Archive | June 9th, 2011

Israel’s PR victory shames news broadcasters

NOVANEWS

Our latest analysis of news bulletins reveals how Israel continues to spin images of

Smoke billows from the Gaza Strip following Israeli air strikes in December 2008

Smoke billows from the Gaza Strip following Israeli air strikes in December 2008. Photograph: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

The propaganda battle over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached a new level of intensity. In 2004 the Glasgow University Media Group published a major study on TV coverage of the Second Intifada and its impact on public understanding. We analysed about 200 programmes and questioned more than 800 people. Our conclusion: reporting was dominated by Israeli accounts. Since then we have been contacted by many journalists, especially from the BBC, and told of the intense pressures they are under that limit criticism of Israel. They asked us to raise the issue in public because they can’t. They speak of “waiting in fear for the phone call from the Israelis” (meaning the embassy or higher), of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau having been “leant on by the Americans”, of being “guilty of self-censorship” and of “urgently needing an external arbiter”. Yet the public response of the BBC is to avoid reporting our latest findings. Those in control have the power to say what is not going to be the news.

For their part, the Israelis have increased their PR effort. The Arab spring has put demands for democracy and freedom at the heart of Middle East politics, and new technology has created more problems for the spin doctors. The most graphic images of war can now be brought immediately into public view, including the deaths of women and children. When Israel planned its attack on Gaza in December 2008, it developed a new National Information Directorate, and the supply of possible material was limited by stopping reporters from entering Gaza during the fighting. In 2010, when Israel attacked the Gaza aid flotilla, it issued edited footage with its own captions about what was supposed to have happened. This highly contested account was nonetheless largely swallowed by TV news programmes. A UN-sponsored report, which later refuted the account, was barely covered.

These new public relations were designed to co-ordinate specific messages across all information sources, repeated by every Israeli speaker. Each time a grim visual image appeared, the Israeli explanation would be alongside it. In the US, messages were exhaustively analysed by The Israel Project, a US-based group that, according to Shimon Peres, “has given Israel new tools in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the world”. In a document of more than 100 pages (labelled “not for publication or distribution”) an enormous range of possible statements about Israel was sorted into categories of “words that work” and “words that will turn listeners off”. There are strictures about what should be said and how to say it: avoid religion, Israeli messages should focus on security and peace, make sure you distinguish between the Palestinian people and Hamas (even though Hamas was elected). There is a remarkable likeness between these and the content of TV news headlines. Many journalists bought the message. Hamas was being attacked, and somehow not the Palestinians: “The bombardment continues on Hamas targets” (BBC1, 31 December 2008); “The offensive against Hamas enters its second week” (BBC1, 3 January 2009).

There were terrible images of Palestinian casualties but the message from Israel was relentless. Its attack was a necessary “response” to the firing of rockets by Palestinians. It was the Palestinian action that had started the trouble. In a new project, we have analysed more than 4,000 lines of text from the main UK news bulletins of the attack, but there was no coverage in these of the killing by the Israelis of more than 1,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, in the three years before it. In the TV news coverage, Israeli statements on the causes of action overwhelmed those of the Palestinians by more than three to one. Palestinian statements tended to be only that they would seek revenge on Israel. The underlying reasons for the conflict were absent, such as being driven from their homes and land when Israel was created.

Journalists tended to stay on the firmest ground in reporting, such as the images of “innocent victims”, and there was little said about why Palestinians were fighting Israel. We interviewed audience groups and found the gaps in their knowledge closely paralleled absences in the news. A majority believed Palestinians broke the ceasefire that existed before the December attack and did not know Israel had attacked Gaza during it, in November 2008, killing six Palestinians. Members of the public expressed sorrow for the plight of Palestinians but, because of the Israeli message so firmly carried by TV, they thought the Palestinians had somehow brought it on themselves. As one put it: “When I saw the pictures of the dead children it was dreadful, I was in tears but it didn’t make me feel that the Palestinians and Hamas were right … I think the Palestinians haven’t taken the chance to work towards a peaceful solution. Hamas called an end to the last ceasefire.” This participant was surprised to hear Hamas was reported to have said it would have stopped the rockets if Israel had agreed to lift its economic siege. The source was Ephraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad intelligence service.

Images of suffering do not now in themselves affect how audiences see the validity of actions in war. People see the images as tragic, but judgments as to who is right and wrong are now firmly in the hands of the spin doctors.

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BBC’s complaints procedure faces calls for overhaul

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With the corporation’s finances facing the squeeze, the pressure is on for quicker resolutions

Jeremy Bowen

Disputed territory … two reports by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, have been the subject of complains which took 22 months and 16 months to resolve. Photograph: BBC

It is the £700,000 bill the BBC would like to keep quiet – the amount of money the BBC Trust has spent on lawyers defending its journalism. And one issue, above all, rears its head in the trust’s legal battles: the BBC’s reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, believed to have given rise to the single largest legal expense incurred.

Senior journalists grumble that the constant stream of complaints and legal challenges ties up staff in mounting a defence, often of individual news items or even single quotes; while at the same time complainants are frustrated by the slowness with which complaints are resolved.

No wonder, then, that Lord Patten, new chairman of the BBC Trust, wants to simplify the corporation’s complaints procedure. It “can and should be improved” to make it “quicker, simpler and more transparent”,he told the House of Lords communications committee.

Impartiality

For some senior BBC news managers such a review is overdue: the current system is unwieldy, expensive and congested, with a profusion of complaints accusing the BBC of failing in its duty of impartiality in reporting on the Middle East.

The costs of handling such objections are particularly galling for BBC staff, given the urgent need for retrenchment in all areas of spending as the corporation faces a 20% budget cut in real terms over the next four years.

A freedom of information request by MediaGuardian shows that, excluding the cost of employing its own in-house lawyer, the BBC Trust (which can consider appeals on complaints rejected by the executive board) spent £691,717 on “advice from external legal advisers regarding editorial and related appeals” between January 2007 (when it replaced the board of governors) and the end of March 2011.

Neither the trust nor the BBC could provide accurate information on the number of complaints received by the executive board’s editorial complaints unit (ECU) and the trust’s editorial standards committee over these years. Both said the volume varies from year to year.

In handling complaints about coverage of Israel, say sources, the BBC is required to hire expensive legal advisers to deal with often lengthy and complicated objections from both sides of the debate.

These disputes include the long battle, begun by the late Steven Sugar, to force the BBC to publish the 2004 Balen report on its Middle East coverage. For the moment at least, a House of Lords ruling means the report will still not be made public. The BBC has disclosed thatthis four-year period of legal wrangling alone cost it £227,364.

Jeremy Bowen’s 2007 BBC online article on the 1967 Arab/Israeli warand a 2008 dispatch for Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent also proved costly, according to BBC sources, in terms of manpower used and fees paid to external advisers (the BBC Trust says the amount spent on handling the two complaints is “unavailable” as it does “not monitor costs in this way”).

Both reports attracted complaints, with objections focusing on a variety of issues including Bowen’s reference in the online article to “Zionism’s innate instinct to push out the frontier”. Protests about this piece ran into the hundreds, according to sources.

Bowen’s From Our Own Correspondent report, on the Jewish settlement of Har Homa, drew objections that he unfairly portrayed settlers as despoiling land which his programme implied (wrongly, many objectors felt) actually belonged to Palestinians. One complaint about the online article took 22 months to resolve and the complaint about the radio broadcast took 16 months.

Barrister Jonathan Turner was one of many to complain about Bowen’s online article to the executive board, which rejected the objections. Following a final appeal from Turner and one other person to the trust, a panel chaired by former ITV director of programmes David Liddiment ruled that Bowen had breached certain accuracy and impartiality guidelines.

This verdict particularly incensed Jonathan Dimbleby, the host of Any Questions and chairman of Index on Censorship. In a 2009 article for Index on Censorship’s website, Dimbleby rushed to defend Bowen, whose hard-won reputation, he claimed, had been “sullied” . This article is now the subject of an outstanding complaint to the trust from Turner.

Turner quips that “any money spent on lawyers could be better spent”, but says that he doesn’t believe the £691,717 spent on legal advice by the trust is “particularly large compared with the overall expenditure of the BBC, or with the salaries and benefits of quite a large number of its staff”.

Heavily tilted

“I do recall that they told me that when the editorial standards committee of the BBC Trust considered my complaints in relation to Jeremy Bowen,” he adds, “the meeting was attended by the BBC Trust’s lawyer, the BBC Executive’s lawyer and external counsel, which seems a bit OTT.

“I was not allowed to attend or be represented. This does underline the point that the system for considering complaints is heavily tilted against complainants. Basically the BBC deploys the massive resources which it can, in order to make it as difficult as possible for complaints, however meritorious, to succeed, particularly in relation to anti-Israel bias.”

Since Dimbleby’s Index on Censorship article, Turner admits to writing to some panellists on Any Questions seeking to “correct” the statements made by the presenter and to warn them “to be on their guard against him making misinformed comments about this particular subject”. Brushing off the suggestion that he is biased, Dimbleby replies “life’s too short” when asked if he’s worried about the trust’s verdict on the complaint.

On the record, the BBC insists that “impartial, high-quality journalism is at the heart of what we do” and “we have a duty under the charter to consider complaints on appeal”.

But the flow of complaints on issues such as Israel looks set to continue at the present level; and a complaint about a 2008 Panorama programme on Primark – which was assessed by the ECU and is now being considered by the trust, with costs understood to be substantial – shows other topics can also eat up time and money.

“The stakes in terms of feelings – and balance sheets – remain too high in some cases,” acknowledges a BBC source – while the official BBC line hints at a willingness to accept reforms: “We are open to ways to improve this process.”

Patten is clearly keen to do something about this. Senior news managers have already raised the issue with the trust and its new chairman and hope to simplify a system that one source says is “overcomplicated” and “open to abuse”. Patten’s “rapid” review of the current governance system will be ready before the next parliamentary recess, he has confirmed.

But, for many, the introduction of new procedures – and the hiring of more BBC trustees with knowledge of journalism at the sharp end, who can make decisions without the need for expensive lawyers – cannot happen quickly enough.

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Gates calls for more NATO allies to join Libya air campaign

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates names five alliance members that he says should do more to share the burden of NATO’s air campaign against Moammar Kadafi. Only seven nations are carrying out airstrikes.

Reporting from Brussels— Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Wednesday urged more NATO allies to join the air campaign against Libya, arguing that it was putting a strain on the seven members of the 28-nation alliance that are carrying the burden in a conflict that shows few signs of ending soon, U.S. officials said.

In a sign of the growing strain that the 3-month-old operation is putting on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Gates took the unusual step of naming five alliance members with limited or no role in the operation that he said should provide strike aircraft to hit ground targets in Libya or other capabilities, according to a senior U.S. official.

Though NATO officials hoped the meeting would send a message that the alliance is united and determined to continue the war until Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi gives up power, the signs of divisions within the alliance raised questions about its staying power if Kadafi continues to hold on, despite the increasing pounding that Tripoli and other cities have taken in recent weeks.

Gates, who is retiring at the end of the month, called on Germany and Poland, which have refused to participate in the Libya campaign, to contribute. He also urged Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands, which are participating but not in airstrikes, to step up their role, according to officials familiar with the discussion.

Calling the conflict a “war of attrition” and a “psychological war,” the senior U.S. official said that “crews are getting tired” and that “the stress on aircraft is significant.” With only a few alliance members participating, he said, “it doesn’t mean they can’t continue the operation; they will, but it’s stressful.”

Only France, Britain and five other Western members are conducting airstrikes against ground targets in Libya, and as operations continue the strain on their armed forces has grown severe, officials said. At the meeting, Norway’s representative said his country was reviewing its role to see whether its air force could continue its current level of participation, the U.S. official said.

In addition, the official said, the air campaign is straining the military budgets of those conducting airstrikes because they had not planned for the cost of such a long campaign and have to replenish their munitions stockpiles.

Other countries involved in the air campaign include the United States, Canada, Italy, Denmark and Belgium.

“For some of them, it’s the first time they are involved in an air and ground war, this is not something they do as a matter of course,” said the U.S. official, who requested anonymity in discussing the meeting.

After leading the initial air assault on Libya in the first weeks, the United States scaled back its involvement and is now mostly providing aerial refueling, surveillance and other support functions, as well as several Predator drones, which are being used in airstrikes.

None of the countries named by Gates made a commitment to increase their participation or responded to his implied criticism, the U.S. official said. But Spain’s representative noted that its parliament would have to approve any expansion of the nation’s role, the official said.

On Tuesday, President Obama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and at least publicly did not put pressure on her nation to participate in the air campaign. In comments at a joint news conference, Obama spoke instead of Germany’s potential role in rebuilding Libya if Kadafi is driven from power.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that the ministers at Wednesday’s meeting had agreed that it was time for the United Nations to begin planning for how it will assist Libya once Kadafi leaves power.

“We see the United Nations playing the leading role in a post-Kadafi scenario,” he said, adding that alliance would assist if requested by the U.N., but “I don’t foresee NATO troops on the ground.”

A daylight bombing raid Tuesday on Tripoli was launched after NATO received time-sensitive intelligence that the Kadafi regime had resumed using a large compound in the Libyan capital, according to a senior alliance officer.

The attacks targeting Kadafi’s fortified Bab Azizia compound were carried out after “signals intelligence” — intercepted telephone, email and other types of communications — indicating that the facilities were being used for “command and control” of Kadafi’s forces, the officer said.

The bombing has severely degraded Kadafi’s air defenses, making daylight raids less risky than they were early in the campaign, though Libya still possesses mobile surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down coalition aircraft, the officer said.

“There’s always a risk but obviously reduced risk based on all the equipment we’ve destroyed,” the officer said.

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Nato–”We’ll turn our guns on Libyan rebels if they attack civilians”

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UK and Nato forces would be prepared to turn their guns on their present allies, Libya’s rebels, if they attacked civilians loyal to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, British officials stated yesterday.

The warning follows a report by Human Rights Watch accusing the opposition of abusing civilians and calling on the provisional government in Benghazi, the National Transitional Council (NTC), to investigate. One rebel commander said last night: “We object to being threatened by our allies. They are taking part in military action only at our invitation.”

Western powers intervened in Libya under UN Resolution 1973, which allows military action to protect the Libyan population. This has, so far, led to prolonged air strikes against regime forces and installations, and Colonel Gaddafi, plus some close to him, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Its chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said there was evidence the Libyan leader ordered the rape of hundreds of women as part of his campaign against rebel forces.

Safeguarding civilians will be a key aspect of the “post-Gaddafi” scenario when the bitter civil war ends. British officials said the NTC will police Tripoli and Sirte, Colonel Gaddafi’s birthplace and a loyalist stronghold, at the end of hostilities.

But the rebels have also committed human rights abuses, including the killing of those accused of being regime supporters, and lynching black migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa after claiming they were mercenaries. Human Rights Watch said that as of 28 May the rebels held 330 people.

Yesterday, a British official said: “We will protect civilians by all means necessary while the UN mandate is in force, and that applies to everybody. If the NTC attacks civilians, the mandate would give the international community the grounds to intervene.”

Separately, the US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, last night challenged five Nato allies to contribute more to the campaign in Libya. He singled out Germany and Poland as two countries who were not contributing at all, and said Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands should increase their limited participation. British Apache helicopters and French Gazelle and Tiger helicopters have led recent attacks in Libya, but Barack Obama has declined to put US warplanes back into an offensive role.

