Archive | April 15th, 2011

World: News**News**News

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“A Beautiful Soul, a Big Heart”: Italian Peace Activist Vittorio Arrigoni Slain by Militant Captors in Gaza Strip

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The body of 36-year-old Italian peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni was found in Gaza shortly after his captors posted video of him blindfolded and bloodied. They had vowed to execute him unless their group’s leader was freed from custody by Gaza’s Hamas-led government. Arrigoni was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement that uses nonviolent and direct action methods to oppose the Israeli occupation. He had lived in Gaza since 2008 after arriving on a boat carrying humanitarian aid. We speak to Huwaida Arraf, a friend of Vittorio’s and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. [includes rush transcript]

Guest:

Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement.
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JUAN GONZALEZ: An Italian peace activist has been slain in the Gaza Strip following his abduction by Palestinian militants. The body of 36-year-old Vittorio Arrigoni was found shortly after his captors posted video of him blindfolded and bloodied. They had vowed to execute him unless their group’s leader was freed from custody by Gaza’s Hamas-led government.

Arrigoni was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement that uses nonviolence, direct action methods, to oppose the Israeli occupation. He had lived in Gaza since 2008, after arriving on a boat carrying humanitarian aid. He spoke to the news agency Reuters in 2008, soon after his arrival.

VITTORIO ARRIGONI: So happy to see all these people, because we are here to try to help these people, but especially because we love you. We love Palestine. And we want that you have the same human rights that all the other people of the world they have, the same rights that Israel, and they have the same rights the Italians have.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Vittorio Arrigoni speaking in 2008. In 2009, he wrote the book Gaza: Stay Human, about Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza.

Joining us now is Huwaida Arraf, a friend of Vittorio’s, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, speaking to us from Bethlehem.

Huwaida, tell us what happened, what you understand happened to Vittorio.

HUWAIDA ARRAF: We are still piecing together the information. It was late yesterday when we discovered that Vittorio was indeed being held captive. It was—we had suspected that something was wrong, because we hadn’t heard from him in a while. And then the video popped up on the internet, showing him bound and blindfolded, with his face a little bit swollen and bloodied.

Despite that—we started working right away, talking to everyone we knew, putting out an appeal to secure his release, and making sure that whoever had him knew what a tireless advocate for Palestinian rights Vittorio was. But, you know, even the horror of seeing that video and knowing that he was being held in that state, we didn’t think—it didn’t really cross our mind that they could harm him. He is such a beautiful soul. Anyone coming into contact with him would know just how committed he was. And I was sure that just if his captors would talk to him, they would see that, you know, [inaudible].

And in the middle of the night, when [inaudible] put out that his body was found, and for a while we didn’t know. We were hoping it was not true, because none of us had seen it yet. Then within, you know, less than an hour, the ISM activist that we had down in Gaza went over to the hospital, and they positively identified his body.

But why [inaudible] took him and why—because lots of people are now—at first said it was a Salafi group, and what was written on the internet in this hostage video made it seem that way. And now various groups are denying. The various Salafi groups in Gaza are having a meeting today to actually come out with a statement condemning this kind of action. And there’s a lot of speculation.

All I know and all I could say is that Vittorio has one of the most beautiful souls, big heart, of anybody I’ve ever had the honor of meeting. And his killing is truly a loss for—you know, not just for those of us who knew him, but for all of Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: The Salafi leader Iyad Ash-Shami said Friday Salafi groups were not involved in the murder of Vittorio. That’s the statement. And we will continue to follow this. Huwaida, we’re so sorry, and our condolences to you and your organization.

HUWAIDA ARRAF: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Huwaida Arraf, speaking to us from Bethlehem, founder of the International Solidarity Movement and chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement.

 

See: Democracy Now!

 

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Despite Promised ‘Support Role,’ US Still Bombing Libya

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Pentagon Insists End to Strikes Didn’t Apply to Attacks on Gadhafi Forces

by Jason Ditz

US officials were keen on making a big deal of their transitioning into a “supporting role” in the Libya War as of April 4, after which point US air strikes were supposed to stop. Many assumed this actually happened, particularly with French and British officials complaining that they were forced to do virtually all the work in the ongoing war this week. In reality, it didn’t.

Rather, the US has been continuing to bomb Libya regularly to this day, and is planning to do so going forward. The Pentagon revealed US warplanes have flown 97 sorties against Libya since April 4, and attacked at least three targets.

