Archive | May 7th, 2012

Turkel Committee to call for stronger civilian review of Zionist probes

NOVANEWS

Committee formed to investigate Israel’s actions in intercepting the flotilla to Gaza in 2010 says attorney general should closely supervise Military Advocate General and Shin Bet security service.

By Barak Ravid

The Israel Defense Forces should no longer be the only body to investigate its own conduct when it is charged with ostensible war crimes or various human rights violations, especially against Palestinians. That is expected to be the main conclusion of the Turkel Committee, which is likely to recommend significantly augmenting civilian review of IDF probes.

The committee was formed to investigate Israel’s actions in intercepting the flotilla to Gaza in May 2010. The report, the second part of the Turkel Committee’s recommendations, is to be submitted to the prime minister and made public in the coming weeks.

turkey - Reuters - December 27 2010 Pro-Palestinian activists welcoming the Mavi Marmara to Istanbul yesterday with Turkish and Palestinian flags.
Photo by: Reuters

Its main recommendation is that the attorney general should more closely supervise the Military Advocate General and the Shin Bet security service regarding investigations of complaints.

The report is expected to be precedent-setting and garner major interest both in Israel and abroad.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli naval commandos took over a Turkish flotilla making its way to the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish civilians were killed by commando fire during the takeover of the Mavi Marmara. The nine were members of the IHH, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish Islamic NGO.

Part 1 of the Turkel Committee’s report, submitted on January 23, 2011, determined that Israel’s takeover of the flotilla had been legal in terms of international law, but criticized the IDF’s preparation in advance of the arrival of flotilla as well as the operation itself.

Over the past 18 months, the committee has labored over Part 2 of its report. The dry title: “Examination of the Israeli mechanisms for examining and investigating allegations of violations of the laws of armed conflict – ‘the investigation policy,'” hides scathing criticism of the conduct of the IDF, the Shin Bet, the police and the Israel Prison Service, and recommends overhauling the way in which investigations of these bodies are conducted.

The committee heard testimony by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, the previous military advocate general Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, the Shin Bet’s legal adviser, as well as academic legal experts such as Prof. Eyal Benvenisti, Michael Sfard of the human rights group Yesh Din and other human rights groups.

The Turkel Committee is expected to recommend significantly augmenting civilian review of IDF probes with regard to Palestinian complaints. The committee discussed the establishment of a department of international law in the Justice Ministry that would answer to the attorney general and supervise both the Military Advocate General and the Military Police. The Turkel Committee is to recommend that the attorney general be granted the power to change decisions by the Military Advocate General with regard to complaints by Palestinians. One chapter of the report, compiled with the assistance of international legal experts, will summarize the way international law deals with investigations of war crimes in order to determine in principle when criminal investigations should be launched in such cases.

The report will also review how investigations are currently handled of ostensible war crimes by the IDF, the Shin Bet, the police and the Prison Service. To do so, the committee sought information on more than 60 cases in which Palestinian non-combatants were injured or killed, as well as complaints filed after the 2010 flotilla.

“The security establishment is taking the report very seriously. Even while the work was underway, we saw changes in methods and procedures in the Military Advocate General and the Shin Bet,” the committee’s coordinator, attorney Hoshea Gottlieb, said.

Another chapter scrutinizes the IDF’s investigation of the 2010 flotilla. That probe, which was headed by Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, found fault with the conduct of the navy, intelligence and the General Staff before and during the flotilla’s arrival. The Turkel probe is expected to criticize Eiland’s report and IDF investigations in general.

Despite the harsh criticisms and recommendations of the report, which will be read with great interest by legal and human rights experts in Israel and abroad, the government and the security establishment are expected to accept it. Not to do so would mean serious damage to the credibility of enforcement agencies and to Israel in general.