* Thousands of troops loyal to Colonel Gaddafi advanced on the rebel-held western city of Misrata yesterday, with renewed shelling killing 10 rebel fighters and injuring 24. In Tripoli, Nato resumed operations after a quiet day, with a loud blast heard in the capital yesterday evening.

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Target: Iran

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by Philip Giraldi

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent and successful excoriation of the Palestinians before a receptive American audience made it easy to miss the subplot, which was the alleged threat posed by Iran.  Netanyahu took every opportunity to attack the Iranians, tying them into each hostile group in the Middle East and taking them to task for their presumed efforts to become the regional hegemon rather than his beloved Israel.  So it comes as no surprise that an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister has now called for war against Iran. Speaking at the end of May in an ‘interview’, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon urged an attack on Iran, arguing that it is necessary to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Ya’alon also called on the other countries, by which he meant the United States, to join in because Iran is “a threat to the entire civilized world.”

And it is not just an Israeli government official who would be expected to mouth the party line who is sending up red flags.  Respected journalist Amir Oren, writing for Haaretz, ‘opines’ that there is considerable danger that Iran will be surprise attacked between the June departure of Robert Gates from the office of Secretary of Defense and the retirement of Admiral Mike Mullen from the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September.  The timing of the attack is intended to take advantage of the confusion inevitable when there is a change of command in Washington.  A regional war would also preempt any Palestinian attempts to declare statehood at the UN in September.  And there are many in Washington who would welcome such an enterprise.  Sources ‘report’ that the Pentagon is carrying out contingency planning based exercises in which US forces follow-on to the first Israel strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.  It is being presumed that President Obama would find it difficult not to do so, in support of “friend and close ally” Israel.

So we are possibly contemplating entering into another war to counter the Iranian “threat,” which this time, per Israel, is directed against the entire civilized world.  As everyone knows, the United States has a mandate given by God to deal with all uncivilized behavior, something it has done so successfully in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  But stepping back a bit from the usual Israel rhetoric, there are certain problems with what is being promoted.  Israel and its friends in the US have exhibited a tendency to move the goal posts back every time they discuss Iran, so much so that even well informed Americans don’t really understand the issues.  For many years now it has been asserted that Iran is either six months or a year away from having a nuclear weapon, but they are no closer to having one now than they have ever been.  Intelligence estimates coming from sources other than shills for Israel believe that even if Iran were to make the political and economic decision to proceed towards a weapon, by no means a given, they still could not do so before 2014.  And that is assuming that the CIA and Mossad do not succeed in sabotaging parts of their program, as they did when they introduced the Stuxnet computer worm last year.

An ‘article’ by Seymour Hersh that appeared last week in the New Yorker reveals some details of the still classified 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran.  To put it succinctly, there is no actual evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon program.  None.  Hersh’s article elicited a response from a number of anonymous White House sources who disputed the article’s conclusions, suggesting very clearly that the Obama Administration embraces the Iranian threat narrative, if only to be able to cite Tehran as the reason for the repeated American failures in the region.  Hersh also reported that the NIE had been delayed for four months because the White House had wanted a harsher judgment on Iran’s likely intentions.  The intelligence community, having been burned once over Iraq, refused to comply.

Israel and Washington have also continuously redefined the red line regarding the precise nature of the Iranian threat.  It started reasonably enough with the acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but then became breakout capability meaning that the technology had been developed to such a point that a weapon could be acquired in short order, and now it is any ability to master the uranium enrichment process.  It is a series of definitions that constantly move backwards, so Iran can hardly win except by abandoning its perfectly legal and inspected program to provide nuclear energy to generate electricity.  Even if Iran were to do so, it would undoubtedly be accused of having a “secret” program.

So it might not be completely illogical to conclude that Iran is not the likely instigator of a regional war in the Middle East — it is much more likely to be Israel, with its extreme right-wing government, an established nuclear arsenal, and a US taxpayer-provided defensive missile system in place to protect it against counter-attack.  And lest there be any doubt about what the United States would do, there are two bills in Congress that might provide some enlightenment.  They are ‘H. Res. 271′ and ‘H. Res. 1905′ .  The former, which is co-sponsored by Tea Party darling Michelle Bachmann and 43 other Republicans, affirms the US commitment to continue arming Israel against its enemies, notes rather oddly along the way that “whereas archeological evidence exists confirming Israel’s existence as a nation over 3,000 years ago in the area in which it currently exists, despite assertions of its opponents,” and concludes by expressing “support for Israel’s right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran, defend Israeli sovereignty, and protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable time.”

H. Res 1905 “The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011” toughens sanctions against Iran, including establishment of a refined petroleum products embargo, which would have a devastating effect on the Iranian economy.  Many would consider it to be an act of war.  It is sponsored by the irrepressible Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, and has 95 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle and including both liberals and conservatives.

The bills in Congress, which do absolutely nothing for the United States and its citizens and instead ratchet up tension in the region while also providing a carte blanche for Israel to start another war, should provide convincing evidence to anyone who cares that Benjamin Netanyahu pretty much calls the shots insofar as America’s legislature is concerned.  If the reports from Haaretz are true and we are quite possibly looking at war later this summer, that would mean that the control extends to the White House.  Obama, keen to get reelected, would not want to cross the Israel Lobby even if it means sinking farther into the international quagmire that has characterized American foreign policy over the past ten years. Someone should tell him that when you fall in a hole the way out is not to dig deeper.

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NY Times: U.S. intensifying covert war in Yemen

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Official confirms U.S. strike Friday killed midlevel al Qaida operative; U.S. campaign accelerates, using armed drones and fighter jets in attempt to contain al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Obama administration has intensified air strikes on suspected militants in Yemen in a bid to keep them from consolidating power as the government in Sanaa teeters, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that a U.S. strike last Friday killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, a midlevel al Qaida operative, which followed last month’s attempted strike against Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Citing U.S. officials, the Times said a U.S. campaign using armed drones and fighter jets had accelerated in recent weeks as U.S. officials see the strikes as one of the few options to contain al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

With the country in violent conflict, Yemeni troops that had been battling militants linked to al Qaida in the south have been pulled back to Sanaa, the newspaper said.

Yemen’s authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was wounded on Friday and is being treated in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He appears to have been wounded by a bombing at a mosque inside his palace, not a rocket attack as first thought, U.S. and Arab officials told Reuters.

There were conflicting reports about his condition — ranging from fairly minor, to life-threatening 40 percent burns.

There had been nearly a yearlong pause in U.S. airstrikes after concerns that poor intelligence had resulted in civilian deaths that undercut goals of the secret campaign.

U.S. and Saudi spy services have been receiving more information from electronic eavesdropping and informants about possible locations of militants, the newspaper said, citing officials in Washington. But there were concerns that with the wider conflict in Yemen, factions might feed information to trigger air strikes against rival groups.

The operations were further complicated by al Qaida operatives’ mingling with other rebel and anti-government militants, the newspaper said, citing a senior Pentagon official.

The U.S. ambassador in Yemen met recently with opposition leaders, partly to make the case for continuing operations in case Saleh’s government falls, the newspaper said.

Opposition leaders have told the ambassador that operations against al Qaida in Yemen should continue regardless of who wins the power struggle in the capital, the Times said, citing officials in Washington.

Al Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen has been linked to the attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner on Christmas Day 2009 and a plot last year to blow up cargo planes with bombs hidden in printer cartridges.

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New Move by Britain and France To Condemn Syria in U.N.

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UNITED NATIONS — Britain and France circulated a revised draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that would condemn the Syrian government for using force against its own civilians, but would scrupulously avoid a call for military action or any sanctions against the Syrian government.

A vote on the resolution was expected in the coming days, diplomats said.

An attempt by European members of the Security Council to condemn Syria at the United Nations has been rebuffed in recent weeks. The willingness to intervene in the region has dissipated after the intervention in Libya by NATO, acting on a Security Council resolution condemning the violence against the opposition to the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. China and Russia, both veto-wielding permanent members of the 15-member Security Council, have been resistant to support even a media statement condemning Syria, fearing that it could be a prelude to a similarly aggressive intervention.

Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday that Russia did not support a resolution on Syria. “We are not persuaded it can help establish dialogue and reach a political settlement,” he said. “We’re concerned it will have the opposite effect.”

United Nations diplomats said Russia, a powerful ally of Syria, was using the situation in Libya as a justification to oppose action in Syria, arguing that NATO’s risky intervention in Libya, under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians, had gone too far and risked becoming a protracted stalemate.

Similar reservations have also been expressed by other members of the council, including South Africa, India and Brazil.

Voicing American support for a resolution condemning the violence used by the Syrian government against its own people, Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday that some countries on the Security Council were disingenuously using Libya as a pretext not to pass a resolution on Syria. “We will be on the right side of history,” she said.

French and British diplomats said Wednesday that they had revised the language of the original resolution with the aim of making it politically untenable for Russia or China to block it.

The new draft, which diplomats said had been amended only slightly, condemns the Syrian government for using force against its own civilians but falls short of calling for an arms embargo or other sanctions. It notes that the “widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in Syria by the authorities against its people may amount to crimes against humanity” under international law.

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Pakistan Expels 90 US Military Trainers From Tribal Areas

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Officials Say Two Thirds of Entire Training Contingent Has Been Ousted

antiwar.com

Pakistan’s military announced late Tuesday that it has expelled 90 US military trainers from the country, leaving only a third of the original 135 trainer contingent left in the tribal areas. The troops were there to train the Frontier Corps paramilitaries in the tribal areas.

The move was the latest in a growing number of moves by the Pakistani government to reduce the US force in the country to the “minimum essential” since early May. The moves are retaliation for the unilateral raid that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as raids and drone strikes since then.

The Pentagon had confirmed late last month that it had begun reducing the number of troops in response to Pakistan’s demands. They declined to say how many troops were in the nation overall but they claimed to have in excess of 200 soldiers engaged in training and support missions alone.

Pakistan’s demand came with a parallel demand that the US stop launching US drone strikes, however, and there is no indication of that happening, with a number of strikes over the past three days leaving at least 45 tribesmen dead.

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Gaza: A View From the Ground A South African Perspective

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By Prof. Patrick Bond

Global Research,

Here in Palestine, disgust expressed by civil society reformers about Barack Obama’s May 19 policy speech on the Middle East and North Africa confirms that political reconciliation between Washington and fast-rising Arab democrats is impossible.

Amidst many examples, consider the longstanding U.S. tradition of blind, self-destructive support for Israel, which Obama has just amplified. Recognizing a so-called ‘Jewish state’ as a matter of U.S. policy, he introduced a new twist that denies foundational democratic rights for 1.4 million Palestinians living within Israel. For a Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer to sink so low on behalf of Zionist discrimination is shocking. For although Obama mentioned the “1967 lines” as the basis for two states and thereby appeared to annoy arch-Zionist leader Benjamin Netanyahu, this minimalist United Nations position was amended with a huge caveat: ‘with land swaps.’

Obama thus implicitly endorses illegal Israeli settlements (with their half-million reactionary residents) that pock the West Bank, confirming its status as a Bantustan for 2.5 million people, far more fragmented than even the old South African homelands. Another 1.6 million suffer in the isolated Gaza Strip.

Map of Israel.

Obama also claimed, “America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator,” stretching credulity.

The Arab Spring Gets In The Way

“He was with the dictators until the very last minute,” rebuts Ramallah-based liberation activist Omar Barghouti, regarding both Tunisia’s Ben-Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. “He’s missed the point of the Arab Spring. It’s not just about the street vendor, it is about social justice. The pillage of the resources of the region by the U.S. has to come to an end.”

Resource extraction and Israeli empowerment explain Obama’s recent flirtation with unreformable Libyan and Syrian tyrannies, as well as ongoing U.S. sponsorship of brutal regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. So it was impossible for the U.S. president to avoid a subtle confession: “There will be times when our short-term interests don’t align perfectly with our long-term vision of the region.”

“There will be times”? That’s the understatement of the year, considering “short-term interests” reflect the corrupted character of corporate-purchased U.S. politicians. (Obama needs to raise $1-billion to finance his re-election campaign next year.) Pursuit of such narrow interests gets Washington into perpetual trouble, including bolstering Israeli aggression, becoming dependent upon oil from despotic regimes, and dogmatically imposing free-market ideology on behalf of U.S.-dominated multinational capital.

I am witnessing the results firsthand in Gaza and the West Bank, and was lucky to even get here, for last Tuesday, the day after I arrived at the main regional airport in TelAviv (with my white skin, multiple passports and non-Muslim surname), my friend Na’eem Jeenah also tried to enter Israel en route to Palestine with South African papers. For four hours the Israeli border police detained Jeenah, a Johannesburg leader of the Palestine Solidarity Committee. Intervention by concerned SA diplomats couldn’t appease immigration officials, who forced him to board a flight to Istanbul where he waited for another day before returning home.

Apartheid – Israeli Style

South Africans who get through immigration invariably confirm conditions here that deserve the label ‘Israeli apartheid.’ Last month, Judge Richard Goldstone’s reputation-wrecking reversal on the UN Goldstone report, regarding the Israeli army’s intentional killing of Gaza civilians during the January 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” invasion, cannot disguise 1400 dead, of which no more than half were Hamas-aligned officials.

That massacre was, according to Israeli journalist Amira Hass, a chance for the army to practice high-tech urban warfare against a caged populace, replete with white phosphorous, combat robots, drones and other terror weapons.

Erez (Gaza border) protest on Nakba day, 15 May 2011.

Just as I crossed Gaza’s northern Erez border post last Friday, Israeli Defense Force soldiers fired on unarmed marchers who are Palestine’s unique contribution to the Arab Spring, leaving two wounded. The Sunday before, tens of thousands of these brave people, especially refugees, mobilized using FaceBook and walked to several 1967 lines, resulting in fifteen murders by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.

Along with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions non-violent struggle against Israeli power, this Satyagraha-style movement, adopting strategies and tactics pioneered in Durban, South Africa by Mahatma Gandhi a century ago, must strike fear in the hearts of TelAviv securocrats. No longer can they portray their enemies as rocket-launching Islamic fundamentalists who worship Osama bin Laden.

What I also learned from Palestinian civil society activists is that the pillaging of this region by the West is being planned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, following similar support to dictators last year – though with unintended consequences! – in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

Evidence includes two documents presented by the IMF and World Bank to an April 13 Brussels donor conference, spelling out Palestine’s wretched economic fate in technocratic terms. The IMF insists on lower civil service wages, electricity privatization, subsidy cuts and a higher retirement age. The World Bank advocates a free-trade regime which will demolish the tiny manufacturing base.

In his speech last Thursday, Obama endorsed an IMF/Bank document on the regional economy to be tabled at this week’s G8 meeting of industrial powers in France. Although Washington promised $1-billion in debt relief, it comes with conditions such as “supporting financial stability, supporting financial modernization and developing a framework for trade and investment relations with the EU and the USA.”

Go ahead and snigger, but absurd as this sounds in the wake of the recent U.S.-centred world financial meltdown, Obama’s gift is actually an “attempted bribe of the Egyptian democratic revolution,” says Barghouti. In any case there is another $33-billion of Mubarak’s “Odious Debt” yet to be cancelled, and reparations to be paid.

