Archive | June 26th, 2014

“Were you in a hurry to heaven?” Mother of teen killed by Zio-Nazi sniper speaks

Submitted by Ali Abunimah

Monday was the fortieth day since an Israeli sniper fatally shot 17-year-old Nadim Siam Nuwara near Ofer military prison in Beitunia in the occupied West Bank.

This brutal end to a young life was caught on security cameras and by CNN, along with the fatal shooting of Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, 16, and the serious wounding of 15-year-oldMuhammad al-Azzeh. Human Rights Watch called the shootings an apparent war crime.”


Daniel Nuwara holds a portrait of his slain brother, Nadim.

Following Muslim tradition, a commemoration was held at which Nadim’s father and mother spoke. The video above is of his mother’s brief address. A translation is below:

Nadim, my son. You came into the world at seven months and you left the world at seventeen. A despair I do not know what to call. I am still in the depths of the silence that overcame us when I heard the news of your death. Your too quick departure made me cry. That despicable Israeli sniper did not let you tarry – that enemy of God, that enemy the prophets and of humanity.

You parted with the world as a martyr. Oh grief and anguish of time. Your departure – who can believe it? No one wants to believe your rapid departure. I feel that reality is not being truthful to me.

Just yesterday you filled our hearts with your soft words and gentle smile. And now all of this is absent. There lies nothing before me except to scream out that my heart has been torn to pieces. Your father’s grief shook the Earth despite his apparent calm. This manly grief shook my soul. But couldn’t you have waited a little bit, so I could speak to you or say goodbye? Were you in so much of a hurry? Or were you in a hurry to heaven?

And I say, blessed is He who possesses sovereignty and who created death. Oh Heavens wipe my tears and ease my pain. Nadim, the news of your death was like a lightening bolt at noon. It was like the sun set, the setting of your tender youth. You disappeared from before our eyes. I cannot stop crying, I miss you so much my son … The angels may be happy that you have left this world, but what comforts me is knowing that you are with the Most Merciful. We belong to God and to God we will return. Thank you.

Israel has held no one accountable for the shootings of Nadim Nuwara, Muhammad Abu al-Thahir and thousands of other Palestinians killed and maimed by occupation forces.

Siam Nuwara, Nadim’s father, recently launched a petition accompanied by his own moving message urging the US and EU not to grant visas to his son’s killers.

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Civil society takes the lead on Palestinian rights


The US and Europe are increasingly taking a backseat in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Yousef Munayyer
Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational programme, The Palestine Center. Prior to joining the Palestine Center, he served as a Policy Analyst for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab American membership organisation.

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel is growing [Reuters]
As the war in Syria rages on and as the security situation in Iraq deteriorates, threatening ever-widening conflict, many might look at the Israeli-Palestinian issue and see an island of relative calm amid a neighbourhood rife with war. But the notion that Israeli-Palestinian dynamics are static could not be further from the truth. In fact, we are witnessing the writing of a very important and transitional chapter in the history of the Palestinian struggle that will be a major departure from recent history and will ultimately shape the future of the people in the land and how others relate to them.Specifically, there are two important shifts taking place around this issue at the same time. Both, not coincidentally, overlap and support each other. The first is a shift between which actors are taking the global lead in addressing the matter.

This shift is one from states to civil society. For decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and specifically the Palestinian struggle, has been addressed by states or multi-state actors. Either the United States, the Arab states, the United Nations or some combination of those actors has taken the lead directly impacted the issue. Today, states are taking a step back.

Gaza residents testify about the effects Israel and Egypt's blockade of their land has had on their lives.

The US has long since assumed the role of “mediator” between Israel and Palestine. After 20 plus years of US-led negotiations, most recently culminating in a nine-month intensive effort led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the US has all but given up. Even if it has not officially thrown in the towel, the US has declared to all watching, through its actions (or lack thereof), the limits of its ability to press Israel into changing its destructive behaviour toward Palestinians.

Focus on humanitarian rights 

In the process, civil society has steadily increased its role as the efforts of state actors to create change have come up empty year after year. It is as part of this process that the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, came to be and continues to grow today. Most recently, 17 human rights advocacy organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, wrote to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas urging him to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring charges against Israel.

The list of civil society actions to bring pressure to bear on Israel is long and growing; from divestment votes at universities and churches, to grassroot campaigns targeting companies that profit from the human rights abuses of Palestinians.

The second shift is in the way desired goals are understood. As civil society pushes forward and as states recede, so too does the statist approach focused on partition. Civil society actors are far more inclined to focus on people and their rights rather than borders and the brokering of political power between factions or states.

This shift, from a partition focus to a rights-based focus, is changing the global discussion on Palestine and forcing it to question the reasons why Palestinian rights are denied. For Israel, the main culprit in Palestinian human rights abuse, this is a far more uncomfortable global conversation to hear.

