Archive | April 19th, 2011

Obama ran against Bush, but now governs like him



By Steven Thomma | McClatchy Newspapers


WASHINGTON — He ran as the anti-Bush.

Silver-tongued, not tongue-tied. A team player on the world stage, not a lone cowboy. A man who’d put a stop to reckless Bush policies at home and abroad. In short, Barack Obama represented Change.

Well, that was then. Now, on one major policy after another, President Barack Obama seems to be morphing into George W. Bush.

On the nation’s finances, the man who once ripped Bush as a failed leader for seeking to raise the nation’s debt ceiling now wants to do it himself.

On terrorism, he criticized Bush for sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and denying them access to U.S. civilian courts. Now he says he’ll do the same.

On taxes, he called the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy wrong, and lately began calling again to end them. But in December he signed a deal with Republicans to extend them for two years, and recently he called the entire tax cut package good for the country.

And on war, as a candidate he said that the president didn’t have authority to unilaterally attack a country that didn’t pose an imminent threat to the U.S., and even then the president should always seek the informed consent of Congress. Last month, without a vote in Congress, he attacked Libya, which didn’t threaten the U.S.

Big differences remain between Obama and Bush, to be sure. His two nominees to the Supreme Court differ vastly from Bush’s picks. Obama does want to end the tax cuts for the wealthy. He also pushed through a massive overhaul of the nation’s health insurance system.

Yet even on health insurance, his stand wasn’t so much a reversal of Bush’s approach as an escalation. Bush also pushed through a massive expansion of Medicare by adding a costly prescription drug benefit — at the time, the biggest expansion of a federal entitlement since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Indeed, some of the differences between the two presidents are measured in gray, not black and white as once seemed the case.

Some of the changes in Obama can be attributed to the passion of campaign rhetoric giving way to the realities of governing, analysts say.

“He is looking less like a candidate and more like a president,” said Dan Schnur, the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “He has discovered that it’s much easier to make promises on the campaign trail than it is to keep them as president.”

At the same time, some of the surprising continuity of Bush-era policies can be tied to the way Bush and events set the nation’s course, particularly on foreign policy.

“Morphing into Bush was not a willful act,” said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “It was acquiescence to the policies his predecessor shaped and the cruel realities that Obama inherited.”

For example, Obama found he couldn’t easily close the prison at Guantanamo Bay because he couldn’t find a place, abroad or at home, willing to take all the terrorist suspects held there.

“Bush created, on the military and security side, new realities from which no successor, Democrat or Republican, could depart, “Miller said. “It’s like turning around an aircraft carrier. It cannot happen quickly.”

Among the ways Obama has reversed his earlier promises and adopted, extended or echoed Bush policies:


In 2006, Bush had cut taxes, gone to war, and expanded Medicare, and increased the national debt from $5.6 trillion to $8.2 trillion. He needed approval from Congress to raise the ceiling for debt to $9 trillion.

The Senate approved the increase by a narrow vote of 52-48.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., voted no.

“Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally,” Obama said in 2006. “Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.”

Now Obama’s on the other side. He’s increased the national debt to $14 trillion, and needs Congress to approve more debt. Moreover, Obama’s aides now say that congressional meddling to use that needed vote to wrangle budget concessions from the White House would be inappropriate and risk financial Armageddon.

What about Obama’s own vote against the president in a similar situation? A mistake, the White House said.


As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama opposed extending the Bush tax cuts on incomes greater than $250,000 a year past their expiration on Dec., 31, 2009.

In 2007, he said he was for “rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent of people who don’t need it.” In a 2008 ad, he said, “Instead of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, I’ll focus on you.”

As president, Obama proposed letting those tax cuts expire as scheduled, while also proposing to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for incomes of less than $250,000.

But he didn’t get Congress to approve that. When the issue came to a head last December, Republicans insisted on extending all of the tax cuts or none, and Obama went along lest the tax cuts on incomes below $250,000 expire even briefly. His final deal with the Congress also added a one-year cut in the payroll tax for Medicare and Social Security.

“What all of us care about is growing the American economy and creating jobs for the American people,” Obama said. “Taken as a whole, that’s what this package of tax relief is going to do. It’s a good deal for the American people.”

He said again last week that he wants to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, this time on Dec. 31, 2012.


As a presidential candidate, Obama vowed a broad reversal of Bush’s policies toward suspected terrorists.

Most pointedly, he said he’d close the prison in Cuba and try suspected terrorists in civilian courts, not in military tribunals.

“I have faith in America’s courts,” he said in a 2007 speech. “As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.”

He ran into a torrent of opposition, however. Members of Congress balked at transferring suspected terrorists to U.S. prisons. New Yorkers balked when his administration said it would try accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court in lower Manhattan.

Last month, he changed course, saying he’d keep Guantanamo Bay open, and would try Mohammed before a military court.

The reversal, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, “is yet another vindication of President Bush’s detention policies by the Obama administration.”

Echoing Bush, Obama’s also asserted that he has the power to hold suspected terrorists without charges or trial, and that he has the power to kill U.S. citizens abroad if his government considers them a terrorist threat.


During his campaign, Obama signaled that he’d be far more circumspect than Bush was in using military power. He did say he’d send more troops to Afghanistan, which he’s done, and that he’d attack al Qaida terrorists in Pakistan, which he’s also done.

But he opposed the Iraq war from the start, and said he didn’t think the president should wage war for humanitarian purposes or act without congressional approval, absent an imminent threat to the U.S.

“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” he told The Boston Globe in 2007.

“In instances of self-defense, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.”

On March 19, the U.S. attacked Libya on humanitarian grounds, absent any threat to the U.S. and without approval from Congress.


Posted in USAComments Off on Obama ran against Bush, but now governs like him

Mondoweiss Online Newsletter



Posted BY: Sammi Ibrahem

Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign


Report: Israel used white phosphorus in latest Gaza attacks

Apr 19, 2011

Philip Weiss

From Ahram. Speechless-making. A doctor in the Gaza justice department’s medical office says that injuries to bodies in Gaza, charred, torn, indicate that white phosphorus was used by Israel in latest attacks. Where is international law?

U.S. Treasury says: There’s nothing to see on tax-exempt support for illegal settlements
Apr 18, 2011 11:44 pm | Alex Kane

Investigative journalist and author Grant Smith‘s “Israel Lobby Archive” project gets a response from a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2007, which asked for access to internal Treasury Department records on programs to stop or investigate charitable funds going to illegal Israeli settlements. (Read the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy statement on the response here.)

The department responded, in so many words, that they don’t do anything about it, despite the very public nature of the problem:

Unfortunately, we were unable to locate or identify any responsive records pertaining to:

Internal reports about Treasury Department investigations triggered by public revelations that U.S. charitable funds flows used are used to illegally confiscate Palestinian lands and commit crimes overseas;

Meeting minutes of key Treasury Department 0fficials charged with combating money laundering conducted in Israel and the U.S. dealing with the Sasson report money laundering issues especially those with a focus on U.S. divisions of Hadassah, B’nai B’rith and other U.S. organizations managing WZO money laundering.

While the Treasury Department says it has “responsive information pertaining to Treasury Department programs designed to combat U.S. charitable money laundering to the West Bank,” the documents don’t say anything substantive on that topic. The documents attached to the request consist of already online presidential orders, like the prohibition on transactions with organizations designated by the U.S. as “terrorist” organizations.

But the Treasury Department is doing nothing about the (at least) hundreds of millions of tax-exempt dollars that flow to illegal settlements on occupied land. It is doing nothing about the New York-based Hebron Fund, which openly raises money for racist, extremist Israeli settlers who make the lives of Palestinians in Hebron hell. It is doing nothing aboutFriends of the Ateret Cohanim and Friends of Ir David, who are actively engaged in the colonization of Palestinian land in occupied Jerusalem.

Nothing to see here.

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist in New York, writes on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the United States, where this post originally appeared.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Vittorio bore his burden to the land of pain

Apr 18, 2011

Mohammed Said AlNadi

drawingDrawing of Vittorio Arrigoni by his friend Shahd Abu Salama

Vittorio, your memory will live on forever

I, as every Palestinian is, am in shock at the human capacity for atrocity. Until this moment, I still can’t believe that Vik was murdered here, in Gaza, in the land he loved the most, the land he heartily embraced.

I didn’t know Vik very well, but now we all do in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. Since I’m friends with most of the International Solidarity Movement activists, I used to see Vik around. However, every time, I would be taken aback by his humbleness and sense of humor.