Concludes Barghouti, “If anything, the U.S. has played a very negative role. The best thing Obama can do for the region is leave it alone. We’ve seen U.S. democracy-building in Afghanistan and Iraq, so no thank you.” •

Posted in GazaComments Off on Gaza: A View From the Ground A South African Perspective

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Going to a demo in Tel Aviv

Jun 08, 2011

Vicky

This weekend I travelled to Tel Aviv to take part in a major demonstration organised by various Israeli peace and justice organisations and a few left-wing political parties. The police estimated that nine thousand people were marching that night. This alone would have been a good reason for me not to go, as I don’t like crowds and I don’t like noise and I don’t like strangers, and I especially don’t like all three packed into one town square – especially when the square is full of banners reading ‘Two peoples, two states’.

“That is a very segregationist sentiment,” I said disapprovingly to Shai as we passed the first such sign. I support a one-state solution, partly for practical reasons, partly for ethical ones. For the past five years I have watched policymakers dreaming up ways to divide the land, and peace workers dreaming of ways to unite people, and gradually I found myself drifting into the second group. This has brought me face-to-face with injustice and pain that I didn’t even know existed, and which can’t be remedied by land division. In my experience with the Israeli left, too many of its members assume that Palestine’s problems can all be solved by simply parcelling off land for the Palestinians to govern for themselves. They often talk as though these problems began in 1967, as if the occupation is a dark stain on an otherwise bright history. 1948 and the years leading up to the ethnic cleansing constitute the elephant in the room. Obviously this isn’t true for every Israeli left-winger, but I have encountered these attitudes frequently enough for me to have become quite sceptical of the left.

My scepticism was summed up perfectly by another left-wing demo that was held in Jerusalem recently, under the inspired slogan ‘The Territories for them, the chunks for us’ (the ‘chunks’ being the illegal settlement blocs). As my friend David pointed out, they might as well have called it ‘Swiss cheese for them’. On the event’s Facebook page, one person asked, “How is this any different from the occupation?”

The Tel Aviv demo took a firmer line (“Israel says ‘yes’ to a Palestinian state”). I decided that the slogan was wide enough to encompass many views, including my own, so I agreed to go. When I arrived I saw several demonstrators carrying outsize photographs of a zombie-like Benjamin Netanyahu, bearing the caption ‘peace-decliner’, and this stinging critique of Israel’s PM reassured me that I had made the right choice. I was in a radical crowd.

The streets had been shut down for the march. As we wound our way through the city, heading from Rabin Square to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Shai translated the remarks from passers-by. “That woman just said, ‘Look, they’ve got the 1967 signs, the shitheads!’.”

Perhaps I should have seized the opportunity to do something practical for peace and run after her, telling her that I am not a fan of ’67 borders either, but I had a funny feeling that she would take even less kindly to me than she did to the ’67 placards. In any case, I was enjoying the atmosphere of the demo too much to want to leave. So long as we kept moving and stayed on the edges, I could tolerate the crowds, and the sense of solidarity was infectious. Busloads of people had travelled up from Beersheva just to participate. By the time we reached the plaza outside the museum, I was happy to admit that the leftist Israeli peace movement might have more spirit than I give it credit for.

But I do wish it could stay sober for longer than five seconds at a time. It seemed to me that half the marchers were up there with the clusters of green Meretz balloons that bobbed along overhead. This is where I began to feel overwhelmed. Acute sensitivity to noise, smell, light, and touch are features of my neuro problems, and when I am in a crowd it becomes painful. It gets hard to walk; I can’t concentrate on moving if I have to process so much numbing sensory information. Speech becomes hesitant. Then I start to want to hide. I coped by draping my scarf over my head and face to block out the world. When I sensed my balance starting to go, I got down on the floor.

I was afraid that I would panic, but I didn’t. Sitting there, clutching a book about reconciliation, I thought about all the different things that coming to Palestine has enabled me to do. Perhaps because the situation here is so extreme, I push myself to extremes. I try things that at home I wouldn’t touch. Back in England it’s sometimes all I can do to ask a waiter in a restaurant for a refill of my tea. Here I go up to heavily armed men and ask them why they are blocking my way. At home I hide upstairs if my parents have guests round whom I don’t know very well. Here I go marching with thousands of people. It isn’t easy, but it does make me feel good afterwards. In a sense, this is part of peace work: pushing personal limits, and finding out things you did not know about yourself.

In addition to the Meretz balloons and people high on weed, there were many Israeli flags streaming above my head. It was strange for me to see all the blue and white. Where I live, the flag hangs at the checkpoints. When you have been in a queue for hours and your back aches and you just want to sit down and the soldiers won’t stop screaming, the sight of that flag is like a taunt. Look, this is what we can do to you. We own this land and we own your time and we can make you wait as long as we like. It’s even worse when I’m in Hebron and I see the settlements. There the flag has been splashed brazenly across the water towers – towers that serve only the settlers, while Palestinian residents in south Hebron have to get by on fifteen litres of water per day. (According to the World Health Organisation, seventy litres is the bare minimum needed for each person.) Israel takes 80% of the West Bank’s water supply, the settlements get another 10%, and the entire population of the West Bank makes do with what is left of their own water – which they buy from Israel at inflated prices.

Sometimes I feel as though I can’t bear to look at that flag. It did me good to see it being used positively for once, although I don’t know if the symbol can ever be fully reclaimed after all it’s been made to stand for on this side of the wall. But conflicting emotions aside, I am glad I went on Saturday.

This post first appeared at Vicky’s site, Bethlehem Blogger.

The Goldstone Report and Israeli criminality– what the Israeli left (and the US left) refuses to get its head around

Jun 08, 2011

Jerome Slater

In its issue of May 26, the New York Review of Books, one of the few major US media outlets for articles seriously critical of Israel,published an article by David Shulman, “Goldstone and Gaza: What’s Still True.” Shulman is a professor of Humanities at Hebrew University, and has long been a critic of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, often writing for the New York Review, Harper’s, and other leading media. \In some important ways, the Shulman article is disappointing and puzzling. To be sure, Shulman is highly critical of Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) in 2008-09, as well as the overall Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and the cruelties that accompany it, and he praises the Goldstone Report for the “unflinching gaze it directs at the occupation and the link it meticulously establishes between it and the Gaza war.” On the other hand, his criticism does not go nearly far enough, and three of his important arguments are misleading, problematic, or just plain wrong.

After the Shulman article was published I wrote a letter of criticism to the NY Review. Because I wanted to wait to see if the letter would be accepted, I have waited a month to publish my assessment here. It is now clear that my letter will not be published. However, in response to my query, Robert Silvers, the editor of the Review, confirmed to me that he sent my letter, along with others, to Shulman; in the June 23 issue, just out, Silvers prints a letter from Shulman, in which, “for the record and in the interests of precision,” in effect he responds to my criticisms, and perhaps of others.

There are three serious problems in Shulman’s article, and they are not remedied in his follow-up letter. First, Shulman wrote that “Goldstone’s revised statement rectifies the egregious failure of the Goldstone report to clearly condemn Hamas for its crimes.” That is wrong: the Goldstone report explicitly rejected Hamas’s argument that its rocket and mortar attacks in southern Israel were a legitimate response to the Israeli occupation and numerous military attacks on Gaza, and concluded that the attacks were “violations of international law” that were deliberately designed “to spread terror amongst the Israeli civilian population.” Consequently, the report concluded, the Hamas attacks “constitute[d] war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” In that light (as I wrote in my letter to the NYR) what exactly was the report’s “egregious failure?”

In his June 23 letter, Shulman now writes this:

I’d like to make it clear that the Goldstone report…did note that the missile attacks by Hamas and related groups on Israeli cities prior to the Israeli operation “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” This statement, oddly hedged and couched in the subjunctive, is dwarfed by the overwhelming focus of the Goldstone report on Israel’s actions before and during the campaign….Goldstone’s reconsideration of his position…seems aimed, in part, at redressing this imbalance.

This “clarification,” however, does not strengthen Shulman’s argument; if anything, it compounds his errors.

To begin, Shulman fails to notice that the Report also used carefully hedged language in its conclusions about Israeli war crimes: “some of the actions of the Government of Israel might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed.” More importantly, of course the Goldstone Report focused more heavily on Israeli war crimes than those of Hamas: that did not reflect any “imbalance” in the thinking of the Commission, for there were many more possible Israeli war crimes to be investigated than those of Hamas, and they needed to be analyzed in great detail for the strong conclusions of the Report to be credible. Furthermore, it is obvious that the Goldstone commissioners considered it to be relevant that it was Israel that was the occupier and the aggressor and that the Gazan people—who chose Hamas to represent them in democratic elections–were the occupied and the victims. Finally, the consequences of the Israeli attacks on the Palestinian civilians were far worse than those of the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians–which consisted primarily of rocket and mortar attacks that rarely hit their targets and killed only a few Israelis. By contrast, the Israelis directly killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians and somewhat less directly, but no less criminally, were responsible for the death and suffering of thousands of others.

The second major problem in the Shulman article is that his statement that Hamas and its allies attacked Israel “before the war” is quite misleading, for it clearly implies that Hamas, not Israel, must bear the responsibility for the escalating hostilities that culminated in Cast Lead. However, even after Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza in 2005, it not only continued its devastating economic siege but launched a number of highly destructive military attacks against Gaza, in the course of which it killed over 1200 people, up to half of them civilians—even before Cast Lead. Of course, Israel claimed its actions were “retaliations” for Hamas attacks—which, to repeat, killed very few Israelis—but Hamas made the same claim, and more persuasively.

Moreover, in the two years preceding Cast Lead, Israel violated several ceasefires that had been negotiated with, or unilaterally proclaimed by, Hamas; it continued its “targeted assassinations” of Hamas leaders and other militants; and it steadily tightened the economic siege that was explicitly calibrated to cause great civilian suffering, though short of outright starvation. Yet, in his article Shulman essentially ignores these facts, or apparently considers them to be irrelevant.

Evidently Israeli General Shmuel Zakai, the former commander of the IDF’s Gaza division, does not agree. In a 22 December 2010 interview in Haaretz, Zakai bluntly stated that Israel had made a “central error” during the six month truce that preceded Cast Lead, because it failed “to take advantage of the calm to improve rather than markedly worsen the economic plight of the Palestinians.” Zakai goes on to clearly suggest that the continuation of the Israeli siege and its violations of various ceasefires made the resumption of Hamas rockets inevitable: “You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.”

In short, not only did Israel commit war crimes in its attack on Gaza, it was Israel that was primarily responsible for the cycle of violence that preceded Cast Lead. In his June 23 letter, Shulman now concedes that “Israel bears responsibility for breaking the ceasefire at crucial points in the period leading up to the campaign,” but he concludes his letter by reiterating that “there is no possible justification for Hamas’s deliberate targeting of innocent civilians.” Is that persuasive? Yes and no. On the one hand, it is true that Hamas intended to kill many more Israeli civilians and its failure to do so does not lessen the fact that attacking innocents is terrorism and a war crime. On the other hand, in assessing the gravity of the crime of terrorism, results as well intentions do matter, especially when the disproportionalities are so great. Moreover, while all attacks on innocent civilians are evil, some are more so than others. That is, in my moral world—and, I suspect, in that of many others, even when they don’t wish to make it explicit–there are important moral distinctions between the terrorism and war crimes of a powerful state occupying and repressing another people, and those of its stateless and militarily impotent victims.

In short, terrorism is always morally wrong—even so, there are mitigating circumstances in the case of Hamas attacks on innocents but none in the case of the far more destructive Israeli attacks.

Shulman’s most important argument is this: “anyone who knows the Israeli army knows that, for all its faults and failings, it does not have a policy of deliberately attacking innocent civilians.” (emphasis in original) For two reasons, this is a highly problematic contention. First, it ignores the overwhelming evidence that from 1948 through at least 2006, the Israeli army—or, better said, the Israeli government—did have a policy of directly attacking civilians. As I have previously written in great detail, (here and here) it did so in 1947-48 in order to drive out hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from areas claimed by Israel; it did so in the 1950s against Palestinian and even Jordanian villagers, in order to “persuade” them not to support raids on Israeli communities; it did so during the 1956 Israeli-Egyptian war, in which it has been recently revealed that on at least two occasions Israeli forces systematically massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip; it did so when it shelled and bombed Egyptian towns and cities during the 1970-73 Suez Canal conflict with Egypt, making good on Moshe Dayan’s 1968 blunt warning that in the event of war with Egypt, Israel might attack Egyptian cities in order to “strike terror into the hearts of the Arabs of the cities….[and] break the Arab will to fight;” and it has repeatedly done so in its attacks on Lebanon in 1978, 1982, 1996, and 2006.

2006: Not very long ago. Yet, Shulman appears to have forgotten about the massive Israeli attack on Lebanon and the similar ongoing attacks on Gaza, deliberately designed to force the Lebanese government to end Hezbollah attacks and the Palestinians to end Hamas attacks. No need to take my word that the Israeli actions clearly reflected high policy: In July 2006, Yossi Alpher, a former high Israeli intelligence official and centrist member of the Israeli security establishment, wrote that “Some of the humanitarian suffering in Gaza and Lebanon is a deliberate act on Israel’s part….It is intended to generate mass public pressure on the respective governments to force the Islamic militants to release three IDF soldiers snatched from Israeli territory and end rocket attacks.”

After the invasion, Alpher again denounced “the folly of collectively punishing 1.5 million Gazans for the sins of Hamas…starving masses of Palestinians is a counter-productive strategy.” And less than a year before Cast Lead, Moshe Arens—a high Likud official and well-known hardline rightist, a former ambassador to the United States in the Menachem Begin government, the foreign minister in the Yitzhak Shamir government, and a three-time defense minister in Likud governments since the 1980s—wrote the following: The ‘leverage theory’—which holds that the destruction of enemy infrastructure and attacks on the enemy’s civilian population will produce pressure on decision-makers to cease their attacks against Israeli civilians—did not work in Lebanon, and it certainly does not work in Gaza. Quite the contrary, it only increases the support that the terrorists receive from the civilian population….[Such measures are] counterproductive [and]….impermissible by our moral standards.

Whether or not Cast Lead continued previous Israeli policies of directly attacking civilians is still in dispute. What is not in dispute, however, is the fact that Israel engaged in systematic attacks on civilian infrastructures during its three-week attack. Thus, the third major problem in the Shulman article is that he fails to examine the policy implications of these attacks, his sole mention of the issue being a single throwaway sentence–in parentheses– that the Goldstone report “suggested that Israel deliberately destroyed civilian infrastructures in Gaza on a wide scale.”

The Goldstone report, however, did not “suggest” that this was the case, but devoted 27 pages to highly detailed discussions of Israeli attacks on Gaza’s economic infrastructure. Its conclusion was that Israel had committed “war crimes,” for its attacks reflected “a deliberate and systematic policy…of denying [those targets] for their sustenance to the population of the Gaza Strip… indicat[ing] the intention to inflict collective punishment on the people of the Gaza Strip in violation of international humanitarian law.”