As these shifts continue, one thing remains: the entrenchment of Israeli apartheid through settlement expansion and a wide range of laws that deny Palestinian rights. In the short term, it is unlikely that state-led efforts will restart in earnest. The Obama administration is bogged down and apathetic, and the US will soon enter its hyper-partisan election craze to determine a 2016 successor who, as history has shown, will likely be too timid to address this issue with any seriousness in their first term. Europe, taking its cues from the US, will largely sit on the sidelines. This means it will likely be at least six years before any renewed concerted state-level effort to address the issue takes place.

In the meantime, civil society will continue to fill the gap. Palestinian rights will continue to take centre stage in the discourse. Israel will grow further isolated, as both Israeli settlements and BDS victories pile up.

One way or another, the states will be back. They will have to be either compelled by events spiralling out of control or because the bottom-up activism of civil society has become impossible to ignore.

Whenever that moment comes, the conversation about what a just peace will look like on a map will be very different from where it was when the states receded. That is a very good thing, especially if it has human rights at the centre of it.

Until then, those looking to take action for justice in Palestine need not look to an address on Pennsylvania Avenue; rather, look in the mirror and ask how you and any institutions you are involved in can boycott, divest from, or sanction Israeli apartheid.

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Zombie Ideas and the Presbyterian Divestment Decision



At this moment it is right to celebrate unreservedly  the outcome of the vote in Presbyterian General Assembly decreeing the divestment of $21 million worth of shares in Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard, and Caterpillar, companies long and notoriously associated with implementing Israel’s unlawful occupation policies in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. This carries forward the momentum of the BDS Campaign and recent efforts emanating from the UN and the EU to induce governments, as well as corporations and financial institutions to become aware that it is increasingly viewed as problematic under international law to profit from dealings with Israel’s settlements and occupation security mechanisms.

It is much too soon to suggest a cascading effect from recent moves in this direction, but the mainstreaming of the divestment and boycott campaigns in a major achievement of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement that is displacing the moribund ‘peace process’ that in recent months dramatized the extent to which the Israeli Government is not interested in a favorable negotiated solution even as mediated by partisan U.S. mediation mechanisms and in relation to a weak Palestinian Authority that seems readier to offer concessions than to seek compromises that incorporate Palestinian rights under international law.

The Presbyterian decision, itself vetted by an elaborate debate and producing a text crafted to narrow the distance between supporters and opponents of divestment did not address issues of context such as Israel’s formal approval of settlement expansion, the Knesset election of a new Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin*, who favors the annexation of the entire West Bank and Jerusalem, and the collapsed negotiations between the parties prompted a year ago by the Kerry diplomatic onslaught. In this regard the Presbyterian decision includes language affirming Israel’s right to exist, encouraging inter-faith dialogue and visits to the Holy Land, distancing the divestment move from BDS, urging a ‘positive investment’ in activities that improves the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis, and endorsing the two-state solution should be understood mainly as expressions of intra-Presbyterian politics, and not be interpreted as serious substantive positions. Such an interpretation of what is significant and what is not about this outcome is reinforced by the reported feverish lobbying of pro-Israeli NGOs against the decision, including by the Anti-Defamation League and taking the form of an open letter to the Assembly signed by 1,700 rabbis from all 50 states that together constitute the United States. The most ardent backers of Israel may now pooh-pooh the decision, but this seems like sour grapes considering their all out effort made to avoid such a pro-divestment result, which is sure to have a variety of ripple effects.

  • Mr. Rivlin, a Likud Party member of the Knesset, is a follower of the rightest inspirational figure, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, an early Zionist leader who favored a Jewish state encompassing the whole of historic Palestine. At the same time Rivlin is a social and political liberal favoring equal rights for Jews and Palestinians, including giving Palestinians the vote and the chance to govern if they achieve electoral success. Netanyahu, also from Likud and a follower of Jabotinsky, has claimed since 2009 conditionally to support the establishment of some kind of Palestinian state, but acts as if this will never happen under his watch, and in the meantime is totally illiberal in his support for harsh rule in occupied Palestine.

Because it reflects false consciousness, it may not be too soon to challenge the Presbyterian text for its ‘endorsement’ of the two-state solution. It seems to me to illustrate what Paul Krugman in another context called ‘the Zombie doctrine,’ namely, the retention of an idea, thoroughly discredited by evidence and the realities of the situation, but somehow still affirmed because it serves useful political purposes. Here, it enables the church divestment move to be reconciled with signals that the Prsebyterian Church is not departing from the official consensus among Western governments and the Palestinian Authority as to how the conflict is to be finally resolved. What this overlooks is the utter disdain for such a solution that is evident in Israel’s recent behavior, as well as the situation created by a half million Israeli settlers and over 100 settlements.

