Archive | December 20th, 2010




Brooklyn-Jenin: Why didn’t the judges prevent the demolition in Lod?

Dec 19, 2010

Udi Aloni


As fifty children lose their homes under the auspices of the Supreme Court the question should be asked: Does the Supreme Court act in the service of a racist ideology in the spirit of Rabbi Eliyahu and his cohorts?

One morning, when the storm started shaking the treetops and the dogs howled in terror because of the thunders and the flashes of lightning, fifty children of different ages went out to school in the city of Lod, Israel. During the day most of them worked diligently on their studies, hoping the storm would abate so they could go back safely to the home where they were born and raised. To the sound of the bell announcing the end of the day they all set off running back home. The tempest intensified, and with it the will to find oneself in the warmth of one’s home; in the warmth of the seven homes of their extended family – the Abu Eid family.

A student returns to a destroyed home in Lod. (Photo:

But when they got home, the home was utterly destroyed. Fifty children stood shocked in front of their seven demolished homes, the uprooted palm tree and the water bursting out of the broken pipe; they stood frozen in front of the offhandedly thrown out furniture and the cries of their mothers facing the destructive power all by themselves. And who is it that had destroyed their home? It was not the tempest that wrecked the homes of the fifty children, nor was it the conflagration of forest fires; the culprits were demolition contractors of the Judeo-democratic State of Israel, backed by the Judeo-democratic Supreme Court, who utterly destroyed the children’s homes, accompanied by the gloating looks on the faces of their Jewish neighbors.

Could it be that the Court did not consider the welfare of the children, citizens of the state, only because of their Palestinian ethnicity? Now that the slogan for the Judaization of Lod is back, may we suspect the Supreme Court of once again taking an active part in the crimes of racism and in the renewing of the Nakba?

When hip hop band DAM’s Suhell Nafar and I arrived, everything was already in ruins: heaps of rubble in the heart of the neighborhood for all to see and beware. Suhell photographed the ruins. I wiped a tear. But rage is in order here, not pity. We must be strong and think of ways to struggle. Meanwhile, a protest tent and a shelter for the families have been set up nearby. The demolishers did not leave a house or two for the families to take refuge in, nor did they wait for the spring in order to alleviate the suffering. It seems they wanted the destruction to be as painful and humiliating as possible.

Thinking about Transfer

There are many forces in the Israeli politics which hope the Palestinians in Israel will rebel, and so in due course it should be possible to expel them from the country. They say they do not seek a final solution, as they oppose genocide; they are not barbarians. They only want to make sure the Arabs don’t multiply like rabbits on Israel’s holy land. That’s why there are loyalty laws; that’s why there is constant encroachment upon their living space; that’s why more and more actions that distance the Arab citizens of Israel from the state are taking place.

Destroying a home is a cruel action in any context, but it’s even crueler when it serves to emphasize who is allowed to stay in their home even without permission and who isn’t. The Supreme Court is aware of the neighboring Jewish neighborhood, Ganei Aviv, which was approved retrospectively. The Supreme Court is aware of the fact that for the Jewish neighborhood a bridge was built over the railroad tracks so that Jewish children would not be run over, while for the Arabs the railroad was laid inside the neighborhood without a single bridge. The Supreme Court is aware of the neighborhoods which are being built for the religious settlers in Lod instead of a luxurious neighborhood for these Arabs whose land the state covets.

The Supreme Court knows that in the mixed cities of Jaffa, Acre and Lod cruel creeping deprivation of Israeli citizens of Palestinian ethnicity of what is theirs is taking place.

The Court knows and collaborates. With my own eyes I saw Her Honor Dorit Beinisch de facto and retrospectively approving a blatantly illegal new settler neighborhood situated on the robbed land of Bil’in. One cannot but wonder why she won’t retroactively approve a neighborhood of Palestinians in Lod, where they’ve been living for decades.

I accuse the Supreme Court of the State of Israel of being a loyal servant of a racist ideology which does not differ much from the racism of the rabbis who have signed the manifesto of the Israeli Nuremberg Laws. Like the court in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, which bends the civil law in favor of the Christian ruler in order to harm Shylock the Jew, the Supreme Court in our reality has become a verbal whitewashing machine for occupation and plundering on a nationalist basis.

Does Judge Beinisch really believe that there is a fundamental difference between expulsion under the guise of democracy and expulsion under the guise of theocracy? Is there a difference between the Jewish National Fund, which forbids leasing lands to Arabs on nationalist grounds, and the fascist rabbi Eliyahu of Safed, who forbids it on religious grounds? For the Palestinian, they are both parts of the same well-oiled machine, which advances his banishment from the public space and preserves him as a stranger in his homeland.

Memories from Shakespeare

A month ago I saw Al Pacino playing the role of his life as Shylock on Broadway. Having deprived him of all his possessions, the enlightened people of Venice forced him to be baptized Christian. The director had added a shocking scene, which does not appear in Shakespeare’s play. In the scene we see the people of Venice baptizing the defeated Shylock. Al Pacino comes out of his baptism wet and humiliated, bent and helpless before the “mighty and merciful” ruler who had spared his life having taken his home, his faith and his dignity.

Despondently, Shylock picks up his fallen skullcap from the floor, puts it back on his head, and stares at the complacent people of Venice. The stare begins despondent and defeated, but it strengthens and sharpens and says: I, Shylock, adherent of the Mosaic faith, believe in a jealous and vengeful God; I shall return to take what’s lawfully mine.

On that cursed day of destruction, Mahmoud – one of the fifty children who left home in the morning and got back to heaps of rubble – lost his dog; it was shot. The look on his father’s face, seeing his son kneeling on the doorstep of his destroyed home, holding the body of his slain dog in his arms, was like Shylock’s despondent look, staring at the people of Venice, pleased with their ability to exploit the weak under their advanced constitution. And the look defies us and says: I am here for all eternity; I am a Palestinian.

This article is from Udi Aloni’s Brooklyn-Jenin column he is writing for the Israeli website Ynet about his experience living between New York City and the Jenin refugee camp, where he is teaching a film production class. You can read the entire Brooklyn-Jenin series here


What slapdash H.R. 1765 reveals about the lobby and public awareness

Dec 19, 2010

Sama Adnan


As House Resolution 1765, formerly 1731 and 1734, passed in the House by a voice vote enjoining the Obama administration to oppose a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence, the peace camp looked disheveled and mystified. With every loss in the halls of Congress we reassure ourselves that the tide is changing, that soon members of Congress will see the right of Palestinians to statehood, that the next president will not succumb to the intransigence of Congress.

Today there are hundreds of organizations educating the American public about the facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They raise the public’s awareness about the plight of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip. Some organizations highlight the importance of resolving the refugee crisis and yet others underline Israel’s apartheid regime in the West Bank, undergirded by Jewish-only settlements and Jewish-only infrastructure.

Almost all existing organizations focused on a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are 501(c)(3) educational organizations. Many of these organizations address congressional representatives by asking their members to sign petitions or letters to Congress. However, what is lost on, or neglected by, these organizations is the fact that members of Congress are almost entirely beholden to a powerful pro-Israel lobby whose fabled success stems primarily from its ability to fund congressional campaigns.

When the time for a vote comes, whether it is a symbolic nonbinding resolution such as H. Res. 1765 or a crucial bill funding Israel’s occupation, the vast majority of members of Congress will invariably vote on the side of Israel. The reason is quite simple: a member of Congress cannot listen to pro-peace organizations as hard-line pro-Israel PACs (political action committees) fund their campaigns, no matter how sympathetic the member is to the Palestinian cause.

The exception to this scenario would be a broadly mobilized campaign of pro-Palestinian activists. However, if financial regulation and healthcare reform, which impact every American citizen, cannot garner enough public support to thwart opposing lobbies, the Palestinian cause will not mobilize a broad national movement in the foreseeable future. To most Americans uninformed on the issue, it is seemingly too remote, too inconsequential, and too tangential to American interests, although the realty couldn’t be further from the truth.

By abdicating our responsibility to lobby Congress and fund congressional campaigns, we have relegated ourselves to fighting a formidable opponent while blindfolded with both hands tied behind our collective back. Hard-line pro-Israel PACs not only help elect members of Congress but they indirectly appoint administration officials through Senate confirmation hearings, as was painfully evident during the Chas Freeman debacle. We have been effectively shut out from the halls of power in the United States with grave consequences for all involved.

Under Federal Election Commission rules, only a political action committee can fund the campaign of a member of Congress. As of last year, there was not a single political action committee funding members of Congress who support a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, until the establishment of New Policy PAC. I, along with other pro-peace activists (please view board members at, founded New Policy PAC a year ago as an alternative source of funding for members of Congress who push for an end to Israel’s occupation and an American troops withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, while opposing any attack on Iran.

As educational organizations increase the pool of informed Americans, New Policy PAC is decidedly singing to the choir: informed, engaged Americans who are ready to fund the campaigns of elected officials. As educational organizations work to strengthen the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement, New Policy PAC works to establish a Congressional Peace Caucus.

Even as Israel’s most ardent apologists struggle to justify its actions and its position becomes increasingly untenable, members of Congress continue to endorse one-sided resolutions in support of a prolonged occupation. Sometimes to avert a public debate, slapdash resolutions, as in the case of 1765, are introduced, their names changed repeatedly confounding public tracking and their hurried passage is implemented by a voice vote.

While this may signal the tenuous moral and political grounds these resolutions stand upon and the embarrassment of Congress at their passage, it also highlights the power of the pro-Israel PACs. They are most likely to retain their firm grip on our Capitol until we provide an alternative source of funding.

Sama Adnan, Ph.D. is executive director of and New Policy PAC, an American lobby for Middle East peace.



Gaza’s Social Network: Gazan bloggers share the reality of the siege with the world

Dec 19, 2010




“People outside expect us all to be wrapped in keffiyehs … and to be stalwarts of the Palestinian cause every second of every day, and we feel we don’t want to disappoint them but we are human beings and sometimes we just want to blog about what’s on our mind”.

These words were spoken by a blogger from Gaza at a meeting in July which brought together 11 bloggers who use the Internet to tell readers all over the world about the reality of life in the Strip.

Blogger meeting in Gaza. (Photo: Laila El-Haddad)

It seems that the Internet and its ability to cross borders are the exact opposite of life under closure in the Strip. In Gaza, residents cannot leave freely and are almost completely barred from traveling to the West Bank. The realities of the closure mean that the Internet and independent bloggers have become an important source of information about life in Gaza.

In recent years, many young men and women from Gaza have begun writing blogs, the number of which are hard to estimate. Most of them write in Arabic and address readers in Gaza, the West Bank and the Arab world at large, but a substantial number write in English to an international audience. They write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, local issues and the dispute between Hamas and Fatah or about personal issues. Blogger Mohammed Rabah Suliman, for example, says that he writes about his personal life and his daily experiences in order to show the human face of his hometown, Gaza City, which is usually described in terms of statistics instead of through the personal stories and experiences of people (ed note: Suliman has also posted on Mondoweiss).

Blogger Sameeha Elwan critiques the blind judgements about women’s lives in Gaza made by her local and international colleagues. Yasmeen El Khoudary writes about the blossoming of the rare flower “The Last Queen of the Night”, while the blogger Bashar describes his experiences in the Gaza Strip through unusual video art (video above).

Many bloggers from the Gaza Strip know each other and in the meeting they shared their experiences. According to Mohammed, even though many bloggers are friends in the “real” world, they are still a long way from cooperating on the Internet. Judging by the unusual and interesting collaboration between “Peaceman” and “Hopeman”, an Israeli from Sderot and a Palestinian from Gaza, who blogged together in 2008-2009, it seems that the Internet has great potential as a tool for understanding and border-crossing friendship.

This post originally appeared in Gisha’s Gaza Gateway, a website created to provide up-to-date information and commentary on the situation at the Gaza Strip border crossings.


Red carpet is rolled out for the Spine-weary

Dec 19, 2010

Philip Weiss


A friend whose guilty pleasure it is to read Marty Peretz’s blog, The Spine, told me that on Peretz’s last sagacious entry on the peace process, there are 130 comments and our website comes in for discussion, one reader calling it “execrable,” and rodubuloi, whom my friend respects, saying Well you have to come to terms with the ideas that are being discussed over there at Mondo. I welcome all readers of Peretz’s to join our conversation here…


How does it feel for a Jewish reporter to do a spirit of Christmas story?

Dec 19, 2010

Philip Weiss


Today’s my annual Christmas Tree post. I do it when I am putting the Christmas tree in my house and feeling guilty. Look, we have a menorah on the pie safe. But I live in a semi-Jewish neighborhood so I worry about what the neighbors will see and think…. Anyway, here’s an entry from Theodor Herzl’s diary:

December 24, 1895

I was just lighting the Christmas tree for my children when [head Vienna rabbi Moritz] Gudemann arrived. He seemed upset by the “Christian” custom. Well, I will not let myself be pressured! But I don’t mind if they call it the Hanukkah tree–or the winter solstice.

The prohibition that Herzl encountered is a living one. And: If I were a card-carrying member of the Jewish press, say at the Forward or Tablet, here’s the piece I would like to do:

I would call up alot of Jewish reporters and ask them how they feel about doing Christmas stories.

The other day I heard a Jewish anchor on NPR introducing a heartstrings Christmas story, invoking the spirit of Christmas. And on Chris Matthews, he called Howard Fineman a “grinch” the other night apropos of something, and Fineman laughed. I’m pretty sure he’s Jewish.

My Fineman moment is a stretch, true, but my question is a sincere one. As media people in American culture, we have a lot of responsibility, so we end up doing Christmas stories, presumably with some genuine feeling. Which isn’t all that different from putting a Christmas tree in your house. I wonder how it feels, if there’s any contradiction with one’s own practices/beliefs. If it doesn’t represent a form of assimilation (and by the way, Chris Matthews proselytizes the greatness of assimilation when he’s talking about Hispanics) or some reproof to the old Jewish faith in anti-semitism. How it impacts on one’s Jewish identity, or changes it… I’m curious.


quick sermon on irreligion

Dec 19, 2010

Philip Weiss


A friend sent me this interview with the late Israel Shahak the other day, the anti-religious chemistry scholar and author. It’s very good. Shahak puts anti-Semitism in the category of xenophobia, and puts anti-Christian activity in the same category. I like when Shahak does not dispute the flowering of Jewish genius across Europe in the 1800s. He says that it came about because Jews overthrew their religious authorities, the rabbis, who would give them 613 rules to live their lives by.

