May 29, 2010 Page 2

As the Gaza Freedom flotilla nears its goal, three boats have been lost already. The organisers suspect sabotage by Israeli agents is to blame, no further details are currently available. The main news channels are collaborating with Israel, and denying viewers any news on Israel’s illegal actions to stop the flotilla. Large detention camps have been prepared to detain the activists on the ships.

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Tensions rise over Gaza aid fleet: Al Jazeera online

The Israeli army has prepared a detention centre in Ashdod for activists taking aid to Gaza [AFP]
The UN chief has called for restraint as some 700 activists from around world vow to deliver 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to break the blockade of Gaza.

”]Israel has cautioned that the Freedom Flotilla would be stopped, if necessary by force.

The nine-ship flotilla is by far the largest fleet of aid to try to reach the coastal Palestinian territory since Israel imposed its siege on it in 2007.

“We strongly urge that all involved act with a sense of care and responsibility and work for a satisfactory resolution,” a spokesman for Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

He restated UN opposition to the siege of Gaza and the lack of material to meet “basic needs, begin reconstruction, and revive economic life”.

After the Israeli army announced a detention centre at Ashdod port for holding the activists, Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla organisers, said: “We have the right to sail from international waters into the waters of Gaza.

“The only illegal presence in the area is Israel.”

Berlin said the Freedom Flotilla was on schedule to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday with more than 10,000 tonnes of supplies, including water-filtration units and pre-fabricated homes.

EU call

Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off to all but very limited humanitarian aid since Hamas, the Palestinian political faction, took control of the territory in June 2007.
Israel says the Gaza blockade aims to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

For the majority of Gaza’s population of 1.5 million people, the result has been impoverished living conditions.

Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, issued a statement on Friday, calling for an immediate end to Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

“We would like to reiterate the EU’s call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza,” she said.

“The continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive.

“The EU remains gravely concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

‘Absolute provocation’

Israel’s foreign ministry said it had given warnings to the ambassadors of Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Sweden and Turkey – from where the ships set sail – that it had “issued warrants that prohibit the entrance of the vessels to Gaza”.

The flotilla “is about to break international law”, Yossi Gal, the ministry’s director general, said.

Gal said that the flotilla was “an absolute provocation” and a “cheap political stunt”, as there was no shortage of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros attended an Israeli army news conference on Wednesday, where journalists were told that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

She said that the information to back up this claim was both incomplete and out of context: “This tells me what Gaza is getting in terms of supplies but does not compare this to how much Gaza needs to survive.”

Israel has vowed to divert the ships to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

It has said that Israelis on board would be arrested, Palestinians would be questioned by the Israeli secret service, and foreign nationals deported.

Part of the port has been cordoned off and prepared to deal with the activists, and large tents set up for immigration booths and areas for people to be searched.

Gal suggested the organisers should voluntarily head to Ashdod to unload the supplies so Israel or humanitarian agencies can deliver them to Gaza overland, but the flotilla organisers rejected the offer.

Hanin Zuabi, a member of the Israeli parliament who is on board the flotilla, told Al Jazeera that the activists intend to reach Gaza regardless of plans to stop them.

“If the Israelis try to stop us, this will be a huge diplomatic and political crises for them,” Zuabi said.

“We have 50 states participating in this and are sending a very clear message to Israel – the international community is not accepting the siege on Gaza.”

Peace laureates aboard

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, on board the flotilla, said the activists travelling in the convoy included European parliamentarians, former US diplomats and Nobel peace laureates.

Berlin, the flotilla organiser, said: “This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it’s about breaking Israel’s siege on 1.5 million Palestinians.”

Fintan Lane, an Irish activist, said that they were determined to break Israel’s blockade and will not be intimidated.

“The people of Gaza have a right to access to the outside world and the right to determine their own future,” Lane said.

Huwaida Arraf, one of the organisers from the Free Gaza Movement, said: “Israel should not be under any illusion whatsoever that their threats or intimidation will stop us or even that their violence against us will stop us.”

PR disaster

Some Israeli officials see the situation as potentially disastrous in terms of public relations.

“We can’t win on this one in terms of PR,” Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.

“If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes.”

Hamas officials say that Israel’s threats to intercept the flotilla amount to “Zionist piracy”.

“The occupation’s threat to prevent the Freedom Flotilla from arriving in the besieged Gaza Strip is Zionist piracy and a violation of international law,” Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader, said.

“The occupation is concerned about these ships… because they grant legitimacy to engagement with the Palestinian government and confirm that the attempts to isolate Hamas have failed.”

Gaza Freedom Flotilla: by email

Saturday, May 29, 2010

After tremendous pressure from the Greek Cypriots, reneging on their agreement with us, we were forced to take our MPs and activists to Famagusta yesterday, on the Turkish/Cypriot side of Cyprus. We spent all day going from one port to the next, surrounded by helicopters and police. Clearly our deal with Cyprus officials had fallen through, and we ended up being pawns in a political soap opera. The Cypriot members of Parliament, the ones who had worked so hard to get us permission to leave, were outraged. The Greek Parliament members finally told us to go to the North. If they could, they would. The Cypriot government said they made their decision because, “The Republic of Cyprus is fighting for its survival” but it didn’t bow to pressure from Israel. As they said this, they bowed their heads.

