July 2012

July 31, 2012

EDITOR: Who wants to attack Iran?

Maybe only Mitt Romney and Netanyahu? It seems the IDF is busy leaking reports about its opposition to the war, which puts Netanyahu in quite a ridiculous light, insisting on the necessity of such a mad and criminal project. Maybe the generals do not fancy being sought as war criminals? Netanyahu does not care, it seems – he will always be able to travel to the US, which does not believe ion prosecuting war criminals, on the whole, bearing mind some of them run the administration…

Netanyahu: I have yet to make a decision regarding an attack on Iran: Haaretz

The prime minister gives interviews to Israeli TV channels, saying reports of the top military brass opposing an Israeli strike on Iran is ‘irresponsible reporting.’

By Barak Ravid  Jul.31, 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that he has yet to make a decision on whether or not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu said that “Israel cannot count on anyone else” when it comes to the Iranian threat.

During the interview, the prime minister was asked to comment on reports that Israel’s entire military top brass, headed by IDF chief Benny Gantz, oppose a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran. Netanyahu said that it was “irresponsible reporting.”

Netanyahu noted that when Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin made the decision to attack the nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, then Mossad chief Yitzhak Hofi and director of Military Intelligence Directoriate Yehoshua Saguy also opposed the attack.

“In Israel, the political ranks make the decisions and the operational ranks carry them out,” said Netanyahu.

The Prime Minister’s Office initiated the interviews and summoned representatives of the four major TV channels to hold the interview on Tuesday afternoon. Each interviewer received 15 minutes with the prime minister, and Netanyahu’s media advisers conditioned the interview on it being broadcast in full and without editing.

Palestinians attack Mitt Romney for ‘racist’ comments: BBC

Ann Romney (left) and Mitt Romney (right) in Gdansk, Poland 30 July 2012Mitt Romney has travelled to the UK, Israel and Poland – all close US allies

Mitt Romney has been accused of racism for suggesting to Jewish donors that “culture” might explain Palestinians’ income inferiority to Israel.

A senior Palestinian aide said the Republican presidential candidate had failed to note economic restrictions placed by the Israeli occupation.

But the Romney campaign said his remarks in Israel were misinterpreted.

The former Massachusetts governor is now in Poland, for the third and final leg of a week-long foreign tour.

Mr Romney is set to face Barack Obama in November’s presidential election.

‘Hand of providence’

Speaking at a breakfast of about 40 donors in Jerusalem on Monday, Mr Romney said he had thought about how Israel had achieved greater prosperity than its neighbours.

“As you come here and you see the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” Mr Romney is reported to have said.

He referred to a book called The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations, by David Landes, which examines how some societies became more prosperous than those of their neighbours.

Mr Romney said he had concluded from the book that “if you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it’s this: culture makes all the difference.

He added: “And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognise the power of at least culture and a few other things.”

Mr Romney also said he recognised “hand of providence in selecting this place [Israel]”.

The economic disparity between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is even wider than Mr Romney’s remarks suggest.

According to a World Bank report, in 2011 Israel’s GDP was $31,000 per head, compared with just over $1,500 in the West Bank and Gaza.

‘Scratching their heads’

Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, responded quickly to the comments.

“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realise that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” Mr Erekat said.

“It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.

“He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority,” he added.

Mitt Romney: It would be “foolish not to take Iranian threat seriously”

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said his remarks had been “grossly mischaracterised”.

His campaign added that the candidate’s comments had been more general and had included examples of income disparities between the US and Mexico, and Chile and Ecuador.

Meanwhile, a White House spokesman said Mr Romney’s comments had left some people “scratching their heads a little bit”.

At the breakfast, Mr Romney sat next to casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has given millions of dollars to Republican presidential campaigns.

The owner of the American football team New York Jets, Woody Johnson, and hedge fund manager Paul Singer were also guests at the breakfast, which is thought to have raised about $1m.

Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon came to Mr Romney’s defence.

“It is unfortunate that the Palestinians find every reason and opportunity to discomfit or to criticise or to attack Israel or anyone who pays respect to Israel and Jewish culture,” he said, reports the Associated Press.

On Sunday, Mr Romney caused controversy when he described Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

He said in an interview with CNN that he would favour moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, where it is currently located.

The status of Jerusalem is a key issue in peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Mr Romney’s visit to Israel followed a three-day visit to London. There, he was criticised in the British press for expressing doubt about whether Britain was ready to stage the Olympic Games.

Panetta: Sanctions have yet to compel Iran to give up nuclear ambitions: Haaretz

U.S. Defense Secretary stresses need for continued economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran; Panetta due to arrive in Israel on Wednesday.

By The Associated Press  Jul.31, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Tunisia - AP - July 30, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, accompanied by Tunisian Defense Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi, in Tunis, Tunisia, Monday, July 30, 2012. Photo by AP

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged Monday that increasingly stiff international sanctions have yet to compel Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. But he argued that more pressure eventually would lead Iran to “do what’s right.”

Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which Tehran contends is only for peaceful purposes, is a prominent backdrop to Panetta’s five-day tour of the Middle East and North Africa. On Wednesday he’ll be in Israel, whose leaders have said they are contemplating a military attack on Iran to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, a step they view as a threat to Israel’s very existence.

The Obama administration wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to steer Iran off its nuclear course, although Panetta repeated the administration’s standard line that “all options” are on the table in the event that non-military pressure does not work.

“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy in Iran,” he told reporters during a visit to the North Africa American Military Cemetery, where 2,841 U.S. servicemen killed in the North Africa campaign against Nazi Germany in 1942-1943 are buried.

“And while the results of that may not be obvious at the moment, the fact is that they have expressed a willingness to negotiate (with the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) and they continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution,” he said.

Those on-again, off-again negotiations have not come close to resolving a problem that U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has cast as one of the biggest failures of the Obama administration. Romney was in Israel this week showing support for Israel and asserting that if he were president Iran would never get the atomic bomb.

Panetta, who has declined to comment on Romney’s visit to Israel, stuck to his argument that the administration’s current approach is the right one.

“What we all need to do is to continue the pressure on Iran, economically and diplomatically … to negotiate and to ultimately do what’s right in joining the international family,” he added.

After meeting in Tunis with the country’s new Islamist leaders, Panetta was headed to Egypt for talks with its new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo, as well as Egyptian military leader Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.

In his remarks at the U.S. military cemetery, Panetta said Washington plans to promote closer counterterrorism cooperation with Tunisia’s new leaders. Panetta’s press secretary, George Little, said the Pentagon chief also raised the idea of more U.S. assistance in securing Tunisia’s border with Libya and in Tunisian maritime security. Little said specifics were not discussed.

Little said the U.S. is worried about the spread of al-Qaida’s influence in North Africa, while adding that “the sense is that the threat here (in Tunisia) is not as great as elsewhere” in the region.

Tunisia was the launching pad for the wave of revolt that swept through the Arab world in 2011. It had one of the most repressive governments in the region. The uprising began in December 2010 when a fruit vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid to protest his lack of economic opportunity and the disrespect of the police.

The transition here from dictatorship to democracy has been smoother than in neighboring countries like Libya and Egypt, with no power-hungry military or armed militias to stifle the progress. But there is an increasingly bold ultraconservative Muslim minority who want to turn Tunisia into a strict Islamic state.

Panetta denies reports of plan to discuss Iran attack with Israel: Haaretz

U.S. Secretary of Defense, who will meet Netanyahu, Barak during a broader Middle East and Africa trip, says ‘various contingencies’ to be discussed.

Jul.31, 2012

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, July 30, 2012.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, July 30, 2012. Photo by Reuters

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta denied media reports on Tuesday that he would discuss possible military attack plans against Iran during a brief visit to Israel.

Speaking at a press conference in Cairo shortly before departing for Israel, Panetta said he would be talking about “various contingencies,” but said specific military plans would not be put forward.

“I think it’s the wrong characterization to say we are going to be discussing potential attack plans. What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we would respond,” he said.

Asked whether these included military options, he said: “We obviously continue to work on a number of options in that area, but the discussions that I hope to have with Israel are going to be more about what is the threat that we’re confronting and to try to share both information and intelligence on that.”

Western powers believe Iran is seeking the technology to build a nuclear bomb and Israel has repeatedly hinted it might use force to try to halt Tehran’s atomic program. Tehran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes.

The United States has said it is determined to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but has called on Israel to give more time for increasingly severe economic sanctions to work.

“Both of our countries are committed to ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to that extent we continue to work together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon,” Panetta said.

Panetta was responding to reports on Tuesday that he was intending to show Israeli leaders the plans being drawn up by the Pentagon to stop Iran if diplomacy and sanctions failed to persuade Tehran to halt its nuclear program.

The Israeli army chief, Benny Gantz, told reporters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday that the Israel Defense Forces were ready to attack Iran if necessary.

“The IDF is ready and prepared for action and as we see it ‘all options are on the table’ is not a slogan, it is a working plan and we are doing it,” he said, referring to a line often repeated by Israeli politicians when discussing Iran.

Panetta is due to meet his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his stay in Israel, part of a broader trip to the Middle East and Africa.

A senior Israeli official on Sunday denied a separate newspaper report that U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security adviser had briefed Netanyahu on a U.S. contingency plan to attack Iran should diplomacy fail to curb its nuclear ambitions.

Arafat’s widow asks France to probe ‘murder’: Al Jazeera English

Suha Arafat asks French court to launch murder investigation into the death of the Palestinian leader over poison claim.
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2012 14:14
Yasser Arafat’s widow has asked a French court to launch a murder investigation into the

A Swiss institute found surprisingly high levels of polonium-210 on Arafat’s clothing during an Al Jazeera investigation

death of the Palestinian leader, after an Al Jazeera investigation suggested he was poisoned by a radioactive element.

After a sudden collapse in his health, Arafat was flown to France in October 2004 from his battered headquarters, where he had been effectively confined by Israel for more than two and a half years.

He died a month later. Arafat aides at the time quoted doctors as saying he had suffered a brain haemorrhage and lost the use of his vital organs one by one.

Click here for AL Jazeera’s full investigation

Allegations of foul play quickly surfaced after the doctors who treated him said they could not establish a precise cause of the illness that led to his death.

The lawsuit filed by his widow Suha and their daughter Zahwa on Tuesday, in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre, accused a person, or persons unknown, of premeditated murder.

Their complaint followed a statement by a Swiss institute that it had found surprisingly high levels of polonium-210 on Arafat’s clothing – the same substance used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

A legal source told the Reuters news agency that the Nanterre court would, in the first instance, have to determine whether it had jurisdiction to examine whether a case of alleged poisoning that took place in another country could be legally investigated in France.