The Pentagon defended the flat out lie that they were going to stop bombing Libya, however, insisting that the attacks were “defensive missions” for the ongoing war. They likewise insisted that attacks on certain Gadhafi forces related to air defense “didn’t apply” when they promised to stop their attacks.

The US and France launched their first attacks on Libya on March 19. Within the next 48 hours officials were already describing the war as a stalemate and saying there was likely to be no formal “victory” in the conflict. Officials still have not defined the goals on the conflict, and defended the attacks in only the vaguest of terms.

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Goldstone Recants, Gaza Dies

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by Philip Giraldi

The United States has long been on the receiving end of Israeli misbehavior.  Israel invades Lebanon or Gaza, the US vetoes UN Security Council resolutions condemning civilian deaths and destruction of infrastructure, and Washington winds up taking the blame for condoning Tel Aviv’s recklessness.  Repeat that twenty times and it is no surprise that most of the world regards the United States as the enabler of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.  Osama bin Laden has repeatedly cited American support of Israeli repression as one of his reasons for attacking the United States.  Opinion polls taken in Muslim countries, where footage of Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians is nightly fare on television, demonstrate sharp declines in the numbers of those who regard the US favorably.  And the repeated application of the get out of jail free card to Israel has produced an insufferable arrogance in Israeli leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu, confident that the American dog will let itself be wagged by the Israeli tail whenever necessary. It invites more of the same, whether it is building more settlements, killing civilians in Gaza, or intercepting humanitarian missions on the high seas.

Not being held accountable ever has led to recklessness on the part of the Israelis and has further diminished America’s international reputation as it is increasingly seen as complicit in various outrages and even war crimes.  In the Cast Lead invasion of Gaza in December 2008 Israel was able to unleash an enormous and sophisticated US-provided military arsenal against a largely helpless civilian population within which a small number of genuine Hamas militants concealed themselves.  It was probably Israel’s most audacious defiance of international norms of behavior and the fact that it has escaped consequence-free suggests that history will soon repeat itself in the form of another assault on Hamas which will undoubtedly bring in its wake a large number of civilian casualties and further destruction of schools, hospitals, homes, and businesses.

This time Judge Richard Goldstone, who was commissioned by the United Nations to head a group of four jurists asked to write a report on Cast Lead, has to be seen as an enabler of any possible future conflict.  Let us assume for a moment that Goldstone, who was under tremendous pressure from international Jewry, was actually sincere in his recent recantation regarding Israeli war crimes in Gaza.  His first report for the United Nations asserted that Israel and Hamas had both been guilty of war crimes, but that the devastation produced by Israel far exceeded anything accomplished by Hamas.  Israeli crimes included destroying clearly identified schools, hospitals, and United Nations food warehouses.  White phosphorous artillery shells were used against civilian targets, generally regarded as completely unacceptable by most of the world’s militaries.  It was collective punishment time with Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister declaring ”The Palestinians are going to bring upon themselves a Holocaust.”

The UN report details how civilians were shot down when trying to surrender to advancing Israeli soldiers.  Mostly civilians died, possibly as many as 1,000, including at least 300 children.  The Goldstone report concluded that Israel had initiated a “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population.” It also called for the behavior of both Israel and Hamas to be thoroughly investigated in both Gaza and Israel and that the issue of possible war crimes be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for adjudication.  But as the Goldstone report must first be referred to the court by the UN Security Council, a veto by the US to halt the proceedings is more-or-less a given.

In the more than two years since Cast Lead neither Israel nor Hamas has seriously investigated any aspects of it, and several independent reviews have concluded that Israel, which basically lets its army investigate itself, is institutionally incapable of an objective inquiry.  The Israeli Defense Forces officer who oversaw the killing of 29 members of one Palestinian family has not been charged or even investigated.  One soldier received a seven-month prison sentence for stealing a credit card while another who used a Palestinian child as a shield received a three-month suspended sentence.

Now Goldstone would have one believe that it is his modified viewpoint that Israel did not deliberately target the civilians, the only issue that he is seeking to “reconsider” in the 575 page report.  That presumably means that there is no order on paper in his possession indicating that to be the intention.  And since Goldstone has had no access to any official Israeli sources of information as Tel Aviv did not cooperate in the inquiry, even that conclusion can presumably be challenged.  One has to suspect that Goldstone has bowed to pressure, possibly including Israel’s recent creation of a branch of military intelligence that has been tasked with seeking out and confronting individuals and groups suspected of “delegitimizing” Israel abroad.  That knock on the door might be a magazine salesman or it might be a friendly IDF representative with a warning.