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39 Ways to Limit Free Speech

NOVANEWS
David Cole
Sudbury Police Department

Tarek Mehanna

Google “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad” and you’ll get over 590,000 hits. You’ll find full-text English language translations of this Arabic document on the Internet Archive, an Internet library; on 4Shared Desktop, a file-sharing site; and on numerous Islamic sites. You will find it cited and discussed in a US Senate Committee staff report and Congressional testimony. Feel free to read it. Just don’t try to make your own translation from the original, which was written in Arabic in Saudi Arabia in 2003. Because if you look a little further on Google you will find multiple news accounts reporting that on April 12, a 29-year old citizen from Sudbury, Massachusetts named Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to seventeen and a half years in prison for translating “39 Ways” and helping to distribute it online.

As Anthony Lewis was wont to ask in his New York Times columns, “Is this America?” Seventeen and a half years for translating a document? Granted, it’s an extremist text. Among the “39 ways” it advocates include “Truthfully Ask Allah for Martyrdom,” “Go for Jihad Yourself,” “Giving Shelter to the Mujahedin,” and “Have Enmity Towards the Disbelievers.” (Other “ways to serve,” however, include, “Learn to Swim and Ride Horses,” “Get Physically Fit,” “Stand in Opposition to the Disbelievers,” and “Expose the Hypocrites and Traitors.”) But surely we have not come to the point where we lock people up for nearly two decades for translating a widely available document? After all, news organizations and scholars routinely translate and publicize jihadist texts; think, for example, of the many reports about messages from Osama bin Laden.

In 2009, Tarek Mehanna, who has no prior criminal record, was arrested and placed in maximum security confinement on “terrorism” charges. The case against him rested on allegations that as a 21-year old he had traveled with friends to Yemen in 2004 in an unsuccessful search for a jihadist training camp in order to fight in Iraq, and that he had translated several jihadist tracts and videos into English for distribution on the Internet, allegedly to spur readers on to jihad. After a two-month trial, he was convicted of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. The jury did not specify whether it found him guilty for his aborted trip to Yemen—which resulted in no known contacts with jihadists—or for his translations, so under established law, the conviction cannot stand unless it’s permissible to penalize him for his speech. Mehanna is appealing.

Under traditional (read “pre-9/11”) First Amendment doctrine, Mehanna could not have been convicted even if he had written “39 Ways” himself, unless the government could shoulder the heavy burden of demonstrating that the document was “intended and likely to incite imminent lawless action,” a standard virtually impossible to meet for written texts. In 1969, in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court established that standard in ruling that the First Amendment protected a Ku Klux Klansman who made a speech to a Klan gathering advocating “revengeance” against “niggers” and “Jews.” It did so only after years of experience with federal and state governments using laws prohibiting advocacy of crime as a tool to target political dissidents (anarchists, anti-war protesters, and Communists, to name a few).

But in Mehanna’s case, the government never tried to satisfy that standard. It didn’t show that any violent act was caused by the document or its translation, much less that Mehanna intended to incite imminent criminal conduct and was likely, through the translation, to do so. In fact, it accused Mehanna of no violent act of any kind. Instead, the prosecutor successfully argued that Mehanna’s translation was intended to aid al-Qaeda, by inspiring readers to pursue jihad themselves, and therefore constituted “material support” to a “terrorist organization.”

The prosecutor relied on a 2010 Supreme Court decision in a case I argued,Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. In Humanitarian Law Project, a divided Court upheld the “material support” statute as applied to advocacy of peace and human rights, when done in coordination with and to aid a designated “terrorist organization.” (The plaintiffs in the case sought to encourage the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey to resolve their disputes with the Turkish government through lawful means, by training them in bringing human rights complaints before the United Nations and helping them in peace overtures to the Turkish government.) The Court ruled that the government could criminalize such advocacy of peaceful nonviolent activity without transgressing the First Amendment, because, it reasoned, any aid to a foreign terrorist organization might ultimately support illegal ends.

