Wednesday, April 18, 2007
"Turning the Holocaust into a political asset serves Israel primarily in its fight against the Palestinians. When the Holocaust is on one side of the scale, along with the guilty (and rightly so) conscience of the West, the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland in 1948 is minimized and blurred."
Monday, April 16, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
Appalling photographs of abuse and torture by American guards at U.S. military bases and detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan shocked the international community, but the Palestinians have been suffering harsher treatment inside Israeli prisons since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians’ suffering at the hands of the Israelis is worse than in any other part of the world. Many of the Palestinian detainees are children, who are subjected to physical and psychological torture by Israeli interrogators and prison guards.
Mohammed Mahsiri, a 17-year-old resident of Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, was arrested by Israeli occupation forces almost a year and a half ago. "I was taken to a detention centre and interrogated…The interrogation would begin at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and would finish after eleven p.m. I was beaten all the time, especially if the soldiers did not get the answers they wanted,” he told IPS.
"I was sent to be beaten by other soldiers and forced to stand in the rain with only thin clothes on. They would try to convince me that I did something that I did not do in order to get the confession they wanted. After being tortured at the detention centre for one month, I was in prison for 13 months."
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Report: “68 women gave birth on checkpoints, 33 infants and 4 women died”
April 11, 2007
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights (PICCR) reported that Israeli troops stationed at hundreds of roadblocks in the occupied territories barred dozens of pregnant women from crossing the checkpoints while in labor; 34 infants and four women died on their roadblocks.
The Commission reported that soldiers forced 68 pregnant women to give birth on road blocks after barring them from crossing as they were being transferred to hospitals and medical centers.
Also, the PICCR said that the Israeli procedures complicated the lives of the Palestinian civilians including pregnant women by enforcing harsh conditions and carrying illegal practices at these checkpoints.
Since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada on September 28 2000 until July 2006, 68 pregnant women had to give birth at checkpoints, and that 34 infants and 4 pregnant women died on these checkpoints.
:: Article nr. 32072 sent on 12-apr-2007 14:43 ECT
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Ex-AIPAC staffers say Condi leaked them classified info
by ron kampeas
alexandria, va. | Two former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee say Condoleezza Rice was their informant on sensitive national security matters.
The claim, laid out in a courtroom Friday, April 21, intensified the drama surrounding a trial that could further roil a Washington political establishment already consumed by cases involving “official” and “unofficial” leaks.
The trial date, originally scheduled to begin April 25, has now been set for Aug. 7, even as the judge in the case continues to suggest the case might not go to trial at all.
In last week’s pretrial hearing, lawyers for Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s former foreign policy director, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst, persuaded federal Judge T.S. Ellis III to allow a subpoena for the secretary of state and three other current and former Middle East policy officials.
Rosen and Weissman were indicted last August on charges that they relayed classified information to fellow AIPAC staffers, journalists and diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
The judge continued to express grave doubts about the government’s case, sympathizing with defense claims that it could impinge on free speech rights, and that it lacked precedent.
When Kevin DiGregory, the lead prosecutor, pointed out that the First Amendment had never been cited in a similar case, Ellis chided him, saying: “Well, no case has been like this one.”
Setting out a pretrial schedule, Ellis pointedly would not count out a dismissal before the start of the trial and several times qualified prospective dates, saying “if there is going to be a trial.”
Rosen’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said Rice had not merely been Rosen’s interlocutor, but had leaked information identical to and at times more sensitive than examples cited in the indictment.
In addition, Lowell said, the information Rice provided was more “volatile” than the information described in the indictment. Lowell would not elaborate on what information he was referring to.
Lowell asked for an additional meeting with the judge — with no prosecutors present — to further describe the testimony he anticipated from Rice and others. Ellis said he looked forward to “a lot of juicy information.”
Ellis had to rule on the request because the subpoenas fell under special rules of the district court in Alexandria, Va., that require subpoenas for Cabinet members, ambassadors and generals to be approved by the presiding judge.
Lowell said that another six subpoenas had already been sent to prospective witnesses.
Rice’s testimony is not yet guaranteed. The State Department must clear subpoenas to its staff, and witnesses have a right to ask subpoenas to be squashed. But Lowell made it clear he would not let the government off the hook, likening this case to the recent controversy over leaks on the Iraq war President Bush has defended as “authorized” and those he has attacked as illegal.
