August 12, 2010

EDITOR: Interesting times ahead…

Now that the Israeli Mossad agent involved in the murder in Dubai has been extradited to Germany, it will be fascinating to see how the German government will wriggle in order to NOT take action. I am sure that they will terrified of the Israeli propaganda machine pumping antisemitism message at full volume! Let us see how Europe measures up to the Middle Eastern Bully…

Poland extradites alleged Mossad spy to Germany over Dubai hit: Haaretz

Polish police said the suspect known as Uri Brodsky was handed over to face charges over forged passport used in killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
Polish authorities on Thursday extradited a suspected Mossad agent to Germany, where he faces charges over a passport that was used in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai earlier this year.
The suspect known as Uri Brodsky was handed over to German police at Warsaw’s international airport, police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said.
An Associated Press photographer saw a man at the airport wearing a hooded jacket pulled over his face to hide his identity as he was escorted by masked anti-terror police.

Brodsky appeared that way during several appearances at courts in Warsaw.

German prosecutors accuse him of illegally helping to procure a passport used in connection with the Jan. 19 slaying of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at a hotel in Dubai.

Prosecutors in Cologne, who are handling the case against Brodsky, were not immediately available for comment.

But a German official who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue said Brodsky was to arrive with a police helicopter at Cologne-Bonn airport in the afternoon.

Brodsky is expected to appear Friday morning before a judge, who will read out the warrant against him and decide at a closed-doors appearance whether Brodsky must remain in custody pending the filing of formal charges and a possible trial.

Brodsky was arrested June 4 at Warsaw airport on a European arrest warrant issued by Germany, which accused him of espionage and helping to falsely obtain a German passport.

However, Brodsky won’t face spying charges in Germany. The Polish court that granted the extradition request said he could only be sent to face prosecution for his alleged involvement in faking an identity.

Israel’s suspected forgery of European passports allegedly used by members of a hit squad who took part in the killing of the Hamas leader in Dubai in January annoyed several European countries, including Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat over the matter in March.

Police in the United Arab Emirates said the elaborate hit squad linked to the Jan. 19 slaying of Mabhouh – one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing – involved some 25 suspects, most of them carrying fake passports from European nations and Australia.

Among the faked passports, according to Dubai police, was one issued in 2009 by authorities in Cologne with Brodsky’s alleged involvement. The passport was issued to a man named Michael Bodenheimer, who allegedly was part of the hit squad.

International Emmy nominees include Sky News, Channel 4 and al-Jazeera: The Guardian

Dispatches and Sky News special series from Pakistan on shortlists, along with al-Jazeera English’s Gaza coverage
Sky News, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme and al-Jazeera English are among the nominees for the International Emmy news and current affairs awards.

Sky News was nominated in the news category for a series of special programmes, Pakistan: Terror’s Frontline, reporting on the growing threat from terrorists and the Taliban from within Pakistan in March last year.

The al-Jazeera English news channel was also nominated for the news prize, for its coverage of Israel’s three-week war against Hamas in Gaza and its reports of an Israeli ground offensive in the territory on 5 January 2009.

The nominated episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, made by independent producer October Films, looked at how Pakistan’s radical Islamists were bringing violence to the cities of Pakistan and beyond. The programme, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation, was nominated for the current affairs prize.

Also nominated for the news prize are the Russian broadcaster RT Channel’s coverage of Barack Obama’s visit to Russia in July 2009, and TV Globo’s reports on a massive power cut in Brazil in November last year, while broadcasters in China, Canada and Argentina are in the running for the current affairs prize.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in New York on 27 September.

EDITOR: Not for Jews!

The Shin Bet has been breaking the law and mistreating and torturing Palestinian suspects for as long as one can remember, and nobody thought there was much wrong with that… Now that the same methods are applied to Jews, there is shock and surprise all around…

Fight terror legally: Haaretz Editorial

The Shin Bet cannot deny murder suspects basic human rights.
A court decided yesterday to release the right-wing activist Chaim Pearlman to house arrest, about a month after he was first taken into custody. When he was arrested, the Shin Bet security service announced with much fanfare that he was suspected of having murdered four Arabs 12 years ago. He was denied basic rights under interrogation. For 10 days the Shin Bet prevented Pearlman from seeing his lawyer, and he was allowed to do so only after the Supreme Court intervened.

Justice Edmond Levy harshly criticized the Shin Bet for not bringing Pearlman to a hearing. According to his lawyer, the Shin Bet also tortured Pearlman, shackling his hands and feet to a chair for 16 consecutive hours, humiliating him and denying him sleep.