Some suggest that the Palestinian Authority is equally responsible for the diplomatic breakdown because it acted like a state by signing on to some international conventions angering Israel and then establishing a technocratic interim government as part of a reconciliation agreement with Hamas that angered Israel even more. It seems clear enough that if Israel had been genuinely interested in a grand accommodation with the Palestinians it would welcome such moves as creating the political basis for a more sustainable peace. More significantly, these moves by the PA followed upon overtly provocative announcements by Israeli official sources about approving plans for major settlement expansions and were overtly linked to Israel’s failure to follow through with agreed arrangements for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Despite Kerry’s cajoling and pleading with the Israeli leadership to keep the diplomatic path open, Israel defied Washington. In this political atmosphere, to retain any credibility among the Palestinians, the PA also had to act as if there was nothing to be gained by keeping the negotiations on life support.

With all due respect to the Presbyterian drafters of the text, it is not helpful to Palestinians, Israelis, and even Americans to lengthen the half-life of the two-state solution. Zombie ideas block constructive thought and action. Israeli right-wing advocate of an Israeli one-state solution are coming out of the closet in a manner that expresses their new hopes for their preferred solution. Those who favor a just and sustainable peace should abandon the pretension that separate states are any longer feasible, if ever desirable. It has become important to derail two-state discourse, which is at best now diversionary. The only futures worth pondering under current conditions is whether there will emerge from the ruins of the present either a political community of the two peoples that becomes an Israeli governed apartheid state or somehow there arises a secular and democratic bi-national state with human rights for all ethnicities and religious identities each protected on the basis of equality. 

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Doing Business with I$raHell: Increasingly Problematic



[Note: Published below is a letter prepared by the European Coordination of Committee and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) and endorsed by John Dugard, Michael Mansfield, Eric David, and myself; it urges adherence to guidelines relating to corporate and financial activity with unlawful economic activities in Israel and occupied Palestine, and is guided by principles similar to the BDS campaign; it is notable that today the Presbyterian Church by a close vote (310-303) voted to divest itself of shares in three corporations engaged in legally and morally objectionable activities in Israel. There is a growing momentum associated with this new nonviolent militancy associated with the global solidarity movement supportive of the Palestinian struggle to gain a just peace, including realization of rights under international law.]

European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)

On 24-26 June, 37 European companies from 11 EU Member States will travel to Israel as a part of an EU led “Mission for growth” project that aims to “promote partnerships between Israeli and European companies 
active in sectors identified as leading and developing industries in Israel.” Among Israeli companies participating in the “Mission for growth” are those deeply complicit in Israel’s occupation and apartheid policy.

The previous delegation of “Mission for growth” took place on 22-23 October last year in Israel, where 97 european companies from 23 EU Member States meet with 215 Israeli companies from the different industrial sectors.

In this open letter supported by Richard FalkJohn DugardMichael Mansfield and Eric David, ECCP member organisations call on the European companies to abandon their plans to be involved in the project.

Letter to the participants of EU led “Mission for growth”:

We, the undersigned members of ECCP – the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) – a leading network of 47 organisations, NGO’s, unions and human rights organisations from 21 European countries are writing to you about your company’s participation in the recent EU-led mission to Israel named “Mission for growth” with the stated purpose of forging business ties with Israeli companies.

We are writing to make you aware about the legal, economic and reputational consequences to your business if these deals go ahead.

According to the Israeli research center, WhoProfits, Israeli participants in “Mission for growth” programme directly contribute to and are complicit in acts that are illegal under international law. For example Elbit Systems, an Israeli military company is involved in the ongoing construction of Israel’s Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.(see Annex) Recognizing these grave violations in 2009, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund divested from Elbit Systems.1

We would like to remind you that business involvement in Israel contains legal implications. According to international law as applied in the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Israel’s wall and settlements, third party states are violating their own obligations to not recognize nor render aid or assistance to these serious Israeli violations by allowing financial and economic activity with complicit entities. Since last year, the government of the Netherlands have taken the proactive step to warn companies domiciled in its territory of the legal implications of ties with Israeli companies with activities in the occupied territories. As a result, Vitens, the Netherlands’ largest water supplier, broke an agreement with Mekorot, Israel’s public water company, due to its role in plundering water from Palestinian aquifers in the West Bank.2 PGGM, the largest Dutch pension fund followed suit and divested from all Israeli banks due to “their involvement in financing Israeli settlements.”3

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, supported by the EU and adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, explain that businesses must respect human rights and international humanitarian law. The Principles also urge states to withdraw support and not procure services from companies that persistently violate human rights.4

In September 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a report on corporate complicity related to the illegal Israeli settlements by Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The report urges states to take steps to hold businesses accountable for their participation in Israeli violations of international law and to take steps to end business involvement in illegal Israeli settlements5

In March 2013, UN Human Rights Council adopted the report of the Independent Fact Finding Mission on the Israeli settlements. The Fact Finding Mission affirmed that involvement in settlement activities falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC and may result in criminal responsibility.

Almost all Israeli companies are deeply complicit, directly or indirectly, in the oppression of Palestinians including its IT sector by drawing expertise from Israel’s military complex and Israel’s manufacturing companies, some based in settlements, with distribution outlets in settlements, helping to sustain them.

By participating in the project and cooperating with Israeli companies involved in illegal Israeli settlements and military industry your company would be making a political decision to become deeply complicit with Israel’s violations of international law and Israel’s oppression of Palestinian rights.

