Categorized | Middle East




Israeli forces toss gas bomb on protester near Hebron, causing ’severe burns to the entire body of Mohammed Jamal Abu Hashim, 14′

Israeli forces toss gas bomb on protester near Hebron, causing ’severe burns to the entire body of Mohammed Jamal Abu Hashim, 14′

Oct 02, 2010


* And other news from Today in Palestine:

Land and property theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing

Settlers burn 10 dunums of farmlands south of Nablus
NABLUS, (PIC)– Israeli settlers from the Itamar settlement in south Nablus burned on Friday at least ten dunums of land cultivated with olive trees in the Bayada region northeast of the Awarta village … Israeli occupation soldiers stopped Palestinians and emergency officials from controlling the fire.

Israelis built into a West Bank life / Jason Koutsoukis
THE West Bank is no place for principles. ”Of course I don’t like building houses for the settlers,” says Palestinian construction worker Haitham Asfour. ”But what choice do I have?” As the rumble of bulldozers in Jewish settlements across the West Bank this week signalled an end to Israel’s 10-month construction freeze – bringing the nascent Middle East peace talks to the brink of collapse – not all Palestinians could afford to be outraged. Mr Asfour, one of 25,000 Palestinians who depend on the settlers for a living, is one of them.

interesting ‘happy slaves’ take on situation
Palestinians building Jewish settlements
The end of the settlement construction freeze on Monday was felt not only by the settlers, but also their Palestinian neighbors. Hundreds of laborers flooded West Bank settlements as of the early morning hours and could be seen operating bulldozers … “They are being threatened with five years in prison if they work for us after January 1,” Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council said. The real coexistence, after all, happens here, and the Palestinian Authority is trying to sabotage this. I am the one who wants peace and they just want war. This is the difference between us.”,7340,L-3961637,00.html

Peace talks come and go, but a settlement grows (AP)
REVAVA, West Bank – The American president was pushing hard for a Mideast peace agreement when six Jewish families arrived on this West Bank hilltop early one morning with cribs, refrigerators, Israeli flags and flatbed trucks carrying mobile homes. White House condemnation came quickly: “Settlements are an obstacle to peace and their continuation does not contribute to the development of a peace process which we have all been working toward.” It was April 16, 1991.

Security disparities in East Jerusalem make conflict inevitable
Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing controls the security provided to settlers in Palestinian neighbourhoods. The Ministry contracts private security firms that train and supply armed guards throughout East Jerusalem areas. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), an Israeli non-profit organization, reported that the Ministry paid a total of NIS 54,540,000 (roughly 15 million US dollars) to private security firms in 2010. In contrast, Palestinians must use the Jerusalem police who have a documented history of discriminatory practices towards Palestinians

The making of a virtual Palestinian state / Jamal Dajani
Jewish settlers account for just one percent of the population of the West Bank, according to Dutch cartographer Jan de Jong, but are claiming 60 percent of the land. “They are just one percent of the whole West Bank population, but they are claiming 60 percent of the land. The settlements are actually just built-up pockets, but the settlers include huge tracts of land around them by laying down barbed wire. So in effect it’s more like estates, containing just a few houses.”

* Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

IOF soldiers leave injuries on marchers in Beit Ummar
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) cracked down on a weekly march against settlement activity in Beit Ummar, Al-Khalil [Hebron], on Saturday leaving a minor severely burned while other marchers suffered breathing difficulties. Eyewitnesses said IOF soldiers caused severe burns to the entire body of Mohammed Jamal Abu Hashim, 14, after an Israeli soldier tossed a gas bomb directly at him and it exploded over his limbs. He was transported to the hospital.

Video: Bil’in weekly demonstration 1-10-2010 Haitham Katib

Rallies in Gaza commemorate 2nd Intifada
Islamist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad organized rallies on Friday in Gaza to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the start of the Second Intifada, using the anniversary as a symbol of the power of resistance … Demonstrations took to the streets after prayers in the An-Nusierat and Al-Bureij Mosques in the central Strip, and listened to Hamas orators.

In defense of South African academics’ boycott call / Ronnie Kasrils
…The principled position of academics in South Africa to distance themselves from institutions that support the occupation is a reflection of the advances already made in exposing that the Israeli regime is guilty of an illegal and immoral colonial project.

Israeli mayors’ visit runs aground in Spain, Netherlands / Adri Nieuwhof
The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) canceled a 19 September visit by Israeli mayors because the delegation included leaders of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, igniting a firestorm in the Dutch parliament centered at foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen … According to Ynet, the head of the Council of Efrat, Oded Revivi, said that the mayors’ visit was originally planned for Spain. However, the tour was called off following the deadly raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla at end of May.

Court: Irish Nobel laureate to be deported from Israel
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, who was deported from Israel after joining a Gaza-bound aid ship, is currently in a detention facility at the airport pending an appeal to the Supreme Court

Boston Palestine Film Festival starts today
The fourth annual Boston Palestine Film Festival opens tonight [last night, Friday] at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston at 7 pm and runs through October 10 at venues across the city. The festival features films from around the world by and about Palestinians. This year’s program includes a range of compelling and thought-provoking documentaries, dramatic features, rare early works, and new films by emerging artists and youth. These films from international directors bring an honest, self-described, and independent view of Palestine and its diasporic society, culture, and political travails. A full schedule of programs, as well as tickets, can be found here.

Jewish boat to Gaza: the skipper speaks — Glyn Secker’s testimony
…There then developed a sight which will remain with me for the rest of my life – with the frigate in the background, two gunboats, two landing craft and four high powered ribs spread out in a semi-circle speeding towards us at perhaps 35 knots, with their bow waves and wakes flashing in the sunshine. It was surreal, it was like an action movie, and entranced by the sight I had to remind myself this was actually happening – this overwhelming force for a 9.7 metre 40 yr. old boat, the majority of its Jewish occupants over 60 years old, with no weapons and a publicized policy of passive resistance.