I was reading Keith Richards’s beautiful autobiography this morning, penned by James Fox of White Mischief; and it begins as a social history of England during and after the war, and Richards says that his family was always irreligious. They never set foot in churches. Richards’s earthy spirit was in a renegade family tradition. 

Organized religion is all around us; they were all against gay people, right? Islamic societies are sorely in need of reformation, the Vatican is full of shadows, and in Jewish life, the religious feelings around Israel are now formally shutting down the secular tradition of freethinkers. Because everyone must say that it is fine and dandy for religious zealots to burn a Palestinian shepherd’s flock alive. Oh, that can be explained! And the entire American Jewish establishment bites its tongue about it and breaks bread withfundamentalists. God help us.

So in this holiday season, I give thanks to irreligion. This site wouldn’t be here without it.


Hollywood dramatized ethnic cleansing in India and Pakistan, why not the other I/P?

Dec 18, 2010

Philip Weiss


Proof if any more is needed of the existence of a powerful Israel lobby in our country:

Tonight over dinner I watched the last 30 minutes of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) on Turner Classics. I was staggered to see the 1947 transfer of Muslim and Hindu refugees at the new border between India and Pakistan portrayed on the big screen. Pitiful streams of refugees. Then the anti-Muslim riots in Calcutta. And Gandhi’s fast as he tries to will the new nations to peaceful coexistence. “For god’s sake let us embrace like brothers,” Nehru says. Gandhi tells a repentant Hindu who has killed a Muslim boy to adopt an orphaned Muslim and raise him as a Muslim. Etc.

The Nakba took place a year after the ethnic cleansing at the border regions of India and Pakistan, and you have never seen the Nakba depicted on the big screen. You have not seen the exodus of refugees from Israel and Palestine portrayed with sympathy– no, only caricatured, as they were in Borat.

And as for Gandhi’s vision of coexistence– well who has done a picture about Judah Magnes or Ah’ad Ha’am or other cultural Zionists who did not want to build a Jewish state?

And when Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner teamed up to make Munich, a film about the cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine, they were denounced by pro-Israel voices.

How is this evidence of the lobby’s role in the American discourse? Because 30 years ago Hollywood saw fit to celebrate values of liberal democracy and anticolonialism and inter-faith co-existence in a movie about a 1947 Partition. And Gandhi won 8 Oscars, because it honored modern liberal American values; the same values that have been trashed repeatedly in Israel and Palestine. But these same themes (Partition/religion/borders/refugees) are off limits in the Israel context. All we get is Exodus, a Holocaust-tinged movie about Jews shedding shtetl ways in Palestine, and getting tough….

And what dramatic material is Zionist history. Jabotinsky dying in the Borscht Belt, helping to start the lobby. The murder of his rival Chaim Arlosoroff as he walks with his wife on the beach at Tel Aviv. The dynamiting of the King David Hotel. Partition; the radio crackles thru Jewish houses. George Marshall the secretary of State tells Truman he will not vote for him if he recognizes a Jewish state. Americans run guns for the Jews. The sacking of Jaffa– rolling barrels of dynamite down the roads toward Arab houses. Deir Yassin. Ethnic cleansing. The murder of Bernadotte. The young Begin. The young Shamir. Defense Secretary James V. Forrestal dies at Bethesda Hospital, harried by Walter Winchell and the other Zionists.

Ben-Gurion’s cloud of silver hair as he imagines a Jewish majority, to be achieved how? No you have never seen the Nakba on the big screen…


Obama’s failure has served to expose Israeli intransigence here and abroad

Dec 18, 2010

Maggie Sager


As the United States sends envoy George Mitchell to grasp at straws in hopes of restarting negotiations to create a Palestinian state after the Israeli government refused to curb settlement construction, Obama’s inability to entice Netanyahu’s coalition to comply with international law has frustrated many who wish for peace between Israel and Palestine. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that Obama’s specific failure and the now-seemingly inevitable collapse of negotiations in general constitute a tactical victory for Palestinians.

Firstly, Obama’s initial offering and its subsequent rejection have opened the door to mounting discontent among the American public, causing some to examine the United States’ special relationship with Israel more critically. The very contents of the proffered aid package began this process. In the midst of a prolonged recession the US offered Israel $3 billion worth of F-35 fighter jets among other incentives (such as a  guarantee of U.S veto should the Palestinian Authority call upon United Nations Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state) at the same time that Bush tax cuts for the wealthy were extended for two years. To many Americans, politicians’ Israel-First attitude became glaringly obvious –and quite a few did not like what they saw.

Incidents such as this offer a powerful foundation for reexamining Israel’s special place in the United States’ pocketbook. The context of this offer, embedded in a time in which the state of the economy has facilitated the emergence of staunch movements against large government expenditures, could not be worse for Israel, which relies on US aid to sustain the occupation. Undermining this relationship has real consequences for Palestinians on the ground.   On a political level, the generosity of the offer exposed the United States’ impartiality in the matter. America usually functions more as Israel’s lawyer than a third-party facilitator of negotiations. Illuminating Obama’s position and methodology gives observers a perfect example of such behavior.

Recognition of this reality is an integral component of its correction.   Luckily, US taxpayers avoided further subsidizing Israel’s war crimes and in doing so escaped an unnecessary if not immoral burden. Obama’s failure also did more to expose the United States’ weakness in the face of Israeli obstinacy, calling into question exactly who is in control of this relationship. Palestine solidarity activists and impartial analysts have long argued that Israel “wags the dog” to American detriment. Israel’s refusal to cooperate with US demands is not new, yet this particular incident highlights the country’s arrogance in a startlingly demonstrative way. Each instance of recalcitrance works to undermine Israel’s position in American esteem, or at the very least stretches the bounds of what previously unconcerned Americans are willing to stand.   Some believe that Obama’s offer was simply a pretext for items that Israel will inevitably receive irrespective of compliance with any US demands.

Various analysts have suggested this is the very reason Netanyahu was unable to convince his coalition to accept a partial moratorium –why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Yet the delinking of the package from the peace process again offers US citizens more grounds to question policy toward Israel. Apologists might be compelled to excuse the fiscal magnitude of Obama’s gift with the belief that peace is worth any price. What excuse can they offer if Israel still receives it regardless of intransigence? If receiving these items were inevitable, there are only three outcomes. 1) The US will be further exposed as putting Israel’s interests ahead of its own in even more explicit terms 2) Israel will have to actually pay for the jets or 3) The US will be forced to create another pretext for the gift.  In any event, Palestinians win.  

As for US Security Council veto, while many assume Israel needs no such guarantee as the US consistently veto’s “anti-Israel” legislation without precondition, Israel’s refusal to meet demands obviates 100% certainty on the subject.   The current stall in and ultimate failure of negotiations also renders moot the weakness of any agreement that would have been reached, specifically the inability to enforce it due to Hamas’ absence in the process. As the ruling government of what will be the other half of a Palestinian state, Hamas’ cooperation with Fatah in implementing any promises made to Israel and acceptance of Israel’s pledges as sufficiently just are integral to the contract’s viability.

Leaving Hamas out only works to ensure that the entire process will be an exercise in futility, in which case Palestinians will (most likely) have given up much in exchange for nothing at all while Israel exploits Hamas’ non-cooperation to excuse its own inevitable shortcomings. If the peace process does not fall apart completely, at the very least stalling the resumption of negotiations will give Hamas and Fatah a chance to continue the next round of reconciliation talks between the two factions.  

In most cases, Israel has sufficiently controlled popular discourse concerning all aspects of the conflict, whether they center on war history, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the level of existential threat the country faces, justifications for various human rights abuses or the disintegration of negotiations. The latest collapse serves as a marked departure from such control of the narrative.   While Arabs were unfairly blamed for everything from their own ethnic cleansing (by not implementing the UN’s 1948 Partition Plan) to not accepting a state of their own when they were offered one (as Arafat rejected Camp David), the world has finally woken up to Israel’s role in perpetuating conflict.

Mainstream outlets’ coverage of negotiations plainly refers to Israel’s refusal to curb settlement construction as the reason for the stalemate. Couple this development with international backlash against Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and reactions to the flotilla massacre this past May and Palestinians just might be getting the sympathetic ear their cause deserves. People are looking at the conflict through a new paradigm, one which is more reflective of reality and consequently works to empower the Palestinian position.   At the same time, the more radical elements of Netanyahu’s settler-controlled coalition are finally being exposed. The more racist legislation that passes through the Knesset, the more opportunities for peace that the coalition rejects, the more Israel will be treated like a rouge pariah state.

The political isolation that will ensue provides Israel with a compelling reason to fall in line with accepted international norms or will at minimum mount international support in defense of Palestinian rights.   The international community has already begun to act in solidarity with Palestine as a result of Obama’s failure. The Palestinian Authority’s threat to appeal to the United Nations to facilitate the declaration of an independent state has been historically seen as an empty one, however as a result of the latest collapse Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay have formally recognized a Palestinian state along 1967 borders in the past weeks.

The European Union will discuss recognition in as soon as one year. Israel is losing its chance to impact the substance of a settlement.   What’s more, the media are now openly discussing alternatives to solving the conflict, including a one-state solution. As Alex Kane reports, while the debate on a one-state solution has been discussed in reference to its allegedly disastrous consequences for Israel, any solution-oriented debate that utilizes the term “apartheid” is a step in the right direction to achieving justice for Palestinians both inside and outside Israel.     Because the proposed settlement moratorium was admittedly partial (excluding East Jerusalem in contravention of international law) and temporary (only to last 90 days), Palestinians did not stand gain much tangibly.

In contrast, Israel’s rejection of Obama’s incentive package has provided myriad advantages to the Palestinian cause which would have proved difficult to attain in alternate iterations of events. While peace still seems elusive, it is fair to say that Palestinians have gained more than they have lost this week.  

Maggie Sager is an American college student and activist. You can find her work at


Palestinian farmer watches settlers burn 19 of his sheep, killing 12

Dec 18, 2010



and other news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers / Land, property, resource theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing

Farmer: Settlers burned my sheep alive
NABLUS 18 Dec — A farmer said he watched a group of settlers in the northern West Bank gather his sheep and set them on fire Saturday afternoon. When he returned to the area, he told officials, he found 12 sheep burned alive, five with severe burns and two others that were only lightly burned … Mayor of Aqraba, the village near where the attack took place, Jawdat Bani Jabir, identified the farmer as 40-year-old Samir Muhammad Bani Fadl.

Settlers accused of felling trees near Nablus
Nablus 18 Dec – Israeli settlers from Givat Gilad settlement were accused Saturday of entering the agricultural lands of two farmer and felling fruit trees in a small field. Reporting the incident was Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian Authority official charged with cataloging settler vandalism and violence, who said the farmland was next to the village of Tell, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank

Religious Jews make midnight pilgrimage into occupied village
17 Dec – Shortly before midnight on Friday morning residents of the Salfit-district village of Kifl Haris reported dozens of Israeli military vehicles and bus-loads of what were described by locals as “settlers” entering the area. Locals estimated some 3,000 “settlers” – religious Jews, many from settlements in the occupied West Bank – entered the area as protecting troops set up checkpoints and barricades around a small tomb in the village. Locals say the tomb belongs to a sheikh from the village, while religious Jews visiting the site say it is the final resting place of Joshua ben Nun, leader of early Jewish tribes.

‘Loyal to shahidim’ inscribed on historic site (Ynet)
Abusive inscriptions at Jewish tomb site: Worshippers who came to pray in the early hours of Friday morning at the Samaria site where according to tradition, Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefuneh are buried, were in for an unpleasant surprise – abusive inscriptions in Arabic graffitied on the walls of the site … “We swear – we will stay faithful to the blood of the shahidim” [Really? Wouldn’t a real Arabic speaker use the Arabic plural of “shahid”: “shuhadaa'”?],7340,L-4000581,00.html

Forgotten territory: The political, economic and social impact of the Israeli occupation on the Golan Heights /  A. Dillon
Part 2: The anatomy of occupation — Part 2 in this continuing series on the Golan Heights will begin examining the parallels between the Israeli government’s occupations of the Golan and the Palestinian Territories. The commonalities between these two military engagements stretch back to 1967, when both territories were first invaded and occupied by Israeli military forces during the Six Day War with Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Since then, Israeli government practices within the two regions have been decidedly similar in some ways, and surprisingly different in others.

Former Egyptian official claims Israel is working to reoccupy Sinai
17 Dec –  A former official in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned of Israeli intentions and efforts to reoccupy the Sinai Peninsula. Ambassador Hassan Issa, the former Director of the Israel desk at the Ministry said, “Israel has worked and is still working towards achieving its goal of returning to Sinai, and Israelis speak openly about this.” According to Mr. Issa, “Israel won’t rest unless it reoccupies Sinai” because “there are strategic, economic and religious reasons for doing so, including Israeli tourism to Sinai, which has objectives related to the Torah”.


Gaza teen dead after Israel fires on fishing boat
17 Dec – GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Palestinian boy died Friday afternoon after Israeli gunboats opened fire on his fishing boat and flipped it over off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said 15-year-old Ziad Samir Al-Bardawil died after being treated for his injuries at the Abu Yousef An-Najjar Hospital.