The Shin Bet is charged with the task of preventing terrorist attacks, whether initiated by Palestinians or Jews, and bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks. When it comes to Jewish terrorism, the Shin Bet’s performance leaves much to be desired. Twelve years passed until the suspect in the serial killings was arrested. The Shin Bet must make a greater effort to uproot Jewish terrorism, but the end cannot justify any means.

The serious allegations leveled at Pearlman, which were apparently based solely on his boasts to a Shin Bet informer, with no additional evidence, raise important questions about the Shin Bet’s judgment. Before making and publicizing such accusations, it would be best to check if the evidence justifies them.

The Shin Bet’s response to the decision to release Pearlman – that he remains a prime suspect – doesn’t mean much now. On the other hand, the Shin Bet’s assertion that the investigation had legal sanction requires the state prosecution to turn its scrutiny on itself and on its sometimes automatic support of the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet must mend its ways. Pearlman is not the only suspect in recent months who was arrested on the basis of serious allegations that quickly turned out to be false. He was preceded by several Israeli Arab detainees; in those cases, a raft of allegations produced little. Before the Shin Bet arrests people and makes false accusations, it should investigate carefully. It should remember that not everything is permitted in interrogations, and that torture – whether psychological or physical – is always unacceptable, no matter the case or the suspect. Even the war against terror must be conducted using legal means.

Hiroshima, Israel and nuclear tests: Letter to the Editor – Guardian

I visited the exhibition on images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Face to Faith, 7 August) at the Quaker Friends House in London on Hiroshima commemoration day (6 August) after attending a moving ceremony that included speeches from a survivor of the city’s atomic immolation, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, Labour peace activist MP Jeremy Corbyn, and the CND chair, Dr Kate Hudson. Rowena Loverance is right to draw attention to the searing shock of the trauma represented in the photos as well as the poignancy in the objects recovered from the atomic aftermath. However, I did notice one odd thing in the Quaker exhibition, which also told of the atomic age from the first test explosion, at Socorro in the New Mexico desert in July 1945, to today: it lists Israel as a one of nine nations that have tested nuclear weapons.

It is now accepted that Israel has around 200 nuclear warheads, although Tel Aviv declines to confirm its atomic weapons status. But, despite the fact that Israel has undoubtedly received considerable atomic assistance from the US, as is told in detail in Seymour Hersh’s excellent 1991 expose, The Samson Option, there are no published details of Israel actually testing a nuclear device.

The only possibility I have come across is that Israeli nuclear scientists were present at France’s atmospheric tests in Reganne in Algeria in the early 1960s, or else the post-test calibration data were shared with Israel by France. I wonder if anyone else knows more details?

Dr David Lowry

Former director, European Proliferation Information Center (EPIC)

EDITOR: Pretending not to know?

See Prof. Moshe Machover’s answer to the letter in the Guardian, below:

I am astonished that Dr David Lowry, former director of the European Proliferation Information Center is unaware of  Israel’s nuclear tests (Hiroshima, Israel and nuclear tests, Letters, 11 August).

According to the Farr Report on Israel’s nuclear weapons, published by the US Air Force in September 1999,

“A bright flash in the south Indian Ocean, observed by an American satellite on 22 September 1979, is widely believed to be a South Africa–Israel joint nuclear test. It was, according to some, the third test of a neutron bomb. The first two were hidden in clouds to fool the satellite and the third was an accident—the weather cleared. Experts differ on these possible tests.
Several writers report that the scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory believed it to have been a nuclear explosion while a presidential panel decided otherwise. President Carter was just entering the Iran hostage nightmare and may have easily decided not to alter 30 years of looking the other way. The explosion was almost certainly an Israeli bomb, tested at the invitation of the South Africans. It was more advanced than the ‘gun type’ bombs developed by the South Africans. One report claims it was a test of a nuclear artillery shell. A 1997 Israeli newspaper quoted South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, as confirming it was an Israeli test with South African logistical support.”

Professor (emeritus) Moshé Machover

Palestinians ‘adamant about continuing boycott on settlement goods’: Haaretz

PA economy minister says after meeting with Ben-Eliezer that Israel’s request to end the campaign proves that it is working.
Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libda said Thursday that Palestinians would continue to boycott settlement goods despite Israel’s requests.
Abu Libda made his comments after a meeting with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.
Ben Eliezer had asked the PA minister in the past to put an end to the boycott, which calls on Palestinians not to buy goods from companies such as Shamir Salads, Kobi Burekas, Ramat Hagolan Dairies, Jerusalem Granola, Bagel Bagel, Mei Eden, Soda Club, Barkan Wineries, Ramat Hagolan Wineries, Rav-Bariach and Ahava Products.