The Humanitarian Law Project decision is troubling enough, as I have previously explained. But Mehanna’s case goes still further. The government provided no evidence that Mehanna ever met or communicated with anyone from al-Qaeda. Nor did it demonstrate that the translation was sent to al-Qaeda. (It was posted by an online publisher, Al-Tibyan Publications, that has not been designated as a part of or a front for al-Qaeda.) It did not even claim that the “39 Ways” was written by al-Qaeda. The prosecution offered plenty of evidence that in Internet chat rooms Mehanna expressed admiration for the group’s ideology, and for Osama bin Laden in particular. But can one provide “material support” to a group with which one has never communicated?

The Supreme Court in Humanitarian Law Project emphasized, as had the United States government in defending the “material support” statute, that the law does not make it a crime to engage in “independent advocacy” in support of a designated organization’s cause. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts strongly implied that this limitation was constitutionally mandated:

The Court also finds it significant that Congress has been conscious of its own responsibility to consider how its actions may implicate constitutional concerns. Most importantly, Congress has avoided any restriction on independent advocacy, or indeed any activities not directed to, coordinated with, or controlled by foreign terrorist groups.

“Under the material-support statute,” the Court insisted, people “may say anything they wish on any topic.” But apparently not on “jihad.” The prosecutor in Mehanna’s case argued that the translation was motivated by Mehanna’s ideological support of jihadism, and of al-Qaeda in particular. But without coordination, and without delivery of the final product to al-Qaeda or any of its known affiliates, it looks like nothing more than “independent advocacy,” activity that the government said would not, and the Supreme Court implied could not, be punished.

Why should those of us who have no interest in reading “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad” care? For the same reason that we should care about the prosecution of a Klansman or an anarchist for their speech. History shows that free speech is fundamental to a robust democracy, and that if the government can punish expression because of its political content, it will use that power to go after its enemies. Today’s enemy may be anyone who shows sympathy with jihadism, but who knows who tomorrow’s enemy will be. You don’t need 39 ways to unravel democracy; giving the government the power to penalize the speech it detests will do it in one.

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The good news?

NOVANEWS

Dear all,

We’re so close. This time next week, more than 120,000 members of 38 Degrees and Which? will be offered the chance to save money on our gas and electricity bills. [1] Our people-powered effort to stop the big gas and electricity companies from ripping us off is working.

The good news? There’s still time to join in! On Wednesday, experts from the independent consumer association Which? will hold a ‘reverse auction’ – where the big gas and electricity companies will compete to offer us the cheapest deal. Then, from next weekend, each of us can choose to switch to the winner.

The amount you’ll save should be significant — worth the effort of filling in a quick online form. You just need to go to the 38 Degrees page on the Which? site and fill out your gas and electricity use. Click the link below to join people across Great Britain and get the chance to switch to a cheaper deal:
Sign up to The Big Switch

Using the internet, writing to local newspapers and knocking on doors, we’ve brought people together from across Great Britain, in a pledge to switch their gas and electricity provider. [2] Signing up doesn’t mean you have to switch – but it gives you the offer of a cheaper deal.

There’s still time to join and get in on the offer. The deadline has been extended — but only until midnight on Tuesday — so sign up now. To join, you simply need to let the Which? experts know a bit about how much gas and electricity you use.

Click on the link below to enter your information now – it takes less than five minutes:
Sign up to The Big Switch

When we started this campaign people were excited, but nervous. Could a people-powered campaign really compete against the big gas and electricity companies? Now The Big Switch is a national news story. Politicians from all parties have signed up, and more than 280,000 of us are taking part! [3]

The big gas and electricity companies are, *ahem*, feeling the heat. They know The Big Switch is not only an opportunity to gain (or lose) thousands of customers: it’s a challenge to their profiteering that will shake up the energy market for good.

Don’t miss out – sign up by midnight on Tuesday to get the offer. Here’s the link:
Sign up to The Big Switch

Thanks for being part of it,

Becky, James, David, Marie, Cian, Hannah and the 38 Degrees team

PS: The 38 Degrees office team don’t have the expert knowledge needed to run the reverse auction, so the link will take you to a special 38 Degrees version of the Which? website. Don’t worry, your data will be held securely according to our strict Big Switch privacy policy. Your information won’t be used for anything other than messages about The Big Switch, and you can unsubscribe any time.