IDF denies claim of responsibility for death in Gaza waters
18 Dec – The IDF early Saturday morning denied reports that an Israeli combat ship caused the death of a 15-year-old Palestinian working on a fishing boat, Army Radio reported. According to the report, “the Army does not recognize the event” in question that was mentioned in an earlier report by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

Young man shot in the head by a tear gas projectile at the weekly demonstration in An Nabi Saleh
17 Dec (ISM) Friday, at the weekly demonstration held in the village of An Nabi Saleh, a young Palestinian was shot by a tear gas canister in the back of his head. Falling down, he was further injured on the front of his head. The military continued to shoot tear gas into the area, without regard for the people coming to help the young unconscious man. It took over 45 minutes before an ambulance arrived, as the army stopped it and prevented them from entering the village.

Beit Ummar rally sees internationals detained
HEBRON 18 Dec – Four international peace activists were detained, one soldier lightly injured and the roof of a home taken over in Beit Ummar during a weekly protest held at the edge of the town, where demonstrators decried the confiscation of Palestinian lands for the Karmi Ztur settlement.

Demonstrators scale the separation wall in Ni`lin
(with photos) Roughly thirty demonstrators including Israeli and international supporters marched peacefully to the Separation Wall as part of the weekly unarmed protest in Ni’ilin. Protesters were attacked with tear gas and soldiers entered Ni’ilin’s agricultural lands, chasing the demonstration back to the village … As soldiers entered the agricultural land they used tear gas projectiles as large bullets, firing them directly at demonstrators. This is an illegal method of crowd control and breaks Israeli army rules of conduct in crowd control situations.

Video: Bil`in weekly demo 17.12.2010

Demonstrations across the West Bank
18 Dec – Dozens of demonstrators inhaled tear gas which was fired at them by Israeli forces during peaceful marches around the West Bank on Friday, onlookers said.

Emily Henochowitz is looking for work
1 Dec – Emily Henochowicz is of course the New York art student who lost her left eye to Israeli arms during a demonstration in the occupied territories against the flotilla attack on May 31. Henochowicz is a wonderful illustrator and animation artist and she needs work, also seeks a connection to animator Bill Plympton….

Video: Italy prepares second aid flotilla to Gaza
Milan, 17 Dec – Italy’s Palestine Forum group is at the heart of the efforts to provide aid and support to the Palestinians and is now planning a second convoy of aid to Gaza and the West Bank.

Asia convoy seeks to break Gaza siege
18 Dec – An Asian aid convoy comprising of politicians and activists from 18 countries, including Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates is on its way to Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s four year siege on the Strip. The “Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan” departed from New Delhi earlier this month and arrived in Turkey yesterday where it will hold a meeting in the Kurdish city of Diyar Bakr Saturday. The convoy’s activists include Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists.

This holiday season, give a gift to Gaza
15 Dec – Dear Friend of the Canadian Boat to Gaza Project, What if you could bring real tidings of comfort and joy to the people of Palestine? And what if you could do it with the click of a button? … This holiday season, will you consider giving the gift of justice?  Rather than buying a gift at a store, please consider making a donation to the Canadian Boat to Gaza in a loved one’s name. Simply go to and use our easy PayPal button.  Then print off a gift card for your recipient.,%20Give%20a%20Gift%20to%20Gaza,%20By%20Canada%20Boat%20to%20Gaza.htm

Memorial for victims of Mavi Marmara erected in Spain
18 Dec – A monument was unveiled in the Spanish capital Madrid to commemorate nine Turkish activists killed by Israeli commandos in the May 31 raid on Gaza-Bound aid ship Mavi Marmara. The monument, designed by sculptors Roxanne Robinson and Arevalo Beteta, was erected at the Palestine Park in Leganes near Madrid at the initiatives of three Spanish activists supported by several non-governmental organizations.


Unmanned Mexican drone crashes near El Paso, Texas
16 Dec – A remote-control drone operated by the Mexican government crashed in the United States near El Paso, Texas, this week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency confirms to TPM … A Google search turns up a drone called a Orbiter Mini UAV made by Aeronautics Defense Systems, an Israeli company (check out the brochure and a video of the Orbiter in action here and here).

Siege / Restriction on movement / Other rights violations

An elderly woman allowed to return to Gaza after 62 years of exile
GAZA, (PIC) 17 Dec — Egyptian authorities allowed an elderly Palestinian woman to return to the Gaza Strip after she spent 62 years in exile in Jordan apart from her husband and children. Ne’mah Mattar Khamees, in her eighties, was exiled in 1948 by the Israeli occupation to Jordan … One of her daughters and one of her sons died without her having a chance of seeing them and she lived alone in Amman where she survived on charity and neighbours’ help.

Egypt intensifies clampdown on smuggling tunnels, say Palestinian sources (dpa)
18 Dec – Egyptian authorities have intensified their crackdown on smugglers’ tunnels to Gaza over the past few days, according to Palestinian sources. They said the authorities have discovered new tunnels, destroyed several and confiscated large quantities of goods that were on their way to Gaza. Tunnel owners said the crackdown focused on districts where there is a larger number of tunnels, adding that increased numbers of policemen have been deployed on the border during the campaign.

Gaza crossings closed; exports remain limited
17 Dec – Crossing terminals for the transfer of aid and commercial goods into Gaza were closed by Israeli officials on Friday, cutting short the planned transport week by one day, Palestinian liaison officers said.  During the previous week of crossings activity, the bulk goods terminal was remarkably open three days in a row, expanding operations by one full day amid concerns of dwindling wheat and animal feed reserves … Despite the increase in operations, however, a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said wheat reserves inside Gaza “remain extremely low, due to the limited operation of the conveyor belt at Karni Crossing.”

Waiting for H: 8 hours with no passport at TLV airport / Yuval Ben-Ami
16 Dec – My friend H is arriving from Sweden for a conference in Jerusalem. Though Palestinian by roots and Arab by name, H is a Swedish national and a proud subject to the three crowns. The conference deals with world history and its effects on the region. It features a three day seminar at the Yad Vashem Holocaust history institute. H chose to arrive a few days earlier and enjoy our mild winter. I’ve known her for years through Swedish friends and offered to put her up … H was due to land last night at 2:30. At 3:00 she texted to let us know that she has arrived and is kept at the “Arab room in Ben-Gurion”. It is now 10:00 in the morning, and nothing has changed since

Report details hopeless conditions in Gaza
17 Dec – LONDON (ABP) — Residents of Gaza see no hope for a brighter future — and that’s one of the most distressing aspects of the situation in the Middle East, according to an international Christian aid-and-development group’s advocacy officer for the region. Hanan Elmasu of the United Kingdom-based organization Christian Aid worked on a new briefing detailing the impact of Israel’s measures to ease the blockade of Gaza after six months.


Broken lives / Ilana Hammerman
The process of freeing a Palestinian who is desperate to support his family and was caught working illegally inside the Green Line is prolonged, painful and fraught with red tape … It follows from these data that refusal of entry is imposed sweepingly and arbitrarily on tens of thousands of Palestinians who want to work, and is not in fact based on concrete security considerations. Human rights organizations – which are unable to say who came up with it – say the policy of turning a blind eye to tens of thousands of people crossing into Israel in search of work derives from the fact that the closure of the territories is simply irreconcilable with the needs of the public: In Israel there is work and a huge demand for workers; in the territories, there is less need for them. But they want to and must work in order to exist.

Mr. President, answer Matthew Lee of the AP: ‘Why is it beneath the United States to come out and say something about this practitioner of nonviolence?’ / Philip Weiss
17 Dec – Please just watch this. If you don’t do anything else today, watch this. Promise me. Then send it to your friends. Words escape me this is so brilliant. It breaks my heart with moral urgency and sorrow. Awake America. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press stands up for days on end for imprisoned Palestinian civil disobedience leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah, at the State Department.

State Department says it has ‘raised’ Rahmah case with Israelis / Philip Weiss
17 Dec – We have just learned that Matthew Lee of AP again raised the Abdallah Abu Rahmah case this afternoon at the State Department, and the following dialogue ensued, with Ass’t Sec’y P.J.

Israeli educators press leaders on arrest of minors
17 Dec – Sixty Israeli educators wrote to the country’s leaders urging them to adhere to the law when arresting and interrogating Palestinian minors in eastern Jerusalem. The letter organized by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel outlines reports of arrests of children as young as 8, some occurring late at night, and interrogations lacking the presence of a parent—all violations of Israeli law governing the treatment of suspects under 12.

Israel extends detention of Sheikh Jarrah teen
17 Dec – Israeli police extended by one day the detention of Ayman Al-Ghawi, 19, from the East Jerusalem of Shiekh Jarrah, his family reported Thursday.  Al-Ghawi was detained while he was with his mother in the nearby Wadi Aj-Joz neighborhood after an Israeli settler living in the occupied area filed a complaint against the boy, when he hit the settler’s dog with his backpack.

Palestinian captives in Hawwara complain of harsh conditions
NABLUS, (PIC) 17 Dec — Palestinian captives at the Hawwara detention centre near the northern West Bank city of Nablus … complained during lawyer visits that the conditions at the detention centre are extremely harsh and the captives do not know what to do to protect themselves against the cold weather because of the lack of blankets, any heating means and the fact that the detention centre is semi open space.

Hamas: PA detained 18 supporters across West Bank
NABLUS 18 Dec – The arrests, which could not be confirmed by Ma’an, were carried out in the northern districts of Nablus, Salfit, Qalqiliya, Jenin, Tulkarem, and Tubas as well as southern districts of Hebron and Bethlehem, the statement said. Noting a trend of continued politically motivated detentions, the statement said some 40 Hamas-affiliated students and teachers at An-Najah National University in Nablus marked their 100th day in detention on Friday.

Police detain ‘escaped collaborator’
RAMALLAH 17 Dec — Palestinian police detained on Friday an escaped prisoner in Ramallah who was sentenced to life in jail for collaboration with the enemy … Police said he would be placed in a rehabilitation center to serve his sentence. The public prosecution said the fugitive escaped from Jericho’s prison in 2006.

Racism / Discrimination

In Israel, a rabbi who argues that anti-Arab measures are un-Jewish
17 Dec – Jerusalem — At first glance, Arik Ascherman seems more like a soft-spoken university lecturer than a combative crusader for the rights of the “other,” be they Palestinian or African refugee. Yet the American-born rabbi is embroiled in two of Israel’s main conflicts today: the struggle with Palestinians over the West Bank and, within Israel, a rising tide of anti-Arab and anti-foreigner sentiment.

Political/Diplomatic news

Abbas summons rival Qaddumi for Fatah reconciliation
AMMAN, Jordan 18 Dec — A former top Fatah leader who fell out with current leader Mahmoud Abbas during the lead-up to the last Fatah conference was summoned to Amman by his rival on Thursday for what sources said was a reconciliation effort.

Hamas: Fatah asks for unity meeting amid internal row
RAMALLAH 18 Dec — Hamas officials are mulling dates for what Fatah leaders have called the “final round” of unity talks, a report from the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center said Saturday. Citing informed Palestinian sources, the news site said the invitation was extended following an internal Fatah argument, with members disagreeing over whether to invite Hamas officials for continued talks.

PLC head calls for releasing political prisoners
18 Dec – Head of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLS), Dr. Aziz Dweik of the Hamas movement, called on the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank to release all political prisoners in order to create a positive atmosphere for internal unity and reconciliation talks.

Palestinian PM: Plan for statehood by 2011 remains on track
18 Dec – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Saturday that his plan to establish a Palestinian state by August 2011 remains on course. In an interview with Channel 2, Fayyad denied that the Palestinians aim to seek unilateral recognition or any other alternative to a two-state solution.

Israeli MK: Unilateral statehood not the answer
TEL AVIV, Israel 18 Dec — Israeli minister with the centrist Likud party, Yossi Peled said Saturday said that a solution imposed by the world in the form of a recognized unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state would be “without benefit,” Radio Israel reported.

Ban Ki-Moon names settlement freeze a top UN goal for 2011
18 Dec – The United Nations named improving the living conditions in the Gaza Strip and ending Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of its goals for 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.

Et tu Canberra? / Philip Weiss
…the hypocrisy of continuing to allow Israel to have a nuclear monopoly while gearing up for war against Iran because it seeks to join the club  is becoming unsupportable among western/downunder democracies (so naturally some of them are going to seek the deproliferation of the Middle East).

Other news

Landowners angered over new West Bank road plan
BETHLEHEM 18 Dec – A plan to construct a more direct road connecting the south and central West Bank has been protested by government officials, but land owners angered by what would be a forced sale said Saturday that they intend to have the plan struck down. With Israel’s separation wall cutting off access to direct routes to the northern West Bank via Jerusalem, the treacherous valley route running through Wadi Nar (Fire Valley) was developed over the years to what is now a small highway snaking around 90 degree turns and up steep inclines. The proposal, Mayor of Al-Ubeidiya Suleiman Al-Asa said, would have lands of village residents effectively confiscated to divert the road north before it descended into Wadi Nar.

Latin Patriarch: The message of Christmas remains peace
BETHLEHEM 18 Dec — “We are running after peace, but it keeps evading us,” Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Tawwal told Palestinians on Saturday … As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, Tawwal sent a message to the global community. “Christians are not an island in the Holy Land, what happens to the Palestinians also happens to Palestinian Christians,” he said.

Hyena population growing ‘out of control’ near Hebron
17 Dec – Police in Hebron recently told residents they would be unable to assist with a recent expansion of the hyena population because they have to seek authorization from Israeli officials first.  The increase in the number of wild animals around the town of Halhoul, midway between Bethlehem and Hebron, has resulted in what residents say is an increase in incidents threatening dogs, livestock and children.

Israeli companies outsourcing to Palestinians (AP)
17 Dec – …Many Israeli tech firms send work offshore to eastern Europe, India or China. In the past three years, however, some have turned to Palestinian engineers and programmers. They are cheaper, ambitious, work in the same time zone, and – surprisingly to many Israelis – are remarkably similar to them … If there is hesitation, it’s in marketing Israeli products under a Palestinian name to tap into larger Arab markets off-limits to them.

Beneath Dead Sea, scientists are drilling for natural history
17 Dec – Scientists are extracting a record of climate change and earthquake history, and their early findings are “changing everything we thought we knew.”