Abu Libda said that the fact that Israel has continued to request an end to the boycott proved that it was successful and has influenced the struggle to diminish the settlement’s economic power.

In May, 3,000 Palestinian volunteers, conscripted by the government of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad through a group set up by the Palestinian Finance Ministry, went from door to door in West Bank communities explaining the reasons they should boycott settlement products.

Each household received a pamphlet listing dozens of Israeli products that the PA has identified as being manufactured in the West Bank and Golan Heights, and explaining that purchasing them bolsters the settlements and undermines the Palestinian struggle.

The volunteers also warned that anyone trading in such items would risk being punished.

Many of the volunteers in the campaign are university and high school students. On the T-shirts they were given is a campaign logo: a finger pointing at the viewer, similar to U.S. Army recruiting posters during the World Wars.

The list of items is quite long, and the pamphlet includes photographs in order to make them clear to the Palestinians.

The Manufacturers Association asked the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry for compensation for its members who have been hurt by the Palestinian boycott against goods produced in the West Bank.

Ministry officials have already approached their Palestinian counterparts and international bodies to ask them to act to cancel the boycott, which they say violates international trade rules and policies.

Ben-Eliezer said he views the Palestinian decision seriously, and in light of the renewal of talks between the sides, “the boycott must be lifted immediately because of the fact that many businesses in Judea and Samaria employ a large number of Palestinians,” he said.

Besieging Israel’s siege: The Guardian CoF

Omar Barghouti

In just a few years the Palestinian campaign to boycott Israeli goods has become truly global
Despite Israel’s siege of Gaza, and the escalating displacement in the Negev and East Jerusalem, Palestinians have some reason to celebrate. In Washington a food co-op has passed a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli products, confirming that the boycott movement – five years old last month – has finally crossed the Atlantic. Support for the move came from prominent figures including Nobel peace laureates Desmond Tutu and Máiread Maguire, and Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.

The movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel was launched in 2005, a year after the international court of justice had found Israel’s wall and colonies built on occupied Palestinian territory illegal. Over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions, mass movements and NGOs endorsed the movement, which is led by the BNC, a coalition of civil society organisations.

Rooted in a century of Palestinian civil resistance, and inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle, the campaign crowned earlier, partial boycotts to present a comprehensive approach to realising Palestinian self-determination: unifying Palestinians inside historic Palestine and in exile in the face of accelerating fragmentation.

BDS avoids the prescription of any particular political formula and insists, instead, on realising the basic, UN-sanctioned rights that correspond to the three main segments of the Palestinian people: ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Created and guided by Palestinians, BDS opposes all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and is anchored in the universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights that motivated the anti-apartheid and US civil rights struggles.

Characterising Israel’s legalised system of discrimination as apartheid – as was done by Tutu, Jimmy Carter and even a former Israeli attorney general – does not equate Israel with South Africa. No two oppressive regimes are identical. Rather, it asserts that Israel’s bestowal of rights and privileges according to ethnic and religious criteria fits the UN-adopted definition of apartheid.

BDS has seen unprecedented growth after the war of aggression on Gaza and the flotilla attack. People of conscience round the world seem to have crossed a threshold, resorting to pressure, not appeasement or “constructive engagement”, to end Israel’s impunity and western collusion in maintaining its status as a state above the law.

“Besiege your siege” – the cry of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish – acquires a new meaning in this context. Since convincing a colonial power to heed moral pleas for justice is, at best, delusional, many now understand the need to “besiege” Israel though boycotts, raising the price of its oppression.

BDS campaigners have successfully lobbied financial institutions in Scandinavia, Germany and elsewhere to divest from companies that are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law. Several international trade unions have endorsed the boycott. Following the attack on the flotilla, dockworkers’ unions in Sweden, India, Turkey and the US heeded an appeal by Palestinian unions to block offloading Israeli ships.

Endorsements of BDS by cultural figures such as John Berger, Naomi Klein, Iain Banks and Alice Walker, and the spate of cancellations of events in Israel by artists including Meg Ryan, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and the Pixies have raised the movement’s international profile, bringing it closer to the western mainstream. Scepticism about its potential has been put to rest.

Boycott from Within, a significant protest movement in Israel today, was formed in 2009 adopting the Palestinian BDS call.

A bill that would impose heavy fines on Israelis who initiate or incite boycotts against Israel has recently passed an initial reading at the Knesset. This underlines Israel’s fears of the global reach and impact of BDS as a non-violent, morally consistent campaign for justice. In many ways, it confirms that the Palestinian “South Africa moment” has arrived.