Also, anyone in Great Britain is eligible to take part in The Big Switch – so forward this email far and wide before Tuesday!

NOTES
[1] Utility Week: Which? pushes back Big Switch auction to 9 May http://www.utilityweek.co.uk/news/news_story.asp?id=196812&title=Which%3F+pushes+back+Big+Switch+auction+to+9+May
[2] 38 Degrees Blog: The Big Switch: Update http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2012/03/15/the-big-switch-update/
[3] See the previous note

Posted in UK1 Comment

New study finds strong correlation between birth defects and white phosphorus exposure of parents

NOVANEWS

For immediate release

According to a new scientific study there is “a strong correlation of birth defects newborns and parent’s exposure to attacks with white phosphorus”: at the registation at birth 27% of parents with birth defect children declared exposure to white phosphorus while only 1.7% of parents with normal children made the same declaration.

The report entitled “Birth Defects in Gaza: Prevalence, Types, Familiarity and Correlation with Environmental Factors”, published today by International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, was carried out by a team of Palestinian and Italian researchers at the Al Shifa hospital, where 28% of total births in Gaza Strip occur.

This is the first report of registration at birth, and of incidence of major structural birth defects obtained in Gaza. Doctors registered in five months 4,027 deliveries, with a protocol comprehensive of clinical, demographic, kin and environmental questions: 55 birth defects, 94 late miscarriages, and 30 still born deliveries have been recorded in a five month period (May-September 2011). None of the pregnancies here registered occurred during the major war events when the WP and bombs were used.

The study finds that the prevalence of major structural birth defects in Gaza strip is 14/1,000. Within the limits due to differences in diagnostic levels, dimension of samples and methodologies, this is slightly higher than that of less industrialized countries in the area (8-11/1,000) and lower that that reported for more industrialized US (30/1000 and Europe 23/1,000).

The team conducted this study because presence of teratogen elements in the post-war environment is expected in Gaza after operation Cast Lead. A group of scientist including some of those in this team found previously proof of principle of their presence in victims wounds in a study published in January, 20101 and in children hair2. The kind of metals detected in the wounds and hair have low mutagen but high teratogen and carcinogen potentials, cannot be eliminated from the environment and are capable to act as metalloestrogens affecting multiple cellular pathways during embryo and fetal development. The scientists say that “before being conclusive on the specific elements in these weaponry that may cause such effects, analysis of contamination by war-related toxicants needs to be done on the specific subjects”.

“Metal load – the experts say – in living organisms is cumulative, and its effects, if any, show over time. We here investigated if there are long term effects on reproductive health that can be associated to cumulative, chronic exposures due to documented weapon’s targeted environment”.

Statements of residents about locations where they were would have been exposed to white phosphorus and bombing have found correspondence with maps from Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), and data from UNSCO (United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, formerly known as the United Nations Special Coordinator) and UN Mine Action Team Gaza.

About New Weapons Research Group

Newweapons Committee is group of academics, researchers and media professionals focused on promoting risk assessment surveys on the effects upon individuals and population of the most recent kinds of weapons used in the course of wars. The group was born in the third quarter of 2006 after Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Within a week from the beginning of the war between Israel and Lebanon on July 12, 2006 doctors in Lebanon and in Gaza denounced weapons previously unseen by medical personnel which in both cases had long experience of emergency medicine in warfare situation. The question that reached us was: “we never saw before wounds and corpses like those that arrive in the ward. What are these new weapons that cause such wounding and horrible deaths? Help us to find out what to do for the people”. The large majority of victims were women children and elders, in both locations, as direct consequence of the attacks on housing, markets, streets and communication roads and of the use of largely excessive force.

Newweapons work is mostly concerned with researching and analyzing reports and data to understand the agents utilized in the war and to promote risk assessment surveys for the long term effects on individuals and population, in order to know how to cure and protect survivors by medical and predictive studies. This implies actions at different levels and at different times and for different length of time and multiple professional actors and methodologies: information collection and information verification, survey, analysis and elaboration of data, and research projects and is done sharing of all the tasks with concerned local partners, providing the results to tribunals, information sources and for medical follow up.