We made a deal with the Cypriot government that we would board our high-profile passengers and members of Parliament from Cyprus. We would board with no media coverage. We would not bring our boats into Cyprus. We would take small boats out to our own ships and board past the 12-mile territorial limit.

Authorities mandated that we couldn’t even do that, essentially telling us that, even if we board small boats anywhere in Greek Cyprus from any port, we could not travel outside their territorial limits to go to Gaza. Twenty-seven people were supposed to board, including 9 Cypriots and two Greeks. None of them could come with us as we went North.

Then our two passenger boats mysteriously had mechanical problems at the same time, 3:30 pm. Challenger 2 was able to get 14 delivered to the IHH ship, then limped into the harbor in Limassol after being harassed by Cypriot helicopters

essentially forbidding us to bring our wounded boat into port.

Our other boat, Challenger 1 headed toward Famagusta with 16 passengers. It, too, was wounded, something wrong with the steering.

By the time we were jerked around yesterday. We had started at 7:00 am.  By 10:00 pm, we had nowhere to board, and our boats were out of commission.

But we all have Gaza fever, and no one was giving up.

It has taken us all day to find someone on the Turkish side to ferry some of our passengers out to the flotilla who have been patiently waiting five hours away from Cyprus. At 6:00 pm, 20 of our passengers left for the flotilla, and the Swedish MP and the three German MPs are on board. Hedy is not, and we are heartsick that, once again, she will not be able to go to Gaza.

The flotilla leaves for Gaza early in the morning and should arrive tomorrow afternoon. We have persevered… Al Samoud.

Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75 <> <>

Israeli Arab activist ‘spied on IDF bases for Hezbollah’: Haaretz

In indictment against Ameer Makhoul, state prosecutors claim prominent political campaigner was recruited by Lebanese militants in Denmark.
By Jack Khoury
State prosecutors on Thursday presented a Haifa court with an indictment against two detained Israeli Arab activists accused of spying for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The first suspect, Ameer Makhoul, has been charged with secretly meeting Hezbollah agents in Denmark in 2008. There, prosecutors allege, Makhoul agreed to spy on Israel for the Shi’a Muslim group, which gave him specific missions and equipped him with computer programs to send encrypted information over the internet.

One task was to gather information on bases of the Shin Bet security service in the north of Israel.

In other missions, Makhoul was allegedly asked to supply details of security surrounding Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, a Mossad base in central Israel, a defense factory owned by state arms manufacturer Rafael and a Haifa site hit by Hezbollah rockets during its month-long war with Israel in 2006.

Makhoul is also accused of carrying out reconnaissance on an IDF base.
Prosecutors say the suspected spy passed his Lebanese contacts a list of names of six Israeli citizens, marked as potential agents, as well as providing Hezbollah with analysis on trends in Israeli politics and society.
The IDF’s information security unit claims Makhoul delivered high-value material to his Hezbollah handlers.

A senior Shin Bet official told Haaretz: “Part of the information that Makhoul transferred could be delivered by anyone with a pair of eyes and Google Earth [a computer program that provides satellite photographs]. But Makhoul, as an Israeli Arab, has freedom of movement and access across Israel.”

Makhoul has denied all charges against him.

Speaking to reporters outside a courthouse in the northern city of Haifa, Makhoul described the accusations as a balloon that will burst very quickly.
“This legal proceeding is invalid and I reject all the allegations against me,” he said.

Prosecutors also filed an indictment against another espionage suspect, Omar Sayid, later on Thursday. Said was arrested while trying to cross the border to Jordan on April 24; Makhoul on May 6.

State lawyers say both were recruited as Hezbollah spies by Hassan Geagea, a Lebanese businessman living in Jordan, whom they first contacted over funding for Israeli Arab charities.

Under interrogation, Makhoul admitted meeting a representative of Geagea in Denmark. Last week Makhoul’s attorneys said they strongly suspected that his Shin Bet interrogators tortured him during a two-week period following his arrest in which they were denied access to him. Shin Bet denies the claims.

“The interrogation was carried out in full accordance with regulations and the law,” a Shin Bet official said, quoting court proceedings in which a judge reported asking Makhoul about his treatment. Makhoul answered that he was homesick and his back hurt – but made no claims of abuse.
His lawyers – Hassan Jabareen, Orna Kohn and Hussein Abu Hussein – said they were considering legal measures, including a petition to the High Court of Justice, after their request to see Makhoul’s prison medical records was denied.

Following the refusal, Physicians for Human Rights, a charity organization, applied for permission to visit Makhoul in jail.

Makhoul’s family said in a statement: “The Shin Bet and the Israeli establishment should be indicted for using torture and banned interrogation methods to trample democratic freedoms and human rights.”