Turkey sets up own Gaza flotilla inquiry: Haaretz

Probe will work under the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and present findings to UN, AFP news agency reports.
Turkey has set up its own inquiry into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid convoy that left none Turkish citizens dead, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

The probe will work under the office of Prime Minister’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and will “investigate the attack and the treatment the activists faced” before reporting on its findings, the ministry said in a statement.
Turkey said it plans to present its findings to another inquiry set up by the United Nations. Early this month, Israel agreed to participate in the UN probe, as well as setting up its own investigation, which this week heard teastimony from the Israeli prime minister, defense minister and army chief of staff.

Turkey’s commission will include officials from the foreign, justice, interior and transport ministries as well as from the country’s maritime agency.

Israel’s May 31 raid on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish-flagged lead ship in the flotilla, plunged relations between the erstwhile allies into deep crisis.

On Tuesday Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday that Israel should admit sole responsibility for the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara.

“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.

On Eve of Ramadan: Police Demolished Bedouin Village for Third Time: AIC

Tuesday, 10 August 2010 11:40
This morning police forces demolished the village of el Araqib for the third time in two weeks. The village residents, however, who remain on the eve of Ramadan without water and shelter under the blazing sun, began rebuilding the shelters from wood even before the police left the area. Left-wing activist Gadi Elgazi was detained.

Tens of left-wing activists, Jews and Arabs, slept in the village and are assisting the residents to rebuild; one activist was detained.

The demolitions began at 5.30 a.m. Two bulldozers were accompanied by 100 police officers, mounted police and trucks. The forces removed water containers and the remains of shelters that were constructed since the last demolition, in order to prevent reuse of these materials. Families, including infants and the elderly, were forcibly removed from their shelters. Tens of left-wing activists from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva were present during the demolitions, having slept in the village to express solidarity with the residents. The residents and volunteers resisted in a non-violent manner. Activists in the village report that the demolitions were accompanied by violence toward the villagers and activists. Professor Gadi Elgazi from the Tarabut movement was beaten and injured in his nose. He was detained whilst speaking with the police, asking them to refrain from demolishing.

Residents with the assistance of volunteers are now busy rebuilding their shelters. A resident of the village expressed his anger and rage that the demolitions occurred on the eve of the month of Ramadan, holy to Muslims. “They have no God,” he said, adding that “we will continue to cling to the land of our forefathers and rebuild the village until our right to live there will be recognized by the world.”

The Israeli Land Administration is determined to destroy the village, and the Jewish National Fund plans to plant trees in the area in order to prevent the residents from returning. This is despite the fact that ownership over the land has not yet been established, and is currently being deliberated in the Beer Sheva Regional Court.

The village of el Araqib has been located in the area between Beer Sheva and Rahat already since the 19th century. Residents of the village, the Aturi family, worked the land at the beginning of the 20th century and as both Turkish and British documents testify, they also paid taxes on their land. The village even has an ancient cemetery of the resident family. The residents were removed by state authorities in 1951, and were promised this was a temporary move for military training and that they could return to their village in six months. However, since then they were never allowed back on their land. In the decades since, the residents returned to work their land, and in the 1990’s returned to live there.  Their ownership over the land is currently being discussed in a long and complex court case in the Beer Sheva regional court, and academic researchers have already testified on behalf of the residents’ ownership over the land.

Interview with “Salt of This Sea” star before nationwide premiere in NYC: The Electronic Intifada

Nora Barrows-Friedman, 11 August 2010

Suheir Hammad in Salt of This Sea

Salt of This Sea (2008), Annemarie Jacir’s groundbreaking feature film, premieres in the US this week after two years on the road and winning over 20 awards in countless international film festivals. An intimate portrayal of the complexity of Palestinian identity, from the exiled diaspora to the ghettos of the West Bank, Salt of This Sea continues to make waves across the world since its debut at Cannes in 2008 — where it was featured as an Official Selection/Un Certain Regard. The challenges and dangers of making the film mirrored many of the realities it tried to portray — settlers tried to run actors over, and the Israeli army drove in with real tanks as a scene with a prop tank was being filmed.

Award-winning Palestinian-American poet Suheir Hammad plays Soraya, a woman who comes to Palestine for the first time in her life, curious about her roots and determined to redeem the ghosts that have haunted her family for three generations. Born in Brooklyn to a working-class Palestinian family exiled from Jaffa, Soraya discovers that her grandfather’s savings were frozen from his bank account during the Nakba — the expulsion of the Palestinians — in 1948, and the money was eventually absorbed by Israeli financial institutions.