Gaza Europe convoy visits grave of youngest Turkish victim
International activists of “Gaza Europe Convoy” declares youngest Turkish-US victim as spiritual leader during a visit to his grave.

European Lifeline 5 convoy to land in Egypt within days
LONDON, (PIC)–  Spokesman for the Lifeline 5 land-sea aid convoy Zahir Beirawi said efforts are being made to convince Egyptian authorities to ease the task of the humanitarian mission en route to Gaza Strip. Beirawi denied rumors that the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) would not participate on the convoy for fear of criticism from Israel and the international community over links to Palestinian resistance groups.

* Violence / Provocations / Detention

Israeli soldiers ambush Palestinian workers in northern Gaza
GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) surrounded early Saturday morning a group of Palestinian workers in the northern Gaza Strip after opening fire at them. Local sources in Beit Hanoun said IOF special forces carried out an incursion operation at dawn near the Erez crossing in Beit Hanoun in pursuit of a number of Palestinian workers collecting special kind of sand which is used in construction.

IOF troops round up 300 Palestinians in one week
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) rounded up more than 300 Palestinians in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem over the past week, the Palestinian prisoner’s society said. It added in a press release on Saturday that most of those detained were minors, noting that the IOF was pressuring wanted Palestinians and prisoners by arresting their mothers and relatives.

Guilty Families – a report from a military court
…And then the judge suddenly said something that we could not hear, and the policeman got up, all of a sudden. “That’s it, it’s over,” he told the stunned parents. “Get out.” … And just then Nibal remembered that she had not shown Ayoub the photograph of his [new] daughter, that she had brought with her, deep in her clothes, and she tearfully pleaded with the attorney that he gives Ayoub the picture, and the attorney said that there was nothing he could do. “But what about the name?” Nibal said, still in tears. “What about the name?” … All court proceedings which occur at the same time are carried out in Hebrew. No one explains a thing to the defendant or his parents. The words are not translated.

The Mengele Squad
What is the connection between the occupation and references to the Holocaust in IDF slang? … No one in Israel really thinks the IDF and the SS are one and the same, or that Palestinian life under the occupation is identical to that of the Jews in the concentration camps, not to mention the extermination camps. But it turns out that IDF soldiers have been drawing such comparisons for years. Quietly, for themselves.

Former torturer appointed [to] a high-ranking police post in Jerusalem
The appointment of an infamous Israeli interrogator to a high-ranking police post has sent shockwaves among human rights groups. Known among inmates as Captain George, he is accused of numerous cases of torture and abuse of Arabs. Now that he is in charge of Arab affairs, many Palestinians fear for their lives … Just months into his new position, Zahavi has already been accused of badly injuring a Palestinian in Jerusalem.

Hamas members jailed with criminals in Ramallah
WEST BANK, (PIC)– Different Palestinian sources reported that the Palestinian Authority’s security militias lock up Hamas members with drug dealers and criminals in its jails in Ramallah city.

Islamist party demands PA adhere to court ruling
The Palestinian High Court verdict mandating the release of a Hizb Ut-Tahrir member remains unobserved by PA police, party leaders announced … According to supporters, [Mohammad] Khateeb remains held under the authority of the PA Security Enforcement Agency, an arm of the intelligence forces. Inquiries with the body allegedly resulted in Hizb Ut-Tahrir officials being told that the forces were not under the jurisdiction of the courts.

* Siege / Restriction of movement / Humanitarian/ Human rights

Israel bans 12 Palestinians from Al-Aqsa Mosque
An Israeli court on Friday issued a one month restraining order banning 12 [Israel-resident] Palestinians from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Al-Aqsa Foundation said. The foundation said Israeli forces arrested the 12 men from a bus on Thursday as they headed to the mosque to pray. The men began chanting national slogans after they saw Israeli settlers entering the courtyard of the mosque, the group said

Palestinians to travel via Rafah without registration
Individuals traveling through the Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt will no longer have to register ahead of time, the Gaza government’s Crossings Administration said Saturday … Gaza residents, visa holders, individuals with medical referrals, foreign passport holders and coordinated travelers will be allowed transit through the crossing, the statement added. Meanwhile, 1,695 Palestinians stranded in Egypt were allowed entry into Gaza over the week, the majority of whom were patients completing treatment in Egypt. Additionally, 2,489 left Gaza during the same period while 270 were barred from travel at the crossing, the statement detailed.

UAE doctor restores hearing in Gaza
The Gaza Strip has the highest rate of deafness in the world due to explosions from Israeli military attacks and inter-familial marriage, a leading otologist said Saturday. Mazin Al-Hajiri is on his second visit to Gaza from the United Arab Emirates to perform cochlear implants, restoring the hearing of dozens of the Strip’s residents. Each surgery costs $22,500, and Al-Hajiri personally raised funds from various charities in the gulf to pay for the operations. In developed countries, A-Hajiri told Ma’an that usually one in 1000 people are deaf, but in Gaza studies suggest the figure is one in 100.

Morocco to fund new hospital in Rafah
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reportedly allocated 50 dunums (50,000 square meters) of Gaza Strip lands west of Rafah to build the facility. Sources in the government said the location was chosen following studies, which indicated the district was in most urgent need of a medical care facilities for the 200,000 residents of the city. [and they are going to get the construction materials into Gaza how?]

* Israel’s Arab helpers

Egypt destroys four Gaza smuggling tunnels
Egypt has said it destroyed over 20 tunnels in September alone along its 11-kilometer-long border with the enclosed enclave — Egyptian security forces have destroyed four tunnels leading across the border to the Gaza Strip, one of them large enough to smuggle cars, officials said Saturday.

* ‘Peace talks’ / Political developments

Abbas spokesman: No peace negotiations while Israel builds settlements
After meeting of PLO executive committee in Ramallah, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas says there will be no peace talks ‘in the shadow of continued settlement’.

