Archive | March 27th, 2014

Racist supremacist Jew Lieberman planning to transfer Arab-Israelis, seeking secret legal advice on how to do it


Plan to transfer Arab-I$raHellis to new Palestinian state seeks legal approval

Israel’s hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman who suggested the controversial idea is seeking secret legal advice.
Avigdor Lieberman at the Western Wall

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, has suggested Arab-Israelis could be transferred to a new Palestinian state. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Israel‘s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has commissioned a confidential legal opinion that argues it would be legal under international law to transfer Arab-Israeli citizens to a new Palestinian state by shifting the border.

The internal foreign ministry document, leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, makes clear that the controversial proposal, which the rightwing foreign minister has been promoting for some years, would only be in line with international law if executed with the consent of those being transferred, and if it did not leave any of those transferred without any kind of citizenship.

The opinion appears to have been commissioned to lay the legal groundwork for the so-called Lieberman plan – or “populated-area exchange plan” – which he first proposed in 2004. The idea is that Israel will retain Jewish areas in the West Bank in exchange for giving the Palestinian Authority populous Israeli Arab areas within Israel, including the Galilee Triangle and the Wadi Ara valley, which includes cities such as Umm el-Fahm. However, the plan is opposed strongly by many Israeli Arabs.

The 18-page legal briefing was prepared by Ehud Keinan, a foreign ministry adviser for Lieberman, in February. It is entitled Territorial Exchange: transfer of sovereignty over populated areas in the framework of a final arrangement with the Palestinians, legal aspects. It appears to contradict previous expert opinion which suggested the plan would be illegal.

In the document, however, Keinan warns pointedly that any attempt to enact the proposal would not only affect Jewish-Arab relations inside Israel but would also change “Israel’s image in the world”.

Keinan argues that, without Palestinian co-operation, the measure would be both unfeasible and illegal and warns that, without a high level of international support for the legitimacy of the transfer, it might be viewed similarly to apartheid-era South Africa’s creation of Bantustans.

Not long after Lieberman first proposed a population transfer a number of experts pointed out that international human rights legislation, to which Israel is a signatory, prevented the revoking of citizenship.

After Lieberman revisited the idea in a speech to Israeli ambassadors in January, Israeli Arab MPs in the Knesset and the city council of Umm al-Fahm rejected the notion. In a statement, the latter described the plan as a “second Nakba“, using the Arabic word for the “catastrophe,” referring to the large scale displacement of Palestinians that occurred during Israel’s founding in 1948.

While opinion polls suggest that a sizeable minority is theoretically in favour of joining a future Palestinian state, the most recent survey, by the Dialog Institute in January, suggests only 31% would want to see their community transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction.

The new legal opinion relies heavily on precedents from the last century, including the 1919 convention between Greece and Bulgaria, when Bulgarian territory was transferred to Greece, the Evian Accords of 1962, which gave French colonialists three years to choose between French and Algerian citizenship, and the 1997 transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain to China.

What is likely to be most controversial in the opinion is the suggestion that while the right to choice is accepted practice, it is not required by international law. It adds it is permissible to make the existence of an ethnic, religious or language link between the individual and the state a condition for citizenship.

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I$raHell-Palestine talks: the balance sheet so far

Barack Obama looking grim

US desperate to keep futile peace process show on the road a little longer

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

For the first time since the US launched the Middle East peace talks last summer, the Palestinian leadership may be sensing it has a tiny bit of leverage.

Barack Obama met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Washington last week in what Palestinian officials called a “candid and difficult” meeting. The US president hoped to dissuade Abbas from walking away when the original negotiations’ timetable ends in a month.

The US president and his secretary of state, John Kerry, want their much-delayed “framework agreement” to provide the pretext for spinning out the stalled talks for another year. The US outline for peace is now likely to amount to little more than a set of vague, possibly unwritten principles that both sides can assent to.

The last thing the US president needs is for the negotiations to collapse, after Kerry has repeatedly stressed that finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is imperative.

…the White House is now focused on preventing Abbas from quitting [talks with Israel] next month – and that requires a major concession from Israel.

The US political cycle means Obama’s Democratic Party is heading this autumn into the Congressional mid-term elections. A humiliating failure in the peace process would add to perceptions of him as a weak leader in the Middle East, following what has been widely presented as his folding in confrontations with Syria and Iran.