Israel has been increasing the pressure on Gaza over the past month and many believe that the reprieve provided by Goldstone will give the green light to another major incursion.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has threatened to use all necessary force to stop the missiles being fired into Israel from Gaza, while other government officials and military sources suggest that another invasion of Gaza is being planned, possibly for next month.  The Gazan authorities have declared a cease-fire, which apparently is holding from their side, but Israeli artillery barrages have continued.  The tit-for-tat between Hamas in Gaza and Israel began, in fact, with the Israeli targeted killing of five Palestinians in Gaza between April 1st and 5th.  Hamas retaliated on the 7th by firing mortars into Israel and Israel responded immediately with artillery that killed five Palestinians.  Over the weekend, Israel killed thirteen more Gazans with artillery and rocket strikes.  When Israel kills civilians, they are invariably described as terrorists.

If Israel unleashes its military on Gaza many Arab civilians will die and it is the United States that again will ultimately pay the piper.  Congress will immediately support Israel, claiming that it has the right to defend itself and the mainstream media will also be on board.  Even if the White House knows it is Israel that is cranking up the fighting, it too will quickly cave in and make itself available to stop any contrary resolution in the UN Security Council.  American prestige in the Middle East will be mired in the single digits and the ability of Washington to act effectively in any country in the region if a vital interest seriously is threatened will be nullified.   Judge Richard Goldstone might feel that he has mended fences with his coreligionists, but he has a lot to answer for among those who believe that truth and accountability truly matter.

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13 Zio-Nazi warplanes violate Lebanese airspace

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Two Israeli tanks briefly entered a disputed border area with Lebanon near the village of Adaysseh at 7:50 a.m.

 

BEIRUT: Over a dozen Zio-Nazi warplanes violated Lebanon’s airspace Thursday, flying over the southern village of Alma Shaab and Rmeish in contravention of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, the Lebanese Army said.

“The warplanes [12 of them] performed circular maneuvers in the skies over many Lebanese areas before leaving [the airspace] at 9:55 am over the village of Rmeish,” the guidance directorate of the Lebanese Army said in the statement, adding that another warplane had violated Lebanon’s airspace earlier in the day over Rmeish and circled over the south, Ryak, Baalbeck and Hermel before leaving.

Meanwhile, two Israeli tanks briefly entered a disputed border area with Lebanon near the village of Adaysseh at 7:50 a.m., the Lebanese Army said in another statement Thursday.

“[The tanks] then headed at 9:30 a.m. toward the occupied Palestinian territories,” the statement said, adding that the army had been deployed to take the “appropriate measures” in coordination with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

UNIFIL confirmed that one Zionist Army tank had crossed the technical fence and moved toward the Blue Line.

“UNIFIL immediately dispatched patrols to the area to defuse tension and prevent any escalation,” UNIFIL said in a statement, adding no violation of the Blue Line had been observed.

UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas called on the parties “to utilize the liaison and coordination mechanism through UNIFIL, particularly on matters relating to the Blue Line.”

A security official in the area said the tank advanced 4 meters into the disputed Blue Line before withdrawing, AFP reported.

“The army was conducting military exercises with UNIFIL when they noticed [Israeli tanks moving toward the technical fence],” a security source told The Daily Star online, adding that such movements by Zionist tanks were a normal occurrence but that they had managed to escape detection.

The Blue Line is a U.N.-drawn border between the two countries established in 2000. Both Lebanon and Zionist have challenged the accuracy of the Blue Line in several locations.

In 2010, fighting broke out between the Zio-Nazi’s and Lebanese armies close to the Blue Line after Zionist Army patrol attempted to cut down a tree in Lebanese territory. The incident resulted in the death of two Lebanese soldiers, Zionist soldier and a journalist.

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Pro-Palestinian Activist Murdered by IsraHell–’Day I arrived in Gaza was happiest of my life’

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In new video released by friends of Italian activist executed in Gaza on Friday, Vittorio Arrigoni says the need to help with the Palestinian struggle is in his blood; two suspects have reportedly been arrested so far.

Friends of the Italian Palestinian activist executed by Islamist militants in Gaza released a video of Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza, saying that the day of his arrival to the strip was the happiest of his life.