Cyprus, Israel define sea border for energy search (AFP)
NICOSIA 17 Dec — Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement Friday that defines their sea border and allows the neighbours to forge ahead in the search for energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean. This is seen as another step in Cyprus’ search for undersea oil and gas deposits. The island has already signed similar agreements with Egypt and Lebanon. [and what about the oil and gas off the Gaza coast?]

Mobile phones for women: a new approach for social welfare in the developing world
17 Dec – Enas Salameh, a 24-year-old college graduate living in the Palestinian West Bank city of Jenin, needed a job this summer. But her family finds it unacceptable for a woman to venture alone into the city without a male companion or an appointment. Fortunately, it’s fine to use a mobile phone. In fact, although only 16 percent of Palestinian households have Internet access, 81 percent have a cell phone, according to a 2009 United Nations report.

Opinion / Analysis 

The devil’s in the discourse / Nadia Hijab
17 Dec – …The U.S. is now on the wrong side of the discourse in more ways than one. The letter sent this month by 26 former European Union leaders to top EU officials and member states challenged the open-ended nature of the U.S. peace process — and America’s monopoly over the Middle East — by proposing a deadline of April 2011 to refer the conflict to the international community if there is no progress.

Blowback: Israel leaves us no choice but to boycott / Ali Abunimah
17 Dec – Palestinians have already given up so much since 1948. It’s up to Israel to end its campaign of ethnic cleansing for the peace process to move forward.,0,3057091.story

Ship of Fools 2 / Uri Avnery
…“SHIP OF FOOLS 1” went down on Yom Kippur. 2600 young Israelis, the flower of a generation, drowned with it. The “incapable” Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal, and the glorious Bar-Lev Line, the pride of the Israeli army, collapsed … “Ship of Fools 2” will also founder. We cannot foresee how. Will it be a war that will lay waste to our towns and villages? Will it be an Islamic revolution in the Arab countries? Will world politics change dramatically? There is one important difference between Ship 1 and Ship 2: then the whole world loved us, now many around the world detest us.

Israeli rabbis commit atrocity against Jewish history / Yoram Kaniuk
Renowned Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk on the Rabbi’s letter forbidding rental of apartments to Arabs — When settlers and Rabbis called the policemen and soldiers of Israel “Nazis”, hardly anyone spoke out. When I voiced criticism over this, I received phone threats. Then, last week, when MK and MD Professor Aryeh Eldad sided with rabbis who warned their flock not to rent or sell property to non-Jews, I remembered that in Nazi Germany many physicians also identified with Hitler. The term “Nazi” now lingers once more in the air, but on the opposite side to that of settlers who swore at soldiers. The word “Nazi” now lingers because the Rabbis who signed the racist declaration committed an atrocity against Jewish history.


France gives Lebanon anti-tank missiles (AFP)
BEIRUT 17 Dec — France will give Lebanon 100 anti-tank missiles, a government official said on Friday, confirming a deal that raised concerns in Israel and the United States earlier this year. “Prime Minister Saad Hariri was informed on Wednesday of the French decision to supply the army with 100 … HOT missiles that will be used by the military’s Gazelle helicopters,” the official told AFP. “The missiles will be delivered before the end of February and are being given with no conditions attached,” the official added.

Lebanon submits official complaint to UN over Israeli ‘spy devices’
18 Dec – Spy devices bearing Hebrew lettering found in Lebanon last week; Lebanese radio attributes Wednesday’s explosion to IAF covering up espionage — Lebanon submitted an official complaint to the United Nations Security Council over spy installations, allegedly from Israel, which were found in two separate areas near Beirut, Kuwaiti media reported on Saturday.


Friday: 8 Iraqis wounded / Margaret Griffis
At least eight Iraqis were wounded during the latest attacks. Although Ashuraa observances have ended, pilgrims on their way home are targets for new violence. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that authorizes $160 billion towards wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the U.N.’s High Commission for Refugees criticized Sweden for repatriating five Iraqi Christians who failed to win asylum.

BBC Video: Living with the ‘scars’ of sectarian violence in Iraq
17 Dec – Dozens of suspected militants have been arrested in Iraq, for plotting violent attacks on Shiite pilgrims who have been commemorating the most important day of their religious calendar. The once shockingly high levels of sectarian violence are falling but as Gabriel Gatehouse reports some Iraqis are still living in fear.

Iraqi Christians flee Baghdad after cathedral massacre / Martin Chulov in Baghdad
17 Dec – Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee in seeking refuge from militant attacks after the siege at a Catholic cathedral in October, the United Nations said today. The UN High Commission For Refugees said at least 1,000 families had fled Baghdad and Mosul since 1 September for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. A further 133 families had registered with the organisation in Syria, as had 109 individuals in Jordan.

Iraqi refugees match Californians in obesity rates (Reuters)
LOS ANGELES, Dec 17 – Iraqi refugees newly arrived in the United States are exhibiting high rates of chronic health conditions, including the same prevalence of obesity as Californians, government researchers reported. Iraqis represent the largest group of refugees resettling in the United States, accounting for 28,000 arrivals during the past two years — or 21 percent of the total — with nearly a quarter going to California, the most for any other state.

Allawi says will join Iraq govt if given real power (Reuters)
BAGHDAD 17 Dec – Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Friday he will join a new Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki if the premier follows through on promises and makes him a genuine partner.

Video: Amid the chaos, Iraqis turn to TV, Web to be heard
BAGHDAD 17 Dec – Amid political gridlock, endemic corruption, infrastructure breakdowns and persistent violence, ordinary Iraqis often feel that the chaos drowns out their voices. On television and online, however, there’s plenty of space to be heard.

Iraq’s troubled media / Hiwa Osman
17 Dec – How would you assess the Iraqi news media’s coverage of politics this year, and how would you compare it with coverage of the parliamentary election in January 2005? I would say that the coverage was a reflection of politics itself. The media is split along the same political lines that exist in today’s Iraq: sectarian, ethnic, pro- and anti-government. Most media outlets are backed by political parties, and covered events from their own perspective.

Other Mideast

Saudi Shiites and Sunnis scuffle on Shiite feast (Reuters)
RIYADH, 17 Dec – Saudi security forces dispersed crowds of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims after scuffles broke out in the city of Medina during the Shi’ite mourning holiday of Ashura late on Thursday, Shi’ite sources and a local journalist said. Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia applies an austere version of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism, and minority Shi’ites say that, while their situation has improved slightly under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face many restrictions and discrimination. The government denies these charges.

Qaddafi son’s charity to stop championing reform (AP)
18 Dec – CAIRO: A charitable foundation led by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi says it wants to avoid political activities and focus on humanitarian work … “The Qaddafi Foundation received some negative criticism because of perceived political overtones after an incident involving the supply of humanitarian aid to the citizens of Gaza,” it said, quoting board member Richard J. Roberts, British biochemist and a 1993 Nobel laureate … The statement didn’t make clear what the foundation would do with ongoing projects in Gaza, such as the $50 million allocated to new housing in the Hamas-run Palestinian strip and small-scale projects for 800 families, or a health clinic in the West Bank.

Pakistan / Afghanistan

Pakistani officials: US drone strike kills 54 in Khyber / Jason Ditz
17 Dec – Last night’s US drone strikes against the Khyber Agency, which killed seven suspects, appeared to be only the tip of the iceberg, as Pakistani officials now report that the United States has launched a salvo of missiles against the agency, killing at least 54. The major strikes hit in the Spin Darang village, and were said to be targeting a meeting among suspected Lashkar-e Islam members, a group with a strong presence in Khyber which, like virtually every other faction of Pashtuns in the tribal areas, is often referred to as a “Pakistani Taliban” faction.

CIA chief pulled from Pakistan; drones kill 54 (AP)
ISLAMABAD 17 Dec – The CIA yanked its top spy out of Pakistan after his cover was blown and his life threatened, and 54 suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone missile attack Friday in stark new signs of the troubled relationship between mistrustful allies locked in a war on terror groups … The drone attacks Friday took place in the Khyber tribal region, which has been rarely struck by American missiles over the past three years. That could indicate an expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistan. Most of the more than 100 missile attacks this year inside Pakistan have taken place in North Waziristan

Why night raids may doom US prospects in Afghanistan (TIME)
16 Dec – Night-time raids by Special Forces have become a mainstay of the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they have turned much of the local population in the war zone against the Western presence. The conflicting narratives over what transpired in an Oct. 3 raid in the rugged farming hamlet of Loyi Rud, near the Pakistan border, is typical of the disconnect between the NATO mission and many of those it purports to protect.,8599,2037444,00.html

Gains in Kandahar came with more brutal US tactics / Gareth Porter
18 Dec – …The military offensive in Kandahar, which had been opposed clearly and vocally by the local leadership in the province, was accompanied by an array of military tactics marked by increased brutality. The most prominent of those tactics was a large-scale demolition of homes that has left widespread bitterness among the civilians who had remained in their villages when the U.S.-NATO offensive was launched, as well as those who had fled before the offensive.

We want you out: an open letter from the Afghan Youth Peace volunteers and Afghans for Peace
17 Dec – We will listen to the People on December 19th, on the Global Day of Listening to Afghans, and we invite every one of you to pick up your phone to call us, to share one another’s pain, and to call our world to urgent reconciliation. We invite the world public opinion to overwhelm us! Email to arrange a call.

Kabul silent over Obama’s Afghan war review (Reuters)
KABUL 17 Dec – Afghanistan’s leaders, overlooked in the summary of a “brutally honest” U.S. war strategy review, did not offer any response to the long-awaited report on Friday in a sign of the often uneasy ties between Kabul and Washington.

Afghan war not worth it, say most Americans
US public support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a record low, overshadowing a major review that has revealed modest progress in the conflict. Sixty per cent of Americans now say the war has not been ”worth fighting”, with 43 per cent ”strongly” of that opinion.

U.S. and other world news

Canada: Promoting Jewish victimhood as guise for victimizing Palestinians / Yves Engler
17 Dec – Last week the House of Commons unanimously passed a private member’s bill to establish a national Holocaust monument. While it is a good thing to commemorate the suffering of Jews in Europe, it is important to point out that uncritical support for Israel is part of the backdrop … Alongside its ardent support for Israel, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has promoted the commemoration of Nazi crimes and the idea that anti-Semitism is worse than other forms of oppression. Concurrently, they’ve repeatedly conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

US, last holdout on native rights declaration, reverses stand / Matthew O. Berger
WASHINGTON 17 Dec – U.S. President Barack Obama announced Thursday he was reversing the U.S.’s position and endorsing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples … In making the announcement toward the end of a speech opening the second annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, Obama’s words were followed by the applause of the some 300-plus representatives of federally recognised tribes and others in attendance … Obama noted that “by virtue of the longstanding failure to tackle wrenching problems in Indian Country, it seemed as though you had to either abandon your heritage or accept a lesser lot in life; that there was no way to be a successful part of America and a proud Native American.”

US backing for indigenous rights treaty hailed at UN
18 Dec – The announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama that the United States supports the landmark United Nations treaty outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous peoples was hailed on Friday at the world body. [Would the US consider the Palestinians ‘indigenous’? Unlikely.]

Former Guantanamo detainee urges judge to clear him (Reuters)
NEW YORK (17 Dec) – Lawyers for the first Guantanamo detainee to have faced a U.S. civilian trial have asked the judge either to clear the Tanzanian terrorism suspect or grant him another trial. A U.S. jury found Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, not guilty of all but one charge in November following a five-week trial.

The Republican congressman who supported terrorism / Justin Elliott
17 Dec – Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is set to assume the chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee in January, and today comes the news that he intends to launch an investigation of “radicalization” among American Muslims. In some perverse sense, King, who has represented part of Long Island in Congress since 1993, may be just the man for the job: He spent years openly supporting the terrorist Irish Republican Army.

Shirin Sadeghi: Obama isn’t doing enough to scare America
17 Dec – The Christian Science Monitor’s entire Editorial Board this week appears to have made a public plea for President Obama to undertake propaganda techniques to brainwash the American public into the levels of fear that allowed the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to be undertaken in the first place.


WikiLeaks cables lay bare US hostility to international criminal court
17 Dec – US embassy dispatches reveal American preoccupation with discerning court’s views on Iraq

Spielberg movies banned by Arab League, WikiLeaks cable reveals
17 Dec – Leaked dispatch reveals diplomats from 14 Arab states voted to ban the director’s films in response to his donation to Israel

Larry Flynt: Why I am donating $50,000 to WikiLeaks’ defense fund
Let’s get something straight: Julian Assange is a journalist. You can argue that he is not practicing journalism the way you think it should be practiced — releasing classified U.S. State Department documents — but he’s a journalist nonetheless. And for many of us he’s a hero … WikiLeaks had existed in 2003 when George W. Bush was ginning up the war in Iraq, America might not be in the horrendous situation it is today, with our troops fighting in three countries (counting Pakistan) and the consequent cost in blood and dollars.

WikiLeaks: Australia law not broken, says Prime Minister Julia Gillard
SYDNEY 16 Dec – Police in Australia have concluded that WikiLeaks and its Australian-born founder Julian Assange have not broken any laws in his home country by publishing classified U.S. documents, the government said Friday.

Julian Assange: WikiLeaks faces ‘very aggressive’ investigation by US
17 Dec – Organisation’s founder says he is reliant on public opinion to rein in ‘superpower that does not appear to be following rule of law’ — WikiLeaks faces a “very aggressive” and secretive investigation by US authorities stung by a perceived loss of face following the release of thousands of secret American diplomatic cables, the organisation’s founder, Julian Assange, said today.




Drumroll please

Dec 18, 2010



You are standing on the wrong side of history. That’s why the ground feels shaky beneath your support of Israel. You are standing on the side of a military occupation that daily strips people of their belongings, of their livelihoods, of their dignity and cuts off the very food they eat, the water they drink. You are on the other side of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. The other side of every native people’s struggle for self-determination, for human rights and for basic human dignity. It is not for me that you educate yourself. It is for your own soul. For your own conscience. I am comfortable on solid ground. It is physically defenseless, but morally impenetrable ground. Whatever research you chose to do and what you choose to learn is for you and only for you.