Mitchell tours region in bid to save talks
As Palestinian leaders meet in Ramallah, US Envoy to the Middle East peace process George Mitchell began a tour of the region in an attempt to secure the backing of the Arab world for continued peace talks.  With an Arab League meeting planned for 6 October, White House officials said Mitchell left Jerusalem for Doha on Friday where he will meet with officials early on Saturday then travel to Cairo and Amman on Sunday.

Palestinians: Ball in Netanyahu’s court
PA’s chief negotiator Erekat says keys for saving peace negotiations in Israeli prime minister’s hands. ‘Peace and settlements are parallels,’ he says. Palestinian officials estimate, however, that PLO will approve return to talks if Israel builds in settlement blocs only – under supervision,7340,L-3962583,00.html

Assad: Peace talks boost Obama’s image
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Saturday that peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are aimed at bolstering Obama’s political image. “There is no goal but to gain support for Obama within America,” he told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, adding that “there has been no change in the peace process in Palestine.”,7340,L-3962697,00.html

White House denies Mideast Obama letters (UPI)
U.S. President Obama wrote to Mahmoud Abbas promising support for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders if he remains in peace talks, Maariv reported. The White House denied the existence of a such a letter to the Palestinian Authority president as well as reports of a letter sent by Obama to Israeli President Binyamin Netanyahu, the newspaper said.

UNRWA chief: Gaza must not be marginalized
The chief of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday that Gaza must not be left “in the margins.” Addressing a conference at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, the UNRWA Commissioner-General warned that, following prolonged and repeated crises in Gaza “consciously or not, many embrace the self-fulfilling rhetoric that seeks to justify its exclusion as a place beyond salvation.”

Bringing the PFLP back into PLO fold?
The Palestinian People’s Party extended its hand on Friday to leaders from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, asking that the faction take part in Saturday’s PLO discussions. As of late Friday, however, PFLP’s politburo chief Khalida Jarrar confirmed that the party intended to boycott the meeting, saying the current mechanism for Palestinian decision making was inadequate and unrepresentative, and that the party would not lend it support by participating now.

Fatah: Palestinians support Abbas’ position
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestinians support President Mahmoud Abbas’ position that talks could not continue without a freeze in settlement activity, a Fatah spokesman said Friday. Usama Al-Qauasmi said the renewed settlement activity across the West Bank demonstrated that Israel was not interested in peace. This was also demonstrated by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s recent provocative statements, the spokesman said.

* Other news

PCBS: Palestinian women’s life expectancy higher than men’s
As the UN marked International Day of Older Persons on Friday, studies revealed that life expectancy in the occupied Palestinian territories was 70.8 years for men and 73.6 years for women. A study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said Palestinians over 60 years old represented 4.4 percent of the total population of the West Bank and Gaza, and within this group, 55 percent were women.

Israeli Arab MK: Racism in Israel has reached frightening levels
Some 6,000 Israeli Arabs march in memory of 13 youths who were killed by Israel Police officers in October 2000 riots; Israeli Arabs call for suspects to be tried, declare general strike.

Shin Bet at loss after counter-espionage campaign in Gaza
GAZA, (PIC)– A Palestinian security source said that a state of confusion prevails inside Israel’s internal security Shin Bet after the Palestinian security apparatuses successfully eliminated its network of spies in the Gaza Strip and confiscated electronic gadgets used for intelligence activities.

Memorial for Druze soldier evokes piercing criticism of leadership
Madhat Yousef, left by IDF to bleed to death after being wounded in action guarding Joseph’s Tomb 10 years ago, remembered at ceremony attended by captive soldier Gilad Shalit’s mother, Aviva. His brother Mehdi reads letter for Shalit, asserting same leadership who abandoned Madhat is abandoning Gilad,7340,L-3962490,00.html

13,000 Quran memorizers to be honored in Gaza
They have learned the Quran by heart by attending the “Al-Aqsa Quranic Generation” courses held during summer … Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as well as Ahmad Bahr head of the legislature will be attending the ceremony.

Ancient tree to help turn Jericho into tourist hub
JERICHO, West Bank (AP) — With a giant trunk and boughs towering 60 feet high, a gnarled sycamore near Jericho’s main square has long been touted as the very tree that the hated tax collector climbed to get a glimpse of Jesus. Now it’s taking center stage in a plan to transform this ancient desert backwater into a tourism hub.

Palestine pledges fund to Arab League initiative
Palestine allocated $1 million to a Kuwaiti initiative supporting small business projects in the Arab world, Palestinian Authority National Economy Minister Hasan Abu Libda announced Saturday. [is that $1 million of the funds given to Palestine by other countries?]

* Analysis / Opinion / Human interest

The impending collapse of Israel in Palestine / Francis Boyle
For the Palestinians to sign any type of comprehensive peace treaty with Israel would only shore up, consolidate, and guarantee the existence of Zionism and Zionists in Palestine forever.  Why would the Palestinians want to do that?  Without approval by the Palestinians in writing, Zionism and Israel in Palestine will collapse … All the demographic forces are in favor of the Palestinians and against the Zionists … Israel is ridden with and paralyzed by so many internal contradictions and conflicts that they are too numerous to list here. [By the author of Palestine, Palestinians and International Law]

Disguising reality of aggression / Hasan Abu Nimah
…The departure from accurate terminology and the adoption of misleading formulas has been quite systematic and deliberate – a way to change perceptions of what the conflict in Palestine is about and how it can indeed be solved. With the passing of time, the desired results were largely realised. Large sectors of people worldwide have been safely distanced from the real attributes of the conflict; and so have many Arabs, especially the youth. The adoption of imported terminology, often crafted in Israel and disseminated by influential Western media, officials and think tanks, and by some Arab quarters and media under their influence, has contributed substantially to allowing such deceptions to take root.

Mid-East talks and the Palestinian exodus / Ashraf Ezzat
The Exodus of the Palestinians from Palestine is the Israeli Idea of an Everlasting Peace — …The Palestinians are in no position to dictate any terms and they are stuck in no war – no peace zone. They cannot offer anything tempting to the Israelis. Some argue that security is a winning card for the Palestinians negotiators, but most of the Arab-Israeli conflict analysts don’t think so.

