Sugust 10, 2010

EDITOR: Will they or won’t they? Lebanon or Iran?

As the preparations continue in Israel for both fronts to start rolling, the pundits are busy working out Israeli priorities. The only certainty, it seems, is the Israel is going to initiate another war in the Middle East. This it has done since its inception, and with increasing frequency. It cannot do otherwise. Why the rest of us are just sitting and waiting for it to start is another story.

Not Another War on Lebanonby Charles Glass on August 09, 2010: Takimag

My old friend Norman Finkelstein has just written a foreword to a new edition of his first-rate book on the Gaza Strip, This Time We Went Too Far, in which he shares his fears of another Israeli war in Lebanon. Norman is usually right, but he is also usually a lonely prophet in the wilderness, ignored and scorned by kings and courtiers. This time, however, most of the people he disagrees with are on his side: former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer at the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Crisis Group and much of the Israeli and Lebanese press. It’s worth reading Norman’s foreword, as well as the book, to understand what is happening. As someone who has watched Lebanon suffer too much since 1975, I hope he is wrong. His argument, at least in the first draft that I read, goes as follows:
The most likely initial target of an Israeli attack is Lebanon.  Of late Israel has been busily preparing the ground for it. Even Israel’s most vulgar apologists concede that should war break out, it is “more likely” that Israel will have initiated it. [Daniel C. Kurtzer , “A Third Lebanon War,” Council on Foreign Relations (July 2010)] The pretext is that Hezbollah has amassed a huge quantity of rockets and missiles targeting Israel. It is also clear that the Israeli assault will replicate the Gaza massacre [of December 2009] but on a much grander scale. An Israeli general proclaimed shortly after the Gaza massacre that the IDF will “continue to apply” the Dahiya doctrine of directing massive force against civilian infrastructure “in the future.” [Yaacov Katz, “The Dahiya Doctrine: Fighting dirty or a knock-out punch?” Jerusalem Post (28 January 2001)] On the same day as the [Turkish] flotilla bloodbath, DefenseNews was reporting that a prospective Israeli assault on Lebanon “would include attacks on national infrastructure, a total maritime blockade, and interdiction strikes on bridges, highways,” while “land forces would execute a ferocious land grab well beyond the Litani River.” The essence of Israeli strategic doctrine, the IDF deputy chief of staff elaborated, was that “each new round” of fighting “brings worse results than the last” to Israel’s enemies.

It also brings fairly damaging results to Israel itself. In 2006, although the Israeli Defense Forces killed about nine times as many Lebanese as the Lebanese did Israelis, about a million Israelis fled their homes to avoid being hit by Hizballah rockets. (It is historically interesting that those Israelis, some of whom live in houses that Palestinian Arabs lived in before they fled violence in 1948, went home when the fighting stopped. Israel has always argued that people, i.e., Palestinians, who left their houses in wartime have no right to return to them. Different principles for different folks.) That was what Dan Kurtzer called the “second Lebanon war,” in his Council on Foreign Relations treatise urging the Obama administration to forestall the third. But Lebanon has had many wars, perhaps too many to count. Even against Israel, there has either been one long war or at least five.
Menachem Begin sent the Israeli Defense Forces to occupy south Lebanon in March 1978. In 1982, the IDF went further north into Lebanon to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization from Beirut. That was its high water mark, and the water has, as water does, been flowing downhill ever since. In subsequent forays into the country, it lost again and again to the resistance movement that would not have existed but for Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon from the summer of 1982 on, Hizballah. The Israelis were better off for an enemy with the PLO, which has since been tamed and now does Israel’s bidding on the West Bank. Hizballah, for all the Levantine business acumen of some of its backers, is less pliable. It is also more serious. Its steady attacks on the Israeli occupiers from the time of its clandestine inception in late 1982 forced Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000. Between the original invasion of 1978 and last summer’s disastrous incursion, Israel has launched several mini-invasions that failed to make a dent in Hizballah’s armor. Has everyone forgotten the “decisive” Operation Grapes of Wrath? When the Israelis attempted to deal the deathblow to Hizballah in the summer of 2006, the Shiite guerrillas handed them a humiliating defeat. Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon were so badly prepared for a serious battle that some of them ran out of drinking water. Israeli jets destroyed all of Lebanon’s bridges and much of its civilian infrastructure, but its troops on the ground were relieved to depart. So, what are the hawks in Israel urging the army to do? You guessed it, have another go.
Norman writes, “Tellingly, after each successive bungled operation, Israelis speak of “operational” errors, never conceptual ones, the tacit assumption being that if these errors are corrected, then next time around the goals still can and will be achieved.” The question is: what does the Israeli state intend to achieve? As I see it, its objectives are to maintain military superiority over all potential adversaries and, whenever an adversary threatens to become so much as an irritant, to destroy its power. This doctrine goes beyond mere preemption, which is itself of dubious legality. Preemption means attacking before you are attacked. Israel is going a step further and attacking before anyone can achieve the means so much as to consider an attack—even in retaliation. You could call it pre-preemption. Just as its soldiers employ submachine guns on Palestinian children who throw stones, its army unleashes the full force of F-16s on guerrillas who merely bear arms in a neighboring state, Lebanon, to defend their territory.
Norman Finkelstein and Dan Kurtzer, who stand at polar ends of the Mideast spectrum, agree that another Israeli invasion of Lebanon will be bad for Lebanon, bad for Israel and bad for the United States of America. Is that enough to convince Washington to stop it before it happens?