My correspondence was with you, as a woman I thought I could be friends with. I was not asking for your help. But one day you will be asked for something else. Perhaps your children or grandchildren will want you to explain what you did when Palestinians were being wiped off the map so you and every Jew around the world could have dual citizenship, a summer home, if you will, on top of my grandparent’s graves.

Her courage knows no bounds. I am very proud to announce Susan Abulhawa as one of our Stellar Judges in the upcoming Mondo Awards Week beginning in 9 days.Novelist, founder of Playgrounds For Palestine, an NGO dedicated to upholding the Right to Play for Palestinian children living under occupation and breathtakingDragonslayer, there are literally no limits to Susan’s Rock Star Qualites.

Stay tuned for further introductions of our incredible panel, the party has not even started yet. Get your entries in to guarantee a magnificent celebration of our community. Be there or be square! Be creative, be yourself, open your heart and tell us your story and most importantly tell us your Inspirations. Our community is full of giants and rock stars and this an opportunity for our community to really shine. We want to hear from you.

Thank you Susan, and a big hand of applause!

And please send all entries to: and

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on MONDOWEISS ONLINE NEWSLETTER




News flash to hookers; Washington won’t give you anything you haven’t paid dearly for

Posted: 19 Dec 2010 03:41 PM PST

Kenneth Davidson in the Age gets it right:

As former Liberal prime minister John Gorton said in the 1960s, too many Australian politicians and bureaucrats are infected by the puppy dog syndrome: roll over and get your tummy tickled. Not much has changed. We are seen as a loyal ally. In Washington this gives Australian politicians and diplomats plenty of access but no influence when our interests aren’t in line with America’s.


Alliances in the name of fighting a bigger enemy

Posted: 19 Dec 2010 03:29 PM PST

Julian Assange is currently living in Britain under the roof of one Vaughan Smith, a man who believes in a free press.

More on him here:

Veteran BBC correspondent Loyn, who has known Smith for almost 20 years and worked with him in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, said Assange and Smith met “relatively recently” when Assange used the club as his London base.

The BBC correspondent says Smith is “intrigued by Julian and his work” and outraged by the way Assange has been treated.

“Vaughan has an old-fashioned sense of libertarian values. He supports Julian’s commitment and courage, even though he doesn’t necessarily support all the leaks, and wanted to help,” said Loyn. “Vaughan is an idealistic man who established the Frontline Club because he strongly believed in it—despite the huge financial risk.”

During his days as a cameraman, the risks were even greater. Smith was shot twice, leading him to joke he had “been shot more times than he had been credited by the BBC.”

He filmed the only uncontrolled footage of the Gulf War in 1991 after he bluffed his way into an active service unit disguised as a British Army officer.

On their dangerous trips together, the BBC veteran remembers Smith as “tough, very resilient and single-minded” as they trekked though Afghanistan living on boiled lentils cooked by Loyn.

But there was more to Smith than just his physical toughness. He was one of the first cameramen to edit his work on a laptop in the field before transmitting it back home. Loyn explains: “He had cutting-edge skills and always like to push the boundaries.”

It is that same ferocious determination in Assange to push the boundaries which Smith so admires and why he finds the “professorial” WikiLeaks’ founder “fascinating” company, according to Smith’s friends.


US elites don’t want to hear about failings of US elites

Posted: 19 Dec 2010 03:17 PM PST

This is what passes for serious commentary in the US mainstream media.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, after smearing Julian Assange and Wikileaks – “I confess I’d like to throw a cream pie in his face myself” – doesn’t like to be told that his beloved US may not be such a fan of free speech after all:

It’s little wonder that Ellsberg himself empathizes with WikiLeaks. At a news conference at the National Press Club on Thursday – shortly before going to chain himself to the White House fence in a protest – the 79-year-old Ellsberg said Assange is a hero. Convicting Assange, he said, “would mean that the crown had returned to America . . . and that we’re really under a monarchical system of total control of information.”

Ellsberg was accompanied by an activist from Assange’s Australia, who lectured Americans on free speech. “We thought that America stood firm for the Constitution, for its First Amendment rights,” said the activist, Brett Solomon. “If something has changed, then let us know.”

That bloke was as insufferable as Assange.


Rove and Sweden make sweet passionate love

Posted: 19 Dec 2010 03:09 PM PST

Sweden is not an independent nation:

Karl Rove’s help for Sweden as it assists the Obama administration’s prosecution against WikiLeaks could be the latest example of the adage, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”

Rove has advised Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt for the past two years after resigning as Bush White House political advisor in mid-2007. Rove’s resignation followed the scandalous Bush mid-term political purge of nine of the nation’s 93 powerful U.S. attorneys.

These days, Sweden and the United States are apparently undertaking a political prosecution as audacious and important as those by the notorious “loyal Bushies” earlier this decade against U.S. Democrats.

The U.S. prosecution of WikiLeaks, if successful, could criminalize many kinds of investigative news reporting about government affairs, not just the WikiLeaks disclosures that are embarrassing Sweden as well as the Bush and Obama administrations. Authorities in both countries are setting the stage with pre-indictment sex and spy smears against WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange, plus an Interpol manhunt.


Wikileaks; don’t shoot the messenger

Posted: 19 Dec 2010 05:37 AM PST

The kind of Australian stamp we’d like to see.


Leaking is a noble profession

Posted: 19 Dec 2010 04:08 AM PST

Will Julian Assange regret being one of the key whistle-blower enablers?

If history is any guide – thinking of Daniel Ellsberg and Philip Agee – don’t count on it.


Zionist separation is in the state’s bloodstream

Posted: 19 Dec 2010 04:04 AM PST

The actions of an apartheid state with the full backing of the so-called civilised world:

Israeli policies in the West Bank harshly discriminate against Palestinian residents, depriving them of basic necessities while providing lavish amenities for Jewish settlements, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report identifies discriminatory practices that have no legitimate security or other justification and calls on Israel, in addition to abiding by its international legal obligation to withdraw the settlements, to end these violations of Palestinians’ rights.

The 166-page report, “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” shows that Israel operates a two-tier system for the two populations of the West Bank in the large areas where it exercises exclusive control. The report is based on case studies comparing Israel’s starkly different treatment of settlements and next-door Palestinian communities in these areas. It calls on the US and EU member states and on businesses with operations in settlement areas to avoid supporting Israeli settlement policies that are inherently discriminatory and that violate international law.

“Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits,” said Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch. “While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp – not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes.”


China’s black sites used and abused by private firms

Posted: 18 Dec 2010 11:19 PM PST

The massive expansion of a privatised and largely secret world is enveloping the West. Take military contracting and detention centres as two key examples.

This recent feature in the Sydney Morning Herald highlights the foul stench of unaccountable thugs outsourced by the state in China:

…In Tangshan city, a middle-class woman called Liu Yuhong told us how she had travelled to Beijing during the tense occasion of last year’s 60th anniversary National Day military parade. She had wanted to lodge a “petition”, or official complaint, seeking to learn the whereabouts of her parents who were being held in a labour camp (they had been detained for “petitioning” over a trivial property dispute).

Liu was taken by police, handed to private security operatives and dumped in an exposed row of bare concrete cells, where she was starved of food and water for five days. Liu’s face was beaten until the walls were speckled red and she was force-fed an unknown fluid until she vomited. She later miscarried on a concrete prison floor.

Liu’s case is gruesome but not unique. The extra-legal kidnapping of petitioners, subjecting them to abusive treatment and storing them in “black jails” is now commonplace. In fact, it is one of China’s fastest-growing industries. One private security company, Andingyuan, employed 3000 people to kidnap petitioners in Beijing on behalf of local governments, in daylight, until it was shut down two months ago.


Shut down the web or face a Wikileaks inspired future

Posted: 18 Dec 2010 09:52 PM PST

A wonderful piece by John Naughton in the Guardian from early December that perfectly captures this Wikileaks moment:

What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the US and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the US and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger.

As Simon Jenkins put it recently in the Guardian, “Disclosure is messy and tests moral and legal boundaries. It is often irresponsible and usually embarrassing. But it is all that is left when regulation does nothing, politicians are cowed, lawyers fall silent and audit is polluted. Accountability can only default to disclosure.” What we are hearing from the enraged officialdom of our democracies is mostly the petulant screaming of emperors whose clothes have been shredded by the net.

Which brings us back to the larger significance of this controversy. The political elites of western democracies have discovered that the internet can be a thorn not just in the side of authoritarian regimes, but in their sides too. It has been comical watching them and their agencies stomp about the net like maddened, half-blind giants trying to whack a mole. It has been deeply worrying to watch terrified internet companies – with the exception of Twitter, so far – bending to their will.

But politicians now face an agonising dilemma. The old, mole-whacking approach won’t work. WikiLeaks does not depend only on web technology. Thousands of copies of those secret cables – and probably of much else besides – are out there, distributed by peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent. Our rulers have a choice to make: either they learn to live in a WikiLeakable world, with all that implies in terms of their future behaviour; or they shut down the internet. Over to them.


Finding ways to dismiss leakers in the US

Posted: 18 Dec 2010 09:12 PM PST

A reader sent me this disturbing move from the US Senate to supposedly protect whistle-blowers but in fact is the complete opposite. Wikileaks is causing worries across the political establishment:

On December 10, 2010, the Senate passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 372) by unanimous consent. After a careful review of S. 372, the National Whistleblowers Center, the Federal Ethics Center, and the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition strongly recommend that the bill not be approved in its current form.  We urge the House of Representatives to fix the bill and send it back to the Senate for final approval.  Here is why the bill must be fixed:

1. New Summary Dismissal Authority.  The bill gives the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) sweeping new powers to dismiss whistleblower claims without a hearing.  The MSPB Administrative Judges will now be able to dismiss WPA claimswithout a hearing, based solely on affidavits filed by executive agencies.  If whistleblowers did not conduct extensive and expensive pre-trial depositions, they will be unable to rebut these affidavits, and their cases will be dismissed.  Even if the whistleblower is able to afford the significant additional fees and costs caused by the new summary dismissal proceedings, based on the track record of the AJs, the vast majority of cases will be summarily dismissed based on agency affidavits.  The opportunity to create a record at a hearing, or use the pre-hearing process as an opportunity to reach a settlement, will be lost.  This is a significant rollback of current rights that will make it more costly and more difficult for whistleblowers to prevail in any actions, despite any of the other reforms contained in the legislation.

Significantly, in one of the handful of positive Federal Circuit decisions, that Court has rejected numerous requests from the executive branch that the authority to dismiss cases summarily be judicially created.  The Court recognized that in 1978, when the Civil Service Reform Act was originally passed, this was a big issue and was hotly contested.  The whistleblowers prevailed at that time.  It would be a shame to lose that hard earned victory in an “Enhancement” act.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on A.LOEWENSTEIN ONLINE NEWSLETTER


Pic Of The Day

Egypt uncovers Zionist ‘spy ring’


Study: Child abuse rate twice as high in ‘Israel’ than in U.S.


Nazi’s to deploy super-armored tanks along Gaza border


 Nazi’s orders envoys: Take ‘urgent’ action against Palestinian efforts at UN


 Majlis hails Ahmadinejad reform plans


 Ahmadinejhad–”Muslim women can restore rights’ ‘US to increase presence in Pakistan’ 


HRW says Zio=Nazi’s enforcing apartheid


 Zio=Nazi involved in Kosovo organ trafficking case on run from Interpol


Is the Zio=Nazi Gistapo’s prepping for a third war with Lebanon?


Refugees’ flat torched in Ashdod


10 EU states will upgrade their PLO missions

Bat Yam rally: ‘Arabs dating our sisters’





Please check out the brand new book detailing Israel’s deliberate attack on the USS LIBERTY here

Posted in UKComments Off on NOVANEWS**NOVANEWS



December 17, 2010

by Raja Mujtaba 

By Air Commodore ® Khalid Iqbal

The NATO nations and their coalition allies agreed to the December 2014 date for ending military mission in Afghanistan, during the alliance’s summit in Lisbon, held during the last month. Summit had laid down the broader frame work for ending the war. Hence, Presidential review was little more than a formality, just tweaking the strategy around the margins, filling flesh into the skeleton etc. The review comes at a time when civilian casualties are at their highest since 2001. This year has been the bloodiest for foreign troops, the US taking the brunt of casualties.

To coincide with the release of the review, in an apparent expansion of drone operations in Pakistan, a US drone killed seven persons in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency. This drone attack, the first one in the agency was carried out in Spin Drand village of Sipah area.

Aides to the president called the assessment a “diagnostic” one, meant to assess the trajectory and progress of the Afghanistan mission two years into Obama’s management of the war. This review focused more on tenor than content. Basic assumption has been that the surge strategy has produced results; however the outcome is neither decisive nor durable. Accomplishments are inconsistent, potholed, and sluggish than what had been anticipated. “The momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible,” the review maintains.

To time it with the Obama administration’s Review of US war in Afghanistan, the ‘Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers’, along with ‘Afghans for Peace’, issued a review of their experiences titled: ‘We Want You Out; We Want Peace’.

Obama’s review is a compromise report balancing pressures from the military for more time to allow the troop surge to work and the pressure to show that administration is serious about closing down the war. Republicans have been urging to not to withdraw troops on an arbitrary timeline; whereas many anti-war Democrats have been calling for a more rapid withdrawal of American troops. Obama administration is aware of diminishing tolerance among Democrats for the Afghanistan war.

Though review described the gains tentative and uneven, it reiterates may what come, the drawdown will begin in July 2011. The review says President Obama’s military strategy is “setting the conditions” for a reduction of US forces beginning in July 2011, but how many soldiers will actually come home next July remains an open question; it is likely to be only a symbolic number; and withdrawal will be “conditions” based.

Review describes both progress and challenges only in general and restrained terms, avoiding outright criticism of Pakistan and the Afghan governments. It points to a handful of areas where the influx of American troops has had an impact. For instance, night raids by Special Forces operatives and increased security measures in local villages are projected as having reduced the overall Taliban influences in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Obama wants to continue with broad counter insurgency strategy, focused on protecting the population, while intensifying military pressure on insurgents. However, trouble persists, and may even snowball.