Everyone who knew Vik said he was nothing but a compassionate human rights defender, an individual who left everything behind—his first homeland Italy (I say “first” because Palestine was his second country), his family, his friends, his luxurious life and came to Gaza to support, help and give the people of Gaza. He came to Gaza because he was of a clear conscience and a pure soul. He refused to stand still and watch like so many others did. He could have helped from afar, but he insisted to come, to see firsthand all the crimes Israel was committing against the civilian population of Gaza. He tirelessly documented Israeli violations against human rights in Palestine, including the Gaza war. He accompanied every fisherman, risking his own life so many times; he wiped away the tears on the faces of every child; he always was there for the poor.

Vik passed and left his memories indelibly inscribed in our hearts. He taught us how to love, care, defend and sacrifice for the sake of others. He set the whole world an inspiring example of real heroism.

On Vik’s birthday, I didn’t go to his party, but some of our mutual trusted friends bought a cake and went to his apartment to celebrate it. Guess what they found him doing on his own birthday? My friends told me he was crying because his father’s health condition was critical. Isn’t that rare? Who of us would do a similar thing nowadays? I assume very few. When he was supposed to be there for his father taking care of him, though painful to him, he bore this burden to the land of pain, Gaza, where he chose to belong.

One’s death is compensated for by the legacy he or she leaves. It is the comfort which spurs other followers to hold the torch again and continue on the path towards freedom and justice. Vik left behind a treasure of human principles and values for everyone who wants to be a human. “Stay Human,” the title of his book, alone would fill the world peace and justice.

Yes we are sorry, and we know we are not going to see him again, but his heroic deeds and honorable achievements will never die. His eternal memories will remain a source of inspiration to all of us. And if they managed to eliminate his body, they will never be able to kill his ubiquitous soul, and many others will take the same route.

Vik, you did a great job…much reverence to your soul…

Turks mourn ‘Palestine’s son’

Apr 18, 2011

Philip Weiss


Coverage of Vittorio Arrigoni’s funeral in theTurkish paper Hurriyet is extensive. Palestine’s Son is their headline. Thanks to Robert of Antalya.

Bronfman’s Passover questions come 10 years too late

Apr 18, 2011

Ilene Cohen

Here in Haaretz is Edgar Bronfman—philanthropist, international Jewish organizational leader, friend of Israel—offering a reconsideration of Passover that says it’s all right to criticize Israel: “Suporting Israel means questioning its policies.” Wading into such dangerous territory, he’s obviously glad to have David Grossman for cover, as Bronfman writes:

As we [Grossman and Bronfman] came to the end of our discussion we sat as two Jews – one from North America and one from Israel – who deeply care about our mutual fate as part of the Jewish people. He looked me in the eye and said that it was important for me to openly express my ideas about Israeli policies, and that it is vital for others who question to do the same.
Grossman’s comment resonated with me because Jews are a people of questioners. We emphatically question and discuss. That very Jewish form of engagement, however, is often seen as a threat rather than an asset when it comes to public discussions and criticism of Israel.

Yet, as Jews, we show that we care and are connected to each other by rigorous inquiry, not blind advocacy. Accordingly, I feel compelled to call upon Israel to redouble its efforts to bring about a two-state solution, especially as we enter spring and witness the Arab world in the midst of revolution and the possibility – however remote – of a blossoming democracy in Egypt.

Rather than being buoyed by these words—at this call for “questioners” to speak out—I find myself despairing. After all these years of occupation, with half a million Jewish settlers illegally occupying Palestinian land, with the checkpoints, the wall, and ethnic cleansing ongoing facts of life, after all the wars and threats of more wars—this is the best that Bronfman can come up with—that colonial Israel should “redouble its efforts to bring about a two-state solution.” (Math is not my strong suit, but even I know that 2 x 0 = 0, with 2 representing the “redoubling” and 0 representing the “efforts.”)

Given Bronfman’s importance in the Jewish world, his Passover homily might have been a startling, indeed a welcome, addition to the conversation a decade ago, but I am afraid that today its failure to reference any solid content renders it meaningless.

The Passover seder is based on the injunction to ask questions, and Bronfman could have laid out some serious questions for discussion. But, alas, even Edgar Bronfman is (still) afraid of telling the truth about Israel. That says it all. How sad.

New project seeks to protect Gaza fishermen’s rights and livelihood

Apr 18, 2011

Adam Horowitz

081121 eva gaza 1

An Israeli naval ship sprays a Palestinian fishing boat with a water cannon off the coast of the Gaza Strip. (Photo: David Schermerhorn)

The Civil Peace Service Gaza is beginning a new project off the coast of Gaza to protect the rights of Gazan fisherman. The “Oliva,” a human rights monitoring boat, will launch Wednesday from the port of Gaza City with an international crew from Spain, the United States, Italy and Belgium to accompany Gazan fishermen within Palestinian waters and record violations of international law.

The press release announcing the project states:

Since Operation Cast Lead, access to fishing grounds has been unilaterally restricted by Israel to three nautical miles. This dramatic reduction of the 20-mile limit, which was agreed upon in the Oslo Accords, has resulted in the overexploitation of fishing grounds in which stocks are close to exhaustion. Fishermen are threatened by gunfire, confiscation of their boats and fishing tools, and arrest by the Israeli Navy which regularly launches attacks and incursions in Palestinian waters.

The press release also mentions that Vittorio Arrigoni was part of establishing the project (they will commemorate his life and work tomorrow at the kick off event). The issue of Gaza’s fishermen was central to Arrigoni’s recent work in Gaza. Here are two previously unpublished reports he wrote detailing the deadly conditions off the coast of Gaza. Arrigoni’s close friend Daniela Loffreda shared the reports with us and requested that we change the names of those mentioned to protect their identity:

Report 1: Yousef

20 year old Yousef is the last fisherman that was killed by the Israeli navy in 2010, on the 24th of September.

Yousef was sailing on a boat with three of his cousins opposite al-Sudaniya beach, north of Gaza City. They were fishing. While they were about 2 kilometers away from the beach, an Israeli gunboat approached at a distance of 100 meters and started heavily firing the fishing boat with a machine gun. There was no reason or any warning. Yousef was shot by a bullet in the chest. His relatives carried him to Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahia where he died soon after arrival.

This is what his uncle Ali, told some ISM activists during the wake:

“It was Yousef’s first experinece at sea as a fisherman. He would have married the next month. He didn’t speak about anything else, about the wedding party and about his new life. On the day of his death, the furniture was delivered to his new home.

In addition to Yousef, two members of our family have recently become disabled: Fadi and Bilal. They can not walk anymore because of the wounds inflicted on them by Israeli bullets while they were at sea fishing.

We raise our children just like the Israelis, as they aspire to have normal and possibly happy lives, get married and have families. Due to this desire for normality we die, going to work, trying to procure at sea what we need to feed our families.

Yousef was doing nothing wrong at sea. He did not commit a crime against Israel, he was just trying to build his future. He had no weapons with him, just a net. They could stop him if they wanted, instead they wanted to kill him.

We are under siege from every side, sea and air, Gaza is not a safe place wherever you are: at home, college, street, traveling by car and fishing at sea.

This is the punishment you get when you are born Palestinian.

We thank all people everywhere that show solidarity with the Palestinian people, who speak the same language of the oppressed who resist.

A father goes off to work in the morning and then comes back dead, a child goes off to school and then must make a trip to the morgue.

I thank all the people who give us support, but it’s not enough, you have to isolate Israel in every way within the international community and boycott it.

Report 2: Ghassan

Ghassan cannot stay composed as he sits on a dock at the port of Gaza. As he gestures with one arm, the other remains limp and holds on to dear life while he tells his story to an activist from the International Solidarity Movement.

On the night of March 12, 2007 Ghassan was aboard his boat with two of his brothers. They were fishing about a mile off the coast of Rafah, preparing the lights for night fishing when they noticed an Israeli gunboat nearby that was motionless in the dark. It apparently had been watching them for some time.

Soon after, the Israeli navy boat quickly approached them at a high speed and fired directly at them, without any warning. They panicked and tried to flee to shore but the Israelis started firing missiles at them. They managed to reach the shore and hide behind their small boat when a missile fell near Ghassan, then age 26, and his 14 year old nephew. They were both seriously injured. The barrage of fire made it impossible for the Red Crescent ambulance to reach them for a long time. Precious time was lost and they were first taken to a nearby hospital in Khan Younis and then Ghassan was transferred to a hospital in Israel, but they were not able to save his arm.

