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allow UN inspections of its covert nuclear facilities.

Press TV: The exact figures are 51 against and 46 for and 23 abstentions. This is a significantly high number of abstentions. But the fact is that the proposal by the Arab and NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) countries has failed? Why do you think it did?

Soltanieh: Well, I want to, with due respect, correct you, that you should not consider and in fact assess this one as a resolution…the IAEA rejected. In fact 100 countries did not surrender to pressure by [the] United States to vote against this resolution.

This is in fact not true; this was a success for all the peace loving people of the world, that in spite of tremendous pressure and lobbying by the United States and other

allies of the Israeli regime and trying to prevent such a resolution to be even tabled, it was finally done. Even until the last day, yesterday, the United States was warning the Arab countries and the Non-Aligned Movement not to table this resolution.

And I am very pleased that they did not surrender to this pressure. They tabled it and it is a part of the history of the IAEA and those who voted against this resolution, in fact they have proved that their words and conduct and actions are not consistent and do not genuinely and honestly want peace in the Middle East and they are not honest in their call for the universality for the NPT.

I think we have to congratulate the peace loving people of the world, that once again in the IAEA, the curtain was drawn and the facts were shown to the people of the whole world — that those few Western countries are telling lies. They are not honest in pursuing the universality of the NPT, and peace in the Middle East. Confrontation by all of these countries from the Non-Aligned Movement, by the United States and some few Western countries is in fact yet another dark record for them in the international community.

Press TV: Mr. Soltanieh, let’s go back one week. And talk about the so-called talks between the PA (Palestinian Authority) and Israel. The US envoy to the IAEA Glen Davies said last week that the agency is not the place for discussing Israel’s nuclear capabilities and that if they did, they would affect the direct talks. That is neither here no there…

Soltanieh: I am very pleased that you recall that statement because that is exactly what I said. In spite of the official declaration by the United States, that this issue should not be, in fact, an agenda item of the conference, and this should not be discussed in the IAEA, no body cared.

Over 100 countries adapted that this issue should be an agenda and it will be an agenda next year and therefore they didn’t even vote against this. Only those few Western countries and the allies of the Israeli regime voted against it. Therefore, I want to correct this information…which is given to the media by mistake.

Therefore, we have to congratulate this resistance to the pressure. And I want to commend the Arab brothers and others that [have] continued their resistance, and I have to say that in fact a chapter was opened last year…a general conference after 20 years… [of not having] any decision resolution for or against Israeli nuclear capability and this chapter is open and nobody can close it until Israel puts everything under the IAEA safeguard and joins the NPT.

And therefore there is no way to go back, this is irretrievable…and the United States cannot stop this trend… Over 100 peace loving countries in the Non-Aligned Movement echoed their voice unanimously that they will continue.

You will see that this trend will continue and of course, what the US and other allies of Israel did, in fact, undermined the unanimous decision of the NPT conference in New York. That was also another historical mistake because they questioned the consensus decision in New York.

Press TV: Our correspondent has talked to the Sudanese envoy who told her that the vote is another example of double standards at this UN body. To what extent do you think that votes like this will impact the credibility of the agency?

Soltanieh: You are absolutely right in raising this matter because while they (Western powers) talk about the universality of the NPT, now they oppose this resolution which causes Israel to join the NPT and take a step towards universality of the NPT. This double standard policy is now proved once again in this international organization and this is another page in history, for the whole world and the next generation as prove that the Americans and a couple of other Western countries are not honest in their words. And I think that this is also another sign, that it has in fact, created a set back for the NPT.



YouTube – Veterans Today –  

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Posted in PoliticsComments Off on ZIONIST IAEA RESOLUTION



The mainstreaming of Sinhalese fascism25 Sep 2010

The shameful lies of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the United Nations General Assembly  on September 23:

No nation on earth can wish Sri Lanka’s Tamil community more good fortune than Sri Lanka itself.

The truth is far uglier.