Renewed clashes between Israel and the Palestinians in the international arena would also deepen US diplomatic troubles at a time when Washington needs to conserve its energies for continuing negotiations with Iran and dealing with the fallout from its conflict with Russia over Crimea.

Obama therefore seems committed to keeping the peace process show on the road for a while longer, however aware he is of the ultimate futility of the exercise.

In this regard, US interests overlap with those of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Israel has been the chief beneficiary of the past eight months: diplomatic pressure has largely lifted; Israeli officials have announced an orgy of settlement building in return for releasing a few dozen Palestinian prisoners; and the White House has gradually shifted ground even further towards Israel’s hardline positions.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, have nothing to show for their participation, and have lost much of the diplomatic momentum gained earlier by winning upgraded status at the United Nations. They have also had to put on hold moves to join dozens of international forums, as well as the threat to bring Israel up on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinians are said to be pushing hard for Israel’s agreement to halt settlement building and free senior prisoners, most notably Marwan Barghouti, who looks the most likely successor to Abbas as Palestinian leader.

Abbas is under mounting pressure at home to put an end to the charade, with four Palestinian factions warning last week that the Kerry plan would be the equivalent of national “suicide”. For this reason, the White House is now focused on preventing Abbas from quitting next month – and that requires a major concession from Israel.

The Palestinians are said to be pushing hard for Israel’s agreement to halt settlement building and free senior prisoners, most notably Marwan Barghouti, who looks the most likely successor to Abbas as Palestinian leader.

Some kind of short-term settlement freeze – though deeply unpopular with Netanyahu’s supporters – may be possible, given the Israeli right’s triumph in advancing settlement-building of late. Abbas reportedly presented Obama with “a very ugly map” of more than 10,000 settler homes Israel has unveiled since the talks began.

Setting Barghouti free, as well as Ahmad Saadat, whose Palestine Liberation Organization faction assassinated the far-right tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi, in 2001, would be an even harder pill for the Israeli government to swallow. Cabinet ministers are already threatening a mutiny over the final round of prisoner releases, due at the end of the week. But Israeli reports on 23 March suggested Washington might consider releasing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, possibly in return for Israel freeing more Palestinians, to keep the talks going.

Simmering tensions between the US and Israel, however, are suggestive of the intense pressure being exerted by the White House behind the scenes.

Those strains exploded into view again last week when Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s defence minister, used a speech to lambast Washington’s foreign policy as “feeble”. In a similar vein, he infuriated the White House in January by labelling Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic” in pursuing the peace process. But unlike the earlier incident, Washington has refused to let the matter drop, angrily demanding an explicit apology.

The pressure from the White House, however, is not chiefly intended to force concessions from Israel on an agreement. After all, the Israeli parliament approved this month the so-called referendum bill, seen by the right as an insurance policy. It gives the Israeli public, raised on the idea of Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive and “eternal capital”, a vote on whether to share it with the Palestinians.

…in the longer term Israel will find itself shunned by the world. The Palestinian leadership will advance its cause at the UN, while conversely grassroots movements inside and outside Palestine will begin clamouring for a single state guaranteeing equality between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

Washington’s goal is more modest: a few more months of quiet. But even on this reckoning, given Netanyahu’s intransigence, the talks are going to implode sooner or later. What then?

Obama and Kerry have set out a convincing scenario that in the longer term Israel will find itself shunned by the world. The Palestinian leadership will advance its cause at the UN, while conversely grassroots movements inside and outside Palestine will begin clamouring for a single state guaranteeing equality between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Israel’s vehement and aggressive opposition on both fronts will only serve to damage its image – and its relations with the US.

An unexpected voice backing the one-state solution emerged last week when Tareq Abbas, the Palestinian president’s 48-year-old son, told the New York Times that a struggle for equal rights in a single  state would be the “easier, peaceful way”.

Bolstering Washington’s argument that such pressures cannot be held in check for ever, a poll this month of US public opinion revealed a startling finding. Despite a US political climate committed to a two-state solution, nearly two-thirds of Americans back a single democratic state for Jews and Palestinians should a Palestinian state prove unfeasible. That view is shared by more than half of Israel’s supporters in the US.

That would constitute a paradigm shift, a moment of reckoning that draws nearer by the day as the peace process again splutters into irrelevance.