Subsequently, a number of investigations by international and Israeli human rights groups also found that Israel, as a matter of high policy, had deliberately attacked civilian infrastructure, and most agreed that the attacks constituted “war crimes.” In fact, the case is a prima facie one: even aside from the direct killings, from 2005 through Cast Lead, Israel attacked electrical generation plants, power lines, industrial facilities and cement factories, fuel depots, sewage plants, water storage tanks, and various agricultural and food production systems, including farms, orchards, greenhouses, fishing boats, chicken coops and a flour factory—and even some 3500 private homes. In that light, the distinction between attacks on “infrastructures” and those on “people” is essentially meaningless: the consequences of such attacks are that civilians suffer and die, even if it takes a little longer than when they are directly gunned down or bombed.

In his just-published letter, Shulman again ignores that argument (which was included in the letter I sent to the NY Review, and which he received). He is not alone: even B’tselem, the admirable and in other respects courageous Israeli human rights organization, objected to the Goldstone report’s conclusion that Israel engaged in “deliberately disproportionate” and “systematically reckless” attacks on densely populated areas of Gaza, in order to “punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”

In some ways, the unwillingness or inability of the mainstream Israeli left and its supporters in the U.S. to accept demonstrable facts is even more depressing than the moral obtuseness of the Israeli right: if not from people like David Shulman, or from the liberal U.S. media, where else can Israelis and Americans learn the full truth, acknowledge its implications, and finally confront the long history and depths of Israeli criminality towards the Palestinians?

The race will not go on, Grand Prix cannot go ahead because of opposition

Jun 08, 2011

Seham

and other news from the Arab revolutions:

Bahrain
Obama meets Bahrain crown prince at White House (AFP)
AFP – US President Barack Obama met the crown prince of Bahrain Tuesday, as Washington backed the Sunni royal family’s national dialogue to ease the political crisis in the Shiite majority kingdom.
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110607/pl_afp/bahrainunrestus

Bahraini poet set to face verdict for protest reading
A Bahraini student could face a long prison sentence for reading out a poem criticizing the country’s King. A Bahraini poet faces possible imprisonment for reading out a poem criticizing the country’s King when a military court rules on her case next Sunday. Ayat al-Qarmezi, 20, a poet and student was arrested in March for reading out a poem at a pro-reform rally in the capital Manama. She has been charged with “incitement to hatred of the regime” and has reportedly been tortured while in detention.
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/bahraini-poet-set-face-verdict-protest-reading-2011-06-08

Bahrain faces fresh torture claims over health workers’ trial
Doctors and nurses facing trial before a military court in Bahrain have made fresh claims of being tortured in detention. The Bahraini authorities must independently investigate fresh claims that dozens of doctors and nurses on trial before a military court were tortured in detention and made to sign false confessions, Amnesty International said today.
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/bahrain-faces-fresh-torture-claims-over-health-workers%E2%80%99-trial-2011-06-07

Bahrain campaign to humiliate Shiites goes beyond politics
Bahrain’s crown prince is set to visit the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today. The US has remained largely silent amid harsh criticism of Bahrain’s brutal crackdown.
http://rss.csmonitor.com/%7Er/feeds/world/%7E3/zkv52Juk3vo/Bahrain-campaign-to-humiliate-Shiites-goes-beyond-politics

Bahrain’s Shiite clerics criticize police (AP)
AP – Bahrain’s Shiite clerics have criticized the Gulf kingdom’s police for attacking religious processions just days after emergency rule was lifted.
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110607/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_bahrain

Bahrain bans opposition seminar on crackdown (AFP)
AFP – Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group said on Wednesday that it had been banned from going ahead with a planned presentation detailing abuses committed during a government crackdown on Shiite-led protests earlier this year.
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110608/wl_mideast_afp/bahrainpoliticsunrestopposition

Bahrain medical staff ‘tortured for confessions’
Doctors and nurses put on trial in Bahrain yesterday told relatives they were beaten with hoses and wooden boards embedded with nails and made to eat faeces. They also had to stand without moving for hours, or even days, and were deprived of sleep in order to force them to sign false confessions.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/bahrain-medical-staff-tortured-for-confessions-2293851.html

Lawyers say cannot reach detained Bahrain medics (Reuters)
Reuters – Bahraini doctors and nurses arrested over the civil protests that rocked the kingdom eAarlier this year have been denied access to their lawyers, their attorneys and relatives said late on Monday.
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/mideast/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110607/wl_nm/us_bahrain_trial

Bahrain Grand Prix ‘not on’
Formula One commercial chief says rescheduled race almost certain to be scrapped due to opposition from teams.
http://english.aljazeera.net//sport/2011/06/20116811026961735.html

Bahrain GP is no go – Ecclestone
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says October’s reinstated Bahrain Grand Prix cannot go ahead without the agreement of the teams.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/sport2/hi/formula_one/13694628.stm

AUDIO: Bahrain Grand Prix ‘will not happen’
Max Mosley says there is not the “slightest chance” that the F1 Grand Prix will take place in Bahrain
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/today/hi/today/newsid_9506000/9506428.stm

Bahrain GP shrouded in doubt as opposition mounts (AFP)
AFP – Uncertainty and confusion surrounded the Bahrain Grand Prix on Tuesday, just four days after the International Motoring Federation (FIA) had reinstated it on the 2011 Formula One calendar with a provisional date of October 30.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110607/wl_mideast_afp/autoprixbrn

Report gave ‘all-clear’ for Bahrain Grand Prix
AFP – The controversial decision to reinstate the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix taken by the sport’s governing body FIA was taken after receiving a report saying that the political unrest in the country had stabilised, FIA president Jean Todt told the BBC on Monday.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110606/wl_mideast_afp/autoprixbrntodt

Torturing Bahraini Doctors
For months, courageous Bahrainis protested peacefully against the Al Khalifa monarchy’s repressive brutality, corruption, and discrimination, as well as unemployment, poverty, and other unaddressed social justice issues. The response has been ruthless state terrorism against anyone challenging regime control, no matter how lawless, barbaric, and unresponsive to basic human rights and needs.
http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/06/torturing-bahraini-doctors.html

Bahraini government lies
A Bahrain source sent me this (I shall not identify her):  “A few days ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights met with Fatima Al Baloushi, Bahrain’s Social Development Minister (a real idiot who doesn’t know what she has gotten herself into).  The Bahrain News Agency released a propaganda statement saying that Navi Pillay said that certain information that they had received about Bahrain was untrue.  The pro-government idiots got REALLY excited (and I mean really excited.. I was surprised that they didn’t start celebrating on the streets) and the news was circulated on twitter and on many Bahraini and Khaleeji newspapers.  Here’s an example: Today, the OHCHR released a statement denying the Bahrain News Agency Press Release saying that Pillay’s statements have been “grossly misrepresented.”  Here is the press release: Of course the Bahraini government freaked out and now the blame is being placed completely on Al Baloushi: Another controversy brewing that you may have heard of is the decision of the F1 to hold the race in Bahrain in october.  The FIA (their governing board I believe) said it based its decision on a fact finding mission to Bahrain.  Here is the “fact finding” missions “report” (not a lot of fact finding if you ask me):
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/bahraini-government-lies.html

What year is it? 1984? In Bahrain
“MANAMA: Police have unveiled their latest recruit to help efforts to connect with the community.  Suhayel is a computer-animated character tasked with spreading “optimism, forgiveness and loyalty”, according to Interior Ministry court general-director Brigadier RiyadhAbdulla.”  PS I don’t know why, but I really sense the fingerprints and footprints of a K Street consulting firm in this Orwellian idea.
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-year-is-it-1984-in-bahrain.html

“Unethical and unprofessional” reporting in Bahrain
Earlier this month, Bahrain’s state-controlled television (BTV) broadcast a supposed exposé about Al Wasat newspaper. At the time, Al Wasat was the only mass media outlet based in Bahrain that was independent of the government, and often critical of it. Especially after the protests of February 14, Al Wasat dared to report on many actions of the Bahrain government that no other newspaper in the country dared to write about.
http://chanad.posterous.com/unethical-and-unprofessional-reporting-in-bah-2

Egypt

Khaled Said, Man Whose Death Sparked Revolution, Remembered In Egypt
CAIRO — Crowds of people dressed in black marched through Egyptian cities Monday to honor a young businessman from Alexandria beaten to death a year ago in a savage attack blamed on police that helped inspire the uprising that brought down Egypt’s president. Photographs of Khaled Said’s badly disfigured and bloodied face were posted on the Internet and became an instant rallying point for campaigners trying to bring attention to rampant police brutality under the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/06/khaled-said-egypt-revolution-_n_871977.html

Remembering Khaled Saeed
A letter to Khaled Saeed on the anniversary of his murder.
http://www.kabobfest.com/2011/06/remembering-khaled-saeed.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+kabobfest%2FGrillMe+%28KABOBfest%29

Trapped in Gaza: Rafah Crossing Closed to Palestinians Soon After Egyptian Pledge to Reopen It
In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government has asked Egypt to drop restrictions on the Rafah border crossing, just days after the checkpoint opened last week. In a major policy shift, Egypt’s transition government had unsealed the Rafah border after years of closure under ousted Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. But less than a week later, Egypt imposed a cap of 400 people per day, turning back busloads of people that had been cleared for passage. On Saturday, the border was sealed completely, causing angry Palestinians to storm the gates in protests. Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were one of the few teams of foreign journalists to witness the scene at the Rafah border and they file this report from the Gaza Strip.
http://www.democracynow.org/2011/6/7/trapped_in_gaza_rafah_crossing_closed

US delegation visits Cairo to study Egypt’s new foreign policy
A US delegation of members of both Houses of Congress has been touring the Middle East, beginning with Cairo to identify new aspects of Egypt’s foreign policy. The delegation met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Araby, who briefed them on the most important characteristics of the policy and its impact on various regional issues. Paramount is how Egypt is going to manage its role in the Israel-Palestine conflict; the American delegation is also going to visit Tel Aviv. The meeting included a discussion of the latest regional political and social developments.
http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/news/americas/2438-us-delegation-visits-cairo-to-study-egypts-new-foreign-policy

Poll: Egyptians Don’t Want Theocracy
WASHINGTON (RNS) Four months after the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a new Gallup survey says a majority of Egyptians want religious leaders to advise the nation’s officials but they do not want a theocracy.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/07/egypt-theocracy_n_872805.html

Wikileaks: ‘US Embassy lobbies Gamal Mubarak for Bechtel in Egypt’s energy sector’
http://friday-lunch-club.blogspot.com/2011/06/wikileaks-us-embassy-lobbies-gamal.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+friday-lunch-club+%28%22friday-lunch-club%22%29

What the XXXX?
There sure are a lot of XXXs in this redacted Wikileaks cable, citing an Egyptian parliamentarian’s speculation that Minister of Defense Hussein Tantawi and Director of Intelligence Omar Suleiman might thwart Gamal Mubarak from succeeding his father, back from 2007:
http://www.arabist.net/blog/2011/6/7/what-the-xxxx.html

Egypt: Human Rights Reform an Urgent Priority
(Cairo) – Egypt’s transition to a democracy that respects the rule of law and human rights is at risk unless the military transition government carries out a number of immediate human rights reforms, Human Rights Watch said today.
http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/06/07/egypt-human-rights-reform-urgent-priority

Egypt haunts Saudi Arabia again | Soumaya Ghannoushi
By propping up the Arab monarchies, Saudi Arabia is reverting to its old anti-revolutionary role. Little did Riyadh know that the most severe strategic blow to its regional influence would come not from Tehran, or Tehran’s agents in Baghdad – but Cairo, its closest Arab friend. The ousting of Mubarak did not only mean the loss of a strong ally, but the collapse of the old balance of power. The region could no longer be divided on a Riyadh-Cairo v Tehran-Damascus axis. Revolutions have struck in both camps: in “moderate” Egypt and Tunisia, as in “hardline” Damascus and Tripoli. The principal challenge for the Saudi regime is no longer the influence of Syria, Iran or Hezbollah, but the contagion of revolutions.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/08/egypt-haunts-saudi-arabia-again

Iraq
Maliki asks for patience on Iraq reforms
Premier cites progress over past 100 days and asks for more time, but opponents already calling for protests on Friday.
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/06/201167101447231247.html

Libya
Gaddafi forces shell rebel-held Misurata
At least 12 rebels reportedly dead as Gaddafi forces attack port city from two directions with rockets and missiles.
http://english.aljazeera.net//news/africa/2011/06/201168151339758908.html

Gaddafi ‘will fight to the death’
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi vows to remain in the country “dead or alive” in an audio message broadcast on state TV.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/world-africa-13688003

NATO strikes rock Libyan capital
Several explosions reported near Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s compound following rare daytime attacks.
http://english.aljazeera.net//news/africa/2011/06/20116791428754691.html

Libya officials put a spin on conflict
Moammar Kadafi’s government alleges a mounting civilian toll and massive damage amid a punishing NATO-led bombing campaign. Foreign journalists learn that what officials say happened may not necessarily be the case. Amid intensified NATO-led bombing of Libya’s capital, the government is alleging mounting civilian casualties and massive damage to homes and civilian infrastructure, though foreign journalists see limited evidence of such devastation.
http://feeds.latimes.com/%7Er/latimes/middleeast/%7E3/8GDjDLBUu5E/la-fg-libya-spin-20110607,0,7402126.story

Libya’s Eman al-Obeidi in Romania
Eman al-Obeidi, a Libyan woman who says she was raped by pro-Gaddafi men, is recovering in a Romanian refugee centre, the UN says.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/world-africa-13700941

Saudi Arabia
Victoria Penziner, “Politics and Natural Resources in Eastern Saudi Arabia”
Toby Craig Jones’s book Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia deals with issues of progress, development, the role of science in the creation of a state, and also how the environment contributed to the articulation of Saudi identity. Though oil and water are in the title, it is not a book about oil or water. This book explores the role of natural resources in the articulation of the relationship between a central government and a resource-rich peripheral area — in this case, al-Hasa, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and a historical center of oil wealth and agriculture.
http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/penziner070611.html

Robert Fisk: The dumping ground for despots welcomes another
Saudi Arabia is a great dumping ground for despots. Remember Idi Amin? We Brits loved him once, but when he turned against us and started eating his enemies – and keeping the occasional head in the fridge – we were happy he fled into exile in Saudi Arabia. Then there was Ben Ali of Tunisia who flew off to the kingdom with his wife and an awful lot of money this year when the people could no longer tolerate him. We used to like Ben Ali – the French more than others – because he was a “symbol of stability”. And now Ali Abdullah Saleh – who also used to be our hero in the “war on terror” – is wounded in the chest and freighted off to hospital in Riyadh.
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-the-dumping-ground-for-despots-welcomes-another-2293875.html

Israeli-Saudi alliance: The New York Times on Saudi Arabia
This is about Saudi Arabia–not Sweden:  “While the Saudis — who are dedicated to enforcing stability in the region…” And then they cite a Yemeni from the Hamid Ad-Din family:  “Abdullah Hamidaddin, a political scientist, said Saudi Arabia had wanted Mr. Saleh to leave office because its leaders thought that would bring “less bloodshed, less unpredictability.” But, he said, “they wanted it in a way that does not create a power vacuum and an unpredictable future.””  They fail to mention that when the Hamid Ad-Dins were expelled from Yemen after the revolution, each member of the family would receive a check from the Saudi embassy in any capital in which he was living.
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/israeli-saudi-alliance-new-york-times.html