“My grandfathers fought and died struggling against an occupation,” Arrigoni says in the video, referring to the Nazis in Italy. “For this reason, in my DNA, blood, there are particles that push me to struggle.”


 

The body of Arrigoni was found hanging in the home of a Palestinian militant in the Gaza Strip early Friday, hours after he was reportedly kidnapped.

Hamas officials reported that the 36-year-old was discovered in the home of a member of the Monotheism and Holy War group that claimed responsibility for the abduction in a video released Thursday.

Two suspects have already been arrested, and Hamas claims to be searching a third.

The video claiming to show the victim emerged from Gaza on Thursday afternoon, teamed with the extremist group’s demand that Hamas release its leader who was arrested last month. The group threatened to execute the hostage if it demands were not met by Friday afternoon.

Co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, Huwaida Arraf, confirmed that the abducted man in the video appeared to be one of its activists, identifying him as Arrigoni.

Later Thursday, Hamas police reportedly stormed a Gaza City apartment and found Arrigoni’s body. In a statement, the Hamas Interior Ministry said the man was killed “in an awful way” shortly after he was abducted at mid-day Thursday.

Executed Italian Palestinian activist - AP In this Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008 photo, Palestinian activist Vittorio Arrigoni carries an aid box from the ‘Free Gaza’ boat in Gaza city.
Photo by: AP

 

Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab al-Ghussein said the kidnappers had planned from the beginning to kill their victim not to trade him for captives. He also said that a member of the militant group led them to the house.

The Palestinian People Party, a faction of the Palestine Liberation
Organization that is headed by Zionist puppet Mahmoud Ab-A$$, condemned the killing and demanded the killers face the “utmost punishment.”

“This crime does not reflect the morals or the traditions of the Palestinian people,” the group said in a statement.

An Italian doctor was reportedly on his way to Gaza from Israel to identify Arrigoni’s body.

The video released by the militant group shows a man with a thick black blindfold and a large bruise on his face. Apparently seated, he is held in front of the camera by an unseen person.

In a message on the video, the extremist group demanded that Hamas free its leader, arrested in early March, and two other members whose names had not been previously known.

Sheikh Abu Walid-al-Maqdasi, the leader of the group, was arrested in a crowded beachside neighborhood of Gaza City last month.

Although Hamas authorities were responsible for locating Arrigoni, Hamas itself is a fundamentalist Islamic group. But it faces challenges from even more extremist offshoots of Islam, including Walid-al-Maqdasi’s group, that take inspiration from Al-Qaida and the world jihad movement. Hamas has denied that al-Qaida has a presence in Gaza.

Kidnappings of foreigners were common before the Hamas takeover. Most of those abducted were foreign correspondents, including Alan Johnston of the BBC, who was abducted and held for 114 days before being freed in July 2007, just after Hamas overran Gaza, expelling forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Ab-A$$.

ISM, the organization to which Arrigoni belonged, operates in the West Bank and Gaza and is known for trying to prevent the Israeli military from carrying out its missions. Arraf said this activist has been going in and out of Gaza for more than two years. He was working with farmers and fishermen.

The ISM incident that got the most attention was the 2003 death of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by Zio-Nazi military bulldozer in southern Gaza while trying to block its path.

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U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings

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WASHINGTON — Even as the United States poured billions of dollars into foreign military programs and anti-terrorism campaigns, a small core of American government-financed organizations were promoting democracy in authoritarian Arab states.

The money spent on these programs was minute compared with efforts led by the Pentagon. But as American officials and others look back at the uprisings of the Arab Spring, they are seeing that the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known, with key leaders of the movements having been trained by the Americans in campaigning, organizing through new media tools and monitoring elections.

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

The work of these groups often provoked tensions between the United States and many Middle Eastern leaders, who frequently complained that their leadership was being undermined, according to the cables.

The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department.

No one doubts that the Arab uprisings are home grown, rather than resulting from “foreign influence,” as alleged by some Middle Eastern leaders.

“We didn’t fund them to start protests, but we did help support their development of skills and networking,” said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington-based advocacy and research group. “That training did play a role in what ultimately happened, but it was their revolution. We didn’t start it.”

Some Egyptian youth leaders attended a 2008 technology meeting in New York, where they were taught to use social networking and mobile technologies to promote democracy. Among those sponsoring the meeting were Facebook, Google, MTV, Columbia Law School and the State Department.