10th August 2010:

Four acquitted for direct action protest at Israeli store in London

Store misleading public by selling illegal settlements goods as ‘made in Israel’
By email

Boycott Israeli goods 4, by Carlos Latuff

On the 10th August 2010, four anti-apartheid campaigners were acquitted of all charges following two direct action protests at the Israeli-owned cosmetics retailer Ahava. The campaigners locked themselves to concrete-filled oil drums inside the shop, closing it down for two days in 2009.

The campaigners insist that they are legally justified in their actions as the shop’s activities are illegal. All cosmetics on sale in the shop originate from Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and are deliberately mislabeled as made in Israel.

To date, no campaigner has been successfully prosecuted and Ahava has consistently refused to cooperate with the prosecuting authorities. The primary witness for the prosecution, Ahava’s store manager, refused to attend court to testify despite courts summons and threats of an arrest warrant.

Ms Crouch commented on the acquittal: ‘This is only a small victory in the wider campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. We’ll continue to challenge corporate complicity in the occupation and Israel’s impunity on the international stage.’

Another campaigner, Mr Matthews, added ‘The message is clear.  If your company is involved in apartheid and war crimes and occupying Palestinian land, people will occupy your shop.’ Ms Jones concluded ‘We want truth to be exposed and justice to be done.’

The British government, the European Union, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice all consider Israel’s settlements to be illegal, as they are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention are also criminal offences under UK law (International Criminal Court Act 2001).

In December 2009, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) issued guidance to retailers concerning produce grown in the occupied Palestinian territories. It states that:

“The Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders if the state of Israel.” [DEFRA Technical advice: labelling of produce grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 11 December 2009].

Ehud Barak accepts responsibility for Gaza flotilla raid: The Guardian

Israeli defence minister tells inquiry military were to blame for execution of operation which left nine activists dead

Israeli’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, said the Israeli Defence Forces decided on the ‘how’ of the flotilla raid. Photograph: Reuters
Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak today said he took “overall” responsibility for the deadly raid on the Gaza aid flotilla which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists. However, he pointed the finger of blame at the military for the execution of the internationally condemned operation.

Giving evidence on the second day of hearings held by the Turkel commission, the state-appointed panel investigating the operation, Barak said: “I carry overall responsibility for everything that took place in the systems under my command. I carry responsibility for the orders given on the political level.”

However, he drew a distinction between political responsibility and the execution of the operation. “The politicians determined the ‘what’ and the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] worked out the ‘how’ – and the IDF carried out the operation.”

The military did not inform politicians about the details of the operational plan, said Barak. “They said, ‘It will be difficult to do it, but we will do it.’ They did not say how it should be done, and rightfully so. They said there would be distressing images but they did not say it couldn’t be done, and they even said the opposite.”

