Archive | August 9th, 2011

Escalating Street Protests in IsraHell


by Stephen Lendma



Ongoing since mid-July, IsraHelli street protests are unprecedented in size, scope, and (so far) determination to stay the course for social justice.

Two previous articles discussed them, accessed through the following links:

What began as a Tel Aviv middle class protest for affordable housing, mushroomed to include all segments of Israeli society (except its super-rich) to include many other social justice issues.

As a result, small protests became huge ones nationwide in 11 cities. More on the largest ones below.

At issue are the following grievances:

(1) Along with America and Britain, Israel has the greatest wealth disparity and social inequality among developed nations, causing unemployment, poverty, hunger, homelessness, and eroding benefits.

(2) Unaffordable housing, creating an intolerable burden for growing numbers being priced out of a place to live.

(3) High food and energy prices.

(4) Low wages and eroding social benefits.

(5) Onerous taxes on working households.

(6) Lack of free education and better healthcare benefits.

(7) Weak labor rights.

(8) A disproportionate amount of construction funding for settlement development, leaving too little to build affordable housing in Israel.

(9) Israel spends double the amount per settlement resident compared to others Israelis. In fact, since the 1990s, it’s been official government policy to encourage population shifts to West Bank and East Jerusalem locations, depriving most Israelis in the process. In addition, Israel spends over $700 million annually on occupation, besides an inordinate amount on defense at the expense of social needs.

(10) The “high cost of raising children,” the common ignored complaint voiced by most Israelis.

On August 8, four Haaretz writers headlined, “More than 300,000 demonstrate across Israel to protest high cost of living,” saying:

From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Haifa to Kiryat Shmona to Modi’in to Hod Hasharon to Eilat and elsewhere, about 300,000 turned out Saturday evening in a growing show of force and determination for social justice.

“An entire generation demands a future,” and “The people demand social justice,” they chanted. They know what they want and demand it, from Netanyahu or someone else if he refuses or does too little.

On August 7, Haaretz writer Yair Ettinger headlined, “Revolution picks up steam,” saying:

City elders nationwide “stood by as if they couldn’t believe” what was ongoing – unprecedented nonviolent determination to end neoliberalism’s chokehold on Israeli society. People rallied, shouting “revolution,” suggesting what’s happening has legs.

On August 7, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, “The miracle of the rebellion,” saying:

It erupted when least expected “from a generation (raised) on idiotic game shows (with) no room for meaningful debate; on the club sense, another wasteland (in) bars and cafes….(involving people) raised (in) a school system (that failed them, and in) colleges and universities….turned into grade stores; on media that brainwash (and) spread fear; and (with) student unions” more concerned about “singers who perform on Students’ Day” than preparing young people for adult life.

Participants include people “raised on materialism, designer labels, trends and gadgets, (and) escapism, (comprised partly of) drunks and druggies (who also became) racist and nationalist.”

Who’d have expected a revolutionary spirit from participants never before imagining it, let alone rallying in solidarity for over three weeks with a determination never before shown for social change.

“The nothing generation….surprised us all.” Suddenly they discovered social justice and demand it. “It’s nothing short of a miracle,” and suggests if possible in Israel, perhaps anywhere, even in America where bread and circus distractions take top priority.

Yet after years of quiescence, there it was, resonating powerfully without letup, demanding what politicians won’t do anywhere without pressure too strong to contest, provided participants stay the course, retain their energy and won’t quit, come hell or high water.

America’s Media: Serving Power, not People

The second above-linked article discussed how America’s media suppressed an event too important to dismiss, but they did. Except for a few woefully inadequate print articles, virtually nothing’s been reported.

It’s what passes for journalism in America, especially on issues relating to war and peace, corporate power and privilege, as well as anything negative about Israel.

New York Times writer Ethan Bonner missed the mark earlier. The above link comments on his July 31 article, typical of how their writers fall short. At best, they go so far and no further, omitting what’s most important to know. Readers have to go elsewhere to learn them.

On August 6, Times writer Isabel Kershner outdid Bonner in her article headlined, “Protests Grow in Israel, With 250,000 Marching,” saying:

In the largest protests so far (yet downplaying their size, except for briefly mentioning 300,000 in her text), they “demonstrate(d) against the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing….”

She also briefly mentioned high taxes, food and gasoline, a growing gap between rich and poor, and eroding social services with no background, context, explanation, or analysis of what caused today’s crisis and why.

It didn’t arrive like “Topsy,” the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” slave girl, who when asked if she knew who made her said, “I s’pect I (just) growed.” Israel’s crisis “growed” over decades of social neglect before boiling over.

Bonner’s article was longer, yet inadequate. Kershner’s was woefully weak and short. In both, readers came away with no understanding of longstanding Israeli social injustices. Nor were they given context to understand them, or why they happened in the first place, what’s most important to know.

Notably: Who gains? Who loses, to what degree, for what purpose, and an explanation of the curse of neoliberal extremism, ravishing all Western societies, Israel one of the most unequal.

The best from Kershner was to say “Netanyahu announced a series of measures late last month meant to alleviate the housing shortage. The organizers dismissed them as insufficient,” and who knows if he’ll even follow through.

Politicians notoriously make promises they won’t fulfill, especially right-wing ones. Obama, in fact, broke every major promise he made, yet too few Americans know it.

Netanyahu offered to dialog with protest leaders through senior officials without explaining that Israelis want action, not talk.

In addition, Bonner and Kershner omitted a key issue entirely – Israel’s rage to develop settlements, disproportionately benefitting residents in them at the expense of mainland social justice, besides stealing Palestinian land, a topic America’s media never mention.

Neither writer discussed disproportionality, yet Israelis prioritize it, wanting all of them treated equitably. It’s why why protests began in the first place – over unaffordable housing, because settlement development takes precedence over providing it.

It’s a policy protesters want changed, but don’t expect America’s media to explain, including Times writers like Bonner, Kershner and all others. They’re paid to mislead, suppress, deceive and lie, not inform.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Escalating Street Protests in IsraHell

The US Objectives Set For Pakistan

by Asif Haroon Raja


Although the US has failed to win war in Afghanistan, it has succeeded in achieving most objectives it had chalked out in September 2001 against Pakistan through covert war. As against the advice of India, the US desisted from applying direct strategy due to Pakistan’s nuclear capability. The US and its strategic partners therefore embarked upon a well-thought plan to gradually weaken Pakistan and its institutions politically, socially, economically and militarily to such an extent that it becomes powerless and either voluntarily hands over the keys of its nuclear arsenal in return for aid for its survival or else it becomes so paralytic that it is unable to respond when nuclear arsenal is physically struck. Besides denuclearization, other major objectives were to make Pakistan forget about Kashmir and to accept India’s hegemony. Progress so far made by adversaries of Pakistan is listed as under:

  •     Weight of the war on terror has been craftily shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

  •     The people of northwestern tribal belt that were always regarded as our assets and had guarded our western border without any assistance from armed forces have turned hostile and a segment among them in its misplaced belief of establishing a caliphate is towing the agenda of adversaries of Pakistan.

  •     The western border that had become safe from 1989 onwards during the Mujahideen rule followed by Taliban rule in Kabul has once again become unsafe and has assumed dangerous proportions due to presence of US-NATO forces in Afghanistan and their mounting aggressiveness.

  •     Peaceful and docile Balochistan is up in arms and rebellious Baloch nationalists are demanding independent Balochistan. Non-locals have migrated in huge numbers.

  •     Indian influence in Afghanistan that had vanished during Taliban rule has returned to haunt Pakistan. The US is striving to make India a key country in the region after its departure from Afghanistan. Indian and Israeli presence in Afghanistan has posed a two-front threat to Pakistan’s security.