As such, your company would become a legitimate target for popular boycotts, divestments, protests and sustained campaigns to penalize your involvement and causing you economic losses similar to the loses already inflicted on French-company Veolia for its involvement in the settlement enterprise and British security company G4S6. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, from which we draw our strength, has been growing at the global level since its launch in 2005 of which the Economist magazine says it “is turning mainstream.”7

The BDS movement has consistently targeted complicit Israeli and international corporations — involved in Israel’s occupation, settlements and other international law infringements — such as SodaStream, G4S, Ahava, Mekorot, Elbit, Veolia, Caterpillar, Africa Israel, all Israeli banks, among others, with significant success and enormous reputational risks8.

We will therefore monitor your company for business ties with Israel and urge you to abandon potential plans to cooperate with Israeli companies violating international law and human rights.

Sincerely ,

European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)

Endorsed by:

Richard Falk -UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for Palestine, 2008-2014 and Milbank Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University

John Dugard – Professor Emeritus, University of Leiden, Former UN Special rapporteur on the situation of Human rights in the occupied palestinian Territory

Michael Mansfield – Professor of Law, President of the Haldane Society and Amicus; practising Human Rights lawyer for 45 years

Eric David – Law Professor, Free University of Brussels



Israeli participants in “Mission for growth” project violating human rights and international law

– Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories – a private Israeli cosmetics corporation which operates from the occupied West Bank. Ahava is the only company which sells Dead Sea cosmetics and islocated in the occupied area of the Dead Sea. The Ahava factory and visitors’ center is located in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement, on the shore of the Dead Sea in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley and a large percentage of Ahava shares are held by two Israeli West Bank settlements.9

– Afcon Holdings– The group engages in the design, manufacture, integration and marketing of electro-mechanical and control systems. A subsidiary of the group – Afcon Control and Automation has supplied CEIA metal detectors to Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories; such as the Hebron Machpela Cave Checkpoint, the Beit Iba checkpoint and the Erez Terminal in Gaza, as well as checkpoints in the occupied Jordan Valley. Additionally, in 2009 the Afcon has supplied services to the Jerusalem light train project, which connects the settlement neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem with the city center. The company also supplies services to the Israeli Army, Israeli prison service and the Israeli police.10

– El-Go Team – Provider of security gates. Vehicle gates and turnstiles of the company are installed at Qalandia, Huwwara and Beit Iba checkpoints restricting the occupied Palestinian population movement in the occupied territory.11

 Elbit Vision Systems – the company manufactured electronic surveillance systems (LORROS cameras) to the separation wall project in the Ariel section. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems.12

– Gila satellite network– Provider of satellite communication services. Antennas of the company are installed in checkpoints across the West Bank: Azzun Atma, Beit Iba and Anata – Shu’afat refugee camp. The company has also provided the Israeli Army with the VAST (very small aperture terminal) satellite communications system. Several satellite dishes were installed on armoured personnel carriers.13

 Netafim – A global private company of irrigation technology, which also provides services and training to farmers and agriculture companies around the world. The company provides irrigation technologies and services to the settlements’ regional council of Mount Hebron and the settlement of Maskiut. The company’s employees volunteered in the Israeli army’s combat unit Oketz. The company employs 4000 employees, owns 16 manufacturing factories in 11 states and over 27 subsidiaries and representatives in over 110 countries.

– LDD Tech – provides services to gas stations in settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.















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I$raHell-Palestine: Beyond The Liberal Imaginary



Prefatory Note: What follows is a letter to the NY Times responding to their editorial of June 6, 2014, which was not accepted for publication. I publish it here as a post because I believe it identifies some of the continuing ways in which public opinion on the relationship between Israel and Palestine continues to be distorted on Israel’s behalf in American media sources that have the undeserved reputation of being objective and trustworthy. The New York Times has long ranked high on this list, if not at its top!

This letter is particularly concerned with the misleading characterizations of Hamas, and the failure to pass judgment on the Netanyahu leadership as ‘extremist.’ Israeli security forces were guilty of extreme abuse of Hamas supporters in the aftermath of the June 2014 abduction of three settler teenagers in the vicinity of Hebron.


To the Editor:

            Re “Israeli-Palestinian Collision Course” (editorial, June 6, text reproduced below):

            You are correct that this is an opportune time to take account of Israel-Palestine peace prospects in light of failed direct negotiations and subsequent developments. It is misleading, however, to equate Israel’s accelerated expansion of settlements with the formation of the Fatah-Hamas unity government. Israeli action continues a pattern of flagrant violation of the 4th Geneva Convention while the Palestinian action is a constructive move that could finally make diplomacy on behalf of all Palestinians legitimate and effective.

            Even more regrettable is the editorial treatment of Hamas as “a violent, extremist organization committed to Israel’s destruction” and responsible for the violence on the border because “militants regularly fire rockets into Israel; in 2012 Hamas fought an eight-day war with Israel.” This kind of unqualified language distorts the realities of the last several years, and irresponsibly blocks any path to peace.