He added: “If the decision was right, then the gap between what we wanted and what happened is the execution.”

Barak, who has a long record of military service, told the hearing he had spent most of his life in operations. “The difference between success and complications is as thin as a strand of hair. Here, the goal of stopping the sail was achieved.”

Barak said Israel’s inner cabinet had considered the military aspects of the operation. This was in contrast to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s testimony yesterday, in which he said his inner cabinet, known as the group of seven, had only discussed public relations issues.

According to Barak, the group, which met in the days running up to the flotilla’s arrival in international waters off the coast of Gaza, examined the overall situation and the dilemmas, “not only with the media aspects … but also with the military aspects.”

A draft of the operational plan was presented to the seven senior ministers. It covered intelligence assessments and a range of possible outcomes, including “extreme scenarios”, according to Barak.

“A question was raised of what should be done in case of serious violence and shooting of RPG [rocket-propelled grenades] and machine guns and firing on our forces in the sea. We didn’t reach that discussion,” he said.

The five-strong Turkel commission will hear evidence from Israel’s chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, tomorrow.

Many commentators in the Israeli press were critical of Netanyahu’s performance at the hearings yesterday, accusing him of lack of leadership.

Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the mass circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth, said the prime minister had shrugged off his responsibility. “[Netanyahu’s] responsibility should have been shouldered fully and that should have been flaunted publicly … Leadership should have been shown.”

Netanyahu evidence to Gaza flotilla inquiry: extracts: The Guardian

Passages of the Israeli prime minister’s testimony to panel investigating naval attack on aid ship bound for Gaza

Binyamin Netanyahu testifies before an inquiry in Jerusalem into the Israeli naval raid on a Gaza aid flotilla. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/EPA
Binyamin Netanyahu is testifying before an inquiry into Israel’s deadly attack on an aid convoy in which nine activists were killed. Here are extracts from his evidence:

“I am convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will become clear that the State of Israel and the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) acted in accordance with international law, and that IDF combatants on the deck of the (Turkish-owned ship) Mavi Marmara displayed extraordinary courage in fulfilling their mission and in defending themselves against a clear lethal danger.

“The appearance of the prime minister of Israel before this commission today is the best proof of the standards according to which Israeli democracy operates.

“From the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been raining thousands of rockets, missiles and mortar bombs on the state of Israel, striking at our communities and citizens … Today, Hamas is stockpiling weapons that can reach Tel Aviv and other distant parts of Israel.

“As part of the effort to prevent weapons entering the Strip, my government has continued the naval blockade policy that was imposed by the previous government during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, and this pursuant to the limitation and oversight on commercial traffic over the land crossings that were imposed in September 2007.

“Upon taking office as prime minister, I learned that many of our friends in the world were repeating Hamas’s claim that the curbs imposed in 2007 and the naval blockade in place since January 2009 had created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But the information in our hands showed clearly that this claim was bogus, that there was no starvation in Gaza nor lack of medication or of other vital goods…
“Though there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, I decided to ease, gradually, the limitation of commercial traffic across the land crossings.
“I did this because gradually, over time, these curbs had become a diplomatic and PR liability, serving a mendacious propaganda assault that began to undermine the support of the international community for our policy of stopping the entry of weapons to Gaza..
“Elements hostile to Israel used the bogus rationale of a humanitarian crisis in order to try to break the naval blockade.
“This was and is the main aim of Hamas in its efforts to encourage the various flotillas.

“Beginning on May 14, my office held contacts with the highest levels of the Turkish government. These contacts, and later on contacts between (Israeli) defence minister and Turkish foreign minister as well … were intended to prevent a confrontation with the Marmara flotilla, and they continued until the eve of the flotilla’s arrival on Gaza’s shores. I similarly appealed to a senior figure in Egypt’s government on May 27 so it would intercede with the Turkish government.
“But as the flotilla’s arrival neared, it became clear that the diplomatic efforts would not stop it.
“Despite our continuous diplomatic efforts, ultimately the Turkish government did not prevent the attempt by the Marmara to break the naval blockade. All our proposals to route the ships’ cargo for a security vetting in Ashdod, and later for transfer through the land crossings to Gaza, were to no avail. Nor did we hear any public message from the Turkish government aimed at calming the excitability of the activists aboard the ship.
“It appears that the Turkish government did not see in the prospect of a clash between Turkish activists and Israel, something that clashed with its interests, and certainly not something that would warrant applying effective pressure on the IHH activists.