  •     Volatile forces are active in whole of FATA, several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan. Sindh is also restive and Karachi has become a killing field for target killers while southern Punjab is fast falling into the loop of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

  •     CIA, FBI, MI-6, agents have made deep inroads in government departments, legal fraternity and media while RAW and Blackwater have established networks in all the troubled regions of Pakistan. RAW’s involvement in Gilgit and CIA’s penetration within armed forces are latest revelations.

  •     Under a planned strategy, India has been given a go-ahead to construct large number of dams on all the rivers flowing into Pakistan to create acute water scarcity in Pakistan and make it dependent upon India. Water strategy will be applied by India to solve Kashmir dispute on Indian terms.

  •     Kashmir is almost a lost cause and talks are at best confined to confidence building measures only. Arrest of Kashmiri leader Ghulam Nabi Fai in USA is aimed at breaking the unarmed resistance movement of Kashmiris seeking right of self determination.

  •     A large part of Pakistan’s Army, paramilitary forces and police have got deeply embroiled in fighting its own people on own soil with little hope of extrication in near future.

  •     While precious military resources of Pak Army are being wasted out in futile war on terror, Indian military conventional and nuclear capabilities have been vastly upgraded to outclass Pakistan’s military capability and also weaken its nuclear deterrence value.

  •     Application of indirect strategy by our adversaries to weaken Pakistan from within has rendered our nuclear deterrence redundant.

  •     Pakistan has been gifted with NRO cleansed leaders who are totally subservient to the wishes of Washington.

  •     The US administration has tightened its iron grip over the ruling regime to an extent that it treats Pakistan as its 51st state.

  •     The rulers have on several occasions declared that Pakistan faces no threat from India. This change of mindset in respect of archrival which yearns to put Pakistan in the shredding machine is a drastic transformation which the US could only do.

  •     Pakistan is US ally and is not at war with USA but is being subjected to drone attacks, threats, covert war and negative propaganda which have fuelled extremism, terrorism and anti-Americanism.

  •     Pro-American elements enjoying strong influence in Pakistan and foreign funded NGOs are giving a helping hand to USA in achieving its objectives. The US funded print and electronic media persons are providing full assistance to Indo-US-Western media onslaught to harm the reputation of Army and ISI.

  •     The premier institutions of Army and ISI are under intense pressure due to their dual responsibility of guarding the frontiers and dealing with foreign inspired internal threat and at the same time facing the brunt of Indo-US-western propaganda campaign. Full blasted efforts are in hand to declare ISI as a rogue outfit, weaken the trunk of the Army and to spoil civil-military relations.

  •     Higher education has been secularized and private English medium schools and colleges of repute funded by the west are promoting western values and undermining Islamic values. Promotion of unethical gay and lesbian culture by US Embassy in Islamabad is one example of cultural invasion to pollute Islamic values.

  •     Madaris and mosques, the two basic institutions of Islam are being systematically weakened to contaminate morals and Islamic values.

  •     Islamic-secular divide has been sharpened and so is the religious divide as in the case of antagonism between Deobandis and Barelvis. Mosques, shrines and places of worship are targeted by foreign agents to defame Islam and to discourage people from religion.

  •     Pakistan economy has become dependent upon US controlled IMF thereby impacting the dignity, honor and sovereignty of the nation.

  •     Pakistan is politically polarized and webbed in curses of provincialism, ethnicity and sectarianism.

  •     Rampant corruption which is eating into the vitals of the nation together with plunder of national wealth by US selected rulers has reduced the country to a carcass.

Amidst the murky environment in which everything looks depressing, the redeeming features are that the higher judiciary has become an effective restraining body to checkmate unbridled wrongdoings of the rulers and elites and is doing its best despite huge constraints to maintain some semblance of rule of law.

The civil society and the youth have got activated and are deeply concerned with the malaise afflicting the society due to visionless, corrupt, effete and inefficient ruling class and are keen to get rid of status quo and bring a healthy change. Tehrik-e-Insaf under Imran Khan has emerged as a new political force in urban areas.

Love for Islam has increased rather than decreased and mosques remain filled with worshippers.

Armed forces are resolutely confronting the internal and external challenges. They are focused on defeating the nefarious designs of Pakistan’s adversaries and on protecting the honor, dignity and sovereignty of the country at all costs.

The Army has gained a decisive edge over all insurgents in Swat region and in FATA, and rebels in Balochistan are being effectively dealt by the paramilitary forces.

Raymond Davis and 02 May incidents were shocking but in a way proved to be blessings in disguise. It helped our military in getting out of the magic spell of USA and is no more taking western border for granted. The heads of three services and ISI are now alive to the reality that the US pretending as Pakistan’s friend and well-wisher is in actuality working on an agenda to denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan so as to make India the unchallenged power of South Asia.

Instead of wasting time and effort in convincing Hussein Haqqani and Rahman Malik to take steps to roll back the American intrusion into Pakistan’s domestic affairs, both Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha have undertaken emergency measures to block CIA’s perverse influence which has spread like wild weeds all over the country. Undesirable undercover CIA operatives and trainers have already been sent home and others are being pushed out. Three US military intelligence liaison centers in Peshawar and Quetta have been closed. CIA’s Station Chief Jonathan Banks and now his successor Mark Carlton coordinating clandestine network have departed.

Several CIA informants who helped CIA and US Navy Seals in conducting helicopter assault in Abbottabad have been detained for interrogation and are not released despite US mounting pressure. At the same time a close watch is being kept on MI-6 inspired members of Hizbul Tahrir and their efforts to create divisions within forces.

To accuse that Gen Pasha has sanctified 87 visas for Americans on his last visit to USA is fallacious since he has nothing to do with issuance of visas. The ISI gives the security clearance only, and this practice which had been discontinued on express wish of Haqqani has been reintroduced. All Americans coming to Pakistan will not come under fake identities, but will give full details of their background and employment for the information of ISI. No American can now travel from one city to the other without the knowledge and clearance of ISI.

ISPR and patriotic elements have done well in minimizing programmed efforts of bad hats in media to undermine civil-military relations by confronting their negative propaganda.

It is heartening to note that our nuclear and missile assets under Strategic Force Command are in secure hands and these have been made more potent. All the contingencies plans made by Indo-US-Israeli nexus to snatch-and-grab our nukes are wishful paper exercises and far from reality.

Kashmir cause is very much alive and Kashmiris as well as Pakistan are sticking to the principle of right of self determination to settle the chronic dispute which has bred extremism and instability in the region. India has been unable to pullout a single soldier out of its over 700,000 troops deployed in occupied Kashmir.

India has resumed dialogue with Pakistan on equal terms and not on its dictated terms.

Afghan Taliban have avenged the death of OBL by downing US Chinook helicopter carrying 31 US soldiers including 25 US Navy SEALs who had conducted Abbottabad operation. It will hasten drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.

Posted in Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on The US Objectives Set For Pakistan

Filling Prison Beds for Profit


by Stephen Lendman


At yearend 2010, America’s prison population topped 2.4 million, including federal and state facilities, local jails, Indian, juvenile, and military ones, US territories, and numbers held by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In addition, over seven million more are under correctional supervision, and over 13 million pass through US prisons and jails annually. About 70% are for nonviolent offenses. Nearly half of those are drug-related. In 1980, 40,000 drug offenders were imprisoned. It’s now over 500,000, victimized by unfair “war on drugs” laws.

Since 1970, America’s prison population grew eightfold. It hasn’t been for more crime. It’s because of:

  • – racism;

  • – police state toughness;

  • – judicial unfairness;

  • – political persecution;

  • – get tough on crime policies;

  • – three strikes and you’re out;

  • – truth-in-sentencing;

  • – mandatory minimums;

  • – a guilty unless proved innocent mentality; and

  • – being undocumented.

Most vulnerable are poor Blacks, Latinos, and Native Indians (people of color) for America’s insatiable prison-industrial complex appetite, commoditizing human beings for profit in both public and privately run prisons.

