Archive | September 17th, 2013

Switzerland: Maurer ends controversial visit to I$raHell

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Defence Minister Ueli Maurer visits the holocaust memorial of Yad Vashem in JerusalemDefence Minister Ueli Maurer visits the holocaust memorial of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem (Keystone)

by Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch 

Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer has ended his controversial trip to Israel aimed at cultivating bilateral relations with his defence counterparts.

 

During his three-day trip Maurer met Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who invited him. He also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and military bases on the Israel-Lebanon border and in Tel Aviv.

 

Following his meeting on Monday with Barak and other top officials, Maurer told reporters in Tel Aviv that talks had focused on a wide range of political and military issues, notably armament, drones, missiles and aircraft.

“The Swiss army has integrated arms systems built in Israel, so high-level technical contacts are necessary,” he explained.

But no new armaments contract with Israel is on the cards, as there is no money at the moment, Maurer said at the start of his trip on Saturday.

According to the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, “intense” military collaboration between the two states has continued in recent years.

Arms exports to Israel are generally forbidden, but Switzerland imports annually SFr64 million ($66.5 million) worth of high-tech military equipment, notably electronic reconnaissance and artillery guiding systems. Joint partnerships have also been pursued, notably in the development of drones, and high-ranking army and air force officials have met regularly, the group says.

The defence minister told journalists that Israel’s internal political situation, settlements and respect for human rights were also discussed during his visit.

But as to the question whether he had outlined the Swiss position, Maurer replied that “Switzerland is not here to give lessons; it’s up to the parties concerned to take decisions.”

Protests

Maurer, who is a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, reminded journalists that he had been invited by Israel and had the backing of the whole Swiss cabinet.

The visit has caused protests back in Switzerland. Some 150 people demonstrated in Bern and Geneva on Friday, and members of the Group for a Switzerland without an Army protested at Zurich airport on Saturday, arguing his visit was “a unilateral support for Israeli military occupation” and undermined Swiss commitment to peace in the Middle East based on international law.

On Sunday Maurer met Israeli President Shimon Peres and visited the holocaust memorial of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, where he lit a remembrance candle and signed the guest book with the words “Never again”.

Later that day the Swiss minister was flown by helicopter to a military base in the northern Golan Heights region close to the Israeli-Lebanon border, where he reportedly received a briefing on Hezbollah, organized by Israeli military intelligence. He later travelled on to Palmakhim, one of Israel’s biggest air bases at Tel Aviv, for further briefings.

Thaw in ties?

According to the Geneva-based Le Temps newspaper, strategic contacts between the two countries have continued despite tensions. Last January Swiss diplomat Christian Catrina reportedly met Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence ministry official, for a discreet working meeting on Iran and Hezbollah.

Some observers say Maurer’s visit suggests a thaw in diplomatic ties.

From 2006-2009, relations with Israel were strained over Switzerland’s policy in the Middle East, criticism of Israeli operations in Lebanon and Gaza, a natural gas deal with Iran and after former Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz received Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an anti-racism conference in Geneva.

Switzerland defends its commitment to talking to all parties in the Middle East conflict, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

Balance situation

Unlike the visit to the region by Swiss foreign ministry state secretary, Peter Maurer, a week earlier, Ueli Maurer did not visit the Palestinian territories.

“[Swiss President] Doris Leuthard has also just visited Jordan and [Swiss Foreign Minister] Micheline Calmy-Rey has already visited the Palestinian Authority, so this balances things,” he told reporters.

Maurer underlined the “traditional friendship” between Switzerland and the Jewish state, referring to two states which are “confronted with the same problems in many areas, including security”.

Jean-Pierre Graber, a People’s Party politician from Bern, told Swiss national radio on Sunday that around two-thirds of the party were “pro-Israel” and had a strong attachment to its Judeo-Christian values and culture.

“And for lots of People’s Party parliamentarians, there is degree of sympathy for a country, which, like Switzerland, has an island-like status,” he told the Forum radio programme.

But centre-left Social Democrat Carlo Sommaruga, who was among those trying to stop Maurer’s leaving for Israel, was highly critical of his visit.

“His trip, which has included visits to secret military bases, hasn’t helped the peace process one bit,” he told swissinfo.ch. “Maurer just wanted to implement the People’s Party’s foreign policy, where Switzerland becomes Israel’s big friend in a war-of-civilizations-like scenario.”

Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch

SWITZERLAND-ISRAEL ECONOMIC RELATIONS

A free trade agreement between the members of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) , which includes Switzerland, and Israel was signed in Geneva and entered into force on January 1, 1993.

It covers trade in industrial products as well as fish and marine products. In addition, bilateral agricultural agreements have been concluded between the individual Efta countries and Israel.

Switzerland in 2009 exported goods to Israel valued at SFr927.4 million ($959 million) and imported goods worth SFr381 million.