Washington Post continues distorted coverage on flotilla raid / Alex Kane
…There is a lot of evidence to throw the Israeli account into question, but four months later the Post still can’t get it right. While the paper’s September 29 report on the UN Human Rights Council endorsement of a report by three human rights experts that found the raid brutal, illegal and disproportionate opened with a decent lead … the piece quickly attempts to discredit the report by citing Israeli and U.S. objections to it. And then there’s this short account of the actual attack: “The commandos, who were attacked and beaten while rappelling onto the ship’s deck, killed nine passengers as they seized control.”

A Palestinian mayor in Safra Square / Nir Hasson
With Jerusalem split evenly between secular Jews, Haredim and Arabs, Palestinians could take both the mayoralty and city council just by going to the polls en masse … What would happen if Palestinian politicians were to decide, for the first time since 1967, to take advantage of the voting rights possessed by the city’s 250,000 Palestinians?

The second intifada, 10 years on / Seth Freedman
For Israelis and Palestinians the legacy of the 2000 uprising is a cycle of trauma and violence — making prospects for peace bleak … of the dozens of Palestinians my age who I’ve met and interviewed over the last four years, almost all speak of a mirror-image desire to fight for their country in the same way my peers and I took up arms for ours. Watching the continuing expropriation of their land, witnessing the daily humiliations suffered by their elders and betters at the hands of teenage soldiers, burying wave after wave of dead militants and civilians alike – regardless of the political decisions behind both sides’ intransigence, it would take superhuman strength not to be devastatingly affected by such brutal experiences.

Defining ‘Jewish state’: For many, term has different meanings / Glenn Kessler, WaPo
Nine years ago, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered a speech on the Middle East in which he briefly called on Palestinians to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” Powell doesn’t recall how the phrase ended up in his speech, but David Ivry, then the Israeli ambassador to the United States, says he persuaded an aide to Powell to slip it in. From that small seed – the first time a U.S. official took sides on the issue – a significant and potentially insurmountable hurdle has emerged

Overcoming AIPAC is not enough / Dr. Lawrence Davidson
Two stories have recently appeared, each discussing a different approach to overcoming the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby that presently has enough clout to substitute its own parochial interests for the national interest … The truth is that the two approaches, one centered on the national capital and the other centered on main street, have to be pursued simultaneously. And, there is now movement at both levels. Yet the pace of change is agonizingly slow. And that fact raises the question of just how much of Palestine will be left when AIPAC’s influence is finally overcome?

Sanchez’s first mistake / Philip Weiss
I must point out that Rick Sanchez, who was unceremoniously fired by CNN today for talking some trash about Jon Stewart and the Jewish ownership of networks, was one of the few network anchors to give any attention to the Palestinian side of the story. He was plainly alarmed by the Israeli assault on Gaza in 08-09. He interviewed Palestinian lawyer Diana Buttu. And below, he interviewed Mustafa Barghouti, and showed that Israel broke the cease-fire ahead of the Gaza onslaught.

What unity could look like / S. C. Yuter
…While most unity agreements involve the collapse of the Hamas government in Gaza and its amalgamation into a West Bank PA framework, increasing criticism of the PLO, as unrepresentative and biased, give credence to new ideas that recognize the legitimacy of Hamas as a ruling party elected by the Palestinian people, but bring the government into an international fold by extending a 10-year hudna, or truce, to Israel, under the umbrella of which sides could develop trust and end the siege on Gaza.

Musical storytelling: Reem Kelani interviewed
…Kelani has met with predictable refusals to engage with the politics of her Palestinian identity. A commission for the music for a 1992 BBC documentary commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres included instructions not to use the words Sabra, Shatila, Palestine or Israel. But, she says, it is the world music scene which, while presenting itself as progressive and as engaging with indigenous peoples’ rights, has most insidiously undermined her progress as a Palestinian artist … “The reason is that Israel is very big on the world music scene…”

Forbidden city / Edward Platt
Shut out of Jerusalem, Arab artists have responded cleverly — A short film by the French-Moroccan artist Bouchra Khalili makes explicit the smothering restrictions on movement that preoccupy some of the contributors to “Future Movements: Jerusalem”, a group exhibition that opened on the first day of the Liverpool Biennial. Mapping Journey 3 is shot in a single take from above, with a static camera, and shows the hand of an unseen man moving across a map of Jerusalem, as he describes how he gets from his home in Ramallah to his girlfriend’s home in the suburb of Sheikh Jarrah.

AlJazeera English video: Gaza Horse Club
In Gaza, resisting Israel takes many different forms. One man has turned his anger into passion – and built a horse riding club. Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reports from Gaza.

* Iraq

Friday: 8 Iraqis killed, 13 wounded
Excerpt: at least eight Iraqis were killed and 14 more were wounded in light prayer day attacks across the country. In Baghdad, a blast at an Awakening Council (Sahwa) checkpoint killed three and wounded seven more, including worshippers from a nearby mosque. A sticky bomb wounded a civilian in Amiriya. A blast at a popular Jamiya sweets shop left an unknown amount of casualties. Gunmen killed one civilian and wounded two others yesterday in Camp Sara. Gunmen wounded a lt. colonel from the presidential guard.

Iraq sees lowest monthly toll since January (AFP)
A total of 273 Iraqis were killed as a result of violence in September, the lowest figure since January, according to government figures released on Friday. The toll, released by the health, interior and defence ministries, showed that 185 civilians, 55 police and 33 soldiers died in attacks in the first month after Washington officially declared an end to combat operations here.

Kurdish official: Lawmakers to discuss al-Maliki
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq – Kurdish lawmakers began Saturday to plot their course as Iraq’s kingmakers with enough seats to secure a second term for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and press key demands including a greater say over the oil riches in the country’s north.

