Archive | December 10th, 2011

Take Your Hands off Palestine/ارفعوا أيديكم عن فلسطين


On 9/12/2011, the opening ceremony of the Arab Games in Qatar, in the presence and under the approval of the Palestinian delegation -representative of the Palestinian Authority of Oslo- the organizers, with the utmost audacity, displayed a disfigured map of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza). As we are surprised by their ability to draw such a mutation that does not represent us, this behavior was a slap in our face on the 24th anniversary of the First Palestinian Intifada and at the height of the Arab Spring.

On this day, we emphasize that every atom of dust in Palestine is a drop of blood of our martyrs that represents the sacrifices and pain of our people in their on-going struggle for the cause. We emphasize that those who have lost their legitimacy nationally and continue to represent Palestinians internationally in this distorted manner cannot eliminate the right of Palestinians in their land, or give legitimacy to the Zionist entity. Our cause cannot be reduced to this deformed state and they cannot wave the Right of Return of refugees who constitute the majority of the Palestinians in exile.

Such initiative is consistent with the policy of the Qatari regime, which is an easy tool in the hands of imperial forces supporting Israel through programs of normalization manifested in the bilateral economic relations with the occupying state, and U.S. military bases that provide protection and cover for such relations and interests.
On the anniversary of the First Intifada, we, the sons and daughters of Palestine, call upon the people of Qatar and all people supporting our cause, to condemn the move, which is a stab to the struggle of our people and their rights, hence, we demand the Arab people to:

1. Stop the hostile policies practiced against the Palestinians on the hands of repressive Arab governments, by putting an end to normalization programs and cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.
2. Stop the supply of gas to the occupying power and refrain from competing over Arab economic relations with Israel that serve the personal interests of those regimes and the imperialist interests of their allies.
3. Expel the U.S. military bases on Arab lands which constitutes a foreign colonial intervention that is rejected by the messes, especially in height of the Arab spring.
4. Open -immediately and fully- Rafah border and end the Arab collaboration with the American-Israeli policy against Palestinians especially that the Gulf oil support to colonial powers only resulted in more anti-Arab hostility and oppression.

[Via Gazanism]

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Dear Friends,

With luck this will reach you.  Lots to read—9 items specifically.  Some of them are also in the final item, ‘Today in Palestine.’  However, since its reports are from the 9th, and the ones below are for the 10th, in some instances, the report below is more up to date than ones in ‘Today in Palestine.’

Item 1 starts off with Amira Hass angrily denouncing Israeli racism and the major institutions which do and say nothing against it.

Item 2 is an informative piece about the Jewish National Fund, which steals from elderly Holocaust survivors as well as from Palestinians, and with the blessings of all Israeli governments.

Item 3 is brief, announcing the death of a boy in Gaza.  You learn more in ‘Today in Palestine’ about what happened when an Israeli shell hit his house.  A family destroyed.  True, militants in Gaza have been shooting missiles at Israeli communities, but who expected Palestinians to take Israel’s poundings without reacting?

Item 4 informs us that a Palestinian who demonstrated yesterday died of wounds suffered when a tear gas canister shot by a soldier at high speed from a short distance hit him (Mustafa Tamimi) in his eye.

Item 5 tells us that Newt Gingrich in his campaign to be the Republican candidate for the presidency is either totally ignorant or totally mendacious.  True, the Ottomans ruled Palestine for about 400 years, and the Brits after them for some 20 or so years.  But also true that during the Ottoman period as also prior to it, the land was called Palestine from at least as early as the Crusades.  Many villages in this land extend back centuries.  To say that there was no Palestine or Palestinians is reminiscent of Golda Meir, who claimed that ‘there was no such thing as Palestinians.’  Both are wrong, and, Gingrich, additionally, is an opportunist.

Item 6 is the Palestinian response to Gingrich.

Item 7 refers to the 2nd group of prisoners that Israel promised to release in exchange for Gilad Shalit’s release.  The 2nd group was to have consisted of political prisoners.  But according to this news item, it will consist of petty car thieves and the like, and, moreover, of prisoners whose prison terms  were in any case almost at an end.  If Netanyahu indeed goes through with this instead of what was anticipated by the Palestinians, then I would guess that the next ‘prisoner exchange’ will be much tougher, whenever that occurs, as it will some day.  There may also be other unpleasant results.  Well, December 18th is almost here.  So we shall soon enough know.

In item 8 Uri Avnery, a “veteran Israeli activist (to say the least), and who is 88 or 89 years old warns against ‘neo-fascist legislation.’

Item 9 is ‘Today in Palestine.’

Lots of reading, but much worthwhile stuff.

All the best,



1.      Haaretz

December 9, 2011

In Israel, ‘fascist’ is not a rude word

The silence of Yad Vashem and other Holocaust memorial institutes to the recent rash of anti-democratic legislation is deafening.

By Amira Hass

Hillary Clinton had not yet finished voicing her concern about what is happening in Israel before that industrious Knesset member from the Likud, Danny Danon, started rattling off another version of the list of bills about loyalty to the state (which have meanwhile been dropped ): “Every certificate issued by the state will oblige [the recipient] to sign a document with a clause declaring loyalty to the State of Israel.”

An explanation was offered by Arutz Sheva, the settlers’ news website: No declaration – then no driver’s license, no identity card, no passport. Speaking to Razi Barka’i on Army Radio, Danon explained that this was indeed not enough for – watch out! – “the total solution.” Even Barka’i almost choked at the phrase.

For one optimistic moment it was possible to think that Danon does not make distinctions on the basis of religion or nationality. “There are many people who act against the State that protects them,” he said. “Anyone who is not faithful to the State should not be a citizen.” That is to say, even kosher Jews whose loyalty is in doubt. However, a second later he clarified his intention: “The data about crime make it clear without any doubt that the Arabs in Israel treat the laws of the country with contempt. They have much higher crime rates than any other segment of the population.”

It is not important what this bill teaches us about Danon as a person – that he did not study history, for example, or that he did but he knows very well that in fascist regimes the State is above all else; or that as an experienced demagogue he knows just how close a connection there is between the level of discrimination against a certain ethnic group and the claims about crime among its members.

The media, dizzy from these bills that make Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter look like amateurs, has stopped noticing the difference between an old bill and an amended one. Since the current bill is targetted at Arabs, it is not causing a stir. But what about the Jewish History departments at the universities, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial institute, or the museum at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot? Their silence is no different from the general disregard of the issue, but it is deafening.

Danon’s latest bill is nauseatingly similar to bills from other eras. It is dangerous to simply dismiss it with “anyway, it won’t be passed.” After all, the system works as follows: Someone presents a bill that mutilates some basic values. His colleagues object and then present the same bill with a different wrapping. This is a division of labor between political allies.

Every bill creates an atmosphere and makes the public more used to accepting mutilation as something legitimate. It has an immediate effect on behavior in the streets, and trains yet another new group of schoolchildren to think that the word “fascist” is not a rude word. Every bill of this kind touches the red line and the line continues to become blurred. Another few bills and the red line will be completely obliterated.

Danon’s bill about loyalty, no matter how embryonic it may be, is not an exercise in Political Science. It is motivated by obvious, material interests. The bill fits in with existing official claims which present the democratic struggle for civic equality as a threat to the peace and security of “the state” – in other words, the hegemonic class, the Jews. Danon and his colleagues are constantly upgrading the conscious mechanism – racism – which seeks excuses for the privileged status that the Jewish immigrants have created for themselves, while dispossessing and discriminating against the indigenous people of this land, the Palestinians.

Racism develops in order to reinforce and expand excess rights – over ownership of the land (which was, and is still being, stolen from the Palestinians ), higher water consumption, high-quality construction, allowances from the state revenue, social services, chances of finding work and studies, and salary gaps. That is why a bill of this kind stands a good chance. The Jews will profit from it.

2.      Haaretz

December 09, 2011

Seeing the forest and the trees: The untold story of the Jewish National Fund

Revelations from JNF minutes: billions of shekels hoarded in its coffers, millions wasted on legal conflicts, trees planted on disputed land. Not to mention the fate of Holocaust victims’ assets.

By Uri Blau

A Jew purchased an apartment in Carmiel, on Jewish National Fund ‏(JNF‏) land. No problem. Twenty years go by and Mohammed who lives in Dir al-Assad … comes to buy an apartment.”

This may sound like the some sort of ethnic joke, but that’s how JNF world chairman, Effie Stenzler, a member of the Labor Party, chose to speak recently before the members of his board.

“The Jews sells him the apartment for a tidy sum,” Stenzler continues. “He goes to the Israel Lands Administration ‏(ILA‏) and says, ‘I’m Mohammed. I want you to register this apartment in the Tabu [Government Lands Registry Office] in my name.’ They say to him, ‘Wait a minute − you’re an Arab, we can’t do that because it’s written that JNF doesn’t sell to Arabs, doesn’t lease to Arabs.’ And then there was the trick that worked until 2004, and according to this trick the ILA, without telling anyone … took land registered in the name of JNF, transferred it to another building and then registered that building in JNF’s name … But then an Arab came to that building and then they had to do it again …”

The tale of “Mohammed and the Apartment” is quoted from the minutes of the JNF board meeting in July. The organization claims that the quote “is part of a description of a very complicated bureaucratic problem created by the ILA in regard to the registration of apartments. After discussions with the attorney general and the court, the solution to the problem was found and JNF has been acting accordingly.”

Thus, JNF transfers to the ILA property on which there are buildings where Arabs have purchased apartments, and receive other land in return. Specifically, the records of that July meeting show that each year, three or four such property exchanges are carried out, and that some 25 have been made since the arrangement was formulated in 2008.

Lately, JNF has been busy dealing with numerous legal and personal disputes.

Founded 110 years ago following a decision by the fifth Zionist Congress, with the aim of acquiring lands for Jews in Palestine, the organization has in recent times been identified more with forests and forestation − to the point where many see it as a “green” organization.

Hundreds of pages of court records, a flood of correspondence between lawyers and arguments involving JNF board members have been devoted in the last two years to deciding who will control this body, which oversees 13 percent of state lands ‏(2.5 million dunams, or 625,000 acres‏) and is not subject to oversight by the state comptroller or the treasury.

Battling over ‘treasure’

Following a delay that was agreed upon last Thursday among all parties involved, the JNF General Assembly ‏(whose composition is identical to that of the Zionist General Council, with 192 members‏) will on January 4, 2012 elect 37 members of the organization’s board, from which the chairman will be selected. After that, perhaps, the legal sagas that have overshadowed JNF’s operations for the past year and a half will come to an end, and it will become clear whether chairman Stenzler ‏(who has served for the past five and a half years‏) will be reelected or if he will be replaced by former Laborite Prof. Shimon Sheetrit, now affiliated with Ehud Barak’s Atzmaut faction.

In an earlier legal round between the two in October, Stenzler earned a victory − on points, at least − when Judge Avraham Yaakov of the Petah Tikva District Court ruled that Sheetrit and other Atzmaut representatives, including Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, had to resign from their faction-related positions in the World Zionist Congress ‏(the body above JNF‏) because they had originally been appointed to these positions as representatives of Labor.

For his part, Sheetrit has been concerned that Stenzler’s reelection as JNF chair is assured, and that he, Sheetrit, will not be eligible to run at all.

In any event, to understand what sort of “treasure” this battle has revolved around, it is instructive to return to the July 2010 and February 2011 JNF board meetings, at which David Lazarus, director of the organization’s financial division, spoke of JNF’s general financial situation. In recent years, JNF has had an annual budget of NIS 650 million; half of that is designated to pay salaries, administrative expenses and so on, and the rest is for other activities. The data indicate that even though in 2009 there was a decrease in donations to JNF ‏(NIS 96 million, compared to NIS 112 million the previous year‏), its financial situation was excellent, since its income far exceeds its expenditures.

Thus, for instance, in 2009, JNF had income totaling NIS 1.133 billion, the vast majority from land holdings, compared to NIS 972 million in 2008 − meaning a surplus in the organization’s coffers of hundreds of millions of shekels per year. The total value of JNF lands is estimated at NIS 6.2 billion; the ILA administers more than half of these properties; its subsidiary, Himanuta, administers the rest.

“The income and moderate expenses have created what JNF calls a ‘budget reserve.’ The reserve should amount to something like NIS 2 billion,” said Avraham Duvdevani, then co-chairman and currently chairman of the WZO, said in September 2010. “This is a well-kept secret,” he told the members of the JNF board, “and it must be preserved with maximum secrecy, otherwise the government will covet this money and we have experience with this already from the past.” ‏(The secret leaked out shortly afterward nonetheless, and was reported upon by Shuki Sadeh in a January 2011 report in TheMarker‏).

Board member Moshe Yogev proposed at that meeting that JNF “take [the reserve], before it’s taken from us, to build the fence with Egypt.”

Among the organization’s fears were the ability to fulfill future financial commitments: In 2008, these commitments totaled NIS 1.971 billion, and a year later they had crossed the NIS 2-billion mark. Stenzler sought to reassure the board and promised to guard the coffers.