Review said that the United States continues to kill leaders of Al Qaeda and diminish its capacity to launch terrorist attacks from the region, it has halted or reversed inroads by the Taliban in Afghanistan and strengthened the ability of Afghan forces to secure their country, but acknowledged that the gains are fragile and could be easily undone unless more progress is made towards hunting down insurgents operating from havens in Pakistan. Report did not mention names of Al Qaeda leaders captured or killed.

“There has been significant progress in disrupting and dismantling the Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of Al Qaeda over the past year,” the report said. “Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been depleted, the group’s safe haven is smaller and less secure, and its ability to prepare and conduct terrorist operations has been degraded in several ways.” But those gains appear dwarfed by the challenges that remain, particularly in Pakistan, where “the denial of extremist safe havens will require greater cooperation with Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan,” the review said. “Furthermore, the denial of extremist safe havens cannot be achieved with military means alone, but must continue to be advanced by effective development strategies.”

Report says that American counterterrorism operations, including unmanned drone strikes, have been particularly effective in targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the border regions. No mention has however been made of loss of innocent lives and infrastructural damages resulting from disproportionate use of force by drones against indiscreetly selected targets. Nor an offer has been made for compensating the non-combatant effectees of the drone menace.

While the overview appeared to take pains not to specifically criticize the Pakistani government, frustration has been expressed over Pakistan’s willingness to hunt down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border. Just as it did not single out the Pakistani government for criticism, the overview does not overtly criticize the Karzai government, reflecting the administration’s realization that its previous tactic of overt public pressure had often backfired.

Though administration officials privately say that corruption in the Afghan government has continued to flourish, the report appears to skirt the issue. “Emphasis must continue to be placed on the development of Afghan led security and governance within areas that have been a focus of military operations”. The review warns that the strategy’s success will hinge on the ability of the Afghan government to take over responsibility. “A major challenge will be demonstrating that the Afghan government has the capacity to consolidate in areas cleared by ISAF and Afghan Security Forces.”

Report indicates that the Afghan army has exceeded growth targets set by NATO and American military officials, and training of the Afghan forces who are expected to take over the lead from American and NATO troops. However, it ignores the facts that despite the growing numbers, quality of a typical Afghan soldier is poor; composition of the security forces is not a mirror reflection of national demographic profile. Motivation of individual soldiers as well as public acceptance and performance of the Afghan forces, as an institution, is in quandary. However, review mildly acknowledges that Afghanistan’s army and police will not be able to take over responsibility for security until at least 2014. It may take even longer before the government ministries are capable of providing even basic services.

Two recent classified intelligence reports offer a negative assessment, saying that although there have been gains for the United States and NATO in the war, the unwillingness of Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle. American military commanders say insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to plant bombs and fight American troops and then return to Pakistan for rest and re-supply.

Toll of nine years of war has eroded the Afghan and American public support for the ongoing counterinsurgency effort. Latest polls by western news outlets find that around 55% of Afghans want occupation forces to leave the country as soon as possible. Nearly 75% respondents wanted to immediately end the war by negotiating with the insurgents.  Likewise, a record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, according to a new poll which coincides with the Obama administration’s review of its strategy. Only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war’s been worth fighting,

A common Afghan thinks that the focus on security needs and the needs to field local forces to fight the Taliban has come at the expense of focusing on corruption. Sanjar Sohail, the editor of a daily newspaper in Kabul, points out that although documents released by WikiLeaks reveal a deep concern over graft and foul play within Karzai administration, that hasn’t resulted in decisive action to confront the problem. He further opined that “People here think that international troops have brought this government to power and support it, and at the same time close their eyes to the bad activities of their Afghan partners.”

In a significant departure from the military manuals spelling out the counterinsurgency strategy, Americans have been spending around 3% on civilians sectors of nation building against the laid down scale of 80%. This has translated into serious inadequacies of infrastructure and glaring shortfall in institutional capacities.

As regards conduct of military operations in Afghanistan, recent American intelligence appreciations offer dim prospects of American success. These reports say that although there has been progress in the war, Pakistan’s unwillingness to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle.

US military commanders and senior Pentagon officials have criticized these reports as dated and written by Washington based analysts who have spent little time in the war zone. While US military officials boast of significant gains in the militants’ southern strongholds in recent months, they caution that it won’t be possible to fully gauge the impact until fighting picks up again in the spring. And even in the best-case scenario, it will still take at least four more years to complete a full handover to Afghan security forces.

David Swanson has reported that when late Holbrooke was asked at a US Senate hearing earlier this year that what in the world he was doing and toward what end in Afghanistan, he repeatedly failed to produce an answer. That could explain his deathbed conversion and his final words to his surgeon: “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”

WikiLeaks have further enhanced the political baggage of drone attacks for Pakistan’s political and military leadership. These attacks have pushed Pakistan into a very difficult situation.  Suicide bombing incidents are a direct military reaction to drone attacks. Pakistan government can curtail suicide attacks if CIA stops these drone attacks, which are anyway extra- legal, touching the boundaries of war crimes. Drone attacks have dramatically eroded the public support for American war effort; dissenting voices even from within America are snowballing at a pretty fast pace.

The review examines the progress in the US relationship with Pakistan, which is called “substantial, but also uneven.” It says the two countries targeted al Qaeda in six of Pakistan’s seven agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the region that borders Afghanistan. It also notes that the gains came at a great cost to Pakistan, which endured military and civilian casualties from terrorist attacks. “Better balance and integration of the various components of our strategy will be required to reach our objectives. For instance, the denial of extremist safe havens will require greater cooperation with Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.”

Although the review points to combat gains, TX Hammes, a retired Marine colonel and senior research fellow at the National Defense University says, “Tactical success doesn’t have any impact if you have strategic failure.” “What do we think is going to change at the strategic level between now and 2014 that will translate this tactical success into some kind of strategic success,” he asks. “You go back to the two major questions — will Pakistan change in a major way by 2014 and will the [Afghan] government change the way it operates before 2014?” If the answer to those questions is no, Hammes says, it’s not time for another progress report. It’s time for a new strategy.

Hammes indeed offers a food for though. A dual track approach by the occupation forces focused at decimating the Taliban while at the same time wooing them for political dialogue is not likely to bring any change the way Pakistan and Afghanistan would operate in 2014.

While America is losing the Afghan war, it is finding excuses to blame Pakistan on one pretext or another. It is time for Pakistan to carry out its own review of Afghan policy, and distance itself from the US on those points where it does not have convergence of interests. With the expanded public knowledge due to Wikileaks saga, people of Pakistan are better informed on Afghan war affairs.  It may no longer be tenable to continue with the existing policy that is largely viewed as an instrument of appeasing America at the cost of mid-to-long term national interests. A handle on drone operations should be the top priority item for the military and political leadership of Pakistan.

Posted in World10 Comments



Danna Harman: Bloggers claim WikiLeaks struck deal with Israel over diplomatic cables leaks

December 18, 2010

by Gordon Duff  

The lack of information damaging to Israel in the cables released by WikiLeakshas provided fodder for conspiracy theorists.

By Danna Harman inHaaretz

PARIS – It was only a matter of time before conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to suggest that Israel is behind the publication of the WikiLeaks trove – and is manipulating the information coming out to help Israeli interests.

“Where is the real dirt on Israel?” these conspiracy theorists – messaging back and forth in the blogosphere – are asking one another.

“The answer appears to be a secret deal struck between WikiLeaks’ … Assange … with Israeli officials, which ensured that all such documents were ‘removed’ before the rest were made public,” wrote Gordon Duff, an editor of the anti-war website Veterans Today, who frequently opines about what he believes is Israeli’s secret influence over world events.

Speaking to Haaretz, Duff added that “it sticks out like a sore thumb that WikiLeaks is obviously concocted by an intelligence agency. It’s a ham-handed action by Israel to do its public relations.”

Meanwhile, Al Haqiqa, an Arabic language webzine, citing disgruntled WikiLeaks volunteers, adds more details to the conspiracy, suggesting that this “secret agreement” between Assange and “the Mossad,” which allegedly took place in Geneva, involved Assange’s promise not to publish any document that “may harm Israeli security or diplomatic interests.”

“The Israel government, it seems, had somehow found out or expected that the documents to be leaked contained a large number of documents about the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008-9 respectively,” adds an anonymous blogger on IndyMedia. “These documents, which are said to have originated mainly from the American embassies in Tel Aviv and Beirut, were removed and possibly destroyed by Assange, who is the only person who knows the password that can open these documents, the sources added.”

Remy Ourdon, who is in charge of the WikiLeaks project for Le Monde – one of the five international newspapers that were given advance copies of the cables by Assange – counters that it is incorrect to claim there are no cables of interest about Israel.

“Not everything has come out yet,” he tells Haaretz. “There are tens of thousands of cables and many surprises still coming. There is almost no country which does not have some cables emanating from it.”

Moreover, stresses Ourdon, contrary to the conspiracy theorists’ charges, Assange is not in control of which cables WikiLeaks publishes – that is determined solely by what the person who obtained the cables was able to access and pass along.

Other observers offer an alternative explanation for the lack – so far – of many insightful cables out of Israel. For example, Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem (1993-1997 ) suggests, on facebook, that it might have something to do with the level of information being offered out of the country.

“The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has been so out of the loop for the last six years that their reporting is about what you read in the Israeli press (probably where they get most of their information ). .

“There’s a channel U.S. embassies use for very sensitive information and I don’t think WikiLeaks has those cables. As for Tel Aviv, the last two ambassadors have not been risk-takers and have had a very low profile. I doubt they have been willing to rock the boat, and may not have had much, if any, inside information.”

What would be more interesting, Abington persists, is the reporting from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. “Where is that reporting?” he asks.

“Stay tuned,” says Ourdon.

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on WIKILEAKS ZIONIST DEAL



December 18, 2010

by Debbie Menon 


All in All You’re Just another Brick in Israel’s Wall

6 activists and a journalist were arrested December 13 in Oakland, when they performed this dance at the Marriott Hotel, where the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was having a fundraiser.


7 arrested at Flashmob Protesting AIPAC

AIPAC’s push for war with Iran (must watch video)

The Treasonous Dollar Drain (must watch about war with Iran for WW III near end of this youtube)

Former Congressman Paul Findley on Push for Iran War

Israeli Nuke Double Standard:





December 18, 2010

by Michael Leon  


Assange calls himself the ‘editor-in-chief’ of WikiLeaks, and says his group has created ‘scientific’ journalism; WikiLeaks’ confidential files are stored in a Cold War bunker in Stockholm | Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images; Banhof AB/Polaris

Julian Assange, with his pale Warholian looks, is now a world hyper-celebrity or international super-villain, out of hiding and in custody, but still defiant. The Swedes may be the first to get him, but many more governments would like to get their hands on him

By Luiza Ch in Macleans.CA

When Julian Assange was finally arrested in London on Dec. 7, it was on allegations of having had unwelcome, unprotected intercourse with two Swedish women, and not for convulsing global diplomacy with his slow, controversial leak of diplomatic cables that infuriated allies, embarrassed kings and princes, were condemned by Washington for endangering lives, and dismissed by Tehran as a CIA plot. In a story worthy of a bestseller by Stieg Larsson, with its mix of state secrets, sex, and self-righteous computer geeks, it could come to pass that the man at the helm of WikiLeaks, who could not be pinned down by the U.S. Espionage Act, is vulnerable to a Swedish law against “sex by surprise.”

Assange, with his pale Warholian looks, is now a world hyper-celebrity or international super-villain, out of hiding and in custody, but still defiant. The Swedes may be the first to get him, but many more governments would like to get their hands on him. It has been a remarkable journey for someone who started out as a teenage hacker in his native Australia but became one of the most notorious men in the world—an individual who may have drastically altered the rules both in the world of diplomacy and the business of journalism. It is a story that has left people wondering about his motives, and pondering the question: what drives Julian Assange?

Assange’s first encounter with the law, and his first fight for the secrets of a government bureaucracy, trace back to 1990, when the then-20-year-old Australian hacked into the Melbourne computers of the Canadian company Nortel.

Assange had been hacking since he was 16, an escape from a childhood that could charitably be described as unstable. He was born in Townsville, a small city on the northeastern coast of Australia, and grew up, among other places, on Magnetic Island—a coastal island named for its mysterious interference with Capt. James Cook’s ship’s compass in 1770. His mother Christine was a roving, bohemian artist who moved her son through dozens of homes and schools before he was 15 (Assange’s parents split shortly after his birth, and his mother married a fellow artist when he was two).

The Townsville Bulletin reported in July that school friends “described Mr. Assange’s family as very alternative, borderline hippies, adding it was: ‘quite exciting to go to their house, so many different things were happening.’ ” Sometimes Assange went to school, sometimes he didn’t, but he was self-taught in a variety of subjects and had a passion for computers. His mother and stepfather travelled around Australia, putting on theatrical plays—his stepfather directed and his mother designed the sets.

They divorced when Assange was nine, and his mother took up with a musician whom Assange would later describe as “a manipulative and violent psychopath.” By his teens, mother and son were on the run from the abusive ex-boyfriend, criss-crossing Australia, and hiding under assumed names. They finally settled on the outskirts of Melbourne, in a rural town called Emerald. There, when he was 17, Assange married his girlfriend, whom he has described as “an intelligent but introverted and emotionally disturbed 16-year-old he had met through a mutual friend in a gifted children’s program.” A year later, they had a son, Daniel.

It was in Emerald that Assange, under the handle “Mendax,” turned a $700 Amiga computer from his mother into a portal through which his roving mind could reach into the outside world. The details of Assange’s childhood and his hacking exploits are detailed in a 1997 book entitledUnderground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, by Australian academic Suelette Dreyfus (on which Assange is credited as a researcher).