IMF releases $741 million loan to Iraq (AFP)
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The International Monetary Fund said Friday it was releasing 741 million dollars in financing to Iraq after the country made good progress in reconstructing the war-torn economy. The loan is the second installment of a 24-month loan the IMF awarded to Iraq in February.

Iraqis still reliant on power generators as US prepares to leave
IN BAGHDAD – As the U.S. military prepares to leave Iraq, Iraqis are still asking: What about the electricity? In 2003, they heard President George W. Bush’s promise: “We will help them to restore basic services, such as electricity.” Seven years later, the state’s inability to provide reliable power to homes remains one of the most striking signs of the dysfunction that persists here and a nagging source of frustration for ordinary Iraqis.

* Other Mideast

Lebanon row over Ahmadinejad visit
Lebanon’s largest parliamentary bloc has expressed concerns at a planned visit of the Iranian president to the country on October 13. In a statement issued on Friday, the March 14 alliance described Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming visit as a “provocation.”

Assad visits Iran to boost ties
Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has arrived in Tehran on a trip aimed at reassuring Iranian leaders that the alliance between the two countries is solid despite Syria’s improved relations with the US.

Iran ‘detains Western spies’ after cyber attack on nuclear plant
…The intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, said western “spy services” were behind the complex computer virus that recently infected more than 30,000 computers in industrial sites, including those in the Bushehr nuclear power plant, appearing to confirm the suspicion of computer security experts that a foreign state was responsible.

A politically correct band with a message
The Egyptian group Black Theama has articulated a soundtrack for defiance with socially conscious lyrics that resonate with a disaffected twentysomething generation.,0,6351305.story

BBC Video: ‘Drive-by’ tourism that hurts Jordan’s economy
The ancient city of Petra in Jordan attracts millions of tourists every year; but few local people see any real benefit from the tourist trade because visitors often stay in chain hotels and travel with big tour companies. In response the authorities have launched a plan to use the money generated to pay for local health care and education.

Muslim world atwitter over Twitter
…Facebook and Twitter are fast becoming a chronic headache to many extollers of Islam, who value control over their public. Security issues arise, clerics worry over the corruption of youth, and extreme rightists fear foreign influence.,7340,L-3962714,00.html

Amnesty Int’l: Saudi Arabian king urged to commute ‘sorcery’ death sentences
Lebanese national ‘Ali Hussain Sibat and ‘Abdul Hamid bin Hussain bin Moustafa al-Fakki, from Sudan, are both sentenced to death on this controversial charge, which has been used to punish people for exercising their right to freedom of expression … The crime of ‘sorcery’ is not defined in Saudi Arabian law. However, the authorities have arrested scores of people on ‘sorcery’ charges in recent years.

* Afghanistan / Pakistan

US still taking a hard line on peace talks with Taliban / Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON – Following serious setbacks to the U.S. military’s war plan in Afghanistan, the Barack Obama administration has taken the first tentative step toward a negotiated settlement of the conflict by actively seeking to ascertain the willingness of the Taliban to enter into negotiations, according to a source familiar with the administration’s thinking about the issue.

NATO tankers set ablaze in Pakistan
Attack on tankers carrying supplies to troops in Afghanistan follows deaths of Pakistani soldiers in Nato strikes.

Deaths in Pakistan ‘drone’ attacks
Missiles fired by suspected US drones in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province have killed 16 people, sources say. In the first raid on Saturday, nine people were reportedly killed after missiles hit a house in the Datta Khel area, close to the Afghan border.

US drone strikes kill 18 militants in Pakistan (Reuters)
* Saturday’s drone attacks part of escalation * Houses, vehicle targeted … Two U.S. drone attacks killed 18 militants in Pakistan on Saturday, intelligence officials said, after recent NATO incursions raised tensions with an ally critical to Washington’s war effort in Afghanistan.

‘Bin Laden’ urges help for Pakistan
Al-Qaeda leader calls on Muslims around the world to mobilise aid for flood victims in new audio tape.

* U.S. and other world news

No regard for human life / Leili Kashani
On September 28, Judge Ellen Huvelle affirmed the D.C. District Court’s decision to dismiss Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld, a civil lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel concerning three men who died in detention at Guantánamo in June 2006. Her decision came despite new evidence from four soldiers stationed at the base, which strongly suggests the three men were murdered at a secret site at Guantánamo and that the government worked hard to cover up the true cause and circumstances of the deaths.

Feds want case dropped against Afghan
The motion to dismiss was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in the case against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, who had been accused by prosecutors of lying about his ties to terrorist groups on his citizenship application … Muslims who followed the case said they were pleased with the government’s move to dismiss the case and believed Niazi had been charged because he declined to become an informant for the FBI. [See The FBI: Foiling its own plots since 9/11]

Official at center of Pa. terror-alert flap quits
The director of the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security has quit, telling the governor that he made the decision after reflecting on the uproar over anti-terrorism bulletins that tracked the actions of peaceful citizens’ groups.

‘Blackwater’ gets new US contract
Private security firm now known as Xe has a slice of a new $10bn state department contract despite repeated violations.

Is the Pope Catholic? / Derrick Jackson
No wonder so many people think President Obama is a Muslim. Americans are ignorant about religions … only half of Americans know the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, only 27 percent know that most people in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, are indeed Muslims and that only half of Christians correctly identify the Koran as the holy book of Islam.

Joseph Massad at AUC: Translating Islam
Arab authors, in spite of writing a great deal about religion, rarely used the word Islam in book titles until the 19th century, according to the professor … As use of the word Islam grows, Massad said, so does the creation of loaded antonyms like “freedom,” “modernity,” and “democracy”–less than subtle and less than informed condemnations of Islam.

The NYT is wrong again on settlement legality

Oct 02, 2010

James North

The New York Times makes another stab today at telling the truth about the legality of Jewish-only “settlements” in the West Bank, and fails again:

The settlements, which most countries consider illegal, . .

“Most countries?”  Ethan Bronner is insinuating that there is a minority group of countries that do accept the Israeli colonies.  Which are they?  Most of us thought Israel was the only one, that even the United States regards them as a violation of international law.