“We are not terrorists, Israeli soldiers know that. They know all the fishermen of Gaza by name, have the numbers of our boats, even have our photographs. Every day we go out to sea, we never create problems for the Israelis, we are forced to challenge the illegal limit imposed by the soldiers in order to go off where the sea is rich in fish so that we can feed our families. We are not terrorists, yet we are treated as terrorists. In winter the fisherman are sometimes forced to strip naked while under Israeli fire, then jump into the sea and swim to the Israeli ships. From there the fisherman are transported to Ashdot and put in jail. Last year during one of these abductions, it happened to be Ramadan. Using the threat of death against the fisherman, the soldiers forced them to eat and drink during the fast. To me it was much worse, they tore my arm and I lost the ability to continue to work. ”

Today Ghassan spends his days hanging out at the port illuding himself to believe that he is helpful, as he patiently awaits the day when his life will be compensated. Maybe Europe will deliver a miraculous prosthesis that will once again make him the expert captain that plowed the sea of Gaza for 15 years.

International Solidarity Movement committed to staying in Gaza following Arrigoni murder

Apr 18, 2011

Adam Horowitz

The ISM just released the following statement:

Following the murder of our comrade and friend Viktor, we, activists of the International Solidarity Movement, would like to reiterate our commitment to remaining in Gaza. We will continue to work with and live among the Palestinian population as we continue the work which Vik was so committed too.

In these days of mourning, Palestinians have organized numerous memorials for Vik; they constantly remind us how sorry they are to have lost him, of how they loved him, his closeness, his affection, and his indignation at what is happening here in Gaza. We know that the group that perpetrated this horrible crime does not in any way represent the Palestinian society. The Palestinians of Gaza are our friends, our collogues, and our reason for being here; we will continue to stand by their side.

As we had done when Vittorio was with us, we will continue to stand alongside the Palestinian people, we will continue to struggle against the occupation, we will continue to accompany farmers to their lands along the border, we will continue to participate in demonstrations, and we will continue to tell the world what happens here in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. We think that Victor would agree with Che Guevara when he said, “Don’t cry for me if I die, do what I was doing and I will live on in you.” The best way to honor Vik is to continue the work that he was doing. In particular we will soon begin crewing a boat whose mission is to monitor the violation of human rights in Palestinian waters. This boat will have its maiden voyage on April 20: Vik had strongly backed this project and he had enthusiasticallyparticipated in its realization. Vik has been an inspiration to all of us, we all hope to live up to his example. In a documentary about him, Vik said he would have liked to be remembered by Nelson Mandela’s quote; “A victor is merely a dreamer who never stops dreaming.” Your dreams are our dreams; we will never forget you, Vik.

Egyptian PM to make a solidarity visit to Gaza while the Mubaraks are not adjusting well to prison life

Apr 18, 2011


And more news from the Arab uprisings:


Bahrain PM says protests amounted to coup attempt

MANAMA, April 18 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa said protesters, who had called for his removal, would be held to account and described the anti-government unrest as a coup attempt. “Bahrain has witnessed a coup attempt,” he said in remarks carried by pro-government media on Monday. “No violators would get away with it. All co-conspirators and abettors must be held accountable.”

Bahrain: Gulf troops to stay as counter to Iran (AP)

AP – Gulf troops will stay in Bahrain until its Sunni rulers are satisfied that threats from Iran have eased, the island kingdom’s foreign minister said Monday amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent.*

Bahraini women die amid crackdown

At least two Bahraini women have died as a result of a crackdown on the opposition as thugs backed by Saudi forces stormed the village of Karzakan following the country-wide protests. Azizeh Hassan died in her home after pro-regime thugs stormed houses in Bilad al-Qadim district, a Press TV correspondent reported on Saturday. Moreover, a female teenager died a month after she was attacked by pro-regime thugs in Manama. Jawaher Abdul-Amir Kuwaitan was in a coma at the capital’s al-Salmaniyah Hospital.

Bahrain: Defense Lawyer Detained After Night Raid

(Manama) – More than two dozen uniformed and plainclothes security officers, most of whom were masked, raided the home of prominent defense lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer on the evening of April 15, 2011, and arrested him, Human Rights Watch said today. Neither he nor his family was given any reason for his detention.

Bahrain ‘arrests rights lawyer and doctors’
Campaigners say security forces have detained lawyer who represented leader of the Haq opposition group and two doctors.

Bahrain to prosecute civil servants over protests (AP)

AP – More than a hundred civil servants in Bahrain were summarily fired for participating in anti-government protests, the state news agency said Sunday, in the latest crackdown on the opposition.*

Bahrain detains former champion athlete: opposition (Reuters)

Reuters – Bahrain has detained a former bodybuilding champion as part of a crackdown on mainly Shi’ite Muslim pro-democracy protesters in the Sunni-led Gulf Arab kingdom, the opposition said on Sunday.*

Bahraini Activist “Angry Arabiya” Hospitalized

A Bahraini human rights activist has been hospitalized after going on a hunger strike in protest at the kingdom’s detention of her relatives. Zainab al-Khawaja, known online as “Angry Arabiya,” was taken to hospital on Sunday after seven days of hunger strike following the arrest of her father, uncle, husband and brothers-in-law.

Hospitals show ugly truth about Bahrain, as US looks the other way

TINY Bahrain, a vital American ally in the Gulf region, is reimaging itself as a classic Cold War police state in the aftermath of the democracy uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.

U.S. defends Bahrain policy

“Even though the American administration’s words are all about freedom and democracy and change, in Bahrain, the reality is that they’re basically a protection for the dictatorship,” said Zainab al-Khawaja, a prominent human-rights activist who went on a hunger strike after her father, husband and brother-in-law were arrested at her apartment in Bahrain during the weekend.

Inside Story – Bahrain’s iron fist

Three days after Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in Egypt, the people of Bahrain took to the streets to make their grievances heard. They were not demanding an end to the monarchy – but more representation. But a violent crackdown against protesters saw a shift in their demands. The monarchy was quick to portray the popular uprising as sectarian. Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered Bahrain a month later as tensions began to grow. Now in the latest move, Bahraini authorities pledged to seek court approval to dissolve two Shia opposition groups for alleged links to the protests. Why did Bahrain opt for an iron-fist approach against pro-democracy protesters? And what is the nature of the role of regional players in this Gulf country? Inside Story discusses.

“Struggle Continues in Bahrain: Marches in Manama and Diraz” (Videos)

“With our soul and blood, we’ll redeem Bahrain!” “Down with Hamad, Down with Hamad!”

Bahrain’s Brutal Equation

Since razing the Pearl monument in mid-March, the Bahraini ruling regime has launched a sweeping crackdown on protesters who took to the streets to voice their anger against the Al-Khalifa family and its oppressive mores. In the last few weeks, the situation on the ground has spiralled out of control and descended to a blatant and barren form of brutality with the regime’s security and military apparatus crossing all humane boundaries. The institution of martial law has taken the meaning of a sacrosanct endorsement for one and all forms of transgressions – even women and minors haven’t been spared in this state-sponsored violence spree. Whilst the attention of global media has been fixated on the Libyan stalemate, the Al-Khalifa regime has viciously suppressed the popular protests that began on 14th February.

The US, Gulf Kings and Brutal Repression in Bahrain

The brutal repression of demonstrators by the US-backed monarchies continues.

Bahrain protests will go nowhere while the US supports its government | Ian Black

The Al-Khalifa family, who control Bahrain, has cracked down on dissent with little condemnation from the west. History and geography explain why Bahrain’s peaceful uprising was the early exception to the “Arab spring”, which began with high hopes in Tunisia and Egypt but now faces bloody uncertainties in Libya and Syria. Sitting astride the faultline between the Shia and Sunni worlds, the small Gulf island state lies at the heart of a strategically sensitive region that is dominated by bitter rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia – both very tough neighbours.

Paul Jay, “The United States and the Gulf Arab States: Interview with Adam Hanieh”

Adam Hanieh: The GCC really is the core of capitalism in the Middle East. It’s the primary place where accumulation occurs. It’s also the linkage with the broader world market. And US foreign policy — not just the United States; Europe as well and other states — really see their relationship with the broader Middle East through the lens of the GCC. . . . As you mentioned, they have the Fifth Fleet located in Bahrain. But there’s also CENTCOM, the forward command headquarters of CENTCOM, which is essentially the military headquarters that coordinates US military policy across 27 neighboring states, including Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iraq. That CENTCOM headquarters is located in Qatar. Paul Jay: Yeah, only about five, six miles away from the Al Jazeera office, and also a major air force base.


As Inmates 23 and 24, Stunned Mubaraks Adjust
They make docile inmates, their captors say, still stunned to find themselves behind bars. They eat food brought from outside, the right of any detainee who has not been convicted. But Gamal appears badly shaken and often refuses to eat. He shares a cell with Alaa. “Bear in mind they are very broken,” said a prison official who described the situation inside and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “They do everything they are asked. They don’t raise their voices.”