Corrections says:

  • – America’s prison population is by far the world’s largest;

  • – one-fourth of Black men are in prison, on parole or probation;

  • – 10% of them lost their right to vote;

  • – unprecedented numbers of children are incarcerated, many into adulthood;

  • – Native Americans have the highest percent of their population imprisoned;

  • – Latinos and women are the fastest growing prison populations;

  • – rural communities are being force-fed prisons to stimulate economic growth; and

  • – incarceration in America is a growth industry – an alleged solution to high unemployment, crumbled schools, societal neglect, low wages, and an eroding social contract, trafficking human beings for profit in all penal facilities because private suppliers service them.

They include a growing private gulag, prisons for profit with nearly a score of corporations running dozens of facilities with tens of thousands of prisoners. In fact, privatized prisons are expected to increase sharply over the next decade, given America’s addiction to incarcerate and let corporate prisons do more.

Outlawed a century ago, they’re back and booming, a solution to budget-strapped states. Today, nearly 10% of US prisons and jails are private, dominated by two major firms – Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut).

They also play a growing role in warehousing undocumented immigrants and resident aliens, including in locations outside America. More on that below.

On June 22, Justice Policy Institute writer Paul Ashton headlined, “Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies,” saying:

In the past decade, they’ve “worked hard….to create markets for their product,” using financial muscle to buy political influence “to promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration” three ways:

  • – lobbying;

  • – campaign contributions; and

  • – relationships with current and former elected and appointed officials.

As a result, federal, state and local legislation passed to incarcerate more people, including in private prisons. The more beds filled, the greater the profits at the expense of social justice. Moreover, research shows corporate facilities cost more, undermine reforms, and compromise public safety by increasing recidivism rates. Nonetheless, gaming the system pays.

Beginning in the 1980s, rapid prison population growth attracted private investment. As a result, states began selling correctional facilities to private operators, then contracting with them to warehouse prisoners. Many, however, discovered the higher cost. As a result, states like California, Texas, Oklahoma, Idaho and Nevada reduced or ended relationships with private operators. Nonetheless, prisons for profit keep growing.

Notably by the late 1990s, privately run prisons verged on bankruptcy because of speculative over-building, highly publicized scandals, lawsuits, and fines over human rights violations. However, thanks to growing immigrant detentions since 2003, profits are better than ever.

Overall, nearly 200,000 inmates today fill private prisons compared to 36,500 in 1995 and 87,000 in 2000. As a result, companies like CCA and GEO manage 16% of federal prisons and nearly 7% of state ones. Since 2000, they grew their federal market share by over 120% (because of immigration detentions) and state percentage by about one-third.

According to CCA’s 2010 Annual Report:

“The demand for our facilities and services could (only) be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws.”

In fact, America’s criminal justice system is tougher than ever on crime, including against thousands of innocent victims. As a result, business for private operators is booming, either through management contracts or housing inmates in privately owned facilities.

Companies usually charge a daily rate per prisoner to cover investment, operating costs and make a profit. Varying greatly by facility, population, and security level, it covers salaries, food services, “programatic costs,” and partial medical care besides other services. Minimizing costs for maximum gain is top priority as in all profit-making enterprises.

In 1984, Hamilton County, TN and Bay County, FL were the first local governments in modern times to contract with private operators. Promising comparable services at lower costs, federal, state and local governments increasingly use them to finance, design, construct, manage, and staff prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities.

Despite no evidence showing business operates better than government, prisons for profit grew at a faster rate than incarceration over the past 15 years. As a result, companies like CCA and GEO Group have seen explosive growth, benefitting greatly by filling more beds.

Brutal conditions, dangers, and abuses are commonplace in all prisons. Privately run ones, however, are especially scandalous and extreme.

In March, Human Rights Advocates (HRA) published “The Human Rights Implications of Prison Privatization Report to the 16th Session of the Human Rights Council.”

It explained widespread violations, including the right to life, to be treated with humanity and dignity, proper food and medical care, and right to family unity – in America, Britain and Australia because these countries have the largest privatized systems. They’ve “also produced egregious human rights violations.”

Even Israel recognizes it. In 2004, after the Knesset passed an amendment to allow private facilities, a firestorm erupted. As a result, the High Court of Justice ruled in 2009 that for-profit prisons violate human rights and dignities by giving companies invasive authority over inmates.

It also ruled that enforcing criminal law is one of the state’s fundamental powers, compromised if placed in private hands. Moreover, it expressed concerns that bottom line priorities would compromise fundamental human rights. America has yet to agree.

Compared to government run prisons, private ones pay lower wages and benefits, use poorly trained staff, and experience higher turnover. Moreover, a 2008 audit reported that GEO hired 100 guards without performing criminal background checks. As a result, prisoner rights are violated when “poorly trained guards control their environment.”

Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects the right to life. Yet it’s violated in prisons worldwide, often because of unsafe conditions and poorly trained staff. For example, a Texas run GEO facility was found negligent for causing an inmate’s death.

While guards watched, he was beaten to death by two inmates. Afterwards, they destroyed incriminating evidence. Other examples involve guard abuse, including prisoners savaged by dogs, shocked with cattle prods, burned with toxic chemicals, harmed by stun guns, and otherwise illegally abused.

Rape and other sexual abuse are also major problems because of the power imbalance between inmates and guards, exacerbated when they’re poorly trained.

Moreover, juvenile inmates are vulnerable. One female youth in a GEO Texas facility reported being raped by prison guards nearly every night. She and others abused sued and won. Two guards pled guilty to criminal sexual assault charges. Nonetheless, the problem remains widespread.

GEO Walnut Grove Correctional Facility is currently under Justice Department investigation for denying its youth inmates medical care and mental health treatment.

A CCA Eloy, AR prisoner died while shackled to bed after doctors didn’t take his medical complaints seriously. Florida inmates sued a CCA facility, alleging guards urinated and defecated on food before serving it.

About 10,300 California CCA prisoners are housed in other states, separating them from families. As a result, prisoner rehabilitation is impeded. In America, however, inmates in privately run federal prisoners can’t sue authorities for civil rights violations (just individuals) unlike others in publicly run facilities.

As a result, corporations are largely insulated from liability, perpetuating human rights violations. They also have no reason to rehabilitate because recidivists increase profits. They’re paid either on a per diem basis per inmate or through construction contracts. Either way, rehabilitation is disincentivized as repeat offenders fill beds.

ICCPR’s Article 9(1) ensures the right to liberty and protects against arbitrary arrest and detention. Bottom line priorities discourage them. For example, in 2009, two Pennsylvania judges pled guilty to bribery schemes for taking payments from two privately run youth detention centers in exchange for committing defendants there. As a result, thousands of victims got disproportionately harsh sentences, many innocent or guilty only of minor offenses, warranting reprimands at most.

Immigrant detentions are especially burgeoning, despite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention saying detaining them should only be a last resort. However, private prison lobbying increased incarcerations greatly.

On March 17, a Graeme Wood Business Week feature headlined, “A Boom Behind Bars,” saying:

“Private jail operators like (CCA) are making millions off the crackdown on illegal aliens.”

The numbers are stunning. In 2005, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained about 240,000 immigrants. By 2010, it was nearly 400,000 and rising annually.

Moreover, according to Detention Watch Network, private prison operators in 2009 warehoused around half of all aliens. Currently, it’s likely higher as industry lobbying assures a bigger piece of the incarcerated immigrant population pie.

In 2010, Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 mandates detentions for anyone unable to prove they’re here legally. CCA is a prominent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member. In December 2009, it lobbied ALEC to propose migrant incarcerations. Its proposed recommendations were nearly identical to Senate Bill 1070 language.

Most state backers got prison industry campaign contributions. Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the law, employs two former CCA lobbyists as top aides. Incestuous industry/government ties increase immigrant detentions. For example, GEO’s CEO gave over $100,000 to George Bush. In return, the company got a lucrative 2003 contract to run Guantanamo’s gulag to abuse prisoners there like in America.