“I should point out that on the 17th of that month, the Turkish prime minister met the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, and the president of Brazil for a joint declaration on the matter of the Iranian nuclear deal, which was contrary to the position of the United States and the other permanent members of the security council. Thus Turkey bolstered its solidarity and co-operation with Iran in the days before the flotilla.

“I asked that, as much as possible, the friction (of the interception) be reduced and that supreme effort be made to avoid casualties. I know that this was also the instruction of the defence minister and (IDF) chief of staff.

“I gave a number of directives for limiting the PR damage through various means.
“(Yet) the first reports from the incident that circulated in the world claimed that our soldiers killed innocent and clement peace activists.
“Only when the video clip was disseminated a few hours later did this lie begin to be exposed. Imagine what had happened had we not had this video clip.
“Only then did many understand that our soldiers had been confronted with real threats to their lives, facing a brutal attack with clubs, iron bars, and knives – and, as you have certainly already been informed, firearms.”

Israel defence minister says flotilla aimed to provoke: BBC

Ehud Barak said he took responsibility for ordering the flotilla raid
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said that a flotilla of ships taking aid to Gaza in May of this year was a “planned provocation”.

Giving evidence before an Israeli government-appointed commission, he said the flotilla – which was intending to break an Israeli naval blockade of Gaza – had been designed to embarrass Israel.

Nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos carried out a raid on the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in the flotilla.

Turkey, meanwhile, has called on Israel to “take responsibility” for the raid.

“Nobody can lay on the responsibility of killing civilians in international waters onto somebody else,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

“We have a very clear situation. Israel has killed nine civilians in international waters. Before anything else, they should take responsibility for this… Turkey has absolutely no responsibility in the incident,” he added.

The raid has severely damaged bilateral Israeli-Turkish ties and Ankara continues to insist that Israel apologise for its action.

UN investigation
Turkey is due to hold its own inquiry into the raid and a separate UN investigation into the incident is due to start on Tuesday.

The Israeli government has said it will not co-operate with the panel if it tries to call Israeli military personnel.

Critics have attacked the Israeli investigation’s remit as too narrow.

Subsequent international investigations are expected to be more critical of Israeli policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the government-appointed commission on Monday, when he insisted that Israel “acted under international law” when it intercepted the flotilla.

Banned items
Results of Turkish post-mortem examinations have suggested that a total of 30 bullets were found in the bodies of the nine dead activists, including one who had been shot four times in the head.

After criticism from its allies over the flotilla incident, Israel considerably eased its blockade of Gaza – allowing in more food and humanitarian goods.

Israel and Egypt have imposed the blockade on the coastal territory since the Islamist militant group, Hamas, seized control of it in 2007.

The Israelis say it is intended to stop militants in Gaza from obtaining rockets to fire at Israel.

The restrictions have been widely described as collective punishment of the population of Gaza, resulting in a humanitarian crisis.

Turkey FM: Only Israel is responsible for Gaza flotilla deaths: Haaretz

Turkey wants Israel to apologize and offer compensation to families of 9 Turkish activists who were killed when Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound aid ship on May 31.

Israel should admit sole responsibility for the killing of nine activists during a raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday.

A United Nations inquiry into the Israeli commando raid on A Turkish aid convoy on May 31, which resulted in the deaths of nine activists, was due to meet for the first time later in the day. The killing of the activists, all Turks, although one was a U.S. citizen, almost caused a breakdown in relations between Israel and its once close ally.

“No one else can take the blame for killing civilians in international waters,” Davutoglu told journalists. “Israel has killed civilians, and should take the responsibility for having done so.”

The Turkish minister appeared to be responding to remarks made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday when he testified before an Israeli commission of inquiry into the same May 31 incident.