            It is prudent to be wary of Hamas, but not without some recognition that the situation is more nuanced. It is worth remembering that it was the United States that urged Hamas to compete politically in the 2006 elections, and when it unexpectedly won, reverted immediately to treating Hamas as a terrorist organization. Its administration of Gaza since 2007 has been orderly, despite intense difficulties caused by the Israeli blockade, an illegal form of collective punishment. During this period Israel itself negotiated several ceasefire arrangements with Hamas, relying on the good offices of Egypt, that reduced violence almost to zero; these ceasefires were broken by Israel. Let us recall that the Israeli attack on Gaza in November 2012 was initiated by the targeted assassination of Ahmed Jaberi, who was at that moment in the process of delivering a truce agreement to an Israeli interlocutor and had been the Hamas official leading the effort to suppress non-Hamas militias operating in Gaza that were firing many of the rockets into Israeli territory.

            In every conflict of this kind, when the dominant side is interested in peace it signals such an intention by abandoning its earlier refusal to deal with ‘terrorists’ and accepts its adversary as a political actor with genuine grievances and goals. This was true in Ireland in relation to the IRA, and indeed earlier when Israel decided to talk with Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was true also in South Africa when the apartheid government released Nelson Mandela, whom we should remember was at the time a convicted and imprisoned terrorist leader.

            It is not necessary to overlook Hamas’ past, but to move forward it would certainly be more responsible to take account of its leaders recent statements that call for long-term coexistence with Israel within its 1967 borders, up to 50 years rather than repeating sterile condemnations. Surely there are better diplomatic alternatives than for both sides to engage in the demonization of their opponent.


Richard Falk

June 9, 2014

The author served as UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Occupied Palestine on behalf of the Human Rights Council, 2008-1014

Israeli-Palestinian Collision Course


The recent collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has sharpened tensions and put the two sides on a collision course. The feuding Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, formed a government this week, prompting Israel to retaliate with plans for hundreds of new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians threatened unspecified countermeasures. It is clearly time for all sides to think hard about where this is headed.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has condemned the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, at one point accusing the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of saying “yes to terrorism and no to peace” and insisting that Israel will never negotiate with a government backed by Hamas.

Mr. Netanyahu is correct that Hamas, the Iran-backed group that took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, is a violent, extremist organization committed to Israel’s destruction. Gaza militants regularly fire rockets into Israel; in 2012, Hamas fought an eight-day war with Israel.

It is also true that Fatah has renounced violence, recognized Israel and cooperated for years in administering the West Bank through the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas has promised that the new government will abide by those principles, set out in 2006 by the United States and other major powers. To make it more palatable to Israel and the West, the new government, which is supposed to organize elections within six months, is composed of technocrats not affiliated with Hamas or other partisans.

Mr. Netanyahu has scoffed at that distinction — and some skepticism is warranted. While Hamas cannot simply be wished away, the United States and other countries that consider Hamas a terrorist group may find it impossible to continue aiding the Palestinians if Hamas plays a more pronounced role.

The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is risky for Fatah, but Mr. Abbas apparently felt he had nothing to lose. Nine months of American-mediated peace talks with Israel produced no progress. Nearing retirement, at age 79, he saw value in trying to reunite the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after seven years of bitter division.

This is a long shot, since previous reconciliation efforts have quickly collapsed, and there are the inescapable facts of Hamas’s hatred of Israel and its heavily armed militia. Given that Mr. Abbas’s call for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza within six months could bring Hamas to power, this new government could also be Mr. Abbas’s way to make trouble for Mr. Netanyahu.

Israel’s position is not so clear-cut. Even as Mr. Netanyahu demanded that the United States cut off aid to the new government, Israel continued to send tax remittances to the Palestinian Authority. And Mr. Netanyahu is not above negotiating with Hamas himself. In 2011, he traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas for five years. In 2012, working through the United States and Egypt, he negotiated a cease-firewith Hamas that ended a brief war.

Mr. Netanyahu’s failure to persuade the international community not to recognize the new government reflects a growing breach between Israel and its most important allies. On Monday, the United States announced plans to work with and fund the unity government; it typically gives the Palestinians about $500 million annually. The European Union, another major donor, and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, also declared their support. China, India and Russia welcomed the unity government, despite Israel’s efforts to build closer ties with all three.

Many experts say that if there is ever to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, admittedly a distant dream at this point, the Palestinians must be united. But the United States has to be careful to somehow distinguish between its support for the new government and an endorsement of Hamas and its violent, hateful behavior. To have some hope of doing that, the United States and Europe must continue to insist that Mr. Abbas stick to his promises and not allow Hamas to get the upper hand.