“Suha and Zahwa have complete faith in the French justice system,” a statement released by Suha’s lawyer said.

“Suha and Zahwa Arafat do not, at this stage, advance any accusation against a specific party, be it a state, a group or an individual.”


Many Arabs see Israel as the prime suspect behind the mysterious decline of the man who led Palestinians’ bid for a state through years of war and peace.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has agreed to exhume Arafat’s body from a limestone mausoleum in Ramallah for an autopsy, and Tunisia has called for a ministerial meeting of the Arab League to discuss his death.

Earlier this month, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, met French President Francois Hollande and asked him to help form an international investigative group via the UN Security Council.

Arafat was confined by Israel to his Ramallah compound in the wake of a Palestinian uprising and was already in poor health when he suddenly collapsed in October 2004.

Foreign doctors flocked to his bedside from Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan amid public assurances from Arafat’s aides over the next two weeks that he was suffering from no more than the flu.

But looking weak and thin – and telling aides “God willing, I will be back” – he was airlifted to a military hospital in France, where he slipped into a coma and died on November 11.

French officials refused to state the cause of death, citing privacy laws.

Nasser al-Kidwa, Arafat’s nephew, said a 558-page medical report released by France had shown no trace of known poisons but that the cause of death remained a mystery.

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July 30, 2012

EDITOR: While the world looks away, Israel prepares the next stage of the Nakba

An excellent thing, the Olympic Games… while the world is more interested in medals and sport nationalism, Israel is working away at the plan to expel tens of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, both in Israel and the West Bank. Zionism was never confused about its aims, only Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian seems to pretend such confusion – the ultimate aim was and is to rid Palestine of all its indigenous inhabitants, It takes time, it takes money, and it takes a lot of work, but that is what they are working on. As in Herzl’s plan – those who can be bought off, will be paid to go, those who insist on staying, will not be able to make a living, and forced to leave. There was no confusion then, and there is not any now. There is only pretense by nice people like Amos Oz, A B Yehoshua and Jonathan Freedland.

And we have not even started talking about nice Mr. Romney, the Mormon on Hormons, who forgot to speak about his co-religionists converting my Nazi-murdered family into proper Mormons after their death… the guy who cannot wait to see Israel attack Iran! What a prospect for the next four years, if this dangerous man wins the race to the White House!

Stop greatest forced displacement of Arab citizens of Israel since the 1950s: JFJFP

In September 2011, the Israeli government approved the Prawer Plan for mass expulsion of the Arab Bedouin community in the Naqab (Negev) desert. If fully implemented this plan will result in the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel and the destruction of 35 “unrecognized” villages.
Despite the Arab Bedouin community’s complete rejection of the plan and strong disapproval from the international community and human rights groups, the Prawer Plan is happening now. More than 1,000 homes were demolished in 2011 and in August a special police force is slated to officially begin implementing the plan, and demolish even more. Adalah and our NGO partners have been challenging the Prawer Plan before courts, government authorities and the international community, but we need your help to stop what would be the largest single act of forced displacement of Arab citizens of Israel since the 1950s!
Please sign our petition and visit our Facebook page to find out what you can do to Stop the Prawer Plan!
Sign up for Adalah’s Newsletter to stay informed.

What is the Prawer Plan?

Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, inhabitants of the Naqab (Negev) desert since the seventh century, are the most vulnerable community in Israel. For over 60 years, the indigenous Arab Bedouin have faced a state policy of displacement, home demolitions and dispossession of their ancestral land. Today, 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens live in 35 villages that either predate the establishment of the State in 1948, or were created by Israeli military order in the early 1950s. The State of Israel considers the villages “unrecognized” and the inhabitants “trespassers on State land,” so it denies the citizens access to state infrastructure like water, electricity, sewage, education, health care and roads. The state deliberately withholds basic services from these villages to “encourage” the Arab Bedouin citizens to give up their ancestral land.In September 2011, the Israeli government approved the Prawer Plan, the brainchild of former Deputy Chair of the National Security Council, Mr. Ehud Prawer.  If implemented, the Prawer Plan will result in the destruction of the unrecognized villages and the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens. This plan was completed without consultation of the local community, and is a gross violation of the constitutional rights of the Arab Bedouin citizens to property, dignity, equality, adequate housing, and freedom to choose their own residence. Prawer is Happening Now

Despite complete rejection of the plan by the Arab Bedouin, and strong disapproval from the international community, Prawer is happening now. Media reports indicate that on 1 August 2012, a special police force will begin work to implement Prawer and demolish homes.  More than 1,000 houses were demolished in 2011 alone, and civil society is seeing the same practices in 2012.  Since Prawer was announced, the government announced plans that will displace over 10,000 people and plant forests, build military centers, and establish new Jewish settlements in their place.

In March 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination for Racial Discrimination called on Israel to withdraw the proposed implementing legislation of the Prawer Plan, on the grounds that it was discriminatory.  If Israel applied the same criteria for planning and development that exist in the Jewish rural sector, all 35 unrecognized villages would be recognized where they are.

In July 2012, the European Parliament passed a historic resolution calling on Israel to Stop the Prawer Plan and its policies of displacement, eviction, and dispossession.

Adalah calls on the Israeli government to:

  • Cancel the Prawer Plan
  • Recognize the “unrecognized villages” and the land claims of the indigenous Arab Bedouin community
  • Halt home demolitions and forced evictions
  • Engage in meaningful dialogue with the Arab Bedouin community and the Arab political leadership to justly resolve the land claims
  • Invest in greater health, education, and employment opportunities for Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel
Find out More:
Briefing Paper: Analysis of the Prawer Plan
Briefing Paper: The Prawer Plan Bill
Adalah and ACRI Press Release: Prawer Plan Law Violates Rights of Bedouin
Four Reasons to Reject the Prawer Plan
The Arab Bedouin: Myths and Misconceptions
UN CERD Calls on Israel to Withdraw the Prawer Plan Law
European Parliament Pass Resolution Calling on Israel to Stop the Prawer Plan

 Mitt Romney at the Wailing Wall

Romney backs Israel’s right to strike Iran
By Tobias Buck, Financial Times
July 29, 2012

Jerusalem–Mitt Romney would not stand in the way of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a senior adviser to the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has said.

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that [nuclear weapons] capability, the governor would respect that decision,” said Dan Senor, a foreign policy adviser to Mr Romney, during the candidate’s visit to Israel.

The remarks, made to US journalists travelling with the candidate, came ahead of Mr Romney’s meeting on Sunday with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and other Israeli leaders.

They appear to set out a position that is more hawkish than that taken by the current US administration, which has made clear repeatedly that it opposes a military strike on Iran for the time being.

Senior US officials – including President Barack Obama – have stated on many occasions that the military option against Iran must remain “on the table”. However, officials and analysts say that Washington has also put intense pressure on Israel for now to give more time to diplomacy and sanctions to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr Romney’s visit to Israel is widely seen as the most important, as well as the most sensitive, leg of his pre-election journey, which started in London last week. The former Massachusetts governor will be anxious not to repeat his widely criticised performance in the British capital, where he was publicly rebuked by political leaders for casting doubt over London’s readiness to host the Olympic Games.

The visit to Israel is significant above all because it comes amid a concerted Republican campaign to attract more votes from the American Jewish community, traditionally a bastion of Democrat support. At the heart of the Republican push is the claim that Mr Obama has not been sufficiently supportive of Israel, and the accusation that he has not been forceful enough in his dealings with Iran.

In an apparent bid to neutralise some of that criticism, the US leader on Friday announced a military aid package for Israel worth $70m.

Mr Romney himself has so far been careful not to voice direct criticism of the president’s policies while travelling abroad, in accordance with US political custom. However, he was due to give a foreign policy speech in Jerusalem on Sunday evening seeking to portray the Republican candidate as a staunch Israeli ally.

“When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naive – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric,” according to extracts from the speech released by the Romney campaign on Sunday.

“Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defences. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way. My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country.”

On Monday, Mr Romney is scheduled to hold a fundraising event in Jerusalem.

Israel coined the term “Nakba” and is still implementing it: The Electronic Intifada

20 July 2012

Home demolitions carried out today are a continuation of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

(Mahfouz Abu Turk / APA images)

In the July lull between the two truces of the 1948 war that involved Israel and troops sent from neighboring Arab states to try and salvage Palestine, another stage in theethnic cleansing operation of the country was completed.

While in April 1948 the urban space of Palestine was almost completely destroyed by the Zionist forces, pockets of the rural areas and three towns, al-Lid, Ramleh andNazareth were still safe, but not for long.

Within the ten days of the lull (known in Israeli historiography as the “ten days war”), more Palestinian land was occupied and more people uprooted. The newly-born Jewish state promised the UN mediator at the time to cease fighting and explained that the July operations were just minor cleansing of pockets of resistance.

The UN did not buy the lie, but was already then a helpless and hapless organization. Only the city of Nazareth was spared and it is not very clear why. Zionist leader and Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who was very keen to depopulate it not only from its original inhabitants but also from the tens of thousands of refugees who found shelter there since May 1948, in the very last moment was convinced by someone to leave it intact.

But everywhere else the magnitude of the ruthless depopulation began to transpire clearly — before another two months passed it would be completed with the final destruction of the Palestinians in the Galilee and the Naqab (Negev) — respectively in the far north and south of Palestine.

Israel warned of “catastrophe”

Long before the Palestinians themselves understood what was the essence of the Israeli master plan to expel them, and the far-reaching implications of the country’s ethnic cleansing, the perpetrators themselves found an adequate term in Arabic to describe it: Nakba (catastrophe).

The term was mentioned for the first time not in Arab or Palestinian sources but in Israeli military intelligence sources. It appeared in leaflets the Israeli air force distributed during those ten days in July on the eve of a very singular attack on a village or a town.

The leaflets demanded in the main the “peaceful” eviction of the village and its surrounding areas. If not, the leaflets warned, the village would be severely punished. We do not have all the leaflets but here is the one rained on the huge and beautiful village of al-Tira near Haifa in the middle of July 1948:

“The sword will cut your throats without pity or compensation. If you insist and continue with your wrong doing … you should know that our airplanes, tanks and artillery will grind your village to dust, shell your houses, break you back, uproot you from your land … and your village will become a desert. Oh the people of al-Tira, if you wish to avoid a Nakba [sic] … surrender. The victorious Israeli army has already demolished the criminal hotbeds of Jaffa, Acre, Tiberias and Safad. It has occupied tens of villages in the south and the north, and this triumphant army will destroy you in several hours.”