“The subject of the reserve is something that needs to be closely watched, that’s true,” he said, “but we also must remember that we promised employees their pension rights with what we called a ‘floating charge’ ‏(shi’abud tzaf‏). This ensures both the JNF’s future and the future of the workers’ pensions, because this is insured and secure money.”

Indeed, it appears that JNF has trouble parting with funds that have accumulated in its coffers, even if these are assets that belong to Holocaust victims and their descendants.

‘JNF foot-dragging’

“I am writing to request that you personally intervene immediately and put an end to JNF’s foot-dragging in regard to complying with the directives of the Law on Holocaust Victims’ Assets.”

These words were written by Yaron Jacobs, head of the Company for the Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets ‏(known by the Hebrew name Hashava‏), in January to Stenzler, whose organization holds tens of millions of shekels worth of such assets. Later in the letter, Jacobs’ language was more pointed: Since 2006, he wrote, “Hashava has systematically maintained contact with JNF on various matters with the aim of upholding the law and obtaining the Holocaust victims’ assets currently held by JNF … Unfortunately, despite the pleasant atmosphere at most of the meetings … satisfactory progress was not made in solving these problems and in returning all of the assets to the company.”

Jacobs stressed also that “JNF is holding a lot of funds that belong to victims, in a manner that runs counter to the law’s instructions. This situation is intolerable and requires an immediate solution.”

Unfortunately, he added, “JNF is not in any hurry. The restoration of the assets is occurring very slowly, with various obstacles being placed in the company’s way, in an appropriate manner.”

By contrast, he explained, for the victims’ descendants, time is racing by, as many of them are elderly themselves. Jacobs also explained that assets for which descendants are not found are supposed to be used to help Holocaust survivors, and “if we are unable to obtain the assets in the near future, there will no longer be anyone to help.”

Jacobs was complaining about the failure to transfer NIS 67 million, equivalent to the value of 57 plots of land belonging to victims, which JNF transferred to the ILA in the past. He noted that some in the JNF wanted to transfer the value of the lands according to their worth at the time of purchase − i.e., before the founding of the state − and not according to their present value, which is 10 times higher. He said the company finds itself receiving from the JNF “offers that are low and inexplicable.”

Jacobs also wrote that the JNF had a debt of NIS 12 million to the company, and that “on this subject too all kinds of unworthy ‘compromise’ or bargaining proposals have been made.”

His letter said that JNF had been seeking to charge handling fees for the transferred funds, and to receive from the company and victims’ descendants a commitment not to sue JNF for assets that it would be transferring.

Stenzler reported on the letter at the JNF board meeting in February, according to the minutes. “So far, JNF has transferred NIS 99 million to Hashava,” he said. “In addition, JNF has transferred another 141 plots of land to the company.”

Stenzler noted that Hashava had a new director general at that time, and that the latter had sent a letter “in which he says that JNF still has to transfer funds and so on, in a tone that I didn’t like very much, to put it mildly, because JNF, the members of the board − we were the first ones to say that the funds should be transferred. Moreover, all of the directors general who dealt with him always noted the fact that JNF was ready to go above and beyond the letter of the law with them … Therefore I did not like the style of this letter.”

The fact that only about half of JNF’s annual budget is designated for its activities did not deter board member Nissan Chilik from cynically remarking, “We have to understand [Hashava]: They need the money because they waste four times as much in administration than they actually return.”

However, not everyone present liked this attitude. Board member Reuven Shalom proposed “making a distinction between what we need to give, and their [Hashava’s conduct. We need to give what the Holocaust survivors deserve, and they need to behave properly.”

Chilik: “But they should have used more delicate language.”

Shalom: “We are not a commercial body or something like that. We are a body of the Jewish people … the approach has to be a ‘public’ one.”

Avraham Roth, a founder of Hashava and its chairman until 2008, says JNF was among the first to cooperate with the company, and he describes the transfer of funds and assets on its part since then as “reasonable.” When asked if its conduct went beyond the letter of the law, as Stenzler said, he says: “No, in accordance with it.”

Still, Roth adds, “The fact that things still aren’t settled with the JNF six years after the law was passed is quite unbelievable. It’s inconceivable that the JNF is still holding property of Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. The survivors are dying, the heirs are getting to the end of their lives, and they have all the time in the world.”

A source that is knowledgeable about the issue says Jacobs’ letter in January appears to have “done the job,” because in recent months the parties have returned to negotiations and “significant progress toward a solution” has begun.

JNF says in response that, “As soon as the matter [concerning Hashava] reached the desk of the JNF chairman, Effie Stenzler personally got involved in handling it, in full cooperation with the company and with the company director general, Yaron Jacobs. JNF was a leader in this realm, and deserves a medal for the way it acted with the company … when, for example, it transferred close to NIS 100 million in funds and property for survivors and over 100 assets worth a lot of money. This massive process is now nearing its end.”

On transparency

Stenzler declared firmly at the September 2010 meeting: “It is incumbent upon us for the organization to be completely transparent,”

However, it seems that when it comes to internal organizational affairs as well, this transparency is not always total. For example, at the February meeting, board member Yigal Yasinov, who is considered Stenzler’s rival, said: “I do not regularly receive emails … [or regular] mail. I didn’t even receive an invitation to the last board meeting, I didn’t get the agenda for today’s meeting and I know there are other letters that didn’t go out … I want to get all the material from the past four months, because I did not receive it. I did not receive protocols, or any other mail at all. Invitations to ceremonies I do receive … I get only mail which is unimportant, all the junk mail.”

It seems that Stenzler himself is not always keen on media transparency − as regards, for example, one of the more sensitive JNF activities: planting trees on lands in the south, whose ownership is a matter of dispute with the Bedouin population. This mostly concerns land in the area of Al-Arakib, a village north of Be’er Sheva that has been destroyed numerous times in clashes with police and property inspectors, because its inhabitants refuse to be evicted and claim ownership of the land.

In May, after telling the board about the extensive media coverage of the affair abroad and the number of emails he receives as a result, Stenzler added: “I must thank the spokespeople, our media people, our public relations people, who are doing everything to see that this matter doesn’t develop in the local media … In the media in Israel it hasn’t [yet] made any waves, thank goodness.”

About the matter itself, he said: “This is an area that we are taking so that others, neither Jews nor non-Jews, will take it − not Bedouin or anyone else.”

In August last year, according to minutes of a meeting, he explained: “We have learned from our experience in recent years that wherever there is a tree planted it is almost impossible to seize control of the land … Not for nothing did the ILA agree to increase the budget, because it understands that JNF helps to keep property.”

At the same meeting, board member Yitzhak Krichevsky offered another idea for how to deal with the problem: “Go to Sinai and see how Egypt took over the Bedouin,” he suggested. “There is no democracy there. We’re playing in the courts, with democracy. Go to Sinai. You won’t see a single Bedouin around there.”

But there are other voices making themselves heard in JNF as well. At the meeting in May, board member Alon Tal said that the affair is “a very serious public relations failure by the JNF … The pictures of JNF foresters and other pictures that were publicized of tractors demolishing buildings are what stick with people, and the JNF appears to be a partner to a crime. Our representatives abroad didn’t know how to answer these charges and lost the battle over our reputation in Australia, the United States and other places.”

Another member, Or Karsin, spoke in even stronger terms: “I will say what I think, even if it might sound like Don Quixote,” she said, explaining that she didn’t feel right that “people are being put up against trees … Placing trees in a position of war versus an Israeli population, citizens of the State of Israel, is a very serious thing, and it is very difficult to see these pictures and hear these voices.”

JNF said in response that this article has been based on “a collection of partial documents and partial truths that present a distorted and false picture. In regard to Al-Arakib, JNF is acting solely in accordance with the court decisions, and what the chairman meant by his remarks is that it is good that the media in Israel is not influenced by the world campaign that is fed by lies against Israel and against JNF, and that the media in Israel is behaving responsibly, and sees and knows that not a single tree was planted in the area in question.”

3.      Ynet

December 9, 2011

Breaking News

    Gaza officials: Boy hit in IAF strike dies of his wounds

Medical officials in the Gaza Strip reported that a 12-year-old boy who was critically injured in an IAF strike overnight died of his wounds. The boy’s father was killed in the strike, and other members of the family were injured. (Elior Levy)

4.       Haaretz

December 10, 2011

Palestinian demonstrator killed by IDF in West Bank protest

Mustafa Tamimi, 28, died of his wounds after being hit by a teargas canister fired by Israeli security forces in the village of Nabi Saleh.

By Nir Hasson and The Associated Press

Activists say a Palestinian protester who was injured by Israel forces has died of his wounds.

Israeli pro-Palestinian activist Jonathan Pollack says the 28-year-old protester, Mustafa Tamimi, died in an Israeli hospital Saturday from severe brain damage. Tamimi’s relative Mahmoud Tamimi also confirmed his death.

Protesters say Tamimi was hit in the face Friday with a gas canister fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. An Israeli military spokeswoman said they are investigating the incident.

Palestinians have held weekly demonstrations there for the past few years to protest Jewish settler activity in the area.

The Israeli rights group Btselem says Tamimi is the 20th person to be killed at similar West Bank demonstrations over the past eight years.

Tamimi was rushed to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva on Friday, where he died from his wounds on Saturday.

5.       Guardian

10 December 2011

Newt Gingrich declares the Palestinians an ‘invented’ people.

[This is a dangerous man. He is mendacious and opportunist. D]

The US Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has declared that the Palestinians are an “invented” people who want to destroy Israel. [sounds like Golda Meir, who declared that ‘there is no thing as Palestinians.’  But both Gingrich and Meir merely show their ignorance.  Even under Ottoman rule, the area was called Palestine, as it had been from at least as early as the Crusades. And the people who lived here were called Palestinians. D]

The Jewish Channel, a cable TV station, posted online its interview with the former US House speaker, who has risen to the top of Republican nomination candidates to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.

Gingrich differed from official US policy that respects the Palestinians as a people deserving of their own state based on negotiations with Israel. “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire” until the early 20th century, Gingrich said.

“I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it’s tragic,” he said.

Most historians mark the start of Palestinian Arab nationalist sentiment as 1834, when Arab residents of the Palestinian region revolted against Ottoman rule.

Modern-day Israel, founded amid the 1948 Arab-Israel war, took shape along the lines of a 1947 UN plan for ethnic partition of the then-British ruled territory of Palestine. Arabs rejected the division.

Gingrich and other Republican candidates are seeking to attract Jewish support by vowing to bolster US ties with Israel if elected.

Gingrich said the Hamas militant group, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the the governing Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, represented “an enormous desire to destroy Israel”.

The US government has sought to encourage the Palestinian Authority to negotiate with Israel but regards Hamas as a terrorist group.

The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, opposes violence against Israel as a means to secure an independent state, pinning his hopes first on negotiations and more recently on a unilateral bid for statehood via the United Nations.

Gingrich said he would be willing to consider granting clemency to Jonathan Jay Pollard, who has been serving life since 1987 for passing US secrets to Israel. Successive US presidents have refused Israel’s requests to free him.

“If we can get to a point where I’m satisfied that there’s no national security threat, and if he’s in fact served within the range of people who’ve had a similar problem, then I’d be inclined to consider clemency,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich sharply criticised the Obama administration’s approach to Middle East diplomacy, saying it was “so out of touch with reality that it would be like taking your child to the zoo and explaining that a lion was a bunny rabbit”.

6, Washington Post

December 10, 2011

Palestinians react with dismay to Gingrich calling them ‘invented’ people

By Associated Press

JERUSALEM — A slew of Palestinian officials reacted with dismay Saturday to Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s statement that the Palestinians are an “invented” people.

The Jewish Channel, a U.S. cable TV network, released excerpts of the interview on Friday in which the former House speaker said Palestinians were not a people because they never had a state and because they were part of the Ottoman Empire before the British mandate and Israel’s creation.

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places,” Gingrich said, according to a video excerpt posted online.

The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, demanded Gingrich “review history.”

“From the beginning, our people have been determined to stay on their land,” Fayyad said in comments carried by the Palestinian news agency Wafa. “This, certainly, is denying historical truths.”

Gingrich’s statements struck at the heart of Palestinian sensitivities about the righteousness of their national struggle.

Palestinians never had their own state — they were ruled by the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years, like most of the Arab world. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in the aftermath of World War I, the British, then a global colonial power, took control of the area, then known as British Mandate Palestine.

During that time, Jews, Muslims and Christians living on the land were identified as “Palestinian.”

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said Gingrich had “lost touch with reality.” She said his statements were “a cheap way to win (the) pro-Israel vote.”

A spokesman for the militant Hamas rulers of the Palestinian Gaza Strip called Gingrich’s statements “shameful and disgraceful.”

“These statements … show genuine hostility toward Palestinians,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Palestinians bristle at the implication that they were generic Arabs with no specific attachment to the land that Zionist Jews coveted. Using the word “Palestinians” is a way for them to emphasize their claims.