The House of Saud strikes back
Saudi Arabia isn’t taking this whole democracy thing lying down. It’s putting down uprisings, beefing up alliances with fellow autocrats, and distancing itself from the US.
http://rss.csmonitor.com/%7Er/feeds/world/%7E3/PQMlIv-kV8I/The-House-of-Saud-strikes-back

The Muslim Brotherhood: enemies of the Arabs and friends of Israel
I have argued below that the Muslim Brotherhood is now a key element or tool in the US/Saudi/Israeli/Qatari Arab counter-revolution. The logical step is for the Brotherhood to inch closer toward peace with Israel.  Just look at the statements on Israeli TV by those two leaders of the Brotherhood (one from Egypt, and the pathetic Hariri tool, `Ali Bayanuni–the former (actually he is still head but has stepped out of leadership for political reasons) head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood).  They will only become more pronounced.
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/muslim-brotherhood-enemies-of-arabs-and.html

Syria
French foreign minister promises Security Council push against Syria
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule and that France and the United States are prepared to push forward with a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning his regime for its violent crackdown on protesters. However, the path toward the resolution’s ratification may not be as easy as he made it seem.
http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/06/07/french_foreign_minister_promises_security_council_push_against_syria

Did Syria’s ambassador to France just quit?
If she did, it could spell trouble for President Bashir al-Assad.
http://rss.csmonitor.com/%7Er/feeds/world/%7E3/-bh5SX0k3fc/Did-Syria-s-ambassador-to-France-just-quit

Syria vows retaliation over ‘deadly ambush’
Damascus threatens armed groups who reportedly killed 120 security personnel in northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur.
http://english.aljazeera.net//news/middleeast/2011/06/20116735725815902.html

Hundreds flee Syrian town in fear of reprisals
Hundreds of civilians fled towards Turkey last night, fearing a massacre after Syria’s Baathist regime vowed to respond “decisively” to claims that 120 members of the security forces were killed by armed groups in the north-western borderlands.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/hundreds-flee-syrian-town-in-fear-of-reprisals-2294385.html

Eyewitness: The view from the epicentre of the Syrian revolt
Jisr al-Shughour is a ghost town today. Nobody’s around because people are afraid the army will invade the city again. We had the biggest demonstration here on Friday since the start of the problems in Syria. It was peaceful at first, but in the evening groups of armed government men arrived and the shooting started.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/eyewitness-the-view-from-the-epicentre-of-the-syrian-revolt-2294384.html

Clashes intensify in northern Syrian town
Syrian State TV said hundreds of armed gunmen have been clashing with government forces in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, where the military allegedly carried out deadly crackdowns on anti-government protesters over the weekend. Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reports.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjXrUdwPVNE&feature=youtube_gdata

Syrian TV: Security officers killed in ambush
Government threatens to retaliate after blaming “armed groups” for the deaths of 120 officers in country’s north.
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/06/201166152649439258.html

Syria Reports 120 Military Killed in Jisr al-Shagour, Promises Decisive Response. More Economic Woes
Syria is slipping toward civil war. The announcement today that 120 Syrian officers have been killed in Jisr al-Shughour indicates how dire the contest between the opposition and government forces has become. This weekend over 100 Syrians were killed by government troops.
http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=10092&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Syriacomment+%28Syria+Comment%29

Erdogan: Turkey will not ‘close its doors’ to Syrian refugees
Turkish Foreign Ministry says there are now more than 420 Syrian refugees in tent camps set up in the border town of Yayladagi.
http://www.haaretz.com/news/mideast-in-turmoil/erdogan-turkey-will-not-close-its-doors-to-syrian-refugees-1.366631?localLinksEnabled=false

Protests in Damascus
“The resilience of the protest movement is not immediately apparent in Damascus. On Fridays, hundreds of plainclothes mukhabarat, or secret police, mill around public places. There are military checkpoints on the roads out of the city, and usually bustling markets and bus stations are empty. Suburbs such as Muadhimiya and Douma, where thousands have rallied in recent weeks, are now inaccessible, locked down by the army, with movements by residents severely restricted.  But there are protests, albeit small and swiftly dispersed, in the city itself. On Thursday nights before the protests, young Syrians look at dinky laptops in cafes with Wi-Fi, reading Facebook pages about protests and opposition movements. And Damascus residents, though conditioned by decades of heavy surveillance not to express views publicly, speak out against the regime.”
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/protests-in-damascus.html

Maher Al-Asad
Look at this front-page article in the New York Times.  It is yet another example of the shoddy journalism that now fills Western media in covering countries that are not aligned with the US (or even countries that happen to be aligned with the US).  Read the whole article and what do you learn?  You learn based on not one identifiable source that Maher Al-Asad has influence in Syria.  I have no doubt that he does and I have no doubt that he bars responsibility (along with his brother and others) for the repression in Syria.  But the journalism of the article is rather laughable.  There is one scene in which the article cites “Syrians” asserting that Maher himself is shooting at demonstrators.  The article tried to feign false objectivity but maintaining that it could not confirm whether this is true or not, but then added: it does not matter.  Can you imagine if “Arabs” claimed that Netanyahu actually killed Arabs himself (the claim, in the case of Israel, is far more credible because almost every prime minister in Israel since the 1950s has himself killed Arabs–not counting Golda Meir.)  Who does the article cite? It cites that Syrian in Washington, DC but seems to have stumbled on another source:  “a former Syrian diplomat who now lives in exile in Virginia”.  So now you have three Syrians in the DC area who can freely feed any claims to the receptive Zionist US media.  The article concludes with this passage:  “Mr. Bitar, the former diplomat, said: “Maher, how I am going to say, he likes the blood. The minute I saw that video I said immediately, ‘That is Maher.’ ””   Can you imagine if an article on Israel ends with such statements? I mean, every prime minister in Israel in the last two decades have killed far more than Maher Al-Asad, but such statements would be considered unacceptable by the special standards of the New York Times.  This is not about politics, mind you.  It is about how the Zionist media are rushing to print anything that contributes to a political campaign regarding the Syrian situation.  What a joke.  One more time: this article was on the front page.
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/maher-al-asad.html

Covering Syria in the West (and East)
There is an article, or even a book, to be written on how Syria has been covered in the last few weeks in Western and Saudi/Qatari/Syrian media.  You certainly can’t trust the Syrian regime media; the other day Syrian TV was blaming “anarchists”.  I kid you not.  I was personally offended.  So now it is a Salafite-anarchist conspiracy?  And the Saudi/Qatari media (which are indistinguishable as of late), can’t be trusted either. They don’t cover or inform anymore: they merely propagandize (well, to be fair, Saudi media did that all along, but one expected something different from Aljazeera).  They rush to post anything about Syria that fits into the agenda of Western government: we are talking about NATO media now, really.  Look at the story of the Syrian ambassador in France: Al-Arabiyya TV (the news station of King Fahd’s brother-in-law) is now claiming that the story originated with France 24.  In reality, the story was top news all day on Al-Arabiyya’ s website, and it did not attribute it to France 24 but to its own correspondent in Paris.  And even when the story was revealed to be false or fabricated, the Western media, including the New York Times, cover it as an opportunity to still maintain that it was true.  A friend of the ambassador who listened to the statement on France 24 told me that it was clear not her.  Yet, the New York Times writes a whole article to still imply it was true.  In Syria, we are bombarded by lies and fabrications by all sides. It is a difficult story to cover.  I recommend the articles that have been published in As-Safir by Ghadi Francis (who was fired from the SSNP for those independent articles).   I get messages from Syrians daily and one thing is clear: people are scared: scared of the repressive regime and scared of what may come later.  The secular progressives have the most difficult time: they oppose the regime and they oppose the dominant trends in the opposition.
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/covering-syria-in-west-and-east.html

Love in a time of torture
A young man’s account of sadistic torture in a Syrian secret prison, and how a girl’s note helped him through his pain.
http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/06/20116611297528598.html

Painful doubts about Amina
This morning I woke up to reports that Amina Abdalla, aka Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari, who blogs on Gay Girl in Damascus had been detained in Syria. Her cousin posted to give the details, and people were twittering and blogging about the situation, there was a Facebook page and a #freeamina hashtag and people talking about what to do as activists to pressure for her release. At work in the morning, I let people at BlogHer know, since we featured her post some months ago, My Father, the Hero. My coworkers were very concerned, Heather Clisby posted about Amina’s situation, and our entire community of women bloggers geared up to support her. I wrote to one of my senators and signed some online petitions in her support, and sent out messages to everyone I know to try to help her.
http://bookmaniac.org/painful-doubts-about-amina/

Is there a blogger by the name of Amina? I don’t know and seek answers
Yazan sent me this (I cite with his permission):  “The story of Amina has been troubling me for a while, and there more I dive into it, the weirder it gets. I do want to believe that she exists and is part of the ranks who are challenging the regime, but if there is something more to her, then this is a disaster and a boon for the regime’s propaganda.  Here is an article by NPR’s Andy Carvin in regards to her story:Carvin cautiously points out that no media organization was able to personally meet her, or speak to someone how knows her (such as family, friends, co-workers).  Another blogger, one Liz Henry, suggested some “painful doubts” on her own post regarding the story:   Henry points out the examples of Plain Layne (a supposedly bisexual young woman who turned out to be a middle-aged white man, who in turn won an award for writing as a young Muslim girl with a Jewish girlfriend). Henry calls these examples as “fictional” blogging, which can be used in a number of ways by a number of individuals and parties for some end.   I understand how dangerous this line of argument presents itself, a danger that both Carvin and Henry acknowledge as well; doubting a person’s existence when they possibly do exist and are in a situation of potentitally great harm, is damning.   What doesn’t help as well in all this is the recent information, as published by the Wall Street Journal, that the photos being passed around of Amina is apparently of another woman.   Very curious stuff, and can only be dispelled if someone close to Amina, a family or friend, does speak out about her.” PS I have no way of knowing whether she exists or not, but seek verification.  I am sick and tired today of the festival of lies and fabrication surrounding coverage of Syria.  PSS Yazan suggested that we read here too.
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/is-there-blogger-by-name-of-amina-i.html

Yemen
Yemen’s Saleh could be away for months, complicating transition plans
Yemen’s political opposition and protesters are pushing for an immediate transition amid reports that Saleh’s injuries are worse than previously admitted. But his supporters are intent on his return.
http://rss.csmonitor.com/%7Er/feeds/world/%7E3/iKHn7vcjtAU/Yemen-s-Saleh-could-be-away-for-months-complicating-transition-plans

Yemen’s Saleh ‘gravely wounded’
Yemen’s President Saleh was more badly injured than thought in a rocket attack last week, suffering 40% burns, officials tell US media.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/world-middle-east-13687145

Yemen braced for power battle as President vows to return
Pressure is building on Saudi Arabia to quickly conclude a power transfer deal for Yemen amid reports that the convalescing Yemeni president, who fled the country after an attack at the weekend, could try to come back.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/yemen-braced-for-power-battle-as-president-vows-to-return-2293874.html

2 Saudi Guards Killed at Yemen Border
Violence erupted along the Saudi-Yemeni border as a gunman killed two Saudi border police officers and wounded a third before being gunned down himself.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/08/world/middleeast/08yemen.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Yemenis protest after talks rejected
Thousands gather outside vice-president’s residence after government rejects proposed dialogue as “ridiculous”.
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/06/20116717337139621.html

Democracy Now! Interview with Abdul-Ghani Al-Iryani on Saleh Departure
This is an interview conducted with Abdul-Ghani Al-Iryani on Monday, June 6, in regards to President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s departure from Yemen. The interview addresses the events surrounding his departure to Saudi Arabia, highlighting the possibilities of regime change and the role US foreign policy. Transcripts of the interview follow the below video. Thousands of people in Yemen are rejoicing at the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The embattled leader is reportedly in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after being injured in a rocket attack on his presidential compound. Saleh temporarily ceded power to his vice president on Saturday night. His nephew remains in command of the Central Security paramilitary forces, and his son, Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh, still heads the elite Republican Guard. To discuss the implications of Saleh’s departure, we’re joined from Sana’a by Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, a political analyst and co-founder of the Democratic Awakening Movement.
http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/1784/democracy-now-interview-with-abdul-ghani-al-iryani

Mohammed al-Qadhi speaks about the situation in Yemen
Mohammed al-Qadhi, a journalist at Abu Dhabi based The National newspaper, spoke to Al Jazeera from Sanaa.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqXYwaTisjA&feature=youtube_gdata

Analysis/Op-ed
The mathematics of the Arab Spring
Since ousting their leaders, Egypt and Tunisia are facing difficult choices on balancing the influences of foreign aid.
http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/05/2011531132934920499.html

The ‘fallen’ heroines of the Arab spring
Women who abide by cultural traditions while rebelling politically have become icons. But there is another vanguard of outsiders. Since the start of the wave of uprisings that have swept the Arab world, “establishment” figures, especially women, have been celebrated as the “icons” of the revolution – symbols of its homegrown, indigenous nature.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/08/heroines-arab-spring-gay-girl-in-damascus

Aljazeera
from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by As’ad AbuKhalilI used to wake up and turn on Aljazeera to watch the news.  It was an excellent source of daily news.  Not anymore.  I now wake up and face crude and blatant propaganda.  Aljazeera and Al-Arabiyyah (bitter rivals in the past) are now so similar, and this critic in As-Safir found great similarity between the two in how they (un)covered Israeli crimes at the border with Syria.   Saudi media used to criticize Aljazeera on a daily basis and now they defend it against critics. That should tell you where it is going.  FLC here casts doubt on the story peddled in Aljazeera about a Syrian deserter.
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/aljazeera_07.html

Arabs who work for the New York Times
I do believe that Arabs who work for the New York Times should be ashamed of themselves–especially those who serve in the foreign bureaus as servants of the master Zionist who heads the office.  The story of Taghreed El-Khodary is known by now: she resigned when it was too late.  She was assigned by her boss, Ethan Bronner (who has sent his son to the Israeli terrorist Army) to search for Palestinians willing to criticize Hamas and to report on the plight of Israeli collaborators throughout the Israeli war on Gaza.  Look at this piece of propaganda here: the two Arab servants of Zionist bosses were assigned to go and find appropriate quotations in clearly edited interviews with Palestinian individuals (notice that their cited words contain no criticisms of Israel whatsoever).  For Arabs to work for the New York Times (the semi-official mouthpiece of international Zionism and a newspaper with a clear and solid record of racism against Arabs and bigotry against Muslims) is like Jews working for Der Angriff.  I stand by this analogy.  The funny thing about this piece is that yesterday the New York Times devoted a piece to cover the Israeli propaganda claims about their own shooting of civilians.  That was not enough.  So they decided to devote a second piece to highlight Israeli propaganda claims.  Notice that not one word has been written about the victims: not one word. Not one picture of a funeral.  You wonder why I detest the New York Times so much?
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/arabs-who-work-for-new-york-times.html