Soraya meets Emad (played by Saleh Bakri) in Ramallah, a waiter aching to leave the confines of occupied Palestine completely. Interweaving their conflicting dreams based on finding their individual freedoms, together they compose a daring plan — a bank robbery — to recover the savings in an emblematic act of redemption.

From this point, the pair and another friend make their way across checkpoints into what is now Israel, to Soraya’s grandfather’s home in Jaffa — which like the property of hundreds of thousands of other expelled Palestinians is now in the hands of an Israeli family — and eventually to the land of Dawayima, Emad’s ancestral village which lies today in ruins. Part road movie and adventure, the physical journey mirrors the characters’ struggle to find their places in a forbidding and unwelcoming landscape.

In her director’s notes, Jacir explains that Salt of This Sea “is a story about young people trying to shake off the restraints that control them — of military occupation, of borders, of a corrupt government and of a social system that rejects them. Is it the story of a new generation wanting to live and knowing that sometimes, in order to do this, one has to take things in their own hands.”

This Friday, 13 August, Salt of This Sea opens in New York City and will be shown in independent theaters across the country. Hammad was interviewed by her longtime friend, journalist Nora Barrows-Friedman for The Electronic Intifada.

Electronic Intifada: I was staying with you in Ramallah when the film was being made in 2007. You were saying then that the fundamental process of filming was undoubtedly a reflection of the chaos that envelops every waking moment in occupied Palestine. Say a little more about what you meant.

Suheir Hammad: It was probably too dangerous in some ways, but wouldn’t have been made if Annemarie (Jacir) especially didn’t charge ahead. There were settlers who tried to run me over in their cars while we were filming in the street. There was the night the Israelis brought a tank into Ramallah deep at night, while we filmed a scene with a prop tank.

EI: You’re a poet. And this was your first acting role on film. Even though you perform in public often, and have for many years now, how much of a challenge was it to cross over from verbal to visual representation of an entire character — a role on film?

SH: It was trial by fire. And I think now, a few years later, of the patience we all needed from one another in such a situation. My first day of filming was on a hot day in the middle of a busy Ramallah street. My friends know I play tricks on myself when onstage to forget that I’m being looked at. You can’t do that when hundreds of people are stopped and watching a film being shot. I had to learn to “look through the camera.”

EI: Some reviewers in the US, who aren’t familiar with the political nuances of Palestinian diasporic identity have characterized Soraya as stubborn, naive, angry, or full of misplaced aggression. I think many miss the point of her time in Palestine, and many miss the tenderness and impassioned bond that she makes between Emad, her friends, her sense of place, and her history. How do you fit all of the angles of Palestinian identity into one character, and what for you was the most important way to show all of the overlapping emotions Soraya had?

SH: Well, I had to break myself. Soraya’s language, heart, and in many ways her dreams, are broken. I can relate to this.

EI: There are so many ways in which the West has unfairly — to put it mildly — portrayed Arab women on film. You have a strong current running through your own work as a poet challenging those entrenched racist and sexist stereotypes. Which features of Soraya’s character, her own ferocity, her own determination and individuality, spoke to you the most, and why?

SH: You know, given the economic reality so many working women face in the US, I feel more like Soraya today than I did yesterday. The character was created by Annemarie and shaped by us both, but I think every woman we’ve ever met has been reflected in her.

EI: There is a scene in which Soraya confronts the Jewish-Israeli peace activist-artist living in the house that was built by her (Soraya’s) grandfather in Jaffa. It is a very visceral and painful scene, because it embodies the core reason for Soraya’s circumstances — why she was born outside of Palestine, why she decided to come back, and why the house remains “off-limits” to the indigenous inhabitants. I’ve watched people bristle while talking about that scene. People have said that the Israeli woman was also a victim of her circumstance, and it was hard to sympathize with Soraya’s directed anger. But this scene, for me, is one of the most important scenes on film about Palestine ever made. Tell us about your process in this scene, and what it represents.

SH: Soraya could have really gotten angry, and she didn’t. And I think audiences have responded in a spectrum to that scene. I always think it’s interesting that it takes place in the kitchen. For two women to talk in any kitchen, given the historical roles in the home, is interesting and layered — the kitchen as home and hearth.

EI: The film opens up in theaters across the US, at a time of deepening political and humanitarian despair in Palestine. What are you hoping that Americans understand from Salt of This Sea?