Netanyahu said Turkey had ignored repeated warnings and appeals “at the highest level” to halt the flotilla, which was organized by an Islamic charity based in Turkey.

“Turkey has no responsibility in the attack on the flotilla,” Davutoglu said.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the same inquiry panel, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel, that Israel had exhausted all other options before carrying out the raid.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador after the raid and called off joint military exercises, but stopped short of breaking diplomatic ties completely. It wants Israel to apologize and offer compensation to the victims’ families.

Israel says its commandos opened fire after activists attacked a boarding party with clubs and knives, wounding several.

Relations between Turkey and Israel began deteriorating after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned an Israeli offensive in Gaza in December, 2008, and criticized the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

Israel said the blockade was necessary to stop arms reaching the Islamist Hamas group running Gaza. After an international outcry over the raid on the aid convoy, Israel relaxed the embargo.

It’s getting deep in here…: The Only Democracy?

August 10th, 2010, by Rae Abileah
Last month a post appeared on the Jewish Daily Forward’s blog “the sisterhood: where jewish women converse” entitled “Code Pink: Slinging Mud and Hate at Ahava,” which got the target of CODEPINK’s boycott campaign correct, but not much more. Debra Nussbaum Cohen’s blog presented a falsely black-and-white portrayal of the campaign, declaring it “anti-Israel”. Cohen singled me out as a Jewish woman in support of the boycott, which was “most distressing” to her because ” It’s one thing to be anti-war. It’s quite another to be anti-Israel.” Hold on, since when did I say I’m anti-Israel? And since when is following Jewish values “distressing”?
Reading this I remembered an expression my stepfather is fond of saying when there’s a whole pile of lies in the room: “It’s getting deep in here, I better put my wading boots on!” With my proverbial rubber boots on, I’d like to wade through this piece with you.
Cohen begins her piece innocently enough:
“I sent Boychik off to his summer program in Israel with an extra $100 in his pocket and instructions to bring me back as much Ahava hand cream as that will buy. Ahava is my favorite — smells nice, absorbs quickly and does what it’s supposed to — but it’s too pricey here in the U.S. for me to indulge too often. I also like buying Israeli products when at all possible, thinking I’m doing my little bit to support the country’s economy.”
I can resonate with this plan. When I first visited Israel with my synagogue’s confirmation class during the summer of 1998, I gleefully floated around in the Dead Sea, and afterward purchased Ahava Dead Sea mud to bring home to my mom and girlfriends as the perfect Holy Land souvenir. Any young Jewish woman who has gone on a Birthright-style trip will tell you that it’s the coolest product to bring back for friends and family. Unless, of course, you know the reality of how it’s made.
While in Israel last summer (2009) on a CODEPINK Women for Peace delegation, another Jewish activist, Medea Benjamin, and I took a day trip to visit the Ahava factory. We discovered that the company’s main factory and its visitors’ center are located in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. After finding out that the mud used in Ahava’s products was excavated from Occupied land, and that by labeling its products as “Product of Israel” Ahava was misleading consumers about their actual provenance, I decided I could no longer in good conscience purchase these cosmetics, and I joined CODEPINK’s boycott of Ahava, called Stolen Beauty. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb summarized Ahava’s violations of international law and bad business practices by simply saying, “Ahava is not kosher!”
Cohen seems to have come to this awareness too when she writes:
“I didn’t even realize until this week that in the process [of giving my child money to buy Ahava], I was also supporting a company under siege. Turns out that a campaign called ‘Stolen Beauty,’ by the people of Code Pink, is pressuring retailers to pull Ahava products from store shelves because, they say, it is manufactured on the ‘illegal settlement’ Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem. The kibbutz, which sits on the western edge of the Dead Sea, contains a plant that refines Dead Sea ingredients for Ahava products.”
Well, the company isn’t exactly under siege (that status is reserved for the 1.5 million people living in Gaza), but it is true that Ahava is under a lot of pressure to get out of the West Bank. Ahava’s products actually come from stolen Palestinian natural resources in the Occupied Territory of the Palestinian West Bank. As it is 43% owned by two Israeli settlements, its profits go to subsidize these illegal settlements, all of which have been recognized by the U.S. government as impediments to peace. Additionally, the excavation and export of minerals in occupied territory is against international law (the Geneva Conventions explicitly forbid the “exploitation of occupied resources by the occupying power”).
Cohen continues, “Earlier this year Code Pink got Costco to stop selling Ahava but was unsuccessful in its attempt to get, to drop the brand.”