The main exports were pharmaceutical products, precious stones and metal, machinery, agricultural products, watchmaking products and optical instruments. Imports included precious stones and metal, machines, agricultural products, basic chemical products, optical instruments and watchmaking goods.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern (Seco) notes that the war materials export policy to Israel is “very restrictive” in view of the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In 2009 war materiel valued at SFr100,638 was supplied to Israel. This was a temporary export and involved processing of parts for F/A-18 fighter jets. In the first half of 2010 no war materiel was exported to Israel.

Switzerland operates drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) whose design and technology is based in part on a system of Israel Aerospace Industries.

Shrinking Swiss Army

Switzerland will have to spend hundreds of millions of francs cutting staff and scrapping equipment as it dramatically downsizes its armed forces, Defence Minister Ueli Maurer told the Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Swiss government gave Maurer a year to come up with a plan to reduce troop numbers from more than 184,000 currently to 80,000. The government aims to cap defence spending at $4.6 billion annually.

Maurer says the downsizing will entail layoffs within the defence ministry and the army, and a corresponding decommissioning of excess equipment. He suggests the army may have to cut artillery units and not replace Leopard tanks when they reach the end of their working life, for example.

He has defended the cuts as necessary, saying the army would be smaller but better equipped. He also says the nostalgic ideas held by many Swiss about the country’s militia army are outdated.

All Swiss men are required to undergo military training after the age of 19 and must perform regular reserve duty although the Alpine nation hasn’t taken part in a foreign war since 1815.

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Guantanamo Bay Empty – Remaining Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Pardoned By President Obama

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guantanamo-bay-empty

One Of Many Corridors In Guantanamo Bay Now Empty After Obama’s Pardon Of Its Prisoners

<NR>A collective sigh of relief is felt by Afghanistan families worldwide as news comes to light of Obama’s pardon of the remaining prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

While the nation gears up to stand shoulder to shoulder with our former enemy, Al Quada, we look to tackle an even greater threat against the free world: Syria’s deplorable use of chemical warfare against innocent people.

“You cross an invisible line when you begin using chemical weapons. Just because you can’t see it, or touch it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s a line in morality and Syria has crossed it. ” President Obama said at a recent Presidential dinner party. “This is an evil that is greater than anything we have faced thus far as American’s.”

The super prison’s vacancy status comes to us from a guard working in Guantanamo Bay. He has asked that we do not reveal his identity for fear of professional backlash. In a phone conversation with the Army Official he had this to say.

“I know what’s happening here is wrong… I couldn’t just turn a blind eye… You… You don’t know these prisoners like I do… Some of these men that have been released… I believe they could potentially be dangerous… The country needs to know…”

He went on:

“They’ve been gone for almost three months… Obama signed the papers… Hundreds of ‘em… They’re all free men now…”

“Obama signed an executive order to free the prisoners under the Patriot Act’s National Secrecy clause. That’s why no one’s hearing about this until now.”

We were also told by our Guantanamo Bay correspondent that the newly freed prisoners will be integrated into American society with new identities and clean slates under the federal witness protection act. Also, as compensation for having been imprisoned, each will be given free housing, employment and specialized tax breaks. In turn, US Officials believe they will help in the fight against our new Syrian threat.

No one knows exactly where these individuals will be placed. It’s believed they will be planted throughout the country in unassuming, small town communities. They may even be your new neighbors. There, they will begin their journey to becoming productive members of American society.

 

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The Syria Solidarity Movement

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This is the first newsletter of the Syria Solidarity Movement.  Many of you supported our work as part of the Free Palestine Movement, which sent delegations to two Gaza Flotillas and participated in several billboards and bus ads for Palestinian human rights.
More recently, you provided funds for one delegate (Paul Larudee) and part of the funds for another (Amir Massoumi) to participate in a peace delegation to Syria, led by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, and you received dispatches describing the visit and the findings of the delegation.
We pledged that any further Syria advocacy would be separate from the Free Palestine Movement, and the creation of the Syria Solidarity Movement is a fulfillment of that pledge.  We recognize that some of you may wish to be on only one of the two lists, and we will of course unsubscribe you if you wish.  However, both lists will be active only when there is something to report or some action that we ask you to take.
We are not the voice of the Syrian people, but we are the voice of people throughout the world – and especially those who are in countries whose governments are part of the problem – who listen to the Syrian people.  Syrians do not speak with a unanimous voice, but our solidarity is based upon principles that many of them have articulated, and which accord with international law and standards, as follows:
  1. Above all else, we respect Syrian solutions to Syrian problems.
  2. We oppose all military intervention in Syria, including the provision of any arms, military training, intelligence, personnel or equipment except for the purpose of national self defense.
  3. We advocate a reduction of arms and a ceasefire by all combatants.
  4. We advocate massive provision of humanitarian aid for all displaced Syrians, wherever they may be, including Syrian territory.  This aid should be administered under the supervision of the United Nations or similar international agencies.
  5. We advocate a Syrian national dialogue under international auspices, in a location and with protections and guarantees that permit all parties to feel safe, and without the exclusion of any parties.
Some argue that we should include other principles, such as advocacy of a secular society and a government based on nondiscrimination and human rights.  Although we understand and respect such arguments, we believe that it is not our place to make such declarations, but rather to support Syrian declarations of their principles.
We will shortly be reporting to you about some of our ongoing activities, including actions to prevent U.S. military intervention in Syria, a North American tour by Mother Agnes-Mariam of Mussallaha (“Reconciliation”), the peace organization in Syria that invited the international peace delegation in May, 2013, the gathering of deterrence volunteers in Syria to defy military intervention, and other activities.
We welcome your participation and your inquiries.
The Syria Solidarity Movement
http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/