Destruction and expulsion was a nakba in the eyes of the embryonic Israeli intelligence preparing the campaign of propaganda and intimidation against the native people of Palestine. Throughout the years, until this very day, the Nakba has continued by other means, this we know.


But in this summer of 2012 when our attention is focused on SyriaEgyptIran and the financial crisis — we are creating by this distraction from Palestine another lull in the never ending ethnic cleansing of Palestine. A dire situation helped also by the paralysis of Palestinian politics and the apathy of the international community.

The target of the new ethnic cleansing is, among others, the Bedouins of the Naqab. Next month, the Israeli authorities are going to begin to implement the Prawer plan for the dispossession of the Bedouins of the Naqab (named after Ehud Prawer, the deputy head of the Israeli National Security Council and head of the team of experts preparing it).

Until it was finalized and authorized in September last year by the government, the Israeli strategy to dislocate the 70,000 Palestinians from the south of the country was through strangulation: denying them electricity, water, education and access to any elementary infrastructure. A policy that by itself, had it been committed anywhere else in the world would have been condemned as a crime against humanity. But it has failed so far and did not deter or break the spirit and steadfastness of the Bedouins.

Hence the Prawer plan’s more active approach: it aims to destroy physically and by force the 35 villages in which these 70,000 people live. The early stages of this plan were already executed between last September and today: already 1,000 houses were demolished. The next stage would be far more comprehensive and deadly as a special police force has been established for its execution.

This is a test for a far more important Israeli master plan devised back in 2001 by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and perfected by a successor, Ehud Olmert, in 2007.

A unilateral — and if possible with at least a tacit Palestinian Authority agreement — scheme for the final demarcation of the 21st century state of Israel. The components of this strategy are a ghettoized Gaza Strip, annexation of Area C of the West Bank (a zone defined by the Oslo agreements, comprising more than 60 percent of the West Bank) to Israel, and the creation of a Palestinian Bantustan in the rest.

It also includes the ghettoization of the Palestinians in the Naqab; the strangulation of the Palestinians in the Galilee by an intensive construction of new Jewish settlementsthere; and the injection of Jewish population into the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Ramleh and al-Lid (accompanied by the instalment of a new and complex web of roads and highways inside these areas).

Nakba 2012 — in contrast to Nakba 1948 — is done through municipal master-planning, administrative regulations and special police forces. It is incremental and bureaucratic and hence off the radar of a world that anyway does not seem to care much.

But for various reasons this more subtle criminal policy cannot be fully executed in the Naqab. This particular juncture is a chance to expose it worldwide as well as bring home the message that those who invented the term Nakba are still determined to fully implement it.

The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.

mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defences. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way. My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country.”

On Monday, Mr Romney is scheduled to hold a fundraising event in Jerusalem.

Click here to continue reading “July 30, 2012″ »

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July 25, 2012

EDITOR: Symptoms of a deep-reaching disease

In an article below, Michael Sfard connects the Israeli government campaigns against the social protest, and the civil rights organisations fighting the occupation’s brutalities. Sfard is hardly an anti-Zionist – he is part of the heart of Zionism, but even for him, this government has crossed all the red lines. Neither is Sternhell an anti-Zionist, of course. They are both deeply troubled by what is going on.

Israel against the world, indeed: Haaretz

Attacks against domestic political opposition and international aid organizations are both symptoms of the same disease.
By Michael Sfard     Jul.25, 2012
You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to grasp that Israel’s democracy is under attack. The reality around us is rife with undeniable evidence.

There has been a wave of legislation designed to confine public discourse and limit political freedom of action (such as the “Naqba law,” the law banning support of boycotts and proposals for loyalty laws). The government has incited against human rights organizations, presenting them as traitorous, anti-Israel subversives and fellow travelers with terror. There has been an effort to derail funding received by such organizations (both through legislation and direct appeals to donors). There have been efforts to deter protesters at Sheikh Jarrah, al-Arakib and Rothschild Boulevard (such as mass arrests on false pretenses, summonses to protest organizers to come for “discussions” held with the police or Shin Bet security agency, police violence and the enforcement of draconian restrictions against the protesters).

We might also add to this list a mass publication newspaper which did not hesitate to publish an altered suicide letter written by a demonstrators, expunging from it the lines that cast blame on a the leader the newspaper serves and supports as a mouthpiece. Faced with such a record of evidence, even Dr. Watson would draw the obvious conclusion: a plot has been hatched to dismantle Israel’s democracy, and erect in its stead a kind of nominal, “Putinist” democracy in which dissenters have no option other than to give up the ghost and join the majority’s bandwagon.

This surfeit of data has recently included one new, classic symptom of democratic collapse: a campaign of government intimidation directed against international humanitarian aid organizations.

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, sent a letter to the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs demanding that the status of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied territories be “regularized” (Haaretz, July 15). OCHA coordinates activities undertaken by dozens of international humanitarian organizations and relief agencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These organizations feed the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless, help create employment opportunities and, more than anything, rebuild the destruction left behind by Israel each time it launches one of its military operations.

In recent years, OCHA’s work has focused on humanitarian matters and the work of international organizations in East Jerusalem and the West Bank’s Area “C,” where Israel retains civil administrative powers. In both places, Israel pursues planning policies aimed at choking off Palestinian life and reducing its presence as much as possible so these areas can be used for Israeli purposes.

International aid organizations impede the fulfillment of this goal, since their basis of action is humanitarian need (such as providing tents, water and electricity), and they regularly supply what the Israel Defense Forces take away. Thus they make it possible for Palestinians to remain on their lands.

OCHA does not operate on the ground. It is a coordinating and reporting agency. Its work is considered exemplary, owing partly to its precise, comprehensive reports that are disseminated to the diplomatic community. Such success, accompanied by efforts undertaken by some of the aid organizations to effect deep change, change that would remove the crying need for humanitarian assistance ¬ or, put differently, that would alter the discriminatory, abusive policies of the Civil Administration ¬ is precisely what has upset Israeli officials such as Prosor.

At present, Israel’s diplomatic finesse is determined by such refined gentlemen as Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (he who would lower the chair of the Turkish ambassador). In disgracefully obsequious fashion, the head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, has acceded to the settlers’ dictates. Israel’s response to the activities of aid organizations which, in lieu of the Civil Administration, fund basic needs of West Bank and Gaza Strip residents, is tantamount to a kick in the teeth.

Alongside Prosor’s letter to the UN, in recent weeks various employees of foreign aid organizations have been summoned to meetings with the Civil Administration’s coordination office. During these meetings, they have been required to relay details about their work. They have been told their activity is illegal and that they could be prosecuted. Many organizations have faced a regime of red tape after submitting requests for work visa for members of their staff.

When they tried to clarify why visas are withheld, they received complaints and threats, as though the continuation of their work was in doubt.

Underlying Israel’s threats to the community of international aid organizations in the territories is the demand that they refrain from the conferral of assistance that helps local populations remain where they are, on their lands. There is a real risk that humanitarian aid workers will be expelled by the government of Israel. Should this happen, Israel would join Sudan, which acted similarly when its President Omar al-Bashir was accused of crimes against humanity.

That is a sobering scenario.

The same approach that seeks to reduce the scale of civil protest against the government’s policy,¬ the same approach of summoning activists for “discussions,” of outlawing boycotts and of defunding dissenters, is the approach which seeks to control the work done by those who proffer humanitarian aid in the territories. The attacks against domestic political opposition and the assault on international aid organizations are both symptoms of the same disease.

The writer is an attorney specializing in international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Palestine jailed, by Carlos Latuff

Ariel as a showcase for Israel: Haaretz

The way the college founded there was subsequently turned into a university epitomizes the government’s warped modes of thought and action.
By Zeev Sternhell     Jul.25, 2012
Ariel, the new university town, is the symbol of Israel and its true showcase. The settlement, which lies some 20 kilometers east of the Green Line, was from the start intended to drive a wedge into the heart of the West Bank so that it would be impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state there. The way the college founded there was subsequently turned into a university is a direct continuation of this goal, and epitomizes the government’s warped modes of thought and action.

The college also demonstrates Israel’s real order of priorities. Its status was changed arrogantly, via a process that rode roughshod over academic rules and blatantly ignored the accepted criteria for Israeli universities.

But what Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar did should not be viewed as ordinary political corruption. They were not merely trying to buy the votes of Likud party activists in the territories; what they wanted was to do their bit toward annexing the West Bank.

To that end, no price was deemed too high. For everyone knows that building a university from scratch requires enormous resources in terms of both money and manpower. Everyone also understands that a university in Ariel will drag the entire system down and be a stain on the reputation of Israeli science and research.

The establishment of an academic institution by the settlement organization known as the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education – a body whose very existence shows contempt for the Israeli academic world – will also provide an opening and a pretext for a widespread international boycott. Until now, every attempt to boycott Israeli academic institutions has failed, thanks to the personal stature of Israeli scholars. But the truth is that it was the left that successfully blocked and repulsed these boycotts. The time has now come to put this mission in the hands of the new university and its patrons.

It would be interesting to know how former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, who headed the committee that recently concluded the West Bank isn’t occupied territory, would answer the two questions he has so far overlooked: What weight should the desires of the occupied population be given in determining the status of the territories? And from what source does the occupier derive the authority to ride roughshod over this population’s right to self-determination?

The government doesn’t have enough money to house the homeless, nor will it in the future, because from the nationalist standpoint, they are useless people. But every family in the outpost of Migron will cost the taxpayer almost three quarters of a million shekels to relocate, because in the Likud’s eyes, this is the true meaning of Zionism.

Steinitz and Sa’ar did not enter the Knesset and the cabinet in order to make peace, to preserve the system of higher education created through generations of effort, or to establish a real welfare state, but rather to gain control of the entire Land of Israel. They are not merely afraid of the settlers; they themselves are settlers.

One cannot say the same about the opposition, but this is precisely where the true problem of Israeli politics lies: Its leaders do not have the courage to sever themselves from the past. All those who oppose the government are aware that the right is marching Israel toward a binational state that will destroy its raison d’etre. But they are all captives of the same wretched idee fixe which holds that there is a consensus about the territories, and therefore, anyone who wishes to survive politically cannot reject the settlements.

The founding father of this concept was Shimon Peres, during whose term as defense minister in the 1970s the settlement of Elon Moreh near Nablus, which paved the road to the settlement of this part of the West Bank, was established. Defense Minister Ehud Barak – Peres’ successor as Labor Party chairman and the man to whom we owe the second intifada – followed in his footsteps, and now the torch has been passed to current Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich.

