Archive | November 27th, 2010

THE FUTURE OF FAYYADISM

NOVANEWS

 

The apartheid metaphor is fine for polemical purposes. For analytical ends, it is problematic. The central issue is that of labor dependency. Israel long ago replaced Gaza-as-bedroom-community with near-slaves from the Philippines and other Asian countries, and does not rely on West Bank-based Palestinian labor. In contrast, South Africa was vitally dependent on black labor from the Bantustans. So what’s the plan for economic growth in the West Bank (As always, forget Gaza)? A recent essay by Sam Bahour in the Middle East Research and Information Project lays out the economic trajectory of Fayyadism.

At best, these economic development programs are composed of industrial zones which “promise menial labor-intensive jobs to Palestinians who are extremely reliant on donor funds to maintain their livelihoods,” meant to shift over to a system based on foreign-capital inflows like the aid-based development model currently prevalent in the West Bank. The forthcoming programs are slightly different in that they “require Palestinians to sell their labor for the benefit of those commercial entities established in the industrial zones, which will depend on Israeli good will to succeed.”

The Palestinian economy will remain totally subservient to the Israeli economy, the corollary of the attempt at political subservience which the Obama administration is trying to enshrine through the Palestinian Authority. As Ethan Bronner quoted Israeli intelligence (in a racist, psychotic article last week), “If there will not be real progress, I believe we can find that sometime within three months, six months or one year from now, that the functioning of the Palestinian security system is in a very different place…In order to keep the legitimacy and functioning of the Palestinian security system, we need real progress in the peace process.”

That’s what Obama is trying to put in place, although the far-right composition of Netanyahu’s coalition makes Obama’s job a little harder than it would be with Livni in place. Hence the lubrication provided by the F-35 grant, both giving Netanyahu room to push a little bit more and giving a nice little sop to the American military-industrial complex in the process, Israel’s central role for American military-Keynesianism. All of this is a cul-de-sac for the Palestinians. With their economic system totally dependent on Israeli and international forbearance, the tax-strikes and civil disobedience that characterized the 1st Intifada won’t and can’t be reprised—they lack disruptive capability. Bahour finishes: “The development projects proposed by the international community only normalize the illegal occupation, by working in partnership with Israel to fine-tune its mechanisms of control.”

Economic Prison Zones

Sam Bahour

November 19, 2010

(Sam Bahour is a Palestinian business management consultant living in Ramallah. This essay was made possible with partial support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.)

When a project mixes the feel-good words of jobs, economic development and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, how can anyone complain? These things are some of what the international community has been promising to deliver through the construction of industrial free trade zones in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The free trade zone model has been promoted locally and globally by powerful third parties like the United States, France, Germany, Turkey and Japan for two decades, but none has much to show for the enormous efforts and amounts of money spent to bring these zones to life.

Nonetheless, the project’s proponents expect the zones to constitute the economic foundation for a future Palestinian state. They hope that, by bolstering Palestine’s economy, the zones will make Palestinians less prone to social upheaval, less insistent on their national rights and more amenable to the status quo. The idea is that a peace agreement with Israel will ensue.

While this expectation is unlikely to be realized — at least not in the way that the projects’ advocates anticipate — these mega-employment projects present a serious challenge to those who strive to build an independent and viable economic foundation for a future Palestinian state.  Because the zones will depend on Israeli cooperation to function, and because they will exist within an Israeli-designed economic system that ensures Palestinian dependence on Israel, they cannot form the basis of a sovereign economy. Relying on them will perpetuate the status quo of dependency.

Precedents

The industrial zones currently under construction in the West Bank are: the al-Jalama zone, in the north near Jenin, led by Germany with the support of Turkey;  the Bethlehem zone led by France and the Jericho Agricultural Park (the so-called Valley of Peace) in the Jordan Valley, led by Japan; the Tarqoumiyya Industrial Estate, in the south near Hebron, spearheaded by the World Bank and Turkey. In Gaza, the Erez Industrial Zone along the Gaza-Israel border was abandoned by Israel and is no longer operational. The Gaza Industrial Estate (which Israel calls the Karni Industrial Zone), a Palestinian-developed zone southeast of Gaza City, came to a standstill in 2007, when Israel heavily restricted the passageways into and out of Gaza. South Korea and India are also entertaining the idea of sponsoring a techno-park,[1] which may house more high-tech business, but this notion is the least developed of them all.

The longest-operating border zone is the Erez Industrial Zone located at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. It was estimated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to employ 20,000 Palestinians, but it never came close to employing a quarter of that number and in 2004, the Israeli minister of defense made a decision to withdraw Israeli firms located in the zone for security reasons.

The area became a no-man’s land. The Jerusalem Postreported on January 2, 2006 that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül visited Israel to sign agreements with Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) governing Turkey’s role in reviving the Erez industrial area. One Israeli official described the project as “the baby” of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan. But following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007, Turkey froze the project and the zone remains empty.

There is also a long-standing industrial area in the West Bank called Atarot, north of Jerusalem along the main road to Ramallah that, today, is split down the middle by Israel’s separation wall. The Atarot Industrial Area is fully operated by Israel and mostly hosts Israeli companies. Atarot sits on the western side of the separation wall, which makes it accessible to Palestinians from the West Bank only by way of a permit from the Israeli military.

At best, most of these industrial zones promise menial labor-intensive jobs to Palestinians who are extremely reliant on donor funds to maintain their livelihoods. The industrial zone project constitutes a shift from the current internationally funded welfare-like system, characterized by an inflated public sector and heavy subsistence handouts, to a system that is similarly based on foreign funding, but instead requires Palestinians to sell their labor for the benefit of those commercial entities established in the industrial zones, which will depend on Israeli good will to succeed. A closer look at how the zones are being developed, who is expected to profit from them and how they are connected to the global economy is telling.

 

Development for Peace

France is behind the creation of the Bethlehem Multidisciplinary Industrial Park, for which the PA issued title to 500 dunams (125 acres) of public property. French President Nicolas Sarkozy handpicked Valerie Hoffenberg, Paris director of the American Jewish Committee (a group that advocates for Israel), to be his “special envoy to the Middle East” for this purpose. It has been her job to oversee the project’s rollout.

In a report published in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz on May 27, 2010, in which Hoffenberg was interviewed at length, she told the story of how the industrial free zone project was born at a dinner she attended with Sarkozy and Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2008. According to Hoffenberg, the project was informed by a belief, shared by Peres and Sarkozy, that a viable Palestinian economy would encourage the peace process. Hoffenberg, who works out of the French Foreign Ministry building, describes her work as “a new form of diplomacy.” Before the industrial park’s inauguration, Hoffenberg arranged a meeting between French and Israeli businessmen in an effort to bring them into the project. “I recruited 36 companies, including CEOs of the most important companies, such as France Telecom, Schneider Electric, Publicis, Renault, Sephora, JCDecaux — the whole ‘A-Team,’” Hoffenberg boasted.

Another nascent enterprise is the German-Turkish industrial zone in al-Jalama, outside the Palestinian city of Jenin, a traditional agricultural area. The project is run by the PA, Israel and the Shamal Company. Bisan for Research and Development, a Palestinian NGO which has organized extensively around the industrial zone phenomenon, notes that the project has faced opposition from farmers in the Jezreel Valley, one of the most fertile areas in Jenin, and may fall apart as a result. The farmers have been refusing to sell their land, partly because it is unclear what kinds of factories will be built and partly because agricultural land has already been confiscated by Israel for construction of its separation wall.

The al-Jalama project has received scant media attention, but nevertheless, it is the one, along with the Bethlehem project, that is proceeding the fastest. The planning process for the zone started long before the intifada that began in the fall of 2000. Germany’s leading development bank, KfW Entwicklungsbank, was commissioned to conduct a rather expensive feasibility study and, as a result, Germany committed 10 million euros to fund the infrastructure of the zone. But when Israel launched a major military redeployment in all Palestinian cities in 2000, the project was put on hold and Jenin’s infrastructure was destroyed.

When the project was revisited in 2005, KfW was commissioned to update the feasibility study and Turkey was recruited to take part in the project. Supposedly, the Turkish side will acquire 75 percent and the Palestinian side 25 percent of the joint venture. It is unclear, however, if and how the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey following Israel’s assault on the Mavi Marmara aid ship will affect the project.

The US has mobilized to support all of these efforts through various means, most visible among them being support for reforms within the PA in Ramallah. This support is most apparent in PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s second-year program of the thirteenth government titled, “Homestretch to Freedom: Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.”

The program, which includes measures for reform in various aspects of government and economics, calls for, among other things, the development of industrial infrastructure by completing infrastructure works at industrial estates in Jenin, Bethlehem and Jericho and establishing three specialized industrial compounds, including for information technology, precious metals, renewable energy and leather industries. This program has received rave reviews from the US government and serves as a framework for the continued injection of donor funds.

Despite international enthusiasm at what is ostensibly a novel solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the notion that bringing economic development to the Palestinians will promote peace has its roots in Israeli policy from the beginning of the occupation. After Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt in 1967, living standards in the Occupied Territories soared. While this growth was largely attributable to remittances from Palestinian workers in the Gulf and across the Green Line, which divides Israel from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel invested in vocational training and agricultural development on a scale that had not been seen under Jordanian and Egyptian suzerainty.[2]

Despite these efforts, and because of continued Israeli military rule and the repression of Palestinian national aspirations, a grassroots uprising spread throughout the Occupied Territories in 1987, and continued up until the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. Thus it was a political solution, and not an economic one, that ultimately brought peace.

The notion that business links will foster peace because the economic returns of cooperation will outweigh the benefits of resistance can only hold if both sides stand to benefit equally from collaboration. For the Palestinians, the benefit is hoped to be economic. For the Israelis, the project is expected to promote a more quiescent opponent; but should the endeavor fail, it is unlikely to exact a heavy economic toll upon Israel. If the industrial zones are to form the basis of the Palestinian economy, the Palestinians, on the other hand, will feel economic pressure to bend to Israel’s will.

The project therefore assumes that the Palestinians are the spoilers of the peace process, and that if they can be persuaded to cooperate, a peace deal will be forthcoming. It does not leave room for the possibility that the status quo — separation — is indeed a viable option for Israel. Thus, rather than promoting a final settlement, this industrial zones project risks further entrenching Israel’s occupation.

 

Legal Status

Under the leadership of the late President Yasser Arafat, the PA enacted Law 10 of 1998 regarding industrial estates and industrial free zones. This law established a Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority (PIEFZA), which was to be the “one-stop shop for investors.” The PIEFZA board of directors consists of 11 members: seven PA ministers, two representatives of commercial developers and two representatives of chambers of commerce and industry and industrial federations. The industrial estates law states that PIEFZA shall be responsible for implementing policies pertinent to establishing and developing industrial estates and free zones in Palestine and issuing certificates to investors. Article 39 states that:

“Local goods and products supplied to the industrial free zone from any Palestinian territories shall not be subject to any established procedures, taxes or duties.” This exclusion has become a major concern for the local community given the rumor that Palestinian labor laws will not apply to workers who are employed in these zones. Likewise, Article 40 of the law stipulates: “All goods and products manufactured in the industrial free zones and exported abroad shall not be subject to the rules and legal procedures established for export, export taxes and any other taxes.”

A detailed search of the PIEFZA website reveals no information regarding the policies for establishing and developing zones. A written request for more information submitted to PIEFZA’s director general went unanswered. In addition, and puzzlingly, the investor’s application listed on PIEFZA’s website directs applicants to fax completed applications to a Gaza office, which presumably is now staffed by someone from Hamas’ government. That the process is so lacking in transparency is a poor reflection on the status of Palestinian institutional reforms. What good is investment in public institution building if these mega-employment centers are excluded from the systems being established?

Legal acrobatics aside, questions like who is importing materials into these zones and who is receiving the exports must be analyzed in much greater detail. Following the money trail will most likely lead to the same few Palestinians who have financially benefited from the Oslo process. One clear indication is the rush by specific economic entities and persons buying land in the vicinity of these planned zones. With the majority of Palestinian lands not formally registered with the Palestinian Land Authority, it would be impossible to understand who actually holds ownership of these lands.

 

Who Profits?

The working assumption is that these zones will be open for business to any Palestinian or international company wanting to establish a factory within them. Although the sectorial theme of each zone is unclear, if existing zones (such as the maquiladoras in Mexico or those in Jamaica) are any indication, the zones in Palestine will host “dirty” businesses — those that are pollution-prone and sweatshop-oriented. Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs) provide a regional example. The Jordanian QIZs were envisaged as forming the basis of regional economic cooperation after Jordan and Israel’s 1994 peace treaty. To provide incentives for cooperation, products produced in the QIZs fall under the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement as long as they have a minimum 8 percent contribution from Israel. A similar setup can be expected for Palestinian zones, especially given the US desire to promote a Middle East Free Trade Area.