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Seafood, not slave food


Sign the petition

Migrant workers are being enslaved in grim and violent conditions to produce many of the prawns on our supermarket shelves. But just as people across Britain rallied to ban the slave trade 200 years ago, we can get our biggest retailer to crack down on these abuses

Recent investigations by the Environmental Justice Foundation and The Guardian have shown serious human rights abuses including trafficking, slavery and murder in the Thai seafood industry. One migrant fisher saw a fellow crew member being murdered, reporting: “The other captains came and pinned him down. They tied his hands and legs to four boats, and they pulled him apart.”

Thailand is a major supplier of prawns to the UK, and Tesco is one of the biggest companies that buys from a massive Thai company linked to this slavery. Tesco’s Annual General Meeting is tomorrow, and if enough of us call on them now, they can lead the way to stop the seafood slavery. They say they use their scale for good and that meeting customer needs is a priority. So let’s ask them to stop buying Thai prawns until they’ve finished rigorous, independent audits of their full supply chain.

We have to move fast, while this news story is fresh. Click below to sign now, then share this with everyone, so we can make it massive before we deliver it to Tesco’s CEO Philip Clarke in front of their shareholders and the watching media at their big meeting.

With hope and determination,

Lisa, Alex, Ari, Moj, Luis and the whole Avaaz team – with the Environmental Justice Foundation

PS: This petition was started on Avaaz’s Community Petitions Site. It’s quick and easy to start a petition on any issue you care about, click here: 


Sold to the sea: Human Trafficking in Thailand’s Fishing Industry (Environmental Justice Foundation)

Trafficked into slavery on Thai trawlers to catch food for prawns (The Guardian) 

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CJPME Urges Canada to Stop Dithering and Let Syrian Refugees In



Following suggestions in Canadian media that Canada is reneging on its promise to resettle Syrian refugees, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) urges the government to step up. CJPME—a grassroots citizens’ group—strongly urges the government to open its doors to some of the 2.4 million Syrians displaced by the internal armed conflict, now in its third year. “The government must stop dithering. It is grossly unfair that the government is keeping Canada’s doors barred, leaving countries far less stable and less affluent to cope with the Syrian refugee crisis,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. CJPME believes Canada should aim to resettle at least 5,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014, and commit to multi-year resettlement targets. Although the Harper government announced last year that Canada would take 1300 Syrian refugees, media reports indicate so far virtually none have been accepted and resettled.

CJPME believes Canada should aim to resettle at least 5,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014, and commit to multi-year resettlement targets.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has issued an appeal asking governments around the world to resettle 100,000 refugees. CJPME believes Canada should fast-track Syrian refugee applications both overseas and in Canada, institute a policy of “no deportation” of Syrians in Canada and relax the criteria for “independent” and “family class” immigration applications. Canada should also allow Syrians currently in Canada to file refugee applications without having to leave Canada. CJPME also urges the government to allocate sufficient resources and personnel to deal expeditiously with the volume of applicants, and to allow refugee claimants to file their applications at any Canadian visa office, including that in Beirut. These are all steps which have been taken in the past by Canada during previous periods of overseas refugee crises.

CJPME also calls on the government to provide equal treatment for Palestinian refugees normally resident in Syria who have been displaced by the Syrian war, noting their particular vulnerability.

The Syrian conflict is now in its third year, and shows no sign of nearing resolution. Canada, as a leading OECD country, must do its share not only to alleviate the refugee crisis but to work for an end to the Syrian civil war. CJPME urges the Canadian government to do its utmost to work with multilateral organizations to provide humanitarian relief to the refugees and to Syrians internally displaced by the conflict and to foster a non-military and inclusive resolution of the Syrian conflict.

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ACTION: No More U.S. Militarism in Iraq




CCR stands against further military action in Iraq, in solidarity with our partners and allies in Iraq and the U.S.

Call the White House today, at (202) 456-1111, and tell the Obama administration to resist calls for military intervention and focus on diplomacy.

Yesterday CCR released the statement below and, along with our partners in theRight to Heal Initiative, sent a letter to the State Department.

The two catastrophic decades of U.S. military action in Iraq should put to rest any delusion that further U.S. military involvement of any kind can foster a lasting resolution to the current crisis. Any plan for security and reconciliation in Iraq must begin by bolstering the voices of the millions of Iraqi civilians who have been caught between brutal abuses by ISIS and other fundamentalist forces and the U.S.-backed government alike.

A strong civil society exists in Iraq despite enormous odds, and there is sustained opposition to the sectarian political system at the heart of this crisis and formally entrenched under the U.S. occupation. With the support of the U.S. government, Prime Minister Maliki further institutionalized violent discrimination and escalated sectarianism. Heeding calls for U.S. military action does not address the underlying political problem, but it could bring further disaster for civilians already reeling from the devastating effects of his policies and the decade-long U.S. military intervention and occupation.

The U.S. should be making reparations to rebuild the country and address the health and environmental crisis and decimation of Iraq’s infrastructure brought on by the previous administration’s illegal war. The U.S. government, which has been bombing Iraq since 1991, is in no small part responsible for what is happening today.  Further violence against the Iraqi people would be just as illegal and just as devastating, whether it involved airstrikes, the deployment of troops, or the expansion of an unlawful drone killing program.