Mubarak’s Last Breath: London Review of Books

Adam Shatz reports from Egypt
On 6 October 1981, President Anwar al-Sadat attended a parade to mark the anniversary of the crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 war with Israel. It was also an occasion to display the American, British and French aircraft Egypt had recently acquired: symbols of its realignment with the West after more than two decades as a Soviet ally. Sadat wore a Prussian-style uniform but no bullet-proof vest: it would have ruined the line. Rumours of a plot were in the air, and his vice president, Hosni Mubarak, had warned him not to go. Sadat brushed this off, but when he stood to receive the salute, he was killed in a hail of grenades and bullets, fired by a group of Islamist soldiers in his own army. ‘I have killed Pharaoh, and I do not fear death,’ the lead assassin, a 24-year-old lieutenant, declared.

Only eight days later a new pharaoh rose in Egypt, and he has been in power ever since. Hosni Mubarak, who stood beside Sadat at the procession, was an improbable successor: a circumspect career soldier whose appointment to the vice presidency in 1975 had come as a shock to political observers. Born in 1928 in a small village in the Nile River Delta, the son of an inspector in the Ministry of Justice, Mubarak was little known to Egyptians, or even to his colleagues: he was a loner, with no outside interests to speak of, and no taste, or talent, for the rituals of mass politics at which both Nasser and Sadat excelled. Unlike them he had not been among the Free Officers who seized power in the 1952 coup against the monarchy. He had, however, loyally served the state and – as commander in chief of the air force – launched the surprise attack in 1973 which allowed ground forces to cross into the Sinai Peninsula. Mubarak admitted his political inexperience when he took office, pledging to ask for advice, and suggesting limited presidential terms. He is now 82, and has ruled Egypt – and presided over its decline – for 29 years. Presidential elections are scheduled for next year, but he has said he will serve ‘until the last breath in my lungs, and the last beat of my heart’. This is a promise he’s likely to keep.

Egypt has never been a democracy. The military has always dominated its political life. Even during the age of liberal nationalism after the First World War, when it had a lively parliamentary life, popular sovereignty was sharply curtailed by British power. Since the 1952 coup which brought Nasser to power, it has been ruled by military dictatorship, although the establishment of multi-party politics in the late 1970s brought a measure of cosmetic diversification. Still, autocratic though they were, both Nasser and Sadat ensured that what Egypt did mattered. Nasser’s failures were spectacular: the aborted union with Syria in the United Arab Republic; the disastrous intervention in the civil war in Yemen; the catastrophic 1967 defeat to Israel that resulted in the destruction of three-quarters of Egypt’s air force and the loss of the Sinai; the creation of a vast and inefficient public sector which the state could not afford; the suppression of dissent, indeed of politics itself. But he also carried out land reform, nationalised the Suez Canal, built the Aswan High Dam, and turned Egypt into a major force in the Non-Aligned Movement. When Nasser spoke, the Arab world listened. Sadat broke with Nasser’s pan-Arab vision, promoting an Egypt-first agenda that ultimately led the country into the arms of the US and Israel. But, like Nasser, he was a statesman of considerable flair and cunning, with a prodigious ability to seize the initiative. By leading Egypt to a partial victory in the 1973 war, he washed away some of the shame of 1967, and eventually secured the restoration of the Sinai. And though his peace with Israel infuriated the Arabs, whom Nasser had electrified, he made Egypt a player in the world. Under Mubarak, Egypt, the ‘mother of the earth’ (umm idduniya), has seen its influence plummet. Nowhere is the decline of the Sunni Arab world so acutely felt as in Cairo ‘the Victorious’, a mega-city much of which has turned into an enormous slum. The air is so thick with fumes you can hardly breathe, the atmosphere as constricted as the country’s political life.

Frustration, shame, humiliation: it does not take much for Egyptians to call up these feelings. It’s still often said that ‘what happens in Egypt affects the entire Arab world,’ but nothing much has happened there in years. Egypt has fallen behind Saudi Arabia – not to mention non-Arab countries like Turkey and Iran – in regional leadership. Even tiny Qatar has a more independent foreign policy. Egypt is by far the largest Arab country, with 80 million inhabitants, yet it’s seen by most Arabs – and by the Egyptians themselves – as a client state of the United States and Israel, who depend on Mubarak to ensure regional ‘stability’ in the struggle with the ‘resistance front’ led by Iran.

The liberalisation of Egypt’s economy – launched by Sadat’s Infitah (Open Door) policy in 1974 – has earned Mubarak praise from the World Bank. The 2007 constitution, purged of references to socialism, says that ‘the economy of the Arab Republic of Egypt is founded on the development of the spirit of enterprise.’ Yet Egypt’s market is anything but free: businesses tend to have very close, and mutually profitable, relationships with the state, in which the Mubarak family often participates and takes its cut. Hussein Salem, a hotel magnate, arms dealer and co-owner of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Company – an Egyptian-Israeli consortium that recently secured a $2.5 billion contract to sell Egypt’s natural gas to Israel – is thought to be one of Mubarak’s frontmen; the gas began flowing in early 2008, just as Israel was tightening the siege of Gaza.