While the Jordanian QIZs have generated 36,000 jobs, 75 percent of these have gone to foreign, mostly Asian, workers. [3] Given that the objective of the Palestinian zones is job creation, it can be expected that these zones would indeed employ Palestinian workers, but their special status raises questions about the working conditions that might dominate within them. The Jordanian QIZs, like many others around the world, are notorious for their exploitative labor practices.

According to two consultants to the Israeli government, the West Bank zones are expected to employ 150,000-200,000 Palestinians, nearly the same number that used to travel daily to Israel for work before the second intifada. [4] Studies from the Peres Peace Center project even higher numbers, estimating that 500,000 Palestinian workers will be employed in joint industrial zones by 2025. Israeli expectations do not stop there. The consultants also predicted that 30 percent of Palestinian businesses outside the zones will refocus their businesses to serve those enterprises located inside the zones.

In a nutshell, one can see a continuation of Israel’s scheme to reengineer the Palestinian economy away from its agricultural and tourism bases toward an economy that is dependent on Israeli public services and good will. This process has been unfolding since the start of Israel’s occupation in 1967. When the Israeli military took control of the West Bank and Gaza, it altered Palestinian agriculture by controlling the types of crops that could be planted to prevent competition with Israeli produce, seizing land to reduce the agricultural sector and taxing Palestinian exports while allowing Israeli products to enter the territories duty-free. The requirement that all industries obtain an Israeli license limited industrial development, as did higher taxes on Palestinian industries than on their Israeli counterparts. As a result, industries that developed tended to be those that provided Israeli industry with labor-intensive, low-cost products.

Palestinian industry, agriculture and labor were therefore developed to suit the needs of Israel’s economy. [5] After the second intifada, when Palestinian workers were barred from traveling to Israel, many returned to the theretofore neglected agricultural sector for work. [6] Today, this economic reengineering effort in the West Bank can be viewed as an attempt to relocate the scores of Israeli settlement enterprises, which depend on Palestinian cheap labor, to these newly created “Palestinian” zones, thus “legalizing” their existence.

The project fits well with Israel’s policy of separation — a policy that enables Israel to box in the Palestinians while maintaining control of their movements and economic viability. Separation has been implemented gradually since the 1993 Oslo accords, after which Israel tightened its border with the West Bank and Gaza but continued to employ Palestinians in menial jobs within Israel. Closures were used as a form of collective punishment to cut off Palestinians from their jobs across the Green Line.

After the second intifada broke out, Israel further tightened its border with the Occupied Territories. Later, Israel built the separation wall physically to divide Palestinian and Israeli populations, but Palestinian governing institutions, industry and freedom of movement continue to depend on Israel, which controls the borders surrounding the Occupied Territories and collects taxes for the PA. Foreigners replaced the Palestinian laborers who previously worked menial jobs in Israel.

Foreign workers, however, have proved to be an unsatisfactory solution for Israel, given its overriding prerogative to maintain the Jewish character of the state, as these non-Jewish workers are now attempting to settle permanently. [7] The QIZ scheme would reduce Israel’s dependence on foreign workers by bringing the factories to Palestinian workers now that they are prohibited from traveling to the factories.

Movement and Access

As long as Israel controls access and resources in the West Bank, the zones’ operation will remain precarious, perpetually at the mercy of positive relations between Israel and Palestine. Given the existing infrastructure of the West Bank, the water and electricity capacity of these zones will be totally controlled by Israel. Most importantly, Israel will maintain full control of the movement of goods and people between the zones and the outside world. By incorporating Israel’s infrastructure of control within the plans, these projects serve to normalize an illegal occupation and undermine Palestinian political aspirations.

When former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew from Washington to Tel Aviv in 2005 to strike a deal with Israel on Palestinian movement and access, it was clear that the US understood that without freedom of movement the Palestinian economy does not stand a chance, even if the economic framework being promoted has nothing to do with Palestinian economic independence. Although it signed the agreement, Israel refused to implement its terms, and the US failure to confront Israel means that the conditions necessary for Palestinian economic sustainability have not been met.

The World Bank acknowledges as much when it states repeatedly in its reports that, even while proclaiming 8 percent economic growth, the “critical private sector investment needed to drive sustainable growth remains hampered by restrictions on movement of people and goods.” It is clear that economic growth is not necessarily equivalent to economic development, especially in a politically charged, donor-driven environment like the Occupied Territories under the quasi-rule of the PA.

The privileged status of the zones also raises ethical concerns. While Israeli restrictions will be eased in order to ensure smooth functioning for foreign investors, indigenous industries will continue to face the same hurdles that have hindered Palestinian industry for decades. Thus, existing businesses will be placed at a comparative disadvantage.

 

What Needs to Happen?

Donor funds and Palestinian efforts would be better placed if such investments targeted Palestine’s natural economic comparative advantages, for example, tourism and agriculture, without trying to confine their activities to closed zones that will, over time, empty large tracts of land of their productive capacity, not to mention create structural dependency on Israeli good will to allow these closed zones to function properly. In a land that is home to the Church of the Nativity, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock and dozens or other historic attractions, it makes sense to preserve and develop these existing assets, which have the potential to serve as a pillar of a future state economy.

Converting the industries in the Atarot industrial zone into something more complementary to the historic city of Jerusalem, for example, could serve to underpin Palestine’s tourism sector as well as preserve the sanctity of the greater Jerusalem vicinity. Rather than building new industrial zones, Palestinian interests would be better served if the Atarot zone were returned to Palestinian control. Adjacent to the Atarot complex is the idle Qalandiya airport. The airport, which operated prior to Israel’s occupation in 1967, would be a crucial component in efforts to build Palestine’s tourism sector.

Similarly, confiscating agricultural land to make way for large industrial projects not only strips farmers of their livelihoods, but structurally adjusts a key segment of the labor force that, over time, will lose its skills. Agricultural development in Palestine is not in need of a “zone,” but rather requires Israel to comply with international law, to release Palestinian water resources and remove the myriad of access and movement restrictions that do not allow people or products to travel freely within Palestine and abroad. Trying to concentrate agricultural growth in a limited “zone” merely opens the door for farmers outside of the zone to become economically disenfranchised by public policy, instead of being equally supported regardless of their physical location.

Singing the song of massive job creation in industrial zones without analyzing all of the ramifications could be detrimental to Palestine’s economic and political future. Placing such zones of economic activity closer to population centers and rehabilitating existing near-city industrial areas makes more sense today given the volatile political situation and the need to upgrade existing in-city and near-city zones, many of which pose health and environmental risks to their surrounding communities. Building high-tech zones in the vicinity of university campuses would be a strategic starting point. Better yet, bringing such investments into the universities themselves, which are in dire need of modernization and sustainable development, would have a more lasting impact and be  a better deterrent of political turmoil.

While they might benefit a certain elite, the planned economic zones cannot benefit Palestinian strategic interests. The notion that political differences can be solved through job creation is fundamentally flawed and will not change the reality: 60 percent of Palestinians are internally displaced or dwell in refugee camps just hours from their homes and properties; 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza survive under siege conditions; hundreds of thousands have been illegally detained by Israel; and the economy is micro-managed by a foreign military. The development projects proposed by the international community only normalize the illegal occupation, by working in partnership with Israel to fine-tune its mechanisms of control.


 

Endnotes

[1] Ma‘an News Agency, February 2, 2010.

[2] Neve Gordon, Israel’s Occupation (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008), pp. 62-69.

[3EconomyWatch.com, April 19, 2010.

[4] Leila Farsakh, “Palestinian Labor Flows to the Israeli Economy: A Finished Story?” Journal of Palestine Studies 32/1 (Autumn 2002).

[5] Neve Gordon, Israel’s Occupation, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008), pp.72-5

[6] Anne Meneley, “Time in a Bottle: The Uneasy Circulation of Palestinian Olive Oil,” Middle East Report 248 (Fall 2008).

[7] Ynet, November 8, 2010.

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ZIO=NAZI MURDEROUS ATTACK MAVI MARMARA

NOVANEWS

November 26, 2010  

 

Ken O’Keefe, former US Marine and hero of Israel’s murderous attack onboard the Mavi Marmara in May joins the program from Gaza to discuss his involvement with the latest aid convoy in bringing supplies to the besieged Palestinians.

http://theuglytruth.podbean.com/2010/11/26/the-ugly-truth-podcast-nov-26-2010/

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on ZIO=NAZI MURDEROUS ATTACK MAVI MARMARA

LOOMING US-ISRAEL ‘SECURITY CATASTROPHE’

NOVANEWS

Yediot’s defense analyst on the looming US-Israel ’security catastrophe’

November 26, 2010

Read this one in full.

Alex Fishman is Yediot’s veteran defense analyst. Besides providing a detailed post-mortem of the latest fiasco in US-Israeli diplomacy, he makes a very blunt allegation: Netanyahu is selling out the IDF’s self-defined strategic interests and the good will of the US administration in order to buy political time.

In the economic jargon that Netanyahu loves to use, this would be called paying for recurrent expenditures with the proceeds from the sale of national assets.

Fishman concludes with a warning:

And so the time passes. In the meantime, there is no talk about a crisis in Israel-US relations, but rather a malfunction. If this goes on, the malfunction is liable to turn into a diplomatic catastrophe, if not a security catastrophe.

 

No (more) free gifts

Column, Alex Fishman, Yediot Friday Political Supplement, November 26 2010

People in the Ministry of Defense are worried. The National Security Council, headed by Uzi Arad, department officials were informed, is quietly preparing a position paper on a uniquely sensitive subject: an Israeli proposal for a strategic defense alliance with the United States. It turns out that the IDF is really not interested in the deal, which would mean among other things significant limitations on Israel’s independent ability to act against threats near and far.

But this is not the only reason that department officials are suspicious of Arad’s secret document. For many months, together with the Americans, they have been crafting a basket of security guarantees for the coming 20 years, to the tune of USD 20 billion. All of a sudden unnecessary, discordant plans are being shoved at them — coming from the direction of the prime minister —that talk about a defense alliance that does not link up with any clear and consistent policy which also has some sort of goal at the end.

The strange story about the alliance that is being cooked up in the Prime Minister’s Bureau is reminiscent of another strange story: the strange connection between the deal for F-35 aircraft that is scheduled to come to fruition in 2017 (!) and Israel’s agreement to freeze building in the territories for another three months. What possible connection is there between the defense deal, which is part of America’s traditional commitment to retaining Israel’s military superiority, and the building freeze? That’s it, there is no connection.

Both of these strange stories have one common denominator. The person behind them knows full well that creating a defense alliance would require a very problematic and complicated political process in the United States, including approval by both houses of Congress, and the chances of such a proposal ever being actualized are not terribly high. Just like he knows that President Obama’s commitment to give Israel a present of 20 planes, at a cost of more than USD 2 billion on top of Israel’s annual aid package, is essentially impossible in today’s economic climate. The president will have to explain to his constituents exactly why he is distributing presents abroad at a time when factories are closing in Detroit. It’s almost an invitation for political suicide.

And the fellow who prepared this trap for him — the prime minister of Israel — knew exactly what he was doing. Netanyahu is doing everything he can to buy time, to postpone the end and to get out of making a decision about the future of the process with the Palestinians.

Price of scorn

So Netanyahu promised the public that if there are no gifts — there will be no negotiations; the Americans don’t know what gifts he’s talking about, and now Israelis are racking their brains trying to figure out how to word a statement that will get the prime minister out of the trap he got himself into. So they are talking about the possibility that the Americans will give a grant that will cover part of the cost of 20 aircraft, with the rest to come out of Israel’s foreign aid package. In any event we are only talking about 2017. In the meantime, Israel-Palestinian talks are frozen.

How did Israel get itself into this dangerous jam, which links the basic American commitment to Israel’s security to negotiations with the Palestinians?

It turns out that eight months ago, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James E. Cartwright, met with Director of the IDF Planning Branch Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. Around the same time, senior IDF officials visited the Pentagon. The goal of the intensive meetings was to map out Israel’s security needs and to create a joint package that would answer the threats Israel is likely to face in the coming 20 years.

The deal is essentially done for the long term, and it will eventually replace another program of foreign aid to Israel, to the tune of USD 30 billion, that is due to expire in 2017. In short: one plan to replace another and American commitments to Israel are secure at least until 2030.