Why did this talented woman have to burden herself with all the giant mistakes and failures made by the party over generations? Why did she decide to march down the path charted by those two defectors from Labor, at a time when both political logic and moral duty demand an unambiguous, comprehensive and determined stance against the right? Cowardice, even when it is wrapped in a cloak of sophistication and so-called pragmatism, has never been considered a recipe for victory.

EDITOR: Another nail in the two-state ‘solution’

Read below the ex-Ambassador to Israel, writing quite clearly about the unlikelihood of this solution being realised.

Former British ambassador to Israel expresses doubts on Israeli-Palestinian peace: Haaretz

In an op-ed in a British magazine, former envoy to Israel and Saudi Arabia lays down ten reasons the chances of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement are slim.

By Akiva Eldar  Jul.23, 2012

Former ambassador Tom Phillips.

Former ambassador Tom Phillips. Photo by Guy Raivitz

Tom Philips, one of the most influential Western diplomats to serve in the Middle East in recent years, suggests that the European Union rethink its aid to the Palestinian Authority, so as to place the whole burden of responsibility for the occupation on Israel – a load the Israeli public is not likely to succeed in carrying.

In a long op-ed published in the British monthly “Prospect Magazine,”Philips laid down ten rules which paint a grim picture of the chances of reaching an implementing a peace agreement to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Philips wrote that he cannot imagine an American government will come about that will be able to do what is required in order to pressure Israel into doing what is in its best interest.

He doesn’t think there will be Israeli government able to rein in the settlement movement in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in order to make a two state solution feasible.

Nor does Philips believe that no Palestinian leadership will be able to make the necessary compromises on the “Right of Return,” without which no Israeli would make any kind of peace agreement.

The ambassador, who served as a delegate in the British embassy in Israel during the 1990’s, also doubts that Arab leadership will be able to transform the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 into a government program that supports peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The retired European diplomat criticizes the European Union for not using the tools in its possession for initiating the diplomatic process. Philips wrote that over the years, the EU did not strategically use its leverage as chief importer of Israeli goods and economic partner. At the same time, Europe was unsuccessful at containing other radical factions in the area. Philips suggests that the focus be on a transatlantic agreement that would be based on the big carrots needed for encouraging the two sides to move forward, and the big stick, necessary in case they fail to make progress.

Philips claims that the United States favors Israel, and therefore can never be a true, unbiased mediator. He writes that Yasser Arafat was justifiably suspicious of the Americans, as they “cooked-up” the Camp David Accords in advance with Israel, in 2000.

According to Philips, President Obama must prove that he can be the exception to the rule in the subject, and that there is hope that should be be reelected, he will increase the pressure on Israel.

Philip notes that the exorbitant amounts of money donated to the Palestinian Authority by foreign powers create dependence. He claims that the Arabs believe that the Israeli needs a two-state solution more than the Palestinian side, because, as in the days of the crusader kingdoms, if Israel fails to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and continues to rely on assistance from abroad, Israel will be annihilated.

The retired senior diplomat points out that one of the obstacles on the path to peace is each side’s fear of being labeled “suckers.” The two sides feel that concessions they’ve made in the past have gone unreciprocated, and thus remain steadfast in refusing to make more.

In general, Israel holds more cards, and thus will be forced to make more painful compromises, according to Philips.

Philips concedes that that the most difficult concession – without which an agreement is impossible – is the need to divide Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Philips ends his piece by calling the situation a Greek tragedy, with no happy end in sight. “I hope I’m wrong.”

There may never be peace: Prospect Magazine


JULY 18, 2012

 There may be no happy ending to the Israeli-Palestinian clash, says Britain’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Israel

“Song for Peace” is written on the bloodstained paper that was in the jacket pocket of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he was assassinated on 4th November, 1995 by Yigal Amir, a member of an extremist Israeli nationalist group 

For the last six years I have served as a British ambassador in the Middle East, first to Israel and then to Saudi Arabia. I leave the region with particular sadness that in this period the chances of a solution to the long-running conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians—on which, ultimately, turns the issue of Israel’s acceptance in the region—have grown bleaker. These are my ten rules for why this is the case.

Rule 1: “The worst thing will always happen at the worst possible time”

Examples are legion. A few follow.
The assassination in 1995 of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, was the one fatal act which could have—and did—effectively end any hope that the Oslo peace process would get anywhere, even if the formal last rites were delayed until 2000 in Camp David. Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 destroyed any chance that Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, would be able to make a large unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, as he had promised during his election campaign, in the wake of the withdrawal from Gaza by Ariel Sharon, his predecessor. The Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead [a United Nations fact-finding mission, led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, on the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009], published in September 2009, appeared at just the moment to make it even harder for Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to descend from the tree into which he had been encouraged to climb by faulty American tactics in the starter phase of the Obama administration. Obama settled in at the White House—an American president at last fully understanding why solving the Palestinian issue is vital for American, and western, interests—just as Israel voted for a right-wing government which would thoroughly complicate his efforts.

One sub-rule of this main rule is the complexity of overlapping political timetables. Peace making is all too often on hold because there are Israeli, or American, or even Palestinian, elections. The rhythm of peace-making efforts is constrained above all by the short horizons of the American system, and the intense preoccupation of Israelis with their own political system (see Rule 8).

Rule 2: “Everyone is afraid of being a sucker”

Fears of being a sucker (a “fryer” in Yiddish and now Hebrew) are an explicit part of Israeli political discourse, but are just as evident in the Palestinian approach to peace making. Both sides feel that concessions they have made in the past have not been reciprocated, and are therefore determined not to take the first step this time around. Such worries prevent the Israelis in particular from coming to terms with the reality that since they hold the majority of the cards, they will inevitably have to make the greater concessions. And the West Bank barrier—now as much psychological as physical—means that most Israelis can ignore the morally questionable realities of occupation.

The corollary of this rule is that each party, to avoid being a sucker, acts in a manner destined to prevent progress, thus ensuring an outcome which is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The rule applies more widely in the region. There is no Arab inclination publicly to suggest the possibility of a less than fully prescriptive, or even a graduated, approach to the Arab Peace Initiative (which offers Israel the prospect of normalisation in the region) because those governments assess that Israel would simply take advantage of any first move on their part and leave them suckered. Besides, they’ve got enough on their plate at the moment (see Rule 9).

Rule 3: “Only the Americans can, and the Americans can’t”

There is no prospect of the Israelis and Palestinians doing their own deal—the key issues are simply too hard (see Rules 6 and 7). No one but the Americans has the leverage and the historical record to persuade the Israelis to make the necessary concessions and to underpin any deal with the necessary security guarantees. The maxim “we can’t want it more than the parties” is fundamentally fake: neither side has yet reached the level of exhaustion where it is ready to offer the necessary compromises, and both would prefer to avoid the most testing questions. Indeed, both sides need to be able to tell their constituencies that while in an ideal world they would not have gone so far, Uncle Sam has made it clear there is no alternative. But the United States has only fitfully been willing to play such an imperial role, and the Americans can never be a genuinely impartial broker—the whole weight of their system and their perceptions tilt them towards the Israelis. The problems this can cause were brutally apparent at the Middle East peace summit at Camp David in 2000, when Yasser Arafat, then Palestinian Authority chairman, rightly suspected every American initiative of being pre-cooked with the Israelis. Obama has yet to prove he will be the president who proves there can be exceptions to this rule, although there are now hopes that he might press harder on this issue in Obama Term 2. Assuming, of course, the next four years are not Romney Term 1…

Rule 4: “It’s easier for a right-wing Israeli government to make peace than a left-wing one” (a rule sometimes called “only Likud can”)

This rule is, I suspect, both true and untrue. Proponents point back to 1979 and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s deal with Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat for the return of the Sinai; or Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s acceptance of the invitation to go to the Madrid peace talks in 1991; or Sharon’s uprooting of settlements and withdrawal from Gaza in 2004. They perhaps omit, for example, that it was Rabin who made peace with Jordan in 1994. Yes, any deal struck by a right-wing Israeli government will be an easier sell to a sceptical Israeli public than one struck by a government of the left. But I think the rule severely underestimates the equal and opposite reality that any government of the right will find it far more difficult to make the necessary compromises on what is not only seen as a critical security buffer, but is also the “Biblical homeland”—Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and East Jerusalem. That’s why the settlers have been so successful in exploiting an Israeli system in which many share their longing to “return,” and have been able to establish so many facts on the ground which severely complicate (and may already have blocked entirely) the path to peace. Begin could give away the Sinai since only a few Israeli extremists would have claimed that this area too formed part of God’s original promise.

Rule 5: “Incrementalism doesn’t work”

Partly because of Rule 2—everyone is afraid of being a sucker. Most models of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking are designed to leave the really hard issues, Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees, to last. But the Palestinians in particular worry that this means that those issues will never be on the table: hence their understandable insistence on the “nothing agreed until everything agreed” mantra. The fact that the Israelis have never been prepared to agree that there should be no change to the status quo in relation to issues to be left to the final stages of negotiations (such as no further building in East Jerusalem) compounds Palestinian worries about the risks of incrementalism, as do their bitter memories of the way settlement construction continued apace during the Oslo process.

Rule 6: “It’s all about Jerusalem and the Right of Return”

Analysts dispute whether this is a conflict about land or religion.  I believe it is essentially a dispute about identity, with land and religion as principal expressions of the identity issues involved. The two issues which are key to the identities which are in conflict are Jerusalem and the Right of Return—the Palestinian refugee issue. Any Israeli or Palestinian leader who cannot say that each morning is ducking how hard it will be to make progress. Of the two, the refugee issue is the easier, although any internal Palestinian leader will be wary of signing up to any deal which means that his brethren in camps in Lebanon and elsewhere cannot come back to Jaffa or Haifa—unless perhaps such a deal comes with the firm backing, and resources, of the international community including the Arab world. Bear in mind also that the Israelis will baulk even at acknowledging that there is any such thing as a Right of Return (even if it is not to be implemented), rejecting the implication that there was such an original sin at the heart of the creation of the Israeli state. They would argue that responsibility for the problem should be shared with the Arab armies who invaded in 1948 and even with those Palestinian leaders who advised their communities to get on the road. And that it is wrong for Israel to take a hit for this particular refugee problem when Arab states have never come under critical scrutiny over the manner of the departure of their Jewish citizens in the early years of the Israeli state.