Last September, Obama appointed Stacia Hylton as new US Marshals Service (USMS) director, another example of industry/government incest. Her resume includes six years as Justice Department Federal Detention trustee, where she awarded nearly $88 million in contracts to GEO. Afterwards, she was a corporate GEO/CCA consultant.

USMS serves under the Justice Department, responsible for apprehending fugitives, transporting federal prisoners, and providing protection for federal witnesses, among other duties. Her close ties to private prison corporations assure favoring their continued expansion and bottom line priorities over responsibly run penal institutions.

When for-profit firms run them, inmates and their families are harmed. Costs spiral. Communities are impacted. So are taxpayers, and public safety when compromised by higher recidivism rates.

On average, it costs about $78 a day per prisoner (more in private prisons) or as much per year for tuition and fees as at private US colleges and universities. As a result, policies that increase incarceration time or promote recidivism have considerable fiscal impact, especially when budget-strapped states and Washington grapple with controlling costs.

For example, one study found that a decade after California enacted its 1994 “three strikes” law, its incarceration budget cost was $10.4 billion higher, including $6.2 billion extra for longer terms for nonviolent offenses, many warranting little or no prison time.

Moreover, public safety wasn’t served. Criminologists say incarceration impacts it minimally, and time in prison increases recidivism, in both public and for-profit prisons.

Private or government run facilities can make a difference if public ones stress policies not now in force, including shorter sentences, none for minor offenses, rehabilitation, and fewer people incarcerated.

In contrast, private prison companies need bodies to grow. The more beds filled, the more revenue, profit and happy shareholders at the expense of higher costs, broken families, affected communities, and no improvement in public safety to provide it.

Posted in USAComments Off on Filling Prison Beds for Profit

A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter


When corporate entities seduce the not-for-profit sector

Posted: 08 Aug 2011

Shameful behaviour in Britain that shows the collusion between privatised power and those tasked to care for the most vulnerable (via Open Democracy):

Back in March, almost a year after the government had promised to end what Nick Clegg called the “shameful practice” of locking up asylum seeking families in conditions known to harm their mental health, Barnardo’s stunned children’s advocates by revealing that it had agreed to work with the UK Border Agency and security giant G4S at the new immigration detention centre for families with children at Pease Pottage near Gatwick that’s opening later this Summer.

Frances Webber, vice chair of the Institute of Race Relations, accused Barnardo’s — Britain’s biggest children’s charity — of providing “a cloak of legitimacy to the continued detention of children”. Former children’s commissioner for England and internationally renowned paediatrican Sir Al Aynsley-Green wrote in OurKingdom that this “worrying development” sparked the question: “are the big children’s organisations effective advocates for children, or are they friends of government?

Stung by such criticism Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie last month made comments widely reported as atough-talking “ultimatum” to UKBA, saying the charity would pull out of the working partnership if children and families were not treated properly. But can we trust Barnardo’s to stand up to the government?

We, being students and members of SOAS Detainee Support who visit immigration detainees and offer them support, have campaigned hard against child detention. In May last year we picketed G4S’s annual meeting, argued with the company’s chief executive Nick Buckles (who, by the way, is paid almost £5000 every day), and landed a picture in the Daily Telegraph’s city pages. In June last year, we ran the Release Carnival, bringing together campaigners and child refugees to march on Downing Street.

Breaking news; Obama ain’t closing Guantanamo anytime soon

Posted: 08 Aug 2011


Good on Amnesty for running this campaign. And some people are upset?

Israel’s elephant in the room during massive protests; occupation

Posted: 07 Aug 2011


Israeli Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman’s blatant racism

Posted: 07 Aug 2011


Don’t tell me the Zionist lobby hasn’t bought the entire US Congress

Posted: 07 Aug 2011

There is no other country on Earth that requires such constant tending and obedience:

Eighty-one congressmen, or about 20 percent of the US House of Representatives, will visit Israel over the next three weeks during Congress’s summer recess, with the first group of 26 Democrats scheduled to arrive on Monday.

The Democratic delegation will be followed by two Republican ones, bringing a total of 55 Republicans.

Most of the representatives are freshmen congressmen, with 47 – or fully half of the freshmen Republicans voted into office in 2010 – making the trip.

For many of them, this will be their first trip to Israel.

The week-long trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which brings large delegations of congressmen here every other August.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) will head the Democratic delegation, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will lead one of the Republican groups.

Hoyer, in a statement, said he looked forward to “returning to Israel to continue learning firsthand about the evolving security situation in the Middle East, the deep challenges facing Israel, and the role the US can play in the region during this time of uncertainty.

I’m pleased members of Congress have this opportunity to study American interests in the Middle East and gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved in increasing stability in the region.”

The delegation will visit both Israel and the West Bank, and is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Among those on the delegation arriving Monday are Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Ohio’s Betty Sutton, and Pennsylvania’s Mark Critz.

In a related development, The Israel Project will be bringing a group of 18 Washington-based ambassadors from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America to Israel on Monday for a weeklong tour and high-level meetings. Like the congressmen, they will also go to Ramallah, for a meeting with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Among the countries represented on the trip are Albania, Barbados, Belize, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Macedonia, St. Lucia and Uganda.

Some of these countries have been mentioned by officials in Jerusalem as likely candidates to either vote against, or at least abstain, when the vote on Palestinian statehood comes before the UN in September.

When politicians and journalists dance incestuously

Posted: 07 Aug 2011

My following book review appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Sun Herald newspaper:

Lindsay Tanner
(Scribe, $32.95)

“Australia and its people deserve much better than the carefully scripted play-acting that now dominates our nation’s politics.” So begins former ALP minister Lindsay Tanner’s timely examination of the toxic relationship between corporatised media and its political cousins. Politics is about the art of the possible, as long as it’s short, entertaining and doesn’t offend any major interests; Tanner laments these undeniable modern facts.

Of course, Tanner is hardly a disinterested observer and he (perhaps too lightly) critiques himself and the Labor Party for their various sins of omission, avoidance of tough decisions and obsessing over the 24/7 news cycle.

Tanner targets the Murdoch press, Fairfax empire and ABC for often ignoring policy details and instead running with humorous commentary. Such frivolous writings (like seemingly endless panel shows on TV) are relatively cheap to produce, take little effort apart from witty insights and contribute to the carnival feeling of modern politics. It’s no wonder so few members of the public express respect for the mainstream media or politicians; elite incestuousness results in an unhealthy cosiness between political advisers and press gallery reporters.

“Exclusives” are often simply sanctioned leaks to push the day’s agenda. Tanner is right to despair at this kind of debasement of democracy.

And yet so few politicians take on the corporate press, afraid of the penalty. When Greens leader Bob Brown, during a press conference on May 19, challenged the Murdoch papers on their vigorous campaign against the proposed carbon tax, News Limited journalists reacted with comical defensiveness. Tanner would surely congratulate Brown for having the temerity to push back against an agenda that solely favours business interests at the expense of average voters (not that it’s framed that way).

Tanner worries that “civil sensibility” is dying with the rise of “infotainment” but it’s a potentially dangerous argument. Before the internet age, the mainstream media solely decided which voices were heard and which perspectives shunned. In the new media age, ideas and thoughts can be transmitted often without the filter of the mainstream and gatekeepers worry they can no longer entirely control the message. Tanner seems ambivalent about this development but real civil society proponents would welcome it.

The former politician is on firmer ground when he critiques and condemns the horse-race nature of modern politics. Who’s up and who’s down in the polls is a constant headline of front-page stories and lead news on ABC radio. It’s arguable whether such information really contributes anything significant to public debate except meaningless questions by journalists to a prime minister and opposition leader about their feelings over the latest numbers. Tanner wonders if many in the media are “simply lazy and cynical”, led by the agenda of a corporate boss. With Australia having the most tightly controlled print media environment in the Western world, he clearly has a point.