Democracy against Democracy
Comrade Joseph writes about the future trend of the counter-revolution:  “Moves to limit economic protests and labour strikes are ongoing in Egypt and Tunisia. Once elections are held to bring about a new class of servants of the new order, we will hear that all economic demands should be considered “counterrevolutionary”and should be prosecuted for attempting to “weaken” if not “destroy” the new “democracy”. If, as is becoming more apparent, the US strikes alliances with local Islamist parties, we might even hear that economic protests and opposition to neoliberal imperial economic policies are “against Islam.” The US-imposed “democracy” to come, assuming even a semblance of it will be instituted, is precisely engineered to keep the poor down and to delegitimise all their economic demands. The exchange that the US hopes to achieve by imposing some form of liberal political order on Egypt and Tunisia is indeedmore, not less, imperial pillage of their economies and of the livelihoods of their poor classes, who are the large majority of the population. The ultimate US aim then is to hijack the successful uprisings against the existing regimes under the cover of democracy for the benefit of the very same local and international business elites in power under Mubarak and Ben Ali. How successful the US and its local allies will be will depend on the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples.”
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/democracy-against-democracy.html

Fouad Ajami and the Jewish quarter in Beirut
Daniel sent me this on yesterday’s post (I cite with his permission):  “”Wadi Abu Jamil, the Jewish quarter of the Beirut of my boyhood, is now a Hezbollah stronghold, and no narrative exalts or recalls that old presence.” This is so offensive, especially since, if I recall correctly, it was Solidere, American-supported capitalist entity, that wanted to raze the Grand Synagogue, now being rebuilt in the heart of Beirut with the full support of the Hezb. As was rebuilt the retaining wall of the Jewish Cemetery near my house in Ras En-Nebaa many years ago. This is more respect than is given Muslim or Jewish cemeteries in Europe, and certainly more respect than mosques in Europe or North America.  Students from our dept. at AUB have, in the past, worked in this neighborhood, creating for one example directional signage for the synagogue as a landmark, and interviewing the last surviving Jewish resident of the neighborhood who vowed never to move to Israel (she passed away a few years ago I believe). Who destroyed Wadi Abu Jamil? The rampant neo-liberalism that Ajami champions. Shame on him.”
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/06/fouad-ajami-and-jewish-quarter-in.html

Jews visiting Temple Mount break bottle of wine on grounds of Al-Aqsa mosque

Jun 08, 2011

Kate

and other news from Today in Palestine:

Land, property, resources theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers

Report: Wine bottle smashed at Al-Aqsa compound
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) — A bottle of red wine was broken in the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, by “Jewish extremists” who had snuck into the compound, an eyewitness reported. In Islam, alcohol is forbidden, and bringing it into a Muslim holy site is considered to be desecration. The report of the incident was made public by the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Heritage and Islamic Endowments. Waqf officials told the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA, that the visiting Jewish group was “drinking wine and breaking the empty bottles on its ground to celebrate the Jewish Shavuot holiday.” Foundation officials said the Jewish group entered the compound through its Maghreb Gate with Israeli police protection. Israeli police did not intervene, the WAFA report stated, except to separate the Jewish group from a gathering of Muslim worshipers who were angered by the violation of religious law … On Tuesday, Israeli parliamentarian with the right-wing National Union party Michael Ben-Ari had toured the mosque with a group of Israeli settlers.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394922

Two arrested for attempting to block Israeli raid
Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 8 June — Two men were arrested by Israeli forces in Baten al-Hawa yesterday after they attempted to prevent an Israeli raid on a local home last week. Rajaby Zuhair, 36, and Firas Rajaby, 23, had attempted to block Israeli forces from raiding their  home in Baten al-Hawa last Friday, 3 June. An order has also reportedly issued by Israeli intelligence for the arrest of Fuad Rajaby and the wife of Zuhair Rajaby.
http://silwanic.net/?p=18036

Troops fire on Baten al-Hawa, residents gassed
Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 8 June — Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and sound grenades in the streets of Baten al-Hawa district of Silwan late last night, say eyewitnesses. Many residents were affected by symptoms of asphyxiation due to gas inhalation, including children and the elderly. Local youth retaliated by throwing Molotov cocktails at the Israeli military-occupied building adjacent one of the settlements in the neighborhood, that has become a makeshift base for troops.
http://silwanic.net/?p=18040

Settlers set fire to Palestinian crops near Hebron
Hebron (PNN) 8 June Exclusive – As part of the daily attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian villages, on Wednesday afternoon settlers set fire to crops owned by Palestinian farmers from the village of Bani Naim, near Hebron City in the southern West Bank. According to local sources, the settlers came from Kiryat Arba settlements, and according to villagers the settlers set fire to wheat crops and destroyed them entirely … According to sources, Palestinian and Israeli fire engines rushed to the scene and tried to stop the fire that was spreading over a vast area of Palestinian land, but they noted that the Israeli fire fighters were only focusing on the areas closest to the settlement.
http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10201&Itemid=56

Shepherd held for hours over grazing land
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 8 June — Israeli police detained a Hebron shepherd for hours on Tuesday, saying he had allowed his heard of sheep and goats to illegally enter a “closed military zone.” Bilal Hathaleen, 25 from the village of Um Al-Kheir in the south Hebron hills was grazing his flock not far from home when he was apprehended by police and told that he was in a zone too close to the nearby Karmel settlement … “Already we have limited access to grazing lands,” he said, lamenting prospects for adequately feeding his flock. Herders are regularly denied access to lands near Israeli settlements,” Human rights activist Hisham Sharabati told Ma‘an, saying he had received reports of settler violence and harassment from Karmel residents over the previous two days, that kept locals away from the area. He said the issue was getting acute, since water wells for animals to drink from are located in the region south of the settlement.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=395003

Israel: Tacit approval of discrimination against Bedouins / Richard Lightbown
Pal Chron 7 June — Around 90,000 Arab Bedouin live on their own land in the Negev which they have inhabited for generations, in some cases before the establishment of the state of Israel. As part of the Israeli Government’s policy to relocate Bedouin from their “unrecognized villages” into government-planned towns, the Water Commissioner had refused an application for hundreds of families to be connected to the Mekorot water company main.  Many of the families are forced to buy their drinking water from a central location and pay for transport in unhygienic metal containers or use improvised plastic hose connections from water access points located several kilometers away.In consequence the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) took the case to court on behalf of 128 families living in six villages that are unrecognized by the government.
http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=16906

Restrooms and sanitation at Umm-Al-Kheir (a story for Shavuot)
VillagesGroup 8 June — Mohammed Salem is about 30 years old. He lives in Umm-Al-Kheir, in a home inherited from his late father right next to the fence of the Carmel settlement (sometimes spelled “Karmel”; see picture on right). In 2005, when Carmel built an expansion neighborhood, Mohammed was beaten by settlers involved in the construction. Since this assault, he has suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTSD). He has stopped functioning, fears and runs away from any stranger, and even from some family members. Mohammed’s home, one of the few still standing in that part of Umm-Al-Kheir – a village suffering continual destruction from the Occupation authorities– does not have a restroom. Therefore, residents must perform their bodily functions outdoors. On Wednesday, May 25 2011, while Mohammed was outside for that reason, he was harangued by settlers yelling, cursing and making threats. These new, government-backed residents living in fully-connected homes have had enough with this ongoing sanitation problem placed not far from their doorstep.
http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/

Checkpoint repairs to divert settler traffic into villages
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 8 June — The Huwwara military checkpoint on the main road between Ramallah and Nablus will close for ten days as road repairs are carried out, Palestinian officials announced Tuesday night. Cars traveling on the north-south artery which serves both settlers, military and Palestinians, will be diverted east to the Awarta checkpoint, and will bypass at least two Palestinian villages before diverting back to the main road. The diversion will take settlers from four illegally built settlements in the northern West Bank into Area B, a zone under Palestinian civilian control, and Israeli military control. The Palestinian Authority said it was carrying out the road work in coordination with Israeli authorities.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394834

Detention

IOF storm villages, round up citizens including teen
AL-KHALIL, (PIC) 8 June — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) rounded up two Palestinians in Al-Khalil and Qalqilia villages including a 17-year-old teen, local sources reported on Wednesday. They said that the soldiers stormed the village of Dhaheria, south of Al-Khalil, and took away a 50-year-old man. Locals reported other storming and searching of homes in five villages in Al-Khalil in addition to Fawar refugee camp and suburbs in Al-Khalil city but no arrests were made.
IOF soldiers also arrested a teenager in Azun village, east of Qalqilia city, at dawn Wednesday after using hounds in searching his home.
Citizens in Jenin said that IOF troops detained a young man in the city on Tuesday night after bursting into a number of homes in Marah suburb.
http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/iof-soldiers-storm-villages-round-up-citizens-including-teen/

Cancer kids plead to see detained fathers
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 8 June — Asil is 10 years old and suffers from leukemia. Just 40 days after she was born in the West Bank city of Hebron, her father, Jamal Qisiyeh, was detained by Israeli authorities and later sentenced to 13 years imprisonment. Palestinian Detainees Minister in the West Bank visited Asil on Wednesday in a show of support for sick children and their families with parents in Israeli jail. Asil told Qaraqe that she hopes to get better and see her father. She has not been able to visit her father during his detention because of her illness. In Hebron, the minister also visited 12-year-old Maram who suffers from bone cancer, the daughter of Muhammad Al-Za‘aqiq who is also in Israeli jail. Maram asks God to keep her alive until her father’s release, in just six months, Qaraqe said. She cannot visit her father because of her condition, but sends him regular letters.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394847

Special Guardian video series on East Jerusalem

Interactive video: Living in East Jerusalem
Guardian 8 June — Four Palestinians and two Israelis used cameras provided by the Guardian and B’Tselem human rights organisation to record video diaries about their lives and experiences in East Jerusalem
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/jun/08/east-jerusalem-israel-palestine-interactive

Video: ‘Every action in this area is very sensitive’
A Jewish-Israeli archaeologist takes us on an alternative tour of the ‘City of David’ – the archaeological site and tourist attraction in the centre of Jerusalem, owned by the Israeli settler organisation Elad
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/jun/08/east-jerusalem-palestinian-israel-archaeology-english

Video: The Wall is choking us all
Abd al-Fatah lives on ancestral land in an ancient Canaanite cave on the edge of Jerusalem’s municipal boundary. Israeli businessmen intend to build a new settlement on his land. He recorded his daily battle to keep them away
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/jun/08/east-jerusalem-israel-palestine-english

Video: Sharing our house with settlersp
Muna and Muhammed are 12-year-old twins living in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Settlers have taken over the front of their home, but the family continue to live in the rest of the house
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/jun/08/israel-palestinian-territories-twins-english

Video: They broke into the block like a swarm of ants
Thaer Qirresh is a 14-year-old Palestinian living in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in East Jerusalem. His family are the last Palestinian family left in the block after a settler organisation purchased the lease and moved in
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/jun/08/israel-palestinian-old-city-settlers-english

Video: My kids won’t live under the same illusion I did’
Raised in West Jerusalem, Sara Benninga is an emerging activist leader in a growing mixed solidarity movement. We gave her a camera to record her daily life moving between opposing cultures in East and West Jerusalem
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/jun/08/east-jerusalem-sara-benninga-english

Video: Witnessing the truth
Zuheir set up CCTV cameras around his home to document clashes between settlers, residents and security forces. Footage captured on his camera contradicts the official line on the killing of a local Silwan resident by an Israeli settler guard
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/jun/08/east-jerusalem-israel-palestine-cctv-english

Gaza — under siege for 1,456 days now

Rafah crossing re-opens
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 8 June — The crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was re-opened Wednesday morning after a four-day closure. The decision to open was made after Palestinian and Egyptian officials agreed on a set of mechanisms for the passage of Palestinian travelers. From Wednesday onward, Rafah will open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and allow an average of 550 passengers per day to cross. The number of passengers was less than the 700 per day requested by the Gaza authorities, but higher than the cap of 400 set after travelers overwhelmed the terminal on its first day of operation on May 28.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394853

Egyptians seize Gaza car-smuggling tunnel
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma‘an) 8 June — Egyptian border guards raided a tunnel used to smuggle cars between Gaza and Egypt, Egyptian security sources told Ma‘an Wednesday. The forces located the site south of the Salah Ad-Din gate in Rafah, on the Egyptian side of the border with the coastal strip. Smugglers escaped through the tunnel to Gaza during the raid, the sources said, but the Egyptian guards seized four Hyundai vehicles … Tunnels remain the primary source of construction materials, vehicles and fuel for Gaza, as Israel’s five-year-long blockade continues.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394770

Israel closes Gaza crossing
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 8 June — Israeli authorities closed the sole commercial terminal into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday for the second day running, as the Jewish holiday of Shavuot is commemorated in Israel.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394800

Medical supply shortage in Gaza threatens lives of thousands
AhramOnline 8 June — The Palestinian government in Gaza has decided to cut five per cent of its employees’ salaries in order to be able to purchase drugs and medical supplies amid the worst shortage of medicine seen in Gaza in the past five years. Health Minister in Ismail Haniyah’s Gaza government Bassem Naeem announced that 178 types of medicine and 190 important pieces of medical equipment are absent while the rest are close to depletion.
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/13901/World/Region/Medical-supply-shortage-in-Gaza-threatens-lives-of.aspx

‘Iran ready to send relief aid to Gaza’
7 June — Iran’s Red Crescent Society (IRCS) has announced its readiness to send humanitarian aid to the impoverished Gaza Strip following the reopening of the Rafah border crossing.  IRCS Director Abolhassan Faqih, who also heads Iran’s National Committee for humanitarian rights, condemned Israel’s “inhumane” measure in blocking the Gaza Strip in a statement, describing the siege as a “blatant” violation of international humanitarian law, Mehr news agency reported.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/183560.html

One missile, one playground: the will of Gaza / Ramzy Baroud
Iyad was not here to show me any militant training camp, or even to assess the damage that had befallen the impoverished Gaza Strip during Israel’s devastating war, Operation Cast Lead, which killed and wounded thousands in 2008-09 … Iyad was here to show me his latest personal project: a playground for refugee children. At first glance, the ‘playground’ did not seem impressive at all. All I noticed was a small plot of dirt jammed between two unsightly concrete buildings … I learned later that the achievement was creating space out of the debris. At one time prior to December 2008, when an Israeli missile decided to drop in, a family had lived in this spot. The house had collapsed, and its residents became mere posters of mourned Palestinian faces adorning the walls of other houses in the neighborhood. Iyad and few of ‘Shabab Al-Masjid’ — youth of the mosque — cleared almost everything, using only their bare hands and other primitive means.
http://arabnews.com/opinion/columns/article450441.ece

Photos: lovely Gaza, despite it all
http://ingaza.wordpress.com/photos-lovely-gaza-despite-it-all/

Journalist safety / Press freedom

MADA reports violations against journalists during May
Ramallah (PNN) 8 May — The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has recorded 12 violations of journalists in the last month, the most serious of which was the shooting of Mohamed Othman in Gaza, hit by Israeli military fire in his right hand and chest. Othman, a freelance photographer, was in Gaza on 15 May this year to cover marches on the anniversary of al-Nakba. Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators, hitting Othman in his chest and hand. During May, it has been reported that other journalists have also been injured by live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas, and have been pushed by border guards. MADA has pointed out that all journalists and media outlets should be given free access to the West Bank and Gaza Strip without fear of violation or restrictions in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the freedom of expression.
http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10197&Itemid=61

French judge dismisses French journalist’s complaint against Israeli military
8 June — Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that a French judge has dismissed French journalist Jacques-Marie Bourget’s complaint against the Israeli authorities on the grounds that the lack of Israeli cooperation prevented him from pursuing the investigation. The former Paris-Match correspondent in Ramallah, Bourget was seriously injured while covering the Second Intifada in October 2000. He sustained a gunshot injury that was operated on locally after the Israeli military refused to transfer him. He was subsequently repatriated to France with great difficulty and hospitalized there. French doctors consider him to be 45 per cent permanently disabled.
http://en.rsf.org/france-french-judge-dismisses-french-08-06-2011,40415.html