Efforts to create the current package began at the end of the Bush Administration, when President Bush instructed his National Security Advisor General Jim Jones, to begin negotiations with Israeli army officials about Israel’s security needs. The goal was two-fold: one, to make good on America’s basic commitments to Israel’s security. Two, to give expression to a world view that said then, as it does now, that a secure Israel is a generous Israel: by ensuring Israeli security, Israel will cooperate with American political efforts in the Middle East.

Here, of course, we were a little bit dismissive of Jones. They sent a colonel to meet with him, a four-star general. They were sure Jones was coming to show just how overstated our threat assessment was, what cry babies we are and how we demand equipment and money far in excess of what we really need. In short: Jones came to screw us.

Eventually Jones became Obama’s national security advisor and here, after the hazing he underwent, they still cannot figure out why he isn’t making an effort to be nice.

It took several months until we understood that he was serious and started to cooperate with him. And eventually, as Obama was poised to take office, he produced a terrific paper in which he set out the fundamental security problems facing Israel and the possible solutions. The Jones document spoke of three circles of threat: the circle of terrorism, the circle of nearby enemy nations and the third, outer circle of strategic threats, including the question of Iran and the nuclear bomb.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu adopted the paper with all his heart, and every time he traveled to the United States he quoted from it. The three circles of threat became Israel’s basic security assessment to the administration.

These efforts between the Pentagon and the Defense Ministry to implement this approach continued unabated even during the darkest hours between the prime minister and the White House. The results of these efforts can be seen today: information sharing with the Americans about the Iranian threat, for example, is broader and deeper than it has ever been. The Americans have also expanded the amount of military equipment they store in Israel from $800 million to $1.2 billion, the F-35 deal is on the way and Israel got weapons the US previously resisted giving.

It’s not that there are no disagreements between Israel and the United States about the levels of threat, but the dialogue continued as long as  and is moving towards actualization that would ring the basket of American commitments to Israel’s security for the coming 20 years.

Last July Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to patch things up with President Obama and mentioned the three circles. But in the same breath Netanyahu surprised Obama, saying if you give me 20 years of security guarantees for these three circles, you’ll be surprised at the risks I’ll take. I’ll surprise all the skeptics and move towards negotiations. Obama shook his hand: We’ve got a deal. I’ll sew up the security issues, and you sew up the political and diplomatic ones.

The president wouldn’t give details. When you ask his aides today why he didn’t ask Netanyahu at the time some basic questions—what sort of arrangement do you see with the Palestinians, what’s your stance on Jerusalem, what about Palestinian refugees—they answer: Obama made a deal. From his perspective if it doesn’t come to fruition, Netanyahu will pay in spades.

Freeze equals reward

After the visit, the president instructed aides to speed up work on the basket of guarantees. The head and deputy head of America’s National Security Council instructed the various bodies involved with the matter to push forward the matter of Israeli security. Slowly, an approach started to emerge defining Israel’s security threats and the requisite answers.

Israeli and American teams had difficulty reaching agreement on certain issues. Israel’s political echelon couldn’t give answers about fundamental questions like Israel’s exact borders, from which it would be possible to carve out an answer to the security threat. The IDF and ministry of defense were fully prepared to write up a long shopping list of military equipment to buy with the USD 20 billion, starting with a variety of multi-level anti-ballistic interception systems, warning and intelligence systems, and ending with precise ammunition that Israel’s never had before and deep intelligence agreements. In short: In 20 years the IDF would improve its equipment on all fronts.

The list also included one point that dealt with the addition of more F-35 planes, with a goal of eventually reaching three stealth planes.

In September Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to Washington to begin actualizing the deal Netanyahu signed with Obama: How to revive the political process after the 10-month freeze during which nothing happened and the Palestinians wouldn’t negotiate. Just before leaving, in a conversation with the prime minister, Netanyahu floated the idea past Barak to demand another 20 planes in exchange for Israel’s agreement to return to the negotiating table. Something attractive that would make it possible to convince the cabinet ministers and the Israeli public.

During that visit Barak and Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis Ross traded drafts of an agreement, and the issue of additional planes was also brought up. The Americans weren’t shocked, but nothing was written into the agreement because the president could not have agreed to such a gift on the eve of Congressional elections. At the end of the day they made a deal: Israel would extend the settlement construction freeze for three additional months and the American government would commit itself to continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for many years to come. The Americans also promised this would be the final building freeze, that it would not include Jerusalem, and an American promise to veto any Palestinian attempt to gain recognition for statehood at the UN Security Council.

But then came the “but.” The last section of the agreement, that 20-year security deal, suddenly became conditional: it would come to fruition only after Israel reaches a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Rather, the connection between political negotiations and Israel’s upgraded military ability, it is hard to forget, Netanyahu himself created at that fateful meeting in July, at which he promised Obama he would surprise him on the diplomatic font.

Barak returned to Israel with a final draft, agreed upon by the Americans. Now the prime minister and the Security Cabinet had to agree. But Netanyahu wouldn’t sign. The Americans understand the name of the game: Netanyahu wouldn’t give Obama an agreement on the eve of elections. The US National Security Council was furious. The Barak-Ross agreement was leaked by the White House so that Jewish organizations in the US would pressure the prime minister. Netanyahu, a strong man, was unmoved.

After the mid-term elections, with Congress “in our hands,” the prime minister goes back to the US for an additional meeting at which he intends to open the path t renewed negotiations. In his pocket he’s got Barak’s plan, plus some improvements to the security aid. After seven hours with Hillary Clinton he comes back to Israel waving terrific agreement. Even before he got home the Prime Minister’s Bureau had leaked information that Israel would get a phenomenal security package, worth billions. Even more, as soon as the negotiations start, there will be another bonus: 20 more F-35s. And all this for just another 90 days building freeze, during which Israel would enter into serious negotiations about all “heart of the matter” issues with the Palestinians.

A diplomatic catastrophe

This is where another problematic element comes up, of how Israel works vis-à-vis the US. Officials in Jerusalem complain that the prime minister’s envoy to the talks with the Americans, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, usually sits with his American counterparts alone and in private. Netanyahu and Barak do the same. There is no official Israeli documentation of these meetings. There are impressions, there is understanding, there is what people remember. It comes down to how the listener understood what he heard.

And this is how Israel was able to say that the Americans promised a gift of another 20 planes, because that was the prime minister’s impression in the course of his conversation with Mrs. Clinton. He, it seems, presented her with a request to receive the planes in wake of the huge American arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and she let him to understand that there was a green light. It was not worked out how this deal would be carried out and who exactly would pay for it. After all, good will is not enough, Congress has to approve such a gift.

But Netanyahu ran to tell the guys. While Obama, who was pleased about the understandings with Clinton, was embarrassed. Suddenly he was being forced to hand over a gift that he had never intended to give.

As if that were not enough, now Netanyahu is doing them another trick and is sticking another stick in the negotiation wagon’s wheels: he wants all these understandings in writing, as a public commitment.

Netanyahu cannot be blamed of lacking understanding of how things work with Washington. No administration will sign a document that gives IDF soldiers the possibility of remaining in the Jordan Valley for decades more. This could be a term in the framework of an “ understanding” that the US would support in an Israeli demand of the Palestinians.

Furthermore, demanding of the Americans that they sign a document that states that they agree that there will be no freeze in Jerusalem means breaking all the game rules. The US administration can look the other way when there is solid construction in greater Jerusalem, but to sign on this in a public document? After all, this is contrary to this US administration’s and previous administrations’ avowed policy.

In fact, both the Americans and the settlers, who are wasting their energy in demonstrations, should have understood that Netanyahu did not actually intend to do anything, as soon as he arrived back in Israel. Instead of capitalizing on the momentum, by convening the security cabinet and making decisions, he convened the forum of seven, which is merely an advisory board. Since then and until now, he has continued to play for time.

So now both sides, the Israeli and the American, are doing all sorts of phraseology acrobatics that will make it possible to come up with a paper that summarizes the understandings. The Americans are now beginning to say that after an agreement in some sort of paper is reached, Netanyahu will come up with another excuse in order not to make progress.

And so the time passes. In the meantime, there is no talk about a crisis in Israel-US relations, but rather a malfunction. If this goes on, the malfunction is liable to turn into a diplomatic catastrophe, if not a security catastrophe.

Posted in USAComments Off on LOOMING US-ISRAEL ‘SECURITY CATASTROPHE’

NOVANEWS**NOVANEWS

NOVANEWS

India’s president supports Syria’s claim on Golan Heights

 

 

 

Pratibha Devisingh Patil says India recognizes Syria’s “legitimate right” to Heights after meeting Assad in Damascus; Assad blames Israeli policies for “undermining economic development and prosperity” in Middle East. Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil expressed her support for Syria’s claims to the Golan Heights on Saturday, following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad at the presidential palace in Damascus, according to a report from Indian news agency ANI.

“India has consistently supported all just Arab causes. I would like to reiterate India’s unwavering support for a lasting and comprehensive peace to the Middle East problem, based on relevant UN resolutions. I would also like to reiterate our strong support for Syria’s legitimate right to the Golan Heights, and for its very early and full return to Syria,” she told reporters during a joint address with Assad.

Patil was on a four-day visit to Syria which began Friday and was mostly meant to strengthen business ties between the two nations.

Assad thanked the Indian president for her support on the issue of Arab rights.

“We expressed our hope that Syrian-Indian relations together with international efforts will help put an end to the sufferings of the Palestinian people, blockaded by an apartheid wall,” said Assad.

Assad added that the two nations would cooperate on fighting terrorism.

“We have reiterated our two countries condemnation of terrorism in all its forms. And, on the second anniversary of the terrorist Mumbai bombings, marked yesterday, we renew our support of India in fighting terrorism and in order to arrive at a safe and stable world.”

Assad also accused Israel of hindering economic development in the region.

“The absence of peace in our region due to Israel’s policies… raises tensions and undermines economic development and prosperity,” AFP quoted Assad as saying at the joint press conference.

 

‘If we win elections, we will work to end ties with Israel’

 

Ahead of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, Muslim Brotherhood says cutting “illegitimate” relations with Israel will be top priority.

 A day before parliamentary elections in Egypt, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, said if his movement wins the election, it will work to sever relations with Israel. “We are certainly not happy with the illegitimate marriage between Cairo and Tel Aviv,” he told the London daily Al-Quds al-Arabi on Saturday.

“The regime’s leaders are well aware that once we rise to power we will change many things in Egypt’s policy, starting with the country’s relations with Israel which have caused us great harm.”

Badie, who’s movement faces slim chances to strengthen in the parliamentary elections, added that, “We will not allow Palestinians to starve while we close the gates on them, and while the Israelis enter Sinai whenever they want.”

The Brotherhood leader said there were three forces who do not want his movement to win the elections: the US, Israel, and the Egyptian regime which “wages a war against the Egyptian people, led by our movement.”

In recent weeks, police and armed gangs have broken up campaign rallies by candidates of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, and more than 1,000 Brotherhood activists have been arrested.

The ruling National Democratic Party holds a powerful majority in the current parliament, but the Brotherhood succeeded in seizing a fifth of the seats in the 2005 vote. Many believe the government is determined to ensure the fundamentalist Brotherhood is squeezed out of the new 508-seat parliament.

Lebanon PM: Cooperation with Iran indispensable

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri intends to firm up military ties with Iran during his state visit.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Friday that cooperation with Iran was indispensable for Lebanon, the Iranian agency IRNA reported.

“We consider cooperation (with Iran) as indispensable for the threats endangering both countries,” Hariri told official news agency IRNA in Beirut ahead if his visit to Tehran.

hariri - AP - November 24 2010

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, November 24, 2010.

Photo by: AP

Hariri is scheduled to arrive in Tehran on Saturday afternoon and meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and probably also Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Lebanese prime minister said that security among the Arab states in the Middle East was also important for Iran and therefore Tehran would do its best for realizing this security, including in Lebanon.

“The visit by President Ahmadinejad (last month) to Beirut was an opportunity for strengthening bilateral ties and God willing, this aim will be further materialized by my visit to Tehran,” Hariri said in the exclusive interview with IRNA.

Iran supports the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah which however is leading the opposition against Hariri’s Western-backed government.

The rift between the two factions has deepened after reports said that the United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the killing of Hariri’s father was ready to indict Hezbollah members for the murder.

 

U.S. military chief: Engagement on Iran must be realistic

U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen prefers dialogue with Iran, believing that a military strike would only delay, not halt, its nuclear plans.