Egypt ministers face corruption charges
Public prosecutor targets country’s former premier and former finance and interior ministers.

Egypt antiquities chief faces jail time
Court strips Zahi Hawass of his ministerial post after he allegedly ignored earlier land dispute ruling.

Egyptian Court Formally Breaks Up Mubarak’s Party
The dissolution of the National Democratic Party continued the process of dismantling Hosni Mubarak’s institutions of power.

Egyptian newspapers and Mubarak family
It is a lot of fun to read Egyptian newspapers and their extensive and detailed coverage of the lives of Mubarak family members in jail.  It seems, that Mubarak asked prosecutors to punish him, but to spare his sons.  The two sons have grown beards, and Suzanne Mubarak has lost a lot of weight and wore the same dress for three days straight.  This is my summary.

Egyptian Foreign Minister to visit Gaza “in solidarity”
The Palestinian Quds Press has reported that Egypt’s new Foreign Minister, Nabil El-Arabi, is to visit the Gaza Strip. Preparations are being made for his visit, claims Egyptian journalist Ibrahim El-Darrawy, the head of the Cairo-based Palestinian Studies Centre. According to Al-Darrawy, Mr El-Arabi’s visit to besieged Gaza has been scheduled for some time; the intention is to support Palestinian reconciliation efforts and express solidarity with Gaza following recent Israeli attacks. “The plans for a Gaza visit haven’t been denied by the Minister’s office,” said Al-Darrawy, “although they are still at an early stage.” They have, he added, been on the agenda for some time and are in part designed to prevent any further Israeli aggression.


Libya: Indiscriminate Attacks Kill Civilians
(Misrata) – Libyan government forces have launched indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks on residential neighborhoods in the rebel-held city of Misrata, Human Rights Watch said today. One strike, apparently by a Grad rocket, killed at least eight civilians waiting in line for bread. Another attack, apparently with a mortar round, hit a medical clinic, wounding four others.

Misrata Death Toll Hits 17: Fierce Fighting In Last Major Rebel Foothold In Western Libya
AJDABIYA, Libya — Holding out under a rain of shelling and sniper fire, Libyan rebels fought Moammar Gadhafi’s forces Sunday in close-quarters battles in the city center of Misrata, the last major rebel foothold in western Libya. Seventeen people were killed, an NGO worker and an opposition activist said.  Government troops have been laying siege to the city on Libya’s Mediterranean coast for weeks, prompting repeated international warnings of a dire humanitarian situation as well as calls for NATO forces to intensify airstrikes on Gadhafi’s forces there.

Several dead; Libyans demand help against Gaddafi troops
At least four people were killed and 30 injured as violence erupted in the eastern city of Brega, Al Arabiya broadcaster reported, citing witnesses.

Libyan rebels, NATO in joint military operations against Qaddafi forces
Libya’s rebels and NATO forces have established a joint operations room, said the spokesman of the National Transitional Council, Abdul Hafiz Ghoga. This was reported Saturday evening by Agence-France Presse.

Fighting intensifies across Libya
Fighting escalates in the Libyan port of Misrata and elsewhere as government forces attempt to retake the rebel-held city after a two-month siege.

Rebel-held Libyan city pounded
Pro-Gaddafi forces rain rockets on Misurata amid reports of rebels reinforcing positions beyond Ajdabiya in the east.

Gaddafi troops outflank rebels
As fighting continues for Brega, home to several oil facilities, forces loyal to long time leader Muammar Gaddafi skirt that body of fighting and attack Ajdabiya from the south. A large sandstorm has prevented NATO aircraft from targeting the troops, alowing them to set up artillery positions without fear of air strikes. Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from just outside Ajdabiya, and Sue Turton in Benghazi, give the latest details on the fighting along Libya’s coast.

Battle for Libya: Rebel forces advance to west
Anti-aircraft fire and explosions have been heard in the Libyan capital Tripoli. It is not clear who is being targeted in the attacks. Meanwhile NATO has continued its air assault on Muammar Gaddaffi’s forces in the eastern town of Brega. Rebel forces are reportedly advancing on the oil town, as they push on from nearby Ajdabiya. Al Jazeera Sue Turton filed this report from Brega.

Rebels Flee Key Libyan Town
Opposition fighters fled from Ajdabiya on Sunday after a rocket and artillery attack by forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Libyan rebels resist Ajdabiya assault
Anti-government forces hold sway in key town but frontline fighters complain of lack of supplies and fear infiltrators.

Libyan Rebels Say They’re Being Sent Weapons
Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes, the rebel military leader, said his forces had received arms shipments from unnamed nations that support their uprising.

Report: US seeking country to take in Gaddafi
Obama administration said to be searching for nation willing to offer embattled Libyan ruler refuge,7340,L-4057709,00.html

Libya letter by Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy: Full text
President Barack Obama of the US, Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have written a joint letter to The Times of London, the International Herald Tribune and Le Figaro, vowing to keep up the pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and pledging to maintain Nato military pressure on his forces.

Libya: Berlusconi says Italy won’t bomb Gaddafi’s forces
Italy will not drop bombs on Libya, its former colony, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday. We’ve already done enough,” he said during a cabinet meeting, according to Italian news reports.

LIBYA: Traumatized evacuees describe Misrata horror
BENGHAZI 18 April 2011 (IRIN) – Civilians evacuated from the war-ravaged western Libyan city of Misrata have described the humanitarian situation there as grim, saying families are barely able to find enough food and water, that medical treatment is hard to come by, and corpses are lying in the streets.

Libyan civilian casualties rise in Misurata
Doctors work on patients in tents and grieve for a girl killed by a sniper in a city whose misery has become symbolic of the war in Libya. The doctors rushed through a white outdoor tent where several pale, bloodied men were being operated on. Inside the Hikma hospital, it was a similar scene.,0,6100588.story

Libya humanitarian crisis ‘dire’
The UK says it is to hold talks at the United Nations about the “dire” humanitarian crisis affecting residents in western Libya.

Libya’s growing humanitarian crisis
The western Libyan city of Misurata continues to be under siege by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Its only lifelines are the sea routes to Benghazi, Tunis, and Malta, from where a steady stream of supplies has been trickling in over the past few weeks. However, supplies such as food and medicine are running short in Misurata, Libya’s third largest city. Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull and cameraman Craig Pennington, boarded a trawler carrying humanitarian supplies, for a 24-hour voyage to the city. Warning: This exclusive package contains images that may disturb or offend some viewers.

Ajdabiyah hospital staff stays put as civilians flee
AJDABIYAH, Libya, April 17 (Reuters) – Through rocket strikes and street battles, volunteer medics have been keeping Ajdabiyah’s main hospital open even as most of the embattled eastern Libyan city has packed up and left. Ajdabiyah is the gateway to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, and thus its hospital is the first stop for many of the wounded brought back from the frontlines of fighting between insurgents and forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In Libya chaos, relatives of missing can only pray
BENGHAZI, Libya, April 17 (Reuters) – Ex-policeman Mohammad Ali Jarbou was so relieved NATO jets destroyed Libyan government tanks outside the rebel capital Benghazi last month that he and two friends rushed next day to take pictures. None of them have been seen since.

Libyan Revolution : Supernatural allies
First of all here is the good news of the day : Egyptian medic volunteer Abdel Khalek has been released and he is in his way to home insh Allah. Thank Goodness for his safety. Not less than 2000 Egyptians have returned back home to the country in the past 48 hours. Here is an important report in English from Misurata refugee camp , please spread it everywhere. It was shot by Dr. Hamza ,this real citizen journalism coverage outside the country in zone like Libya.

Update: Battle for Libya
Anti-aircraft fire has been seen in the sky over the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Earlier, Pro-Gaddafi forces launched another barrage of rockets and mortars against Misurata. Libya’s government has denied accusations it used cluster bombs in Misurata. On Friday, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said it had observed cluster munitions explode over the city. The weapons are banned by more than one hundred countries. Earlier, a resident of Misurata explained what he saw to Al Jazeera.

Mike Hanna in Benghazi
As the siege by forces loyal to longterm Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Misurata tightens, tanks enter the city and push civilians closer to the port area. With evidence emerging of the use of cluster bombs by Gaddafi’s forces, fears are growing for the city’s population. Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Benghazi, gives us the latest on events in Libya.

Frost Over the World – Fleeing Misurata
Actress Olivia Williams and ‘Lost’ star Matthew Fox talk about their West End play, ‘In A Forest Dark and Deep’. Plus, environmentalist George Monbiot explains why he supports nuclear power, despite the recent disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Finally, Ambassador William L Swing, the director-general of the International Organization for Migration, talks about the ongoing refugee crisis in the Libyan city of Misurata.