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British Jewry’s Golden Age

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By Gilad Atzmon

“Britain’s Jews fall in number but grow in self-confidence”  stated yesterday’s Observer headline. Ned Temko ex-editor of the rabid Zionist Jewish Chronicle  reviewed the state of the Jews in the Kingdom amid the opening of a new 50 million pounds Jewish cultural centre in West Hampstead.

According to the Observer we are awaiting a “new departure for the Jews of Britain”. But don’t worry folks, this time it isn’t a new global war promoted by CFI (Conservative Friends of Israel) or advocated by Hasbara writer David Aaronovitch. This time it’s just the opening of the JW3 – the London Jewish Community Centre –  a spectacular exhibition of British Jews and their gift. “Its initial menu of nearly 1,000 events features well-known figures including Kevin SpaceyNicholas Hytner, Zoë Wanamaker and Ruby Wax, as well as the former editor of the Times, James Harding, who is now head of BBC news.”

Just a few days ago, in spite of relentless pressure by the Jewish Lobby, the English speaking empire just managed to escape a new immoral interventionist war in Syria. By the weekend, the Observer was kind enough to remind us how influential Jews in this country are. “Despite their major impact in areas such as the professions, science, culture and the arts, the Jews of Britain now comprise a grand total of some 260,000 souls – less than 0.5% of the population. Outwardly, they are more self-confident, especially younger Jews who have grown up in an increasingly multicultural Britain.”

Notwithstanding all those ‘progressive’ voices who insist that Jews are drifting away from Israel and Zionism, The Observer article  suggests the complete opposite. “Whatever their own views on Israeli policies, for many Jews on British campuses, ‘anti-Israel’ invective has sometimes come to feel not a lot different from antisemitism.” Jews in general and secular Jews in particular, do identify with Israel and for obvious reasons – It is that image of empowerment which they draw from the state that defines itself as ‘their State’.  Consequently, they regard criticism of Israeli politics as an assault against their own existence and ‘right to be’. Similarly, the  so-called Jewish anti- Zionist Jews, fall into the exact same trap. They also regard criticism of their vague political agenda as a racially motivated assault and an attempt to rob them of their elementary rights.

Stephen Miller, an emeritus professor of social research at City University throws some light on the matter when he repeats the line I myself  presented in my latest book The Wandering Who. “They (the Jews)”, says Miller, may identify ethnically, culturally, socially or through an engagement with Israel; they may describe themselves as ‘secular Jews’. But the research shows their sense of belonging and pride in their Jewishness are, on average, not very different from their more observant counterparts.” I guess Miller’s observation won’ surprise my readers.  And the next question to ask is obviously what this ‘Jewishness’ is all about?

Mixed salad is the answer offered by JW3’s programme. “a rich mixture of Torah and Talmud sessions, debates on Israel and other communal staples. But there will also be comedy nights, jazz sessions, dance and fitness classes, even a taxidermy workshop – after which there will be time for socialising in a kosher restaurant run by proteges of the celebrated Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi.” Once again we are confronted with the true meaning of contemporary Jewish culture – a chicken soup peppered with a bit of political discussion and smooth jazz in the background. Very impressive.

Raymond Simonson who runs the massive Jewish centre, hopes to bring in, not only the widest range of affiliated Jews, but others. “People who aren’t going to synagogue. People who may have married non-Jewish partners. People who haven’t been involved in anything Jewish since they were teenagers.” People who have stayed away because, in his words, they may have feared “they would be judged”.

Being one of the very few people who, ideologically and theoretically, confronts Jewish power I wonder: should I wait for JW3 to invite me to discuss the topic at their liberal Jewish centre? Perhaps I’d better not hold my breath. After all, I’m not a Jew anymore.

 

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Yom Kippur, War and the Power Of Deterrence

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By Gilad Atzmon

 

Today is Yom Kippur and the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab–Israeli (Yom Kippur) War. That war caught Israel totally on the hop. In the first days of the conflict, both the IDF and the IAF were defeated and humiliated. Moshe Dayan, the legendary Israeli defence minister, contemplated out loud the ‘destruction of the 3rd Temple’ and, according to different intelligence sources, Israel was close to using its ‘Samson option’ – a nuclear strike against Egypt.