Is the new definition of “most” “everyone but Israel?” 

Jewish identi-kit(h)

Oct 02, 2010

Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel 

A question often raised on this blog is “What is Jewish identity?” Religious commitment, especially of the Orthodox variety, is easy to understand, but what is a Jewish atheist? Some commenters here have argued that there is really little more to it than a few comfort foods and a nominal holiday or two – and even those are essentially religious. Phil talks about distinctive culture (bookishness, humour, Yiddishisms), values (education, civil rights) and a sense of tribal affinity or kinship. He also talks about an inculcated sense of superiority, which could easily be filed under any of these headings. But how much of this is really “Jewish,” and how long can it last beyond the immigrant generations and their memories of unique (primarily religious, but also linguistic) Jewish cultures in the shtetl, ghetto, melah or juderia? The element of “kinship” might offer some answer, but without specific content, it is just a club?

Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan argued (see e.g. Questions Jews Ask [New York:1956], 3-73) that in an age in which observance of Jewish ritual is on the decline and there is nothing particularly distinctive about “Jewish” values or beliefs, the idea of Jewish peoplehood offers the only lasting basis for Jewish identity and Jewish life. In Kaplan’s view, peoplehood includes “awareness of a common history and a common destiny” and a shared set of “sancta” (“texts, heroes, objects, places and events”), while recognising significant diversity between different Jewish groups and streams. Kaplan was a Zionist, and viewed the establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine as essential to Jewish survival in the post-Rabbinic era, although he was more of a cultural Zionist, along the lines of Ahad Ha’am and Judah Magnes. As a matter of fact, he and the Reconstructionist movement he founded had a complete programme for the “reconstitution of the Jewish People,” of which Zionism (without displacing the indigenous population of Palestine!) was only a part.

I see nothing wrong with the idea of peoplehood in and of itself – Shlomo Sand notwithstanding. I also identify with Phil’s feeling that his activism is related, in part, to his concern for his fellow Jews, which is why I am so pained by the fact that “my people” would appear to have put all of its identity eggs in two equally disastrous baskets (a single basket with two compartments?): Israel and anti-Semitism (or more specifically, the Holocaust). I don’t think I need to go into why these two dominant components of Jewish consciousness are so destructive. Let it suffice to say that a sense of ethnic destiny (see Sand) and a culture of victimhood are a noxious mix that can only end badly for Jews and non-Jews alike. So what are the alternatives? Is religion alone (even one in which one does not believe) really not enough? How about the construction of a just and democratic state in Israel/Palestine? Would the very presence of non-Jews “spoil” it all, or would learning to interact in a moral fashion with those we have wronged and oppressed not provide the very opportunity for growth and improvement that we are denied when we view ourselves primarily as entitled victims? The possibility certainly echoes elements of Jewish tradition and the work of modern Jewish philosophers such as Buber, Levinas and Hermann Cohen who were, in turn, influenced by that tradition.

To address a couple of the thoughts raised by Phil’s previous post, I don’t believe there is necessarily a contradiction between considering all people one’s “kin” and having a specific tribal identity – or rather a number of tribal identities. I consider Jews part of my tribe, but I also consider Palestinians part of my tribe, in a way that just doesn’t work for Finns or Indios – as much as I may feel various other sorts of kinship with them, first and foremost as human beings. Second, I think too much is made of the supposed negative effects of Jewish “historical” holidays (Passover-Purim-Hannukah) and the emphasis they place on oppression and salvation. These holidays are and can be filled with so much positive meaning, that the core narrative of the holiday need not have any nasty side-effects that kids (and adults) can’t handle. That is unless of course they are manipulated to serve a specific ideological and political end, which is indeed what has happened in Zionist education in Israel and abroad.  As with peoplehood, it’s all about content.

Palestinian children betrayed by aid agencies

Oct 02, 2010

Eleanor Kilroy

Children develop a keen sense of injustice at an early age. This is experienced by exasperated carers all over the world as protestations, ad nauseam, of unfairness: “but she has a bigger piece; why can’t I go too?” Strategies employed, with limited success, include distracting the little people with alternate entertainment or treats, and fooling them into believing that they have actually got the better deal. Children grow wary of their carers’ motives not without reason. In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), children have the right to feel profoundly aggrieved for the betrayal is of a far more serious nature. A September 2010 report has found that Palestinian children’s rights to life and liberty are being sacrificed, as major donor agencies fail to challenge the Israeli state’s violations of international laws for fear of offending influential political lobbies.  

Beyond the fundamental right to life, “access of children to basic services, to social and leisure opportunities and to the care and nurturance of relatives beyond the immediate household has become subject to the whim of the Israeli administration and military forces”, as stated in the recent Oxford University Refugee Studies Centre’s Policy Briefing, “Protecting Palestinian children from political violence: the role of the international community” by Dr Jason Hart and Claudia Lo Forte. Interviews for the Briefing were conducted in the UK with former and current senior agency staff from various child focused organisations. Around 120 interviews and focus groups were conducted with individuals and groups that ranged from donor agency staff, PA officials, UN, INGO and NGO staff, teachers, parents and children in a range of locations across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. While the Briefing begins with the devastating loss of young life during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2008/9, due to “issues of access and time” the authors were unable to visit the besieged strip as part of their research.  

Child protection is the responsibility of the state, but Hart and Lo Forte’s findings strongly indicate that in the context of a prolonged Israeli military occupation, the absence of a sovereign Palestinian state, and as long as the so-called ‘Middle East Peace Process’ grinds on, the task of protecting children and ensuring their wellbeing disproportionately falls to INGOs and UN agencies. These bodies are failing to make meaningful interventions in cases of persistent violations of children’s rights because of the dominant tendency to focus on response to threats rather than prevention, and the avoidance of political engagement with the Israeli state and its sponsors:

The close and dependent relationship of most child protection organisations to major western governments, means that their work is constrained accordingly. For example, the alleged reluctance of UNICEF to take a public stand in challenging Israel’s violations as a signatory to the UNCRC and other international legal instruments was attributed by several interviewees primarily to fear of alienating funders as well as those with political influence in the US, where the pro-Israel lobby is immensely powerful.