Palestinians are culturally Arabs — they speak Arabic and their culture is broadly shared by other Arabs who live in the eastern Mediterranean.

But they, for the most part, identify themselves as Palestinians, just as the Lebanese, Jordanians and Syrians also identify themselves with a specific national identity.

For Palestinians, their identity was hewed over decades of fighting against another nationalist struggle over the same land — that of Zionist Jews.

During the war surrounding the Jewish state’s creation in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled, or were forced to flee their homes.

Newt’s reasoning was popular in the decades following Israel’s creation, although that argument has since fallen out of favor among mainstream Israelis.

Israeli spokespeople were not immediately available for comment on the Jewish Sabbath.

7.      Independent Friday, 09 December 2011

Israel to free ‘car thieves’ in second part of exchange

Catrina Stewart

Israel is to release a second batch of Palestinian prisoners this month as part of an exchange deal for the recently freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, but may largely exclude political prisoners from the swap.

Such a decision would deal a humiliating blow to the moderate Palestinian leadership, which had hoped to secure the release of high-profile political prisoners who were part of Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas, as reward for pursuing a policy of peace.

In October, Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in two phases in exchange for Mr Shalit, who was held captive in Gaza by its Islamist rulers, Hamas, for more than five years. Hundreds of security prisoners, many of them members of Hamas, were released in the first tranche, a deal that bolstered the militant movement and was hailed as a victory for the language of force.

But hopes that the second tranche would include Fatah prisoners serving life terms appeared dashed following reports in Israeli newspapers that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will instead release mainly petty criminals or those with little time left to serve.

“We will release car thieves, [and] not make any gestures to [President] Abbas,” an Israeli government official was quoted by The Jerusalem Post newspaper as saying. The paper said that the deal was expected to go ahead on 18 December. The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment.

The plight of prisoners convicted of security-related offences mainly committed during the Second Intifada remains one of the most emotive issues for Palestinians, who regard those people as prisoners of war. Many are serving multiple life sentences with little prospect of release in their lifetime.

Israeli defence officials have urged Mr Netanyahu to make concessions to Mr Abbas, arguing that a weakened Palestinian leader will not be able keep a lid on growing frustration at a fruitless peace process that has gone nowhere in nearly 20 years of talks and has stalled the past three years.


December 9, 2011

Veteran Israeli activist warns against ‘neo-fascist’ legislation

8.      Uri Avnery, whose Haolam Hazeh magazine was the target of past anti-libel legislation, says the current ‘anti-democratic’ wave of bills will affect all levels of society, and the media aren’t doing much to help the situation

By Ofra Edelman

When Israel’s so-called Libel Law was passed in 1965, Uri Avnery, editor of the weekly Haolam Hazeh, declared war from the pages of his decidedly left-leaning magazine.

“It’s either go to the Knesset or go to jail,” he wrote. As in any other war, he added, “this editorial staff has operated as a journalistic commando squad for 15 years, with commando techniques, in the spirit of commandos. Now, we are being compelled to act as political commandos. We will make our way into the electoral system as commandos. We will operate as commandos in the Knesset.”

Avnery, who was born in Germany in 1923, decided to run for a Knesset seat in the hope he could win diplomatic immunity for both himself and his magazine against libel suits.

“The Libel Law … has been passed because Haolam Hazeh threatens the regime’s existence,” he wrote. “If they are saying that there is no room in one country for both this regime and Haolam Hazeh, and thus we have to liquidate Haolam Hazeh, then we have to reply: Correct, there is no room in one country for this regime and for Haolam Hazeh, so we have to liquidate this regime. And we are going to liquidate it.”

Sitting in the living room of his home in Tel Aviv this week, Avnery shared his recollections of that time.

“The law was adopted on the final day of the Fifth Knesset, in the summer of 1965, and the press, the media in general, woke up to the matter only at the last minute,” he says. “They did not take it seriously. Nobody thought that such a thing could even pass.”

Avnery recalls that he “had decided beforehand that if this law passed, I would form a party to run for Knesset. We listened to the news and when it became clear that the Knesset had adopted the defamation law, I said, that’s it, I’m going to the Knesset. We launched a war against the law.”

The 1965 statute, which has been changed to some extent over the years by legislative amendments, toughened the demands placed on media outlets that are sued for defamation: It required them to prove conclusively that their publication of certain information served the public interest. It expanded the definitions of libel, mentioning the specific position-holders in the media who would be held responsible for acts of defamation. This section of the law specifically named the “head of the editorial staff,” a position that Avnery says existed at the time only at Haolam Hazeh.

The clause made Avnery think the law was directed at his publication, and that it was the latest in a series of attempts to silence him. These included an ad boycott of Haolam Hazeh by the state and the Histadrut labor federation; complaints against the weekly, which sometimes published nude photographs of women, based on obscenity laws; and physical assaults on staff members.

In elections to the Sixth Knesset, Avnery mustered about 14,000 votes, enough to pass the threshold and gain a seat for himself.

‘Competition of insanity’

“Lethal,” is how Avnery describes the current amendment to the bill drafted by MKs Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Yariv Levin (Likud), which would broaden the scope of compensation set in the 1965 law from NIS 50,000 to NIS 300,000 without need to prove damage.

Avnery says the threat of monetary damages can be much more damning to journalism than the threat of jail.

“Everyone has an editor and the editor has a publisher and the publisher has an owner,” he says. “What this means is that no one will publish a story that has even the slightest doubt. Please don’t think I am against defamation laws. Absolutely, the press can be reckless, just like every other body. Democratic defamation laws are not improper – on the contrary,” he adds. “Yet on the other hand, the more esteemed and exalted you are, the weaker the defamation laws should be. Anyone who wants to change that legislation always claims he is doing it for the little guy. But his true intentions are always aimed at the big guys. No one cares what happens to the little guy.”

Avnery says the new law is part what he calls a “neo-fascist anti-democratic” wave of legislation meant to stifle dissent.

In your opinion, what is this wave of legislation stemming from?

“Today, before the Likud primary, it is intended to draw attention. After all, what is the object of a Knesset member? I say this from experience: From the moment a Knesset member is elected, he has one objective in life – to be reelected – and he dedicates four years to that end. That is why he needs to get into the media, and that is why, short of killing his own mother, he is willing to do anything and everything.

“A person comes, tries to have a totally insane legislative bill passed, while his sole objective is to get a headline the next day, with a big photo of him. Haaretz comes out the next day, giving him a quarter-page with a dazzling picture – and, hey, you are encouraging him to do it. Another MK sees that and thinks: Why, I’ll propose something even more monstrous … So there is this sort of competition of insanity, of gluttony.”

But if a newspaper didn’t report on such a legislative bill, you would scream bloody murder, that it failed to fill its function.

“However, it is also possible to run the story in a different, not so grandiose, manner. Not with a flattering photo. The obligation to report exists, but not to award a prize to someone. This is how a suicidal media operates.

“Subconsciously, the normal reader is influenced not only by what is written, but also by the intensiveness of the emotion invested in the article. Is this thing good, or is it not very nice, or is it something terrible and tragic that serves those who would destroy Israel? What I am missing here is a moral emotionalism, condemning these new laws.”

What, in your opinion, should journalists do? Does everyone have to run for Knesset to receive immunity?

“It helps. That’s what I did.”

That’s a pretty big step to take.

“I exploited it infrequently, but when I did exploit it, I did so in full. I am in favor of personal sanctions against anyone who proposes these laws: not running a photo [of them] or anything flattering in a paper, and not allowing media interviews. This is something that should be thought of more often. It wouldn’t harm freedom of reporting, but it would make it possible to punish people.

“Nevertheless, the first thing that should have been done is to call a strike. That is clear, so that the public would begin to understand … The public only knows there is some sort of argument going on over some sort of law, it doesn’t understand and neither is it all that interested. Most certainly, it doesn’t think that it affects the public. And if the press itself is not taking measures to make it clear to the reader or the viewer that this is important or serious, why should someone else think so? The first thing that should have been done is to call a strike, as happened then.

“We have to organize a very broad front, to rescue democracy, and the front should start with the idea that the public at large doesn’t even understand why this affects it. The public thinks: So it’ll be this judge and not that judge, what’s the difference? The media? So they will be a little more careful, that would be very good, right? The nongovernmental organizations? Who even needs them? Taking money from abroad? A scandal. Social protest? Okay, it happened, now we’ve moved on. People don’t understand that it pertains to their lives, to their wages. Today’s generation in Israel never lived under a nondemocratic regime.

“Can anyone even imagine what it means to live under a regime in which if you do not sign a declaration in favor of a certain party and you are the chief physician in a brain-surgery department – the next day you are washing windows? Can anyone even imagine such a thing that journalists are being killed in the street, as is happening in Russia? … People don’t get it, they don’t make the connection.

“First, you have to explain to the public that it affects them. It’s not a matter of ‘the higher-ups’ quarreling among themselves. … It is that tomorrow the police arrest you for a crime you did not commit, and there won’t be a newspaper that will publish the story, because the papers will be banned from publicizing the arrests of individuals, and people will begin to disappear from the street and might disappear completely, as happened in Argentina … on the pretext that it protects the citizens. This affects every person in the country. It is not something abstract, not some theoretical disagreement between the parliamentarians and the judges.”

In a column that you wrote, you draw a link between present-day legislation and the collapse of the Weimar republic.

“I was nine when the Nazis came to power, and as a child in a very political household I was very much aware of what happened. Especially when the child sees what is going on, in a very visual way: the uniforms, the parades, the music. So I know how the republic fell. I was aware of it, stage by stage, one small step followed by another small step, and then the whole thing collapsed. Collapsed because the public did not understand why it was important. The public did not summon up from within the emotional strength to oppose.

“When I see the first sign, that first red light goes on for me. I wake up a little earlier than the others. Others are waking up, too, but it takes time. At the beginning they said to us: How can you make a comparison to Nazi Germany? How could you even compare the two? So it doesn’t have to be Nazi Germany, which truly was unique in human history … It doesn’t have to be Hitler – what about Mussolini? And if not Mussolini, how about Franco? Or Pinochet in Chile? Or the colonels in Greece? And if not any of these, how about Ceausescu, or Putin now? There are so many levels – from the very worst to the less worst, but each of them creates hell.”

And where are we in the hierarchal ranking you described?

“We are past the first step. We are far from the last step, but in my opinion it is the first step that determines where it will head. The barricades have fallen. Things that are not to be believed are being believed. Things that it would have been impossible to imagine are imaginable, and that is one small step, but a very decisive step. Our nerve endings are beginning to be dulled. But civil rights aren’t ‘left.’ They don’t have to do with ‘left’. Civil rights affect every individual.

“How do you impart to the common citizen that the struggle is his struggle? That the freedom of expression is his? That the High Court of Justice is his? That the democracy is his? This is where you need a public campaign the likes of which there’s never been. Ultimately, we are speaking of Israel’s future, the future of our lives. An undemocratic state won’t last, it’s as simple as that.”

Avnery paraphrases the famous poem by German pacifist Martin Niemoller, “First they came…” about public silence in the face of encroaching fascism, as describing what is happening in Israel today.

“This is one of the most profound statements,” he explains. “And you could translate it into today’s reality: First they came to destroy the court, then they came to destroy the media, then they came to destroy the NGOs, I was silent – in the end, when I will want to protest, I will not be able to, because there will not be anyone before whom I can do so … and that will be dangerous. People don’t understand.”

9.      Today in Palestine

December 9, 2011

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Black smoke is seen from Homs refinery, December 8, 2011. REUTERS-SANA-Handout

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A Syrian pipeline carrying crude from oilfields in the east of the country was blown up near the restive city of Homs Thursday, according to anti-government activists and the official news agency SANA.

Clouds of thick black smoke billowed over a high-rise suburb of the city, the epicenter of popular unrest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that began in March.

Refinery towers and storage tanks were visible in the background of one SANA photograph.

Rami Abdulrahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the pipeline fed a refinery in Homs.

But SANA said an armed terrorist group had attacked a section of pipeline taking crude beyond Homs directly to Banias on the Mediterranean coast.

Homs is a city of 800,000 people where activists say about 1,500 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protests.

“Authorities rushed to the spot, extinguished the fire, stopped pumping oil into the targeted pipeline and shifted it to alternative pipes,” the agency said.

The Homs refinery serves part of Syria’s domestic requirement for oil products. Saboteurs had already blown up the pipeline to the coast near Homs in July, according to SANA.

The Observatory network reported that nine people had been killed in Homs Thursday by snipers and in “random” shootings.

Street protests began in Syria nine months ago, inspired by a wave of revolt across the Arab world. The ferocity of Assad’s crackdown triggered desertions from the armed forces, and several thousand defectors have joined a guerrilla army staging hit-and-run attacks on security forces.

Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for 41 years, is under growing international pressure to cease violent repression of protests, in which the United Nations says over 4,000 people have been killed, and negotiate with opponents.

The head of the Arab League, which has threatened to impose sanctions if Syria does not comply with a peace plan and sign an agreement allowing international monitors into the country, said Thursday “the ball is in the Syrian court.”