Interestingly, neither the Egyptians nor the Syrians had any plans to ‘throw the Jews to the sea.’ In fact, their military objectives were rather limited – liberating land occupied by Israel in 1967.  The Egyptians attempted to secure a narrow bridge-head over the Suez Canal and the Syrians hoped to free the Golan Heights or at least part of it.

But driven by pre-Traumatic Stress (Pre-TSD), Israeli army generals and the government managed to recast this joint Arab operation as nothing less than an emerging Shoa. Consequently, at least for the first days of the war, they panicked and unnecessarily and critically exhausted Israeli military assets and force.

I believe that when judging Israeli contemporary politics, we need to bear in mind that the current Israeli political and military leadership were low and medium ranking front-line military commanders in that war 40 years ago. In 1973 Benjamin Netanyahu led special forces operations in Syria and Egypt. Ehud Barak, then a Lieutenant-Colonel, led an Israeli tank battalion through some of the toughest battles in the war. Israel’s defence minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon fought the war as a reservist commando soldier while former Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was an infantry soldier at the time of the war and fought in the Sinai Peninsula.

Nor does it take a genius to realise that these Israeli leaders’ decisions would have been shaped by their 1973 experience. In that war they mistakenly saw themselves as the last defenders of the newly founded Jews-only state. Like all Israeli front-line combatants in that war, they interpreted the powerful but limited Syrian/Egyptian attack as a serious attempt at genocide. As any pop-psychologist will tell you, they projected their own symptoms onto their Arab adversaries. Clearly Netanyahu and his government still fall into the same trap. Time after time, they assume that the Iranians, Syrians and Palestinians are driven by murderous inclinations and are led by people who are as murderous as they are.

In the last week the Israeli papers have been saturated with articles and commentaries on Yom Kippur and the trauma that never fades away. Ynet and Haaretz both reflect on that event that shook Israel’s confidence and, for the first time, challenged its image of military omnipotence.

Two days ago I came across a very interesting story on Ynet (Hebrew edition). Apparently, just before hostilities began on October 6th 1973, Israel became aware of a vast Soviet delivery of long range Scud missiles to the Egyptian army.  Seemingly, this piece of intelligence deterred Israel from its intention to raid Egyptian governmental and civilian infrastructure in Egyptian cities.

Ynet Writes:

“Three days later, on 9 October, the [Israeli] Air Force (IAF) launched a series of deep raids on Damascus military headquarters in an attempt to put pressure on the Syrian government and leadership. One would expect the IAF to launch similar air raids on Egypt’s capital. Yet despite the Egyptian initial assault, and despite the tremendous pressure exerted by Egyptian armies on the Israeli forces in the Suez Canal, Israel was careful. It was fearful. Policy makers in Israel, headed by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, repeatedly rejected IDF’s suggestions to conduct deep raids against Egypt. It was the Soviet Scud missiles in Egypt that deterred Israel from conducting such aerial bombardments.”

I guess the meaning of this paragraph is simple yet crucial for the understanding of Israel and its politics. Israel restrained itself from pounding Egypt only because it was aware that the Egyptians had the means to retaliate. In other words, Israeli leaders knew all along that Egypt possessed the capacity to inflict pain to Israel’s cities. They must have realised that Egyptian objectives were not genocidal – but it also means that Israel’s enemies: Arab countries, as well as Iran, must pursue every possible means to posses the kind of weaponry that deters Israel.

It seems this is the only way to bring Israeli aggression to an end.

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Kerry tells I$raHell that Syria accord is no prelude to Iran deal

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JIM HOLLANDER / POOL/EPA – Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a meeting on the Syrian conflict Sunday in Jerusalem.

By Anne Gearan and 

The U.S. government sought to reassure Israel on Sunday that the U.S.-Russia deal to secure Syria’s chemical weapons does not diminish American resolve to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry flew to Israel to personally brief Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on what he called “the most far-reaching chemical weapons removal ever.”

Video

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday sent a strong warning to Syria, saying "the threat of force is real" if it does not carry out an internationally brokered agreement to hand over its chemical weapons.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday sent a strong warning to Syria, saying “the threat of force is real” if it does not carry out an internationally brokered agreement to hand over its chemical weapons.

Graphic

What chemical weapons does Syria have?

Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

What chemical weapons does Syria have?

“We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs, because that affects all other issues, whether Iran or North Korea or others,” Kerry said after talks with Netanyahu.

President Obama told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview broadcast Sunday that Iran understands that its nuclear program is “a far larger issue for us” than the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel “is much closer to our core interests.” He said he was in “indirect” communication with the Iranian leadership.

Obama said Iran should not draw the wrong conclusion from his decision to back off from a missile strike against Syria. “My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck [Syria], to think we won’t strike Iran,” Obama said.