As one interviewee remarked, “We had more pressure on what we could say about violations of children’s rights from New York than even from the Israeli government.”

Rather than tirelessly advocating for the removal of the menace of Israeli state violence and settler violence from the streets and from children’s schools and homes, the organisations focus the greater part of their energies and funds in identifying ever-dwindling ‘safe spaces’ for Palestinian children in which the latter can benefit from psychosocial activities and insultingly limited educational and cultural opportunities. As one Palestinian NGO worker commented to the authors of the Briefing:

… this morning I was really really upset because my daughters were going on a school trip and I know that just ten years ago a school trip meant that they were going up to Haifa, and going up to Tel Aviv / Jaffa, and one time they actually went to Jordan, stuff like that. And so this school trip one of my daughters was going to Jericho, which we go to every week, and one of them was going to Jenin and Qalqilya. And that’s a school trip… I think that this is a larger political issue – it’s trying to restructure and contain how people perceive their living spaces and how society is being formed.

Thus, foreign donors might congratulate themselves on helping to somewhat alleviate the suffering and daily traumas of occupation, whilst, in the case of USAID and Save the Children US, they can eschew all reference to this occupation by using the term, ‘West Bank and Gaza’. Following the Oslo Accords, Palestinian NGOs became increasingly professionalised: “The involvement of western bilateral and multi-lateral donors grew and with that came the imposition of standardised bureaucratic practices upon local NGOs and a focus upon technical expertise and bureaucratic competence. One result of this gradual shift away from activism and solidarity has been to distance Palestinians working for local NGOs from the grassroots in terms of agenda-setting and prioritisation. A Palestinian working at a local child-focused NGO commented upon this shift in the following terms: “I shouldn’t say this, but I think international organisations are trying to shut us up. In the past locals were out on the streets, now we’re in the offices.”

The failure to protect the rights of children under International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law severely impacts upon their carers – in particular women – and the wider community. Each year, approximately 700 Palestinian children are arrested, interrogated, prosecuted and detained in the Israeli military court system. Children are interrogated in the absence of a lawyer and family member, and the interrogations are not audio-visually recorded as an independent oversight against abuse. Reports of ill-treatment, and in some cases torture, are common, and the overwhelming majority of children confess during interrogation. Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) and Defence for Children International (DCI), Palestine, have jointly published details of the July 2010 arrest and 22 day detention without charge of two Palestinian 16 year olds by Israeli forces. The boys were held in solitary confinement for six days inside Israel, where they were interrogated by the notorious Shin Bet security agency. In ‘Voices from the Occupation’ (PDF), WCLAC fieldworkers listened to the testimony of one of the mothers. The lawyer told the children’s mother that the court had secret evidence against one of her sons: “He told us there is nothing a lawyer can do when the court relies on secret evidence. I couldn’t sleep for two days when I heard this. It felt like a dark black cloud had descended on me.’”  

The transfer of the two boys out of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and into Israel contravened Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, as Hart and Lo Forte found, “there is little evidence that major donors such as the EU, the governments of the UK and US, are prepared to take the kind of action at the political level that is required” to counter the systematic legal violations that so devastate the lives of children and their families. The Policy Briefing, “Protecting Palestinian children from political violence: the role of the international community” recommends, therefore, that the human rights crisis in the oPt requires a focus by the donors on root causes rather than effects, while the work of child protection organisations, however admirable, should be evaluated in terms of their impact preventing harm to Palestinian children arising from political violence, and “conversely, the unwillingness to go beyond ameliorative measures – such as psychosocial interventions – should become the focus of critical discussion.” There can be little doubt that Palestinian children are not fooled by international attempts to distract them from what is truly just and kind. 


Yonatan Shapira, a moral giant

Oct 02, 2010

James North

Anyone who has had the good fortune to meet Yonatan Shapira will be particularly sickened at the reports that he was tasered in the heart and left screaming after he and the others on the Jewish boat to Gaza were stopped illegally.  In person, Yonatan is friendly, likeable, and genuinely considerate of the opinions of others who do not agree with him.

Yonatan Shapira is also a moral giant.  He is the Israeli pilot who condemned his own air force for violating human rights and who refused to fly any more missions.  In 2003, he bravely confronted the air force commander, Lt. General Dan Halutz, about what are euphemistically called “targeted assassinations” — Israeli warplanes fired missiles at Hamas leaders in Gaza, also killing innocent bystanders, some of them children.

Yonatan asked General Halutz, What if a Hamas leader were located in Tel Aviv?  Would you order our pilots to fire there, risking Israeli bystanders?  Halutz said no.  So you value Israelis over Palestinians, Yonatan responded.  Get someone else to fly your aircraft. 

Yonatan, who is now 38, vigorously supports BDS, pointing out that it is a nonviolent program of change that Palestinians themselves came up with.  His outspokenness has attracted attention from the Israeli security agency, the Shin Bet.  

Shmuel has reminded us of the teaching of the rabbis: “Where there are no men, try to be a man.”  Some day, Yonatan Shapira will be in the history books.  By name.

Notes on my racism, part 3: ‘My people’

Oct 02, 2010

Philip Weiss 

The other day in a post on atavistic Jewish feeling, I offended some readers by using the words “my people” to describe Jews. I did so because it’s a genuine statement of a persistent tribal allegiance that I feel, even in my mid-50s, in a largely gentile world.

But let me try and explain just where the feeling comes from, how many other Jews share it, and to what extent I regard it as defensible, which to some extent I do.