“What we expect is as soon as possible Syria will accept to sign the protocol,” Nabil Elaraby said during a trip to Iraq. “It is up to them. (If) they want to stop the economic sanctions, they sign.”


With exports of its oil effectively suspended already due to European Union sanctions, Syria has plenty of raw petroleum in stock but limited refining capacity, of which the Homs installation — now in a hub of the conflict — is a key part.

India’s state-owned ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) is talking to Indian refiners about importing Syrian crude, junior Oil Minister R.P.N. Singh said.

“The European Union oil import sanction prohibits only EU countries from importing Syrian crude oil,” Singh said.

Meanwhile Russia, keen to avert any foreign intervention of the kind that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, warned NATO states that outsiders should not “pick and choose the sweethearts” in Arab conflicts that were potentially sectarian.

“We are, to be very frank with you, extremely concerned with the fact that we are seeing (a) growing divide within the Islamic world, between the Sunni and the Shi’ite,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told counterparts at NATO headquarters.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated that NATO had “no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria.”

Western powers as well as neighbors Turkey and Jordan are calling on Assad to step down. Turkey imposed a 30 percent duty on imports from Syria in retaliation for a similar tax imposed on Turkish goods.

Turkish media reported two border crossings were closed on Thursday by Syria, one between Nusaybin and Qamishli and another at Akcakale.

Turkish government officials said Syria had informed them the closure of Nusaybin was for “repair and maintenance” work and that they would be opened when the work was finished.

Turkey Thursday repeated a warning to Turkish citizens travelling through Syria not to drive at night and to only use major roads.

In a statement, it said clashes had taken place near the Turkish border in the last few days and issued a specific warning against travelling on the road from Homs to the Cilvegozu border gate.


Protesters are calling for a peaceful “dignity strike” by Syrians at the weekend, in what organizers hope to build into a general campaign of civil disobedience. Schools, universities, shops, public transport and government services are being urged to refuse to work Sunday and close highways.

SANA said the army had fought back against gunmen who tried to block the Homs-Hama-Aleppo highway Wednesday in the tense Hama province, killing one “terrorist.” It said experts had defused seven improvised bombs in Hama.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday the humanitarian situation in Syria was serious, but not a civil war according to international law as the armed resistance lacked organization.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said the agency had nearly tripled its budget for Syria for 2012 because it expected to expand its operations there considerably.




New York Times

Even as the government of President Bashar al-Assad intensifies its crackdown inside Syria, differences over tactics and strategy are generating serious divisions between political and armed opposition factions that are weakening the fight against him, senior activists say.

Soldiers and activists close to the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is orchestrating attacks across the border from inside a refugee camp guarded by the Turkish military, said Thursday that tensions were rising with Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, over its insistence that the rebel army limit itself to defensive action. They said the council moved this month to take control of the rebel group’s finances.

“We don’t like their strategy,” said Abdulsatar Maksur, a Syrian who said he was helping to coordinate the Free Syrian Army’s supply network. “They just talk and are interested in politics, while the Assad regime is slaughtering our people.” Repeating a refrain echoed by other army officials interviewed, he added: “We favor more aggressive military action.”

The tensions illustrate what has emerged as one of the key dynamics in the nine-month revolt against Mr. Assad’s government: the failure of Syria’s opposition to offer a concerted front. The exiled opposition is rife with divisions over personalities and principle. The Free Syrian Army, formed by deserters from the Syrian Army, has emerged as a new force, even as some dissidents question how coordinated it really is. The opposition inside Syria has yet to fully embrace the exiles.

Earlier this month, the Syrian National Council, and the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is waging an insurgency against the Syrian government, agreed to coordinate their actions. The move followed concerns by some opposition members that the rebel army was undermining the opposition’s commitment to nonviolence by carrying out high-profile attacks and feeding the narrative of the Assad government that it was being besieged by a foreign plot.

On Thursday, a pipeline carrying oil to a refinery in Homs was blown up, casting a huge pillar of black smoke over the city. The official news agency, Sana, placed blame for the attack on an “armed terrorist group,” the phrase the government uses to describe those behind the uprising. Some activists in Homs suggested that the government was responsible, as part of an effort to besiege the city.

The Syrian crisis has shifted geopolitics in the region, complicating an international response. Turkey, once a close ally, has turned emphatically against the Assad government. But Russia, which has close strategic relations with Syria, and China have blocked all attempts to negotiate a resolution against Syria at the United Nations. Meanwhile, Iran has been forging closer ties with Syria, fueling fears of regional unrest.

Turkish officials say they are hosting the rebel forces for purely humanitarian reasons. “We have no intention of sending arms or fighting groups from Turkey to any other country, including Syria,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said Thursday. “They are in Turkey for their own protection.”

But in recent days clashes at the Turkish-Syrian border between the rebels and the Syrian Army have been intensifying, rebel officials say. The Syrian government said Tuesday that it had prevented 35 gunmen from infiltrating Syrian territory from Turkey. The Free Syrian Army said wounded rebels had been taken across the border for treatment. Turkish officials said there were no military confrontations along the borders with Syria, but residents in the Turkish border village of Guvecci said that in recent days they had heard gunfights through the night.

Syrian activists say the Free Syrian Army is organizing a smuggling network to Syria from inside Turkey to supply soldiers, weapons and medical supplies. On a recent day in Gorentas, a rugged Turkish mountain village near the Syrian border, a group of smugglers was seen packing guns into empty flour sacks before speeding away on motorbikes. Asked where they were going, they replied, “Syria, Syria.”

The Syrian National Council insists that it is the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people, including its armed factions. Its leader, Burhan Ghalioun, met for the first time in early December with the Free Syrian Army chief, Col. Riad al-As’aad, in Hatay, where Colonel As’aad agreed to rein in attacks on Syrian government forces. The Turkish Foreign Ministry, which handles news media requests for meetings with Colonel As’aad, declined to make him available.

During an extensive interview with senior members of the Syrian National Council at its newly opened offices in Istanbul, Samir Nashar, a member of the eight-member executive board, said the Free Syrian Army was emerging as the armed force of the Syrian opposition. But he emphasized that the council’s support for it was limited to providing financing and humanitarian aid, not weapons. “We want them to stay within the limits of protecting civilians, not to attack the regime,” he said. “It is better to coordinate with them than to let them do what they want.”

The Free Syrian Army, which says it has about 10,000 fighters, is too small to fend off the brutal crackdown by the Assad government. Council members said the group was badly equipped, reduced to arming itself mostly with the guns of defectors.

One observer who recently spent two weeks in Syria shadowing the rebels described the army as a ragtag group of soldiers, some as young as 16, who wielded AK-47s and showed up at demonstrations to protect civilians. At least some have positions in caves near the Turkish border and smuggle weapons and supplies under cover of night.

Mr. Nashar said that while Turkey was providing a haven to the Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council was financed with donations from Syrian supporters and from others in the Arab world. The council operates from a small office in Istanbul. “We don’t have a budget,” he said. “We haven’t even opened a bank account yet in Turkey.”

Senior members of the council said recent sanctions imposed by the Arab League, Turkey and the European Union had proved insufficient in the face of the escalating violence of the Assad government, which the United Nations says has killed at least 4,000 people since protests broke out in March.

A senior defector from the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in an interview that if outside countries armed the opposition rebels, it could inflict serious damage on the Assad government. The official, a former ambassador who fled to Istanbul from Syria last week, said Mr. Assad’s state security apparatus was operating in up to 50 locations in Syria. He argued that surgical strikes, in conjunction with a buffer zone inside Syria put into effect by Turkey, would prove fatal to the government.

Opposition officials said the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian National Council and the Turkish government had been engaged in talks in recent days over the formation of a buffer zone in the event of a huge number of refugees.

Since May, 20,201 Syrians have entered Turkey and 8,424 remain, according to the Ankara government.

But senior Turkish government officials said Thursday that a Syrian buffer zone was a “last resort” and that there were no imminent preparations for any kind of military action.

Mr. Nashar called for a buffer zone to be enforced by Turkey in coordination with the Arab League and the international community.

He said the zone was necessary to protect civilians and the growing ranks of defectors who were finding it difficult to find refuge in Syria. “Assad is running a killing regime, and the world is not doing enough,” he said.

The recent defector from the Syrian Foreign Ministry warned that the Assad government was deluded.

“The regime is living in a bubble and have no sense of reality,” he said. “Like Qaddafi, they will only realize it when the end comes.”


A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

How Romania became key site for Washington’s torture plans

Posted: 09 Dec 2011

“Democratic” America post 9/11 (via Associated Press):

In northern Bucharest, in a busy residential neighborhood minutes from the heart of the capital city, is a secret the Romanian government has long tried to protect.

For years, the CIA used a government building — codenamed “Bright Light” — as a makeshift prison for its most valuable detainees. There it held al-Qaida operatives Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and others in a basement prison before they were ultimately transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2006, according to former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the location and inner workings of the prison.

The existence of a CIA prison in Romania has been widely reported, but its location has never been made public. The Associated Press and German public television ARD located the former prison and learned details of the facility where harsh interrogation tactics were used. ARD’s program on the CIA prison is set to air Thursday.

The Romanian prison was part of a network of so-called black sites that the CIA operated and controlled overseas in Thailand, Lithuania and Poland. All the prisons were closed by May 2006, and the CIA’s detention and interrogation program ended in 2009.

Unlike the CIA’s facility in Lithuania’s countryside or the one hidden in a Polish military installation, the CIA’s prison in Romania was not in a remote location. It was hidden in plain sight, a couple blocks off a major boulevard on a street lined with trees and homes, along busy train tracks.

The building is used as the National Registry Office for Classified Information, which is also known as ORNISS. Classified information from NATO and the European Union is stored there. Former intelligence officials both described the location of the prison and identified pictures of the building.

In an interview at the building in November, senior ORNISS official Adrian Camarasan said the basement is one of the most secure rooms in all of Romania. But he said Americans never ran a prison there.

“No, no. Impossible, impossible,” he said in an ARD interview for its “Panorama” news broadcast, as a security official monitored the interview.

The CIA prison opened for business in the fall of 2003, after the CIA decided to empty the black site in Poland, according to former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the detention program with reporters.

Shuttling detainees into the facility without being seen was relatively easy. After flying into Bucharest, the detainees were brought to the site in vans. CIA operatives then drove down a side road and entered the compound through a rear gate that led to the actual prison.

The detainees could then be unloaded and whisked into the ground floor of the prison and into the basement.

The basement consisted of six prefabricated cells, each with a clock and arrow pointing to Mecca, the officials said. The cells were on springs, keeping them slightly off balance and causing disorientation among some detainees.

The CIA declined to comment on the prison.

Fascism in Israel barely registers in Israel (or elsewhere)

Posted: 09 Dec 2011

Amira Hass in Haaretz:

Hillary Clinton had not yet finished voicing her concern about what is happening in Israel before that industrious Knesset member from the Likud, Danny Danon, started rattling off another version of the list of bills about loyalty to the state (which have meanwhile been dropped ): “Every certificate issued by the state will oblige [the recipient] to sign a document with a clause declaring loyalty to the State of Israel.”

An explanation was offered by Arutz Sheva, the settlers’ news website: No declaration – then no driver’s license, no identity card, no passport. Speaking to Razi Barka’i on Army Radio, Danon explained that this was indeed not enough for – watch out! – “the total solution.” Even Barka’i almost choked at the phrase.

For one optimistic moment it was possible to think that Danon does not make distinctions on the basis of religion or nationality. “There are many people who act against the State that protects them,” he said. “Anyone who is not faithful to the State should not be a citizen.” That is to say, even kosher Jews whose loyalty is in doubt. However, a second later he clarified his intention: “The data about crime make it clear without any doubt that the Arabs in Israel treat the laws of the country with contempt. They have much higher crime rates than any other segment of the population.”

It is not important what this bill teaches us about Danon as a person – that he did not study history, for example, or that he did but he knows very well that in fascist regimes the State is above all else; or that as an experienced demagogue he knows just how close a connection there is between the level of discrimination against a certain ethnic group and the claims about crime among its members.

The media, dizzy from these bills that make Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter look like amateurs, has stopped noticing the difference between an old bill and an amended one. Since the current bill is targetted at Arabs, it is not causing a stir. But what about the Jewish History departments at the universities, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial institute, or the museum at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot? Their silence is no different from the general disregard of the issue, but it is deafening.

Solution to the climate crisis; force everybody to buy stuff

Posted: 09 Dec 2011

Democracy Now!, this week in Durban for the UN climate conference, offers one deluded perspective on solving the world’s problems:

On Sunday, Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke attended the corporate-sponsored World Climate Summit here in Durban that advocates a market approach to solving the climate crisis. One of the people who attended was the South African entrepreneur Jason Drew.