No news is good news
Human Rights Watch 6 April — …The negative trend of abuses against journalists by Palestinian security forces continued in 2010. MADA’s 2010 annual report cites a 45 percent increase over the previous year of physical attacks, arrests, detentions, arbitrary confiscations of equipment, and other violations of journalists’ rights, with 79 recorded cases of violations by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and 139 violations by Israeli forces.[3] … The harassment of journalists by PA security services has created a “phenomenon of self-censorship” in the West Bank, according to Musa Rimawi, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), a non-governmental organization based in Ramallah.[11] Virtually all the Palestinian journalists interviewed for this report told Human Rights Watch that they shared this assessment. Journalists practice self-censorship by avoiding working on certain topics, they said, for fear that PA officials would otherwise deny them access to PA officials or facilities.[12] Other journalists have told Human Rights Watch that they have refrained from publishing information they possess due to fear that they will be prevented from covering events, or harassed, or even detained and physically abused.[13] Palestinian journalists, like other Palestinian residents of the West Bank, lack effective redress against violations by PA security services.
http://www.hrw.org/en/node/97791/section/3

Refugees

Palestinians condemn Syria refugee camp deaths
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 8 June — West Bank leaders on Tuesday slammed the shooting of Palestinian refugees in a Syrian camp and pledged to investigate the incident, the Palestinian Authority official news agency WAFA reported.  Mourners in unofficial refugee camp Al-Yarmouk were on Monday commemorating the deaths of a reported 23 protesters on the Golan ceasefire line a day before, when militants fired on the crowd killing 14 and injuring 43, reports said … The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank said there could be no excuse for what it called a “cowardly criminal act that violates Palestinian national traditions,” WAFA reported … Militants with the PRFL-GC reportedly opened fire on the crowd, who were taken to a local camp hospital for treatment.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394788

Golan protests

UN Commissioner: Golan deaths raise questions
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) — The UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Tuesday she was “deeply concerned” over the use of live ammunition against protesters in the Israeli-occupied Golan on Sunday, which saw between 10 and 23 killed as pro-Palestinians marking An-Naksa Day rushed to the ceasefire line, just weeks after 12 died in the same area. “Between 30 and 40 protesters have reportedly been killed by Israeli security forces in the past three weeks,” Pillay said in a statement. “The Government of Israel has a duty to ensure that its security personnel avoid the use of excessive force.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394726

Amnesty: Israel must investigate Golan deaths
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 8June — Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the Israeli authorities to investigate their army’s killing of protesters along the ceasefire line with Syria on Sunday. The global rights group said they had spoken to a human rights activist in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights who “contradicts IDF [Israeli army] claims that all possible non-lethal means were used to disperse the protesters before lethal force was used.”
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394497

Political / Diplomatic / International news

Cabinet still sitting, not paying
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an)  7 June — The Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah held its weekly cabinet meeting Tuesday, as the deadline set for the announcement of a unity government reconciling Gaza and West Bank authorities was missed. A new executive of independent figures was one of the provisions of the deal agreed in Cairo on May 4 between former rival factions Hamas and Fatah. Officials said its members would be revealed on June 6. The date passed without notice, except by Palestinian civil servants who are still waiting for their May salaries, and who announced a partial strike in protest for Thursday.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394715

Civil servant salaries to be paid
NABLUS (Ma‘an) — The paymaster of the West Bank government said that civil servants salaries will be paid Wednesday afternoon, after a week-long delay had prompted their union to hold a partial strike in protest. Accountant-General of the Palestinian Authority Yousef Az-Zumr told Ma‘an that funds from Algeria totaling US$26.4 million had been received by the authority’s treasury, and released the documents showing the transfer.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394911

PLO leader slams US, German stance as ‘counterproductive’
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) — “People do not negotiate their right to statehood. Rather, this is an inherent right,” a PLO official lashed out Wednesday in the wake of US and German statements demanding Palestinian officials abort plans to seek UN recognition of statehood. “Far from acting unilaterally, Palestinians are bringing their case for statehood before the United Nations, the world’s preeminent multilateral body. Self-determination and respect for the sovereignty of nations are principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, making the UN a natural forum to resolve this issue,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee said in a statement.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394991

Republican Rep. urges House to sever UN aid if Palestinian statehood vote passes
FoxNews 7 June — A Republican congressman says he wants the House to cut off U.S. aid to the top office at the United Nations if the international organization votes in favor of Palestinian statehood this fall. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., plans to introduce a resolution that would call for the funding cutoff to the “bloated” U.N. Secretariat in New York City — the office headed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon … The U.S. is the largest single contributor to the United Nations. The U.S. paid up more than $6.3 billion in 2009, the last year for which data was available.
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/07/republican-rep-urges-house-to-sever-un-aid-if-palestinian-statehood-vote-passes/

US condemns mosque arson
WASHINGTON (Ma‘an) 8 June — In a statement delivered by a White House spokesman, the United States condemned Tuesday “the burning and vandalizing of a mosque in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir.” .. These incidents have served to undermine efforts to promote a comprehensive peace in the region. We call on the Israeli government to investigate this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice, and for calm from all parties,” the spokesman said.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=395038

France to pursue Middle East peace talks
UNITED NATIONS (AFP)8 June – France will pursue efforts to organize a Middle East conference despite reservations expressed by the United States and Israel, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said. “I have the feeling that our initiative has moved things” in the peace process, Juppe said after meetings in Israel and the United States. “I think there will be positive developments in the next weeks,” Juppe told reporters at the UN headquarters … US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a cool welcome Monday to the French plan, saying there must be a willingness by the Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks. “We strongly support a return to negotiations, but we do not think that it would be productive for there to be a conference about returning to negotiations,” she said after talks with Juppe
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394809

Secret negotiations claim denied by Erekat
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 7 June — Israel’s TV channel 2 said on Monday that “secret negotiations” are taking place between the Israeli Prime Minister’s office and Saeb Erekat, prompting the PLO official to issue a denial Tuesday. Israeli political analyst Udi Segal said lawyer Yitzhak Molcho from Netanyahu’s office and Erekat are trying to reach an agreement on political negotiations before September, when Palestinians have vowed to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations should the talks impasse continue.
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394490

UN says West Bank economy not flourishing
JERUSALEM (AFP) 8 June – Claims that the economy in the West Bank is flourishing overlook rising unemployment and a jump in inflation that has decreased purchasing power, a United Nations report said on Wednesday. In recent months, observers and officials including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have described the West Bank’s economy as booming, calling it a sign of positive momentum under Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas … The report said the unemployment rate in the West Bank stood at 25% in the second half of 2010, up from 23.5% in 2009 … And it said that rising consumer inflation, which stood at 2.3% in the second half of 2010, caused “a further slide in the purchasing power of wage incomes” among Palestinians in the West Bank. The agency said the figures provided a stark counterpoint to claims of an economic boom in the West Bank.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110608/wl_mideast_afp/israelpalestiniansconflicteconomyun

Haneen Al Zoabi: Racists impose the rules of the political game in Israel
MEMO 8 June — Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, Haneen Al Zoabi, has condemned the initiative led by a Jewish member, Yariv Levin, to ban her from traveling outside the country and to prevent her from participating in the Freedom Fleet 2. She described the move as an unparalleled form of racism. In a press statement made by Tuesday (7/6), Al Zoabi said that “Levin does not decide my movements and I am not waiting for either him or anyone else to ratify my political work”. She added derisively that, “the next step is that Levin would give me a detailed list of what is politically permitted and probably tell me what to do, what to think, and what to support or oppose.”
http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/news/middle-east/2449-haneen-al-zoabi-racists-impose-the-rules-of-the-political-game-in-israel

Other news

Israeli factories in Salfit major cause of high rate of cancer among children
SALFIT, (PIC) 8 June — The Israeli Barkan industrial area established on Palestinian land in Salfit is the major cause for soaring rate of cancer among children in the area compared to other Palestinian areas, health and local sources said on Wednesday. They said that the factories pollute the environment and cause serious diseases as they throw their solid and water refuse in Palestinian land and poisonous gases in the air. The sources charged the Israeli occupation authority with allowing those factories to move from 1948 occupied Palestine to the West Bank since Israeli rules refuse to allow such dangerous materials to emanate from factories in the 1948 occupied land. [End]
http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/israeli-factories-in-salfit-major-cause-of-high-rate-of-cancer-among-children/

750 public doctors resign
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) 8 June — Angry over the Palestinian High Court’s decision mandating a return to work for striking public sector doctors, 750 union members collectively submitted their resignations on Wednesday. The union called on PA Minister of Health Fathi Abu Mughli to resign in solidarity,
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=395083

Sderot rocket victims sue Gaza flotilla organizers
JPost 8 June — $1,000,000 lawsuit claims two Canadian organizations raising money for flotilla are aiding and abetting Hamas terrorists.
http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=224166

UK Jews fight Scottish boycott
Ynet 8 June — British Jews initiate campaign to counter West Dunbartonshire anti-Israel boycott; Group wanted to boycott Scottish district, discovered nothing is produced there, campaign leader says
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4079696,00.html

For those readers who have asked about Ma‘an:
Ma‘an financial report
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 8 June — In line with its policy of transparency and integrity, Ma’an TV Network has released its 2010 financial report. The report, reviewed by Price Waterhouse Coopers, was found to be sound. A copy of the 2010 report can be viewed here. “Ma‘an TV Network was established in 2002, commenced its operations in 2003 and was officially registered in Bethlehem on June 6 2004 as a not-for-profit organization … The Network works in partnership with independent journalists throughout Palestine, including eight local television stations and eight local radio stations. The Network is dedicated to promoting understanding of the Palestinian situation by strengthening cooperation between local and international media. The Network shares a vision of fomenting democracy and freedom of thoughts and ideas in Palestine.” (p. 7 of the report)
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=395007

Ex-Mossad chief inspires ‘security’ bill
Ynet 7 June — Meir Dagan’s controversial statements on Iran, peace process prompt Likud MK to draft bill calling to restrict former defense establishment personnel’s access to media
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4079361,00.html

Analysis / Opinion / Interviews / Books

June 7: the anniversary nobody remembers / Sandy Tolan
Al Jazeera 7 June — A secret meeting 44 years ago could have changed the course of Middle Eastern history. But it never happened — In this part of the world, carrying tragic dates around in your head is kind of like breathing: you do it automatically, without thinking. This time of year, for Palestinians, June 5 marks the 44th anniversary of their occupation by Israel. June 6, in the evening, evokes the darkness when Ramallah fell, and finally people realised that the tanks rolling into town were not Iraqis sent to the aid of the local people: they belonged to the army of Israel. June 7? That’s the morning Ramallah woke up to soldiers calling through bullhorns for the people to hang something white from the windows: unambiguous signs of surrender to the occupying forces … Just two days earlier, as the war broke out, Tarazi had confidently assured a worried neighbour, “Don’t worry, our day of victory is at hand.” Today, she laughs at the absurdity. But buried beneath such memories of defeat and illusion for the Arabs in the Six Day War is the story of a momentous June 7 meeting that never happened. If it had, it just might have carved a different path for the Middle East. June 7, 1967, was to be the day that the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser would dispatch his vice president, Zakariya Mohieddin, to Washington for secret meetings with US President Lyndon Johnson and members of his cabinet.
http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/20116781531161171.html

Traveling to the other part of home / Rana Baker
EI 7 June — For Palestinians in Gaza, the answer to “Have you ever been to Jerusalem?” is usually a complicated one. I first went to Jerusalem in 2000 with my parents, grandmother and older sister … We went to al-Aqsa Mosque and I was fascinated by the grandeur of the Dome of the Rock as it proudly basked in the sun, which made it look even more beautiful … We had to go back to Gaza the same day, in accordance with the conditions stipulated on our permits. I was not more than a tourist in my own land …My second trip to Jerusalem was in 2007, the year Israel imposed its siege on Gaza. I was in a group of young, privileged Palestinians who were chosen to participate in the Arab Digital Expression Camps in Cairo for three weeks … In the end, we walked out of Erez and rode the bus to Allenby Bridge in the West Bank that leads to Jordan. In the bus we screamed out of excitement, ecstasy and shock. We were in the occupied West Bank. We asked the driver to take us to Jerusalem and let us step on the ground of the holy city. Alas, to step foot on our land we needed a permit from strangers! We could only pass by Jerusalem and see a glimpse of the Dome of the Rock. But even seeing it from afar made me ignore, at least for a while, the treatment I had received at Erez.
http://electronicintifada.net/content/traveling-other-part-home/10057

The no-longer temporary occupation / Joseph Dana
Forward 5 June — One particular success of Israel’s 44-year control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been the government’s ability to convince the Israeli population of the temporary nature of the occupation. Every sector of Israeli society, except religious settlers and the military establishment, understand the occupation to be an ephemeral security measure necessary only in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Ask any Israeli on the streets of Tel Aviv whether they think that Israel will permanently control the Occupied Territories and the immediate answer will be no, it is all about immediate security. This charade is exploited by successive Israeli governments as they proclaim a desire for peace while simultaneously creating permanent facts on ground like Jewish settler roads, checkpoints for Palestinians and new settlements.
http://forward.com/articles/138343/

Long before the ‘Arab Spring’, Palestinians protested nonviolently
Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip (IPS) 6 June — It is a scene replayed weekly in Palestine. In Gaza, groups of chanting demonstrators walk towards the border with Israel, singing, chanting, dancing. Ayat el Masari, 20, walks with the masses. An English major at Gaza’s Aqsa University, the young woman is among many women who regularly attend Palestinian protests …While the protests throughout many Arab nations are being called a Facebook revolution and are analysed as movements of the frustrated and Internet-savvy youth of oppressed countries, the protests in Palestine are extensions of protests past, the continued call for justice, the end of the Israeli occupation, and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land.
http://ingaza.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/long-before-the-arab-spring-palestinians-protest-non-violently/

Richard Silverstein vs. censorship
Ynet 7 June — In a special interview US blogger who broke several stories, including Ofer Brothers’ Mossad dealings, talks about his sources, repercussions of releasing news restricted by [Israeli] gag orders
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4078461,00.html

Canada shames again
InGaza 8 June — Two years ago, just after Israeli soldiers showered myself, my international colleagues and the 6 or 7 farmers we accompanied on land in Abassan Jadida with continuous and dangerously close machine gun fire for roughly 45 minutes, the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv told me that the Israeli firing on me was not a problem for Canada … The farmers — men in the early twenties, paid labourers, as well as an older farmer — had harvested parsley on a plot of land 500 metres from the Green Line border between Gaza and Israel for over two hours without incident, Israeli jeeps driving past along the border but not shooting. The area along the border is flatland, treeless (bulldozed by the Israelis over the years), and by Israeli imposition without crops any taller than wheat, which is also routinely bulldozed or burned (near time of harvest). It is an open area and the Israeli soldiers half a kilometer away across the border fence can see with clarity who is on the land and what they are doing. If they don’t see with military binoculars, there are drones with cameras and military towers along the border. But that day as other days the Israeli soldiers saw the farmers and their international accompaniment and they decided to harass.
http://ingaza.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/canada-with-israel-forget-the-canadian-and-palestinian-civilians/

Tear Gas in the Morning, the comic book
PalMon 7 June “Tear gas in the morning is a fictional story that is based on real life,” said Katie Miranda, the comic’s creator, illustrator and co-author. Drawing inspiration from her three years in the West Bank, Miranda has crafted a graphic narrative about a “naive” Jewish-American activist working and living under the Israeli occupation of Palestine. “I made this for people who don’t know a lot about the situation,” she said. “I don’t want to write something that’s preaching to the choir. I hope not only activists read this: my goal is have a much broader audience and reach people who are very confused about this situation. I didn’t set out to make a political propaganda piece — some people may see this if they haven’t read it yet. I took some characters and put them in an environment. It’s what happens in real life — I’m not being preachy or anti-Israeli with it. The character and situations are real; I am not making up any situation.”
http://www.palestinemonitor.org/?p=706

groups.yahoo.com/group/f_shadi (listserv)
www.theheadlines.org (archive)

Look at their eyes

Jun 08, 2011

Philip Weiss

Here’s a photo from Active Stills on Jerusalem Day, when rightwing white-shirted Jewish marchers celebrated the unification of Jerusalem by shouting Butcher the Arabs. This is a picture of Palestinians in the Old City waiting behind a barrier. See the defensive postures. See the loneliness. See the closed mouths. Look at their eyes. Tell me these people are not living under occupation.