Israel has reacted cautiously to the chemical weapons deal, under which Syria is to sign and ratify the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention and submit to inspections and, ultimately, destruction of its weapons. The agreement came after a chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that U.S. officials have estimated killed 1,400 people.

Israel’s security establishment fears that a failure to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons could encourage Tehran, Syria’s ally, to continue to enrich uranium for a bomb.

And Israeli diplomats worry that the push for inspections of Syria’s chemical arms could throw an unwelcome spotlight on the secretive chemical and nuclear arsenal that Israel has built next door.

Netanyahu told Kerry that he supports U.S. efforts to force Syria to give up its stockpile of chemical weapons.

“The Syrian regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons,” said Netanyahu, standing beside Kerry after their meeting. “That would make our entire region a lot safer.”

But earlier in the day, Netanyahu sounded a note of skepticism.

“We hope the understandings that have been achieved between the U.S. and Russia regarding Syria’s chemical weapons will show results, and these understandings will be tested by results — the full destruction of the stocks of chemical weapons that the Syrian regime has used against its own people,” Netanyahu said in remarks to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when Israel came under surprise attack from Syria and Egypt.

“We must also judge the results of the efforts of the international community to stop Iran’s nuclear armament,” he said. “Here as well, it is not words that will determine the outcome but rather actions and results.”

Kerry heads next to Paris for discussions about the Syria deal with foreign ministers from France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

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How War on Syria Lost Its Way

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By Ray McGovern

The just announced U.S.-Russia agreement in Geneva on a “joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons (CW) program in the soonest and safest manner” sounds the death knell to an attempt by Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to get the U.S. into the war in Syria.

Equally important, it greatly increases the prospect of further U.S.-Russia cooperation to tamp down escalating violence in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. That the two sides were able to hammer out in three days a detailed agreement on such highly delicate, complicated issues is little short of a miracle. I cannot remember seeing the likes of it in 50 years in Washington.

Just two short weeks ago, the prospect of a U.S. military strike against Syria looked like a done deal with Official Washington abuzz with excitement about cruise missiles being launched from American warships in the Mediterranean, flying low toward their targets and lighting up the night sky of Damascus like the “shock and awe” pyrotechnics did to Baghdad in 2003.

On Aug. 30, Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to seal the deal with an impassioned address that declared some 35 times that “we know” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed President Barack Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons with an Aug. 21 attack and needed to be punished.

Along with Kerry’s speech, the White House released a four-page “Government Assessment” declaring with “high confidence” that Assad’s regime was guilty of the attack on a Damascus suburb that killed precisely “1,429” people and “at least 426 children.” Though the white paper included not a single verifiable fact establishing Assad’s guilt – nor did it explain where its casualty figures came from – the assessment was accepted as true by most of the mainstream U.S. news media.

At that moment, Israel and its many backers had every reason to believe they had won the day and that at least the first stage of the retribution would be delivered before President Barack Obama flew off on Sept. 3 to Europe and to the G-20 summit. But then came a series of disappointments for them, beginning with Obama’s abrupt Aug. 31 decision to seek congressional authorization.

Still, the prevailing attitude was that the Israel Lobby would simply get to work whipping members of Congress into line with a variety of arguments (and a mix of threats and inducements) to ensure that a use-of-force resolution was passed and sent to the President’s desk.

The confidence was so high that there was no need to disguise what was afoot. Usually the mainstream media avoids mentioning the extraordinary influence of the Israel Lobby on Congress, but this time the New York Times displayed unusual candor describing who was egging on the march to war.

An 800-Pound Gorilla

In an article posted online Sept. 2, the Times reported, “Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group Aipac was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad. … One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called Aipac ‘the 800-pound gorilla in the room,’ and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, ‘If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line’ against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, ‘we’re in trouble.’”

This warning about “loss of credibility” is a familiar one, artfully promoted in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal in an article by Leon Aron titled “America, Syria and the World.” Aron quotes a long list of Israel loyalists like Brookings Saban Center’s Kenneth M. Pollack, who warn that foreigners may come to view us as wimps if strong action is not taken against Syria.

A contrary point of view was expressed by former U.S. Ambassador Chas Freeman, who commented: “There is another possibility, however. And that is that they have come to see us as bullies, prone to resort to force rather than diplomacy when problems arise. The latter possibility puts a whole different face on Obama’s hesitation to go to war with Syria.”

In any case, to the surprise of many Washington insiders, the dreams of U.S. bombs raining down on another Mideast country began to slip away as many members of Congress listened to their constituents speaking out against war, and some even disbelieving the administration’s assessment because no hard, checkable evidence was being revealed to the American people.

Morose at CNN

As the march toward war began meandering off in unexpected directions, I was lucky enough to observe, up-close and personal, the angry reaction of some of Israel’s top American supporters on Monday evening. That was after Russia drew Obama a new map for how to reach the desired destination of removing chemical weapons from Assad’s arsenal without going to war.