JASON DREW: We’re here talking about COP 17. “COP 17,” that means there’s been 17 previous conferences. Most shots I’ve ever had at a business is twice, and that’s lucky. Most times you get one go. COP 17 is a cop-out, because it’s taken us 17 goes to try and fix the environmental problems from a political stance. What we can do is fix it from a business stance. There are so many businesses in this world busy repairing our future, which, from where I stand today, is broken. We need to repair the future. And it’s businesses and individuals that will drive that change, not governments.

MIKE BURKE: I’m curious how you would describe this or, you know, make this argument to someone, say, from the Maldives or one of the small island nations. What—why would any corporation be that interested, say, in saving the Maldives? What would be in their interest to do that?

JASON DREW: Consumers live there. Customers live there. It’s a business world. It’s capitalism. We need people to buy our goods. If people don’t buy my goods, I haven’t got a business. So, therefore, we need to save those things. Two, three, four hundred thousand people in the Maldives, they all buy iPads, Coca-Cola, all the products we know. If they don’t exist anymore, the market’s gone. This is about market economics.

When former IDF prison guards even realise Zionist apartheid is here

Posted: 08 Dec 2011

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is a little worried that his beloved Jewish state has an apartheid problem:

I think we’re only a few years away, at most, from a total South-Africanization of this issue. And if Israelis believe that the vast majority of American Jews — their most important supporters in the entire world — are going to sit idly by and watch Israel permanently disenfranchise a permanently-occupied minority population, they’re deluding themselves. A non-democratic Israel will not survive in this world. It’s an impossibility. So Israel has a choice — find a way to reverse the settlement process and bring about the conditions necessary to see the birth of a Palestinian state (I’m for unilateral closure of settlements but the military occupation’s end will have to be negotiated with the Palestinians) or simply grant the Palestinians on the West Bank the right to vote in Israeli elections. Gaza is an entirely separate problem, but one not solvable so long as Hamas is in charge, but even without Gaza’s Arabs, Israel would cease to be a Jewish state if West Bank Arabs became citizens.

It will be extremely difficult for any number of reasons for Israel to leave the West Bank, but it will be impossible for Israel to survive over the long-term if it remains an occupier of a group of people who don’t want to be occupied. I understand the security consequences of an Israeli departure from most of the West Bank, but I also understand that there is ultimately no choice. I don’t believe a one-state solution is any sort of solution at all; Israel/Palestine will devolve quickly into civil war. The only solution is a two-state solution.

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The aftermath of a bombed home in Gaza

Dec 09, 2011

Ruqaya Izzidien

The room in Migdad Elzalaan’s home where his uncle was killed.

(All Photos: Ruqaya Izzidien)

At 2am on Thursday 9 December the first of three Israeli airstrikes hit meters away from the home of Migdad Elzalaan in northern Gaza City. The attack killed Elzalaan’s uncle and injured 13 of his family members. Israeli authorities claim to have targeted a nearby military base, but the only reported casualties were civilian.

Elzalaan’s younger sister’s bed covered in rubble.

Elzalaan’s home- which the United Nations repaired after a nearby airstrike in the 2008-2009 war- was severely damaged and his uncle’s house was completely destroyed.

Shattered plates and glasses in a destroyed kitchen.

During the airstrikes, the 20-year-old went to his uncle’s home next door where he rescued his 6-month-old cousin from the rubble. After the final bomb, he unearthed his uncle from the rubble. Migdad explained, “[My uncle] told me, ‘Look after our family, look after the children. Look after them,’ and then he died, right in my arms.”

The possessions and toys of the family lay sprawled across the house, dishes from the last meal are still left in the sink and large cement bricks remain where they landed in the children’s beds.

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The destroyed roof.

Iran: If it had been a fighter jet not a drone, ‘U.S. bases would have been pounded’

Dec 09, 2011

Annie Robbins

rq 170
RQ-170 Image: David Cenciotti via The Aviationist

The Pentagon is still spinning wheels around the truth, claiming The US Drone Shown On Iranian TV Was Likely Just A Model.  I don’t think they are really  in denial,– just not ready to face the American people and tell them their cutting edge ‘super secret’ drone,  is in Iranian hands, what Martha Raddatz @ ABC characterizes as an intelligence ‘bonanza’.

Early Thursday, U.S. officials said, and ABC News reported, that the craft displayed did not appear to be the highly sensitive RQ-170 Sentinel and might be a model, in part because U.S. imagery indicated the Sentinel had not landed intact. Later, however, officials said it was possible that the Iranians had reconstructed the drone for display on television, but that the evidence was “inconclusive.”

Pentagon spokesperson Capt. John Kirby said Thursday that U.S. officials were examining the footage aired in Iran for clues.

Reconstructed for display on television? That’s some talented fast paced model makers!  Today the new mantra is that the photos are  fueling debate over whether the drone in the photos is real. Delay, delay, delay.

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Iranian MP Esmaeil Kowsari

Meanwhile in an interview with the Fars News Agency today Iranian MP Esmaeil Kowsari , Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee deputy chairman, said if the downed U.S. spy drone had been a jet fighter, “conditions in the region would have changed by now” and Iran would have “pounded all U.S. military bases across the world.”

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Ambassador Mohammad Khazaii [Tehran Times]

 Tehran Times is reporting that the Iranian Government has requested that the U.N. condemn the U.S. ‘for aggressive moves” violating Iran’s air space and called on the body to adopt  “clear and effective measures”‘  … to  “fulfill its responsibility to safeguard world peace and security“. Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaii sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador. Khazaii sent the letter on Thursday in response to the US invading its air space .

“Upon instructions from my government, I have the honor to draw your kind attention to the provocative and covert operations against the Islamic Republic of Iran by the U.S. government, which have increased and intensified in recent months,” the letter said.

The letter added, “In the continuation of such trend, recently, an American RQ-170 unmanned spy plane, bearing a specific serial number, violated Iran’s airspace.

“This plane (flew) 250 kilometers deep into Iranian territory up to the northern region of the city of Tabas, where it faced prompt and forceful action by the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Khazaii also wrote that Iranian government regards the U.S. provocative move as an act of hostility against Iran, which is in clear contravention of international law and the basic principles of the UN Charter.

All this against the backdrop of the US threatening draconian sanctions on Iran.

Gingrich says Palestinians are an ‘invented people’

Dec 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

In an interview with Steven Weiss of the Jewish Channel, picked up by Ben Smith. He also says, “I think it’s delusional to call it a peace process.” Gingrich:

“I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at a time–remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940’s, and it’s tragic.”

Will this be a wedge issue between Republicans and Democrats? J Street, appalled by the Republican positions, did an email blast on Gingrich’s statement and on Jon Stewart’s riff last night on the Republican Jewish Coalition. J Street said, “[T]oday, the political pandering on Israel continued, asNewt Gingrich referred to the Palestinians as an ‘invented people’ and suggested reversing two-decades of American policy and abandoning pursuit of the two-state solution.”

Justin Elliott tweets smartly:

is there way to take Newt’s “they had a chance to go many places” bit as anything other than call for ethnic cleansing?

Two Palestinians dead in Gaza, a story of mourning and peace

Dec 09, 2011

Waleed al-Meadana

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A damaged car from the Israeli bombing that killed Issam Al-Batish and Sobhi Al-Batish (Photo: Reuters)

I was half-asleep, half-awake when hearing my younger brother’s voice murmuring, “an Israeli airstrike hit a car next door, the bodies were burnt and torn apart and the pass-byers say the dead belong to the al-Batish family,” he said.

“What family..? al-Batish what?” I remember that I jumped up out of my bed and hurried to the radio. The first thing that came to my mind was the picture of my friend Mohammed. I imagined him torn into pieces, thrown at the asphalt, and muddied with blood.

A sudden voice broke the rash of my thoughts. It was my mum supplicating to Allah to give their family ‘patience’. “How dare the Israelis bomb a car that is zero meter away from the Baladia Garden and Playground,” blared mum with a furious tone that I have never heard but in very few stances. Yes, how dare they! “There, hundreds of Palestinian children mass to live their early, distorted childhoods,” continued mum. It is, at the end of the day, a playground, not a battlefield. It is where they TRY to forget about all the actions of the brutality of the Israelis they have witnessed over the last course of the decade. Probably they are not destined to grow up children,, or they might be stoning the Israeli fight jets that stained Gaza’s sky with huge, broad, white gas lines that the jets left behind.

Breaking news says the dead are Issam al-Batish and his cousin. But the names no longer matter for me because whoever the dead are, they are Palestinians. I am pretty sure that a Palestinian family has lost a father, or a son, or a brother, or a cousin. It is quite obvious now that the Palestinians are a part of the Israeli conspiracy: they hit us, wound us, kill us, and breed us with rage. And what is the outcome of this ongoing process? The Israeli actions continue, and rage grows. We always pay.

This dramatic play never stops!

Later on I logged in to my Facebook account to assure my friends abroad that my family and I are safe and sound. But the photos of the dead bodies shocked me. At some point, I realized that human morals are doomed! No longer does man respect man. The bodies were recollected and engulfed with the black-and-white Palestinian Keffiyh. The same two colours that tell the whole story of our people; the same two colours that depict the reality we live in and our aspiration; the same two colours that speak both mourn and peace.

Israeli soldier shoots protester in face at close range with teargas canister

Dec 09, 2011

Alex Kane and Philip Weiss


Mustafa Tamimi, a 28-year-old Palestinian from the village of Nabi Saleh, moments before he was shot by the Israeli army and critically injured. “Circled in red are the barrel of the gun and the projectile that hit him,” according to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (Photo: Haim Scwarczenberg)

Violence rocked the occupied Palestinian territories today, as a demonstrator in Nabi Saleh was critically injured and Gazans continued to brace Israeli air attacks. Four Gazans were killed in the attacks, including at least one civilian.

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Ola Tamimi shouts after watching her brother, Mustafa Tamimi, get shot by the IDF.
(Photo: Anne Paq/

Mustafa Tamimi, a 28-year-old resident of the village of Nabi Saleh, was shot in the face by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tear-gas canister after apparently throwing stones at an Israeli army vehicle. News of the injury quickly came in through Twitter:


Other Twitter users on the ground in Nabi Saleh claimed that at first, the Israeli army was not allowing them to take Tamimi to the hospital. But their troubles weren’t over when the Israeli army allowed Tamimi to go. A tweet sent from the account of the Active Stills photography collective reported: “One of our photographers and 2 friends of Mostafa Tamimi are detained by Security guards in Beilinson hospital.”

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) has more on what happened:

Mustafa Tamimi, a 28 year old resident of Nabi Saleh, was shot in the face today, during the weekly protest in the village of Nabi Saleh. He sustained a severe injury to his head, under his right eye, and was evacuated to the Belinson hospital in Petah Tikwa. He is currently anesthetized, breathing through tubes, and his condition is described as serious. Tamimi is undergoing treatment in the trauma ward of the hospital, and is expected to undergo surgery later tonight…

The incident took place in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh today, when dozens gathered for the weekly demonstration in the village, protesting the theft of village lands by the adjacent Jewish-only settlement of Nabi Saleh. After the army dispersed the peaceful march, minor clashes erupted followed by a severe response by Israeli forces. Several people were hit with rubber-coated bullets and directly shot tear gas projectiles. Three were evacuated to the Ramallah hospital for further treatment. One protester was arrested.

The demonstrations, which have been held regularly for the past two years have seen hundreds of injuries to protesters by Israeli forces as well as dozens of arrests carried out with the aim of supressing dissent.

The PSCC posted this video of the aftermath of the shooting. Warning to viewers: It is extremely graphic and disturbing.

An IDF spokesperson, Avital Leibovich, tweeted a photo of a slingshot Tamimi was allegedly using to explain the Israeli army’s actions.


Mustafa Tamimi (L) poses for a photo with his parents (front) and brothers in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, 10.9.2010. (Photo: Activestills)

Meanwhile, there has been an escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip. This latest flare-up was sparked by an Israeli air strike in Gaza that killed Palestinian fighters who Israel says were involved in attacks on Israel originating from Egypt’s Sinai.

Ma’an News has the story:

Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that his government was holding intensive talks with regional and international parties to stop Israel’s escalation in attacks on the enclave.

Four Palestinians have been killed since Wednesday and at least 20 injured in a series of airstrikes on Gaza City. The Israeli army expressed regret that civilians were hurt in the attacks, which injured at least seven children.

Speaking after Friday prayers in Gaza City, Haniyeh said Israel’s latest flare up in aggression was preceded by threats of a new military action by Israeli leaders.

Robert Siegel scolds Kalle Lasn

Dec 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

Siegel (photo by Steve Barrett)

The other day on All Things Considered, in an otherwise respectful interview, Robert Siegel scolded Kalle Lasn, the Adbusters founder and Occupy inspirer, suggesting he is anti-Semitic. It happened fast:

SIEGEL: You’ve been very critical of Israel and of neoconservative policies.

LASN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Some people think you’re out of bounds identifying who are Jews among prominent neoconservatives.

LASN: Yes, and some people think I’m way in bounds as well.