Notes 

1. Skaik S, Abu-Shaban N, Abu-Shaban N, Barbieri M, Barbieri M, Giani U, Manduca P..Metals detected by ICP/MS in wound tissue of war injuries without fragments in Gaza. BMC Int Health Hum Rights. 2010 June 25th (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20579349).
2. See Metals detected in Palestinian children’s hair suggest environmental contamination, march 17th, 2010 (http://www.newweapons.org/?q=node/112).

CONTACTS
Fabio De Ponte
Tel:+39-347-9422957
Website: www.newweapons.org
Email: info@newweapons.org

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Urgent appeal for funds – help overturn the unjust court ruling against the Negev Bedouins

NOVANEWS

Dear friends

After a legal struggle lasting three years, the Be’er Sheba District Court rejected the appeal of Nuri al-Okbi, veteran activist for the rights of the Negev Bedouins. El-Okbi’s plea for recognition of ownership over the Al-Araqib lands, from which he and his family were evicted in 1951, was rejected out of hand by Judge Sarah Dovrat. The ruling has wide implications for Negev Bedouins in general, implying an overall denial of their rights over ancestral lands.

After some deliberations, Nuri el-Okbi decided to appeal to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, asking it to overturn this unfair ruling. In order to be eligible to lodge such an appeal, however, el-Okbi must pay no later than May 10 the punitive “court expenses” which had been imposed on him by the Be’er Sheba Court, as well as rendering various other legal fees – altogether amounting to the sum of 70,000 Shekels (about 20,000 US Dollars). This amount Nuri and his family – who have already spent considerable funds on ongoing legal procedures ever since 1973 – are unable to pay from their own resources.

We therefore call upon you to provide an urgent donation and give Nuri el-Okbi a chance to try redressing a blatant miscarriage of justice.

Checks should be sent to POB 1335, Kfar-Sava, Israel 44113 – payable to Yoav Haas or Ya’akov Manor (both of them being veteran activists for human and civil rights in general and for the Negev Bedouins in particular).

When sending a check by post, please send an immediate email message, to let us know the money could be relied on, to

Yoav Haas – +972-52-2673467, yh@walla.com

Ya’akov Manor – +972-50-5733276 manor12@zahav.net.il

 

Many thanks

The Friends of Nuri el-Okbi

Background – by Professor Oren Yiftachel, Department of Geography, Ben – Gurion University, Be’er Sheba

The importance of making an appeal in the El–Okbi Family land ownership case

Since its foundation, the State of Israel refuses to recognize Bedouin ownership over ancestral lands in the Negev. Most of the Bedouins did not register their lands in 1921, as was required by one of the British laws; but neither did most other residents of Mandatory Palestine, including Jewish ones, carry out such registration. Sixty years later, the State of Israel made cynical use of this lack of registration to order to register most Bedouin lands as “State Lands”, thus making the Bedouins into “invaders” or “squatters” on their own ancestral land.

Some of the Bedouins have tried to challenge the system of dispossession. Notable among them is Nuri el-Okbi, long-time dedicated human rights activist. In recent years, Nuri and his brothers are conducting a series of law suits against the state, demanding restoration of the lands taken from them in the fifties.

A few weeks ago, a ruling rejecting the claims of the el-Okbis was made in an important case – one in which for the first time a professional support team was involved, including Att. Michael Sfard, geographer Oren Yiftachel and other experts. The proceeding lasted three years, during which dozens of witnesses testified and hundreds of documents and expert reports submitted, attesting to the el-Okbis’ ownership of the land. The judge, however, chose to render a harsh, confrontational ruling, sticking to earlier precedents and concluding that any land which had not been registered in 1921 is ipso facto the property of the state.