“We learned how to organize and build coalitions,” said Bashem Fathy, a founder of the youth movement that ultimately drove the Egyptian uprisings. Mr. Fathy, who attended training with Freedom House, said, “This certainly helped during the revolution.”

Ms. Qadhi, the Yemeni youth activist, attended American training sessions in Yemen.

“It helped me very much because I used to think that change only takes place by force and by weapons,” she said.

But now, she said, it is clear that results can be achieved with peaceful protests and other nonviolent means.

But some members of the activist groups complained in interviews that the United States was hypocritical for helping them at the same time that it was supporting the governments they sought to change.

“While we appreciated the training we received through the NGOs sponsored by the U.S. government, and it did help us in our struggles, we are also aware that the same government also trained the state security investigative service, which was responsible for the harassment and jailing of many of us,” said Mr. Fathy, the Egyptian activist.

Interviews with officials of the nongovernmental groups and a review of diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks show that the democracy programs were constant sources of tension between the United States and many Arab governments.

The cables, in particular, show how leaders in the Middle East and North Africa viewed these groups with deep suspicion, and tried to weaken them. Today the work of these groups is among the reasons that governments in turmoil claim that Western meddling was behind the uprisings, with some officials noting that leaders like Ms. Qadhi were trained and financed by the United States.

Diplomatic cables report how American officials frequently assured skeptical governments that the training was aimed at reform, not promoting revolutions.

Last year, for example, a few months before national elections in Bahrain, officials there barred a representative of the National Democratic Institute from entering the country.

In Bahrain, officials worried that the group’s political training “disproportionately benefited the opposition,” according to a January 2010 cable.

In Yemen, where the United States has been spending millions on an anti-terrorism program, officials complained that American efforts to promote democracy amounted to “interference in internal Yemeni affairs.”

But nowhere was the opposition to the American groups stronger than in Egypt.

Egypt, whose government receives $1.5 billion annually in military and economic aid from the United States, viewed efforts to promote political change with deep suspicion, even outrage.

Hosni Mubarak, then Egypt’s president, was “deeply skeptical of the U.S. role in democracy promotion,” said a diplomatic cable from the United States Embassy in Cairo dated Oct. 9, 2007.

At one time the United States financed political reform groups by channeling money through the Egyptian government.

But in 2005, under a Bush administration initiative, local groups were given direct grants, much to the chagrin of Egyptian officials.

The main targets of the Egyptian complaints were the Republican and Democratic institutes. Diplomatic cables show that Egyptian officials complained that the United States was providing support for “illegal organizations.”

Gamal Mubarak, the former president’s son, is described in an Oct. 20, 2008, cable as “irritable about direct U.S. democracy and governance funding of Egyptian NGOs.”

The Egyptian government even appealed to groups like Freedom House to stop working with local political activists and human rights groups.

“They were constantly saying: ‘Why are you working with those groups, they are nothing. All they have are slogans,’ ” said Sherif Mansour, an Egyptian activist and a senior program officer for the Middle East and North Africa at Freedom House.

When their appeals to the United States government failed, the Egyptian authorities reacted by restricting the activities of the American nonprofit organizations.

Hotels that were to host training sessions were closed for renovations. Staff members of the groups were followed, and local activists were intimidated and jailed. State-owned newspapers accused activists of receiving money from American intelligence agencies.

Affiliating themselves with the American organizations may have tainted leaders within their own groups. According to one diplomatic cable, leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt told the American Embassy in 2009 that some members of the group had accused Ahmed Maher, a leader of the January uprising, and other leaders of “treason” in a mock trial related to their association with Freedom House, which more militant members of the movement described as a “Zionist organization.”

A prominent blogger, according to a cable, threatened to post the information about the movement leaders’ links to Freedom House on his blog.

There is no evidence that this ever happened, and a later cable shows that the group ousted the members who were complaining about Mr. Maher and other leaders.

In the face of government opposition, some groups moved their training sessions to friendlier countries like Jordan or Morocco. They also sent activists to the United States for training.

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Zionist Rabbi arrested for Sexually assaulting passenger on flight

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US media report Rabbi Gabriel Bidani allegedly fondled female passenger on flight to NY number of times while she slept

US media outlets reported Thursday that an Israeli rabbi flying from Tel Aviv to New York allegedly fondled a female passenger a number of times while she slept and when she confronted him he claimed: “It’s a mistake I’m asleep”. The report is based on US federal court records.

Rabbi Gabriel Bidani, 47, was charged with misdemeanor assault over the event which allegedly occurred on March 27 during Delta flight 269.