After doing an interview on CNN International, I opened the studio door and almost knocked over a small fellow named Paul Wolfowitz, President George W. Bush’s former under-secretary of defense who in 2002-2003 had helped craft the fraudulent case for invading Iraq. And there standing next to him was former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the neocon from Connecticut who was a leading advocate for the Iraq War and pretty much every other potential war in the Middle East.

Finding myself in the same room with two gentlemen responsible for so much misery in the world, I fell back on my recent training in non-violence, as we watched Piers Morgan try earnestly to spin the day’s astounding events. On the tube earlier, Anderson Cooper sought counsel from Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for George W. Bush, and David Gergen, long-time White House PR guru.

Fleischer and Gergen were alternately downright furious over the Russian initiative to give peace a chance and disconsolate at seeing the prospect for U.S. military involvement in Syria disappear when we were oh so close. After some caustic and condescending outbursts, an almost surreally disconsolate mood set in. It looked like these fellas were not going to get their war.

Later remarks by Lieberman and Wolfowitz reflected a distinctly funereal atmosphere. I felt I had come to a wake with somberly dressed folks (no pastel ties this time) grieving for a recently, dearly-departed war.

Among Lieberman’s vapid comments was the hope-against-hope assertion that President Obama, of course, could still commit troops to war without congressional authorization. I thought to myself, wow, here’s a fellow who was a senator for 24 years and almost our vice president, and he does not remember that the Founders gave Congress the sole power to declare war in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

So I dug into my back pocket, pulled out my little copy of the Constitution, and carefully tore out Article 1. Then I lurked in the ornate elevator waiting area for Joe and Paul to come out. After the usual pleasantries (all politicians feel compelled to “remember” you once you say your name as though they should), I said, “Joe, I couldn’t believe what you said about the President not being required to get the approval of Congress before attacking a country like Syria. So, here; I tore out Article 1 of the Constitution for you; I have another copy, so you can keep it. Go home, read it, and see if what you just said is correct.”

It was a bad evening for war and for those pundits who like to joke about “giving war a chance.” For those of us who think war is not such a good idea – and truly should only be considered as an absolutely last resort – it was an uncommon day for rejoicing at the failure of the warmongers to again send young men and women to kill folks who pose no threat to us.

Salt in the Wounds

As sad as the war proponents were – including the cable news channels cheated out of some great video of flashing bombs illuminating the shattered buildings of ancient Damascus – they would face another humiliation in reading Thursday’s New York Times, which published an op-ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He made sensible points about the value of international law prohibiting one country from attacking another except in self-defense or with approval of the United Nations Security Council.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and an Israeli favorite, spoke for many Washington insiders by saying, “I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit.” [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Rewarding ‘Group Think’ on Syria.”]

Menendez had just cobbled together and forced through his committee a resolution, 10-to-7, to authorize the President to strike Syria with enough force to degrade Assad’s military. Now, at Obama’s request, the resolution was being put on the shelf.

Events were now moving swiftly away from a U.S. missile strike. Obama dispatched Kerry to Geneva to work out an agreement with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But the hope for war still was not fully extinguished.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was still rooting for a chance to revive the military option and – like Lieberman – suggesting that the President didn’t really need congressional approval and shouldn’t be deterred by popular opposition either.

At a breakfast session with reporters on Sept. 11, Levin said, “I just don’t think you can be guided, when it comes to this kind of an issue, by public opinion polls. … It would not be a surprise at all to me, even if there were no congressional authority, that he [Obama] would use his Article 2 authority” as commander in chief. (Not incidentally, Levin has been the recipient of more money from AIPAC-related organizations than any other member of Congress.)

At this point, Israel and its lobby had every reason to be disappointed in another longtime close friend, John Kerry. He had succeeded in driving the war, which was to be fought over Obama’s “red line,” into what football fans might call the “red zone” but Kerry was unable to push the plan for missile strikes over the goal line.

Instead, Kerry clearly is under new orders from President Obama to figure out a way in cooperation with Minister Lavrov to defuse the crisis. Putin, Obama, Lavrov and Kerry have just won some laurels from the people around the world hoping to advance the cause of peace. But they won’t have the luxury of resting on them, while so many others in and around Syria have powerful incentives to reverse the progress made.

One still has to wonder what might revive prospects for U.S. missile strikes. Some in the Middle East are worried about the possibility that radical jihadists among the Syrian rebels might try to derail peace talks by launching a chemical weapons attack against Israeli targets with the hope that the provocation will be blamed on the Assad regime and set off a rush to retaliate.