According to the book, the young Assange worked as part of a trio of young hackers who called themselves the International Subversives, and infiltrated computers around the world. They bragged of carrying out cyber “assaults” on what they called a “who’s who of the U.S. military-industrial complex,” from the 7th Air Force’s command group headquarters in the Pentagon, and Lockheed Martin’s Tactical Aircraft Systems plant in Texas, to corporations such as Motorola and Xerox. On one such occasion, Mendax discovered Pentagon hackers infiltrating military computers on what he surmised to be a practice mission. The possibility disturbed him. “Hackers, he thought, should be anarchists,” wrote Dreyfus. “Not hawks.”

Assange and his friends hacked for sport and bragging rights, following a credo of not damaging the computers they infiltrated and not profiting from the information they found. They used technical prowess and, at times, human deception. On one occasion, Assange resorted to calling a user of a computer system he was trying to hack, posing as a computer technician and asking for his account password, ostensibly to perform maintenance. To make the call credible from his country perch, he recreated the buzz of a Sydney office building by tape-recording a soundtrack of printer noises, his own typing, and the background murmur of his own voice reading out lines fromMacbeth.

The undoing of the International Subversives would be Nortel, which sold high-tech equipment that ran some of the world’s largest telephone companies, including Australia’s. Mendax set his sights on Nortel in order to find documents that would help him manipulate telephone exchanges, or to install “back doors” in the company’s software that could enable him to control telephone switches installed by Nortel all over the world. “What power! Mendax thought, what if you could turn off 10,000 phones in Rio de Janeiro, or give 5,000 New Yorkers free calls one afternoon, or listen into private telephone conversations in Brisbane. The telecommunications world would be your oyster,” the book recounts.

Once he hacked into the system, Mendax started playing. One of his first acts was to instruct the computer to make 1,000 telephones all ring at once. He found internal security to be relaxed. “By sneaking in the back door, the hackers found themselves able to raid all sorts of Nortel sites, from St. Kilda Road in Melbourne to the corporation’s headquarters in [suburban] Toronto,” wrote Dreyfus. “One of them described it as being ‘like a shipwrecked man washed ashore on a Tahitian island populated by 11,000 virgins, just ripe for the picking.’ ”

They used a password-cracking software, which they set up on computers they believed to be located in Canada, and cracked 5,000 passwords, giving them access to thousands of Nortel computers across the globe. The hackers mused that they could dig up information on new product development or business strategies or internal memos and sell them to competitors or manipulate stock prices. But they considered themselves explorers, not spies, and such a move would have violated their ethics. And rather than get rich, they got caught—the Nortel hack led to the arrest of Assange and his friends. By May 1995, the three hackers faced 63 charges in total, 31 of them for Assange.

On Dec. 5, 1996, Assange pleaded guilty to charges, and got off with a good behaviour bond for three years and a $2,300 fine. But the consequences were severe. In the months leading up to his arrest, Assange had become paranoid, dreaming about police raids, “of footsteps crunching on the driveway gravel, of shadows in the pre-dawn darkness,” and of gun-toting police bursting in, according to Underground. His personal life fell apart. His wife left him and took their son. While awaiting trial, he fell into a depression and was hospitalized. And once the legal troubles were over, he focused on getting his son back, launching a bruising custody fight that lasted nearly a decade and eventually pitted Assange and his mother Christine against Health and Community Services, the Australian child protection agency.

During that battle, they alleged that Assange’s girlfriend’s boyfriend was a danger to the child, but had trouble getting the bureaucracy to intervene. The custody proceedings involved more than 40 legal hearings and appeals, according to the Brisbane Times. The Assanges started a group, Parent Inquiry into Child Protection, to campaign for changes to Australian law. Their investigations into Health and Community Services included a low-tech rehearsal for WikiLeaks: asking social workers to leak internal documents for the creation of a central database. They were able to obtain some internal documents, including a manual, that helped in their advocacy efforts. “What we saw was a great bureaucracy that was trying to squash people,” Christine Assange told The New Yorkermagazine this year. She said the emotional toll left her son’s brown hair drained of colour, and left him scarred by what she called post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1999, he finally got a custody agreement for Daniel.

Whether his child custody battle left him with a permanent hostility to government institutions, only Assange knows for sure. But in 1999, the same year he reached the settlement, he registered the website that would later become WikiLeaks. Through the 1990s, he had been concerned with free speech and technology. In 1993, he’d started a free speech Internet service provider in Australia. In 1997, he co-invented a form of encryption that helps human rights workers protect sensitive data. He studied math and physics at universities in Australia for several years, but became disenchanted, he told the Age newspaper, with how many of his fellow students were conducting research for the U.S. defence system. In 2007, he quit his studies and went to work with an international group of dissidents, mathematicians and academics to create WikiLeaks. “Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East,” the website said. “But we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their own governments and corporations.” Assange was then described in the media as a WikiLeaks official and cryptographer.

According to The New Yorker, the first document posted on the website was a Somali rebel leader’s call to use criminals to assassinate government officials. WikiLeaks went on to post a procedural manual for the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2007. In 2008, it released documents alleging wrongdoing at the Cayman Islands branch of the Julius Bär banking group of Switzerland, internal documents from the Church of Scientology, and the contents of Sarah Palin’s private emails during the 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, it released correspondence relating to climate change research at the University of East Anglia. WikiLeaks was honoured by Amnesty International for the 2008 publication of a suppressed official report about police killings in Kenya.

Assange has often discussed authoritarian conspiracies, but he has not specified whether he considers the United States to be among them. Eventually, though, WikiLeaks did come to focus on American actions—based on a huge cache of hundreds of thousands of secret government documents allegedly downloaded by a low-level military analyst. Last April, WikiLeaks posted a video of U.S. soldiers firing from a helicopter on a group of men in a Baghdad street, in an attack that killed at least 12 people, including two journalists, and injured two children. It was the beginning of a deluge of U.S. documents, all allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning, a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst who confessed in online chats to a former hacker that he downloaded them from army networks.

In July, WikiLeaks released more than 90,000 American documents, most of them classified secret, detailing six years of the war in Afghanistan. Reaction was furious: the U.S., Canada, allied governments and various human rights groups including Amnesty International condemned the release, saying that Afghan informants were endangered. But Assange has insisted there is no evidence the documents led to any harm.

After the Afghan controversy, WikiLeaks released the “Iraq war logs” that detailed the U.S. war effort. This time they were more vigorously redacted, by both the website and a consortium of international news outlets. In a deal that had started with the Afghan documents, the outside journalists would sift through the documents ahead of time, writing articles and posting a sampling of the documents that the journalists had contextualized on their own websites.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former associate of Assange’s who served for several years as the spokesman for WikiLeaks, told Maclean’s that WikiLeaks has evolved its methods through a process of trial and error. “WikiLeaks is working on a very new terrain of society,” he says. “No one has worked in that field in that way.” One decision was to release the leaks only to that small consortium of international news outlets before they were made public—a process that was itself cloaked in secrecy and left the news media of entire countries such as Canada out of the initial loop. “It was a natural consequence of what we learned: if you just put out information, people won’t touch it,” Domscheit-Berg says. “The news media wants exclusive access, they want the scoop, they want to be the first to publish, and so you have to meet that economic consideration.” By making the material exclusive to certain organizations, WikiLeaks was able to “get more resources” dedicated to analyzing the documents, Domscheit-Berg says.

While Wikileaks published all the Iraq documents—albeit heavily redacted by a computer program that left many indecipherable—it is unclear whether or when it will release all of the U.S. diplomatic cables. To date, only a small fraction have been reported on by the press and released by WikiLeaks. According to Assange, he is also in possession of documents relating to corruption in Russia, and is planning another “mega-leak” in 2011 concerning a “big U.S. bank.”

Assange has also said, even before the release of the U.S. cables, that his goal is to expose wrongdoing. At a July conference in Oxford he said that such documents would expose “the true state of, say, what Arab governments are like. They prove human rights abuses.” Asked about his values, Assange once described himself as a “combative” person who seeks to “police perpetrators of crime.” And since the cables have started to be released, he has called on President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to resign, on the grounds that some of the released documents allege they instructed U.S. diplomats to spy on foreign dignitaries at the UN (an accusation U.S. officials deny).

Clinton has called WikiLeaks’ disclosures “an attack on the international community” that puts lives at risk. Defense Secretary Robert Gates played down their impact. “Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes,” he told reporters. “Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.” Gates’s sanguine attitude aside, there is no question that American diplomacy, which the Obama administration had been trying to shore up, has been damaged.

Personal relationships have been strained; relations with the leaders of countries such as Russia and Turkey have become more difficult (some released documents were heavily critical of Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow, while others were critical of the Turkish government). Public opinion in some countries may nurse insults long into the future: witness the angry British reaction after the release of cables with U.S. officials criticizing the effectiveness of British troops in Afghanistan. There is also the cost of time and effort as diplomats scramble to do damage control rather than proceed with their work.

The cables have illustrated some instances of wrongdoing, or, at the very least, grey areas. They showed that the government of Yemen was claiming responsibility for bombings aimed at Islamic terrorists that were secretly carried out by U.S. forces; Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told U.S. Gen. David Petraeus: “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” In Spain, El Pais newspaper reported that the cables showed the role of high-level U.S. officials in trying to stymie Spanish criminal investigations into incidents of alleged torture by the United States, violations of the laws of war in Iraq, or kidnappings in connection with the CIA’s extraordinary renditions program. And Obama was criticized in Israel for telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu it was essential to make progress on the Palestinian issue in order to build up support among Arab states for putting pressure on Iran: in fact, he was already in possession of the cables in which King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called on the U.S. to “cut off the head” of the Persian “snake.”

But the leaks have also shown diplomats doing their jobs, with some instances of success: the Obama administration put together a coalition—including a previously recalcitrant China and Russia—to impose harsh economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The cables suggest U.S. diplomats got Russia on board by moving Bush-era plans for a missile defence system out of Eastern Europe and onto ships closer to Iran. China’s co-operation was achieved by brokering an agreement in which Saudi Arabia guaranteed a supply of oil if the Chinese lost their Iranian energy source.

The cables also showed that the U.S. resisted calls from Middle Eastern leaders to attack Iran. “In the Middle East, we are portrayed as these gunslingers who shoot up Iran and Afghanistan, but what comes across is that we are playing a moderate role,” says Fariborz Ghadar, a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic International Studies, a Washington think tank. “Where Arabs and the Israelis want to bomb Iran, we are basically holding everyone back. The silver lining in the Middle East is that in the public’s eye we are more reasonable than they are.”

On the other hand, the cables and the coverage they have received in the U.S., taken as a whole, paint a grim, Hobbesian picture of a world full of threats, unstable leaders and unreliable allies—some with ulterior motives, as alleged by the cable describing a cozy and lucrative relationship between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Putin. They suggest that no country, not even China, has a reliable window into the regime running North Korea. Foreign policy hawks see in the bleak picture painted by the documents an affirmation of their hardline positions. “The cables show a world with a lot of threats and challenges for the United States,” John Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the UN under president George W. Bush, told Maclean’s in an interview. Bolton added that President Obama’s efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program “have failed badly” and, “absent some pre-emptive military action, Iran will get military weapons.” The cables also show, he contended, that “the whole idea that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program would somehow cause chaos in the Middle East has not been the correct analysis.”

It is unlikely that Assange’s goal was to embolden American foreign policy hawks. In a letter to theAustralian newspaper published on the day of his arrest, he wrote, “People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies.”

It is far too early to judge the full impact of the leaked cables. One unintended consequence may be to make the U.S. more cautious in pressing the issue of press freedom abroad. On the same day Assange was arrested, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley announced that in May, Washington would host a three-day UNESCO meeting to mark World Press Freedom Day. “The theme for this commemoration will be ‘21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers,’ ” announced Crowley. But, he added, “Obviously, we decided upon this before the latest round of news.”

Meanwhile, Manning, 22, the alleged leaker, is being held at the military brig at Quantico, Va., facing a possible 52-year prison term. The U.S. Justice Department is looking for charges to bring against WikiLeaks. But whatever his personal fate, Assange’s work is now bigger than himself. He has distributed the contents of other document caches to his supporters in encrypted form, and has threatened that if something happens to him, he will release the key and they will flood the Internet with their unredacted, and presumably very dangerous, contents.

Moreover, the phenomenon is about to become bigger than even WikiLeaks. Assange’s former associate, Domscheit-Berg, says he is planning to launch his own site next week. It would provide a secure way of sharing leaked documents online without publishing them on the website, he said. “Analogous to the world where you as a journalist can have someone send you a document, you should have the possibility in the digital age to receive documents via an online mechanism,” he said.

Domscheit-Berg—who left WikiLeaks after three years due to differences with Assange over the way the organization was being run—says he wants to see the proliferation of more whistle-blower websites. “I do not believe that there should be a single monolithic website that deals with this need for society to handle information. I believe in decentralization. I think we should have plenty of these sites,” he told Maclean’s.

He says he regrets that WikiLeaks has become what he calls “a pop culture phenomenon.” Public attention should focus on the documents, not the organization, Domscheit-Berg says. “The form is distracting from the content in some way which I think is sub-optimal.” Assange held on to power too closely, he said—putting himself in danger and hurting the organization. “I do not think this should be in one man’s hands—that’s partly why I left.” But as long as the focus is on the group, Domscheit-Berg plans to have his own say. The German says he is writing a book about his WikiLeaks experiences that is to be published in Germany in January.

Assange, meanwhile, is making the high-stakes case that WikiLeaks is a journalistic organization and entitled to the same legal protections as the free press. He pointedly calls himself the “editor-in-chief” of WikiLeaks, and says his group has created “scientific” journalism. “Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on,” he wrote in the Australian. “That way you can judge for yourself: is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?”

But Assange has also distanced himself from the profession. “It’s a worry, isn’t it, that the world’s media is doing such a bad job that a little group of activists is able to release more [classified] information than the rest of the world’s media combined,” he once said. But pressed further by an interviewer who described him as a former teenaged hacker, Assange shot back: “I was a young journalist/activist at an early age. I wrote a magazine and was prosecuted for it when I was a teenager. You have to be careful with ‘hacker.’ ”

According to the account in Underground, the book Assange himself helped author, that electronic magazine he edited, “The International Subversive,” recorded modem numbers and passwords collected by Assange and his two collaborators, and compiled instructions on hacking. Prosecutors used it as evidence of “incitement” to hack. It had a circulation of three.