According to the report, an hour and a half into the 12 hour flight, Bidani reached over and put his hand under the complainant’s blanket, placed it on her crotch and groped her.

The woman then “jumped back,” and Bidani “quickly removed his hand from her groin,” she said. The complainant told the FBI that she then “pulled her blanket back over her head and body.” But a few minutes later, Bidani allegedly again “reached under the passenger’s blanket, this time groping the passenger’s breasts.”

“What are you doing, stop touching me,” she told Bidani. He replied, “It’s a mistake, I’m asleep,” an FBI agent said. The female passenger “then left her seat to advise the flight crew of the incident.” The flight crew confirmed the story with the FBI and one crew member described the woman as “visibly shaken and frantic.”

Bidani’s lawyer Saul Bienenfeld, said that the rabbi “asserts his total innocence” and contends that the alleged sexual contact “never occurred.” Bidani posted $250,000 bond and was released from prison after surrendering his passport and agreeing to limit his travels to the New York City metropolitan area.

At his April 5 arraignment, the Orthodox rabbi sought permission to return to IsraHell, though that request was denied by a magistrate judge.

In a subsequent motion, Bienenfeld asked for his client’s curfew to be relaxed since during the Passover holiday he “needs to be in synagogue past 9 PM” and “wishes to see more of those individuals who seek advice in communities that are not near the area that he is sleeping.” At the time, Bidani was staying at a residence on Long Island.

Bidani’s bail terms were modified Thursday when a judge agreed to allow him to fly back to IsraHell from April 14 to May 1. In a motion, Bienenfeld said that his client wanted to return to IsraHell “for the Passover holiday,” and had also recently learned that his father is “gravely ill.” Bidani’s bond was increased to $500,000 by Magistrate Judge James Orenstein. The rabbi’s trial will open on May 4.

 

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Hamas official hints IsraHell killed Italian activist to intimidate future Gaza flotilla members

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Body of Palestinian activist Vittorio Arrigoni found hanging in apartment of Gaza militants earlier in day; Hamas holds rally to honor the activist, says the perpetrators will be punished.

Hamas indirectly accused Israhell on Friday of engineering the killing of an Italian Palestinian peace activist in Gaza in order to intimidate other foreign activists hoping to sail to Gaza as part of the next flotilla.

“Such an awful crime cannot take place without arrangements between all the parties concerned to keep the blockade imposed on Gaza,” Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said at a rally held by the group to honor executed Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni.

Executed Italian Palestinian activist - AP In this Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008 photo, Palestinian activist Vittorio Arrigoni carries an aid box from the ‘Free Gaza’ boat in Gaza city.
Photo by: AP

 

He added that foreign activists like Arrigoni were “our friends” and promised that the perpetrators would be punished.

The body of Arrigoni was found hanged in a Gaza apartment just hours after he was abducted by an al-Qaida-inspired group, Hamas said early Friday, in the first kidnapping of a foreigner since the militant Hamas overran the coastal strip nearly four years ago.

Hamas officials said police stormed an apartment in Gaza City where Arrigoni was being held by members of a small Islamic group that had kidnapped him on Thursday. Arrigoni was dead and the apartment was otherwise empty, the officials said.

In Rome, the Italian Foreign Ministry said the killing was a “barbaric murder and a vile and irrational gesture of violence on the part of extremists indifferent to the value of a human life.”

The Islamic group, calling itself Monotheism and Holy War, had released a video on Thursday showing the kidnapped activist blindfolded and with cuts on his face, held in front of the camera by a fist gripping his hair. The group demanded that Hamas free its leader and two other jailed members and said it would execute the captive if the demand was not met.

Despite the video, the group released a statement on Friday denying it was responsible for Arrigoni’s death.

The abduction highlighted challenges that Hamas – ”an Iran-backed group with a militant Islamist ideology, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and IsraHell” – has faced from smaller Islamic factions in Gaza who see Hamas as too pragmatic and lenient. Some of these, including the one apparently behind Arrigoni’s abduction, are inspired by al-Qaida and the world jihad movement.

Arrigoni came to Gaza as a pro-Palestinian activist in 2008. According to a press release from his organization, the International Solidarity Movement, he had been monitoring human rights violations by IsraHell, supporting the Palestinian popular resistance against the IsraHell occupation and disseminating information about the situation in Gaza to his home country of Italy.