Finally, some light on Serco but so much more needed25 Sep 2010

At last, some coverage in the Australian media about Serco, the British multinational running the country’s detention centres. It doesn’t offer much new – and there is a desperate need for a thorough examination of the real relationship between Serco and the government – so more, please:

On Monday before the 36-year-old Fijian Josefa Rauluni fell to his death from a rooftop at Villawood detention centre, staff of the British company managing the centre, Serco, hauled mattresses to the footpath to break his fall. It was a busy day for Serco.

In Ireland its employees were managing the nation’s traffic lights. In the US they were running prisons, border security and defence systems. Public transport kept them busy in Dubai and South Australia. Welfare-to-work programs, schools, prisons and detention centres (or ”custodial accommodation” in company literature) were administered in Britain. Serco people were building military hospitals in Germany and helping to decommission US military bases in Iraq.

Some of Serco’s 70,000 staff were running both a new bicycle network in London and Britain’s five-satellite military communications network – evidently to inflame conspiracy theorists, it is called Skynet, the name of the evil computer system hell-bent on destroying mankind in the Terminator films.

Serco even manages Greenwich Mean Time.

There is a common factor in this apparently disparate $5 billion operation: Serco does the things governments no longer want to do.

”They are like a living organism that has found a very rich payload of nutrients and they are growing faster and faster,” says the NSW MP John Kaye, who has a keen interest in the growth of the private sector in the public sphere.


Please don’t listen to King Abdullah on, well, anything25 Sep 2010

This is rather depressing. Here’s Jordan’s King Abdullah talking to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show about how “moderate” he is and the “extremists” are upsetting the Middle East.

Yes, because running a US-backed police state completely makes you “moderate”. His country’s influence is decreasing, not least because he so slavishly follows US foreign policy in the region:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
King Abdullah II of Jordan
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Why I refuse to oppress Palestinians25 Sep 2010

A small but significant number of Israelis refuse to serve in occupied Palestine and face jail time for having a conscience.

Here’s Zionist Druz Soldier, 19, and his story:

He’s from the town of Yehud, near Tel Aviv, was sentenced to 20 days of imprisonment. Zionist Druz enlisted in the Israeli military eight months ago. It was already as a soldier that he decided to refuse to continue his military service.

And from his letter of refusal:

I refuse to be part of the Israel Defence Forces, an army that occupies and oppresses a Palestinian population on a daily basis, which undermines the chances to achieve peace, and thus also Israel’s security, and which corrupts the moral and democratic character of the state.

For more than 40 years the IDF has been daily oppressing the Palestinians in the occupied territories and denying them their most basic rights to live normally. This includes hampering their freedom of movement, undermining their economy, hurting their bodies, illegally arresting them and committing many other severe crimes that usually fail to make it to the mainstream media. The very fact that any simple soldier serving beyond the Green Line has power over the lives of local residents and can force them to do as he pleases is illegal and undemocratic, and obtains the exact opposite of what it is supposed to – it produces more terrorists, increases hatred towards us and undermines any realistic chances for peace. So what purpose does this oppression really serve? Only one – perpetuating the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal in their own right and which are the obstacle to reaching a compromise between the two peoples.

Even before enlisting I had my doubts about whether or not to join the army, whether to support the army that represents my country or to refuse. I eventually decided to enlist, because I felt that I could refuse from within, to do things otherwise, to effect change. Today I understand that the army’s actions in the occupied territories themselves, its very presence there, are what constitutes the occupation, and no action I could make, not even if I offer a more positive treatment to Palestinian civilians, could make any difference.

I believe that in a country that claims to be a democracy, it is good and even necessary for each of us to voice criticism and indignation when the country is wrong. The IDF is an organisation that fights for interests that I don’t believe in, performs anti-democratic and immoral actions and seriously undermines the chances to achieve piece. I am no longer willing to be part of it.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on A.LOEWENSTEIN ONLINE NEWSLETTER

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