This is / was Misurata
Above, a recent picture of the Libyan town of Misurata by the Telegraph‘s Geoff Pough. Below, a video of the town shot during Ramadan 2010, by YouTube user HoneyBees1885. Brings it home. More about the destruction of Misurata at theNYT. And the song is great — the YouTube comments say it’s by Reda Aqraf (رضا أقراف). Via Andy Carvin and LibyaInMe on Twitter.

Frost Over the World – The way ahead in Libya
During an informal NATO meeting in Berlin, Sir David Frost talks to Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, about the way ahead in Libya. Plus, Charlie Parker the editor of Citywire on spiralling oil prices and Ad Melkert, the UN special representative for Iraq, gives a progress report on the country eight months before American troops withdraw.

Massoud Abu Assir, Libyan Rebel Guitarist Plays On Outskirts Of Ajdabiya
AJDABIYA, Libya — The Libyan revolution has been tough on rebel fighter and guitarist Massoud Abu Assir’s rock band. His bass player was captured by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, and his drummer is off fighting on the front line. But those setbacks haven’t stopped the 38-year-old amateur musician from composing songs in support of the revolution and performing them for rebels on the battlefield. He made an appearance Saturday on the outskirts of the front line city of Ajdabiya as fierce fighting raged about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.


U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups, Cables Released By WikiLeaks Show
The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

WikiLeaks: US Embassy Cables: : Hariri proposed new Syria regime
Leaked diplomatic cables allege that Saad Al-Hariri suggested isolating Bashar Al-Assad and forming a coalition of Muslim Brotherhood and former regime figures to take power.

Thousands attend Syria protesters’ funerals
Mourners call for overthrow of President Assad a day after at least 30 demonstrators were killed by security forces.

Syria protesters killed in Homs
At least 17 pro-democracy demonstrators were killed by security forces as demands for president Assad’s ouster continue.

Syria’s Assad swears in new government
President chairs cabinet’s first session as state media says one policeman was killed in Friday’s clashes.

Assad to abolish emergency law
President Bashar al-Assad of Syrian promised his countrymen on Saturday that he would lift the draconian emergency law within a week, after month-long protests rocked Syria and left at least 200 people dead.

Policeman dies amid Syrian protest
A Syrian policeman is reported to have died after being beaten by protesters during a demonstration in a central city.

Syrians protest despite Assad concessions
Hundreds rally in the southern city of Suweida, a day after the president vowed to lift emergency law within a week.


Wife of ousted Tunisian president “a Mossad agent”
The bodyguard of the ousted Tunisian President Zen El Abedeen Ben Ali has said that Ben Ali and his wife Laila El Trabolsi are supporters of Israel. Abdel Rahman Sobeir also claims that El Trabolsi is a Mossad agent who was involved in several assassinations of Palestinian leaders when they were exiled in Tunisia. Mr Sobeir revealed this sensitive information on Facebook; he accused Tunisia’s ex-First Couple and their son-in-law Selim Shaiboub, along with a number of senior security chiefs, of criminal activity. According to reports in the Algerian newspaper Al Shorouk, in 1991 Laila Ben Ali recruited two agents in the Tunisian intelligence services to assassinate a Tunisian businessman who was a close friend of Ben Ali but had opposed her marriage to the ousted president. “Ben Ali’s son-in-law was behind the death of a four-year-old girl in the Radeif area in 1992, an act proved by state security investigators,” claims Sobeir. He added that there are many more treasures in the Carthage Palace than have been disclosed. The treasures include gold and sapphire decorations brought together by Leila and her brother Belhasan.

“Tunisians Protest at Saudi Embassy: Extradite Fugitive Ben Ali!” (Videos)
Several thousands of Tunisians protested outside the Saudi Embassy on 15 April 2011, demanding the extradition of fugitive Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In Tunisia, where record keeping is good, some seek to preserve documents of tyranny
In Tunisia, undergoing a transformation from dictatorship to possible democracy, some make an effort to collect and preserve regime archives, very few of which have been made public. The unassuming whitewashed building is crammed full of explosive material potentially more damaging, or vital, to Tunisia’s democratic experiment than any incendiary device.,0,1415313.story


Yemeni troops ‘open fire on protesters’
Reports of more clashes come as leaders of opposition bloc head to Saudi Arabia to discuss transition of power.

Yemeni women protest over Saleh criticism
Thousands reject president’s view that it is un-Islamic for women to join men in demonstrations against his rule.

Yemen opposition to join Gulf-brokered talks
Leaders of opposition bloc head to Saudi Arabia to discuss transition of power with Gulf ministers amid protests


United Arab Emirates: The Making of a Police State
Over the last few years, the UAE has become increasingly oppressive. The recent crackdowns show how bad it really is.

Arab Dictators’ Children: The Mixed Fortunes Of Gaddafi And Mubarak’s Kids
Muammar Gaddafi’s only daughter, Aisha, found herself the subject of many international headlines this week after sherallied a crowd early Friday from a balcony at her father’s compound. For 35-year-old Aisha, who’s been branded North Africa’s “Claudia Schiffer” due to her glamorous image, it was the most overtly political gesture to date. (Previously, she has grabbed headlines over an alleged affair with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi). She’s not the only known member of the Gaddafi family carrying her father’s legacy. As Time reports, brother Saif, 40, is known as a shrewd operator and canny businessman, while 39-year-old Saadi enjoyed a brief Italian soccer career. Little is known about Khamis, said to have died in a kamikaze attack, or Milad, a nephew whom Gaddafi adopted.

Kidnapped in Gaza

Apr 18, 2011

Vittorio Arrigoni

The following was sent to us by Daniela Loffreda, a close friend of Vittorio Arrigoni.  She writes: “This is a chilling account from Vittorio’s blog of what happened to him and other ISM activists when they were kidnapped by the Israeli military in 2008. The media keeps focusing on how Hamas doesn’t have control of Gaza and security. And I ask myself, had Vittorio tried to leave via Israel what would of happened to him, again? He was jailed and captured (and tortured) by IDF twice.”

Vittorio Arrigoni (Photo courtesy of Daniela Loffreda)

Last Tuesday the sea was a placid, liquid blanket, unruffled and as smooth as oil when Darlene, Andrew and I, human rights activists with the ISM sailed from the port of Gaza on three Palestinian fishing boats. The warm sun, clear blue sky and complete absence of wind had led us to expect a plentiful day’s catch for our fishermen friends. Around 11 AM we were intercepted and circled by eight Israeli military boats opening fire against the fishing boats, obstructing our way, after which they proceeded to kidnap us three internationals and fifteen Palestinian fishermen. They abducted us and stole the boats, leading us and the boats from the Palestinian water zone right to the border with Israel’s. We were about six miles from the coast of Gaza, which according to international laws is unequivocally in Palestinian waters (the Oslo Treaty gives the Palestinians sovereignty up to 20 miles from the coast of the Strip), meaning ours wasn’t an arrest but a full-blown abduction, with the fishing boats being stolen rather than confiscated. A veritable terrorist blitz. Israeli Navy special forces, commandos, balaklava-wearing, unfathomably armed, all to stop just three small wooden boats that could barely stay afloat.

I tried to speak to the Israeli Officer who seemed the highest in ranking, asking him whether they were planning to kill me. I could see more than ten pistols, guns and cannon barrels pointing at me, following my every move. Before the Israeli soldiers jumped on board the fishing boat, I asking him and them what kind of obsessive fear Israel nurtured, what degree of extreme danger for its domestic security could be represented by a bunch of simple Palestinian fishermen going offshore, within their own sea zone, to catch just enough fish to feed their families with.

The Israeli Officer, so iron-willed and authoritarian when barking orders in Hebrew at his soldiers and in English (with a distinctly Australian accent) at me, had nothing to say in reply to my simple query. These soldiers, all muscles and stony coldness, are trained to kill a man in less than a second (or less when he’s Palestinian), without even batting an eyelid. But it’s obvious they’re unable to willingly grasp the meaning of simple terms such as “right to exist” and “right of sustenance”.

Since we were far from Israeli borders, I told the Israeli Officer I didn’t recognize his authority, nor their right to kidnap myself and my friends, the fishermen. I therefore decided I would resist passively, non-violently. I climbed onto the cabin roof, and from there onto the iron structure used as a jib to lift the fishing nets, at the boat’s stern. Three soldiers followed me, pointing guns in my face. Their eyes behind the black balaklavas seemed to me like the best representation of hatred that I had ever seen, a hatred taught in years of lessons learnt off by heart, on how to best defeat an enemy, even when that enemy doesn’t exist. Not in the least bit intimidated, I asked them whether they intended to kill me, and if so to go ahead and finish off their job then and there.