Here are seven Jews who have identified neoconservatism as either a Jewish movement or a movement that has a strong Jewish component:

Alan Dershowitz: (The Vanishing American Jew):

Jews have been active in gay rights, but the recent neo-conservative movement in America has also been dominated by Jews, many of whom had been leaders in the socialist movement of the past.

JJ Goldberg (Jewish Power):

Not all the neoconservatives were Jewish… Nonetheless, they became known as a Jewish group for several reasons. For one thing, most of them were Jews…. Most important, the neoconservatives proclaimed their existence throught two magazines edited and published by Jews…

Jacob Heilbrunn (They Knew They Were Right)

Neoconservatism was forged into an actual movement by [Irving] Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Even today, the neoconservative movement is best described as an extended family based largely on the informal social networks patiently forged by these two patriarchs…. there were many other figures who contributed to its emergence, both as a movement and as a school of thought. Not all of them were Jews–a fact that has been frequently pointed out by the neoconservatives themselves to refute the canard that neoconservatism is a Jewish movement. Fair enough. Yet the movement’s non-Jewish members were largely bound to the group by a shared commitment to the largest, most important Jewish cause: the survival of Israel.

Murray Friedman (deceased, former vice chair of US Civil Rights Commission):

[book title] The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy….

A new generation of Jewish neocons have lined up behind the Bush Doctrine… If one argues, as I do, that Jewish conservatism has played a little-noticed role in American social and political life for much of the last hundred years, one may wonder why it has gone largely unrecognized.

Benjamin Ginsberg (professor of political science at Johns Hopkins), The Fatal Embrace:

The predominantly Jewish neocons are the chief intellectual spokesmen for all aspects of Reaganite Republicanism that the paleoconservatives find objectionable… One major factor that drew them inexorably to the right was their attachment to Israel and their growing frustration during the 1960s with a Democratic party….

Joe Klein:

You want evidence of divided loyalties? How about the “benign domino theory” that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about–off the record, of course–in the runup to the Iraq war, the idea that Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam, which would set off a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region?

Ari Shavit [2003]:

In the course of the past year, a new belief has emerged in the town [Washington]: the belief in war against Iraq. That ardent faith was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer), people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history.

The simple explanation of Robert Siegel’s statement is that it was OK to talk about the Jewishness of the neocons when they were a rump group of intellectuals at the margins of Washington. When they gained actual power, and played a crucial role in a disastrous decision (Iraq war), the subject suddenly became verboten, in part because of fears among Jews (like Siegel) of a recurrence of virulent anti-Semitism. The result has been journalistic abdication from an important story.

Why the tight security at J Street president’s Syracuse talk?

Dec 09, 2011

Ira Glunts

Jeremy Ben Ami
Jeremy Ben Ami

I recently heard Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, tell a group of Jewish Syracuse New Yorkers that it is in the interest of Israel, the United States and American Jews to have a “two-state solution” to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Ben-Ami was in town to help launch a local chapter of his self-proclaimed “pro-Israel, pro-peace organization.”  He described his peace vision as one held by the Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, and the U.S. installed Palestinian “Prime Minister” Salam Fayyad.  Based on the audience questions and comments, JStreet Jeremy had at least as many opponents as sympathizers at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) that evening.

Strangely, my main impressions of the evening were not based on Ben-Ami’s remarks, about which I plan to write in the near future, but rather on the unexpected presence of two burly city policemen who were stationed in the lobby near the entrance to the JCC building when I arrived.

It seems relevant to inform you that I am Jewish, live an hour’s drive from Syracuse and know close to nothing about its Jewish community.  As a matter of fact, I know very little about any Jewish community except the one that existed around Pelham Parkway in the Bronx a half century ago.  Most of the information I have learned recently about American Jews comes from websites, newspapers, magazines, television, even blogs.  (Full disclosure: my main source of my knowledge is this website!)

When I saw that the Jewish Community Center was tightly secured by Syracuse’s finest, I first surmised that the police were present to protect Jeremy from some irate meshugenah alter cocker(wild old fart, in Yiddish) who had overdosed on prune juice and was high on tribalism and pro-Israel fanaticism.  Although I initially dismissed this assumption as unlikely, I later learned that it actually contained an element of truth.

After rejecting my own conclusion that the security was about protecting Ben-Ami, I conjectured, more implausibly, that the officers were present to protect members of the Jewish community from insanely overzealous basketball fans, for which Syracuse is well-known.  These fanatics may, I reasoned, blame the disgraced and recently dismissed long-time assistant Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine, who is Jewish, for the unfolding lurid sex scandal surrounding the university’s basketball program.

All ethnic and religious minorities are very sensitive to scandals which involve local celebrities from their own community, American Jews are particularly so.  Fine was not so good for Syracuse Jews. However, the police were not, of course, a defense against offensive Syracuse Orange basketball supporters.

Ironically, it was my friend and ride Pat Carmeli, once a Catholic girl from Long Island, who had married an Israeli, raised a family in Israel, and is now a devoted and tireless local Syracuse area advocate for Palestinian rights, who informed me that other Jewish events she has attended in the Syracuse area were also “protected” by a very visible police presence.  This includes synagogues during morning Sabbath services.

Ben-Ami began his presentation with a startling comparison between the Jews who moved out of crowded New York City in the 50s to build a better life in the then rural communities on Long Island with those who fought in the Irgun**, like his father, who relocated from Jaffe to the city of Tel Aviv. However, I was diverted from contemplating Jeremy’s bizarre revisionist cultural history by the new security deployment in the hall.

The police were now stationed at opposite corners of the lecture room where they projected a heightened vigilance.  It occurred to me that the men in blue were protecting me and some 100 mostly elderly upper-middle class Jews from an attack – but from whom?  Who are these people afraid of: poor African Americans who live in the surrounding area, a group of Jihadists from among the small besieged local Muslim population or some reincarnated Nazi brown shirts whose ghostly presence would re-enact Kristallnacht on Thompson Road in Upstate New York?  Is this heavy security really typical of the Jewish community in Syracuse, or for that matter, in the United States? I wondered.

After Jeremy finished answering questions and retired to an adjoining room to sell and sign his recent book, I learned from an attendee that in addition to anti-Semites, the JCC has to protect itself from possible attacks from ultra-Orthodox Jews.  Whether this potential J Street supporter actually believed what he said is anyone’s guess.  He had proudly indicated that he was a liberal and long-time supporter of the two-state solution.  Maybe this elderly gentleman thought he was demonstrating open-mindedness and ecumenicalism by including members of his own religious group as a possible threat.

The most enlightening portion of the evening came when I joined my friend Pat who was speaking to one of the Syracuse police officers who I will refer to as “John*.”  By this time, most but not all of the attendees had left.   John apparently felt it was not necessary to continue being vigilant and gave us his complete attention.  He is a very charming and loquacious Irish-American who like Pat has a Jewish spouse. We learned that John was “off the clock” and being remunerated solely by the JCC. It was heartening to hear that the security was not paid for by local taxpayers.  Still, I wondered about the propriety of working as private security wearing official police uniforms.

In response to our questions, John said he did not believe police protection was really necessary at this or at other Jewish events.  He volunteered that he had never had to deal with one incident during his Jewish moonlighting.   I was surprised to learn from John that there is a police presence “at every Jewish event in Syracuse, including weddings and Bar/Bat Mitvahs.”  John told us that when he first provided security for weddings and bar/bat-mitzvahs he was taken aback when out of town Jewish cops who were invited to these festivities expressed bewilderment at the security arrangements.  The off-duty guests said that in their hometowns Jewish weddings and other celebrations do not have any type of security, never mind armed-off duty uniformed police officers.

Marci Erlebacher is the Executive Director of the Syracuse JCC.  She is a bright, friendly, popular woman and a highly competent administrator, according to two knowledgeable local people I spoke with.  My 20-minute telephone interview with her corroborated this description.  Ms. Erlebacher contradicted the contention that police were hired as security at all local Jewish events.   She said that whether the police are present depends on the congregation and the type of event.  At the JCC, all events at which the general public is invited have police security, but “a movie about Israel” which only a small number of JCC members would be expected to attend would not require the police.

Ironically, given my initial reaction to the police, one of the J Street’s advance people asked the Director if there could be someone from the JCC present at Jeremy’s talk who would discourage and deal with any member of the audience who objected to Jeremy’s presentation in an inappropriate manner.  Since Ms. Erlebacher had a number of passionate requests that she not allow J Street a venue at the JCC, she had also become worried about audience behavior.  Thus the JCC Director was happy to have the police in the hall to perform crowd control duties.  She instructed them before the event that maintaining audience control would be their responsibility.  Those gathered treated Ben-Ami with the utmost courtesy and respect, without exception.  I doubt if their behavior would have been different if the police were absent.

Ms. Erlebacher told me that the use of security became prevalent in Syracuse after 9/11.  She feels that she is obligated to employ the police, “just in case.”  It is difficult to imagine her doing otherwise, since police are now something that many in the Jewish community have come to expect. Still there are a number of questions, some that are troubling, about the police presence.

To what extent is the perceived need for police at events an appropriate reaction to real dangers to the community?  Could the high level of security be just the result of the upward economic mobility? To what degree is the close identification of the Jewish community with the State of Israel, which is a very security-conscious society be driving the use of police at communal events?  Does the presence of Syracuse police at so many events affect how Syracuse Jews are viewed by the rest of the residents of the city?  To what extent is this police presence typical of Jewish communities in the United States?

My friend Pat said she was very disturbed by the police presence which she has seen at many Jewish events.  She asks, what is this teaching the children about the world in which they live?  Could it be teaching them to develop unnecessary fears of non-Jews?

Jeremy Ben-Ami told those gathered at the Jewish Community Center of Syracuse that Israel must take security risks in order to achieve peace.  Looking around at the police presence and the security-conscious audience, I wondered if many of these people would agree with him.

*    John was not the  actual name of the officer.
**  The Irgun was considered, at the time, by the Jewish establishment in both Palestine and the United States to be terrorist organization.

70-year-old Palestinian professor is now a political prisoner –updated

Dec 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

Dr Yousef Abdel Haq
Dr Yousef Abdel Haq

Imagine if an Israeli or Jewish professor, aged 70, was arrested on political grounds. Imagine our State Department’s outrage. We related the arrest of Yousef Abdel Haq, a PFLP leader, in an earlier news roundup. I received this photograph and message from Saed Abu-Hijleh, a poet and lecturer in geography in Nablus.

The arrest of Professor Abdel Haq, on Wednesday, December 7, 2011, aims to silence the voices of Palestinian intellectuals and academics who are struggling to expose the continuous crimes of the Zionist state and who are active on the local and international levels to build solidarity networks that struggle to end Israeli Apartheid in Palestine. Professor Abdel Haq is a lawyer and lecturer of Political Economy at An-Najah National University. He is also one of the main founders and former President of the Palestinian Enlightenment Cultural Center (Tanweer). Professor Abdel Haq is 70 years old and suffers from several chronic illnesses that require medication and medical care and his incarceration by the Israeli authorities constitutes a serious threat to his health and life and thus Israel is responsible for any harm to him that may result from this illegal action. Take action now and demand the release of Professor Abdel Haq and all of the Palestinian political prisoners.

Dr Yousef Abdel Haq Speaking at a rally in Nablus
Dr Yousef Abdel Haq Speaking at a rally in Nablus


Abu Hijleh sends along the above photo of Abdel Haq at a recent rally in Nablus, and says,  “I think it is part of a campaign to arrest progressive/leftist intellectuals and also Islamists who can offer analysis and critique of the policies and actions of Israel and the US in Palestine and in the region after the radical changes that are happening in the wake of the Arab spring and its aftermath…”

Appeals judge upholds sentencing for Holy Land Foundation Five

Dec 09, 2011

Allison Deger

HLF co-founder Ghassan Elashi:

“We at the Holy Land Foundation were giving hope and providing the basic essentials of life to the Palestinians, basic essentials—oil, rice, flour. And what was the occupation giving them? The occupation was providing them with death and destruction. And then we are turned criminals. That is irony.”

On Wednesday, December 7, a federal court of appeals upheld the conviction of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) co-founders and staff, affirming sentences that range from 15 to 65 years, convicted under the Providing Material Support to Terrorists Act. Co-founders Ghassan Elashi and Mohammad El-Mezain, along with the CEO and president Shukri Abu-Baker, volunteer fundraiser Mufid Abdulgader, and HLF New Jersey representative Abdulrahman Odeh were convicted in 2009, after a 2007 mistrial, for providing charity in Gaza.

The prosecution filled the case through an extension of the Material Support to Terrorist Act, which criminalized “assistance” to organizations on the US Treasury’s terrorist list vis-à-vis the Patriot Act. HLF was charged with assisting Hamas–by providing aid to orphanages and hospitals in Gaza–although the Palestinian charities, called zakats, were not on the US Treasury list.

Criminalized charity

The defendants were not convicted for providing material support to Hamas, but for providing humanitarian aid to organizations that also received support from USAID, the United Nations, the Red Cross, CARE, the European Commission–and USAID continued to provide support to some of the same zakat charities after the HLF was shut down by the Bush Administration in 2001.