Rule 7: “There cannot be a deal on sovereignty of the Old City”

The core of the Jerusalem identity issue is the Old City, and a main lesson of 2000/2001 (from Camp David through to the parameters proposed by President Bill Clinton) is that it is not possible to do a deal dividing sovereignty there between the Israelis and the Palestinians, particularly when it comes to the Temple Mount/Haram-al-Sharif. The 1947 UN partition plan got it right—there will have to be some kind of special arrangement, at least for the Old City. There are models, and sovereignty could be given to God (leaving Israeli and Palestinian mortals to agree only to administrative arrangements), or kicked into touch (as when Olmert, in his potentially taboo-breaking 2008 offer to Abbas, suggested an interim arrangement for the Old City). Without such a deal, there will be no wider Israeli-Palestinian deal. And without an Israeli-Palestinian deal including a satisfactory resolution of the Jerusalem issue, Israel will never be accepted by the Islamic world.

Rule 8: “The difficulty of reaching a deal is compounded by the dysfunctional political systems on both sides”

This rule is easily illustrated on the Palestinian side. The gap between Fatah, dominant on the West Bank, and Hamas, controlling Gaza, raises the question of whether the Palestinian Authority will ever feel able to make compromises to do a deal with the Israelis. Fatah is also still struggling to make the transition to a credible political party, and too many Fatah knives are aimed at Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s back. On the Israeli side, a political system of proportional representation with a low threshold for parties to win seats in the Knesset is all too often a recipe for short-lived governments held hostage by the smaller and harder-line members of any coalition. Intriguingly, Benjamin Netanyahu’s deal with Shaul Mofaz, now vice prime minister, raises the possibility of a government with sufficient political bandwidth to go all the way, if it wanted to. But does it?

Rule 9: “The international community has never wanted it enough”

The Palestinian issue has been left unresolved too long. It was not until the 1937 Peel Commission that some British officials had the courage to understand that the full meaning of the 1917 Balfour declaration, and that the only way to meet the national aspirations of the two sides, was a two-state solution. Since 1948, and above all since 1967, international will to push for such an outcome has all too often been lacking, with the Americans in particular only slowly coming to the same realisation of what peace will take, having rejected the European Union’s 1981 Venice declaration, which in many ways started the process of scales falling from international eyes.

If—at least for the foreseeable future—the only alternative to a two-state solution is continuing conflict (see Rule 10), and if such conflict represents, as it does, a threat to wider US and western interests in the region and more widely, then a sustained international drive to achieve a two-state deal should be a no-brainer. But as the experience of the Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) confirms, the Americans are genetically indisposed to move into a genuinely multilateralist mode on this issue; and the EU has failed over the years to translate declaratory clarity into operational strategy and tactics, or to use its potential weight as Israel’s most important export market and economic partner. And both have failed to put their efforts together and link them to a wider regional drive to bolster moderation and contain or constrain the extremists. We should focus on transatlantic agreement on the big carrots which could be deployed to encourage the parties to move in the right direction, and the big sticks which might be necessary if they are reluctant to do so.

The other side of the “we’ve never wanted it enough” coin is that an argument can be made that the international donor community has in effect propped up the Israeli occupation by pumping in aid money which has taken the edge off Palestinian frustration. There are good humanitarian reasons for much of the assistance which has been given, and indeed (more recently) good state-building ones. But I fear the staggering level of international assistance has fostered a widespread dependency culture in Palestinian political life (for all Fayyad’s valiant efforts to reverse it) which has contributed to their leadership problems. Has the time come dramatically to scale down the funds we give the Palestinians, in order to put the full weight of the occupation on Israel, a burden I do not think they would be able to endure given, inter alia, the heavier weight it would mean to a society which needs to think of itself in morally positive terms?

A further question: why isn’t the moderate Arab world more active in pressing its western partners to get its act together and sort this one out? There are many reasons, and just at the moment the pressures of the Arab Spring, the deepening Sunni-Shia divide in the region, and the linked perception of a need to counter an Iranian push for greater regional hegemony, have inevitably pushed the Palestinian issue down on the Arab agenda. But one reason—of which Israel should beware—is the Arab reading that Israel needs a two-state solution more than the Palestinians, and, like the Crusader kingdom, will face eventual extinction if it does not make its peace with the locals rather than continue to rely on its overseas backers (for the US now read Christian Europe then). So the Arabs can wait.

Rule 10: “Failure is the most likely outcome”

This is the most complex conflict I know. And it may already be too late to achieve a two-state solution, even if that would have been the right solution, and the only possible solution. I cannot imagine any American government able to do what is necessary to press the Israelis to take the steps which are ultimately in Israel’s interest. I cannot imagine any Israeli government able to take the steps necessary to rein in the settler movement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for a sustainable two-state solution to be achieved. I find it hard to imagine any internal Palestinian leadership with the authority to make the compromises on the Right of Return without which no Israeli would support a peace deal. And it’s difficult to envisage any Arab leader ready to translate the Arab Peace Initiative into actionable, supportive activity.

Nor can I imagine any viable alternative to a two-state solution. I don’t think it’s realistic to think of going back to ideas such as a UN Trusteeship for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I don’t believe either side is ready seriously to contemplate an Israel-Palestine federal model, although I am intrigued at the thought of how that might offer a way into the Jerusalem issue—the seat of a federal government serving both parts of the federation. I am intrigued too—but not convinced—by the concept of separate Israeli and Palestinian governments within an overall single state—the “parallel state” model. Nor do I believe it would be feasible, or indeed right, to try to live with the new realities on the ground and offer to pay Egypt and Jordan to soak up Gaza and a rump West Bank, hoping to push the Arab world to accept a version of Greater Israel.

This might be a Jewish and Arab problem, but it is a Greek tragedy. When you put all the above rules together, they mean there cannot be a happy ending. I hope I’m wrong.

The EU, Israel and occupied territories: Guardian Letters

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 24 July 2012
It is wholly inappropriate that the EU should be announcing a strengthening of economic ties with Israel at a time when that country is expanding its illegal settlements in the West Bank and carrying out evictions and demolitions of Palestinian property (EU move to upgrade relations with Israel, 23 July).

The announcement of 60 new areas of co-operation is in stark contrast with EU rhetoric against Israeli settlement policy. It also clashes with the EU’s stated policy of linking enhancement of relations with neighbouring countries to respect for democratic principles and human rights. The quote from an Israeli official at the end of your piece perfectly sums up what the Europeans try to deny: “Both parties are finding ways to increase co-operation when it suits them.”

Christian Aid believes that illegal settlements will continue to expand unless action, such as excluding settlement trade from EU markets, is taken that backs statements of condemnation from the EU. Any consolidation or strengthening of ties should be conditional upon an end to settlement expansion.
William Bell
Policy and advocacy officer, Christian Aid

• I was outraged to read your article. The commission-proposed protocol to the Euro-Med Agreement with Israel would give Israel easier access to the EU market for exporting pharmaceutical products. Before the vote in the international trade committee, of which I am a member, the parliament asked the commission for guarantees that products from the occupied territories would not benefit from this scheme, and Labour MEPs warned the commission that any upgrade to trade relations with Israel is unacceptable while Israel continues to flout international law.

While many parliamentary groupings considered this a “technical upgrade”, it is not; it is a clear upgrade of trade relations with Israel and incompatible with international law and recent European parliament declarations denouncing the abuse of human rights in the occupied territories. It would be especially galling to allow easier access to the EU market for Israeli pharmaceutical products when Palestinians struggle for medical supplies under the Israeli-imposed blockade.
David Martin MEP
Labour, Scotland

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July 23, 2012

EDITOR: Another sign European political weakness, and of Israel’s intentions…

Today, Israel will be offered almost full membership by the EU, with extraordinary status in terms of non-member benefits. This is done despite all the hot air spouted by EU politicians over the years, speaking on the illegality of Israel’s activities in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. The fear from Washington and and from their own Jewish communities, means not a single European politician was prepared to stand up for international law!

The granting of university status to Ariel College is another snub to Europe, one which did not delay or change its intention to make Israel its favoured non-member. It is a mark of shame for European hypocrisy, and another result of the shame they feel for the events during the Holocaust, shame forever being used by Zionist leaders and PR machine to milk ever-more far reaching arrangements for Israel, despite its crimes against the Palestinians.

Ariel academic center recognized as first Israeli university beyond Green Line: Haaretz

Decision on West Bank campus made despite opposition by Israel’s Council for Higher Education.

By Talila Nesher  Jul.17, 2012
Ariel University Center August 15, 2007 (Alex Levac)

Ariel University Center Photo by Alex Levac

The Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education has decided on Tuesday to recognize the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university. The planning and budget committee of the state’s Council for Higher Education had recommended against the move.

The decision was approved by 11 members of the committee, while only two opposed it.

Hundreds of left-wing activists protested outside committee meeting, which took place at Bar Ilan University. Meretz party leader Zahava Gal-On said that granting university status to the academic center would “bring about academic boycotts of Israel.”

“The Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education, which excels in ‘occupation studies,’ has brought Israel to a moral low point by establishing an institution on stolen land which forbids those whose land was stolen to enter through its gates.”

On Sunday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced he was “paving the way” for the establishment of the first university in the West Bank by making use of “special funding.” Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar sent a letter to the chairman of the Judea and Samaria higher education council expressing his support for transforming the Ariel institute into a university.

Sa’ar expressed his support for the move although he is chairman of the state’s Council for Higher Education, which opposed the move. The 15-member Judea and Samaria education panel was established in 1997 after the state’s council refused to discuss issues involving academics in the territories. As the highest authority in the territories, the law establishing the council was signed by the commander of the Israel Defense Force’s Central Command. It states that members of the council are to be appointed by the head of Central Command, either from current or past members of the state’s Council for Higher Education.

The military commander is the final authority governing decisions by the Judea and Samaria education council, which will be the case with its decision regarding the Ariel University Center. Following political moves to annul the recommendations of the state Council for Higher Education’s planning and budget committee, the committee’s chairman, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, sent a memo to the chairman of the Judea and Samaria education council, Prof. Amos Altshuler, outlining why he believes that panel lacks the legitimacy to decide whether to recognize the Ariel institute as a university.

In the memo, which Haaretz has obtained, Trajtenberg said the panel was tainted by conflict of interest and did not meet the standard of academic scrutiny upheld in Israel and abroad. “Discussion must not be on a political-ideological basis,” Trajtenberg said, adding that this would “fatally harm academia.” “The very question as to whether the Ariel University Center is worthy/should receive recognition as a university, when asked in a manner unconnected to a broader context (planning, economics, etc. ) is very problematic and reflects at best longing for a long-gone earlier time – At worst it is a purposeful and serious deviation from an egalitarian and fair basis,” Trajtenberg wrote to Altshuler.

Trajtenberg continued that it was inconceivable that “such an essential decision be discussed and made by a body in charge of one general institution of higher education (and two teachers colleges ) out of 67 institutions [of higher learning in Israel], in which only three percent of all students are enrolled.”