Go ahead and kill a civilian, a disarmed Italian on a Palestinian fishing boat, gone fishing with his Palestinian friends on Palestinian waters. A fourth soldier came forward, and I recognized the weapon he was holding, a taser gun. I told him the truth, that I have a heart condition. His weapon could have given me a cardiac arrest. The soldier got closer, the Officer gave him the order and I turned my back on both of them, so as not too feel too much compassion for them. The soldier shot me in the back, an electric shock that knocked me right out, then all four soldiers tried to push me down the three-meter leap, down onto the stern’s steel floor that could have provoked serious fractures in me. I lunged forward and leapt into the sea, swimming slowly with what strength I had left. I swam towards the shore on the horizon, towards Gaza, towards my home. Indifferent to the intimidating bullets hitting the water a few centimeters from my head, I swam for a good half hour, followed at a short distance by the eight war ships. But when my teeth started to chatter uncontrollably and the palms of my hands turned blue, I had to give in and let the soldiers pull me out of the water, beating me up as they did so. I narrowly missed hypothermia.

When we got to the port of Ashkelon, myself, Darlene and Andrew were marched out of the Israeli war ship and were met by a scenario reminiscent of the Holocaust. It was something that reminded me of Schindler’s List, or the horror-imbued prose of Primo Levi. All the fishermen were made to kneel, stark naked, chained at the ankles and handcuffed with their arms behind their backs, blindfolded. These were the conditions they had been made to travel in, on an open deck for 50 nautical kilometers.

Why so? For what reason on earth does Israel, through its army and government, soil its reputation with such crimes against the civilians of Gaza on a daily basis? Why does it impose these collective punishments? Preventing harmless fishermen from catching fish a few miles from the coast, in their own water zone, and more generally starving Gaza’s population held captive in its siege, certainly doesn’t favor the peace process, nor will it give Israel more security. The exact opposite is true.

Us three internationals were lead into a prison at Ben Gurion, followed by another one in Ramle, where we immediately went on a hunger strike to ask for the immediate release of the Palestinian fishermen, which eventually took place.

I was held for six days in that Israeli jail in terrible conditions, in filthy and claustrophobic cells, crawling with insects and parasites that feasted on my skin. But coming from Gaza, I was used to being held under chain. Through Israel’s will, Gaza is the biggest open-air prison in the world. All the industries have had to close down, over 80% of the population survives under the poverty line and the highest rates of unemployment in the world are recorded in Gaza. There’s no electricity or fuel. Hospitals need medicine, the vast majority of the population need food and the bare essentials. The Israelis only conducted me from one open-air prison to another of their own smaller ones, where at least, unlike in Gaza, they regularly serve rations and both electricity and drinking water are available almost daily.

But I was denied the most basic of human rights, such as the faculty to contact my attorney or consulate at my own discretion rather than my jailers’. Furthermore, I am keen to speak out against the prison of Ramle, twenty kilometers from Tel Aviv, where hundreds of African refugees, mostly Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sudanese, are virtually buried alive. They have perfectly valid UN visa passes; in any self-styled civilized country they would have been assigned accommodation and the bare essentials to survive. They’re fleeing from war – they’re no terrorists. But once again, when it comes to human rights, and more generally to international law, Israel have demonstrated that it’s just a bunch of hollow words to them outside their borders, as well as within them. I’ll do everything in my power to let the inhuman conditions of my inmates be known – I promised them I would.

In the end, Andrew, Darlene and I were deported. We didn’t appeal to an Israeli court so as not to legitimize our arrest, which is considered a kidnapping under international law.

Our lawyers will battle it out to have the fishing boats returned. Besides the financial loss suffered by the boats’ owners, what’s really aggravating us is the thought of fifty unemployed fishermen, and about thirty Palestinian families without a means of sustenance for the last week.

Those boats robbed by Israel are a symbol of the siege under which Gaza is forcibly held, the illegality bordering on terrorism with which the Israeli Army operates outside its territory. Personally, I, Vittorio Arrigoni, declare that I’m a lion. The more I get flogged, the more they jail me, the steelier my will to fight for human rights becomes. It was no laughing matter for Gandhi and his companions to shake off the British occupation, nor for Mandela to defeat the Apartheid that reigned supreme in South Africa. Neither the wounds inflicted upon me in these months in Gaza, nor has my last confinement sufficed to make me take a single step back on the path towards the non-violent civic struggle I undertook. It’s a moral matter that spells freedom for the Palestinians, and simultaneously peace and security for the Israelis.

Stay human,

Vittorio Arrigoni

El-Haddad: Goldstone’s opinion might have changed, but the facts in Gaza have not

Apr 18, 2011

Adam Horowitz

Gazamom blogger, and Goldstone Report contributor, Laila El-Haddad responds to the Goldstone’s reconsideration with a Baltimore Sun Op-Ed “Palestinians betrayed by Judge Goldstone“:

The Goldstone Report meant to accomplish accountability, reporting not only on the destruction and massacres committed during the Gaza attack but calling for an examination of the intent of senior leaders and for action against perpetrators of war crimes.

But Judge Goldstone’s op-ed is an affront to the rights of victims, both Palestinian and Israeli, and our desire — our right — to truth and justice.

Palestinians feel abandoned by Judge Goldstone. Here is a leading advocate for human rights giving every impression of deserting a civilian and refugee population — particularly the Samouni family, which lost 29 members over several terrifying days, but also Palestinians like Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who was present when three daughters and a niece were killed by Israeli shelling.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army continues to operate with complete impunity, killing 19 Palestinians in Gaza earlier this month. On Jan. 10, they shot dead a 65-year-old farmer tending to his land along Gaza’s border — a repeat of an incident I reported in September, when Israeli forces killed a 92-year-old shepherd, his 14-year-old grandson and his 17-year-old friend with a series of artillery shells, even though they were clearly visible (by the army’s own admission days later).

It merits reminding that the Goldstone Report had many other damning conclusions, including finding that the ongoing blockade of Gaza constitutes a violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power. The blockade deprives Palestinians of their most basic freedoms: freedom to build, to move in and out of one’s home to the rest of the occupied Palestinian Territories or to the world, to fish more than three miles out to sea, to marry who you want and live where you want, to study, to read, to farm, to build, to live, to prosper. It dysfunctionalizes life and cripples livelihoods.

There has been plenty written in the past two weeks about Judge Goldstone. Some say he buckled under pressure after being ostracized from the Jewish community. Some say he had a change of mind and others that he actually did not retract much.

One thing is certain: Though Judge Goldstone’s opinion may have changed on the deliberateness of Israel’s killings, the facts on the ground and the eyewitness testimonies one hears on every corner of the Gaza Strip have not. They are the greatest evidence.

The need to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and to implement the recommendations of the Goldstone Report have never been more salient. To quote Judge Goldstone himself, “the debate should continue, not attempt to be silenced.”

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The Colonial “Axis of Evil” Prepares for the Invasion of Libya



U.S., Britain and France step up war plans

By Brian Becker

April 18, 2011 “Answer” – -The stage is now set for the imperialist invasion of Libya. – Britain, France and the United States—have committed themselves to the ouster of the Libyan government.

Frustrated that the NATO bombing campaign has failed to secure a victory for the anti-Gadaffi rebels, the main NATO powers are preparing a dramatic escalation of the war. They hope the threat of escalation will convince Gadaffi and his associates to leave power as the threat of a land invasion in June 1999 led Milosevic to capitulate and allow NATO forces to take over Kosovo. Or, as an alternative, they will launch a military invasion of the country.

“… [I]t is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power,” wrote Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, and David Cameron in a joint article published simultaneously in the New York Times and several European newspapers on April 15.

Their stated pretext to “protect civilians” in Libya’s civil war (Resolution 1973 passed by the U.N. Security Council on March 17 with Russia, China, Germany, Brazil, and India abstaining) has given way in this latest public proclamation to their actual intention to replace the Libyan government with a new proxy regime in the country that holds the largest oil reserves in the African continent.

“No political settlement in which the dictator remains in place will work. The West and its partners must be ready to maintain political, economic and military pressure until he is gone,” states the New York Times in its April 15 lead editorial.

Do not be fooled by the anti-dictatorial motivation of the New York Times. When the CIA and British intelligence overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and replaced it with the dictatorship of the Shah, the New York Times editorialized: “Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost to be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism.”

Mossadegh had earned the label of “fanatic” because he had dared nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (aka British Petroleum) and use the profits of Iran’s oil to bring the country out of immense poverty.

All the targets of imperialist invasion and “regime change” strategies are fully demonized prior to aggression. From Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Congo in 1961, Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 to Iraq in 2003, the process of selective demonization of leaders is a precursor to aggression. The motives of the invaders are pure and noble. The bombs they drop are smart. They only kill bad people who are the enemies of freedom.