SH: A movie won’t make any of us kinder, fairer people. But for over an hour, in the dark, the audience is invited to listen to the sounds of Palestine’s streets, and view her landscape through the eyes of Soraya, who loves a place she’s never been to. Instead of the the steady toxic imagery we are used to coming to represent the Palestinian people, they get to represent themselves.

EI: Could the political story of Palestine be its own character in the film?

SH: I always say, Palestine, the land, sea, the nature of the place, is the star of the movie.

EI: You’ve won awards for your role as Soraya. Would you consider acting again?

SH: I think now all artists should try all art. That said, most of what is produced and consumed as art, poem or film, doesn’t fit my unique definition. I will keep working on my craft.

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist, writing for The Electronic Intifada, Inter Press Service, Truthout and other outlets. She regularly reports from Palestine, where she also runs media workshops for youth in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

Lebanon PM: UN must probe claims of Israeli complicity in Hariri murder: Haaretz

Saad Hariri suggests evidence presented by Hezbollah could point to Israeli involvement in the assassination of his father in 2005, Lebanese paper reports.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has called on the UN to probe claims by Hezbollah militants that Israel was behind the murder of his father in 2005, according to local press reports Thursday.

Harari said evidence presented earlier this week by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah implicating Israel in the assassination of Hariri’s father Rafik was “important and very sensitive”, Lebanese daily as-Safir reported.
“I personally am in favor of a deep discussion of the details, because it is very important to me to find out the truth both as prime minister and as [Rafik] Hariri’s son,” Saad Hariri said.
Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon, was killed in a massive bomb blast in Beirut in 2005 and a UN tribunal was established two years later to investigate the assassination.

At first, Hariri’s allies accused Syria and its followers in Lebanon of being behind the murder, a charge Damascus has repeatedly denied.

In 2009, however, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported that there was evidence linking Hezbollah to the killing. And last month, Nasrallah said that he had been informed that the UN tribunal would indict some Hezbollah members for the murder.

On Monday, Nasrallah held a press conference during which he attempted to shift the blame to Israel, citing an audio recording of an alleged Israeli agent and intercepted Israeli aerial drone footage.

Saad Hariri reportedly told associates that the maximum amount of time and effort should be invested to check the information presented by Nasrallah.

According to the as-Safir report, the Lebanese prime minister said that the UN tribunal should consider the information presented by Nasrallah, since Nasrallah’s words reflected the views of many in Lebanon.

The head of the UN tribunal Daniel Bellmer has reportedly received the contents of Nasrallah’s presentation and has asked to receive more details of the documents and films presented by Nasrallah.

The US Arms Bonanza in the Middle East: Counterpunch

Israel and Saudi Arabia to Buy Advanced War Planes
Counterpunch, August 11, 2010

Two of the United States’ closest allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are on the brink of signing large arms deals with the US in a move designed to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, according to defence analysts.

America has agreed to sell Saudi Arabia 84 of the latest model of the F-15 jet and dozens of Black Hawk helicopters. The deal also includes refurbishing many of the kingdom’s older F-15s, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Israel is believed to have opposed the $30 billion deal. However, in a concession to Israel, the new F-15s, made by the Boeing Company, will not be equipped with the latest weapons and avionics systems available to the US military.

The last such major arms sale by the US to Saudi Arabia was in 1992, when the kingdom received 72 F-15s. On that occasion, Israel tried to block the $9bn deal by lobbying the US Congress, straining relations with the White House of George H W Bush.

Meanwhile, the US is preparing to provide Israel’s air force with the F-35, the latest jet fighter made by Lockheed Martin, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported last week.

The F-35’s stealth technology, which allows it to evade radar detection and anti-aircraft missiles, comes with a hefty price tag of up to $150 million a plane — a cost that Israel had been balking at.

But, according to the reports, the US has offered Israeli firms defence contracts worth $4bn to supply parts for the F-35 — a deal some Israeli analysts believe is designed to buy Israel’s silence over the Saudi deal and ensure it gets through the US Congress.

It is one of the largest such deals in Israel’s history and it would offset much of the cost to Israel of buying its first batch of F-35s.

The aircraft is not expected to enter service until 2014. If Israel signs up for a single squadron of 20 F-35s, as expected in the next few weeks, it would be the first country outside the US to secure the jet. Israel has been given an option to buy 55 more.

Last year Israel had threatened to abandon negotiations over the F-35 and opt instead to buy the advanced F-15. Saudi Arabia’s reported purchase of that jet appears to make such a scenario less likely.

The Obama administration has faced heavy lobbying from Israel to prevent the sale of the F-15s to Saudi Arabia.

“Today these planes are against Iran, tomorrow they might turn against us,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed security official as saying last month.

Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, told the Washington Post last month that the US administration was committed to making sure Israel was not left in an “inferior situation” and was “doing a lot to support Israel’s qualitative military edge”.

The Saudis have become one of the largest purchasers of US-made arms since they bought the first AWACS surveillance planes in the 1980s. According to a recent Congressional report, the Gulf kingdom spent $36 billion world-wide on arms in the seven years to 2008.

Today, Saudi Arabia has the third largest air force in the Middle East behind Israel and Iran. The Royal Saudi Air Force has 280 “combat capable” aircraft, according to data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, compared to Israel’s 424 and Iran’s 312.

The Wall Street Journal did not specify the model of F-15 being bought by Riyadh, but experts widely assumed it to be the upgraded Strike Eagle. The jet, designed for precision air-to-surface attacks, was the main one used by the US in destroying Iraq’s radar and missile systems during the 2003 invasion.

Analysts said the joint strengthening of the Saudi Arabian and Israeli militaries was seen as a key regional interest for the US, given the belief in Washington that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear warhead and is rapidly amassing a large arsenal of missiles.

If, as Iran reportedly claimed last week, it is in possession of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, the F-35 stealth technology would give Israel an important advantage in an attack.

However, some analysts have questioned the wisdom of the US arms sales.

Trita Parsi, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and an expert on Israeli-Iranian relations, said it was a “misguided policy” aimed at keeping Tehran “isolated and subdued”.

“All that is achieved by heavily arming Arab states and Israel is to increase Iran’s sense of insecurity and therefore make the region less secure,” he said.

Stephen Zunes, a US-based Middle East policy analyst, accused Washington of setting the stage for another “arms race” in the region.

“This is a pattern we’ve seen before. The US offers Arab states expensive modern armaments, and then turns around to Israel and tells it it needs to have even better weapons to stay ahead in the race. Then the pressure again mounts on the Arab states. It’s a racket that has been a bonanza for US arms manufacturers,” he said.

Israel receives $3bn annually in US military aid, more than any other country and covering about a quarter of Israel’s defence expenditure. Unlike other recipients, Israel is allowed to spend 26 per cent of the aid on the development and production of its own weapons systems.

However, Israeli officials are reported to fear that a combined squeeze on the country’s defence budget and a massive outlay on buying a large number of F-35s would leave the military without money to replenish its stocks of ammunition and bombs.

Last month Washington agreed to an additional military subsidy of $420 million to help Israel develop its “missile shield” programmes, designed to intercept short-, mid- and long-range missiles.

Israel has been concerned by the growing stockpiles of rockets and missiles that Hamas and Hizbullah have accumulated close to its borders as well as the more advanced arsenals of Iran and Syria.

In addition to the question of the price of the F-35, Israel and the US have been at loggerheads over whether Israel should be allowed to install its own avionics and weapons systems. So far the US has refused, and last month denied Israel a test aircraft.

In the past, Tel Aviv and Washington have fallen out over Israel copying and selling on American systems to other regimes.

A shorter version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.

Israeli military chief defends Gaza flotilla raid: BBC

Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi said troops did not expect violence when they boarded the Gaza aid flotilla
The head of Israel’s military has defended its troops’ use of live ammunition during a deadly raid on an aid flotilla sailing to Gaza in May.

But Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi told an Israeli inquiry they underestimated the threat and should have used more force to subdue activists before boarding.

Nine people were killed on board the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, as it tried to breach an Israeli naval blockade.

Meanwhile, there is disagreement over a separate UN inquiry into the incident.

Israel has agreed it will co-operate only if its soldiers do not have to give evidence to investigators, who have begun work in New York. However, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has denied making such a deal.

There was widespread international criticism of Israel’s actions, which severely strained relations with its long-time Muslim ally, Turkey.

We should have ensured sterile conditions in order to dispatch the forces in a minimum amount of time”

‘Conflict was inevitable’

Testifying before the Turkel Commission in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Gen Ashkenazi said he took full responsibility for the army operation and was “proud” of the commandos who took part.

He said they had not prepared to meet violent resistance on board the ships, and that live fire was used only after the troops were fired on by pro-Palestinian activists and attacked with knives, clubs and metal rods.

But the general said “accurate weapons”, rather than stun grenades, should have been employed to incapacitate people on the deck of the ship before the commandos rappelled onto it.

“We should have ensured sterile conditions in order to dispatch the forces in a minimum amount of time,” he said. “It would have lowered the risk to our soldiers but it would not have prevented the tension… Once the decision was made to stop the ship, the conflict was inevitable.”