‘Fayyadism’ revealed: UN report throws cold water on the economic mirage in the West Bank

Jun 08, 2011

Adam Horowitz

In recent years it has become popular among liberal commentators in the US to celebrate Salam Fayyad and his plan for Palestine. Despite evidence of widespread human rights abuses under his watch, or more accurately at his and US Lieutenant General Keith Dayton’s command, Fayyad’s state building plan has been lauded, mainly because it prioritizes building the Palestinian economy over securing Palestinian rights. In the words of the New York Times‘ Roger Cohen “he’s getting things done, improving people’s lives, and Palestinians are tired of going nowhere.”

This perspective has been best summarized by none other than Thomas Friedman, who has dubbed the phenomena “Fayyadism.” Here Friedman describes Fayyadism as only he can:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to the wider Middle East what off-Broadway is to Broadway. It is where all good and bad ideas get tested out first. Well, the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, a former I.M.F. economist, is testing out the most exciting new idea in Arab governance ever. I call it “Fayyadism.”

Fayyadism is based on the simple but all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or rejectionism or personality cults or security services, but on delivering transparent, accountable administration and services.

Fayyad, a former finance minister who became prime minister after Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007, is unlike any Arab leader today. He is an ardent Palestinian nationalist, but his whole strategy is to say: the more we build our state with quality institutions — finance, police, social services — the sooner we will secure our right to independence. I see this as a challenge to “Arafatism,” which focused on Palestinian rights first, state institutions later, if ever, and produced neither.

Things are truly getting better in the West Bank, thanks to a combination of Fayyadism, improved Palestinian security and a lifting of checkpoints by Israel. In all of 2008, about 1,200 new companies registered for licenses here. In the first six months of this year, almost 900 have registered. According to the I.M.F., the West Bank economy should grow by 7 percent this year.

The last point is the most common one raised by Fayyad’s supporters. This economic growth is supposed to prove Palestinians worthiness for a state in international eyes, and was even been seized upon by Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent address to Congressas a sign that the occupation is not a hinderance to Palestinian aspirations. After giving Fayyad props for leading the charge, Netanyahu also took credit for the Palestinian’s economic growth

We’ve helped, on our side, we’ve helped the Palestinian economic growth by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people, and the results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It’s growing by more than 10 percent a year. And Palestinian cities — they look very different today than what they looked just few — a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses, but you can’t see that when you visit them.

It all sounds wonderful, but it isn’t true.

I’m not saying that there aren’t restaurants or banks, and it is even possible that the Palestinian economy grew 7% by some measure in the West Bank during the last year, but a new UN report released today reveals the truth behind the sloganeering. The report issued by UNRWA shows that unemployment in the West Bank stands near 24%, and is even higher for refugees, while the “West Bank miracle” is based almost entirely on international aid. From Reuters:

The report by the agency UNRWA shows that unemployment in the second half of 2010 grew much faster than employment, and average purchasing power continued to decline.

Of six major private sector activities, only two recorded employment gains during the second half of last year. Overall, one in four Palestinians in the workforce was unemployed.

“While there was modest employment growth, such growth was on the wane in 2010 while the number of unemployed accelerated in the second half of the year,” said author Salem Ajluni.

The report’s findings challenge assertions that the Palestinian economy is growing, helped by the removal of Israeli roadblocks and other movement restrictions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech to the U.S. Congress last month that the Palestinian economy was booming.

Palestinian policymakers have projected growth of 7 percent in 2011 for both the West Bank and Gaza, though they point out that high growth rates in recent years have largely been dependent on international aid for the Palestinians.

The UNRWA report said: “The average broad refugee unemployment rate rose by more than a percentage point to 27.9 percent relative to first-half 2009 as compared to 24.1 per cent rate for non-refugees.”

A UNRWA spokesman goes on to say, “The occupation and its related infrastructure such as settlements and settler-only roads that encroach on and divide Palestinian land, settler violence and the West Bank barrier have diminished prospects for Palestinians in general and especially for refugees.”

This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Last year around this time Save the Children UK released a report saying that poverty was worse in parts of the West Bank than in Gaza. Still, I imagine it might come as a shock to some on the Times editorial page. Although international aid has made some enclaves in the occupied territories, especially parts of Ramallah, feel as though they’re booming, this money has flowed mostly through the Palestinian Authority patronage system and enriched a few. This story would have been more obvious if reporters had travelled a bit off the beaten path, but I guess that’s a bit too far off Broadway.

LGBT groups: Don’t harm other struggles for justice

Jun 08, 2011

Eleanor K

Note to readers: All those interested in the LGBT questions around Israel’s image should check out the sit-in at New York’s LGBT Center today at 6. Details at the end of Eleanor’s post.–Editor

On the website for the Israel Gay Youth organisation (IGY), Ana Shilansky recounts her experience as an IGY ambassador in San Francisco in March 2011: “We told them about modern Israel, the Bar-noar murders, LGBT issues in the army, nightlife, the openly gay members of the Knesset, and the progress we have achieved.… The main conclusion I reached on this trip was that we, the gay youth of Israel… can be the ones who bring change, and equality, to Israel and the rest of the world.”

It is a lofty claim. The ‘ambassador’ does not forget to thank the sponsors of her public relations trip, which include the Israeli consulate.  The fact that IGY receives Israeli government money and works closely with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is reiterated by three Palestinian Queer organizations in their June 8 call on International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Youth and Student Organization (IGLYO) Member Organizations to Vote “NO to IGLYO in Israel”. The call adds that Israel’s apartheid policies could affect IGLYO delegates and their ability to attend the 2011 General Assembly to be held in Tel Aviv. Rather grotesquely, in their latest, highly defensive, statement IGLYO has said the General Assembly “will include joining the annual Human Rights Parade in Tel Aviv, held by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), a close friend and partner of IGY and other LGBTQ organizations in Israel. The march will call for an end to the occupation of Palestine and for an end to the Human Rights abuses.”

Leehee Rothschild, a member of the Israeli group BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, was interviewed by Social TV for an episode on the May 17 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) 2011, and the visit to Israel of U.S. TV series “Queer as Folk” star, Randy Harrison. Rothschild explains that BOYCOTT! asked Harrison not to cooperate with Israeli governmental institutions if he was to come to Israel: “I very much support people coming here to fight LGBT-phobia, but it can be done without harming other struggles.” Harrison’s visit was managed by a public relations company, which Social TV points out “spared him the darker sides of Israel”, and included a visit to the Israeli Knesset , where he can be seen grinning stiffly next to the Israeli flag and nodding vigorously during a monologue by openly gay Knesset member from Meretz, Nitzan Horowitz. Together with MK Nino Avsedze, Horowitz heads the Knesset lobby for IDAHO. “The LGBT community in Israel is used in many cases as a fig-leaf in order to present Israel as a liberal, democratic country of progress,” warns Rothschild, painting “the stains of blood shed by the Israeli government in pink.”

IGY reports (Hebrew*) that Harrison was impressed by Israel during his stage-managed visit: Following his visit to Yad Vashem and the Knesset, he said: “It’s my first time here, and I really like the place… I am beginning to understand what living here means”, [after just two days]. He added that “The Israelis seem like nice people to me” and “I am impressed with the gay community here”. He also praised the “anti-hate crime law”, and observed that “there is some legal protection of gay people’s rights here, a bit more than in the U.S.”.

In her essay, ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’, Audre Lorde wrote of the U.S. in the 1970s as “a country where racism, sexism, and homophobia are inseparable” This is even more true of Israel, an occupying power and apartheid state. As queer Syrian blogger, Amina Arraf (said to have been violently abducted by armed men on 6 June), put it in her post Pinkwashing Assad?“We’ve gotten used to being used rhetorically by the advocates of war, occupation, dispossession, and apartheid as ‘evidence’ that the primitive sand-people don’t deserve anything other than killing by the enlightened children of the West.” Harrison has unwittingly become part of a campaign that pinkwashes institutionalized racism in Israel, and has reduced the fight for equality to rights gains for one group only.

*Translation from Hebrew by Ofer N.

Here’s info on the New York Sit-in:

What: Sit-in at the LGBT Community Center to oppose censorship of queer political organizing and Center board’s refusal to meet with community groups on transparency.

Who: NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (whose scheduled meetings were summarily cancelled last week by Center staff); Siege Busters (whose meetings were cancelled by the Center in March 2011); with support from Queers for an Open LGBT Center and other LGBTQ community members.

When: Wednesday, June 8 @ 6pm

Where: NYC LGBT Community Center 208 West 13th Street, between 7th and 8th Aves.

Amina Abdallah Araf, gay Syrian blogger?

Jun 08, 2011

Seham

Phil and Saleema picked up the intriguing story that is now generating international attention of the lesbian Syrian blogger, Amina Abdallah Araf, who was allegedly picked up by Syrian security forces a few days ago.  Andy Carvin from NPR and a few other bloggers who were motivated by a desire to help free Amina have been doing a lot of research in the last 24 hours to try find anyone who has met her or can verify her existence, so far they have gotten nowhere.  Click here for what Andy Carvin has to say.  And check out what blogger Liz Henry has uncovered: Painful doubts about Amina. Finally, the Wall Street Journal is saying that the pictures people are circulating of Amina are not actually hers but of a British woman who has no ties to the case and does not know how her pictures were lifted off of her Facebook page.  I don’t know who Amina Araf is, and I thought her post about her father the hero was poignant but I remember feeling skeptical after reading it–I couldn’t imagine that Syrian security forces would be shamed by an old man and a lesbian blogger but I didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade because of the politics involved. I hope that whoever she is, she is safe.

PS. Montreal site says that Araf’s girlfriend lives in Montreal. But she has apparently never met her face to face.

Weiner’s progressive defenders blind themselves to the rightwing views that may now ensure his survival

Jun 08, 2011

Scott McConnell

Two quick points about the Anthony Weiner scandal. First, among heavy hitters in the progressive media, no one wants to point out that Weiner’s Israel-Palestine views put him in deep Likud territory, which on the American spectrum translates into an ethno-nationalism beyond the pale were it to involve any other ethnic group. Weiner is a “progressive” on health care and taxes and gay rights and myriad other issues—and on this salient point, a veritable David Duke. I was astonished to hear him in person debating Brian Baird late last winter. I had expected smooth Democratic Party style hasbara, and heard instead the kind of “my people are always right” belligerence that might come from a Milosevic backer.

Is Israel-Palestine so insignificant an issue that it deserves no mention at all by Chris “Weiner is a mensch” Matthews? Josh Marshall has run a half- dozen pieces on the scandal without mentioning that the congressman holds views on Israel-Palestine seemingly diametrically opposed to Obama’s and his own. Hendrik Hertzberg opines on Weiner’s “steel”, “determination” and “dignity” and hopes he’ll rise soon from scandal’s muck. It’s almost inexplicable, especially from those like Hertzberg and Marshall who have shown plenty of insight into where Israel’s present course is leading, taking America with it.

Though avoided by media progressives, the Israel connection is likely to weigh on how the scandal plays out.

Weiner is a vital, even exemplary, figure in the “Progressive Except Palestine” nexus: he’s a smart, energetic and highly regarded Congressman—the kind other pols look up to. Every politician in New York (governors included) would like to be mayor of New York City; Weiner looked like he was going to be.

This place in the PEP firmament may ensure, against heavy odds, Weiner’s political survival. Progressives are common enough but those in government who can play the double standard game at a high level are rare. Already one can see the Zionist right beginning to rally to him. Morton Klein of the of the pro-settlement ZOA calls Weiner “among the best” in his positions on Israel, and Orthodox Jewish voices have begun to contribute weighty phrases about Jewish values and forgiveness and atonement.  We should expect more of this in the days to come.

Though GOP House majority leader Eric Cantor asked for Weiner’s resignation, this was early and pro forma, and it wouldn’t surprise to see him press the point no further. Of all people, Cantor recognizes Weiner’s value in keeping the American Congress lined up foursquare behind a country that traduces the professed values of most of its members.

Photo essay: Ten months of demolitions in Al Araqib

Jun 08, 2011

Ariel Azoff

September 7, 2010, after the 4th demolition of Al Araqib. (All photos: Ariel Azoff)

The village of Al Araqib was entirely demolished for the first time on July 27th, 2010. Early that morning, an estimated 1,500 Israeli police, supported by helicopters and bulldozers, surrounded the village. Within three hours, the Israeli Land Authority (ILA) razed the entire village to the ground, leaving 300 people including women and children without shelter or water in the peak of summer in the desert. In total, 46 structures (including 30 homes) were completely destroyed along with sheep pens, chicken coups, orchards and olive groves—the source of the villagers’ livelihood. More than 1,000 trees were uprooted and discarded. Residents were given no time to recover their belongings from their homes and assets such as generators, cars and tractors were seized. The village has been repeatedly destroyed to make way for a project sponsored by the Jewish National Fund.

Here are a selection of photographs taken during visits to the village at different times over the past 10 months:

August 27, 2010, after the 3rd demolition and during the holy month of Ramadan:

September 7, 2010, after the 4th demolition:

Trees planted by the Jewish National Fund are visible on the far hillside. 

October 6, 2010, after the 5th demolition:

8 months later, everyone has lost count of the number of demolitions.  Many have come in rapid succession over a period of a day or week.  After the 15th demolition, the bulldozers began clearing away the rubble so that homes could not be rebuilt and the land could be made ready for the forest to be planted.  Later, they began constructing mounds of dirt (pictured below) spaced regularly apart to make it difficult for the villagers to erect tents.

May 31, 2011, after more than 25 demolitions:

“I was born on this land, I will stay on this land, and, God willing, I will die on this land.” – Hakmeh Abu-Medeghem, Al Araqib

Ariel Azoff is a Middle East adventurer and aspiring writer who currently works for a human rights organization in Haifa. She has a B.A. in Arabic and political science from Georgetown University. To see more of her photos from Al Araqib visit Midthoughtblog.com.

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