At these moments, the money-gouging corrupt politicians of both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C.—from Tea Party Republicans to most Democratic Party politicians—mainly put aside all differences to join the chorus of the holy condemning the targeted demon as the troops are assembled, the war planes take to the skies and the cruise missiles crash into their targets. They are patriotic to the Empire and realize that their privileged and pampered employment as the “people’s representatives” can be quickly ended if they resolutely defy the war makers and their mass media propaganda machine. They, too, can be demonized if they step too far out of line.

The people of the United States do not want this war. They want the war in Afghanistan and Iraq—two other wars for Empire—ended now. They can see through the lies of the government that says the country is so broke that tens of thousands of teachers, nurses and other public sector workers must be fired. Yet the same government, pursuing a global imperialist foreign policy that benefits the biggest banks and oil corporations, has limitless funds to invade and occupy the lands of other working people.

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Libya conflict: EU awaits UN approval for deployment of ground troops



Ian Traynor in Brussels

European member states poised to send 1,000 soldiers to besieged rebel city of Misrata to assist relief effort

April 18, 2011

The EU has drawn up a “concept of operations” for the deployment of military forces in Libya, but needs UN approval for what would be the riskiest and most controversial mission undertaken by Brussels.

The armed forces, numbering no more than 1,000, would be deployed to secure the delivery of aid supplies, would not be engaged in a combat role but would be authorised to fight if they or their humanitarian wards were threatened. “It would be to secure sea and land corridors inside the country,” said an EU official.

The decision to prepare the mission, dubbed Eufor Libya, was taken by the 27 governments at the beginning of April. In recent days, diplomats from the member states have signed a 61-page document on the concept of operations, which rehearses various scenarios for the mission in and around Libya, such as securing port areas, aid delivery corridors, loading and unloading ships, providing naval escorts, and discussing the military assets that would be required.

The planning has taken place inside the office of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign and security policy chief. Officials are working on an “A-plan”, the operational instructions that would specify the size of the force, its equipment and makeup, and the rules of engagement.

Diplomats and officials said this would not be finalised unless a request for an EU military mission came from the UN body the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).

Valerie Amos, the head of Ocha, has privately told EU leaders she is reluctant to make the request and wants to explore all civilian options for the aid operation before seeking military help.

Amos said on Monday the Libyan government has promised the UN access to the besieged rebel city of Misrata, although they had not guaranteed a ceasefire during such a mission. She was in talks with the Libyan prime minister in Tripoli on Sunday and said she would send a team to the city of 300,000 as quickly as possible, adding that she was “deeply concerned” about the safety of civilians.

The EU has established an operations headquarters in Rome under the command of an Italian rear-admiral as part of its plan for a military deployment to Libya. Ashton has written to Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary-general, offering the military assets, but the overture has been declined.

“The operation is agreed. It’s ready to go when we get the nod from the UN,” said the EU official. But behind the scenes in Brussels, there is much ambivalence as well as attempts at point-scoring between the bigger member states.

Diplomats say Ashton is pushing for a UN consent under strong pressure from the French, which is generally keen to promote projects supporting European defence and security policy.

With the situation in Libya, particularly Misrata, getting more critical, diplomats in Brussels say the pressure is mounting on the UN to authorise the EU force. “We’re at the point of saying we may need to support aid being delivered,” said one EU diplomat in Brussels. “So you need people with military capability. The EU has two battle groups ready.”

Under a policy going back several years but seldom used, Brussels has a roster of battle groups, with two on permanent standby, comprising a force of about 1,500. The main battle group that would be deployed is German-dominated, which could trigger a row.

France and Britain have been the main hawks on Libya while Germany has been the most vocal opponent of the bombing campaign. Berlin stunned its allies by abandoning the UK, France, and the US in the security council vote last month that mandated the bombing.

Berlin has since promised it would commit forces for a humanitarian mission, but Paris and London would be reluctant to let Germany take the lead, fearing it would be overcautious and restrict the mission’s scope.

The Nato alliance is keen to let the EU take over any armed escorts for an aid mission, seeing little role for itself. “I would appreciate it if the EU could take the initiative on the delivery of humanitarian aid,” the Nato secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said last week. “Nato has no intention to play a leading role.”


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Russia accuses NATO of violating UN resolution over Libya


by crescentandcross

Moscow, Apr 18: Russia’s permanent envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin today accused alliance forces of violating the UN Security Council resolution over Libya, asking NATO to maintain the embargo on arms supplies to the conflict zone.

“More and more European states are declaring support for the Libyan rebels. We request to stop violating the UN Security Council resolution, especially its clause imposing an embargo on arms supplies to the conflict zone,” Rogozin told RIA Novosti news agency.

“No one has ever succeeded in extinguishing a fire with kerosene,” he said.

“Getting more and more entangled in the Libyan crisis, certain Western states have started speculating about the possibility of a ground operation, which would probably be introduced as an operation to secure humanitarian convoys,” Rogozin said here.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier warned that weapons supplies and ground operations in Libya, regardless of reasons or causes, would be a breach of the Security Council’s resolution.

Rogozin’s remarks come in the wake of recent rumours that France was pushing EU countries to the ground campaign in Libya by sending an EU humanitarian-military mission to the troubled North African state.

However, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has ruled out any military role for the EU humanitarian mission.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya on March 17, paving the way for a military operation against embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi which began two days later. The command of the operation was shifted from a US-led international coalition to NATO in late March.

Despite dozens of sorties carried out by NATO aircraft against Gaddafi’s forces, the government troops maintain their combat capability and continue to pound poorly-equipped rebels with heavy artillery and rocket fire.

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Palestinian children send letters to imprisoned fathers


by crescentandcross



Ma’an news

TUBAS (Ma’an) — “Father, I miss you so much and it’s been so long and you are away we miss hugging you, we miss the smell of your jacket in the house, and the smell of your cologne. I pray to God that you will be released one day and come back to us. I dream about you often,” Ahmad Atef Daraghmeh, 11, wrote.

One of dozens of children from the small municipality of Tubas with a parent incarcerated in an Israeli jail or military detention center, Ahmad joined his peers in the Tubas Prisoners Center on Sunday, the day which is marked as Prisoners Day, and for the first time wrote to his father.

The letters children wrote will be given to lawyers who regularly visit the nearly 30 detention centers where Palestinian prisoners are held, head of the center Mahmoud Issa said.

“These letters give us hope, they remind us of our fathers, brothers, husbands, and they bring to the fore the pain of separation; they make us redouble our efforts to secure their release and bring joy back to Palestinian families,” Issa said.

Unless a prisoner release deal is reached, Ahmad’s father will remain in the Shata prison for another 15 years to complete his 22-year sentence.

“I promise to always take care of my brothers, I will respect them and be the best at school and make you proud,” Ahmad wrote.

The Palestinian Authority estimates that there are 6,000 Palestinians currently in Israeli prison, including 37 women and 245 children. Most are said to be political prisoners, jailed for resisting soldiers carrying out the continued occupation of Palestinian lands.

Since 1967, Israel has detained around 750,000 Palestinians, the PA Ministry for Detainees’ Affairs said. Some 70,000 Palestinians have been detained since 2000, the ministry added.

“We will collect as many letters as we can, and we will make sure they are delivered to the prisoners,” Issa said.

Sajida Jihad, 12, has not seen her father since he was detained when she was three years old, and could not decide what to write in her letter. She, like Ahmad, told her father she only dreamed of a hug.

“I wish you could be out of Jilboa prison forever, I wish it were you who were here to help me study for my exams, and help me with my papers,” Ayat Mustapha, 17, said in her letter.

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IsraHell army blocks access by car to Palestinian neighborhood with more than 150 residents


by crescentandcross




The village of Khirbet a-Deir, which lies next to the village of Tuqu’, is built on both sides of Route 356 that connects Bethlehem and Hebron. On 9 February 2011, a bulldozer accompanied by two army jeeps laid dirt piles and boulders at the two entrances to the Abu Ghassan neighborhood, which is the northern section of the village, and at the entrance to the nearby village of al-Halqum, thus blocking access by car through these entrances. The action was taken without informing the residents in advance and without explanation.

Residents of Abu Ghassan carry provisions on foot. Photo: Suha Zeid, B'Tselem, 10 Feb. '11.

Residents of Abu Ghassan carry provisions on foot. Photo: Suha Zeid, B’Tselem, 10 Feb. ’11.