Despite the promises of the regime – and contrary to the expectations of Egypt’s sponsors in the West – economic liberalisation hasn’t led to much in the way of political liberalisation: in 1992, the year it adopted an IMF stabilisation and structural adjustment package, Egypt began sending civilians to be tried at military tribunals. The Emergency Law, in force since Sadat’s assassination and recently renewed despite Mubarak’s promise to lift it, grants the government extraordinary powers to arrest its opponents without charge and to detain them indefinitely; there are an estimated 17,000 political prisoners, most of them Islamists.

The ideology of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party has undergone marked shifts in recent years, alternating between Milton Friedman and Muhammad, as the occasion demands. Arab unity, as the novelist Sonallah Ibrahim remarks, has been reduced to the ‘unity of foreign commodities consumed by everyone’. Not inappropriately, the most popular military officer on billboards in Egypt isn’t Mubarak but Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The increasing globalisation of the economy, along with its 7.5 per cent growth rates, is something the NDP likes to boast about, but it is seen rather differently by the population: inflation has soared since the currency was floated in 2003, and real unemployment is 26.3 per cent. Mubarak’s reforms haven’t turned Egypt into a ‘tiger on the Nile’, as promised; the economy remains precariously dependent on the price of oil, American aid (more than $62 billion since 1977) and tourism. Egypt still imports more than half the wheat it consumes.

Foreign policy is a particularly anguished subject. While the peace with Israel reached in 1979 by Sadat may make Egypt a ‘moderate’ state in the eyes of Washington, it has left many Egyptians deeply embittered. Mubarak drew a lesson from Sadat’s fate: it was one thing to make a deal with Israel – quite another to make nice. He would honour the peace treaty, but he would not go to Tel Aviv, or engage in ostentatious displays of friendship that would offend Egyptian honour; and he would turn a blind eye to anti-Israel invective in the press, so that opponents of ‘normalisation’ with Tel Aviv could let off steam. By maintaining an appearance of froideur, Mubarak was able to repair relations with the Arab League and with the Arab states that had cut their ties with Egypt in 1979. Meanwhile, he has developed a partnership with Israel on trade and ‘security’ that is far more extensive than Sadat could have imagined. Their intelligence services work closely together, and Mubarak has supplied weapons and training to the Palestinian Authority in its war against Hamas. The government is also doing what it can to maintain the siege in Gaza, concerned that if it opens its border crossing, Israel might shut down all its crossing points and try to dump Gaza in Egypt’s lap, which would be particularly unwelcome given that the Hamas rulers in Gaza are allies both of Mubarak’s domestic opponents, the Muslim Brothers, and of his foreign adversaries, Iran and Hizbullah.

Mubarak doesn’t want to be responsible for the welfare of more than a million impoverished Palestinians, or to be blamed by Israel for every Qassam rocket fired at Tsederot. When, in January 2008, Hamas blew up part of the fence at Rafah, and tens of thousands of Gazans crossed the border, some of his fellow countrymen were persuaded by his ‘Egypt First’ argument. But more of them were outraged when he refused to open the crossing during Israel’s invasion last year. Many suspect a degree of complicity between Israel and Mubarak against Hamas: the war began less than 48 hours after Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, visited Cairo.

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Jonathan Cook: Israeli human rights activist – “I was tortured”
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Ameer Makhoul at court: IOA