As I’ve written before, I grew up in a bookish household with a very strong sense of how Jews were different and superior. Let’s leave the superior out of it; that’s not really the point of this post. We had different values and we were keenly aware of who was Jewish and who was not. We were more comfortable with Jews. The inner circle were NY Ashkenazi Jews but it spread out to include all European Jews and then all Jews anywhere, we thought of them as kinspeople. My parents’ closest friends were other New York Jews with whom they could share points of reference, Yiddish, and general cultural understanding and values. My mother’s favorite story just about was of a Jewish friend, her closest friend, who later moved to Israel, telling her that before she got married to her scientist husband, the fiance’s mother took her aside and said, “Do you really love J? You really do? Well then if you really loved him you would not marry him and let him find someone rich.” My grandparents generation were often immigrants, usually poor, and knew that learning – in that story, J was a gifted student—was socially highly-valued. Thus the Jewish doctor of a generation back (replaced today by the Jewish investment banker of Chelsea Clinton’s adoration).

I remember being instilled to feel a kinship to black people in Baltimore. I had black friends, my mther made connections to the black community. We regarded them as similarly outside and powerless, and also beneficiaries of civil rights legislation.

Pogroms and Holocaust shaped our view of our people. They had almost wiped “us” out in Europe with the connivance of the American State Department. My mother had six children, she often said, because she wanted to repopulate the world with Jews. We were in danger of extinction. We never realy went to synagogue, my scientist father looked down on rabbis, but big deal: we sought out the company of Jews, because they were smart and funny and shared our understandings. I have heard similar tribal attitudes expressed by a Jewish friend who dated non Jews in college but married a Jew because it was easier, and from a Palestinian friend who says she dates Arab men because there isn’t as much to explain personally.

I remember a non Jewish friend coming to my parents’ house to visit on Thanksgiving and getting very nervous within a few minutes. Where’s the liquor? He came up to me and murmured. I had to look in some old cabinet, for dusty bottles.

My sense of a Jewish people, of a continuous culture and understanding, informs my actions to this day. While I married a non Jew and have many non Jewish friends, I have a certain sense of loyalty to Jews, as an embattled people. When I go to Israel I generally don’t recognize the Israelis, who are as Shlomo Sand has said, a people, but I do recognize Ashkenazi Jews, be they Israelis or European.

This affinity is true even of some of my leftwing non Zionist friends. We occasionally look at one another and say, We are here not just out of devotion to human rights, but because we don’t want our people, the Jews to be hurt. In fact, we see our representation here in the Palestinian solidarity community, as proud Jews, as guarding against the thing we have always been warned about, that They are going to wipe us all out.

The belief that They are going to Wipe Us All Out, which is supported by history, to some degree, I can tell you is shared by many powerful Jews. They’ve told me so. Shmuel repeatedly urges people to give up trauma as a form of self-definition, but I can tell you that many people don’t take his advice, they are embracing it. Lately a friend when I asked him why he’s a Zionist said, Because they are always going to rise up against us, at some time or place. I don’t share that feeling, but there it is. 

My sense of my peopleness led me in college to seek out the company of other Jews at the Harvard Crimson newspaper, and to prefer the company of Jews in what struck me as an alien atmosphere. Yes, Ashkenazi Jews. Marty Peretz was a ringleader of the social studies Jews I knew, and there were haut German Jews, too, who were new to me, but still I had a sense of communality/caste identification. We saw each other as part of an elite with distinct values. When my mother asked me about my friends, I’d tell her about the Jews. My closest three friends were all Jews.

As I’ve said here often, I think that Jews hired other Jews. I know I’ve benefited from this full employment program on numerous occasins in my life. I think that Marty Peretz had me working at the New Republic when my work wasn’t that good in good part because I’m Jewish and was in the gang. I think that the editor who has given me more work than anyone, who will go nameless, loves me in part because we’re of the same tribe. When you look at hives of Jewish writers, say the New Yorker Magazine, or the professors at Columbia University schools, I believe there is a strong kinship network at work. I’ve mentioned Lawrence Summers and Elena Kagan and Michael Walzer and Judith Shklar, their faculty networks at Harvard, as indicative of the same tendency.

Hey it was no different when the WASPs were running the center ring. Just read Digby Baltzell. Again, though, if you think it’s just a coincidence that David axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the two men closest to Barack Obama, are Jewish, when the Pritzkers and Crowns were so essential to Obama’s rise, with financial backing, I think you’re livin in dream land.

How bad or good is this? I think it just is. I don’t feel that bad about it. I think people are tribal. My wife has autochthonous WASP feelings and attachments she’ll never get over and I’ll never completely understand. Go figure. I like to think I’m fairly evolved – though yes I know people who are much more postracial than I am – still I have this tribal component. James North, who spurred this post, says he feels no allegiance to the Swedes, but to Americans. Good for him, I admire that, I’m a little different. Jeffrey Goldberg is different. I may not think about Is it good for the Jews? As the defining question, but I do think about it. When I was working in Minnesota a few years ago, a Norwegian-American guy was arrested for combing the marriage notices every week and sending out vicious anonymous letters to the couples who combined Swedish or Norwegian names and Irish names, any intermarriages. Or when I was at the Daily News in Philly, we did a police item about a rabbi arrested at the airport for embezzling synagogue money, and a Harvard friend’s father railed at me for putting that in the paper. That is the essence of the issue. He thought that it would feed stereotypes of Jews even though it was true, and he felt I had the power to block it, as I did, and he felt kinship with the rabbi even though he didn’t know him.

I titled this post Notes on my racism and undoubtedly these feelings feed racism. But they are real. To argue my friend’s father’s side for a moment, in the rabbi case, it came out of fear and insecurity, the fear that we would be wiped out, which again I have heard from some of the most empowered people on the planet. I don’t share that fear, I dedicate a lot of time on this site to arguing that history is moving in a completely different direction, but I feel a kinship with people who do, and as such I know that I will always be responding to that concern. I will always be in that conversation, even with members of my own family. I will argue, as Shmuel does, that you should not put Yad Vashem at the center of your world view. And we will win that struggle, some day. Still the fears are there, they unite people who regard themselves as a people, and if you think that we can get out of the Middle East mess without dealing with these identity issues, well–

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