She got the first part partially right but not the second. It’s true that Costco no longer carries Ahava, but the credit is due to a coalition of activists, and specifically to a group on facebook that spread the word to ask Costco to stop carrying Ahava. To date CODEPINK hasn’t launched a coordinated campaign to get to stop carrying Ahava, but thanks for the tip on a potential future target, Ms. Cohen!
There are in fact several other notable victories in the Ahava boycott worth highlighting here. Since the start of the campaign (only one year ago!), CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty boycott campaign has succeeded in sullying the name and reputation of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories in the mainstream media, in dozens of cities where Ahava is sold, and through online networks. In August 2009, Oxfam was forced to suspend Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis for the duration of her contract as Ahava spokeswoman because of pressure from AHAVA boycott activists, and ultimately Davis did not renew her advertising contract with Ahava. With protest actions—including a Stolen Beauty Bikini Brigade taking to New York’s Central Park and a Dutch Bathrobe Brigade strolling through local malls—spanning across America and Europe, the boycott campaign scored a series of successes. In November 2009, the Dutch Foreign Ministry agreed to investigate Ahava’s manufacturing and labeling practices. In January 2010, The Business and Human Rights Centre (London) disseminated “The Case Against AHAVA” on its web site and in its widely distributed newsletter. That same month, a British MP denounced Ahava’s fraudulent labeling practices during a debate in Parliament on Israeli “settlement products.” The evidence is in the works; as recent boycott actions against Ahava and other settlement trade outfits demonstrate, there is hope that the shores of the Dead Sea will soon be free from illegal exploitation.
At least Cohen got one action correct: “According to this cosmetics industry website, beauty products retailer Sephora, which is owned by luxury goods umbrella Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, was taken to court in Europe last year by the France-based pro-Palestinian group CAPJPO-EuroPalestine, which calls Israel ‘racist.’”
Activists in Paris have indeed filed suit against Sephora for selling products that are manufactured in an Israeli settlement by a company whose practices are against international law.
Cohen continues to cite the local Brooklyn Paper:
“According to this article in the Brooklyn Paper about a recent Code Pink protest at the Brooklyn Heights location of Ricky’s, the trendy beauty products and costume chain, their protest is spurring those who disagree to up their Ahava budgets.”
The article referenced refers to the recent backlash – an Ahava buycott – spearheaded by Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. Peace groups CODEPINK and Brooklyn for Peace coordinated a public action outside the Ricky’s beauty supply chain’s Brooklyn store on July 9. An online “mud fight” erupted in the comments section of a Brooklyn article about the peace action, in which people commenting went so far as to equate one activist with pogroms and made comments about her vagina and sexuality. Groups including the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) on the East Coast stepped up to defend the occupation by promoting Ahava products. It seems that when the ugly truth behind fancy skin care products is revealed, the beauty of Jewish teachings (of tikkun olam – repairing the world – for example) in the minds of those who profess to be most observant are more dead than the Dead Sea itself.
Cohen asks why activists are not going after Egyptian products as well. CODEPINK has actually gone after the Egyptian government for permitting a steel wall to be built between Egypt and Gaza, and coordinated protest actions in Cairo one year ago while trying to get 1,400 international activists and humanitarian aid into Gaza. Egypt also obtains a large sum of aid money from the US and we must not turn a blind eye to their policies of shutting out free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza. But Egypt is not violating international law by profiting from an occupation, and thus a boycott tactic does not seem fitting as a means for justice for Palestinians. Perhaps if Egypt set up factories and farms in Gaza this would be an appropriate tactic.
One woman, Aviva, got at this point in her comment on the blog:
“The author seems a bit unclear on the concept of natural resources rights. To be fair, it is a very complex issue. But I’ll give you a bit of a summary: This product is made in the West Bank, a territory that (I hope) we can all agree is not Israel. Ahava takes natural resources from this area, incorporates them into their products, and sells them for a huge profit. This is problematic for several reasons. First of all, it’s not theirs to take–similar to an American company going into Mexico to take some precious resource for one of their beauty creams (this happens quite often, although there are laws in place to limit it) while leaving the people who actually inhabit the area in poverty. Thus the rich get richer, the poor stay poor, and the place the poor live in is depleted of a resource that they themselves could be using for their own products. I have no problem with the boycott of Ahava. Their business model is reprehensible. And I’m not sure why you’re discussing Gaza here, when the issue is about the West Bank. Making a quick buck off of another people’s resources is such an appalling non-Jewish value; I doubt you would be supporting this company if they were not run by Israelis. Quite pathetic, frankly.”