By Jonathan Cook, – 28 May 2010
Lawyers says spying confession inadmissable
Jonathan Cook
A leading human rights activist from Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority was charged yesterday with the most serious security offences on Israel’s statute book, including espionage.
Prosecutors indicted Ameer Makhoul, the head of Ittijah, an umbrella organisation for Arab human rights groups in Israel, with spying on security facilities on behalf of Hizbollah after an alleged meeting with one of its agents in Denmark in 2008.
Mr Makhoul, who had been held incommunicado by Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet, for much of the time since his arrest three weeks ago, appeared in court and pleaded not guilty. In his first public statement, he told the court: “The Shin Bet controls the Israeli justice system.”
As a gag order was lifted on the case, his lawyers said Mr Makhoul had been tortured during his detention, including being told by interrogators that they would leave him “disabled”. The three lawyers said he had been forced to make a false confession, which they would argue was inadmissible.
Mr Makhoul’s arrest had angered many in Israel’s Palestinian minority, nearly a fifth of the population, who suspect he is being persecuted for his leading role in promoting internationally the boycott movement against Israel and his prominent opposition to Israel’s attack on Gaza nearly 18 months ago.
He has been backed by human rights groups abroad, including Amnesty International, which declared him a prisoner of conscience and accused Israel of “pure harassment”.
Mr Makhoul’s brother, Issam, a former MP for a joint Jewish-Arab party, told Israel Radio yesterday that Mr Makhoul had been threatened by the Shin Bet back in January 2009, shortly after he organised protests against the Gaza attack. The Shin Bet had told him that they would frame him and “make him disappear”, Issam Makhoul said.
Mr Makhoul’s wife, Janan, who saw her husband in court for the first time since he had been arrested, said he was in constant pain and had impaired vision. She added: “He is very exhausted and he told me about the torture he underwent in his interrogation. Thirty-six hours without sleep tied to a chair stuck to the floor.”
Mr Makhoul, 52, is charged with assistance to the enemy in a time of war, conspiracy to assist an enemy, aggravated espionage and contact with a foreign agent. According to the indictment, he passed on “strategic intelligence” to Hizbollah agents on at least 10 occasions via encrypted e-mails.
The militant Lebanese group is said to have used Mr Makhoul, whose organisation is based in the northern city of Haifa, to provide information on security installations in the north.
Mr Makhoul is alleged to have provided details of the locations of two Shin Bet facilities, a Mossad office, a military base and a Rafael armaments factory, as well as trying unsuccessfully to gather information on the security arrangements of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister.
A senior Shin Bet officer told the liberal Haaretz newspaper: “Part of the information that Makhoul transferred could be delivered by anyone with a pair of eyes and Google Earth [a computer program providing satellite images]. But Makhoul, as an Israeli Arab, has freedom of movement and access across Israel.”
Prosecutors also accused him of passing on the names of six Israelis as potential spies and providing analysis of trends in Israeli politics and society.
Hizbullah, prosecutors suggested, was especially keen to learn about its success in hitting Israeli security installations with rockets during its military confrontation with Israel in 2006.
In a related case, Omar Said, 50, a pharmacologist and political activist, was charged yesterday in a Nazareth court with contacting and transferring information to Hizbollah after meeting an agent in the Sinai resort of Sharm El Sheikh. He denied the allegations and said he too had been forced into making a confession.
Hassan Jaja, a Lebanese businessman living in Jordan, is alleged to have initiated contacts between Hizbollah and Mr Said and Mr Makhoul.
The Adalah legal centre, which represents Mr Makhoul, said his indictment was based on a confession extracted during nearly two weeks in which he was denied a lawyer, kept in a small isolation cell, deprived of sleep and food, and shackled in a painful position to a small chair.
The combination of methods, known in Hebrew as the “Shabeh”, created high levels of mental stress and acute, continuous physical pain, said Abir Baker, a lawyer with Adalah. The interrogation method violates international law and was banned by Israel’s supreme court in 1999.
Hasan Jabareen, head of Adalah, said that, when Mr Makhoul complained of serious pain, the interrogators tied him even tighter, threatening that he would be “left disabled”.
Issam Makhoul said the family was concerned that the court had denied his lawyers the right to see a medical report from a state physician who visited him twice during his interrogation.
Ms Baker said recent amendments to Israel’s security laws had given the Shin Bet “dangerous powers” to deny suspects the right to see a lawyer for up to 21 days, with limited judicial oversight.
Such powers were being used almost exclusively against Palestinian citizens held in detention, she said, though the state had refused to provide figures on how frequently the law was being employed.
She said, during periods when suspects could not see a lawyer, interrogators were more likely to use illegal torture methods.
A report by the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper in January 2009 supports Issam Makhoul’s claim that his brother was threatened in an earlier Shin Bet interrogation. Mr Makhoul told the paper at the time that a Shin Bet officer “called me a rebel threatening the security of the state during time of war and said he would be happy to transfer me to Gaza”.
Mr Makhoul’s case, said Mohammed Zeidan, head of the Human Rights Association in Nazareth, had left everyone in Israel’s human rights community “afraid”. “The Shin Bet wanted to take him out of the game and they have succeeded,” he said. “Ameer has been disappeared.”
Mr Zeidan added that the case had strong echoes of what he called recent “unwarranted legal assaults” by the Shin Bet on two other Palestinian leaders in Israel.
Sheikh Raed Salah, of the popular Islamic Movement, was arrested in 2003 and spent two years in jail awaiting trial on charges of assisting a terror organisation before he was released in a plea bargain in which he admtted only financial misdemeanours.
Since 2007 Azmi Bishara, the leader of the Balad party, has been in exile after he was accused of espionage while out of the country. Critics say the Shin Bet effectively silenced him without having to produce evidence.
“It has become clear over the past few years that this could happen to any of us,” he said.
On Wednesday, in a related development, the parliament passed the first reading of a “loyalty bill”, introduced by the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, that would strip anyone found guilty of espionage of their citizenship.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

Ameer Makhoul’s arrest is an assault on all Palestinians in Israel: The Electronic Intifada

Janan Abdu, Issam Makhoul, 26 May 2010
Ameer Makhoul (Adri Nieuwhof) Today is the 21st day since the arrest of Ameer Makhoul at his home in Haifa, Israel, under the cover of darkness, by officers of the International Crimes Investigation Unit and General Security Service (GSS or Shabak). The arrest was conducted in a brutal and terrifying manner. Our house was raided, its contents ransacked and various pieces of equipment and objects of special value to us were confiscated. Violations of our fundamental rights to human dignity and privacy were committed, and physical, verbal and psychological violence were employed against us and in front of Ameer’s two daughters. On this day we, Ameer’s family, announce that we are extremely worried about what is happening to him and the conditions of his detention.