“After decades of amateurism, politics is rapidly catching up with the advertising industry,” Tanner writes. “The manipulation of our psychological characteristics that has been central to advertising for decades is now coming to the fore in politics.” Naturally, politics has always been about selling a message, person or legal bribe, and at least in the 21st century most people can both see past the spin and don’t accept what they’re told by journalists or politicians. That is surely a blessing in disguise.

This book isn’t full of possible solutions to the sideshow problem. Tanner wonders if compulsory voting should be abolished (he’s a reluctant supporter) and about the removal of journalists from Canberra’s press gallery (he believes the media’s myopia would change little) and increased government funding for quality media (he argues this could bring more diverse perspectives to the fore).

Overall, Tanner’s thesis is dire. He has little faith in his former parliamentary colleagues being interested or willing to break out of a system that rewards sound bites over substance. He sees little appetite in the corporate press for reform; it is, after all, press conferences where journalists routinely ask politicians for their views on any issue of the day, whether it’s relevant for a prime minister to comment or not. But a quote is sought and usually given.

If Tanner’s intention behind this book is to highlight the growing disparity between rhetoric and reality in the Australian political landscape and the contempt shown by media elites towards the general public, he has mostly succeeded.

Anything to distract from crimes in Palestine; Australia to make BDS illegal?

Posted: 07 Aug 2011

This story is almost comical but shows the desperation of the establishment in Australia to silence any serious, legitimate and legal civil disobedience against Israel crimes. Ignore the shameful spin; this has nothing to do with targeting Jewish businessesbecause they’re Jewish; when the “peace process” fails, Israel must pay a price for occupying the Palestinians for decades:

Anti-Israel activists face investigation for alleged secondary boycotts under landmark attempts by the Baillieu government to curb the global campaign to target companies and businesses linked to the Jewish nation.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has been asked to investigate anti-Israeli campaigners who have joined the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group to determine if they should be prosecuted for threatening stores with Israeli ownership or connections.

The ACCC has been asked to consider injunctive relief and damages after 19 people were arrested following an ugly clash between police and protesters outside the Max Brenner store in Melbourne’s CBD on July 1.

The protesters allegedly blocked potential customers from entering the store as part of an “orchestrated campaign” to impose what the government believes is a secondary boycott on the chocolate and coffee store.
A similar action is being planned against a Max Brenner store in Brisbane on August 27.

Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said the protesters had deliberately pinpointed businesses with Israeli ownership and who they believed traded with the Israeli government.

Mr O’Brien singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Victoria Police used anti-riot tactics to make the arrests and to open up the area outside the Melbourne store amid shouts of “shame”, “free, free Palestine” and “this is a police state”. Several amateur videos of the altercation have been posted online.

Mr O’Brien told The Australian it was unacceptable to single out any businesses but that it was especially concerning given the 20th-century history behind attacks on Jewish businesses.

“I am concerned that the persons and organisations who caused these disturbances may have engaged in secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage to Max Brenner’s business,” he said.

“I am hopeful that I will receive a swift response from the ACCC in relation to the matters that I have raised.”

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BNC Reiterates its Position on “September”



In the midst of the debate on Palestinian diplomatic initiatives aimed at securing membership of “Palestine” in the United Nations, many legitimate questions on strategies and tactics have arisen among people of conscience around the world who support freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people. As in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, Palestine solidarity groups and activists are convinced, as we are, that only concerted, effective, and sustained forms of solidarity, especially in the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), can hold Israel accountable to its obligations under international law and lead to the realization of comprehensive Palestinian rights.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest Palestinian civil society coalition, reiterates and further explicates below the main principles which have informed its position on this matter, as expressed in our statement issued on June 1, 2011.

(1) Self Determination

The most fundamental, inalienable right of the people of Palestine is the right to self determination. Ending the occupation is one pillar in exercising that right. The right to self-determination, which in the case of Palestinians is represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is commonly defined as the right of “all peoples … freely to determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”[1]

It is a right held by all Palestinians, irrespective of their current location, by virtue of international law and the principles of popular sovereignty and democracy. All Palestinians, including the refugees in the shatat (diaspora) and Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, have a right to participate in and be represented by – in the UN and elsewhere – a democratic PLO that determines the political status and pursues the economic, social and cultural development of the entire Palestinian people.

At a minimum, exercising the right to self determination by all Palestinians entails:

1. Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in 1967;

2. Honoring the right of Palestinian citizens of Israelto full equality by ending the Israeli system of legalized and institutionalized racial discrimination (which conforms to the UN definition of apartheid); and

3. Respecting and enabling the implementation of the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands from which they were expelled.

(2) PLO

Until the Palestinian people exercises its right to self determination, the PLO remains the sole legitimate representative that represents all Palestinians in the UN and in other international, regional and multinational forums. No alternative will be accepted by the great majority of the Palestinian people.

(3) Complicity and Accountability

States that have recognized the Palestinian right to statehood are even more obliged to end their complicity in maintaining, covering up or even strengthening Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people. States that offer recognition of Palestinian statehood and continue business as usual withIsraelare beyond hypocritical; they betray their own basic legal and political obligations to endIsrael’s grave and persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights.

[Excerpts from a June 2011 statement issued by the BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society]

Before and After September: The Struggle for Palestinian Rights Must Intensify

This September will mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” that is widely recognized as a total failure, by any objective standard. This sham process has served as a cover for Israel’s intensive colonization of Palestinian lands, continued denial of Palestinian basic rights, and gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, while simultaneously giving a false impression of peacemaking. In this context, the BNC welcomes the recognition of a great majority of states around the world that the Palestinian right to statehood and freedom from Israeli occupation are long overdue and should no longer to be held hostage to fanatically biased US “diplomacy” in defense of Israeli expansionism.

However, recognition of Palestinian statehood is clearly insufficient, on its own, in bringing about a real end to Israel’s occupation and colonial rule. Neither will it end Israel’s decades-old system of legalized racial discrimination, which fits the UN definition of apartheid, or allow the millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin from which they were violently uprooted and exiled.

Diplomatic recognition must result in protection of the inalienable right to self-determination of the entire Palestinian people represented by a democratized and inclusive PLO that represents not just Palestinians under occupation, but also the exiled refugees, the majority of the Palestinian people, as well as the discriminated citizens of Israel. For it to go beyond symbolism, this recognition must be a prelude to effective and sustained sanctions againstIsraelaimed at bringing about its full compliance with its obligations under international law.

As shown in the struggle to end apartheid inSouth Africa, as well as in the current struggles for freedom and justice in the Arab region, world governments do not turn against a patently illegal and immoral regime of oppression simply on ethical grounds; economic interests and hegemonic power dynamics are far weightier in their considerations. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s militant and war-mongering speech before the US Congress, coupled with US President Barack Obama’s latest humiliating submission to Israel’s will, shows beyond doubt that anyone still holding on to the hope that Washington is able or willing to contribute to building a just peace in our region is delusional.

The key lesson learned from South Africais that, in order for world governments to end their complicity with Israel’s grave and persistent violations of human rights and international law, they must be compelled to do so through mass, well organized grassroots pressure by social movements and other components of civil society. In this context,BDS has proven to be the most potent and promising strategy of international solidarity with the Palestinian people in our struggle for self determination, freedom, justice and equality.

In light of the above, and inspired by the will and the power of the people which have  given rise to the Arab spring, the BNC calls upon people of conscience and  international solidarity groups to proceed with building a massBDSmovement in the US and elsewhere in the world’s most powerful countries before and after September. Only such a mass movement can ensure that whatever diplomatic recognition that transpires at the UN in September on Palestinian statehood will advance the rights of the Palestinian people and raise the price ofIsrael’s occupation, colonialism and apartheid by further isolating it and those complicit in its crimes.