Let’s get back to Cohen’s clincher: “It’s one thing to be anti-war. It’s quite another to be anti-Israel.” I am beyond exhausted from hearing this phrase “anti-Israel” used to describe actions that take a stand for human rights and justice. I have dedicated much of my 20′s to working to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and been at many rallies where angry white men three times my age have roared their Harley engines, spat at me, and called me “un-American” for protesting the occupation of Iraq. They have said I don’t support the troops because I don’t want them to die unnecessarily in a place far away that we should have never invaded over false pretenses of WMDS. I don’t support the troops because I want them to have adequate armor in the field and healthcare and psychiatric care when they get home and above all wish that they were never sent into the front lines of an unwinnable battlefield. I am un-American for wanting to spend our precious financial resources on our schools, libraries, and jobs for Americans so that we can rebuild our own country in the aftermath of a devastating recession. To this label of “un-American” I have replied time and again that “dissent is patriotic,” and that our country was founded on the principle of dissent and freedom. Freedom not just for older angry white men.
So when I say that I want freedom of travel for fellow human beings in Palestine to be able to eat, pray, and love where they want to, I am called “anti-Israel”. When I say that I want to see a new generation of Israelis grow up without having to go through a draft and defend checkpoints and kill innocent children with bulldozers, and shoot out American young women’s eyeballs, I am called “anti-Israel”. When I say I want to see integrated schools and shared highways, I am “anti-Israel,” which I recall being taught in Sunday school was “the only democracy” in the Middle East. And finally, when I say that I want Israel to be held to the same standards of economic and social law as the rest of the global community in the United Nations, which has supported the Geneva Conventions, I am called “anti-Israel.”
Anti-war marchers have never accepted the term “un-American.” Pro-choice advocates have never accepted the term “pro-Life”. So how can pro-justice for Palestine activists accept the term “anti-Israel”? It is the Israeli government and military’s actions that are both “anti-Israel” and “un-American.” Israel’s illegal policies—separation walls, settlements, the siege of Gaza—have been tragic for the Palestinians, but also hurt Israel and the United States. The Israelis are forced to live in a constant state of fear and increasing international isolation and disdain. For the United States, the one-sided support for Israel is endangering our troops overseas and tarnishing our reputation worldwide. It’s time to break the stranglehold that this false narrative has on U.S. policy and discourse and call reality for what it really is. Manufacturing products with stolen resources is not good for business in the long term, just as oppressing and discriminating against an entire population is not good for a country.
In the wake of the 2008-09 assault on Gaza and the recent massacre of activists aboard the Free Gaza Flotilla, more and more Jews are awakening to the reality of Israel’s policies, and are joining actions aimed at pressuring Israel to stop its illegal acts, and to stop the US from enabling the occupation to continue (to the tune of $3 billion in military aid to Israel from taxpayer money annually). And while we may not be able to cut off military aid tomorrow, we can decide which cosmetic products we will slather on our bodies in the heat of the summer. Personal consumer decisions do have an impact, as we can see repeatedly from the attention that the boycotts are getting from the Israeli government and press. The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions is a wake-up call, reminding Israelis that there are indeed consequences to occupying another people’s land, expropriating their resources, restricting their movement, and violating their human rights. And for Jews, following such a call should be part and parcel of our own religious credo. As Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 54b states, “Any person who can prevent the people of their household from committing a sin but does not is responsible for the sins of their household. If a person can prevent the people of their city from sinning, they are responsible for the sins of the people of their city. If the whole world, that person is responsible for the sins of the whole world.” Real sisterhood starts by calling out our own people when sinful and illegal acts are committed.
Cohen’s piece ends with a pointed ask to push Ricky’s to continue to sell illegally-made products.
I will entreat you to follow your conscience and do exactly the opposite if you are a law-abiding citizen. You can ask Ricky’s Chief Financial Officer, Dominick Costello, to stop selling Ahava products by signing and submitting this e-letter. And you can pledge to join the Ahava boycott.
As the Stolen Beauty website states, “Don’t let the ‘Made in Israel’ sticker fool you—when you buy Ahava products you help finance the destruction of hope for a peaceful and just future for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Rae Abileah is an American Jew of Israeli descent, a national organizer with CODEPINK Women for Peace, and a grateful reader of She lives in San Francisco, CA and can be contacted at rae[at]