Trajtenberg also pointed out that the panel which recommended the Ariel institute’s transition to a university had not been properly constituted. “In Israel, because of its small size, such committees must in almost every case consist of experts from abroad who it may be proven do not have connections to the areas under scrutiny in Israel.”

The fact that Altshuler himself had headed the panel, Trajtenberg said, “meant that there was no separation between the recommending committee (the panel ) and the body charged with deciding on the recommendation,” referring to the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education.

Trajtenberg gave as an example the possibility of establishing a medical school in Safed. “The question was not whether Bar-Ilan University (or any other institution ) would establish a medical school of its own, even if it very much wanted to, but whether the State of Israel needed another medical school. In the end, Bar-Ilan was indeed chosen, but whether before or after the fact is critical.”

Trajtenberg went on to ask: “Is it conceivable that any institution demand that it be determined whether it is ‘worthy’ of establishing an excellent center in some realm, without the above-mentioned process, without studying the need and conducting a competition? Should public money be spent in this way? Should limited resources, human and material, be used in this way?”

Trajtenberg pointed out in the document that the panel had used “only a number of narrow academic standards” and that it had “relied almost solely on materials generated by the Ariel University Center and its progress reports.”

Trajtenberg criticized Steinitz’s transfer of earmarked funds to the institution to further its recognition as a university. “These funds are nowhere near the amount required to fund a university,” Trajtenberg argued.

He added that the transfer of these funds could impinge on the funding of the rest of the country’s universities and colleges. Trajtenberg said the question was not the academic qualifications of the panel’s members, which he did not doubt, but “the mandate of the committee from the outset, and the manner of its work in light of this.”

A member of the panel, Israel Prize laureate Prof. Daniel Sperber, said he was both hurt and angered by Trajtenberg’s letter. He said that six members of the committee were “at least Israel Prize laureates, not people new to scientific scrutiny.” Sperber said “to say we did not do real work is very insulting. I don’t know what his motives are, but he had a whole year, it is in poor taste, you do not leave such a thing to the day before the decision.” Sperber said the Ariel University Center was a “magnificent institution despite the hostility toward it from certain groups.”

The committee of university heads responded that “any additional budgets should have been given to the existing research universities which have been starved for funding for years.” The Ariel University Center responded that Trajtenberg’s actions “served only the monopoly of the university heads,” and that it was Trajtenberg who was guilty of a conflict of interest. The Ariel institute also said the panel appointed by the Judea and Samaria education council had acted with Trajtenberg’s approval and that “its report proves beyond all doubt that we meet and exceed every academic requirement set for us and so it recommended recognizing us as a university.”

The university center also said Trajtenberg’s “actions were in opposition to cabinet decisions, the opinion of the deputy attorney general, to the recommendations of the Council for Higher Education and to the national interest in encouraging higher education in Israel.”

Meanwhile, Altshuler informed the 16th member of the council, National Student Union chairman and social protest leader Itzik Shmuli, that he would not be allowed to vote, because the necessary details about him were mistakenly not passed on for approval to Israel’s military commander in the West Bank, which oversees the council. In response, the National Student Union said it was concerned that Shmuli’s right to vote had been revoked because Shmuli had not stated ahead of time how he would vote, as had other members of the council.

EU move to upgrade relations with Israel

Wide-ranging boost to bilateral relations undermines Brussels over West Bank, say critics

Catherine AshtonCatherine Ashton, the EU representative for foreign and security policy, will not take part in Tuesday’s meeting with Israel. Photograph: Samrang Pring/Reuters


The EU will offer Israel upgraded trade and diplomatic relations in more than 60 areas at a high-level meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, just weeks after European foreign ministers warned that Israeli policies in the West Bank “threaten to make a two-state solution impossible”.

In advance of the annual EU-Israel Association Council on Tuesdaymeeting , a diplomatic source shared with the Guardian details of the package of benefits that will be offered to Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister.

The EU will widen its relationship with Jerusalem on a range of areas including migration, energy and agriculture. It will remove obstacles impeding Israel’s access to European government-controlled markets and enhance Israel’s co-operation with nine EU agencies, including Europol and the European Space Agency.

The wide-ranging boost to bilateral relations stops just short of the full upgrade that was frozen after Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip in January 2009.

One senior EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that despite private complaints of the inconsistency of chastising Israel with one hand while rewarding it with the other, not one minister was prepared to oppose Tuesday’s agreement.

“I was struck by the fact that a whole range of relations was offered to Israel – at the request of Israel – as if nothing is happening on the ground,” the diplomat said. “Most ministers are too afraid to speak out in case they are singled out as being too critical towards Israel, because, in the end, relations with Israel are on the one hand relations with the Jewish community at large and on the other hand with Washington – nobody wants to have fuss with Washington. So [ministers] are fine with making political statements but they refrain from taking concrete action.”

The Brussels-based bureaucrat points out that Europe‘s 500 million consumers constitute almost 60% of Israel’s trade and are an under-utilised bargaining tool.

“The only possible tool for the EU to make Israel change its behaviour is to use the weight and power of these relations,” he said. “We should be using [Tuesday’s] dialogue to get what we want, which is Israel’s compliance with its obligations under international law.”

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy, a particularly voluble critic of Israel’s expansion into the West Bank, which is illegal under international law, has taken the unusual step of delegating representation at Tuesday’s meeting to Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, the Cypriot foreign minister.

As recently as 8 June, she issued a statement deploring Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to build an additional 800 settlements in occupied territory – compensation for the 17 Israeli families the country’s high court had ordered to be removed from the Migron settlement.

“Settlement activity is detrimental to current peace efforts, including by the Quartet [the UN, EU, US and Russia], and puts those efforts at risk,” she said.

On 14 May, the EU’s 27 foreign ministers unanimously condemned Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes, its continuing settlement expansion and the rise of settler violence against Palestinians – which the UN says has leapt by 150% in the past year, largely due to the impunity of Israeli perpetrators. EU officials argue that far from a package of rewards, Tuesday’s agreement constitutes part of an existing action plan to promote co-operation, in progress since 2000. But while all 60 agreements in the package may have been discussed previously, they are being made concrete for the first time this week. In its entirety, this is the most significant package offered to Israel since the upgrade in relations was frozen.

Among the most controversial is the addition of areas of co-operation in the Agreement on Conformity, Assessment and Acceptance of industrial products, or ACAA – a deal first agreed in principle two years ago. In this agreement, the EU formally accepts for the first time the authority of Israeli ministers over goods produced in West Bank settlements.

The package also promises to “further bilateral co-operation” between Israel and key EU agencies, including the EU’s Judicial Co-operation Unit and the European Police Office.

Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, admits the EU and Israel may have their differences, but, dismissed the idea of trade sanctions as nonsensical:

“Both sides would suffer terribly if we start throwing eggs at each other. With Greece and Spain imploding, it doesn’t make sense for the EU to do anything to damage trade with anyone at this point,” Hirschson said, pointing out that two-thirds of Israel’s imports are bought from EU member states.

“The upgrade process may be frozen but both parties are finding ways to increase cooperation when it suits them,” he added.

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July 21. 2012

EDITOR: What do they know about the bombing in Bulgaria, really?

Half an hour after the bombing, Netanyahu already knew it was 1. Iran, and 2. Hizbollah who were responsible. They also knew who the bomber was… well, it seems they knew nothing, and jut spoke to make an impression on the easily-impressed. The identity of the bomber which was all buta fact yesterday, is disproved today. Not only that – there seems to be no clear information about the bombing done by Hizbollah either. This is how seriously one should take thewe announcements by Israel. Uzi Arad, a former senior intelligence chief in Israel, has made these points two days ago. First they mark the bull’s eye on the target, then they identify it…

Struggle to identify Bulgaria bus suicide bomber: BBC

Damaged buses at Burgas airportThe attack killed a total of seven people, including the suicide bomber

Officials are still struggling to identify a suicide bomber, 48 hours after he killed five Israelis and a local bus driver in Bulgaria.

CCTV footage released earlier from the attack at Burgas airport had shown a white person with long hair.

But a witness said on Friday the suspect was a dark-skinned man with short brown hair and an Arabic accent, and appeared to be wearing a wig.

Fingerprints and DNA samples from the bomber’s body are being examined.

The FBI and the CIA are working with Bulgarian investigators on the case.

On Friday, the funerals were held in Israel for the five Israelis – four men in their 20s and a pregnant woman – killed in the bombing.

‘Shaven head’

Speaking on Friday, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that 3kg (6.6lb) of TNT powder had been used in the attack.

He said the bomber was not thought to be a Bulgarian citizen, and that investigators had ruled out Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen and former Guantanamo inmate, who was mentioned earlier as a possible suspect.

The suspect tried to hire a car in the days before the bombing, but was turned down because of doubts about his driving licence photo, according to police and the car rental firm.

The attacker had a fake driving licence from the US state of Michigan. According to the AFP news agency, it was registered under the name of Jacque Felipe Martin of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, born in 1987.

Afrodita Petrova, from the car rental company, said: “He had an almost shaven head… His hair was brown.”

The suspect is thought to have been in Bulgaria for up to a week

She said that he was of Arabic appearance, had dark skin and spoke English with an Arabic accent. He also had a lot of money in 500-euro (£390; $610) notes and appeared upset.

Speaking to Bulgarian national TV, she insisted the man was the same person shown in the CCTV footage released by the authorities, and looked like he was wearing a wig.

The footage showed a man going in and out of the terminal, wearing a baseball cap over long blonde hair and carrying a bulky backpack.

Officials believe the backpack carried the bomb which was later placed in the luggage compartment of the tourist bus.

Prosecutors said on Friday that they now believe the man to be short-haired, but that it was unclear whether he was wearing a wig or had a haircut after the footage was taken, AP reported.

Victims buried

On Friday, the funerals were held in Israel for the five Israelis killed.

Family and friends mourn as Kochava Shriki, 44, who was killed in an attack in Bulgaria, is buried at a cemetery in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv July 20, 2012The funeral of Kochava Shriki, who was pregnant with her first child, was held in Rishon Lezion

The victims were childhood friends Yitzik Kolengi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 27; Kochava Shriki, a 42-year-old woman who had recently become pregnant after years of fertility treatments; and friends Maor Harush, 26, and Elior Price, 24.

In a phone call to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, US President Barack Obama called the attack “barbaric” and offered support for the Bulgarian investigation.

Israel blames Iran and the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah for the blast, in which another 30 people were injured.

Iran responded on Thursday by saying it strongly condemned “all terrorist acts”. Hezbollah has not publicly commented on the issue.

US Department of Defence spokesman George Little said on Friday that the attack bore “some of the hallmarks of Hezbollah” but that the Pentagon was “not in a position to make any final determination”.