We know that Ameer has suffered and continues to suffer from acute pains in his head, his back and in both of his legs as a result of the severe torture he was subjected to, in breach of his most basic human rights. These include the rights to sleep, drink and eat, and the rights to dignity and not to be exposed to humiliating and degrading treatment. His complete isolation from the outside world, the control exercised over him by the GSS interrogators, and he has been interrogated for hours and days on end without sleep, while in shackles and bound by his hands and feet to a low chair in a way that does not allow him to move. This causes him severe pain, from which he still continues to suffer, resulting in his losing his sense of time and ability to think and concentrate, and in his mental disorientation. These methods are illegal under Israeli and international law.

For the past 21 days, the court has refused to allow Ameer’s attorneys to read the medical report written by a doctor who visited him twice during the interrogation. It also refused to allow an independent doctor sent from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) to examine him, as demanded by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, including Adalah, PHR-I and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. These refusals raise concerns and questions about the information that the GSS, with the backing of the court, wants to conceal regarding the conditions of his detention and their methods of interrogation.

We wonder what the GSS is hiding and why it is stalling. Is it in order to hide signs of the physical and psychological violence it has inflicted upon him? Why has the court given its consent to these procedures?

What particularly worries us is that Ameer continues to complain of acute pains, and his eyesight has deteriorated, which has compelled him to ask for a stronger pair of glasses. This raises the questions: How and why this severely diminished eyesight was caused during his detention? What methods of interrogation were used which led to this physical deterioration and caused him to experience and complain of acute pains?

Yet there are bigger questions, with implications not just for Ameer but for all Palestinians in Israel: what is the Israeli security establishment trying to cover up?

Why is the court colluding with the GSS and concealing the conditions of detention and methods of interrogation and torture that have been used against Ameer?

Why did the court block the publication of the details of Ameer’s affidavit as it relates to the illegal methods of interrogation used against him? Ameer discussed these interrogation methods in his initial meeting with his lawyers, which was held after almost two weeks of being banned from access to legal counsel.

We appeal to the local and international communities and to individuals to continue to act quickly to put pressure on the Israeli government and legal system to open an independent investigation into the methods used by the GSS interrogators against Ameer, and to demand the indictment of those responsible for the use of torture against him. We also call on the local and international communities to consider any indictment by the GSS to have been fabricated and extorted under torture and gained solely by obstructing democratic freedoms and human rights. These acts are invalid and illegitimate, and in flagrant violation of international law.

We call on the local and international communities to demand that the Israeli authorities immediately halt this trial, which is based on an investigation in which Ameer was prevented from defending himself in any genuine manner. Ameer has been denied the most fundamental basic human rights to which he is entitled under Israeli and international law. In addition, the independence of the judiciary and democratic freedoms were dangerously subjected to the dictates of the GSS in this case.

We greatly appreciate the community, institutional and individual solidarity with Ameer on the local and international levels, and all efforts to defend his freedom. We are aware of the importance of the role played by all political movements and political parties in challenging the circumstances of Ameer’s arrest, and this attack against the Arab public and its leadership, and on democratic freedom and human rights. We are also aware that the clear strategic choice of the Arab public in Israel has been and continues to be that of unyielding and legitimate political struggle.

The fact is that Ameer Makhoul does not belong to any specific political party. Rather, he reserves for himself an independent position, which is a clear indication that the main target of this attack is the Arab Palestinian public and their leadership, their rights and freedoms. Defending the freedom of Ameer and his rights as a detainee, and rejecting incitement against Arab citizens in light of his detention, are not an individual or class issue, but a national, democratic mission.

The real indictment is against the GSS and the Israeli establishment, which are trampling on democratic freedoms and human rights and resorting to illegal methods of interrogation and torture.

Netanyahu: Israel is not bound by NPT resolution: Haaretz

Prime minister’s office dismisses international call for Middle East nuclear talks as ‘deeply flawed and hypocritical’.
Israel has no obligation to act on a resolution passed at a UN conference on Friday that singled out Israel over non-proliferation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Saturday.
At the conclusion of a month-long conference in New York, the 189 signatories of the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) called for an international conference in 2012 with the aim of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East.
“As a non-signatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this Conference, which has no authority over Israel,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.”
Israel, which operates a policy of ‘nuclear ambiguity’ but is widely believed to have an arsenal of atomic warheads, has not signed the NPT and is not required by international law to comply with the conference’s resolutions.

The resolution also called on Israel, along with two other non-signatories, India and Pakistan, to join the treaty.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he strongly opposed efforts to single out Israel on non-proliferation and would oppose actions that jeopardize Israel’s national security.

The United States announced it “deeply regrets” the resolution.

U.S. National Security Adviser General James L. Jones called the decision to single out Israel “gratuitous”.

In the run-up to Friday’s conference vote, Israeli diplomats worked intensively to soften the wording of the resolution. After it was passed on Friday, Netanyahu, on a visit to Toronto, consulted by telephone with senior ministers to formulate an official response.