Following firm exchanges between residents and representatives of the Civil Administration, the army opened the entrance to al-Halqum the same day. The entrances to the Abu Ghassan neighborhood remain closed. As a result, 150 people have been left with no ability to access their neighborhood by car.

Taysir Abu Mifrah, who works for the Tuqu’ Municipality, went to the Etzion Coordination and Liaison Office the day after the piles were laid, to find out why the entrances had been blocked. He was told that the action had been taken for security reasons, and also because the access roads are close to a dangerous curve in the main road.

A supply truck blocked from entering the village. 10 Feb. '11.


A supply truck blocked from entering the village. 10 Feb. ’11.

For more than a month now, residents of Abu Ghassan have had to leave their cars on the main road and climb over the dirt piles and boulders to reach home. They have to carry all shopping products, including gas canisters and animal feed, on their backs. As the village has no medical services whatsoever, residents have carry persons needing medical care over the piles and boulders to reach the main road. Children meeting the school bus are in danger, as they now have to walk out to the main road.

The blocking of car access to an entire neighborhood infringes the villagers’ rights to freedom of movement, to earning a livelihood, and to receiving medical treatment. On 14 April 2011, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote to the military commander of Judea and Samaria, demanding that the blocks be removed immediately.


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Itamar Killers Found?



By Mohammad


The Israeli press is ablaze this morning with the news that the killers of the Fogel family in the illegal colony of Itamar in the occupied West Bank have been found. After several weeks of besieging the village of Awarta, arresting virtually all of its inhabitants, and causing extensive property damage, the Israeli authorities have announced that two teenagers from the village have admitted to carrying out the killings.

This particular case has been quite interesting, because of the fact that all Palestinian factions publicly distanced themselves from it and denied responsibility for carrying it out. Despite the Israeli government immediately blaming it on Palestinian ‘terror’ without any proof and using the death of the Fogels as an excuse to further expand the illegal colonization of the West Bank, a gag order was placed on the investigation as rumors and theories grew about who the actual culprit may have been.

Itamar is a heavily fortified settlement overlooking the surrounding Palestinian villages on whose land it is illegally built. The colony is notoriously well fortified to ensure intruders do not enter; it is completely surrounded by 8 foot high electrified wire fence with 2 feet of razor wire on top, sensors to determine if the fence has been cut, automatic cameras that cover the entire perimeter, 24 hour security guard presence and protection provided by the Israeli military. All of its inhabitants are heavily armed, and like almost all Israeli settlements it is surrounded by hundreds of meters of empty buffer land that Palestinians cannot step foot in.

The fact that Itamar probably has more security than the White House led many to conclude that whoever killed the Fogels could not have simply snuck in and snuck back out again.

But now the Israeli security authorities, that bastion of transparency and human rights, say they’ve extracted confessions from Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad, 18, both from Awarta. According to Haaretz, the teens decided on a whim to go to Itamar armed with nothing but wire cutters and a prayer. They walked across the buffer zone without being noticed by the cameras, security guards, soldiers or residents of the colony. They reached the electrified fence, where they spent ten minutes cutting the wire. The automatic cameras and sensors seemed, by a stroke of anti-semitic fortune, to be asleep that day.

Once they’d cut the fence, the two teenagers walked into the colony, where again nobody noticed them. They found a house which by sheer luck was 1) unlocked, 2) empty and 3) had an M16 rifle and ammunition lying about. Amjad and Hakim picked up the gun and the bullets, and stepped out of the empty house. There, they moved to the Fogels’ residence. They walked in, and killed four family members-one with the gun, the others with a knife.

Having defied all odds, the teenagers now left the house and went back outside. They still hadn’t been noticed. Neither the gun shot nor the screams had been heard (the security services here explain that the weather wasn’t conducive to carrying sound waves that evening). While realizing they STILL hadn’t been noticed by any of the residents, soldiers, security guards or cameras, Amjad and Hakim spotted the Fogels’ 3 month old baby through the window. So they decided to go back inside and kill the baby.

Insatiable Arab thirst for blood and all that.

Now the teens, armed with a big stolen M16 rifle, ammunition, and a knife simply walked back out of the colony, again unnoticed by the cameras, soldiers, guards, colonists, sensors and maybe even God himself. They walked across the buffer zone, back to their village, and thought they had gotten away with their dastardly crime. Of course, they had forgotten to factor in the tireless efforts of the Israeli army and intelligence apparatus, who laid siege to their village for days, barring the entry of food and medicine, rounding up villagers en masse, savagely beating others and destroying extensive property in Awarta.

The story presented by the Israeli security forces has more holes in it than a hunk of Swiss cheese treated with birdshot. As Ali Abunimah points out, they can’t even get their claim right about whether or not Amjad and Hakim acted alone or on behalf of the PFLP. And Israel’s penchant for using torture and threats to coerce confessions doesn’t really do much for its credibility here. If 6 year old girls are beaten and 60 year old women are violently detained in Awarta, your brain doesn’t have to go far to guess what the Shin Bet did to extract confessions from the young men.

And before the seething masses of indignant Zionists could finish wringing their hands, out comes the family of Hakim Awad with the inconvenient revelation that their son had recently undergone testicular surgery that made it impossible for him to walk long distances and needing the toilet every hour, and was at home recovering the night the Fogels were killed. Oops.

Zionism really is losing its lustre: They decided to frame a guy who can barely walk for trekking across a buffer zone, through an electrified fence, breaking into two houses, killing an entire family then jogging merrily home.

Attachment(s) from Elana Wesley

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BNP Election Material




Tags: Anti-Muslim BigotsAnti-Muslim RacismantifascismBNPElectionsFar RightMay 2011RacismUK | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

In Britain there is a local election on the 5th May 2011, the Indy covers the piss poor quality of BNP candidates:

“The BNP was last night accused of turning to “a hardcore group of neo-Nazis and racists” to stand as candidates in next month’s local elections.The anti-BNP campaign group Hope not Hate said it had compiled a dossier of extremist postings of candidates standing on 5 May, either in council elections or those to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Among the postings the group collected from Facebook pages were:* One BNP candidate in the North of England who posted on his Facebook page a mock advert for the gas Zyklon B – used in the Nazi extermination chambers of the Second World War – captioned, “Try Zyklon B. It’s a gas!”

Overall the BNP will be fielding just over 200 candidates in next month’s elections – nearly 500 fewer than the in 2007. It said it “was having to cut its cloth” because of the amount of money it had had to spend defending a legal action against the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).Hope not Hate said: “As his party crumbles, Nick Griffin has been forced to turn to what even by BNP standards, is a hard core of neo-Nazis and racists. These are not just activists, but people Griffin is putting forward as candidates for elected public office. They are literally the best the BNP now has to offer.”Hope not Hate, which is funded by the trades union movement, said the party had become hopelessly split – with many members defecting to the English Democrats and the breakaway party British Freedom Party. “


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In praise of…….BDS



The Guardian usually has three editorial pieces, two on something current and third headed “In praise of….” and then it praises someone or something it deems praiseworthy.  Well today it’s the turn of film and theatre director and writer, Mike Leigh.  Here’s the piece:

The big mistake people make with Mike Leigh is to simplify him into caricature; he is much too various for that. He is the man who turned London into his own film set, so that to wander around the capital is to think of Naked, Happy-Go-Lucky, Secrets & Lies – yet he is a Salford boy. And of course his work is so distinctive in both focus and style that almost everybody knows what you mean by a “Mike Leigh film” – yet he famously creates his dramas through extensive improvisation and rehearsal. He is the angry socialist who sets conservative teeth on edge – yet his early and later work focus much more on the personal than the polemical. In short, Mike Leigh is a writer and director who zigs when you expect him to zag, who escapes easy pigeonholing by dint of squirming too much.

Those who still think of Leigh as the poet laureate of anti-Thatcherism should catch the revival of his 1979 play Ecstasy, recently transferred to London’s West End. Some of the classic Leigh elements are there: set in a bedsit in Kilburn, it features a fascinating argument about immigration and its impact on jobs (some things in Britain don’t change). But the real theme of the play is loneliness: how people can be lonely even in others’ company – and how they try to dress it up. It is not all bleak: the play studies a marriage seemingly sustained by booze – yet which somehow works. But most of all it is tender, with the central character, Jean, depicted as a gifted, interesting woman afloat on her own regret. It is not classic Leigh – but is another Leigh classic.

Hmm, wasn’t he the chap who didn’t realise what a balls-up he was making by agreeing to give a seminar in Tel Aviv? I think he was the man. It kicked up such a stink he withdrew and managed to expose his erstwhile host, Renen Schorr, as, well let’s just say it exposed his host, Renen Schorr. Of course, no mention of any of that stuff but thenThe Guardian doesn’t deem BDS praiseworthy.

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