A mass solidarity movement that can hold elected officials, especially in the US, accountable to the people, rather than to a Zionist lobby serving Israel’s colonial and belligerent agenda that directly conflicts with the interests of the peoples in these countries, is the only hope for a comprehensive and sustainable peace based on justice.

[1] Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations: UN General Assembly Resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970.

This is a brilliant, forceful, eloquent, and principled statement from the BNC on the upcoming September vote at the United Nations on the declaration of the Palestinian state. Because I am a Debbie downer and inveterate kvetcher, I want to quibble about one little thing. They write about “the 20th anniversary of the start of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” that is widely recognized as a total failure, by any objective standard,” and then about “US President Barack Obama’s latest humiliating submission to Israel’s will.” With respect, this seems like a mis-understanding about the nature of Washington.

The peace process was not a failure for the US or Israel but for the most part a smashing success. Perhaps in Billy Clinton’s heart-of-hearts, technocrat and graduate of Yale Law that he is, he wanted to institutionalize a final settlement. People like Bill like things – or at least, most things – spick and span. But no, he did not care all that much, performances transcribed in books to the side.

As for Obama’s “humiliation”? The Israeli public despises Obama because, Obama, Harvard technocrat that he is,  like Bill, would prefer to put in place an institutional settlement that would limit Israeli irredentism. But nor is Obama stupid even if he’s a mass murderer. Pieces of paper don’t “limit” anybody, power does. What Obama and Clinton alike wanted and want is a settlement that they can brandish to the Saudis who are starting to get a little peeved at the way Washington doesn’t seem to following their agenda lately and which the Saudis can brandish at the rest of the Arabs and then push normalization with Israel through the Middle East Free Trade Agreement, through which Israel and the GCC will manage the Middle East and its petro-dollar capital flows.

Should there be more creeping annexation, everyone can always blame it on the settlers, and the demilitarized Palestinian state won’t have guns with which to oust the settlers and the BDS campaign, still getting fitfully started in America, will abort. I mean it’s a small thing but it is worth getting these things right. These people are our enemies. And we need to put people there who will do our bidding, or just do it ourselves. That will involve humiliating Obama. And it will be fun.

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Will IsraHell’s tent protesters awaken to the tents that came before theirs?


It is the corner of Seinkin and Rothschild Boulevard, Friday afternoon. We and our Palestinian guests – a group of “Illegal Sojourners” in the ugly Occupation Jargon – have had a lovelyday of sightseeing and swimming. Now we are on our way to be entertained lavishly by one of us who is blessed with a flat and a roof in the coveted heart of Tel Aviv. On the way there we pass a new and exciting tourist attraction: the huge tent camp which keeps mushrooming in the boulevard.

Our guests, some in pious head gear, listen attentively to the story about middle class Jewish youngsters with no place to live, to study and to work from. The tents are so many, so small. They nod in amazement, expressing sympathy or perhaps even some pleasure over the new potential for solidarity. The sharp tongued one is quick to come up with a punch line none of us would have thought of: “Hada Muchayem Lajiyin Israeliyin!” – “A refugee camp for Israelis”, she exclaims.

We laugh at this smart crack. No similarity at all, to be sure – or maybe just a little something, after all. The young people of Rothschild (may Allah help them, may their protest yield fruit), are supposedly able to get up any time and move back to the grim life they were accustomed to before settling into the sizzling Boulevard.  However they are condemned to life in the lower end of the Israeli chain of housing – with no property, no land and no roof of their own. Some of the women we have with us this evening –exuberant, full of curiosity and passion for fun – have been living in “real” refugee camps most of their lives. Some were born there, others  got married and moved to share the fate of large families condensed into crumbling homes that were started as temporary tents at the outskirts of towns and villages in the West Bank many years ago.

Next evening, at the great Saturday Night Demonstration of the housing crisis, angry signs and voices point at the many housing perks bestowed on the settler community and the ultra-orthodox. It is not hard to recognize the many billion investments in the settlements all over the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 as assets robbed from the welfare of the next generation of Israelis. Blunt sectarian favoritism is to be blamed for the neglect suffered by every hard working citizen not aligned to one of the “preferred” sectors, who has not been blessed with parents of deep pockets.

It is far more difficult and painful to point at the basic choice of Israel to be a state for only one sector, defined by its religion, as the basic cause of this country’s many malaises, including the housing situation. Undeniably, the cost of this choice is incredibly heavy in financial, military and human resources.  Israel’s present rulers constantly wave its “Jewish State” identity as a concept superior to any pretence it ever had to be a just, democratic and peace seeking society. They incite and radicalize, but they had really not started any new path. They merely carry on a tradition that started when this state started –with blood bath and fire – as an entity unable to tolerate anybody perceived as “Other” according to the rabbinical code.

Most young people in the tents do not wish to hear this but a large part of the most coveted addresses in our non-stop city actually belong to landlords who are unable to overcharge, profiteer, or make any use of their assets. Israelis of all ages dedicate their best years and certainly a major part of their tax payments to our state’s continuous and stubborn effort to prevent these owners from practicing their property rights. Jaffa and its surroundings, Manshia nest to the Charles Clore promenade, Sumeil on the corner of Arlozorov and Ibn Gabirol, Jamussin of Bavli and the Akirov Towers and Sheich Moanis of Ramat Aviv and the University, all are real estate under the Israel Land Administration, which have the firm obligation to make them available to Jews only.

It is perfectly ridiculous to hear the Prime Minister and his people puffing angrily against the “cartel” (as they currently call this Administration) which Zionism established for the purpose of preserving the “national lands” for one ethnic group. Aspiring for a free real estate market? Fine, let us find whose names are on the deeds and start to negotiate.

Israeli governments irregular housing solutions did not start in Ariel, Ofra, Efrat and their hundreds illegal predator copies. Bibi Nethanyahu did not initiate them. He was born into these solutions just like the rest of us, the parent’s generation of today’s angry young men and women. Israel’s venerated founding fathers chose to house hundreds of thousands of long suffering refugees in the homes from which hundreds and thousands of long suffering refugees escaped or were expelled.

Next they flooded the country in transit camps (“maabarot”) of miserable tents and shacks, for the masses that were lured to forsake their homes in Arabic speaking countries in favor of improving the demographic balance for the Jews in Zion. These masses were ground to dust in the social habitat that designated them to the role of farmers and laborers, a substitute the gap left by the Palestinians that could only observe, sad eyed, as they still do, from their refugee camps all over the Middle East. The children and grandchildren of these Arab speaking Jewish immigrants grew into a new incarnation – some as fervent religious nationals who despise all Arabs passionately.

“A Home is a fundamental value, it is the base for  everything”  leaders of the Youth rally shouted last Saturday. Their impressive, just and heart warning demonstration called for social justice, rejected charity, and warned against crafty make-belief solutions. “WE HAVE WOKEN UP”, some black signs read, “AND WE SHALL NOT GO BACK TO SLEEP”. One can only hope that the awakening also included an end to the illusion, that only the continuous violent oppression of part of the people of this land can secure the well being of the other part, defined by the “correct” religion.

Perhaps there are no instant solutions to the housing problem, but great public works are certainly an option. This country, like many others, has great resources that should and could support its needy young. A land that knew how to transfer hundreds of thousands in and out, built development towns, transit camps and a huge region of army camps and settlements should not have any difficulty in performing some model projects.

Here is a suggestion for a really easy one: Last Saturday demonstrators were squeezed to the barb-wire coroneted wall of this camp facing Tel Aviv Museum for the Fine Arts. Behind this eye sore lies a huge and spacious estate, the well guarded, superbly protected shrine of the Middle East’s most powerful army and one of the greatest military forces in the whole world. Why not clear the Kiria IDF headquarters in favor of affordable housing well located for the poor children of Tel Aviv?