However, a US intelligence source quoted by AP said there was “a high degree of confidence” that the group carried out the attack.

The BBC’s Jon Donnison, in Jerusalem, says the attack could be part of a covert but violent war between Israel and Iran. There is a view among some analysts that it could be a response to a series of recent attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.

Israeli officials have stressed that the bombing resembled several recent attempted attacks on Israeli targets in India, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Kenya and Cyprus.

Bulgaria is a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

Bulgaria interior minister: No proof yet terrorist sent by Hezbollah: Haaretz

Denies media reports of terrorist’s identity, says DNA samples yet to reveal truth; Bulgarian police ups security.

By Yaniv Kubovich Jul.21, 2012

The damaged bus following the suicide attack on Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, Bulgaria.

The damaged bus following the suicide attack on Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, Bulgaria, July 19, 2012.Photo by AP

Three days following the Burgas attack, and it seems that at the local airport things are back to normal. As a result of the bombing Wednesday, Bulgarian police increased its presence, checking every vehicle entering the airport and limiting access to certain parts of the terminal.

The numerous Israelis in Burgas, mostly youths on holiday ahead of their army draft, seem to have returned to routine. If at first they were dealing with the implications of the suicide bombing, today Israeli tourists were preoccupied by the broken promises given to them by their travel agents.

Bulgarian authorities are focusing now on investigating the bombing and assisting international investigators who are probing the incident. Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who is in charge of the investigation, spends his time denying rumors spreading in the international media.

“In the last 48 hours we have gathered a lot of information that could bring progress to the investigation,” Tsvetanov told reporters on Friday. “Experts are gathering the information and we are sharing it with all relevent parties,” noting also the strong cooperation between Bulgaria and Israel.

Tsvetanov said the identity of the terrorist is still unclear, despite media reports that have made claims regarding the suicide bomber’s name. “[The terrorist] was not in Guantanamo and there is no proof that he was sent by Hezbollah,” Tsvetanov said, adding that caution should be taken when dealing with any information not approved by Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry.

“It is important for us to understand from whence he entered Bulgaria and for how long he was in the state prior to the attack. We know he was in Bulgaria for at least four days. We also don’t know as yet whether he had accomplices or whether he acted alone.”

DNA samples taken from the terrorist’s body were sent to U.S. intelligence agencies, but, as yet, no match has been found with any former Guantanamo detainees. Information was also sent to Interpol and was distributed to police forces around the world. Until now, no states have been able to identify the terrorist.

In addition to DNA samples of the terrorist, samples of the explosives used in the attack were taken in an attempt to link it with previous attacks. Finding a match may point to the people responsible for the attack. The terrorist was carrying about 3 kilograms of explosives.

On Friday, Bulgarian television reported that a man aiding the terrorist might still be in Burgas, while also presenting a facial composite of the suspect. However, there was no trace of the report in the morning newspapers.

“We have received no information regarding this matter. If there really is a terrorist wandering around here we must know,” Rabbi Haim Tavardovitch of the local Beit Chabad said. Some 200 Israelis arrived at the house, where Shabbat dinner is offered at no charge. The place was guarded by a few local policemen.

Moshe Silman dies after self-immolation at Israeli protest: Haaretz

The Israeli social protester was suffering from second and third-degree burns on 94 percent of his body after he set himself on fire at a protest in Tel Aviv last week.

By Revital Hovel and Dan Even  Jul.20, 2012

Moshe Silman at a social protest in Haifa. Photo by Hagai Frid

Moshe Silman, the Israeli activist who set himself on fire during a social justice protest in Tel Aviv one week ago, succumbed to his wounds on Friday at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

SIlman was suffering from second and third-degree burns on 94 percent of his body.

From Friday morning, activists and close friends of Silman were informed by his family that he was in his last hours. His family wanted to be surrounded by close friends, and announced that they would sit Shiva, the seven-day mourning period of an immediate family member required by Judaism, in the house of his sister in Rishon Letzion, where a mourner’s tent would be set up.

The  57-year-old son of Holocaust survivors, did not have an easy start. He lived alone, and according to friends, tried to get ahead in life and live in dignity. But a small debt to the National Insurance Institute grew and sent him into an economic and bureaucratic tailspin that ended in self-immolation Saturday night on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street in front of the cameras.

“Moshe was simply not willing for the State of Israel to run him over anymore,” a friend said.

Silman’s friends were not surprised to hear what he did. The decision to set himself on fire because the state would not help him overcome his economic difficulties was in character for him, they said, especially considering his despair. “There was protest in his soul,” said a friend who went to rallies with Silman in Haifa. “He waited for it to break out and was glad when it did,” the friend added.

Two years ago Silman moved from Bat Yam to Haifa. As his economic situation deteriorated he became more and more involved in the protests in Haifa. The activists he met at the protest tent on the Carmel last summer became his best friends. “He was a man of action. He said you have to be political and get elected anywhere possible,” said Yossi Baruch, a Haifa activist.

According to friends, Silman lives in a neglected two-room apartment on the edge of the poor Wadi Salib area of the city. The refrigerator is empty. The neighbors do not know him at all.

Friends say he believes in action and took his belief to the extreme. He was born in Israel, and has two sisters, Bat Zion Elul from Rishon Letzion and Naomi Angel, a member of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. Angel would visit him in Haifa from time to time, always bringing food. Elul said yesterday of her brother: “He was in despair. He was mired in debt. Until the last moment we helped him. But he didn’t want it. Since the day he lost everything, the day they took everything, the house, his trucks, the money, my parents’ house, he has been going downhill.”

Silman never married and had no children and so his request for public housing was repeatedly denied. He worked at odd jobs and spent a few years in the United States. On his return, he established a messenger service and things finally began to look up. But then, toward the end of 2000, his business was hurt by the outbreak of the second intifada. He moved the business to a smaller warehouse and his office to his home in Jaffa. It later turned out that the National Insurance Institute’s debt notices never reached him, because they were sent to his former address. In 2002, the institute seized one of the four trucks he used for his company. The reason: a debt of NIS 15,000. Silman paid a third of the debt to reclaim his truck, but then he was asked to pay a further NIS 1,200 to cover towing expenses. Silman could not reclaim the truck due to a strike at the institute, and says that it led to the business’ collapse. Later, in 2005, he was forced to evacuate his apartment.

A history of court battles

Together with his mother, Sarah, Silman decided in 2008 to sue the National Insurance Institute. He and his mother claimed damages of NIS 8 million because of the seizure of his trucks that he said led to the loss of his business. But to file the suit he needed to pay a court fee, which he said he could not afford.

The court turned down his request to waive the fee and the case was never heard. The court registrar called Silman’s claim “baseless.” Silman appealed the decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, but it was turned down in 2010.

In a Facebook post last March, Silman urged his friends to organize protests against the institute: “I think that considering the upcoming appointment of a new director general of the NII, which is actually the Anti-Social National Insurance Institute, which has throughout the years caused the most cases of injustice by any governmental service to the weakest segments of society − and continues to do so daily − we should organize protests in front of NII offices,” he wrote.

Silman began working as a taxi driver, but made very little money, according to an affidavit and documents, submitted with his damages claim against the institute. Meanwhile, as his financial situation worsened, his bank account was seized, and all his savings and insurance benefits were either seized or used to pay his debts, estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels. Silman’s mother, a guarantor of his debts, was also left without savings. In order to save her apartment, she legally transferred it to her daughters, free of charge. The court registrar who rejected Silman’s plea to be exempt from the court fee to file his damages suite wrote: “Someone who used this route of property smuggling cannot be heard afterward saying that he cannot pay the court fee.”

After losing his driver’s license because of his debts, his health began to deteriorate. The NII assessed his loss of ability to work at 50 percent and gave him only a limited allowance. Avri Raviv, who went with Silman several times to the institute said: “Like the cliche says, the handwriting was on the wall. Silman threatened suicide more than once to them. The representative of the psychiatric committee told me that people who threaten, don’t do it.”

But then, last summer’s social protest put wind in Silman’s sails. He began to participate regularly in rallies and became well known in Haifa’s small activist community. Idit Lev, who was one of the people closest to him, said: “He was always trying to turn over one stone and then another, to see if he could move ahead somehow.”

He spent his days looking for work, in endless lines at the health maintenance organization and in attempts to fight the Housing Ministry for help with rent. He filed four such applications with attorney Becky Cohen-Keshet, all of which were rejected on the grounds that he once owned an apartment and had no children. A fellow activist said after Silman set fire to himself Saturday night: “Moshe chose to harm himself in protest. It’s terrible when a person has to commit an act like that to explain their situation to people.”


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July 19, 2012

EDITOR: Israel harvests the storm

It seems that Israel is not the only one which can murder people abroad with impunity. Below Uzi Arad explains how Israel profligate extra-judicial killings now bring the blood back home. Have they learnt from this? The hell they did. They are now bent on attacking both Iran AND Syria!

Ex-official: Israel targeted Hezbollah army chief and Iran is fighting back: Haaretz

Speaking to Army Radio, former National Security Adviser Uzi Arad says Netanyahu’s cabinet must adopt a broader strategy in dealing with Tehran, that would take into account Iran’s ability to strike back.

By Haaretz | Jul.19, 2012 | 9:30 AM

Dr. Uzi Arad

Dr. Uzi Arad. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

Israel was the aggressor when it chose to target Hezbollah’s military chief Imad Mughniye in 2008, putting Iran on the defensive, and Iran knows how to defend, former National Security Adviser Uzi Arad said on Thursday, a day after an attack on an tour bus filled with Israelis in Bulgaria.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apparently supported by detailed intelligence, immediately blamed Iran for the terror attack on Israelis in Bulgaria, that let eight people dead, possibly including a suspected suicide bomber.

Speaking to Army Radio on Thursday, Arad criticized Israel’s general strategy in dealing with the Iranian threat, saying that it was an “active player” in the confrontation, and that it had to manage the risks it was knowingly taking.

Arad also referred to the 2008 assassination of the top Hezbollah official, which the Lebanese militant group has blamed on Israel, and for which Israel has never explicitly taken responsibility.

“We hit Imad Mughniye, we’re the aggressors. Iran is on the defensive, and they know how to defend,” the former top security official said, saying that Israel’s leaders had to adopt a broader strategy that would enable Israel to defend itself from Iranian attacks.

Arad’s comments to Army Radio came after Former United States Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on Wednesday that he believed Israel was poised to launch a direct attack on Iran in the wake of yesterday’s terrorist bombing in Bulgaria.