Lebanon charges first politician with spying for Israel: Haaretz

Fayez Karam first politician to be charged in a widening espionage case.

A Lebanese military prosecutor charged on Tuesday a Christian party member who was formerly an army general with spying for Israel, the first politician to be charged in a widening espionage case.

Judge Sakr Sakr accused Fayez Karam of the Free Patriotic Movement of dealing with “the enemy’s intelligence and meeting their officers abroad, and giving them information by phone”, according to the charge sheet.

Karam, who belonged to the movement headed by Michel Aoun, a former army chief now allied to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, was also charged with providing Israel with information on the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah and other parties.

“(He used to give information) about what happened in closed meetings between the leaders of the aforementioned parties and their cadres in return for money and weapons,” Sakr said.

If convicted, Karam, who was the head of a counter-terrorism and espionage unit in the army, would face the death penalty.

Karam’s arrest has come as a shock to Lebanon, already reeling from a number of high-profile detentions of military and telecom employees, and has raised debate over how deeply Israel has managed to infiltrate and compromise Lebanon’s security.

Three employees at state-owned telecom firms have been charged with spying, prompting Hezbollah to suggest Israel could have used telecom agents to manipulate phone records to implicate the group in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a stalemate in a 2006 war, has blamed the Jewish state for the killing.

Lebanon’s Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said his ministry had collected 150 cases of spying for Israel and was planning to raise the issue with the U.N. Security Council.

The names are “of all sects and denominations. There are some truly complex and unbelievable cases”, he was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Lebanon has arrested dozens of people since last year on suspicion of spying for Israel. More than 20 people have been charged, and two have been sentenced to death.

Senior Lebanese security officials have said the arrests dealt a significant blow to Israel’s spying networks in Lebanon, especially since the suspects played key roles in identifying Hezbollah targets that were bombed during the 2006 conflict.

‘Israeli spy’ may be set free in Berlin: YNet

Germany to decide fate of Uri Brodsky, suspected in Mabhouh case, after extradition from Poland

A German judge will decide the future of a suspected Israeli spy, linked to the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai, after his extradition from Poland, German state prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Uri Brodsky is due to be extradited on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining a German passport believed to have been used by a member of the hit squad that Dubai says assassinated Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel room in January.

“I’m gearing up for him possibly arriving on Friday,” a spokesman for prosecutors said in the western city of Cologne, adding that Brodsky otherwise probably would arrive at the start of next week.

Once Brodsky arrived in Germany, a judge would decide if he needed to remain in custody, or whether another deal with his defence lawyers could be agreed, the spokesman said. In this case, Brodsky could be released, he added.

Only then would it become clear whether charges would be raised against Brodsky and if so, what these may be, he added.

The passport in question was issued in Cologne in 2009.

Last week Brodsky’s lawyer in Poland said her client may be put on trial for forgery, not espionage.

The hit squad used fraudulent British, French, Irish and Australian as well as German passports, according to Dubai.

Mabhouh, born in the Gaza Strip, had lived in Syria since 1989 and Israeli and Palestinian sources have said he played a role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to militants in Gaza.

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