Thank you for taking action on this urgent issue.

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Pro-Diplomacy Groups Call for Congress to Clarify Iran Sanctions Letter


National Iranian American Council (NIAC)


Twenty-six organizations called on the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee today to clarify a pending Congressional sign-on letter to the President concerning nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The U.S., along with UN powers, are in what may be the final stage of negotiations with Iran to secure a deal to verifiably prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting nuclear-related sanctions.

The organizations expressed their concern that the Congressional letter could be read to imply that, unless a prospective nuclear agreement with Iran addresses additional concerns beyond the nuclear issue, Congress would refuse to lift nuclear-related sanctions.

The organizations urged the letter’s sponsors, Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), to clarify that their letter is not intended to imply that Congress would scuttle a nuclear deal by refusing to implement necessary sanctions relief.

“The notion that Congress would choose to keep sanctions in place rather than secure an agreement that prevents an Iranian nuclear weapon is alarming,” the groups wrote.

The organizations, which included the National Iranian American Council, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Win Without War,, CREDO and Americans for Peace Now, noted that they agreed with elements of the letter. The groups wrote that the White House and Congress should consult closely regarding the nuclear negotiations and that they agreed that the lifting of sanctions would likely require an act of Congress.

However, as nuclear negotiations intensify with Iran in the coming weeks, the organizations strongly cautioned against inserting demands beyond the nuclear file into those talks.

“Demanding that non-nuclear issues be added to the nuclear negotiations at this time will only ensure that we get no deal and face the prospect of an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program or a disastrous war opposed by the American people.”

The full letter is below, a PDF is available here.

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Reviving the ‘Successful Surge in Iraq’ Myth


The military offensive by Sunni extremists driving into the heart of Iraq has brought the neocons out of the shadows to blame President Obama, by arguing that they had “won” the war before Obama “lost” it, a deeply engrained false narrative of Official Washington

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been among the loudest backers of the myth that a military “surge” was a success in Iraq. (Photo: Facebook / public domain)A beloved myth of Official Washington – especially among Republicans, neocons and other supporters of the Iraq War – is the fable of the “successful surge,” how President George W. Bush’s heroic escalation of 30,000 troops in 2007 supposedly “won” that war; it then follows that the current Iraq disaster must be President Barack Obama’s fault.

The appeal of this myth should be obvious. Nearly every “important” person in the U.S. foreign policy establishment and the mainstream media endorsed the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 — and such well-placed and well-paid people do not like to admit that their judgment was so bad that they should be disqualified from holding any responsible position forever.

Further, since almost no one who promoted this criminal and bloody enterprise was held accountable after Mission Accomplished wasn’t, these opinion leaders were still around in 2007 at the time of the “surge” and thus in a position to cite any positive trends as proof of “success.” Many are still around voicing their august opinions – the likes of Sen. John McCain, former Vice President Dick Cheney and neocon theorist Robert Kagan – so they still get to tell the rest of us how really great their judgment was.

On Wednesday, McCain fulminated from the Senate floor, accusing Obama of squandering the  “surge,” the success of which he deemed a “fact.” Cheney – along with his daughter Liz – accused the President of “securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.”

Kagan, who pushed for an invasion of Iraq as early as 1998, attacked Obama for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq — and not committing the U.S. military to the civil war in Syria. Kagan told the New York Times: “It’s striking how two policies driven by the same desire to avoid the use of military power are now converging to create this burgeoning disaster” in Iraq.

But the core of the neocon narrative is that the 2007 “surge” essentially “won” the war in Iraq and that an open-ended U.S. military occupation of Iraq would have kept a lid on the sectarian violence that has periodically ripped the country apart since Bush’s invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003.

There is much wrong about this narrative, including that it was Bush who signed the timeline for total U.S. withdrawal in 2008 and that the Iraqi government insisted that U.S. troops depart under that schedule at the end of 2011. But the greatest fallacy is to pretend that it was Bush’s “surge” that achieved the temporary lull in the sectarian violence and that it achieved its principal goal of resolving the Sunni-Shiite divisions.

Any serious analysis of what happened in Iraq in 2007-08 would trace the decline in Iraqi sectarian violence mostly to strategies that predated the “surge” and were implemented by the U.S. commanding generals in 2006, George Casey and John Abizaid, who wanted as small a U.S. “footprint” as possible to tamp down Iraqi nationalism.

Among their initiatives, Casey and Abizaid ran a highly classified operation to eliminate key al-Qaeda leaders, most notably the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2006. Casey and Abizaid also exploited growing Sunni animosities toward al-Qaeda extremists by paying off Sunni militants to join the so-called “Awakening” in Anbar Province, also in 2006.

And, as the Sunni-Shiite sectarian killings reached horrendous levels that year, the U.S. military assisted in the de facto ethnic cleansing of mixed neighborhoods by helping Sunnis and Shiites move into separate enclaves – protected by concrete barriers – thus making the targeting of ethnic enemies more difficult. In other words, the flames of sectarian violence were likely to have abated whether Bush ordered the “surge” or not.