The court relied mainly on legal precedents, hardly referring to the evidence presented. Therefore, it is very important to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court – the only body which is empowered to overturn precedents and strike out in a new direction. At such a hearing, the judges would not be able to ignore the rich materials submitted by the el-Okbi Tribe, and the new legal arguments presented.

In addition, such an appeal would strengthen the struggle of tens of thousands of Bedouins, who at this very moment are struggling against government plans to evict them to existing townships. The government’s plan is based on the wrong assumption that Bedouins have no land ownership rights, and a Supreme Court appeal is now the only way to stop these draconian plans. Therefore, it is highly important to lodge an appeal on the el-Okbi Land Case, and make it clear that the Bedouin community is determined to struggle for their basic human rights – specifically to change a legal ruling which causes severe and completely undeserved damage to a large section of Israel’s citizen body.

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Ex-Lebanese informatin minister censures US senator’s visit to Lebanon

NOVANEWS
Former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha has censured a recent visit by US Senator Joseph Lieberman to Lebanon and its northern border with Syria, Press TVreports.

Samaha strongly criticized the visit by Lieberman, saying the trip was mainly aimed at making “connections with the armed terrorists inside Syria.”

“What does Mr. Lieberman have to do with the Lebanese-Syrian border?”

The former Lebanese minister made the comments in an interview with Press TV on Wednesday.

Lieberman arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday and met with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other senior officials.

He expressed support for the Syrian opposition in a press conference after the meetings in Beirut. The US senator claimed he was “concerned that people in the region and throughout the world have not done enough to be supportive of the opposition in Syria.”

Lieberman and Republican Senator John McCain have advocated the arming of the Syrian opposition against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Lieberman also visited the northern Lebanese region of Wadi Khaled, located near the Syrian border, on Wednesday. The region houses groups of those Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon.

In addition to Lieberman, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was also in Lebanon on Wednesday to hold talks with members of the March 14 coalition, headed by Sa’ad Hariri, and also Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP).

The Wednesday visit by the US officials to Lebanon comes at a time when armed groups continue random attacks in Syria despite a ceasefire that took effect on April 12.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday at least 15 Syrian security forces were killed in an attack by armed groups in the northern province of Aleppo.

The ceasefire was part of a six-point peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in March.

Michel Samaha also told Press TV that the countries “hosting terrorists and giving them arms, ammunition and money are undermining the peace plan.”

Lieberman and the delegation accompanying him visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar prior to the trip to Lebanon.

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Grant F. Smith : The Rise of AIPAC – AIPAC History

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AIPAC History. Proto-AIPAC’s incubation in the Israeli embassy in 1948.

Strategic direction-setting by the Mossad and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

Confrontations with the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations and the secret battle over registration as an Israeli foreign agent.

 

FBI espionage investigations of AIPAC.

AIPAC and the clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons program.

The grassroots fight for transparency, regulatory oversight and accountability.

 

AIPAC Founder Isiah Kenen (L)

ED NOTE: The purpose of the American Zionist Council (AZC) under the leadership of Isaiah Kenen in concert with nationally known Israeli leaders was to foster a pro-Israel lobbying campaign.

“Structured as a tax exempt organization, the Council could not legally lobby on Israel’s behalf in the United States.  In 1954, the AZC became the focus of a possible investigation of alleged illegal lobbying activities on Israel’s behalf. To diffuse charges, the Council formed a non-tax-exempt lobbying arm under Kenen’s leadership called the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs, the forerunner of AIPAC. In 1959, the word Israel was substituted for Zionist to enlist the support of broad-based Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith. These organizations, which were unable to lobby on Israel’s behalf because of their tax status, played a significant part in AIPAC’s development. As Kenen stated in his book, Israel’s Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington: “We enlisted the cooperation of all major Jewish organizations, both ‘Zionist’ and ‘non-Zionist,’ such as the defense organizations. They were unwilling to lobby, but they agreed to find prominent constituents to open congressional doors for us.”

Presented by Grant F. Smith, Director of IRmep.