Those on board the Mavi Mamara, where the activists were killed, say the commandos opened fire as soon as they boarded the vessel, which was in international waters at the time.

The ship, Mavi Marmara, taking part in what activists called the “Freedom Flotilla” heading to Gaza
The BBC’s Paul Wood in Jerusalem says Gen Ashkenazi’s remarks can be seen as part of the internal blame-game being played out between Israel’s military and political leadership.

His testimony follows that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who suggested that the army – rather than the “political echelon” – was responsible for the way in which the raid had gone wrong.

On Monday, Mr Netanyahu insisted Israel had acted legally and that every diplomatic effort had been exerted to have the ships turn back or dock elsewhere.

He also accused the Turkish government of looking to gain from the high-profile confrontation.

Turkey has denied the claim and described the raid as “tantamount to banditry and piracy” and the killings as “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Multiple inquiries

The Turkel Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Jacob Turkel and including two foreign observers, was set up by the Israeli government following the incident to consider whether international law was broken.

But some critics say its remit is too narrow. Other investigations are expected to be more analytical and critical of Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip. Turkey has begun its own investigation.

Last week, Mr Ban named the panel for a UN inquiry, which included representatives from Israel and Turkey.

He has insisted there was no “agreement behind the scene” with Israel that its soldiers would not be questioned.

However, an Israeli spokesman, Nir Hefetz, said it “would not co-operate with any commission that would ask to question soldiers”, and could instead rely on reports published last month by an internal military inquiry.

The inquiry found the commandos were under-prepared and that mistakes were made at a senior level.

But it also praised those involved and found the use of force had been the only way to stop the flotilla.

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

The blockade has been imposed on the coastal territory by Israel and Egypt since the Islamist militant group, Hamas, seized control in 2007.

The Israelis say it is intended to stop militants from obtaining rockets to attack them.

The restrictions have been widely described as a collective punishment of the population of Gaza.

The morning after the attack on Iran: Haaretz

How will the international community respond the next day?
By Ze’ev Maoz
One of the less discussed aspects of a possible Israeli attack on Iran is the international community’s response. A plausible scenario that should be taken into account is the possibility of massive international pressure on Israel. This would consist of American pressure (assuming the attack is carried out without the United States’ agreement ) for disarming from the nuclear weapons Israel supposedly has, or to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s supervision.

This scenario becomes less imaginary in view of the decision made by the treaty’s review conference in June regarding Israel, and especially the change in the United States’ position on the global nuclear arms issue. An attack launched by a state believed to possess nuclear weapons outside the NPT on another, even if the latter aspires to obtain nuclear weapons, will be comprehensively and totally condemned.
Even those few researchers of Israel’s defense policy who think, as I do, that Israel must reach an agreement to disarm the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction deem this scenario undesirable, to put it mildly. If Israel withstands the pressure, it could find itself in isolation, possibly including an embargo on weapons, materiel and equipment for both military and civilian uses. If Israel succumbs to the pressure, it will be forced to give up a strategic bargaining chip that could lead to a regional defense regimen, including a reliable nuclear demilitarization (with regional supervision and monitoring systems with higher credibility standards that IAEA’s ).

Yet again it transpires that Israel’s nuclear policy is fundamentally erroneous. There is no proof this policy has achieved even one of its declared goals. It did not prevent attacks on populated areas in the Gulf War, the Second Lebanon War or from Gaza. A nuclear threat cannot be used to quash an intifada. The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, in which Israel’s nuclear capability played no role, significantly reduced the conventional threat on Israel. And most importantly, every time someone in the Middle East begins developing nuclear weapons, we stop believing in nuclear deterrence and set out to destroy the Arab/Iranian potential.

There is considerable evidence attesting that Israel’s nuclear capability constituted both an incentive and a model for the attempts of several states in the region to develop nuclear weapons, and accelerated the chemical and biological capabilities of Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and even Egypt. If the Israeli offensive fails, or if Israel is “persuaded” to refrain from attacking and Iran obtains a nuclear capability, other states in the region could follow in its footsteps.

The reality of a nuclear Middle East is becoming increasingly likely. The dilemma Israel faces in the longer run is between a nuclear Middle East and a demilitarized one. Either everyone in the region has nuclear weapons or no state has.

The growing likelihood of tomorrow’s scenario also requires a reexamination of nuclear policy. An Israeli initiative for a complete demilitarization of the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction should be considered. Israel could lead a move that would create a defense regimen on its own terms – instead of unilateral disarmament following international pressure. The nuclear horizon is not so distant. It is time to consider what lies beyond it.

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