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Survey: Up to 40 percent of Hungarians accept anti-Semitic attitudes




A new survey of anti-Semitic attitudes in Hungary showed up to 40 percent of respondents accepted some anti-Semitic attitudes.

The results were presented Monday at a news conference organized by the Action and Protection Foundation at its Budapest headquarters.

The foundation, a watchdog on anti-Semitism of the Jewish community, commissioned the poll of 1,200 respondents conducted in December by the Median firm.

“We can draw the conclusion that 35 percent to 40 percent of the sample definitely accept some anti-Semitic stereotypes and 7 percent extremely anti-Semitic stereotypes,” said Andras Kovacs of the Central European University, who supervised the research.

Violent anti-Semitic attacks are very rare in Hungary.

Kovacs, who has conducted several previous studies on anti-Semitism in Hungary, added that among those who accepted some anti-Semitic stereotypes, the proportion of people who displayed open antipathy toward Jewish individuals increased dramatically in 2010, when the xenophobic far-right Jobbik party entered parliament for the first time.

“There is a clear correlation between Jobbik’s entrance and the prevalence of anti-Semitism in polled populations,” he told JTA.

In the years 2003 to 2009, similar surveys showed an average of 11 percent of respondents harboring antipathy to Jewish individuals. The figures jumped to 28 percent in 2010, decreasing slightly to 24 percent in 2011 and to 21 percent last December, as documented in the foundation’s survey.

The survey was released ahead of the biannual convention of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, which brought several hundred Orthodox rabbis, many of them from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, to the Hungarian capital.

The conference is taking place amid a dispute between the Jewish communities and the government over the government’s planned commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary. The Jewish umbrella group Mazsihisz has boycotted the unveiling of a statue that was perceived as glossing over Hungarian Holocaust-era culpability.

The government postponed the unveiling due to Mazsihisz’s opposition.

Ferenc Kumin, a government spokesman, told JTA that the memorial was postponed because of the April 6 election, and that Hungary has accepted its culpability for the death of Jews during the Holocaust.

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Merkel receives ADL human rights prize


Jewish group presents German chancellor with its distinguished Joseph Prize in recognition of her ‘abiding commitment’ to protecting human rights of Jews, defending Jewish religious freedom.


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with its distinguished ADL Joseph Prize for Human Rights in recognition of her “abiding commitment to promoting and protecting human rights at home and abroad.”

In presenting the prize, ADL cited a number of accomplishments and actions that it said showed Chancellor Merkel’s unwavering commitment to human rights.

“They include Merkel’s efforts to protect the human rights of Jews through her commitment to the security of the State of Israel; raising her voice against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his arbitrary exercise of power; her defense of Jewish religious freedom in Germany, including the protection of the right to male circumcision; and her courageous public criticism of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s actions against protestors last year, in which she stated that ‘our European values – the freedom to demonstrate, the freedom of speech, the rule of law, the freedom of religion – they apply always. They are non-negotiable for us.’”

The prize was presented at the German Chancellery in Berlin by members of a leadership delegation currently traveling in Germany, headed by ADL National Chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher and ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman.

“As the head of government, the pursuit of human rights is not your only responsibility,” Foxman said in his remarks to Chancellor Merkel.

“Internationally, we have seen you, time and again, speak frankly to other leaders on human rights issues. On your first visit to Moscow as chancellor, you made a point of inviting human rights campaigners to a reception at the German embassy. And since then you have raised your voice publicly when meeting with Vladimir Putin on behalf of those targeted by his arbitrary exercise of power.

“It is clear to all,” Foxman added, “that your actions are based on deep personal convictions. We are fortunate that someone with such convictions leads one of the most important countries in the world, and that you have made clear to other leaders that their records on human rights play a weighty role in determining Germany’s relations with their nations.”

Angela Merkel has been chancellor of Germany since 2005 and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000, and is the first woman to hold either office. The daughter of a Lutheran pastor and a teacher, she grew up in a rural area north of Berlin in what was then East Germany. She studied physics at the University of Leipzig, earning a doctorate in 1978, and later worked as a chemist at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry, Academy of Sciences.

“I appreciate this award as a sign of confidence in me and our country, as evidence of a close and reliable transatlantic partnership, and as an incentive to continue to stand up for humanity and the rule of law, just as the Anti-Defamation League has done for over 100 years and around the world,” Merkel said in accepting the award.