Whether likely or not, it is a threat that the cooler heads in the Obama administration should anticipate and be ready to head off.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on How War on Syria Lost Its Way

I$raHell worried it may be pushed to join chemical weapons ban

NOVANEWS

With deal to disarm Syria of WMDs underway, some policymakers concerned US, Russia may pressure Jerusalem to ratify arms treaty

TIMES OF ISRAEL

The US-Russia deal to strip President Bashar Assad of his chemical weapons stockpile has some policymakers in Jerusalem concerned that Israel may be forced to sign an international chemical weapons ban treaty, something it has been unwilling to do until now.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, an international arms control pact which bans the production and amassing of chemical weapons materiel, is ratified by 183 states. Only Israel and Myanmar have signed the treaty but not ratified it into law.

Israel refused to ratify the treaty on the claim that “there is no significance to being part of an agreement like this while a neighboring country like Syria possesses a vast stockpile of chemical weapons,” Channel 10 reported Sunday night.

“Israel cannot allow itself to be the one that everyone thinks doesn’t have chemical weapons,” retired brigadier general Yitzhak Ben-Israel, head of Tel Aviv University’s Security Studies department, told the station.

Neither Syria nor Egypt signed the CWC, and both have active chemical weapons programs. South Sudan, North Korea and Angola are the remaining non-signatory states.

According to the Channel 10 report, Israel is concerned that now that the US and Russia have reached a deal which aims to destroy Syria’s chemical stockpile by the middle of next year, the two world powers may push Israel to ratify the treaty.

As a party to the CWC, Israel would be forced to permit international inspectors access to its most sensitive security facilities, including the Dimona nuclear reactor and the Nes Ziona Biological Institute. According to a CIA document published in Foreign Policy magazine, US spy satellites in 1982 uncovered “a probable CW (chemical weapons) nerve agent production facility and a storage facility… at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert.”

Since Israel has not ratified the treaty, it isn’t presently subjected to such inspections.

The Foreign Ministry last week stated that Israel wouldn’t ratify the CWC so long as other states in the region with chemical weapons refuse to recognize Israel and threaten to destroy it, Haaretz reported.

Despite this, should Syria be disarmed of its WMDs, officials in Israel’s defense establishment are confident that Israel can safely become a signatory to the treaty without compromising national security, the Channel 10 report said.

At a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked him for his efforts to purge Syria of chemical weapons and linked the agreement with Syria to the ongoing campaign to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

“We have been closely following – and support – your ongoing efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons,” Netanyahu said. “The Syrian regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer.

“The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don’t have weapons of mass destruction because as we’ve learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime’s patron, Iran. Iran must understand the consequences of its continual defiance of the international community, by its pursuit toward nuclear weapons… if diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat.”

Netanyahu earlier Sunday expressed cautious optimism about the deal, stressing that the proof of its effectiveness would be in deeds, not words.

Officials in Jerusalem said late Saturday Israel would of course be delighted to see the Assad regime stripped of chemical weapons, but that it was wary of the unfolding diplomatic framework and concerned that Assad was bent on buying time and won’t adhere to the timeline.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on I$raHell worried it may be pushed to join chemical weapons ban

What a wonderful world

  1. INDEED, WONDERFUL:

    September 1, 2013

    Southern California Association of Governments

    818 West 7 Street, 12 Flour,

    Los Angeles, CA 90017

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

    With this brief please be informed, that under the reign of City of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders was not exhibited discriminatory attitude towards national cultures represented by 32 cottages in the widely known Balboa Park, including cottages of stateless Palestine and of the USA. As of the latter the City’s message is that the Balboa Park lies outside of the US’ national culture.
    But under administration of Jerry Sanders and of the former US Representative Bob Filner, this positive attitude has been marred as far as the culture of Australia’s First People is concerned, for to them was denied a space in this 32 cottage complex, as if the Flag of the US above the US Coffee-Cottage must stand at the expense of First People’s Flag.
    In a belief that it will come to the display of the First People’s Flag above the controversial cottage, needlessly dedicated to the US, I bring to your attention the issue of First People’s discrimination in the US.

    With respect – Wieslaw Czajkowski, Member of the National Congress of Australia’s
    First Peoples in the category of Friends.

    Enclosures:
    1. Lawn Programs of the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, Inc. for the year 2010.
    2. Letters to the HPRIC of Oct.24 and Oct. 25, 2010, re “A nation in the Making”.
    3. Communications with the HPRIC of Oct.26, Dec.6 (two) and Dec.7, 2010, the latter referring the case to the City of San Diego.
    4. December 8, 2010, a REQUEST to the Mayor of San Diego pertaining the letter of the HPRIC of Dec.7, 2010.
    5. Febr. 17, 2011 to the Mayor of San Diego asking for direct talks with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council in Western Australia.
    6. March 1, 2013 to the Mayor Bob Filner, a motion for intervention.

    Cc. 1. Congress of the First Peoples.
    2. Mayor Pro-tempore of the City of San Diego. 3. Other Interested Entities.

  2. #2 by annebeck58 on September 16, 2013 – 5:06 pm

    Hmm. I am unable to see a link, Is it a picture, video, perhaps audio? Either way, I cannot seem to get it to work. Ideas, anyone?