The United States needs to be realistic about its efforts to engage Iran, whose leaders are lying about Tehran’s nuclear program and are on a path to building nuclear weapons, the top U.S. military officer said.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in comments released on Friday that the U.S. military has been thinking about military options on Iran “for a significant period of time” but added that diplomacy remained the focus of U.S. efforts.

mullen - AP - November 11 2010

U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen.

Photo by: AP

“I still think it’s important we focus on the dialogue, we focus on the engagement, but also do it in a realistic way that looks at whether Iran is actually going to tell the truth, actually engage and actually do anything,” Mullen said in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria due to air on Sunday.

Iran has agreed to meet with a representative of the six big powers over its uranium enrichment drive, but diplomats and analysts see little chance of a breakthrough in the long-running dispute.

Still, U.S. officials, including Mullen, have warned that a military strike will only delay, not halt, Iran’s nuclear program and say convincing Tehran to abandon its nuclear program is the only viable long-term solution.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates went further last week, warning a strike would also unite the divided country and saying sanctions were biting harder than expected.

The West believes that Iran aims to use its uranium enrichment program to build atomic weapons, which Iran denies. Both Israel and the United States have said all options remain on the table to deal with its nuclear ambitions, a position Mullen reaffirmed to CNN.

Asked whether he believed Tehran’s vows that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes, Mullen said: “I don’t believe it for a second.”

“In fact, the information and intelligence that I’ve seen speak very specifically to the contrary,” he said.

“Iran is still very much on a path to be able to develop nuclear weapons, including weaponizing them, putting them on a missile and being able to use them.”

Turkish PM: We will continue to back Jerusalem and Gaza

 

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BEIRUT, (PIC)– Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a visit to the Lebanese city of Akkar that if war broke out in the region the loser will not only be the region’s people, but Israeli citizens will share losses as well.

Erdogan, speaking before thousands in its neighboring state, called on Israel to quit acting provocatively, recant on its blunders, and apologize to the region’s people.

“We in the region will unite and grow for what’s right and for the rule of law, and we will stand in the face of the wrongdoers and in the face of the wrongdoing.”

The Turkish premier assured that his country will continue to back the causes of Jerusalem and Gaza until all rights are restored.

“We will say this strongly in the face of the murderers, yes, your are murderers. Trust fully that we will raise our voices high against the tyranny, and continue to defend what’s right as long as there are people working in piracy on the high seas; and we will defend the rights of the innocent and oppressed.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli security cabinet discussed Wednesday the possibility of reigniting tensions with the Hezbollah group in Lebanon following an expected ruling by the international court in charge of investigating into the assassination of the country’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Senior officials predict that strong tensions between Israel and Lebanon will return if Hezbollah is charged with the 2005 Hariri assassination, Israeli radio said.

Israeli military Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazy said during a visit to Canada last week that Hezbollah may try to stage a coup in Lebanon if handed responsibility for Hariri’s death.

“There is a real possibility that Hezbollah will take control of Lebanon,” Ashkenazi warned.

Hezbollah has accused the international court of being politicized and working for Israel.

No statement was issued to conclude the meeting which was attended by Israeli intelligence agency heads.

 

Iran: Bushehr nuclear power plant has been fueled up

‘We hope the Bushehr power plant will be connected to the country’s national power grid within the next one or two months,’ says Iranian vice president.

(haaretz) Iran’s nuclear chief said Saturday the country’s first nuclear power plant has been loaded up with fuel required for it to go on line, an incremental step bringing Iran closer to nuclear-generated electricity.

 Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran AP August 21, 2010

A reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran on August 21, 2010.

Photo by: AP

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said it will take another month or two before the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor at Bushehr begins pumping electricity to Iranian cities.

Bushehr is not part of Iran’s nuclear program that is a serious concern to the West, which suspects Tehran of trying to produce an atomic bomb. Iran has been slapped with four rounds of UN sanctions because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to weapons making that is the source of the contention with the West.

Iran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity and nuclear medical radioisotopes needed to treat patients.

“We sealed the lid of the reactor without any propaganda and fuss,” Salehi was quoted as saying by the Fars semi-official news agency. “All fuel assemblies have been loaded into the core of the reactor.”

The fueling up started in August. Now that it’s completed, Salehi said all that remains to be done is to wait for the water inside the reactor’s core to gradually reach a desired temperature, after which a series of tests need to be carried out.

“We hope the Bushehr power plant will be connected to the country’s national power grid within the next one or two months,” Salehi added.

Iran began loading the Russian-built Bushehr with low-enriched uranium fuel in August. At the time, Salehi said the fueling up would take place over two weeks and that the plant could produce electricity by late November.

However, last month he announced a delay in Bushehr’s start up, saying it was the result of a small leak in a storage pool where the plant’s fuel was being held – and not a computer worm that was found on the laptops of several plant employees.

Iranian officials say they have vigorously battled the Stuxnet computer worm, which they suspect is part of a covert plot by the West to damage Iran’s nuclear program.

Salehi again insisted this week that the computer worm has not affected Iran’s nuclear program.

 

Suicide rate among US soldiers doubles

US National Guard soldiers returning home to face further difficulties.Statistics have revealed that the suicide rate among non-active members of the US National Guard has almost doubled this year.

Nearly twice as many American soldiers, who are not on active duty, have committed suicide in 2010 as the number that took their own lives last year, while the suicide rate among active duty soldiers has not increased, USA TODAY reports.

This growth in suicide rates has been linked to drug abuse, brain injuries incurred during active service, depression, and the country’s current bleak economic situation (home foreclosures, debt and unemployment), said Chris Philbrick, the deputy commander of an Army task force working to reduce suicides.

As of October, 86 non-active soldiers have taken their own lives this year, which is nearly double the entire 2009 number of suicides, which was 48.

There were 252 confirmed or suspected suicides among active and non-active Army members through October of this year. There were 242 such deaths in all of 2009, the report says.

These statistics could reinforce the fact that active-duty soldiers have greater access to programs and mental health resources, Philbrick says.

 

‘US, Israel behind Yemen bombing’

Yemen’s Houthi group has accused the intelligence services of the US and Israel of planning a car bomb that claimed the lives of 23 Houthi fighters and left 30 others injured.

The bomb explosion targeted a religious procession on Wednesday in Yemen’s northern Al-Jawf province.

According to documents obtained by the Houthi group, “the intelligence services of the US and the Zionist regime (Israel) are behind the Wednesday attack,” said Houthi group’s spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam.

Referring to another car bomb in northern Yemen that left at least two Shia mourners dead, he said, “The car was laden with shells made by the US.”

On Friday, the bomb targeted a convoy of mourners, who were travelling from Dahyan to Saada province to attend the funeral of Badreddin al-Hawthi, the father of the Shia group’s leader, who died on Thursday.

“Killing the Muslims and disintegration of communities and countries are in favor of the US and the Zionist regime,” Abdulsalam said.

On Tuesday, a Yemeni army soldier was also killed and two others were injured when a roadside bomb targeted their military vehicle south of the country.

The Yemeni government launched Operation Scorched Earth on August 11, 2007 to uproot the Shia Houthi fighters, whom Sana’a accuses of seeking a return to the Zaydi imamate overthrown in a 1962 coup.

The northern Houthi fighters have on occasions complained about widespread religious discrimination against them by Sunni fundamentalists who hold sway because of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s cordial relations with staunchly Wahabi Saudi Arabia.

Saada and neighboring Amran province, the strongholds of the Shia Houthi fighters, were frequently pounded by fighter jets and helicopter gunships.

The conflict zones in northern Yemen remained cut off from the rest of the country and the locals were grappling with a pressing shortage of food and other basic supplies.

The United Nations puts the number of displaced people at around 150,000 civilians.

US Navy orders use of the term ‘Arab Gulf’ rather than ‘Persian Gulf’

 

The US Navy has instructed all its units and forces to use the misnomer “The Arab Gulf” rather than its original and real name, the Persian Gulf.

 


 

The United States Navy has ordered all troops under its command to use the fake name The Arab Gulf to refer to the body of water to the south of Iran, IRNA quoted the Israeli radio as reporting on its website.

The order is reportedly posted on the US Navy’s website.

This comes as the body of water is referred to as “The Persian Gulf” in all historical and international documents.

Several international scientific conferences have been held in recent years to discuss the historical roots of the Persian Gulf. Researchers from the most reputable academic centers worldwide are almost unanimous in their agreement that the body of water has been referred to throughout history as the Persian Gulf.

Some regional countries and Western publications, however, continue to distort historical facts by omitting “Persian” from the full name, in an apparent orchestrated effort to eliminate the true ity of the Persian Gulf.

On April 29, Iran held the sixth edition of the Persian Gulf Conference in the southern Kish Island, on the eve of celebrations marking the national Persian Gulf Day.

Israelis injure teenage scrap collector

 


 

A Palestinian man stands among debris after an Israeli airstrike along Gaza’s border with Egypt.Israel’s military has shot and wounded a Palestinian teenager, who was collecting debris from the remnants of former Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Medics and witnesses said a 12-year-old came under the fire near the town of Beit Lahia, situated in the north of the coastal sliver, DPA reported.

The scavengers, who include women and children, sell the material to contractors and factories in the strip so that they would be able to cope with Tel Aviv’s siege on the enclave. The all-out land, aerial and naval restrictions have been depriving 1.5-million Gazans of food, fuel and other necessities for more than three years now.

Tel Aviv has, however, declared a “restricted” zone in the border area, occasionally opening fire on the debris collectors.

Highlighting the recurrent shootings, an August study by the United Nations showed, “Palestinians have been totally or partially prevented from accessing land located up to 1,000-1,500 meters” from the border.

The enclave’s medics say 60 scavengers have been wounded and two killed in the zone since January 2009.

Adie Mormech from the Palestinian-led organization International Solidarity Movement told our channel last month that the rubble collectors “are actually the biggest victims of shootings in the buffer zones. The reasons why no one can go there is because Israel shoots on sight and they are trigger-happy.”

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees says “about 80 percent of the Gaza population depends on assistance from UN agencies as unemployment has soared [to] above 40 percent.”

Britain assists Israelis in war crimes

 

The three-day international tribunal in London was held to investigate corporate complicity in Israeli regime’s violations of international laws and regulations and human rights abuses as far as the Palestinian people are concerned, according to news agencies.

(presstv.com) The London tribunal heard evidence about deals major UK-based multinational companies, including British-Danish security firm G4S, have clinched with Tel Aviv to help Israeli authorities to commit war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The tribunal heard that Israeli army has widely used Hermes 450 drones manufactured by the arms company Elbit during its last year’s brutal attacks on Gaza, yet the British Army awarded the Israeli firm and its partner, Thales UK, a deal worth more than $1 billion to develop the Watchkeeper, the next generation of drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) aircrafts.

John Hilary, executive director of War on Want charity urged the British government to launch a two-way arms embargo on Israel.

He told the jury at the Russell that Israeli company Verint has supplied CCTV cameras for the London Underground.

Hilary went on to say that the British government has conceded that components licensed for export from Britain have “almost certainly” been used by the Israeli army in Gaza last year during its so-called “Operation Cast Lead.”

The tribunal, which was the second round of such an event held in Barcelona in March this year, kicked off its work on Saturday.

The Barcelona Tribunal exposed both passive and proactive EU complicity in supporting Israel, particularly by broadening its trade deals with the occupying regime.

Israeli academic, Dalit Baum from the “Who Profits?” research project presented testimony at the London Tribunal on Sunday. He said that the complicity of British-Danish firm involved human rights abuses at the notorious Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank.

Another witness, Saskia Müller testified that the Dutch company PFZW has invested in two Israeli companies complicit in the occupation of the West Bank.

Other evidence came from Josh Reubener, national advocacy director for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, who told the jury that the Obama administration was shortly due to request a record budget of $3.75 billion from the US congress to be allocated to Tel Aviv.