Also at the hearing, called on a few days’ notice, the judge sided with the defense’s claim that the case is unprecedented.
Government lawyers have striven to show that prosecution under a 1917 statute that criminalizes the receipt of classified information is not unprecedented. Lowell said the government had failed to show true precedent and had instead “cut and pasted” elements of four or five unrelated cases to establish precedent.
Ellis agreed, calling Lowell’s arguments “substantial.”
It was not all good news for the defense. Lowell wanted Ellis to order depositions from three Israeli diplomats who allegedly received information from Rosen and Weissman. The defense has been unable to persuade the diplomats to voluntarily comply.
Ellis refused, saying he did not see the point because his orders carried no weight in Israel, where the diplomats now reside.
Lowell acknowledged as much, but apparently hoped a formal order from the judge would embarrass the Israelis into volunteering; ever since the Jonathan Pollard spy case in the late 1980s, Israeli officials want to be seen as cooperative with American legal cases.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
By Gideon Levy
The moment of truth has arrived, and it has to be said: Israel does not want peace. The arsenal of excuses has run out, and the chorus of Israeli rejection already rings hollow. Until recently, it was still possible to accept the Israeli refrain that "there is no partner" for peace and that "the time isn't right" to deal with our enemies. Today, the new reality before our eyes leaves no room for doubt and the tired refrain that "Israel supports peace" has been left shattered.
It's hard to determine when the breaking point occurred. Was it the absolute dismissal of the Saudi initiative? The refusal to acknowledge the Syrian initiative? Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's annual Passover interviews? The revulsion at the statements made by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in Damascus, alleging that Israel was ready to renew peace talks with Syria?
Who would have believed it? A high-ranking U.S. official says Israel wants peace talks to resume and instantly her president "severely" denies the veracity of her words. Is Israel even hearing these voices? Are we digesting the significance of these voices for peace? Seven million apathetic Israeli citizens prove that we are not.
Entire generations grew up here weaned on self-deception and doubt about the likelihood of achieving peace with our neighbors. In our younger days, David Ben-Gurion told us that if he were only able to meet with Arab leaders, he would have brought us peace in his time. Israel has demanded direct negotiations as a matter of principle and Israelis have derived great pride from the fact that their daily focus on "peace" has concealed their state's lofty ambitions. We were told that there was no partner for peace and that the ultimate ambition of the Arabs is to bring about our destruction. We burned the portraits of "the Egyptian tyrant" at our bonfires on Lag Ba'omer, and were convinced that all blame for the lack of peace lied with our enemies.
After that came the occupation, followed by terror, Yassir Arafat, the failed second Camp David Summit and the rise of Hamas to power, and we were sure, always sure, that it was all their fault. In our wildest dreams, we wouldn't have believed that the day would come when the entire Arab world would extend its hand in peace and Israel would brush away the gesture. It would have been even crazier to imagine that this Israeli refusal would have been blamed on not wanting to enrage domestic public opinion.
The world has been turned upside down and it is Israel that stands at the forefront of refusal. The policy of refusal of a select few, a vanguard of the extreme, has now become the official policy of Jerusalem. In his Passover interviews, Olmert will tell us that, "The Palestinians stand at the crossroads of a historic decision," but people stopped taking him seriously a long time ago. The historic decision is ours, and we are fleeing from this crossroads and from these initiatives as if from death itself.
Terror, used as the ultimate excuse for Israeli refusal, only helps Olmert keep reciting, ad nauseum, "If they [the Palestinians] don't change, don't fight terror and don't adhere to any of their obligations, then they will never extract themselves from their unending chaos." As though the Palestinians haven't taken measures against terrorism, as though Israel is the one to determine what their obligations are, as though Israel isn't to blame for the unending chaos Palestinians suffer under the occupation.
Israel makes a point of setting prerequisites and believes it has an exclusive right to do so. But, time and time again, Israel avoids the most basic prerequisite for any just peace - an end to the occupation. Of all the questions asked during his Passover interviews, no one bothered to ask Olmert why he didn't react with excitement to the recent Arab initiatives, without preconditions? The answer: real estate. The real estate of the settlements.
It's not only Olmert who is dragging his feet. A leading figure in the Labor party said last week that "it will take five to 10 years to recover from the trauma." Peace is now no more than a threatening wound, with no one still talking about the massive social benefits it would bring in development, security, freedom of movement in the region and by establishing a more just society.