The ADL Joseph Prize for Human Rights honors distinguished individuals who have worked on behalf of human rights and helped to achieve and maintain democratic ideals for all. The prize medallion says in Hebrew, “B’nai Chorim Nishaar” which translates to “We Shall Remain Free Men,” and it carries the emblem of Masada, the fortress in the Judean desert where the last holdouts against the Roman army took their own lives instead of sacrificing their freedom.

As a recipient of the ADL Joseph Prize, Chancellor Merkel joins a distinguished group of past recipients including such American and international luminaries as Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, King Hussein of Jordan, German Presidents Richard von Weizsaecker and Dr. Roman Herzog, Soviet prisoner of conscience Natan Sharansky, South African President F.W. de Klerk, and President George H. W. Bush.

The Joseph Prize was established in 1975 by ADL Past National Chair Burton Joseph and his sister Betty Greenberg in memory of their parents.

The delegation also presented Chancellor Merkel with a framed paper-cut that repeats, in several languages, the Hebrew phrase “V’ahavta L’reakha Kamokha,” which translates “Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself,” which is one of the most sacred admonitions of the Torah.

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Obama: US, Europe united in making Russia pay for Ukraine actions



During a meeting with US President Barack Obama, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte says increasing sanctions on Russia would bring ‘significant consequences’.


US President Barack Obama said Monday that “Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” after a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “We’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far. Prime Minister Rutte rightly pointed out yesterday the growing sanctions would bring significant consequences to the Russian economy,” said President Obama.

Moscow formally annexed Crimea on Mar. 21, five days after newly-installed pro-Moscow regional leaders held a referendum that yielded an overwhelming vote to join Russia. Kiev and the West have denounced the annexation as illegal.

Western officials are now less focused on persuading Putin to relinquish Crimea – a goal that seems beyond reach – than on deterring him from seizing other parts of Ukraine.”Our interest is not in seeing the situation escalate and devolve into hot conflict,” White House national security adviser Susan Rice told reporters. “Our interest is in a diplomatic resolution, de-escalation, and obviously economic support for Ukraine, and to the extent that it continues to be necessary, further costs imposed on Russia for its actions.”

In The Hague, leaders of the G7 – the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Britain and Italy – will discuss how to exert further pressure – and at what potential cost.”It will be an opportunity for us to explain to each other what we are doing and where we are going, to coordinate our actions,” a senior EU official said.

Persuading Europeans to sign on to tougher sanctions could be a challenge for Obama. The European Union does 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United States, and is the biggest customer for Russia oil and gas. The EU’s 28 members include countries with widely varying relationships to Moscow.

“Europeans are committed to do something,” said Jeffrey Mankoff, an analyst at the Center for Strategic International Studies. “I think it’ll be difficult to convince them to go anywhere near where the United States would like to go.”

So far, the seizure of Crimea has been largely bloodless, apart from one Ukrainian soldier and one pro-Moscow militia member killed in a shootout on Tuesday last week. Ukraine’s troops left behind in Crimea have been besieged inside bases while offering little resistance.Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian marine base in the port of Feodosia early on Monday, overrunning one of the last remaining symbols of resistance.

In Kiev, acting president Oleksander Turchinov told parliament the remaining Ukrainian troops and their families would be pulled out of the region in the face of “threats to the lives and health of our service personnel”. That effectively ends any Ukrainian resistance, less than a month since Putin announced that Moscow claimed the right to intervene militarily on its neighbour’s territory.

Although Russian forces have not entered other parts of Ukraine, NATO says they have built up at the border. The Western military alliance also fears Putin may have designs on a part of another former Soviet republic, Moldova. Despite the disruption to East-West relations, Washington wants other diplomatic business with Moscow to continue.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is to hold talks later on Monday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, after meeting the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The OPCW is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s toxic stockpile in action sponsored jointly by Washington and Moscow. “All I can say is I hope the same motivations that drove Russia to be a partner in this effort will still exist,” Kerry said of the Syria disarmament programme.

Western governments are struggling to find a balance between putting pressure on Putin, protecting their own economies and avoiding triggering a vicious cycle of sanctions and reprisals. Rutte, who is making his residence available to Obama and the other G7 leaders for the talks on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, said the West might want to move slowly. “Russia has an economy that is highly focused on oil and gas,” Rutte told Reuters. “If it came to putting in place sanctions, that would hurt Russia considerably. So in my view we should do everything to prevent that.”