The jury, which was due to give its verdict on corporate complicity, consists of UK barristers Lord Anthony Gifford, Michael Mansfield QC and John Dugard, former special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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ANTI-ACADEMIES

NOVANEWS

Ofsted: Academies ‘performing worse than other schools’

You may have seen the headlines that claim that the recent Ofsted report shows are Academies doing better than other schools. What Michael Gove missed out is this – 53 per cent of academies were rated no better than satisfactory in the last 12 months. This compared with just 35 per cent of other state schools.
The Telegraph says“The conclusions will come as a blow to the Coalition which has pledged to convert thousands of state primaries and secondaries into academies as part of an attempt to cut bureaucracy and raise standards.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8154853/Ofsted-academies-performing-worse-than-other-schools.html
 
White Paper

Last week we reported that the FT had seen a leaked copy of the Education White Paper, and it said that every school would be directly funded – effectively every school would become an Academy.
We are pleased to say that this didn’t happen. The White Paper remains determined to drive through Academies and ‘Free’ Schools. It includes proposals for ‘good’ schools to become Academies and raises the threshold for government intervention from 30% achievement of 5 A*-C GCSEs to 35%. However all schools becoming Academies has been removed.
This has upset the ‘Free’ School enthusiasts. The Spectator lament the decision “If Gove has fallen at the first funding hurdle, it bodes badly for his whole project.”
http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6481768/gove-dilutes-schools-funding-pledge.thtml
and the FT go out of their way to show that the proposal was in the draft they saw
http://blogs.ft.com/westminster/2010/11/goves-change-of-heart-on-schools-funding/
Gove fell at the first hurdle because of the widespread opposition to Academies.
 
Parents win battle against Kenmont Primary School academy plans

PARENT power has spoken at Kenmont Primary School after they won their battle to stop it being turned into an academy.
The Academy would have been run by ARK.
After the fierce opposition to the academy plans, governors at Kenmont have decided to back down and have outlined a new strategy plan for the school to aid improvements.
http://www.fulhamchronicle.co.uk/fulham-and-hammersmith-news/local-fulham-and-hammersmith-news/2010/11/22/parents-win-battle-against-kenmont-primary-school-academy-plans-82029-27693616/#ixzz16O3y0g38
 
News

·         Windsor private school to become a free independent school

·         Anti-academy protesters hold rally outside Christleton High

·         Education department to offer up its buildings to free schools

·         Capita and DTZ sign up for free schools programme

·         Private firms profit from ‘Free’ schools

 
More news stories here http://www.delicious.com/antiacademies
 
TUC conference: The future for our schools
The TUC have organised a major conference on education on Saturday 27thNovember.
More details and registration here http://www.tuc.org.uk/industrial/tuc-18598-f0.cfm
 
Anti Academies Alliance Financial Appeal
The Anti Academies Alliance has launched a Financial Appeal to help build the opposition to Academies and ‘Free’ Schools.
Read our Appeal, and download the leaflet, herehttp://www.antiacademies.org.uk/Home/financial-appeal
 
How can the Anti Academies Alliance help your school?
We continue to be approached by schools asking us to help them campaign against Academy proposals that are being pushed on them.
The Anti Academies Alliance is happy to work with head teachers, governors, parents and staff to develop a campaign to prevent your school becoming an Academy.
Please contact the office if you need help.
 
Anti Academies Alliance AGM
The Anti Academies Alliance AGM will be held on Saturday 15th January in Central London. More information to follow.
 
Anti Academies Newspaper 
Over 60,000 newspapers have now been despatched around the country and are being distributed to parents, teachers, governors.
Please download the order form and post in your order herehttp://www.antiacademies.org.uk/Home/news/septemberantiacademiesnewspaper
Or email in your order and we will send you an invoice.
 
Anti Academies DVD
We have an excellent new 13 minute DVD outlining the case against Academies and ‘Free’ Schools.
It is perfect for union meetings / parent meetings / campaign meetings.
If you would like a copy they are £10 to union groups / £2 to parent and campaign groups. We can produce bulk orders at a reduced price. Send orders to the office and we will despatch them with an invoice.
 
Campaign materials
Make your campaign stall / meeting complete with Stickers / Balloons / Mugs / T Shirts
http://www.antiacademies.org.uk/Home/merchandise
 
Having trouble keeping up with the news on Academies and Free Schools?
You can follow the Anti Academies Alliance on
Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Anti-Academies-Alliance/178831804728?ref=ts
Twitter- http://twitter.com/antiacademies
Summary of Twitter news- http://feedity.com/rss.aspx/antiacademies-org-uk/UVFTW1JS
Delicious- http://www.delicious.com/antiacademies
 
 

Posted in EducationComments Off on ANTI-ACADEMIES

U.N REPORT: PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS

NOVANEWS

UNITED NATIONS

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

occupied Palestinian territory

10 – 23 November 2010

West Bank

23 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces

During the two-week reporting period, Israeli forces injured 23 Palestinians, the majority of them in weekly demonstrations. Since the beginning of 2010, Israeli forces have injured 1,074 Palestinians, of whom 30 percent were injured in weekly protests. In comparison, a total of 764 Palestinians were injured during the equivalent period in 2009.

Fifteen Palestinians and one Israeli activist were injured in clashes that erupted during the weekly demonstrations against the expansion of an Israeli settlement (Hallamish) and the construction of the Barrier (Bil’in village) in the Ramallah area, and against restrictions on access to land (Beit Ummar village) in the Hebron area. Another four Palestinians, including two children (aged 12 and 14), who were herding their animals near the settlements of Suseya and Karmel in the Hebron area, were physically assaulted and injured by Israeli forces in two separate confrontations.

Also this week, Israeli forces surrounded a high school in the village of Jit (Qalqiliya governorate) while the students were holding a ceremony in commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the death of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. The school management evacuated the students after Israeli forces threatened to raid the school. The trigger for the Israeli operation remains unclear.

During the week, Palestinians threw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers staffing the Qalandiya checkpoint, the main Barrier checkpoint controlling access into East Jerusalem from the north, injuring one Israeli soldier.

Israeli forces conducted 57 search and arrest operations in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) during the week, well below the weekly average of such operations in 2010 (93). In one case, in the Beit Ula village (Hebron governorate), the furniture and windows of nine houses sustained damage.

East Jerusalem: Evictions of Palestinian families and demolitions

On 23 November, a group of Israeli settlers, accompanied by the Israeli police, took over a Palestinian residential building consisting of three apartments in Jabal al Mukabber village in East Jerusalem. As a result, three families comprising 14 people (including five children) were displaced. Initial reports indicate that the settlers claim to have purchased the building from a deceased relative of the family a few years ago. However, the exact nature of the transaction remains disputed as some of the former Palestinian owners claim that their signatures on sales documents were falsified.

Since 24 November:

Bank (including East Jerusalem), as well as a mosque. These actions forcibly displaced 54 people.

The Israeli authorities approved the export of a shipment of strawberries and cut flowers from Gaza at the beginning of next week, the first such exports since 18 April 2009.

The Israeli authorities demolished 18 Palestinian-owned structures across the West

LATEST DEVELOPMENT

2 UN OCHA

Protection of Civilians: 10 – 23 November 2010

This is the second building taken over by settlers since the beginning of the year. In late July, settlers took over eight of nine housing units in a building in the Old City of Jerusalem, displacing eight families (29 people). In 2008 and 2009, three Palestinian families were evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

In the Al ‘Isawiya village in East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem municipality demolished four structures, including three animal shacks and a storage room for fodder, due to the lack of permit. Twenty trees were uprooted and two dunums of land were leveled during the demolition. Israeli forces continue to seal two out of four entrances to the village, while access through an additional entrance is controlled by a flying checkpoint, forcing the residents to make long detours. In the last three weeks, Al ‘Isawiya is undergoing a wave of operations targeting tax evaders and “illegal” buildings.

These have led to violent clashes where 19 children were injured.

Incidents in the context of Israeli settler violence

During the reporting period, OCHA documented five settler-related incidents that resulted in

Palestinian injuries and damage to Palestinian property. Since the beginning of the year, OCHA has recorded a weekly average of six incidents resulting in injuries or damage to property, including the uprooting and burning of thousands of trees. Another seven incidents this week involving Palestinians affected settlers and their property.

Settlers threw stones at Palestinian children on their way to school on the main road near Tuqu’

village (Bethlehem governorate), injuring two of them (aged 10 and 13). Confrontations erupted

between Israeli forces and residents of the village following the incident; no injuries were reported.

Fires, allegedly set by Israeli settlers, were reported in the villages of Safa and Surif in the Hebron area, Jit in the Qalqiliya area and Salim in the Nablus area. As a result, over 300 olive trees and dozens of fig and pine trees were damaged in the four villages.

In two separate incidents, Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli-plated vehicles driving in the Hebron area, injuring three settlers. Five similar incidents occurred in the Hebron and Bethlehem governorates, resulting in damage to five settler vehicles.

Israeli authorities announced an easing of access restrictions

On the occasion of the Muslim feast of Eid Al Adha from 17 to 20 November, the Israeli authorities announced a number of easings on access restrictions in the West Bank. These measures included:

the removal of 24 closure obstacles; expanding the operating hours at two crossings located on the Green Line in the Jenin area; and allowing men over 50 over and women over 45, who hold West Bank IDs, to enter Jerusalem for the Friday prayer without a permit. The last two measures were in effect only during the period of the feast. OCHA is in the process of confirming the removal of the closures announced.

Gaza Strip

Air strikes and restrictions on access to land continue; two boys killed in tunnel collapse

During the reporting period, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians and injured ten others in incidents involving air strikes and access restrictions to land near the fence dividing Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Since the beginning of the year, 58 Palestinians (including 22 civilians) have been killed and 233

Palestinians (including 208 civilians) have been injured in Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip.

3. Protection of Civilians: 10 – 23 November 2010

UN OCHA oPt

On 17 November, the Israeli Air Force targeted a car containing an alleged senior member of the

“Army of Islam” faction in Gaza City. The man and his brother, also allegedly affiliated to this

faction, were killed. Two separate air strikes hit a house under construction in the Deir Al Balah area and an open field east of Khan Younis, injuring five Palestinian civilians including two children (aged 13 and 2.5). The house also sustained severe damage. The air strikes were reportedly carried out in retaliation for the firing of rockets at southern Israel by Palestinian factions. No Israeli injuries or damage to property were reported as a result of the rocket fire.

Israeli restrictions on access to areas located up to 1,500 metres (a buffer zone comprising 17 percent of Gaza’s territory) from the fence continue to result in casualties. In five separate incidents this week, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian workers collecting scrap metal in this buffer zone,

injuring five of them, including a 13-year-old boy. In another two separate incidents, Israeli forces opened fire at farmers working on their land near the fence; no injuries were reported. One farmer, however, sustained shrapnel wounds this week when an UXO (unexploded ordnance) exploded near the fence, east of Khan Younis. On eight separate occasions, Israeli forces launched incursions with bulldozers and tanks a few hundred meters into the Gaza Strip and withdrew after leveling land.

Barring access to fishing areas beyond three nautical miles from the shore remains in place. In four separate incidents, Israeli naval forces opened ‘warning’ fire at Palestinian fishing boats, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported.

Also this week, two boys (aged 11 and 12) were killed and another one (aged 14) was injured when one of the tunnels, allegedly built for military purposes by Palestinian factions in the Jabaliya area, collapsed.

A three-month suspended prison sentence for the use of a child as a human shield during the “Cast Lead” offensive. Two Israeli soldiers received a three-month suspended prison sentence after being convicted by an Israeli military court of using a Palestinian child as a human shield during Israel “Cast Lead” offensive last year. The soldiers were charged with forcing a nine-year-old boy to open bags they thought might contain explosives. So far, four Israeli soldiers, including the two convicted this week, have been prosecuted in the context of allegations of misconduct during “Cast Lead”.

Reduction in operating days at Rafah Crossing

According to the Palestinian Crossing and Border authorities in Gaza, the opening days at Rafah

Crossing, which is controlled by the Egyptian authorities, will be reduced from seven to five days a week. The crossing was also closed over a four-day period during the Eid Al Adha holiday. The crossing has been partially opened since 31 May 2010, allowing certain categories of people to pass through, including humanitarian cases, mainly patients and their companions, students and holders of foreign passports. Prior to this date, Rafah only opened sporadically for three days a month. Since the beginning of the year, 337 people have entered Gaza and 344 people have exited on average each day. These figures are well below the daily average of 650 people who crossed each way in the first five months of 2006, before the partial closure of the crossing.

Wheat reserves continue to decline

During the reporting period (7-20 November), a weekly average of 780 truckloads of goods entered Gaza, well below the weekly average entering since the Israeli announcement to ease the blockade on

4. UN OCHA oPt

Protection of Civilians: 10 – 23 November 2010

20 June 2010 (944). The closure of the crossings over Eid Al Adha period is the reason for the decline.

This represents around 28 percent of the weekly average of imports recorded before the imposition of the blockade in June 2007. Food items made up 53 percent of imports, compared to less than 20 percent of total imports prior to the blockade.