Kidnappings of foreigners in Gaza took place with some regularity before Hamas took control of the territory in 2007. All were eventually released unharmed.
There had been no abductions since Hamas took power.

One of the leaders of the International Solidarity Movement, Huweida Arraf, condemned Arrigoni’s senseless killing.

“Vittorio was really loved in Gaza,” she said. “I didn’t think there was even a 1 percent chance they would kill him. It was a complete shock.”

“The ISM has no immediate plans to pull its volunteers out of Gaza,” she said.

Hamas said two people were arrested in another location in connection with the killing, and a third was being sought.

In a statement, the Hamas Interior Ministry said Arrigoni’s captors killed him shortly after he was abducted midday Thursday. Salama Marouf, a Hamas government spokesman, said the killing was an act against the humanity and against the custom and tradition of the Palestinian people.

Al-Qaida-inspired groups like the one that appeared to be behind Arrigoni’s killing have clashed with Hamas in the past. The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report last month that the groups follow a strict interpretation of Islamic law and see themselves not as liberators of Palestine but as part of a global movement of armed fighters defending Muslims against non-Muslim enemies.

Hamas’ relations with the jihadi groups, according to the same report, have shifted from cooperation to antagonism.

Hamas’ rivals from the Zionist-backed Palestinian government in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, condemned the killing. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, called Arrigoni’s death a despicable and ugly crime.

Journalists were not allowed to see the body in the morgue and could not independently confirm the cause of death given by Hamas. An Italian doctor was on his way from IsraHell to examine the body, a Hamas official said.

Arrigoni was a well-known figure in Gaza, frequently clenching a pipe between his teeth and wearing a beret emblazoned with a likeness of Che Guevara, as well as bracelets in the red, black, green and white colors of the Palestinian flag.

He was an outspoken critic of IsraHell, but in an interview with The Associated Press in 2008 he also criticized Muslim extremists for trying to impose a hardline version of Islam in Gaza. He said he hoped the presence of Western volunteers like him would help liberalize Gazan society.

Arrigoni’s organization, the International Solidarity Movement, operates in the West Bank and Gaza. Its volunteers protest against IsraHell and interfere with the operations of the IsraHell military.

In 2003, an American ISM activist, Rachel Corrie, was struck by an IsraHell military bulldozer in a combat zone in southern Gaza while trying to block its path. A British activist with the group was fatally shot by an IsraHell soldier in the same area that year. A third ISM activist, a Palestinian, was shot and killed by Palestinian militants in the West Bank town of Jenin in 2007.

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Whores For IsraHell–U.S. Senate urges UN to rescind Goldstone’s Gaza report

NOVANEWS

Resolution 138 passes unanimously, calls on members of Human Rights Council to ‘reflect the author’s repudiation off the Goldstone report’s central findings’, and asks UN chief Ban to ‘do all in his power to redress the damage to Israel’s reputation’.The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to rescind the Goldstone Commission’s report on the Gaza war, in light of its author’s expressed regret for some of its claim.

Resolution 138 urges council members “to reflect the author’s repudiation of the Goldstone report’s central findings, rescind the report and reconsider further Council actions with respect to the report’s findings.”

Richard Goldstone in Gaza - AP - June 3, 2009 In this June 3, 2009, photo, UN investigator Richard Goldstone visits the destroyed house where members of the Samouni family were killed during the Gaza war.
Photo by: AP
http://c5.zedo.com/jsc/c5/ff2.html?n=305;c=5899/5269/1;s=1369;d=9;w=300;h=250The resolution also asks UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to “do all in his power to redress the damage to Israel’s reputation” in the wake of the report, and to bring forth reforms within the council so that it “no longer unfairly, disproportionately and falsely criticizes Israel on a regular basis.”South African Judge Richard Goldstone published an op-ed in the Washington Post earlier this month in which he backtracked on claims he had made in the UN report, accusing Israel of targeting civilians during Operation Cast Lead two years ago.
In his op-ed, Goldstone said that if Israel had cooperated with his probe then the conclusions on the report would have been different.“We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report,” Goldstone wrote, adding: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”Goldstone said that Israel has shown to probe itself “to a significant degree” over Gaza war actions, Goldstone wrote, Hamas, who has been in control of the coastal enclave since 2007, “has done nothing.”Despite Israel’s requests, however, both UN Human Rights Council and UN chief Ban, however, have said that the report would not be rescinded. Goldstone himself has said that he is not seeking to annul the report.

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