Its top ranking officers do not really need a workplace so indulgingly urbane for the purpose of planning their next war, during which we shall be instructed to keep quiet (fighting is in progress!) and to stop moaning about the rent. No doubt they will be happy to move somewhere else. It is after all very wrong, they always tell us, to have military facilities in the midst of civilian population. At least we complain bitterly when this is done by Hezbollah and Hamas.

Or maybe the army will not be willing to move so willingly, as it had long ago ceased to be the People’s Army. We, the people, are its submissive subjects, and who are we to deny it the high-rises from which it  looks down on us, all the way from the Azrieli shopping center to Café Dubnov. It is under the hospices of the army that the government is supplies its only generous “housing solutions”:  reaped off Bill’in,  Ni’ilin, Hebron, Beith Ommar, Saffa, Nabi Salach and dozens other hard beaten spots under occupation. It is the army’s unlimited violent might that facilitates the usurping of homes in Siluan and Sheich Jarrach in favor of some chosen members of militant groups with an inclination for affordable homes well located in Jerusalem.

The yellow clouds of tear gas and the unbearable stink of the “skunk” hoses, the armed forces faithful allies, have long ago transcended oceans all the way to the United Nations halls in New York. No longer may transfers, lootings and expulsions be hidden and silenced, as was the fate of the inhabitants of Iraq Manshia (today’s Qiryat-Gat) or Sidna Ali (Herzlia Pituah). But likewise, they are the products of the same tough and hollow ideology we were all educated on. These days this ideology is compulsory by law even for kindergarten toddlers. Its repetitive false message, anchored in ancient and unfriendly religion: it is dangerous and forbidden for Jews to live in the vicinity of other people.

The angry residents of Israel’s “refugee camps” all over the country are going these days through an awakening process from the false consciousness that brought them to this tricky junction of the summer of 2011. It is not an easy process, but well worth making the effort to go all the way to the root of our problems. Those of us, who were privileged last weekend to dance, sing and hug on a Tel Aviv rooftop with our friends from the villages and refugee camps of the occupied territories, will never agree to give up the warm human contact with people we once considered enemies. Just think how many good flats could be produced with the assets wasted over the decades on fortifying the dumb concept that all non Jews are a “danger for our demography”.

This piece first appeared at Zochrot. Ofra Yeshua-Lyth’s book “A State of Mind` why Israel should become Secular and Democratic ” is published these days by Maariv publishers.

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Arutz Sheva forced to publish denial over “groundless”, “politically motivated” attack on UNRWA by David Bedein


The Israeli radio station and news website, Arutz Sheva, has been forced to publish a denial of an article by David Bedein, in which he made “staggeringly ignorant claims” and “baseless allegations” against UNRWA. The retraction says that “no evidence” had been produced by Bedein, who claimed that UNRWA was seeking to impose a “Fourth Reich upon the Jews” and that UNRWA’s “raison d’etre” involved “a genocide against the Jews”. The denial posted on the Arutz Sheva site described Bedein’s work as shoddy and “politically motivated”.

“I am delighted Arutz Sheva has seen the error of its ways and has published a denial to this typically groundless and wildly misleading article by David Bedein,” said UNRWA spokesman, Chris Gunness. “Bedein has long made completely baseless and politically motivated attacks on UNRWA and I am delighted that even those tiny sectors of the Israeli media that have published him are now realising just how baseless his allegations are. It proves what we have been saying all along. With this denial, the credibility of Mr Bedein is likely to have been damaged to the point where few will ever again take his work seriously.”

Before the new Arutz Sheva denial, the latest efforts of Bedein’s organisation were presented to journalists in Jerusalem. However, media outlets such as the Jerusalem Post refused to publish articles based on their findings. “This just compounds a dismal track record,” said Gunness. “After his last film about a year ago, the Haaretz newspaper published a prominent front page story, describing it as a stack of lies. Now this; what more can one say?”

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Sharp increase in demolitions threatens to destroy West Bank communities


UNRWA calls for accountability and an end to discriminatory practices


Statement by UNRWA spokesperson, Chris Gunness

A boy from the Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar stands in the yard of his demolition-threatened school.

Demolitions by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank have escalated alarmingly. Figures released today by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) show that 700 people were displaced in the first six months of 2011 (excluding July), compared with 594 in the whole of 2010.

UNRWA is concerned that 15 per cent of those displaced are Palestine refugees. The vast majority of demolitions have been carried out in Area C, the 60 per cent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control for security, planning and building.

June and July saw a sharp increase in the number of demolitions of Palestinian homes and infrastructure, according to the latest UNRWA figures. In June alone 132 structures were demolished. This is more than the total for the previous three months. In June and July, 605 Palestinians were displaced or affected by demolitions, more than half of whom are children.

Under a planning system condemned as discriminatory by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Israeli authorities have allocated only 1 per cent of Area C for Palestinian development. This means that it is virtually impossible for a Palestinian to obtain a permit for construction, while Israeli settlements receive preferential treatment in the allocation of water and land, and approval of development plans.

Most demolitions have targeted already vulnerable Bedouin and herding communities. In many cases, demolition orders have been issued to virtually the whole community, leaving these communities facing a real danger of complete destruction. UNRWA is particularly concerned about the situation of about 20 Bedouin communities living in the Maale Adumim settlement area in the periphery of Jerusalem. The vast majority are refugees and they recently faced a new wave of demolition orders, stop-building orders, property confiscations, settler harassment and multiple warnings of imminent eviction by the Israeli Civil Administration. They are now left with the risk of losing homes and means of livelihood once again.

A young Bedouin looks on as her family packs up all their belongings and moves from their home of 35 years following settler attacks.

The UN estimates that there are more than 3,000 demolition orders outstanding in Area C, including 18 issued to schools. None of these are UN schools. In addition to demolitions, Israeli restrictions on movement, confiscation of land and resources, revocation of residency rights, harassment from the Israeli military, settler attacks, and lack of protection against settler attacks lead to displacement in the West Bank.

Most recently, in July 2011, 19 Bedouin families – 127 people – decided to move from their Area C homes under fear of further settler attacks. This followed the detention of three community members for stone-throwing against settlers who forced their way into the Bedouins’ homes. The community has made clear to UNRWA that it is the lack of protection by the Israeli authorities against settler attacks which forced them to leave their homes.

The escalation in demolitions and recent settler activity in areas targeted for settlement expansion is a cause of great concern. This practice, combined with other Israeli policies in Area C, has exacted a terrible price from the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, driving already poor families deeper into poverty. There is growing evidence that it is destroying the very fabric of these communities and ultimately contributing to a demographic shift which is changing the ethnic make-up of the West Bank.

Along with other UN agencies, UNRWA calls on the Government of Israel, among other measures, to end the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in the oPt, including immediately ceasing demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures, until Palestinians have access to a fair and non-discriminatory zoning and planning regime. We call for transparency, accountability and an end to policies and practices that violate Israel’s obligations under international law.

For the latest demolition figures, see our demolition watch section

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IsraHelli spy claims over Christchurch earthquake


New Zealand prime minister confirms, but then plays down, investigation over IsraHelli victim said to have held five passportr.

Christchurch earthquake rubble is cleared

A New Zealand newspaper has suggested an Israeli spy was one of the victims of the Christchurch earthquake. Photograph: Martin Hunter/Associated Press

New Zealand intelligence services launched an investigation into a possible Israeli spy operation in Christchurch after suspicious activity was observed in the immediate aftermath of the February earthquake, the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, has confirmed.

But Key insisted the investigation had been completed with no evidence found of wrongdoing.

Inquiries centred on a potential breach of the national police computer system.

According to a report in the Southland Times, the investigation was prompted by the departure from New Zealand of three Israeli citizens within hours of the 22 February quake and the discovery of as many as five passports on one of three Israelis killed.