The prime minister office’s statement called the resolution “deeply flawed and hypocritical” for focusing on Israel while ignoring the Iran. An NPT signatory, Iran claims its nuclear program is for civilian purposes but is accused by Israel of seeking an atomic bomb.

“[The resolution] singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation,” the statement said. “Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”

The statement also claimed that several NPT signatories, including Libya, Iran, Syria and Iraq, have violated the treaty with secret nuclear programs.

“That is why the resolution adopted by the NPT Review Conference not only fails to advance regional security but actually sets it back,” the statement said.

In 2008 Israeli warplanes bombed a site in Syria that the U.S. later said was a clandestine nuclear reactor. Libya agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in 2003, while unproved allegations that Iraq was building a bomb formed part of justifications for a U.S. invasion of the country in 2003.

East Jerusalem eviction orders threaten new embarrassment for Netanyahu: Haaretz

As PM heads to Washington to expunge memories of row with U.S. over Jewish building in the capital, settlers’ push to oust Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah risks reigniting tensions.
By Nir Hasson
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Washington in a much-feted effort to restore damaged ties with the United States, new tensions in East Jerusalem threaten to rekindle a diplomatic row over Jewish building beyond the Green Line in the city.
On Saturday lawyers served eviction notices to two Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, a focus of clashes between Arab residents and settlers.
The families were ordered to vacate their properties within 45 days.
Netanyahu will meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday in what observers predict will be extremely cordial circumstances – a marked contrast with the Israeli leader’s previous visit to the White House in March, when he was denied a joint photo-call with his American counterpart.
Then, Washington’s frosty hospitality was part of the fallout from a diplomatic spat that erupted after Israel angered its close ally with the announcement during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of plans to build 1,500 Jewish homes in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Israel has since soothed Washington’s ire by promising not to repeat the debacle.

Saturday’s eviction orders, unlike the Ramat Shlomo announcement, did not come directly from the government. But while the latest incident may not on the same scale of the last,  it may well cause Netanyahu discomfort as he seeks to assure Obama of his commitment to recently restarted peace talks with the Palestinians.

“The danger is that whether intentionally or in error, the government is aiding the transfer of assets to extremist settlers who want to create provocations in Jerusalem and frustrate any possibility of a two-state solution [two the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now movement told Haaretz.

Saturday’s notices threatened owners of the two properties with legal action and fines.

“Failure to comply [with the order] will force my client to act against you with all means available according to the law […] in such a way as may cause distress, anxiety and large and unnecessary expense,” the notices said.

The lawyer who served the order, Anat Paz of law firm Eitan Gabay, informed the families they would be liable to a fine of NIS 350 for each day the remained in their homes beyond the eviction deadline.

Each family was also ordered to pay  NIS 12,000 per year for each of the last seven years. The notices did not reveal names of the claimants to the properties.

On Friday, recipients of the eviction notices approached left-wing activists demonstrating in Sheikh Jarrah to ask for help in fighting the orders.

“I was born in that house,” said Karim Siyam, 37, who shares one of the disputed properties, a tiny two-bedroom home, with his mother, wife and two children.

“Since we received the letter we’ve been terrified. We’re scared that any day they’ll come and throw us out. In the end that’s what will happen. It all depends on who the judge is.”

The second house to receive a notice is home to the Kanabi family – parents, four children and their grandmother.

Over the past few months, the eastern part Sheikh Jarrah has been the center of a high-profile battle between settlers and three Palestinian families over 28 disputed houses. But Saturday’s notices were for houses in the western half of the neighborhood, marking a broadening of the battleground.

Some eight months ago, Bayit Ehad, a charity organization run by settlers, took over a single house in western Sheikh Jarrah, were it has since carried out improvement work. The latest notices were for adjoining properties either side of that house.

All three houses are believed to have been in Jewish hands before fighting during Israel’s independence war in 1948. After the war, the east of the city fell into Jordanian hands.

When Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, the house passed to control of the Custodian General, a government official. They were later purchased by Irwin Moskovitz, an American businessman and a patron of the settler movement.

Palestinians boycott settlers: Al Ahram

A comprehensive, cross-factional boycott of Jewish settlement products and produce has been launched across the West Bank, writes Khaled Amayreh
There are as many as half a million Jewish settlers enjoying constant army protection in the West Bank. The vast majority of these are indoctrinated in an extreme right-wing ideology that views non-Jews living in Israel and the occupied territories as “lesser human beings”.

Some of the religious mentors of these settlers openly teach that non-Jews living under Jewish rule — i.e. Palestinians — should be enslaved, expelled or annihilated. When challenged, these rabbis and mentors readily quote from the Old Testament and Talmud to corroborate their oft-genocidal viewpoints.

The settlers are vehemently against the concept of peace with the Palestinians. They claim that retaining “the land of Israel” is far more important than making peace with the Arabs. Their most common slogan is “Arabs to the desert”. The more fanatical settlers, such as those of Hebron, have been heard to say “Arabs to the gas chambers”. Signs bearing such slogans are prominently featured in the small Jewish enclave in the occupied Palestinian town.