Writer Noor Elashi, daughter of HLF co-founder Ghassan Elashi comments, “these Palestinian-American humanitarians were convicted of giving material support in the form of humanitarian aid to Palestinian charities called zakat committees that prosecutors alleged were fronts for Hamas, which the U.S. designated a terrorist organization in 1995.”

Defense attorney Nancy Hollander said:

“It’s remarkable. My client was convicted of providing charity. There was not, in ten years of wiretapping his home, his office, looking at his faxes, listening to everything he said, there was not one word out of his mouth about violence to any- one or about support for Hamas. He provided charity. That’s what he was convicted of. And to say that someone or these people who provide charity should get a sentence four or five times longer than someone who professes to come to the United States with a purpose in mind that’s clearly violence shows essentially that these people were convicted because they were Palestinians.”

Twelve years of harassment

HLF was targeted (like Sami al-Arian) prior to the Bush Administration post-9/11 measures. Investigations against HLF began in 1993, when the Clinton Administration froze HLF assets, hindering donations to schools. HLF funds were frozen in a wave of closures to 150 US tax-exempt organization’s bank accounts–targeting mostly Muslim organizations–in a move that brought praise from Yasser Arafat. The 1993 freezing of assets also targeted suspected U.S. supporters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad–with intelligence provided by the Israeli government–who at the time, were rival political parties to the changing landscape of a post-Oslo PLO. These organizations were viewed by the US as “weakening” the so-called “peace-process” (in 1992 Hamas officials held approximately30% of the elected positions in professional unions in both West Bank and Gaza).

The Forwards Ira Stoll reported in 1996, and throughout the 1990s, public statements were made by Islamophobic figures such as Steven Emerson, and also Rep. Nita Lowey (Dem-NY). Stoll noted Emerson and Lowey asked the U.S. government to revoke the tax-exempt status of the HLF–citing without evidence–that it was “the main fund raising arm for Hamas in the United States.”

Unconstitutional practices by the prosecution

The re-trial of the HLF Five began in 2008, after previously reaching a mistrial in 2007. During the first three-month trial–based on a twelve-year investigation–the prosecution exposed jurors to images from the al-Aqsa Intifada. Juror William Neal said of the first trial, the prosecution “kept showing us blown-up buses and they kept showing us little kids in bomb belts reenacting Hamas leaders. It had nothing to do with the actual charges. It had nothing to do with the defendants.”

In the second trial, “secret evidence” from one of the Israeli informants, known as “Avi,” was used. Avi also stated to the jury that he could “smell Hamas.”

Sentenced to “little Guantanamo”

Elashi and other defendants are currently being held in Communication Management Units (CMUs), or “little Guantanamo,” which are prisons with approximately two-thirds of the population being Arab and/or Muslim, and the remainder being left-political activist.  Most notably, animal rights activistAndy Stepanian, was held for five-and-a-half months before becoming the first prisoner released from a CMU, who has since become an outspoken critic against the detention centers. The ACLU is challenging the legality of the CMUs, as they “didn’t meet the regular approval process, which has to go through the Administrative Procedures Act and go through the oversight of Congress,” according to Stepanian.

The defense hoped to overturn the harsh sentences, for providing humanitarian aid to charities in Gaza, by in-part, appealing the testimony of two-Israeli informants. Hollander, though uncertain of what will proceed, indicates there are a few options, including asking for a rehearing from the “three judge panel that heard the case,” or asking for a rehearing of the entire court, and then petitioning the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, with the additional possibility of filing a writ of habeas corpus.

Elashi, Despite loosing the appeal, is hopeful. Stating in an  interview earlier this year with Electronic Intifada:

“I feel like things are going to get much worse before they get better, and it’s an uphill battle. A lot of people within the families of the Holy Land Five believe that the appeal is going to be the end of it, while I — not as a cynical person but someone who knows about the history of this country, and our very heinous past — probably acknowledge that it’s going to be a little bit of time before these men are exonerated and freed, and vindicated through the court system or through a presidential pardon.”

Football in Burin

Dec 09, 2011

Ben Lorber

burin team
The Burin football team (All Photos: Ben Lorber)

On the 7th of December, a windy Wednesday morning behind the boys’ school in the Palestinian village of Burin, 15 teenagers, dressed in red uniform, took to the football field under the coach’s whistle. As the team began its warm-up exercises, another youth team arrived from the neighboring village of Huwwara, led by its determined coach. Under the morning sun, the football game began. As fans, coaches and players cheered and yelled from the sidelines, a Burin teenager scored a goal in the first ten seconds, setting the tone for the rest of the match. Two hours and two injuries later, Burin came out on top 4-0 against Huwwara, bringing the season’s record to 8 wins for Burin, 1 win for Huwwara, and 2 draws. As the boys walked away sweaty and satisfied, the school bell rang and children poured outside for recess.

huwwara team
The Huwwara football team

In occupied Palestine, the youth football league becomes, not a routine taken for granted, but a rare blessing. “We love to practice and to play,” said the Burin goalie, “but usually we cannot play on this field, because we are afraid of the settlers or the army. And there is nowhere else to play.” Overlooking the boy’s football field on all hilltops, the illegal Israeli settlements of Yitzhar (birthplace of the extremist ‘price-tag’ campaign of violence), Bracha, and a Bracha outpost loom menacingly.

“When times are good”, says Ghassan Najjar, co-coach and former Burin football player, “when there are no attacks, we can play. When times are bad, we cannot get together and have games.” At 21 years old, Najjar’s memories of his own days on the field are still fresh in his mind. “Children here have no outlet. They are lost. They cannot play on the streets because it is too violent, but they do not want to sit at home…my outlet, when I could play, was football.”

yitzhar best
Playing in the shadow of the Yitzhar settlement.

Though the last month has spared the village of settler attacks, Israeli soldiers arrive at the school almost on a daily basis. “The boys’ school,” says Ghassan, “is right by a settler military road that heads up to the settlement. Sometimes the army comes into the principal’s office and says that he cannot let the boys outside of the school to play, for no reason. There is a 24 hour presence of the army outside the school, and the boys are frequently forbidden from leaving.” A football game, like outdoor recess, is a precious window of opportunity for children accustomed to living in fear.

Football- of which the Algerian philosopher Albert Camus, a devoted football goalkeeper before turning to intellectual pursuits, once said “all I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football”- has long cemented Palestinian culture and spirit. Time and again, it appears on the scene as a potent weapon in the resistance struggle, as on October 11, when a football game erupted on the front lines of a hunger strike solidarity protest outside of Ofer Prison in Ramallah.

Once a locus of national consciousness, Palestinian football was deliberately denied international recognition until the Palestine Football Association was recognized by FIFA in 1998. “Prior to 1948”, says Issam Khalidi in ‘Body and Ideology- Early Athletics in Palestine (1900-1948)’, an excellent study of the politics of sport in Palestine,

“there were some 65 athletic clubs in Palestine…these clubs had a tremendous impact on the lives of Palestinian young people, shaping their character and preparing them for social and political involvement…these athletics teams provided a social, national and institutional base for Palestine’s political organization in the first half of the twenty-first century. They developed alongside and in response to Jewish immigration and the Arab-Zionist confrontation. Athletic clubs were important in evoking the Palestinian national consciousness, [and] sustaining connections between villages and cities…the advancement of organized sports in Palestine was closely linked to the development of education. Even though education officials did not emphasize physical education programs in schools, most institutions had competitive football teams.”

In 1998, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, in his book Remnants of Auschwitz, recounts Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s tale of a football match in Auschwitz concentration camp, held between members of the SS and members of the Sonderkommando, a Jewish unit forced by the Nazis to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims. The match was improvised at Auschwitz, during a brief respite from the work of death. “Members of the SS,” remembers Levi, “and the rest of the [Sommerkomando] squad are present at the game; they take sides, bet, applaud, urge the players on as if, rather than at the gates of hell, the game were taking place on the village green.” Agamben comments that this moment of apparent normalcy is “the true horror of the camp…for we can perhaps think [now] that the massacres are over- even if here or there they are repeated, not so far away from us.  But that match is never over; it continues as if uninterrupted. It is the perfect and eternal cipher of the ‘gray zone’, which knows no time and is in every place.”

Agamben was drawn to the simple normalcy of this football match, chillingly suspended in the furnace of utter moral depravity. The everydayness, the banality of Levi’s football match reappears in the timeless normalcy of this Wednesday morning football match in Burin. In the heat of the game, oblivious to its surroundings, football is football. In Burin, however, everyday life is juxtaposed, in the football match, not with, as in Auschwitz, the barbaric evil of the oppressor, but with the resilient spirit of the oppressed. Even in Auschwitz, a mundane game of football, suffused with the smell of burning flesh- a testament to the banality of evil; even in Burin¸ a mundane game of football, surrounded by the foreboding faces of illegal, violent settlements- a testament to the strength of a people’s right to exist.

 In each case, the ‘match is never over’, the struggle ‘continues as if uninterrupted’, and we are reminded and warned of the constant reality of oppression. In Auschwitz, the oppressors were there on the field, and the football game thereby showed itself as a sadistic, macabre dance of death; in Burin, the oppressors sit silently on the hilltops, and the football game thereby shows itself as a spark of resistance, feeding a flame of survival.

soccer game
Burin vs. Huwwara

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IsraHell’s threat to cut Gaza water supply would be “complete catastrophe”

Girl drinks water from tap

Just 10 percent of Gaza’s 1.6 million residents get water every day.

GAZA CITY (IPS) – “Taking our water is not like taking a toy. Water is life, they cannot play with our lives like this,” said Maher Najjar, deputy general director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility of the recent Israeli threat to cut electricity, water and infrastructure services to the occupied Gaza Strip.

“Everything will be affected: drinking and washing water, sewage and sanitation, hospitals, schools and children,” said Ahmed al-Amrain, head of power information at the Palestinian Energy and National Resources Authority.

The Israeli Electric Company provides 60 percent of the Strip’s needs, paid by Palestinian customs taxes collected by the Israeli authorities.

Gaza buys 5 percent from Egypt and tries to generate the remaining 35 percent at Gaza’s sole power plant, which was seriously damaged when it was bombed by Israel in 2006.

On 26 November, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon threatened to cut Israeli electricity, water and ties to Gaza’s infrastructure serving the 1.6 million residents of the Gaza Strip.

True meaning of collective punishment

“This is the true meaning of collective punishment,” said Jaber Wishah from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. “Children, women, elderly, patients, students, all are subject to this threat.”

Following the 2006 democratic elections which brought Hamas to power, Israel has imposed an increasingly severe siege on the Strip, depriving Palestinians of most essential and basic goods, including livestock, medicines, machinery and replacement parts, and the industrial diesel needed to run the power plant.

Absurd blackmail

“Israel has been steadily cutting electricity and destroying infrastructure over the years, but this is the first time they have explicitly threatened to fully cut everything,” said Wishah. “It is absurd to blackmail the population with their lives because of political issues.”

It is also illegal.

Wishah noted that Israel continues to militarily occupy and control the Gaza Strip, despite the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli settlers and military bases from the Strip.

According to international law, Israel is responsible for the well-being of the Strip’s population, including ensuring electricity, water and a functioning infrastructure.

Under its siege, Israel has since 2007 limited the amount of fuel and industrial diesel allowed to enter Gaza, resulting in daily power outages throughout the Strip, ranging from eight to 12 hours, and interrupting water, sanitation, health and education services.

“Palestinian electricity technicians have asked the Israeli government to repair a main line recently damaged, as has the Israeli Electric Company. But the Israeli government refuses to do so,” said Ahmed al-Amrain.

“The lack of electricity,” he said, “will oblige families to buy diesel for small generators indoors, which can lead to serious accidents and burns.”

More than 100 Palestinians died in 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, Oxfam has reported, from generator-caused fires and carbon monoxide inhalation.

While generators allow some vital machinery to run during power outages, other services, like laundry, are not run on generators. “There is not enough electricity,” said al-Amrain. “They are for emergencies only and are made to run for short periods, not continuously. They are absolutely not an alternative solution for electricity in the Gaza Strip.”

“It will be a complete catastrophe if Israel cuts the electricity. Half of the population would not have access to water,” said Maher Najjar.

Currently 95 percent of the ground water is undrinkable, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has detected levels of nitrates, believed to be carcinogenic, higher than 330 milligrams per liter of water, far exceeding the 50 mg/l accepted levels.

“Since 2000 we have had plans to repair and expand water projects in Gaza, but until now only about seven of 100 projects have been completed,” said Najjar.

According to Najjar, just 10 percent of Gaza’s 1.6 million residents get water every day. Another 40 percent get water every two days, 40 percent get water every three days, and 10 percent get water once every four days.

“Israel has drilled over 1,000 wells around the Gaza Strip for their own use. They cut the water flow before it even reaches Gaza,” said Najjar.