Like a little Switzerland, we are focusing more these days on the dollar exchange rate and on the allegations of embezzlement leveled against the Finance Ministry than on the fateful opportunities fading away before our very eyes.
Not every day and not even in every generation do we encounter an opportunity like this. Although it's not for sure if the initiatives are completely solid and believable, or if they are based on trickery, no one has stepped up to challenge or acknowledge them. When Olmert is an elderly grandfather, what will he tell his grandchildren? That he turned over every stone in the name of peace? That there was no other choice? What will his grandchildren say?
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Monday, April 2, 2007
The Political Economy of a Disaster
By JAMES PETRAS
On Monday, March 26, 2007 in Northern Gaza a river of raw sewage and debris overflowed from a collapsed earth embankment into a refugee camp driving 3,000 Palestinians from their homes. Five residents drowned, 25 were injured and scores of houses were destroyed.
The New York Times, Washington Post and the television media blamed shoddy infrastructure. The Daily Alert (the house organ of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations) blamed the Palestinians who they claimed were removing sand to sell to construction contractors thus undermining the earth embankment. The disaster at Umm Naser (the village in question) is emblematic of everything that is wrong with US-Israeli politics in the Middle East. The disaster in this isolated village has its roots first and foremost in Washington where AIPAC and its political allies have successfully secured US backing for Israel's financial and economic boycott of the Palestinian government subsequent to the democratic electoral victory of Hamas.
AIPAC's victory in Washington reverberated throughout Europe and beyond ñ as the European Union also applied sanctions shutting off financing of all new infrastructure projects and the maintenance of existing facilities. At the AIPAC conventions of 2005 through 2007, the leaders of both major American parties, congressional leaders and the White House pledged to re-enforce AIPAC's boycott and sanctions strategy. AIPAC celebrated its victory for Israeli policy and claimed authorship of the legislation. In addition to malnutrition, the policy undermined all public maintenance projects.
Equally central to the disaster, Israel's massive sustained bombing attack on Gaza in the summer of 2006, demolished roads, bridges, sewage treatment facilities, water purification and electrical power plants. Northern Gaza was one of its many targets, putting severe strain on already precarious infrastructure and government budgets ñ including the maintenance of sewage treatment plants and cesspools.
The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza increased unemployment, poverty and hunger to unprecedented levels. Out of work Gazans reached over 60% of the population ñ large families with young children were reduced to one meal a day. Family heads desperately looked for any way to earn funds to buy a pound of chickpeas, oil, rice and flour for bread. It is possible that forced by the AIPAC- induced US-EU boycott and Israeli bombing and blockade, that some desperate workers removed some sand around the cesspool. The pretext cited by the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO) for blaming the Palestinian victims for their own suffering, and exonerating the Israelis, AIPAC and their congressional clients.
The PMAJO has justified thirty-nine years of Israeli occupation and criminal neglect of Gaza's basic sewage treatment facilities. Israel spends less than 2% on a per capita basis for basic services in the Occupied Territories that it is obligated under international law to provide responsibly than it spends in Israel. The United Nations and Israeli human rights groups have documented Israel's callous lack of responsibility toward the Palestinian civilians under its brutal occupation. It is not surprising that the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations can think of nothing better than to blame the destitute Palestinians for the collapse of a primitive earth embankment and the horrific
To the extent that any Palestinian leader can be held responsible, the finger points to the US and Israeli-backed PLO and its titular head Abbas who receives whatever ëhumanitarian' aid flows into Palestine. The tens of millions of dollars of Palestinian import taxes held by Israeli banks were handed over to Mahmoud Abbas , to arm the anti-Hamas vigilantes. Over the past two decades the US-backed ëmoderate' PLO leaders and crony ëcapitalists' have diverted tens of millions of dollars and euros to their private overseas bank accounts, with the acquiescence of their European, US and Israeli patrons. What is a bit of Palestinian corruption if it means propping up an incompetent group of pliant ëleaders'?
The plight of the Umm Naser villagers deluged by their own sewage was neither an act of fate nor a result of local negligence or theft: It was a direct consequence of all that is wrong in US-Middle East politics, the taking sides with a brutal colonial power and its powerful voices and organizations in Washington. Umm Naser is written large throughout Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon: Millions of Arab villagers suffer the consequences of pre-emptive wars to secure Greater Israel as both President Bush and Vice President have publicly stated in justifying their aggression.James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org