Low quantities of wheat continue to enter Gaza through the conveyor belt at Karni Crossing. This crossing operates only two days a week: one day is allocated for the transfer of wheat and animal feed; and the other for gravel for approved international projects. Prior to the easing, wheat and animal feed entered on both days. While overall volumes of imports have increased since the Israeli announcement to ease the blockade, there has been a sharp decline in the volume of wheat grain allowed into Gaza, with imports decreasing by around one-quarter in the period from June to October compared to the previous five months (48,609 vs. 64,273 tonnes). The main constraint is the limited operation of the conveyor belt at the Karni crossing.

According to the Gaza six mills, there are over 500 truckloads of wheat delayed and waiting to enter Gaza. As of 23 November, there were some 3,990 tonnes of grain available at the six mills in the Gaza Strip and 160 tonnes of wheat flour

at the local market, quantities that cover the population’s needs for up to six and a half days. As a result of depletion of wheat reserves, five mills were forced to close over a period of two days during the reporting period (16-18 November).

Electricity production remains below demand; daily power cuts reached up to 12 hours

A weekly average of around 1.5 million litres of industrial fuel to operate the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) entered Gaza, almost the same amount as since the beginning of the year. The total provision of electricity throughout the Gaza Strip stands at about 40 percent below the estimated daily demand of 280 MW. Approximately 30 MW of power are produced by the GPP and 120 MW and 17 MW are purchased from Israel and Egypt, respectively, providing Gaza with less than 200 MW. This shortfall results in average daily power cuts of up to 12 hours. However, during the Eid Al Adha feast (17-20 November), the GPP electricity production stood at 60 MW, as saved fuel was used. Consequently, power cuts were reduced to 4-6 hours per day.

The ongoing power cuts affect daily life throughout the Gaza Strip, as well as the provision of

essential services, including water supply, sewage treatment and removal, and the functioning of health services. Access to running water also remains a daily challenge for the population due to power cuts. Twenty percent of Gazans living in areas including Gaza City, Rafah and Jabaliya, have access to running water only once every five days (6 to 8 hours); 50 percent have access once every four days (6 hours); and 30 percent receive running water once every two days (6 to 8 hours).

Number of imported truckloads

552

780

2807

0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

Jan-May 2007 (w eekly average) 1 Jan-19 June 2010 (w eekly average)

7-20 Nov 2010 (w eekly average

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on U.N REPORT: PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS

AMERICAN JUSTUS

NOVANEWS

Innocent Texas man freed after 27 years in prison

November 23, 2010

by Michael Leon

More evidence Texas hates liberty, hates justice

– Junk Science: A Texas Injustice persists as the State of Texas leads the nation with more than 40 DNA exonerations on record. The Innocence Project is currently conducting a statewide review of cases where DNA evidence could prove a defendant’s innocence. –

By Peggy O’Hare in the Houston Chronicle

Michael Anthony Green got to hold a very valuable piece of paper Monday in the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. The document officially dismissed an aggravated rape charge against the 45-year-old Houston man after DNA testing proved him to be innocent of the crime.

Green, who was wrongfully convicted of the crime in 1983 and spent 27 years in prison before he was released July 30, said it feels “great — truly great. I waited a long time for it.”

The dismissal paper, signed by District Attorney Pat Lykos and state District Judge Susan Brown, says the case was dismissed because “DNA testing proves that Mr. Green is actually innocent of committing this offense.” Brown signed it Monday.

Green said he spent “27 years, three months, one week and four days” in prison, “to be exact.” He said he plans to frame the dismissal paper and hang it on the wall of his house.

Brown told him, “Good luck, Mr. Green,” after signing the dismissal.

‘Used to prison life’

Green is now working for Bob Wicoff, the attorney who represented him during his appeal and is doing legal research and reviewing letters from inmates trying to get assistance from the Innocence Project.

He declined to comment on the criminal justice system in general.

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IRAQ: THE THREE TRILLION DOLLAR WAR

NOVANEWS

November 23, 2010

by Michael Leon

Mission Accomplished!

This Thanksgiving, we offer appreciation for the $3-trillion Iraq War brought to us by the GOP, numerous spineless Democrats, the media, an apathetic American public, Fox, Israel, and the brave neocons who fearlessly waged war from think-tanks and the danger-fraught desks at the DoD and the White House Iraq Group.

Thank you so much.

Iraq Coalition Military Fatalities By Year

Year

US

UK

Other

Total

2003

486

53

41

580

2004

849

22

35

906

2005

846

23

28

897

2006

822

29

21

872

2007

904

47

10

961

2008

314

4

4

322

2009

149

1

0

150

2010

59

0

0

59

Total

4429

179

139

4747

Readers of the new book, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict will be surprised to learn just how difficult it was for the authors, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Kennedy School of Government professor Linda Bilmes, to dig up the actual and projected costs of the Iraq War for this thorough piece of accounting. Using “emergency” funds to pay for most of the war, the authors show that the White House has kept even Congress and the Comptroller General from getting a clear idea on the war’s true costs.

Other expenses are simply overlooked, one of the largest of which is the $600 billion going toward current and future health care for veterans. These numbers reveal stark truths: improvements in battlefield medicine have prevented many deaths, but seven soldiers are injured for every one that dies (in WWII, this ratio was 1.6 to one).

Figuring in macroeconomic costs and interest-the war has been funded with much borrowed money-the cost rises to $4.5 trillion; add Afghanistan, and the bill tops $7 trillion. This shocking expose, capped with 18 proposals for reform, is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how the war was financed, as well as what it means for troops on the ground and the nation’s future.

Get the  The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict by Linda J. Bilmes, and Joseph E. Stiglitz and read it, it’s amazing.

 

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict [Paperback]

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GOVERNMENT YELLS ” TERRORISM” TO JUSTIFY TSA PROCEDURES

NOVANEWS

November 23, 2010 

by Michael Leon 

The public fury over the new TSA airport security measures intensified this week, with harrowing stories of a breast cancer survivor forced to show her prosthetic breast and a male passenger whose urostomy bag leaked urine all over him when it was roughly manhandled by airport agents during a “patdown.” We have seen the constantly employed justification of terrorism to achieve objectives antithetical to the American people’s mission of peace and liberty.

By Glenn Greenwald at Salon

So what does the Federal Government do to address this growing public anger? That’s easy: the playbook is well established:

White House: Terrorists Have Discussed Use of Prosthetics to Conceal Explosives U.S. intelligence has picked up terrorists discussing the use of prosthetic or medical devices to conceal explosives, sources tell ABC News.

The revelation about the intelligence, which is not new but relevant to debate over new security measures at airports, comes as the White House today acknowledged that the implementation of the security procedures has not gone perfectly.

 This is the all-justifying, cure-all solution for every problem: government officials run to the nearest media outlet they can find and anonymously scream “TERRORISM.” No evidence is needed; the anonymity precludes all accountability; fear levels are quickly ratcheted up; and everything the Government wants to do then becomes justifiable in its name. That’s the frightened, authoritarian society we’ve allowed ourselves to become. Speaking of journalists who dutifully disseminate whatever fear-mongering claims their anonymous government friends tell them to write . . . .

 The New York Daily News today excitedly trumpets the debut appearance of . . . . The Next Anwar al-Awalki:

Jamaican Imam Abdullah el-Faisal wants to be next terror big, U.S. fears Counterterrorism agents in New York and Washington are keeping tabs on a Jamaican imam whose death-spewing sermons in English raise fears he’ll radicalize American Muslims.

The NYPD intelligence division, CIA and FBI are concerned Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal is becoming a new Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni Al Qaeda cleric who went from preaching to plotting.

 ”El-Faisal is focused on propaganda,” one U.S. counterterror official in Washington told the Daily News. “But the last few years, he’s dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation.”

He also inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and failed airplane underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.

“His reach goes far beyond Jamaica,” the U.S. official said. “He’s trying to expand his network in Africa and Asia”. . . .El-Faisal is charismatic like Awlaki, but “willing to say things that would make even Awlaki turn pale,” said terror expert Evan Kohlmann.

For those of you who support Obama’s assassination program aimed at Awlaki: what do you think? Have we read enough anonymous government claims in the newspaper yet about how “he’s dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation” to cheer for his eradication, or do we still need a couple more articles like this one anonymously accusing him of being a Real Terrorist? Maybe we need Leon Panetta going on the TV to decree that he’s guilty in order to really persuade us, followed by a couple of incriminating Wikipedia entries, and then the President is good to go: drones away? That’s how we now determine guilt, isn’t it?

Note that the government official to whom these intrepid, adversarial reporters gave anonymity accused the new Awlaki of being guilty of exactly that which has been repeatedly been blamed on the Old Awlaki: “He also inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and failed airplane underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.” Maybe that can just be the all-purpose accusation which justifies a whole litany of assassinations: anytime we want to kill someone, we just have a government official anonymously claim in the newspaper that he inspired the Undewear Bomber and Fort Hood Shooter. After all, there’s no limit on how many people can “inspire” someone.

All of this underscores the ambivalence I’ve had in watching the TSA controversy unfold. In one sense, this has all the ingredients of the last decade’s worth of Terrorism exploitation: fear-based increases in pointless though invasive government power, surveillance and privacy infringements; further training the citizenry to mindlessly and meekly submit to directives from government functionaries; and, most of all, sleazy Washington influence-peddlers who spend time in Government ratcheting up fear levels and then return to the private sector to profit from that fear (Michael McConnell is the poster child for that behavior, but in this case, it’s Michael Chertoff). As a result, my first reaction was that the public backlash could be productive in finally drawing a line the citizenry will not permit the Government to cross with these manipulative tactics.

 But I now believe that optimism was unwarranted. That’s because there’s no real principle being vindicated here: with a few noble exceptions, it’s all just deceitful posturing.

 In one corner we have the American Right, magically re-discovering their alleged belief in privacy and government restraint now that they see an opportunity to politically harm Obama by waving that flag once again. These, of course, are the very same people who spent the last decade cheering on every radical expansion of unchecked government authority and privacy destruction when it was their Party doing it — ones far, far worse than these airport screening measures — and who will undoubtedly do exactly the same thing the next time a Republican occupies the White House.

 I have no doubt — none — that if there were a Republican President in office now, these very same people would not only be defending the TSA in the name of Staying Safe, but maligning critics as Privacy Fetishists, Civil Liberties Extremists, and Friends of The Terrorists. Nobody has less credibility to march under a privacy and civil liberties banner than that right-wing faction (and see Darren Hutchinsonon just some of the out-of-control government powers they cheer on domestically). And that’s to say nothing of their real agenda: to privatize airport security, the way our prison system has been — as though having Blackwater or the Paragon of American Authoritarianism, Rudy Giuliani, take over from the TSA will preserve our liberties and privacy.

In the other corner, we have the Democrats, who — in perfect unison — would be screaming bloody murder about these methods and waving the Flag of Civil Liberties if George W. Bush were still President, as they would smell partisan advantage from doing so. But since it’s Barack Obama who is President, they are — with a few exceptions — meekly raising concerns, though more often acquiescent to the TSA when they aren’t outright supportive.

 I still would like to believe that what can change public thinking on such matters is having these measures finally start burdening a majority of Americans, rather than being confined to isolated, marginalized, demonized minorities. Human beings are self-interested, and unfortunate though it may be, it’s a fact of life that it’s difficult (though not impossible) to induce widespread public passion over injustices that aren’t affecting most people. If the growing anger over these TSA invasions helps change — or least moderate — how Americans think about Fear of Terrorism and Privacy as competing values, then at least some good will come of it. But it seems more likely that Americans will be just as supportive of future expansions of government power just as long as the Right People are targeted.

And then we have the indignant, put-upon American People. They’re not angry that the Government had adopted inexcusably invasive and irrational security measures. They’re just angry that, this time, it’s being directed at them — rather than those dark, exotic, foreign-seeming Muslims who deserve it, including their own fellow citizens. And if there were a successful bombing plot against a passenger jet, many of those most vocally objecting now would be leading the way in attacking the Government for not having kept them Safe, and would be demanding even more invasive measures — just directed at those Other People, the Bad Dark People over there. Eugene Robinson is exactly right when he wrote today in The Washington Post:

What the critics really mean is not that the TSA should let underwear bombers board planes. What they’re saying is: Don’t search me, and don’t search my grandmother. Just search the potential terrorists. 

In other words, they want profiling. That’s a seductive idea, I suppose, if you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about civil liberties. But it couldn’t possibly work. Our terrorist enemies may be evil, but they’re not stupid.