Grant F. Smith, Director of Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy – IRmep


Grant F. Smith is the author of Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy,America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government and Foreign Agents: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal. He is a frequent contributor to Radio France Internationale and Voice of America’s Foro Interamericano. Smith has also appeared on BBC News, CNN, and C-SPAN.


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Justice requires action to stop subjugation of Palestinians

NOVANEWS

These are among the hardest words I have ever written. But they are vitally important. Not only is Israel harming Palestinians, but it is harming itself.

by Desmond Tutu

 

Tampa Bay Times – A quarter-century ago I barnstormed around the United States encouraging Americans, particularly students, to press for divestment from South Africa. Today, regrettably, the time has come for similar action to force an end to Israel’s long-standing occupation of Palestinian territory and refusal to extend equal rights to Palestinian citizens who suffer from some 35 discriminatory laws.

I have reached this conclusion slowly and painfully. I am aware that many of our Jewish brothers and sisters who were so instrumental in the fight against South African apartheid are not yet ready to reckon with the apartheid nature of Israel and its current government. And I am enormously concerned that raising this issue will cause heartache to some in the Jewish community with whom I have worked closely and successfully for decades. But I cannot ignore the Palestinian suffering I have witnessed, nor the voices of those courageous Jews troubled by Israel’s discriminatory course.

Within the past few days, some 1,200 American rabbis signed a letter — timed to coincide with resolutions considered by the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) — urging Christians not “to selectively divest from certain companies whose products are used by Israel.” They argue that a “one-sided approach” on divestment resolutions, even the selective divestment from companies profiting from the occupation proposed by the Methodists and Presbyterians, “damages the relationship between Jews and Christians that has been nurtured for decades.”

While they are no doubt well-meaning, I believe that the rabbis and other opponents of divestment are sadly misguided. My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a visionary man of courage, conviction, passion, and strength who fought against bigotry, hatred, and racism.

I recall well the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in which he confesses to his “Christian and Jewish brothers” that he has been “gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom. …”

King’s words describe almost precisely the shortcomings of the 1,200 rabbis who are not joining the brave Palestinians, Jews and internationals in isolated West Bank communities to protest nonviolently against Israel’s theft of Palestinian land to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements and the separation wall. We cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand as relentless settlement activity forecloses on the possibility of the two-state solution.

If we do not achieve two states in the near future, then the day will certainly arrive when Palestinians move away from seeking a separate state of their own and insist on the right to vote for the government that controls their lives, the Israeli government, in a single, democratic state. Israel finds this option unacceptable and yet is seemingly doing everything in its power to see that it happens.

Many black South Africans have traveled to the occupied West Bank and have been appalled by Israeli roads built for Jewish settlers that West Bank Palestinians are denied access to, and by Jewish-only colonies built on Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Black South Africans and others around the world have seen the 2010 Human Rights Watch report which “describes the two-tier system of laws, rules, and services that Israel operates for the two populations in areas in the West Bank under its exclusive control, which provide preferential services, development, and benefits for Jewish settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians.” This, in my book, is apartheid. It is untenable. And we are in desperate need of more rabbis joining the brave rabbis of Jewish Voice for Peace in speaking forthrightly about the corrupting decadeslong Israeli domination over Palestinians.

These are among the hardest words I have ever written. But they are vitally important. Not only is Israel harming Palestinians, but it is harming itself. The 1,200 rabbis may not like what I have to say, but it is long past time for them to remove the blinders from their eyes and grapple with the reality that Israel becoming an apartheid state or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights is not a future danger, as three former Israeli prime ministers — Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and David Ben Gurion — have warned, but a present-day reality. This harsh reality endured by millions of Palestinians requires people and organizations of conscience to divest from those companies — in this instance, from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett Packard — profiting from the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians.

Such action made an enormous difference in apartheid South Africa. It can make an enormous difference in creating a future of justice and equality for Palestinians and Jews in the Holy Land.

Source: Council for the National Interest.

This article originally appeared in the Tampa Bay Times

Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, is South African activist and retired Anglicanbishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid.  He is archbishop-emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa.

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Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

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