While the amount of water supplied by Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, is just 5 percent, it is the threat of Israel cutting electricity and infrastructural needs that most haunts Gaza residents. “Chlorine is vital for our water treatment. Without it, we cannot pump a drop off water,” said Najjar.

Raw sewage

Already, for want of adequate electricity and treatment facilities, up to 80 million liters of raw and partially treated sewage is pumped into sea surrounding Gaza on a daily basis.

In 2008, the World Health Organization reported dangerous levels of fecal bacteria along a third of Gaza’s coast. By 2010, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees(UNRWA) reported that acute bloody diarrhea and viral hepatitis remained the most serious illnesses among refugees in the Strip.

“We need continuous electricity to pump waste water from homes to sewage treatment plants,” said Najjar. “Generators substitute during power cuts, but without the regular supply of electricity, waste will flood the streets.”

In August 2007, a sewage holding pool in the town of Beit Lahiya overflowed, drowning five residents of a nearby village.

“I think the Israelis are serious with their threat,” said Wishah, “because they don’t pay any attention to the international opinion, nor to international laws and conventions, like the Geneva Conventions, that they’ve signed, which forbid collective punishment. They feel they are above the law and beyond any legal pursuit.”

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Eviction stalled in East Jerusalem; family awaits new hearing

Children hold signs protesting evictions in Silwan


Evictions protested in Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem, 25 November 2011.

The postponement of an Israeli eviction order in East Jerusalem has spared the Somrein family from being made homeless — for the time being.

In the days leading up to the eviction deadline — which was scheduled for Monday, 28 November — family members, local residents and activists with Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now had been taking eight-hour shifts to monitor the Somrein home in the Silwan neighborhood in case Israeli police tried to force the family out.

As The Electronic Intifada previously reported, the family was served with the eviction notice on 2 October, but a court case over the house and land has been going on for years after the land was declared “absentee property” and handed over to a subsidiary company of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Himnuta.

On the evening of 28 November, the head of the family, Mohammed Somrein, was overwhelmed with gratitude when the family lawyer informed him that the eviction order was indefinitely postponed. In celebration, he passed around knafa (a Palestinian dessert) to all those present.

Although the family have been given a few weeks respite, the threat of eviction continues to hang over their heads. The family believe that the decision to postpone the eviction was tactical in nature, merely to allow some time for the attention surrounding the case to die down. The family also believes that only a miracle will save it from the formidable machine employed by the JNF, an organization that promotes the dispossession of Palestinians.

The house and land in question is located in Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, just two hundred yards from al-Aqsa Mosque on the southern side of the Old City walls. The property belonged to Musa Abdullah Somrein, a man with Jerusalem ID. Hajj Musa, as he was known, passed away in 1983 and was buried in Jerusalem, while his burial certificate was issued by the Israeli Ministry of Interior. Today, Mohammed, Hajj Musa’s nephew, lives there with 11 other members of the Somrein family. Mohammed has lived in the house, with his uncle while he was alive, since he was five years old.

Despite Mohammed Somrein’s 48 years of residence in the house, and despite the fact there are legal documents clearly stating that the land is owned by the Somrein family, the land was declared “absentee property” after Hajj Musa’s death by the Custodian of Absentee Property.

Israel’s absentee property laws are the legal basis for Jewish settlement on Palestinian land. Enacted in 1950, the legislation rules that the property any person who was outside of the country at any point during the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing leading to the establishment of the State of Israel is subject to confiscation without compensation.

After an inexplicable series of transfers and land swaps, the Somrein family’s land ended up under the alleged control of the JNF. It, in turn, transferred the property to Himnuta. In 1991, Himnuta lodged a complaint against the Somrein family in the Israeli courts, demanding their eviction. Himnuta also started “billing” Mohammed retroactively for living on the property, with the bill amounting to more than 2 million shekels (approximately $537,000).

The JNF’s “distancing tactics”

In the days preceding the eviction deadline, the circumstances in this particular and already strange case took an even more bizarre turn. The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported shortly before the eviction deadline that the JNF had issued a press release announcing a delay in the eviction (JNF delays eviction of Palestinian family from East Jerusalem home,” 27 November 2011).

According to the actual press release, the JNF’s main intention was to distance itself from the Israeli settler organization Elad. According to the JNF, Elad is “the one who has full legal rights over the entire area, [and] has exercised the due process of the legal system of Israel” (“Silwan response [PDF]).

While Haaretz may have reported that the JNF delayed the eviction, the fact is that an Israeli court ruled — one day before the eviction deadline — to suspend it after the family, represented by their lawyer Mohammed Dahla, submitted a counter-suit to the eviction order. Another hearing is scheduled to take place on 18 December.

The timing of the JNF’s “distancing tactic” is certainly interesting. The JNF has been coming under heavy fire lately for its involvement in the Somrein case. Rabbis for Human Rights, the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement and the Jewish Alliance for Change have launched a public letter campaign against the JNF for their role in the Somrein case as well as other cases.

The JNF press release was actually issued in response to Rabbis for Human Rights’ campaign. Rabbis for Human Rights responded that:

“Court documents in our possession clearly indicate that Himnuta, a 100% KKL-JNF-owned subsidiary [KKF stands for the Hebrew name of JNF], has waged a legal campaign to have the Sumarin family evicted from their home … The response of KKL-JNF confirming the connection between Himnuta and Elad, combined with additional information that we have gathered, only reinforces the fact that the KKL-JNF and its subsidiary Himnuta bear responsibility for the pending eviction of the Sumarin family” (Perseverance, small successes and the campaign continues,” 30 November 2011).

According to The Independent, Himnuta said it was open to dialogue with the family, nevertheless insisting that the family pay the 2 million shekels in “back rent” and, further, “future rent” (“Stories from the Old City: ‘We are not living like human beings,” 30 November 2011).

However, neither Mohammed Somrein nor the family lawyer has been approached by Himnuta; and in any case, the family say they would never agree to pay rent for living in their own property on their own land.

The Somrein family are on tenterhooks awaiting the date of their hearing. As they wait, the family remain steadfast, knowing they are not alone in this fight, with the support of family, the people of Silwan, and Israeli and international solidarity groups.

Nadia Somrein lives and works in East Jerusalem and is a relation of the family facing eviction.

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“Force, might and beatings”: Indelible images of the first Intifada

Submitted by Ali Abunimah 



December 9, 1987 – exactly 24 years ago – is the day Palestinians remember as the start of the first Intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s brutal and unending occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that had begun 20 year earlier.

For young people in the Palestine solidarity movement today, the start of the first Intifada is ancient history – before many were born. For me it was absolutely formative.

I was not in Palestine. In fact I was growing up comfortably in Belgium. But it was the daily TV images of what was happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that opened my eyes and changed me.

One piece of footage in particular had a profound impact all over the world: a group of Israeli soldiers on a hillside in the West Bank systematically breaking the bones of two captive Palestinians, using rocks and sticks.

They committed these war crimes at the behest of Israeli leaders, especially then Israeli defense minister Yitzhak Rabin who ordered troops to use force, might and beatings (as well as the live ammunition that claimed lives almost daily) to crush the uprising.

Today, as video of graphic and brutal violence from all over the world is so easily and quickly available, it might be difficult to understand just how deeply shocking this particular footage was. But it is a piece of film that profoundly and permanently changed the way millions of people saw Israel.

Breaking Gandhi’s bones

We often hear Palestinians lectured – by the likes of New York Times columnist Nick Kristof among others – that if they only acted like Gandhi, the Israelis would be impressed and suddenly grant Palestinians their usurped rights.

It’s important to remember – and teach – about the first Intifada for so many reasons, but also because it gives the lie to that silly, condescending and constantly recycled refrain.

The Israeli violence against the completely unarmed first Intifada was intended specifically – as Rabin made clear – to crush any form of Gandhi-like protest, and Israel’s brutality perhaps more than anything else, convinced the next generation of Palestinians that armed resistance was unavoidable.

From bone-breaking to mass violence by remote control

This video – I do not know who put it together – shows other graphic scenes of beatings and torture of Palestinian teens during the first Intifada. It then includes a much longer clip of the hillside bone-breaking that is even more chilling to watch in silence as the soldiers work at their gruesome task methodically.

What is striking about videos of the first Intifada in general is the presence of Israeli soldiers in the middle of Palestinian cities. That now is relatively rare – except when they go in on brutal night raids coordinated with the Palestinian Authority.

The 1993 Oslo Accords, and the subsequent creation of the Palestinian Authority, replaced Israeli soldiers with Palestinian Authority forces. While Palestinians remained under occupation, now the enforcers of the occupation became Palestinians in uniforms. But Israel was relieved of the burden – and some of the bad publicity – of doing the dirty work itself.

Much of Israel’s violence – and the threat of violence – is now done by remote control: PA proxy forces, walls, checkpoints, heavily reinforced watchtowers, cattle runs with unseen voices barking orders, electronic ID cards, drones and F-16s, and even Israeli teenagers shooting people in Gaza dead via video screens as if they are playing a game.

It’s an ever more totalitarian system of violent control of a whole population that had yet to be perfected in the days of Bone-Breaker Rabin.

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My attempt to arrest IsraHelli weapons chief


Submitted by david

This morning I tried to arrest an Israeli military strategist over his development of weapons intended for use in killing Palestinians.

Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a former head of research in both Israel’s army and its defense ministry, was standing outside a meeting room in a luxurious Brussels hotel when I arrived shortly after nine o’clock. Initially, I walked past him and approached the registration desk for the “terrorism technology” conference at which he was speaking.

“Good morning,” I said to a woman behind the desk. “My name is Cronin.”

A man in a dark suit then approached me. “Cronin?” he said. “You are David?” (I hadn’t given my first name).

“That’s right,” I replied. He and the woman flicked through the registration list for the event and told me that my name wasn’t on it. When I explained that I had sent an email message to the organisers last week expressing my wish to attend, they responded that it was a private event. “But it is funded by the European Union. And it was publicly announced on the internet,” I said.

The conversation continued in that vein for a moment or two, until the man said to me, “You want the police? We have the police.” (I hadn’t asked for the police).

I looked behind me and saw two other men. “Are you from the hotel’s security?” I asked. “No, we are Belgian intelligence,” one of them replied.

“That man over there is Mr Ben-Israel,” I said, pointing to him. “I have come here to make a citizen’s arrest of that man. Mr Ben-Israel, you are charged with crimes against humanity. I invite you to present yourself to these police officers here.”

DIME role

One of the officers asked me to identify myself. “My name is Dave Cronin, I am a freelance journalist,” I said. “I believe that Mr Ben-Israel has developed weapons for the express purpose of killing Palestinians.”

I tried to elaborate but the two policemen were already taking me down the stairs. In the hotel lobby, they asked me for my ID card and wrote down my contact details. I requested that they take a statement from me, explaining why Ben-Israel should be arrested. Although they agreed to listen to my argument, they refused to take a formal statement, telling me instead to visit a police station.

A retired major-general, Ben-Israel has been involved in developing some of the nastiest weapons in Israel’s arsenal. There is prima facie evidence that he provided his expertise to an Israeli team that have adapted the US-made weapon DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) for use in Gaza. In 2006, Ben-Israel indicated he was privy to the testing ofDIME, which slices off limbs and causes severe burns. He praised the weapon in an interview with Italian television, stating that “one of the ideas is to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons.”

Testimonies gathered from hospitals in Gaza when Israel attacked the Strip in late 2008 and early 2009 told of how unusual metals were found in the bodies of bomb victims. These indicate that DIME may have been used during that three-week assault, Operation Cast Lead.

Ben-Israel has won three national defense awards in Israel for helping to invent weapons. In 1972, he was honored for his role in realizing a bombing system for F-4E warplanes supplied to Israel by the US arms firm McDonnell Douglas. Four years later, he won a similar prize for his contribution to a C4 system to help commanders manage a range of operations. And in 2002, he bagged the Israel Defense Award for “a project introducing a new concept of future warfare.”

Rejoicing in murder

A member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) from 2007 and 2009, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Cast Lead. In a 2009 opinion piece for the news website Ynet, he celebrated how Israel had departed from the rules of armed combat it used to play by (according to him). “Previously, it appeared as though the weak side (Hamas, Hezbollah) could attack Israeli citizens uninterruptedly, while Israel hesitates in utilizing its substantial military power (airplanes, tanks, and guided missiles) for fear of hurting civilians on the other side,” he wrote. “Yet the recent operation showed that even mosques used by terror groups are no longer an obstacle in the face of Israel using its military power.”

It is nauseating that someone who exults in the mass murder of civilians can be a guest at an EU-sponsored conference. As I wrote earlier this week, another crime committed by Ben-Israel is that he sits on the board of trustees for Ariel University, which is located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The EU’s representatives know well that such settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which forbid an occupying power from transferring its civilian population into a territory that it occupies.

Ben-Israel looked slightly puzzled when I confronted him today. He has probably not encountered previous attempts to hold him accountable for his crimes. Well, he will have to get used to those efforts. Wherever he and other members of Israel’s political and military elite go, they can expect to face demands for justice.

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