December 18, 2010

by Michael Leon 

The White House is using its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing “progress” in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.

By Robert Greenwald at AlterNet

Let’s take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:

And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and “progress,” and that there’s virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?

Insurgency Growing and Getting Stronger

This cat is already out of the bag, no matter how hard the Pentagon tries to reel it back in. In the ironically named “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” published several weeks ago, the Pentagon told Congress that the insurgency’s organizational and geographic reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding. This growth is reflected in other statistics. According to USA TODAY, U.S. troops were hit with 7,000 more attacks this year compared to last year. About 3,800 troops were killed and injured by IEDs, about 1,000 more than last year. These statistics depict an insurgency with unbroken momentum, despite administration and military claims to the contrary.

As the signers of the Afghanistan Call to Reason put it last week,

“Despite these huge costs, the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country. It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition. The Taliban today are now a national movement with a serious presence in the north and the west of the country. Foreign bases are completely isolated from their local environment and unable to protect the population.”

The insurgents’ momentum is clearly shown by the number of attacks they’ve initiated across the country so far this year. According to the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO),

“The [Taliban] counter-offensive is increasingly mature, complex & effective. Country wide attacks have grown by 59% (p.10) while sophisticated recruitment techniques have helped activate networks of fighters in the North where European NATO contributors have failed to provide an adequate deterrent (p.11). Some provinces here are experiencing double the country average growth rate (p.12) and their districts are in danger of slipping beyond any control. Clumsy attempts to stem the developments, through the formation of local militia’s and intelligence-poor operations, have served to polarize communities with the IEA capitalizing on the local grievances that result. In the South, despite more robust efforts from the US NATO contingents, counterinsurgency operations in Kandahar and Marjah have similarly failed to degrade the IEA’s ability to fight, reduce the number of civilian combat fatalities (p.13) or deliver boxed Government.”

Here’s a helpful chart from ANSO’s report that shows the level of ever-escalating insurgent attacks across Afghanistan.

ANSO Chart, Afghanistan violence

The White House wants to weasel out of the implications of the data above by saying that the reason the statistics are going south is because, as Petraeus so often says, “when you take away areas important to the enemy, the enemy fights back.” So, we’re “on offense,” as President told troops few weeks ago during his trip to Afghanistan. Well, so what? The 1976 Buccaneers went on offense, too, but that didn’t mean they won games.

When the administration claims that they’re seeing “progress” in pockets of southern Helmand and Kandahar (a claim open to serious dispute, by the way, and strangely contradicted by some of Petraeus’ own spin), they’re displaying a familiar kind of confusion between the tactical and the strategic, one that seems to always pop up when we’re confronting a failed war.

“One of the iconic exchanges of Vietnam came, some years after the war, between Col. Harry Summers, a military historian, and a counterpart in the North Vietnamese Army. As Summers recalled it, he said, ‘You never defeated us in the field.’ To which the NVA officer replied: ‘That may be true. It is also irrelevant.’”

Pakistan’s Double Game

That brings us to Pakistan. According to the New York Times, two new National Intelligence Estimates “offer a more negative assessment [than the administration’s upcoming review] and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.” But that’s some serious wishful thinking, since Pakistan has long used the Taliban as a cat’s paw to combat growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants the militants who threaten it internally suppressed, but it finds the militants who threaten the Karzai regime useful. Fixing that problem would requite U.S. policy follow the roots of their support of the Taliban all the way up to the India/Pakistan animosity, and nothing–nothing–in the U.S.’s military-first strategy comes close to doing so.

Troops Pay the Price

While U.S. politicians nibble at the edges of this real crisis, U.S. troops pay the bloody price, a price that’s gotten much worse with the arrival of the new escalation policy over the course of this year. At least 874 American troops have been killed in the war so far this year, compared to 317 for all of 2009In the NATO hospital near Kandahar, doctors performed a major amputation once very other day in September.

These statistics go hand-in-hand with the huge rise in civilian casualties, which number some 2,400 this year so far, according to the Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict.

Time for the White House to Get Real

The Obama Administration is kidding itself if it thinks the American people will buy this attempted whitewash of the failure of the escalation strategy in Afghanistan. We are in the grips of a desperate unemployment crisis, wrapped in a larger economic meltdown. We are not ignorant of the $2 billion dollars sent per day on the war, and we want that money, and those young people, back here at home so we put people back to work.

Following the death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the president should take a step back and realize that we all have to travel down that road some day. He should think about what legacy he wants to leave behind him. Postponing a final end to U.S. military action in Afghanistan until 2014 puts U.S. taxpayers and American troops on the hook for an enormous investment of blood and treasure in a failing enterprise with no prospects for a turnaround.

A real, honest review would objectively conclude that the enterprise is failing and that the best alternative is to start removing U.S. troops immediately to stave off continued economic and social damage caused by this war that’s not making us safer nor worth the cost.

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December 18, 2010

by Michael Leon  

Tom Engelhardt sats the Bush administration redefined patriotism and American identity, polarizing the country. Anyone who challenged the war, the Bush line went, must either be a “wuss” or a traitor … [or a “Defeatocrat”]

The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s, Tom Engelhardt (Haymarket Books, 269 pages)

Review by Brad Birzer in The American Conservative

On Nov. 9, 1989 a number of students crowded into a tight dormitory room, one of the few with a TV, in Zahm Hall at the University of Notre Dame. They had gathered to watch history unfold, as thousands of East and West Germans came together armed with sledgehammers, hope, and joy to tear down the Berlin Wall, skipping, sliding, and shimmering across the top of that concrete monstrosity. Only eight years before, President Reagan, under the watchful eye of Our Lady of the Lake atop her Golden Dome, had stood a few buildings down from Zahm and identified communism as “some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.” The prophecy was coming true, right there on the screen.

Since the early 1960s, Ronald Reagan had been planning an end to the Cold War in what might only be described as the equivalent of a mixture of fantasy baseball and the board game Risk. He stated his aim openly throughout his two terms as president, but predictably few believed him. The kind dismissed his words as simple optimism from a lovable actor. The cynical—including those who helped shape public opinion—dismissed Reagan’s words as misguided, destabilizing, idiotic, colored by too many White House screenings of “Star Wars.”

But even after Reagan’s vision was fulfilled, the Cold War did not end. The events of 1989 should have offered the West some breathing room, a time to rethink the purpose of our nation and reinvigorate republican ideals. Instead, the past two decades, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, have revealed America and the West as morally and spiritually bankrupt. Plunder and torture best symbolize the bloated American Empire of the last 20 years, a force that exists merely for the sake of self-perpetuation. Our standing in the world has declined precipitously. At home, many are angry and want to change, organize, and harangue. Despite their best intentions, they stand impotent, comprehending neither the past nor the present, looking at the future—when not navel-gazing—with understandable dread.

When voters elected Barack Obama in 2008, his supporters acclaimed him higher than a prophet; he was messianic. As one fine and intelligent person—an expert in high tech as well as a farmer—wrote to me in immediate post-election euphoria, “Brad, why are you so upset, don’t you realize that we finally have a chance to end war and poverty, permanently?”

What the Obama administration has delivered, of course, is not only the continuation of the policies of the previous three administrations but a profound exaggeration of them. If anything, we suffer more violations of our privacy and civil liberties now than at any time during the Bush administration, all in the name of a national-security state that keeps the populace in its place while perpetuating war abroad.

In his soul-searching, illuminating, and often depressing look at the unholy ménage of Demos, Leviathan, and Mars, Tom Englehardt probes deeply into the war culture of Washington, D.C. He notes that only two positions have any real voice in contemporary public-policy debate: those who want more of this and those who want more of that. The key word is “more.” As Englehardt writes, when it comes to conflict overseas “however contentious the disputes in Washington, however dismally the public viewed the war, however much the president’s war coalition might threaten to crack open, the only choices were between more and more.” More drones, more troops, more nation-building.

So much for campaign promises and the new messiah who would end war and poverty permanently. The first military budget Obama submitted, Engelhardt notes, was larger than the last one tendered by the Bush administration. “Because the United States does not look like a militarized country, it’s hard for Americans to grasp that Washington is a war capital, that the United States is a war state, that it garrisons much of the planet, and that the norm for us is to be at war somewhere (usually, in fact, many places) at any moment.”

Further, as the Washington Post revealed this past summer in a penetrating series on the intelligence community, no one knows exactly how many persons in how many agencies are spending what levels of taxpayer dollars to keep the espionage machine running. Engelhardt argues the intelligence communities are as bloated as any part of the Department of Defense. (Too bad we don’t still call it the Department of War, which would be far more honest.)

As further evidence of our degeneration into a martial empire, the U.S. sells 70 percent of the weapons in the international arms trade. In almost every way, Engelhardt contends, the United States precipitates the militarization of the globe.

How far and fast we’ve fallen since the relatively peaceful days of the Reagan era. Four interventionist administrations later, we find ourselves as the leaders of international vice and terror. What happened, Englehardt asks, to the republic our Founders bequeathed to us? What have we done with and to our inheritance?

In the background, I can hear Steve Horgarth’s wonderfully English voice from the film “Brave”: “The Cold War’s gone, but those bastards will find us another one. They’re here to protect you, don’t you know. Get used to it.” He was right.

The bastards have placed barbed wire, barricades, cameras, and uniformed persons throughout the once republican capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. Those bastards control the levers of power throughout the country, not just inside the Beltway. They just made my wife and I remove our shoes and belts and hand over to the federal government any bottles of liquids with three ounces or more. The bastards are everywhere. And it seems America isn’t enough for them: avarice begets avarice.

With an excellent mind and an equally fine pen, Engelhardt demonstrates true patriotism to the America founding and to the larger humane and irenic ideals of the West:

What a world might be like in which we began not just to withdraw our troops from one war to fight another, but to seriously scale down the American global mission, close those hundreds of bases—as of 2010, there were almost 400 of them, macro to micro, in Afghanistan alone—and bring our military home is beyond imagining. To discuss such obviously absurd possibilities makes you an apostate to America’s true religion and addiction, which is force.  However much it might seem that most of us are peaceably watching our TV sets or computer screens or iPhones, we Americans are also—always—marching to war. We may not all bother to attend the church of our new religion, but we all tithe. We all partake. In a sense we live peaceably in a state of war.

Reading such good prose invigorates like little else in this world of sorrows. But one should not consider Engelhardt merely a writer of golden prose. This body has a soul as well, and Engelhardt convincingly presents evidence as well as argument throughout the book.

In the first chapter, he shows how the George W. Bush administration went from nothing to everything, how 9/11 “called” Bush to lead a crusade and to give his presidency drive, and perhaps most importantly how the country came to be transformed into a “homeland.” Next, Engelhardt considers how to garrison a planet: “Imagine the hubris involved in the idea of being ‘global policemen’ or ‘sheriff’ and marching into a Dodge City that was nothing less than Planet Earth itself.” American bureaucrats, diplomats, and army engineers swarmed the globe, remaking a post-Cold War world into post-post-Cold War one. “Naturally, with a whole passel of bad guys out there, a ‘global swamp’ to be ‘drained,’ we armed ourselves to kill, not stun.”

The American Way of War is brimming with insights. Engelhardt develops the fascinating argument that the history of the past 11 decades is the history of the airplane and our use of it for war, from the Sopwith Camel to the drone piloted remotely out of Las Vegas. In rather Chomsky-like (or perhaps Orwellian) fashion, one of Engelhardt’s later chapters explores the perversion of words in the English language to make the idea of war more palatable for the public and keep perpetual conflict “hidden in plain sight.” Engelhardt claims the Bush administration redefined patriotism and American identity, polarizing the country. Anyone who challenged the war, the Bush line went, must either be a “wuss” or a traitor.

In great detail, the author shows the continuity of thought from Clinton to Obama, revealing, not surprisingly, that the current president controls, possesses, and wields the greatest amount of power—in terms of military, real estate, and budget—anywhere or anytime. Never did Obama plan to follow through with his peace promises made during the 2008 campaign.

Too often, Engelhardt sagaciously concludes, Americans spend their time in a future that cannot possibly be known, imagining their country’s role as savior and messiah. But Engelhardt notes that only the past can reveal our true selves. “Not even Americans can occupy the future,” he writes. “It belongs to no one.”

Not even to the bastards.

Brad Birzer is the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and Professor of History at Hillsdale College. He is the author, most recently, of American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll.





Veterans Today Writer Is Just a “Conspiracy Theorist

December 18, 2010

by Michael Leon

Marine in China Beach

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat Vietnam veteran, among other colorful pursuits.


By Michael Leon at MAL Contends

You know not to ask him about his service, but he’s pretty descriptive when he’s in the mood to talk. [Duff is pictured at left in 1969 in China Beach.]

Update: Writes an Israeli reader: “too bad you’re not in vietnanam (sic) exploded”. Hey Israeli reader, too bad American veterans that you so despise can’t declare war with the state of Israel and explode your ass!

One of his topics of concern now-a-days is the war-all-the-time obsession of the state of Israel. Predictably, this has earned him the enmity of a Haaretz columnist who brands Duff as a “conspiracy theorist” this morning.

So to all Israel Firsters:

  • Yes, Israel has no influence over American foreign policy.

  • Yes, Israel has no Lobby and no power over the U.S. Congress.

  • Israel has no intelligence agencies.

  • Israel has no propaganda machine.

  • Israel is not an occupying power in the occupied territories.

  • Israel does not bulldoze houses.

  • Israel did not kill Rachel Corrie.

  • Israel has never attacked Lebanon and Gaza.

  • Israel has a wonderful human rights record.

  • You get the point: Israel is just a poor country with no military, no imperial ambitions, and certainly nothing but love for Islamic people the world-over.

And that USS Liberty thing that has American veterans so upset: Never happened!

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