This week, the Palestinian Authority (PA) began implementing a widespread campaign to boycott products manufactured in Jewish settlements and agricultural produce grown in as many as 100 Jewish colonies in the West Bank, many established on land seized by force from Palestinian landowners.

The boycott, backed by all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, is viewed as a rare and effective Palestinian asset to show Israel that the occupation doesn’t pay off and that the Palestinian people will not allow themselves to finance Israeli oppression and repression.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, displayed enthusiastic approval of the boycott, with Abbas taking part in a Ramallah ceremony launching the boycott campaign and Fayyad seen taking part in burning settlement products.

Abbas has also been seen pasting a bumper sticker on his villa’s door in Ramallah, declaring, “This house is empty of settlement products.” Tens of thousands of similar stickers have been pasted on Palestinian doors throughout the West Bank.

Defending the unprecedented step, which many Palestinians think is belated and of uncertain effect, given the difficulty of ascertaining the origin of many Israeli commodities reaching the Palestinian market, Abbas said the boycott in no way constituted a boycott of Israeli products. “We are not boycotting Israel, we are only boycotting the settlements, and as far as we are concerned, the settlements are not Israel.”

The Palestinian leader went as far as saying, “I will not incite against Israel and will not urge my people to boycott Israel.”

Israel, including the settlements, exports more than $5 billion worth of goods to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In most cases, the Palestinians have no choice but to “import” these goods since they have no control over their border crossings, nor can they directly import commodities from abroad. In short, everything the Palestinians need must come either from Israel itself or through Israel, which means that Israel has an absolute monopoly over Palestinian imports.

On the other hand, the Palestinians are not free to export to Israel as their freedom of movement — especially their ability to enter Israel — is severely restricted by the Israeli occupation army. Israel employs as many as 25,000 Palestinian workers, most of them suffering extremely humiliating working conditions.

All in all, Palestinians export to Israel no more than $700 million worth of products and agricultural produces per year — a shocking imbalance in trade between the occupied and the occupier.

Nonetheless, the settlers, who have arrogated the lion’s share of Palestinian water resources in the West Bank and who continue to expand their illegal colonies at their neighbours’ expense, have complained about the boycott which they called “economic terrorism”. Some settler leaders have demanded that the Israeli army seal entry points to Palestinian population centres and initiate a counter-boycott of Palestinian products. Others have asked the Israeli government to deduct hundreds of millions of dollars from Palestinian customs revenue collected by Israel on behalf of the PA government.

Settlements in the Bethlehem region have warned that they will fire hundreds of Palestinian labourers working in local factories. Others have resorted to relabelling their products as originating in Israel proper, in order to trick PA inspection teams.

However, Israeli countermeasures and threats have so far failed to stop or discourage the house-to-house Palestinian campaign against settlement products and produce. In fact, the PA has already gone one step further by enacting a law stipulating that anyone who deals in goods produced in Jewish settlements will be imprisoned for two to five years and fined up to $15,000.

The law states, furthermore, that those who import settlement products into the Palestinian-run territories could face a jail sentence of up to six years and fines of up to $3,000 and confiscation of licences and vehicles.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has lambasted the Palestinian campaign against settlement products as “counterproductive to peace” and “a hostile act”. In statements carried by the Israeli media, Netanyahu claimed that the Palestinian campaign would hurt the Palestinians more than Israel.

“When the Palestinians take steps that hurt them, that harm their own populace and drag down their standard of living, or when they refuse to advance — for example, when they refuse to build water purification plants, without which they damage our shared aquifers and contaminate their own water supply — these things are not in the spirit of peace.”

In response, one Palestinian official, Mohamed Shtayyeh, termed Netanyahu’s remarks “hypocritical and mendacious from A to Z”. “This man is a pathological liar. He thinks it is perfectly okay to keep millions of Palestinians in a state of perpetual economic enslavement to the ‘master race.'”

Shtayyeh also castigated Netanyahu’s concept of “economic peace”, calling it a trick or ruse to cover up and divert attention from Jewish settlement expansion. “Netanyahu thinks that boycotting products manufactured by these land thieves is anti-peace while the unrelenting expansion of Jewish colonies at the expense of Palestinian land is conducive to peace. This is more than chutzpah. This is sickness of the mind.”

The Palestinian official took issue with Netanyahu comparing the settlement of Maali Adumim, near East Jerusalem, with Tel Aviv in importance to Israel. “If he thinks that Maali Adumim is as important for Israel as Tel Aviv is, then we have the right to view Haifa and Yaffa as the same important for us as Ramallah and Nablus are.”

Netanyahu has long made statements about forging “economic peace” with the Palestinians, which according to him would prepare the ground for political peace. However, most Palestinians, including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, have vehemently rejected Netanyahu’s proposals, dismissing them as “red herrings” aimed at gaining time in order to take over more Palestinian land and build more Jewish settlements.

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