 This isn’t to say that there aren’t legitimate, principled objections to the TSA’s policy across the political spectrum; there are. And there have been genuinely heroic, principled protests, such as the one which galvanized much of this controversy by John “Don’t Touch My Junk” Tyner (who, it turns out, unsurprisingly I suppose, is a regular reader here). I wish there were a genuine unified uprising on the part of Left, Right and everyone else to draw an inviolable line, to declare that not everything is justifiable in the name of fear and Absolute Safety, which are age-old manipulated concepts, against which other competing values must be weighed. Such an uprising is long, long overdue.

 But the American Public, on the whole, is perfectly content with increasingly invasive government surveillance. They’ve proven that they will submit to virtually anything before the scary specter of Terrorism: putting people in cages for life without charges, torturing innocent people, invading and destroying other nations that haven’t attacked us, assassination hit lists free of due process, to say nothing of the merciless domestic Prison State that eats up the lives of millions of their fellow citizens for no good reason, fills them with Taser-delivering electric shock at will, and degrades their communities and basic liberties with a deliberately endless and corrosive Drug War — almost all of which has a disproportionate impact on minorities. Indeed, polls show that, despite all the uproar and horror stories thus far, majorities in America are still supportive of these TSA procedures (though the trend is toward rising opposition).

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WE ARE AT WAR”: CHRISTIAN RACIST & ANTI-SEMITES

NOVANEWS

We Are at War”: Christian Identity Racists and Anti-Semites Find Home in the Tea Party

November 23, 2010

by Michael Leon 

Don’t look for the Tea Party-Christian Identity gang to check Israeli militarism

 

– The ADL has no problem backing anti-Semitic Christian Zionists assaulting tolerance and pluralism –

By David Neiwert—funded by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute /AlterNet

Maybe it’s the gun-making kits that are being raffled off as door prizes. Or maybe it’s the fact that nearly everyone inside this hall at the Ravalli County Fairground is packing heat. But most of all, it’s the copy of Mein Kampf sitting there on the book table, with its black-and-white swastika, sandwiched between a survivalist how-to book on food storage and a copy of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

It is obvious: This is not your ordinary Tea Party gathering.

Mind you, they don’t explicitly call themselves Tea Partiers. Their official name is Celebrating Conservatism. But their mission statement is classic Tea Party — “to restore our country, counties, and cities back to the Republic and the Constitution of the United States” — and Celebrating Conservatism is listed as a member of the national Tea Party Patriots organization. Everyone in Hamilton, Montana — the whole of Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, for that matter — knows them as the Tea Party’s main presence in town. Once a month or so, the group holds a potluck dinner at the county fairgrounds that typically attracts a couple hundred people, which in a place like the Bitterroot is a sizeable presence.

This night — a September 14, 2010, potluck in the oversized metal shed that is the fairground’s main hall — is special because there is a high-profile guest: Larry Pratt, leader of Gun Owners of America.

Pratt, like a lot of Celebrating Conservatism’s speakers, has a long history with the far right. He is considered a godfather of the militia movement, a network of conspiracy-minded, armed paramilitary groups that exploded in the 1990s. Pratt addressed a pivotal three-day meeting of neo-Nazis and Christian Identity adherents in Estes Park, Colorado, in October 1992, convened in the wake of a shoot-out by federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, that had sent shock waves through the extreme right.

That gathering is widely credited with birthing the movement’s strategy of organizing citizen militias as a form of “leaderless resistance” to a looming “New World Order.” Joining Pratt on the stage at Estes Park were Aryan Nationsleaders Richard Butler and Louis Beam. (A few years later, Pratt became co-chair of Patrick Buchanan’s 1996 GOP presidential campaign, but was dismissed once these Neo-Nazi ties surfaced in the national press.)

Pratt is hardly the only controversial figure to address the group. In May 2010, at its convention on the University of Montana’s Missoula campus, Celebrating Conservatism hosted tax protester Red Beckman, notorious for his open anti-Semitism and the author of a 1984 book that argues the Holocaust was a judgment upon Jews for worshiping Satan. At a Hamilton gathering in July 2009, a onetime Arizona sheriff named Richard Mack addressed the crowd; he’d made a career in the 1990s out of organizing militias and speaking on the national circuit of the anti-government Patriotmovement.

Mack’s longtime Patriot movement confederate, Jack McLamb, spoke at the group’s Hamilton gathering the following month. McLamb, a former police officer, recruits “soldier and lawmen” to the Patriot cause through a group called Police & Military Against a New World Order.

Those events served notice that Celebrating Conservatism had embraced the Patriot movement cause.

Celebrating Conservatism formed in December 2008 in reaction to the presidential election and slowly gained members that spring by associating itself with a variety of Tea Party events in Bitterroot. But locals only took real notice in September 2009, when the group held a gun rights rally in downtown Hamilton at which participants brandished firearms. Organizers followed up with a Celebration of Right to Bear Arms in March 2010, which featured a march of several hundred people along Hamilton’s main drag. Anyone driving through town that day was greeted by a gauntlet of people packing weapons ranging from muzzle-loading muskets to a high-powered sniper-style .308 caliber rifle.

Their display felt like a threat to some locals. Bill LaCroix, a Montana human rights activist, wrote an anxious op-edin the Bitterroot Star after the September rally: “You have to wonder: If these teabaggers’ views are so extreme that they have to carry guns to emphasize how much they can’t tolerate your beliefs, what do they suggest be done with everyone who disagrees with them if they actually gained the power they demand?”

* * * * *

The obsession with all things gun is evident at tonight’s potluck, from Larry Pratt’s presence to a fundraising raffle for registration-free gun kits. At one point Mona Docteur — Celebrating Conservatism’s founder and the evening’s emcee — invites to the stage the owner of the Dillon-based company that sells the kits. He has a kit-made pistol strapped to his waist.

At the back of the room, alongside the bookseller and the gun-kit merchant, are booths for a handful of local Tea Party political candidates — one running for sheriff, another for county commissioner — as well as a booth promoting two Patriot organizations: the Oath Keepers, a new organization that recruits military and police to refuse any orders to disarm American citizens or put them concentration camps, threats they view as imminent; and the Fully Informed Jury Association, a veteran far-right group dedicated to persuading juries to “nullify” federal tax and civil-rights laws. The latter group was closely associated for years with the Montana Freemen, which engaged in an armed standoff with FBI agents in the mid-1990s.

What becomes manifestly clear, even before the speakers take the stage, is that this is a gathering of old-style Patriot movement believers very similar to those who made a splash in Montana back in the 1990s: militias, “Constitutionalists,” Freemen, and assorted anti-government extremists. But this time around they are riding the coattails of the Tea Party movement. References to “Tea Party principles” throughout the evening are almost as common as references to the Constitution.

The Patriots began organizing on a mass scale in 1994, largely in response to the violent federal raids at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, reaching their organizational peak in 1996, when there were over 800 groups on the scene. The movement gradually declined as the 1990s wore on, collapsing to a couple hundred groups once the Y2K Apocalypse, which many of them had warned of as the millennium approached, failed to materialize.

By 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, counted only 131 Patriot groups left in the entire country. Suddenly, in 2009, it counted 512. The numbers continue to climb, and nearly all of this activity, according to Mark Potok, the director of the SPLC’s intelligence project, is closely associated with the rise of the Tea Party. “The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups,” the group’s March 2010 report states, “but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.”

Mark Pitcavage, intelligence director for the Anti-Defamation League, has also tracked “a general growth of anti-government rage and associated conspiracy theories.” Its most mainstream expression is the Tea Party, he says, “but it has also manifested itself on the extremes by a resurgence of the militia movement, the sovereign citizen movement, [and] other Patriot-type groups like the Oath Keepers.”

In his view, the rise of the Tea Party and the resurgence of the Patriot movement are “two sides of the same coin.”

David Barstow referenced the overlap between Tea Parties and Patriots in a widely read February 2010 New York Times article, writing that “a significant undercurrent” within the Tea Party has more in common with the Patriot movement than the Republican Party. But he failed to note a disturbing side-effect: the Patriot movement’s affiliation with the Tea Party has offered it a measure of mainstream validation. That validation has energized the movement and enabled it to recruit a new generation to “constitutionalist” Patriot-movement beliefs.

In some cases, the Tea Party has helped create a local organizing focus for newborn Patriot organizations such as Celebrating Conservatism, which has effectively become the main Tea Party group in Ravalli County, even though it is clearly a Patriot group. In other instances, Patriot groups have spun off of Tea Party organizing, spreading their own conspiracist and constitutionalist ideas while maintaining close Tea Party alliances. Often the most active and vocal Tea Party organizers are simultaneously leaders of local Patriot groups. This is especially true in rural areas.

In the process, leaders of the two movements have developed strong ties. Potok points out that Richard Mack, a major national militia-movement figure in the 1990s, has given scores of speeches to Tea Party groups around the country over the past year. Meanwhile, new Patriot organizations like the Oath Keepers have built their new followings largely through their heavy involvement in the Tea Parties.

Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, has seen this political hardening at play here in Montana. Celebrating Conservatism’s tone and message, he notes, have changed sharply over time. “Early on, they were portraying themselves very much as just this benign group that was educating the public about the Constitution and American history,” he says. “Then months down the road, a year down the road, they’re taking out an ad in the local paper where they’re basically saying that if the government tries to restrict our access to firearms, it is our obligation to rise up and overthrow such a government. And then Mona starts to say things like, ‘You know, we’re not violent. But we could be.’”

Back in the ’90s, he recalls, the Militia of Montana paid lip service to voting, but always followed with a grim punch line: ‘When the ballot box doesn’t work, we’ll switch to the cartridge box.’”

That certainly seemed to be the sentiment this September in Hamilton.

* * * * *

Mona Docteur, a fortyish brunette dressed in a stylish black sweater and jeans, is running the show tonight. She kicks things off with a prayer, then launches into the story of her recent trip to Missoula to watch Sarah Palin speak. She says she was skeptical of Palin, but came away changed. “You know what I felt from that woman? She really is all about God and family and country.”

Docteur spoke with Palin about Celebrating Conservatism, she says, and “the thing I got from Sarah Palin was this…. We have got to get together. The divisions are exactly what the enemy wants. And maybe we don’t agree on a whole lot of things, but maybe we can agree on one or two things. How about limited government? Does everybody agree about that?” There were cheers. “OK, that’s one thing. At least we can agree on that. Can we agree on the fact that we still maybe might have our Constitution? Maybe?” More applause.

That’s when Docteur introduces Richard Celata, of KT Ordnance in Dillon, Montana, to talk about his gun kits. “How many of you like having the government know what firearms you have?” he asks rhetorically, to a sea of rolled eyes and disgusted snorts. “Well, these firearms do not have serial numbers on it, nobody knows you’ve bought it but you and I. What you do is you build it yourself.” Buyers get a valuable lesson in the inner workings of their gun, he explains, “plus, nobody knows you have it.”

If you buy one of the winning raffle tickets, you get to walk away that evening with the makings of either a 1911 .45-caliber handgun, or one of two semiautomatic assault rifles, an AR-10 or an AR-15.

Sitting next to me is an eager, fresh-faced family man named Mark French. French, who hails from Sanders County, a couple hours’ drive away, is something of a known figure in these circles, having run as the Tea Party challenger to Republican Congressman Dennis Rehberg in the Montana primary. He only garnered 20 percent of the vote — a deep disappointment that led him to feel pessimistic about the nation’s future. The Constitution, he says, is under serious assault.

Really? I ask. What parts of the Constitution are being attacked?

The question makes him think for a moment; after all, this claim has become a truism among Tea Partiers. “The first one that comes to mind,” he says after a long pause, “is being secure in your papers and your personal effects. The Patriot Act, for example — the Patriot Act walks all over the Constitution.”

Then he gets philosophical. “The biggest problem that we have, though, in America is — and I said this out loud at every speech I gave — Romans Chapter 1, Verse 28: ‘As we did not want to retain God in our knowledge, God gave us over to a debased mind to do those things that are unfitting.’” He mentions Judge Roy Moore’s battle to defend a Ten Commandments monument he installed at a public courthouse in Alabama and the national debate over same sex marriage. “We’ve tried to remove God from our society the best we can,” he says. “There’s no foundation for anything.”

I wonder how all this constitutes an attack on the Constitution, since the First Amendment separates church and state. But before I can ask, the evening’s first guest speaker takes the stage: Missoula’s own Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association and a longtime fixture on Montana’s far-right political scene.

Marbut enjoys an almost legendary status among Patriot groups and Tea Parties, one seriously burnished by his May 2009 appearance on Glenn Beck’s show to discuss efforts by legislators in a number of conservative states to declare their sovereignty vis-a-vis the federal government. The month before, Montana had passed legislation declaring that all guns manufactured in the state were exempt from federal law. Marbut had drafted the bill.