US officials say any further sanctions will need to be carefully calibrated to avoid bans on entire sectors, like oil or metals, that could reverberate through the global economy. Europe gets around one-third of its oil and gas from Russia.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an article on Saturday, however, that Britain and its allies should consider imposing lasting limitations on arms sales to Russia, following the “outrageous” annexation of Crimea.

Diplomats said it was unlikely any detailed decisions about sanctions would be taken at the G7 meeting, due to start at 6.30 pm, although the group is likely to send a message of support for Kiev, particularly for its economy. The G7 leaders could also decide the future of the G8 – essentially the same group with Russia added as a member in 1998. Leaders have already suspended preparations for a G8 summit hosted by Putin in Olympic host city Sochi in June.

A French diplomatic source said the leaders will “discuss how this group can or cannot continue to function”. There will certainly be a statement published at the end which will reflect the consensus on the evaluation of the situation and on how this group can respond to the situation created in Ukraine,” the source said, on condition of anonymity.

“The G8 is dead, though I don’t think anybody wants to say that…. the point that everybody will want to make is that we are all united,” said an EU diplomat.

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Tires of 34 cars punctured in East Jerusalem neighborhood


Suspected  price tag attack in Beit Hanina:  “Goyim in the country = enemies”  was also sprayed in Hebrew on a bus.


The tires of 34 vehicles in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina were punctured overnight Sunday, and the writing “Goyim in the country = enemies” was sprayed in Hebrew on a bus.

Police opened an investigation into the alleged “price tag” incident.

This is not the first time a “price tag” attack strikes the neighborhood. Last month, the tires of 21 vehicles were slashed. Police has yet to apprehend any perpetrators.

“We were surprised, this is a quiet area, there are good neighborly relations here,” Hossam, one of the residents in the neighborhood, said Monday morning. “We are turning into a second Abu Ghosh because of our great location that draws in Israelis on Saturdays who visit the restaurants. This is a quiet area and someone is trying to hurt the fabric of life here.”

Osama, a taxi driver who lives in the neighborhood said, “I got up at 6 am and saw my tires have been punctured. I’m now stuck in the neighborhood and don’t know what to do. This is the second time this happens. It’s the easiest thing to do it here, this is very annoying.”





As Syria lies dying, western media cries, “we must save Syria’s suffering children.” Indeed so, among Syria’s nine million internal and external refugees, some 450,000 are children.

All civil wars are bloody and cruel, but Syria’s strife has reached new extremes of violence and mass civilian suffering as the US and Saudi Arabia use this once beautiful, bountiful nation as a proxy battleground against Iran.

I extensively covered Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war; its ghastly memory still makes me shudder. In the 14 wars I’ve reported on, Lebanon holds top ranking for barbarity and sadism. One friend of mine, the owners of women’s boutiques, became a paramilitary Rambo and went from selling perfume to cutting off and collecting the ears of Muslims.

A similar madness has descendent on Syria as its many ethnic and religious groups tear one another’s throats. Syria’s 630,000 Palestinian refugees have suffered frightfully, caught between the warring parties.

But as we lament the plight of Syria’s refugees, let’s remember that this brutal war was begun by the Western Powers and Saudis, is financed by them, and could be stopped at anytime if Washington and Riyadh give the order.

In 2011, fighting erupted after demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians were fed up with the brutal, 40-year Assad dynastic dictatorship and domination by Assad’s Alawi minority.

Western intelligence used techniques developed in Georgia, Ukraine, Iran, Libya, Turkey (unsuccessfully) and Egypt to convert public anger into demonstrations. The Assad government’s typically heavy-handed response turned a local problem into spreading civil war.

Most of the uprising against Damascus began on the borders with Lebanon and Jordan, from where US, British, French and Saudi intelligence services organized, trained, and financed anti-Assad groups. Turkish intelligence, MIT, also fuelled the uprising in the north.

This writer strongly believes Western special forces armed with the latest anti-tank weapons covertly supported anti-government forces – just as in the western-organized overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Khadaffi.