  3. #3 by sftx on September 17, 2013 – 12:05 am

    Anne me either! will check back later :)

  4. #4 by Ingrid B on September 17, 2013 – 1:49 am

    Anne, sftx, I checked back, there`s still only a headline..

  5. #5 by Kevin on September 17, 2013 – 2:24 am

    Nope, can’t see it either. I tried right clicking where the picture(?) should be, open another page,
    paste…then get a Google “Temporary Error (404)” sever error.

Posted in USAComments Off on What a wonderful world

500 Academics urge EU not to Water-Down Settlement Policy

NOVANEWS

by Saed Bannoura

Over 500 academics, including researchers from 13 European Union member states, have today written to the EU’s head of Foreign Policy, urging the EU not to water down its new guidelines preventing EU funding from being awarded to Israeli projects and entities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem .
Settlements - Americans For Peace Now (Click on image to enlarge)

Settlements – Americans For Peace Now
The “Letter by academic researchers to the EU regarding the participation of Israeli settlements in EU research programs” has been organised by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and its French sister organisation the Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP).
The EU recently announced new guidelines that should prevent Israeli universities, companies and projects based in settlements from receiving EU funding. This important policy change is the result of grassroots campaigning across Europe, including a letter to the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton signed by 250 academics from across Europe last year.
The intention of the guidelines is to ensure that the EU’s own institutions respect the obligation not to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip as well as the Syrian Golan Heights.
Michael Deas, Coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC), explained:
“These guidelines show that grassroots civil society pressure is forcing the European Union to acknowledge its legal responsibility to not recognize Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people and to end some aspects of its deep complicity in maintaining this illegal and criminal system.”
The new guidelines have been welcomed by students and conscientious academics in Palestine and Europe who have been campaigning against EU-funded joint projects between European universities and illegal settlement companies such as cosmetics firm Ahava.Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd, whose factory is located in the illegal Mitzpe Shalem settlement in the occupied West Bank, has participated in five projects under the current Framework Programme 7 (FP7), and is even the co-ordinator of two of them. These projects have a total value of €36,033,269, of which the EU has contributed €25,245,718.
Now Palestine solidarity organisations fear that Israel and the US are applying pressure on the EU to drop the new guidelines, or to water them down to the point where they become meaningless, ahead of negotiations on Israel’s participation in the upcoming Horizon 2020 EU research funding program. John Kerry has called for the guidelines to be dropped and a US official has claimed that there is an “openness” to this request among EU officials. The intensive round of talks between the EU and the Israelis about Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020programme opens this Thursday September 12th.
Catherine Ashton
The letter is addressed to Baroness Ashton in her capacity asHigh Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and SecurityPolicy.It says, “As academic researchers, many of whom have been in receipt of EU research funding, we call upon the EU to implement its new guidelines in full and to ensure that projects, companies and institutions located in illegal Israeli settlements are not eligible for EU research funding.”
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, Chair of BRICUP, said “Just when we thought that the EU was going to live up to its international human rights responsibilities, it seems they are in danger of going weak at the knees again. How can they even contemplate funding Israeli activities taking place over the Green Line in illegal settlements? A measure of the outrage that this has provoked is the fact that in less than 2 days signatures to this letter have flooded in from over 500 academics.”
Ivar Ekelund of AURDIP said: “At long last the EU has decided to abide by its own principles. It should go without saying that the European taxpayer should not support activities interritorieswhich are illegally occupied and settled. It is a wonder that a directive is needed to state the obvious, and even more of a wonder that the EU appears ready to yield to pressure to step back from this very modest beginning.” How can Europe lecture others on international law if it turns a blind eye to ongoing violations on its own doorstep? As scientists, we are part of an international community, and we know that such a community can only be supported by fairness and the rule of law.”
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Catherine Ashton
cc: Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
We are writing to you with regard to the guidelines published recently by the EU on the eligibility of Israeli bodies for EU financial support which are designed to prevent projects in illegal Israeli settlements from receiving funding from the European Research Council and the forthcoming Horizon 2020 EU research funding programme.
The guidelines were widely welcomed by researchers and citizens who had been deeply concerned that the EU was encouraging and funding collaboration between European universities and Israeli companies such as Ahava that operate in illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law and their continued existence and expansion lead to severe violations of the human rights of Palestinians.
We understand that negotiations on Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020 program will begin on Thursday, and we have read that you hope to find ways to implement the new guidelines “sensitively”. We have also read that US Secretary of State John Kerry is pressuring the EU to repeal the new guidelines.
As academic researchers, many of whom have been in receipt of EU research funding, we call upon the EU to implement its new guidelines in full and to ensure that projects, companies and institutions located in illegal Israeli settlements are not eligible for EU research funding.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on 500 Academics urge EU not to Water-Down Settlement Policy

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