There were reports of an unauthorised Israeli search and rescue team that was refused entry to Christchurch’s cordoned-off central business district.

There was widespread speculation in New Zealand that the country could be facing asequel to the events of 2004, when Helen Clark’s government imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel after two suspected Mossad agents were convicted of passport fraud in Auckland. The Israeli government apologised the following year.

The prime minister, who is visiting the US, initially did little to dampen suggestions of another diplomatic imbroglio when he evaded reporters’ questions, insisting “it is not in the national interest to discuss those matters”, while confirming he had taken “a number of calls” from the Israeli premier, Binyamin Netanyahu, in the hours after the Christchurch earthquake.

Later in the day Key moved to dismiss spying claims. In a statement he said the investigation had been concluded and there was no evidence of subterfuge. “Security agencies conducted the investigation and found no evidence that the people were anything other than backpackers.”

Key said he had been advised that reports of Israeli citizens carrying multiple passports were ill-founded and he was satisfied with police assurances that there had been no unauthorised access to the police computer system.

“The investigations that have been undertaken have been thorough and have found no evidence of a link between the group and Israeli intelligence.”

The author of the Southland Times article, Fred Tulett, stood by his story, saying that contrary to Key’s remarks the investigation was continuing. He maintained that five passports had been in the possession of the Israeli who was killed, Benyamin Mizrahi.

Key said the man was found with a European passport. His companions handed over a second passport, his Israeli one, when they left the country.

The Israeli ambassador for the South Pacific, Shemi Tzur, said any suggestion of a Mossad presence in Christchurch was “science fiction”. The Israeli citizens had returned home following the death of a friend whose van was crushed, he said.

The Israeli rescue teams, he added, were refused entry because they lacked the necessary authorisation but were there for the right reasons and were left “angry and upset”.

He told the Southland Times: “Yes, there was some regrettable history of Mossad involvement in New Zealand in 2004, and they have apologised for that and we have put it beyond us. Now we are moving forward.”

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Government alarm at citizens’ revolt as tent protests spread


Anger over rising prices is fuelling ‘Israeli Summer’ and generating widespread support for action.


Tent camp in Tel Aviv

A tent camp in Tel Aviv: the protests over high rents and house prices have the support of 87% of the population, according to a poll. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Israel‘s tent city protests over housing are growing by the day, and the mood of civil activism is spreading to other issues. The voices saying this is a serious crisis for Binyamin Netanyahu and his government are getting louder.

I visited a protesters in Jerusalem a week ago, and two days later I was in Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, where the protests began and which is the biggest of the tent cities which have now spread to at least 25 towns. It was an impressive sight – literally hundreds of pop-up tents stretching the length of the city’s most affluent street, populated by mostly young people. There are debating areas, kitchens for creating huge communal meals, musical performances, poetry readings, TV screens – and genuine anger over the price of housing.

Last night, the popular revolt against the cost of living focussed on a new issue: the price of bringing up a child in Israel. Thousands of parents marched with young children in pushchairs, demanding lower prices and tax breaks on baby equipments and childcare.

Less than a week ago, tens of thousands of people rallied in Tel Aviv in support of the housing protest. Dozens of key roads and junctions have been blocked by protesters, and the entrance to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) has been blockaded.

The Histradut, Israel’s trade union federation, has threatened to join the action next week. It will “use all the measures at its disposal,” said leader Ofer Eini. Doctors are on strike over pay and conditions. A Facebook campaign has called on Israeli citizens to “boycott” their jobs on Monday in an unofficial, social media-organised general strike.

Demonstrations have been called in six Israeli cities for this Saturday evening – Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Ashdod, Beer Sheva and Nazareth. The last is an Israeli-Arab town; tent protest villages have appeared in Arab areas of the country in the past few days.

Although the main focus is on the cost of housing – Tel Aviv rents are generally reckoned to absorb about 50% of income – there is also anger about the price of food, electricity and fuel as well as baby goods. A consumer boycott of cottage cheese in protest at dairy prices won widespread support.

An Israeli man plays on a flute amid tents in Tel Aviv

An Israeli man plays on a flute amid tents in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Oliver Weiken/EPA

Inevitably connections have been made between the Arab Spring and this Israeli Summer. There are of course important differences: the protesters are mostly middle-class; the focus is on the cost of living rather than fundamental rights of freedom and democracy. And the protests are tolerated rather than repressed by the authorities. But there is a palpable hostility in Israel towards the government for its failures to feel the pain of its citizens and to do anything about it. And a poll showed 87% support for the protest. The government has been seriously rattled.

Netanyahu’s emergency housing measures, announced this week, were immediately rebuffed by protesters. Even student leaders, who acknowledged that the concessions offered to them were unprecedented, said they would not give up their protest until the needs of other sectors of society had also been addressed.

The protests have been given enormous – and sympathetic – media coverage here, adding to Netanyahu’s anxieties. An analysis which leads the front page of today’s Haaretz (English edition) begins:

A wartime mood prevailed in the prime minister’s office yesterday. The other shoe dropped. This is a serious, unprecedented, powerful phenomenon. The middle-class rebellion, spreading like wildfire throughout the country, is undoubtedly the most acute crisis the second Netanyahu government has had to deal with.

An editorial in the same (liberal) paper on Thursday said:

Even those who don’t entirely agree with the messages coming out of the protests, marches, hunger strikes and demonstrations blocking traffic can’t ignore the protest’s vigour, in contrast to the apathy and even impassiveness that characeterised the Israeli people in recent years. In the surprising reversal of a process in which sectors of society turned inward, splintering the country and weakening it, the protest has swept up a broad public that has displayed a kind of solidarity and involvement that seemed gone forever.

In Yedioth Ahranoth, Israel’s biggest-selling daily, the respected veteran commentator Nahum Barnea wrote:

The Rothschild Boulevard rebellion is a fascinating phenomenon. It is difficult for me to assess its seriousness, its depth, its life expectancy. It is measured by standards with which I am not familiar, and is part of a different discourse, a different culture, different from the one that characterized previous waves of protest. We are accustomed to gauging waves of protest according to the demands they raise and according to the achievements they win at their end.

The residents of the encampment on Rothschild do not have an orderly list of demands and predetermined exit points. They have nothing, save the authentic feeling that their situation, as young middle class Israelis, is terrible, unfair, crying out for change. Just as they loathe Netanyahu or Steinitz, they loathe the residents of the luxury towers further down the street. This is a non-political, anti-political loathing. The question is still open whether at a certain point it will become a political lever that will turn things around in the state.

And in Ma’ariv, Ben Caspit made a connection between the protests and Netanyahu’s other big headache, the looming Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN in September:

For months he has been preparing for September, been afraid of September, been repressing September and been preparing himself for the worst of all in September. But suddenly, Binyamin Netanyahu has now found himself waiting eagerly for September… If only it were September already, the prime minister says to himself, how wonderful it will be in September with the Palestinians and the Arabs and the UN General Assembly and with the entire world against us, and finally we’ll be able to mark for ourselves a common enemy. How wonderful, because better to have the entire world against us than to have the middle class against me.

In September he won’t have to embrace everyone all the time and utter artificial words of reconciliation; he won’t have to grit his teeth and praise the protest movement; he won’t have to recognize publicly the justice of the position of the people demonstrating against him; he won’t have to hold press conferences and shoot programs from the hip and invent new supertankers. In September everything will be clear. Them and us, Arabs and Jews, the stuff that I already know and can handle excellently. I can hardly wait for September.

Indeed, some have said the protesters themselves need to make a few connections, such as whether the funds that successive Israeli governments have poured into subsidising housing in the West Bank settlements could have been better spent on addressing their concerns.

Whether the momentum of these protests continue to grow, and develop into something that can seriously threaten the current government, or whether it will dissipate in the torpor of August, is hard to tell at the moment. But right now this seems, on a smaller scale, to be yet another example of this year’s ripples of revolt across the region.

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