France has long aspired to re-establishing some sort of French-led Levant protectorate over Lebanon and Syria. Curiously, France’s socialist are even more imperial-minded than its conservatives. French intelligence – formerly SDECE, today DGSE – plays a key role in supporting Lebanon’s anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah factions.

Interestingly, even Russia has never fully given up its 19th-century pretensions as defender of the Levant’s Christians. Moscow remains Syria’s most important ally.

Today, Syria is in ruins. It joins Afghanistan and Iraq who also defied the will of the United States, and paid the price. Three years into the war, the Assad government appears to be slowly winning the conflict, aided by Iran, Russia, and, to a modest degree, Hezbullah.

While Damascus gains military momentum, Syria’s western-backed rebel factions are rent by confusion and rivalries. They are unable to come up with representative leadership. Meanwhile, increasingly radical Islamists – perhaps 100,000 – have taken over much of the fighting. These wildmen are a loose cannon that frightens their Western patrons even more than Damascus. No one is able to control organize them.

Ironically, these jihadis should be enemies of the West while the secular Assad regime an ally. Hatred of Iran does funny things.

The United States showed its frustration with the war it began, but cannot win, by just breaking diplomatic relations with Syria, a low IQ act that is totally counter-productive and often indicates war is imminent.

More disturbingly, Israel launched another attack on Syria last week after one of its patrols likely hit an old landmine. Israel and its US supporters are determined to crush the Assad regimes as the first step in overthrowing Iran.

Given the failure of the anti-Assad rent-a-jihadis, Israel may soon intervene to destroy Assad’s air force and armored formations. Israel is getting ready to massively attack Hezbullah in Lebanon in yet another attempt to eradicate the Shia resistance movement.

The US almost openly entered Syria’s war last fall until Russia’s deft diplomacy pulled the rug out from beneath Washington’s feet. But powerful factions in the US are still urging air and naval attacks on Syria.

Ukraine and Crimea temporarily distracted the US. The cautious Obama administration seeks to avoid conflict, but America’s pro-Israel neocons and Republican hawks are pushing hard for war – and mid-term elections come this fall.

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 by Richard Falk


            It has always been my intention to make the tiny fragment of the blogosphere that I inhabit a site for civil discourse on a wide spectrum of concerns, issue oriented interpretations of what is transpiring in the world.

            Recently the comments sections has narrowed from this perspective into a dialogue between adversaries, several of whom seem preoccupied with, if not obsessed by, Israel, the Jewish experience, Zionism, and the Palestinian/Arab narrative and counter-narrative. Some of the contributions have been learned and sensitive to the reality that there are many diverse voices that need to be heard on this inflamed subject-matter, yet others have been intolerant, launched repeated personal attacks questioning motives and motivations, and have created a polemical aura at the site that has inhibited participation by those with other interests, concerns, and style.

            For these reasons, I have decided to have a moratorium on all comments relating to this subject-matter until May 1, 2014. I expect this might be troublesome for several faithful readers of my posts. Please bear with me, and understand this to be an effort to encourage more varied and less antagonistic exchanges. I am suspending this portion of the comments section at a moment that coincides with the ending of my six-year term as Special Rapporteur on Palestine for the UN Human Rights Commission. Let me add that I will continue to do my best to remain engaged in the struggle to find a just and sustainable peace for both peoples premised upon their equality.


Exclusive: Lib Dems go cold on candidate after ‘Jesus and Mo’ row




The Lib Dems are considering scaling back their fight for Maajid Nawaz to win the Hampstead and Kilburn seat after the row about his ‘Jesus and Mo’ tweet, I have been told.

This very marginal seat, which Labour’s Glenda Jackson holds with a majority of just 42, had been one of the Lib Dems’ key target seats. But a very well-placed senior source tells me that after the ‘Jesus and Mo’ row (which Nawaz had an extremely bad-tempered debate about with Mehdi Hasan and Mo Ansar on yesterday’s Newsnight), those involved in the party’s campaigns have privately concluded that the candidate has seriously damaged his chances of winning the seat and that ‘chucking the kitchen sink at it might not be worth the effort’.

The Lib Dems defended Nawaz when a petition calling for his deselection was set up. But they did emphasise the importance of candidates being sensitive to their constituents. They were also surprised to have come third in the seat in 2010, having expected to win it.