Radical Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr also helped by issuing a unilateral cease-fire, reportedly at the urging of his patrons in Iran who were interested in cooling down regional tensions and speeding up the U.S. withdrawal. By 2008, another factor in the declining violence was the growing awareness among Iraqis that the U.S. military’s occupation indeed was coming to an end. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was demanding a firm timetable for American withdrawal from Bush, who finally capitulated.

Woodward’s Analysis

Even author Bob Woodward, who had published best-sellers that praised Bush’s early war judgments, concluded that the “surge” was only one factor and possibly not even a major one in the declining violence.

In his book, The War Within, Woodward wrote, “In Washington, conventional wisdom translated these events into a simple view: The surge had worked. But the full story was more complicated. At least three other factors were as important as, or even more important than, the surge.”

Woodward, whose book drew heavily from Pentagon insiders, listed the Sunni rejection of al-Qaeda extremists in Anbar Province and the surprise decision of al-Sadr to order a cease-fire as two important factors. A third factor, which Woodward argued may have been the most significant, was the use of new highly classified U.S. intelligence tactics that allowed for rapid targeting and killing of insurgent leaders. In other words, key factors in the drop in violence had nothing to do with the “surge.”

And, beyond the dubious impact of the “surge” on the gradual reduction in violence, Bush’s escalation failed to achieve its other stated goals, particularly creating political space so the Sunni-Shiite divisions over issues like oil profits could be resolved. Despite the sacrifice of additional American and Iraqi blood, those compromises did not materialize.

Plus, if you’re wondering what the “surge” and its loosened rules of engagement meant for Iraqis, you should watch the WikiLeaks’ Collateral Murder video, which depicts a scene during the “surge” when U.S. firepower mowed down a group of Iraqi men, including two Reuters journalists, as they walked down a street in Baghdad. The U.S. attack helicopters then killed a father and wounded his two children when the man stopped his van in an effort to take survivors to the hospital.

However, in 2008, the still-influential neocons saw an opportunity to rehabilitate their bloody reputations when the numbers of Iraq War casualties declined. The neocons credited themselves and the “successful surge” with the improvement.

As the neocons pushed this “successful surge” myth, they were aided by the mainstream news media, which also had promoted the ill-fated war and was looking for a way to bolster its standing with the public. Typical of this new conventional wisdom, Newsweek published a cover story on the “surge” under the title, “victory at last.” To say otherwise brought you harsh criticism for not giving credit to “the troops.”

The Myth’s Consequences

Thus, the myth grew that Bush’s “surge” had brought Iraqi violence under control and the United States to the brink of “victory.” Gen. David Petraeus, who took command of Iraq after Bush yanked Casey and Abizaid, was elevated into hero status as a military genius.

Also, Defense Secretary Robert Gates received the encomium of “wise man” for implementing the “surge” after Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld in November 2006 for standing behind his field generals and suggesting a faster U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq. (At the time, many Democrats, including then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, misinterpreted Rumsfeld’s dismissal and Gates’s hiring as a sign that Bush would wind down the war when it actually signaled his plan to escalate it.)

With the “successful surge” conventional wisdom firmly established in 2008, media stars pounded Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama for his heresy in doubting the “surge.” In major televised interviews, CBS News’ Katie Couric and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos demanded that Obama admit he was wrong to oppose the “surge” and that his Republican rival, Sen. McCain, was right to support it.

For weeks, Obama held firm, insisting correctly that the issue was more complicated than his interviewers wanted to admit. He argued that there were many factors behind Iraq’s changed security environment. But ultimately he caved in while being interrogated on Sept. 4, 2008, by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

“I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,” Obama confessed to O’Reilly. “It’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

Obama apparently judged that continued resistance to this Washington “group think” was futile. Candidate Obama’s surrender on the “successful surge” myth also was the first sign of his tendency to cave in when faced with a misguided Washington consensus.

His capitulation had other long-term consequences. For one, it gave Gen. Petraeus and Defense Secretary Gates inflated reputations inside Official Washington and greater leverage in 2009 (along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) to force President Obama into accepting a similar “surge” in Afghanistan, what some analysts view as Obama’s biggest national security blunder. [For details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

The Iraq War’s “surge” also did nothing to change the trajectory of what amounted to a major American national security failure. Perhaps the only real accomplishment of the “surge” was to let President Bush and Vice President Cheney enjoy a “decent interval” between their departure from government in early 2009 and the unceremonious U.S. departure from Iraq in late 2011. That “decent interval” was purchased with the lives of about 1,000 U.S. soldiers and countless thousands of Iraqis.

In the final accounting of the neocon adventure of conquering Iraq, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had died; some 30,000 were wounded; and an estimated $1 trillion was squandered. What was ultimately left behind was not only a devastated Iraqi nation but an authoritarian Shiite government (in place of Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian Sunni government) and an Iraq that had become a regional ally of Iran (rather than a bulwark against Iran).

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