Though he has run numerous times, Marbut has never actually been elected to any office, largely because he resides in liberal Missoula, where residents are aware of his alliances with figures on the extremist right.

In 1994, disgusted with the passage of the Brady Act (which established federal background checks on firearms purchases) and that year’s federal assault-weapons ban, Marbut suggested Montana secede from the Union, and his shooting sports group promoted a resolution legalizing the formation of “unorganized militias.” Marbut also penned columns for a white-supremacist Christian Identity newspaper, The Jubilee, and for an Identity-oriented militia magazine, the Sierra Times. And he’s actively promoted jury nullification through the Fully Informed Jury Association (which has a booth at the Hamilton event), calling it “the last peaceable barrier between innocent gun owners and a tyrannous government.”

He has some previous experience in the mainstreaming of radical ideas: in the mid-’90s, Marbut advised Militia of Montana members not to call themselves “militias” but rather Patriot “neighborhood watches.”

Tonight Marbut wants to talk about a new piece of sovereignty legislation he plans to promote in the state legislature, something he calls Sheriffs First. The bill would make it a crime in Montana for a federal officer to arrest, search or seize without advance written permission from the county sheriff, Marbut explains, to enthusiastic applause.

“How that will work is, the federal officers might come to your local sheriff and say, ‘OK, here’s our probable cause, we believe there’s people at this location in your county who have a meth lab …and we wanna bust ‘em,’” Marbut says. “The sheriff might look it over and say, ‘Gosh, I’m glad you brought this to me, here’s your advance written permission, and I will send a couple deputies to help you.’

“Or the federal officers might come to the sheriff and say, ‘Here’s our probable cause, it leads us to believe there’s somebody in your county at this location who’s manufacturing firearms without a federal license. And we want to go bust them.’ The sheriff might say, ‘Sorry, we have a state law in Montana that authorizes that activity, it’s perfectly legal here, you may not go bust them, you do not have permission, and if you do, we can put you in Deer Lodge. We can put you behind bars in Montana for doing that.’” That brings out whoops alongside the applause. 

When Marbut wraps up, it’s time for Larry Pratt, the head of Gun Owners of America. Pratt, who lives in Virginia, cultivates an avuncular grandpa image these days, and it works well with this crowd, which besides being pure white is also largely on the sundown side of fifty.

He opens by celebrating the primary victory of Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell that night in Delaware and the promising poll numbers of New Hampshire Tea Party candidate Ovide Lamontagne: “The Tea Party’s having a pretty good night tonight,” he declares. “Even before we get to November, it looks like we’ve taken care of a good deal of business.” (Lamontagne went on to narrowly lose the Republican primary; O’Donnell lost by a wide margin in the general election.)

Pratt then channels Glenn Beck, explaining that the root of our political problems are the “socialist” public schools, which he describes as “propaganda centers for the hard left.” And it goes even deeper. “We are in a war,” he says. “It is a culture war. We’re in a war, and the other side knows it, because they started it.”

“We are facing socialism, pure and simple,” he continues. “They want our guns, of course — that’s what every socialist regime has ever wanted to do. They want our kids, they want our money, they want our land.”

Pratt wraps up with a simple exhortation: “Montana, on November 2, don’t forget to take out the trash.”

Pratt fields several questions from audience members who have doubts about the Ravalli County Sheriff, Chris Hoffman. One middle-aged man with a walrus mustache, wearing a rumpled cowboy hat and a sidearm, has some particularly dark fears. “I walked up to Sheriff Hoffman,” he says, “and asked him to his face, I said: ‘Here’s the scenario, Sheriff. There’s the mountains over there, and there comes the enemy. And the enemy is the Federal Government.’ I said, ‘The enemy is the Federal Government. And they’re coming down, I can see them coming over the hills, and my wife is here, and my little child is there, and you’re standing there and we all got guns. Here’s my question, Sheriff: What you gonna do?’

“You know what Hoffman said to me? He said, ‘I dunno. I’d have to call the D.A. to find out the correct interpretation of the Constitution.’ That’s what he told me. So that’s the kind of sheriff that we’re running here. Sheriff Hoffman is obviously not one of us. He’s gonna call the D.A. when the feds are coming down the hill to maybe kill my daughter or kill my wife.”

Pratt nods and says, with a taut smile, “Then he needs to feel the heat.”

Sheriff Hoffmann felt little heat in on November 2: A Republican, he was reelected with 81 percent of the vote. But a wave of ultraconservatism fed by the Tea Parties swept Ravalli County, washing away Democratic commissioners and longtime county attorney George Corn, who had a notable history of standing up to Patriot extremists dating back to the ’90s. This was also true of Montana more generally, where several Tea Party candidates were elected to the state legislature, and one of Gary Marbut’s key allies — Rep. Krayton Kerns of Laurel, a Tea Party favorite — is now well positioned to become Speaker of the Montana House.

* * * * *

For people like Travis McAdam, who has monitored the activities of right-wing extremists here for two decades, the talk being heard in places like Hamilton is the kind heard in the ’90s from local Patriot groups. Only now their paranoia has the Tea Party’s imprimatur.

He sees a tremendous symbiosis between Patriot groups and the Tea Party in Montana, especially in small communities like Hamilton. He mentions Celebrating Conservatism, as well as another local Patriot group, Lincoln County Watch, that had its origins in a 2008 Ron Paul for President meet-up group spearheaded by an activist named Paul Stramer. (Stramer, like Paul, identifies as a libertarian, but Stramer also has a long history of activism with the Militia of Montana and the Montana Freemen.) Both are Patriot groups — and both are solidly in the Tea Party fold.

“A lot of times you’ll find there is the Tea Party group and Tea Party organizing and Tea Party rallies that are happening in communities,” McAdam says. “But oftentimes connected up to that is another, separate organization where there is quite a bit of crossover of membership and activists, and the secondary organization has a much harder and really more self-evident streak of Patriot movement theory.”

In the case of Celebrating Conservatism, that streak was visible early on, when the group brought in figures such as Patriot movement icon Richard Mack and known anti-Semite Red Beckman. Tea Party groups elsewhere around the state have followed the same course, he says, featuring speakers who have  “very colorful” histories with antigovernment groups, white supremacists and hardcore anti-Semites.

Gun-rights extremists like Pratt get a hearing from both Patriots and Tea Partiers, helping to whip up a climate of fear. “Pratt’s whole thing,” Mark Potok says, is “the government is coming for your guns.” In Patriot conspiracy theory, he explains, that’s how it starts: “First, gun confiscation, then martial law, imposed probably with the aid of foreign governments. Then concentration camps that either have been built or are being built by FEMA. And then, finally, the country is forced into a socialistic One World Government, a New World Order.” By sounding the alarm about the first element in the conspiracy, Pratt and his ilk sow anxiety about the rest.

Many in the Tea Party movement appear oblivious to the presence of Patriots in their midst, Pitcavage says, but the Patriot movement is “painfully aware” of the Tea Party. “They’re fascinated and attracted to it, because they see this great mass of angry, agitated people out there who clearly share some of their concerns and fears,” he says. “They look at them as a potential pool of people who could be brought along a little further.”

Some Patriot activists get involved in Tea Parties simply to express their anger, he says. Others are more deliberate, attending Tea Party events to spread the word about their own Patriot movement beliefs. White supremacists have attempted this as well — perhaps most aggressively during Tea Party events on the Fourth of July in 2009 — though they had limited success, as the ADL documented at the time. While recruiters from places as disparate as Tallahassee, Florida, and Bellingham, Washington, reported that they were able to interest Tea Partiers in their material, many others found the events inhospitable. 

Patriot organizations have found the Tea Party to be far more fertile ground, for both recruitment and organizational alliances. The Oath Keepers, for example, have carved out a prominent place as organizers, participants, and speakers on the national Tea Party scene. At the same time, local Patriot groups like Celebrating Conservatism have lodged themselves inside the Tea Party network, deepening the influence of Patriot ideology there.

A recent report for the NAACP, “Tea Party Nationalism,” authored by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, details how a variety of far-right extremists, including Patriot groups, have come to hold positions of influence inside the movement.

“It’s true no matter where you are,” says Devin Burghart, one of the study’s authors. “In Montana, people will be upset about guns and wolves. In Arizona, it will be undocumented immigrants. In Jackson [Mississippi], they’ll talk about black people, immigrants, and Islam.” But regardless of how they frame the issues, he says, Patriot Groups have found in the Tea Party “an audience which they never could have gotten on their own. It gives them a mass appeal for which they’ve been longing forever.”

“It gives them traction for their agenda,” he adds. “It gives them a stamp of legitimacy. It washes away their previous sins and allows them to recreate themselves under this fresh new party banner.”

Here in Montana, gun advocates such as Larry Pratt and Gary Marbut play a decisive role in making these groups appear more mainstream. “Marbut is very firmly in the Patriot camp,” says McAdam. “But because of the dynamics around Second Amendment issues in Montana politics, he has been able to portray himself and is looked at by legislators as this gun-rights enthusiast who knows everything there is to know about gun-rights law in Montana. And he is treated both with respect and fear.” Even Democrats believe that they can’t get elected if Marbut doesn’t warm up to them, he says.

Where Patriot activists have entered Montana politics, their effect has largely been toxic. In the south-central town of Big Timber, a Patriot faction led by an Oath Keeper took control of the city council, triggering massive dysfunction, with even local parks projects tied up in bizarre fears of a New World Order conspiracy. “When these Patriots engage local political institutions, take over local city councils and local county commissions, local school boards, what we’ve found is they have no interest in governing,” McAdam says. “They have only an interest in dismantling.”

Their main political tools, he says, are intimidation and harassment — a dynamic visible here in Hamilton. “All of a sudden it’s the people with the loudest voices and the biggest stockpile of weapons who start totally dictating public discourse,” he says, “and anyone who doesn’t agree with them is scared out of the process.”

Those involved with Celebrating Conservatism, organizers and participants alike, insist that they only bring weapons to public meetings to assert their rights as gun owners, never acknowledging that a political opponent might reasonably view their weapons as a threat. Some of them, McAdam notes, are honestly shocked at the suggestion.

“Not all of them, though,” he says. “A lot of them know perfectly well that guns intimidate people, and they bring them anyway. For exactly that reason.”

* * * * *

After the speeches are over and the gun kits handed off to the raffle winners, everyone is milling around. I stop by the Oath Keepers booth and buy a khaki-green T-shirt with the Oath Keepers logo on it (“Guardians of the Republic — Not on Our Watch”), then wander by the book table where Mein Kampf is for sale. The last time I saw it being sold publicly like this was back in the early 1980s, at a World Congress of Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, three hours’ drive away on the other side of Lookout Pass.

The guy behind the table is Reuben Walker, who runs a small local bookstore. “Can you tell me exactly why you’re selling Mein Kampf?” I ask. “Have you read it?”

“Yes,” he answers, seeming startled.

“So you know that it’s nothing but an extended screed about how the Jews are plotting to destroy the white race,” I say, pulling out my video camera.

“Well — ”

“So, do you believe what he wrote in the — ?” I begin to ask.

“No,” he answers. “You’ll notice we have other books out we don’t believe in.”

He points to the book next to it: Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, a favorite target of Glenn Beck. It’s clear he thinks the two books have something in common. “This is my ‘broken books’ section,” he says. “It’s there so you can know what we’re up against.”

A couple of weeks later I call Walker up at the bookstore, because I realize where this may be coming from: Jonah Goldberg’s right-wing treatise, Liberal Fascism, which posits that fascism has always been a left-wing phenomenon. I ask whether he’s read Goldberg’s book.

“Yes, I have,” he says.

“So is that kind of where you coming from on this? So people could be educated on fascism?”

“That’s right.”

“So where do you see fascism in our current scene?”

“You don’t see fascism in our current government?” he asks. “I believe there is some.”

“And so you want people to be able to see and identify fascism by going back to the original sources, right?” I ask.

“Definitely. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.”

Walker assures me that, among the several hundred people at the gathering that night, I was the only one who objected to seeing Mein Kampf for sale. Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.

Related stories:

Low Turnout at Gun March the NRA’s Fault, Organizer Says – by Adele M. Stan
The Oath Keepers: The Militant and Armed Side of the Tea Party Movement – by Justine Sharrock Gun March Warm-Up: Oath Keepers Founder Goes Off on Maddow, Mother Jones — And AlterNet –  by Adele M. Stan 

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