‘We’re all for defending his right to say what he did,’ my source says. ‘But Maajid should really have known better than to do what he did: it was deliberately provocative and he knew that while Hampstead has got lots of liberals in it, there would be people in his constituency who would be deeply offended by it.’

A party spokesman tells me that ‘there’s no change in the party’s support for Maajid in Hampstead and Kilburn’. He also points out that both Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown have publicly backed Nawaz in recent weeks, although that is quite different to concluding that Hampstead and Kilburn isn’t worth chucking the kitchen sink at.

UPDATE, 6pm: Another source with knowledge of the campaign gets in touch to tell me that ‘they see there is not enough impetus to get him over the line. Nobody is really sure if he wants to be an MP.’

UPDATE, 6.30pm: Paddy Ashdown rings to say that ‘the idea that money is being withdrawn from his seat at this moment because of this row over the cartoons is completely untrue’. I asked whether money or resources were being withdrawn for other reasons, and Lord Ashdown said they were not, adding: ‘The resources are constantly kept under review, there will be decisions that will be made according to how a seat is progressing.’ But he is adamant that there is no plan to withdraw any support. I stand by my sources on this.

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Maria Corina Machado Dismissed as Deputy of Venezuela’s National Assembly


Right-Wing Maria Corina Machado 

Santa Elena de Uairén, 25th March 2014 ( – On Monday Diosdado Cabello, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, announced that right-wing opposition leader Maria Corina Machado would no longer serve as an assembly deputy.

He cited articles 149 and 191 of the Venezuelan constitution, which indicate that public officials may not accept employment, special honors, or reimbursement from foreign governments without the authorization of parliament.

On Friday, during a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, Machado was offered Panama’s seat to testify on ongoing unrest in Venezuela.

Cabello insists that by accepting the seat and making declarations as a representative of the Panamanian government, Machado forfeited her right as assembly member.

He pointed to a document signed by the Panamanian ambassador designating Machado as an alternate representative of the republic, saying that the document is still valid and Machado has legally held the title since March 20th.

Earlier this month Venezuela severed diplomatic ties and froze economic relations with Panama, after Panama repeatedly urged the OAS to intervene in Venezuela “on the behalf of democracy”.

Machado is well-known as an outspoken leader of the far-right. In 2002, she signed the manifesto of a short-lived coup that temporarily ousted then president Hugo Chavez. When the coup was overthrown and Chavez returned to power, Machado claimed she had signed the decree by accident during a visit to the presidential palace on the day of the coup, thinking it was a sign-in sheet for guests.

In response to Cabello’s accusation, Machado tweeted that it was a misunderstanding, and that Panama had “accidentally appointed her to the position.”

Insisting she still had a legal right as house member, Machado said yesterday, “I know well my duties and my rights. To all Venezuelans I say I will continue fighting and working as a member of the National Assembly. To Mr. Cabello I say he should read the constitution. The chief of the assembly has no right to dismiss a member. A parliamentarian may only be dismissed by death, departure, a definitive criminal sentence or referendum, and that is not the case here.”

Incidentally, Machado has been under investigation since early last week for her role in recent violent protests.

Though pro-government legislators presented alleged evidence against her, Machado could not be charged. As a standing member of the National Assembly, she enjoyed legal immunity.

Yesterday the Minister of Penitentiary Services, Iris Varela, remarked that by accepting Panama’s offer, Machado lost the parliamentary immunity reserved for house members and may now be tried for the charges pending against her. Varela cited “crimes against the homeland” and “crimes against humanity” among those charges.

This is not the first time Machado has been under investigation. Before running as an assembly member, she was founding president of the right-wing political organization, Súmate. Súmate was on trial in 2005 and 2006 for using funds from the U.S. Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to allegedly promote civil unrest, and for receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from unknown donors without declaring the foreign deposits to the Commission of Currency Administration (CADIVI), respectively.

She has long been criticized by the Venezuelan government as being a tool for the U.S. agenda in Venezuela, most notably after meeting with George W. Bush in the Oval Office in 2005.

After yesterday’s events Machado tweeted from Peru that she planned to fly directly back to Venezuela to defend her parliamentary status. “We will fight until we win, she said. “The brutal regime of Nicolas Maduro believed that with this repression they would frighten us… they don’t know me.”

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Maria Corina Machado Dismissed as Deputy of Venezuela’s National Assembly

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