Appearing on Fox News, Bolton said Netanyahu’s unequivocal accusation that Iran is responsible for the attack “gives every indication” that such an attack is in offing. Bolton went even further, saying that by not mentioning Hezbollah, Netanyahu was “very clearly saying that Israel will not just respond proportionately but will go after several facilities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”

Israel, U.S. discuss possibility of IDF strike against Syria, report says: Haaretz

Administration officials speaking to the New York Times say Washington isn’t currently advocating such a measure, since officials fear it would bolster Assad.

By Haaretz | Jul.19, 2012 | 9:56 AM

violence syria Homs

A bombed house in Homs, Syria. Photo by AP

U.S. security officials have discussed with their Israeli counterparts the possibility that Israel could strike Syria’s weapons facilities, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing administration officials.

The report came after several top U.S. officials arrived in Israel for talks in recent weeks, including National Security Adviser Tom Dinilon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On Wednesday, administration officials told the New York Times that Pentagon officials discussed whether or not Israel might move to destroy Syrian weapons facilities, as part of a larger Syria strategy.

According to the officials, Washington is not advocating such an attack, because of the inherent risks such a move would bring, and because it would, the report said give “an Assad an opportunity to rally support against Israeli interference.”

The Syria issue was included in the discussions between Donilon and Israeli officials, a White House official told the New York Times.

The report came hours after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that the situation in Syria is “spinning out of control,” adding that President Bashar Assad’s government would be held responsible if it failed to safeguard its chemical weapons sites.

Syria’s defense minister and Assad’s brother-in-law were killed in a Damascus suicide bomb attack carried out by a bodyguard on Wednesday, the most serious blow to the president’s high command in the country’s 16-month-old rebellion.

“This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control,” Panetta said, adding that the international community needed to “bring maximum pressure on President Bashar Assad to do what’s right, to step down and allow for that peaceful transition.”

Panetta’s comments to a Pentagon news conference followed closed door talks with his British counterpart, Defense Secretary Philip Hammond. Hammond, speaking alongside Panetta, said he believed the situation in Syria was deteriorating and “becoming more and more unpredictable.”

The Damascus attack, Hammond said, showed the country’s growing instability as the violence gets closer to the heart of the government.

“I think what we’re seeing is an opposition which is emboldened, clearly an opposition which has access increasingly to weaponry, probably some fragmentation around the edges of the regime as well,” he told reporters.

Bulgaria blast: ‘Suicide bomber’ killed Israelis: BBC

The BBC’s Jon Donnison says there is a feeling that the attack is part of a covert war between Israel and Iran

The bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in eastern Bulgaria was probably carried out by a male suicide bomber with fake US documents, officials say.

At least eight people died and 34 were injured when the bus exploded at Burgas airport, by the Black Sea.

Israel has sent planes to Burgas with doctors and officials to bring back the dead and injured.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Lebanese Hezbollah was the direct perpetrator, under Iran’s auspices.

The BBC’s Jon Donnison, in Jerusalem, says the attack could be part of a covert but violent war between Israel and Iran, and there is a view among some analysts that this attack could be a response to a series of recent attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.

We had just sat down when after a few seconds we heard a really loud explosion. The whole bus went up in flames”

Gal MalkaBus passenger

“All the signs lead to Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahusaid in a statement on Wednesday. “Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror.”

Mr Barak said the attack resembled several recent attempted attacks on Israeli targets in India, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Kenya and Cyprus.

But he said that he did not think there had been any specific prior information that the attack was imminent.

‘Distressed crowds’

The Israeli foreign ministry said the bus was carrying tourists from a charter flight that arrived from Israel.

The BBC’s Chris Morris, in Sofia, said a Bulgarian official has told the BBC that CCTV footage from the airport shows a Caucasian male hanging about for some time in the airport terminal building before the explosion took place. The man is seen leaving the terminal shortly before the blast happened just outside.

Investigators are working on the theory that this man is the bomber, the official said.

Israeli officials said passengers from a Tel Aviv-Burgas flight boarded the bus shortly after 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

“I was on the bus and we had just sat down when after a few seconds we heard a really loud explosion,” Gal Malka told Israel’s army radio.

“The whole bus went up in flames,” she said, adding that the explosion took place near the front of the bus.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak claimed Lebanese Hezbollah was the perpetrator, under Iran’s auspices

Bulgarian journalist Dobromir Dovkacharov, who arrived at the scene about 30 minutes after the blast, said: “I saw three buses completely burnt out – just the metal bars were left.

“There were crowds of people around, very distressed. One man said he saw decapitated heads. Others spoke of body parts flying through the air,” Mr Dovkacharov said.

Six tourists died, along with two others, one of them the Bulgarian bus driver.

The eighth fatality is now thought to be the suicide bomber, a man with a Michigan-issued US driver’s licence which reports said may have been fake.

Two of the wounded are in a serious condition and have been flown to the capital Sofia.

Israeli forensic teams who arrived during the night are helping to identify the bodies.

Wednesday’s blast came on the 18th anniversary of a deadly attack on a Jewish community centre in Argentina. Israel blamed Iran for that attack – a claim denied by Tehran.

US President Barack Obama described the bombing as a “barbaric terrorist attack”.

Bulgaria is a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

However, in January there were reports that Israel had asked Bulgaria to tighten security for Israeli tourists travelling by bus.

This followed a reported discovery of a suspicious package found on a bus with Israeli tourists travelling from Turkey to Bulgaria.

Netanyahu wants to turn the Israeli intelligence failure over Bulgaria into an excuse to strike Iran: Haaretz

ANALYSIS: The prime minister is trying to turn the failure to prevent the deadly attack into an accomplishment – two hours after the fact he was saying ‘all signs lead to Iran.’
By Amir Oren    Jul.19, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Amit Shavi

The attack in Burgas is a failure for Israeli intelligence. This is not an accusation, but a fact of life that is part of the difficult reality of constantly fighting terrorism and the nations and organizations that support it.

That there are successes and failures are the nature of such a struggle; though there are more gains, the few failures come at a price.

Had the Israeli intelligence – aided by local services – not failed in exposing and foiling the plot, the Counter Terrorism Bureau (which is part of the prime minister’s office) would have issued a travel warning under the name “Bulgaria,” to be disseminated worldwide.

Barring such a warning, and with no heightened security in Burgas, it is safe to assume that those who planned and executed the attack managed to conceal their activities – intelligence gathering ahead of the operation, training a suicide bomber or an operative to plant the explosives, and smuggling weapons.

Israel is not alone in these kinds of failures. The intelligence and security apparatus surrounding Bashar Assad – who knows he’s being targeted – has been breached (even if it only his aides who have been hurt.)  A suspicious, professional and counter-intelligence savvy man such as Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, who was snared precisely the same way Syrians managed to assassinate Bashir Gemayel thirty years ago.

If the core of Assad’s struggling regime is breached – by one of it own loyalists – one can’t blame Israel for detecting a breach in its security net – what proved to be a lethal hole – in a foreign country.

And yet Benjamin Netanyahu, for his own reasons, is trying to turn the failure into an accomplishment. Two hours after the attack, he was saying that “all signs lead to Iran.”

Naturally, this is a well-founded suspicion; but from a prime minister – as opposed to a commentator – one expects a little more proof. And until he has proof, Netanyahu is talking about a worldwide pattern “in recent months” and the 18th anniversary of attack on Jewish community in Buenos Aires (which did not justify, in his eyes, a heightened alert concerning terror attacks). The conclusion: “This is an Iranian terror attack.” The aspiration that follows: “Israel will react forcefully to Iranian terror.”

Even if Netanyahu’s wish comes true, and evidence to Iran’s responsibility is found, it would not justify moving beyond the shadow war of what appears to be mutual terror attacks and onto a big war, the one that according to Ehud Barak would only take the lives of 500 Israelis – all in all, Burgas times 70.

Netanyahu and Barak are eager to deploy IDF forces on an attack mission targeting nuclear facilities in Iran. They lack a convincing excuse, since the Iranians have not yet decided whether to manufacture nuclear weapons, and U.S. President Barack Obama is busy with other things until November – issues that could only be sidetracked by the sounds of explosions in the Persian Gulf.

Mitt Romney, who Netanyahu’s benefactor Sheldon Edelson wishes to usher into the White House, looks like he’s going to lose. An Israeli-Iranian war, one that would pose significant economic threats – is the last hope harbored by Obama’s rivals.

Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz and his contingent, recently exiled from the coalition, are itching to redeem themselves after being exposed as vulnerbale, by scratching away at Netanyahu’s and Barak’s steadfast political support.

The impending Knesset recess, however, leading up to the elections which will take place in early 2013, is likely to instill Barak and Netanyahu with renewed strength.

There will be much temptation to create a serious of incitements and counters, and during the third phase, after an Iranian retaliation for an Israeli retaliation, the jets will take off for the east.

If it happens quickly, Netanyahu and Barak will be spared having to deal with two bothersome events set for August, the second evacuation of some thirty people from Migron, and the first IDF call up for ultra-Orthodox conscripts.

Heightened American activities near the Persian Gulf, and military policy, like sending National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and General James Mattis of “USCENTCOM” or central command, for talks with senior officials in Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region, show that Obama is not subscribing to the doctrine of keeping quiet until the elections.

Talks that took place on Wednesday night between Barak and his American counterpart Leon Panetta, who is scheduled to visit Israel and the Middle East, did not necessarily calm the government.

Further talks are expected between Obama himself, or one of his agents, Vice President Joe Biden, or Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Netanyahu.

Officially, talks of condolences over Burgas. In reality, a warning about Iran.

As in Lebanon in 1982, Iran is a war looking for an excuse. The “Belli” is ready; It only needs the “Causus.” Netanyahu and Barak must not be allowed to find them in Burgas.

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July 18, 2012

EDITOR: Israel moves inexorably towards full annexation of the West Bank

Through a range of ‘legal’ illegal means, Israel has been quietly moving towards annexation of the West Bank areas under its control. The granting of university status to the Ariel College is just the latest of such moves. It seems clear now that the Netanyahu regime has taken a long-term decision to make the de-facto, illegal occupation of the West Bank into a de jura reality. While this will not change the situation on the ground, it will further facilitate the stealing of land, the the rule of the Wild West of settler’s jungle, the daily oppression and deprivations of ordinary Palestinians – it will make the occupation into permanent annexation. This is only likely to harden positions in Palestine, and to drive most Palestinians away from the PA and its collaborationist politics.

In Israel, also, this will further divide the already deeply divided society, riven by social injustice and inequality. A gain for the settlers is a loss for all other Israelis, and this will feed into the fractious politics of Israel, in all probability further strengthening the right. Not a nice prediction for the immediate future, of course, but the most likely to take place. With the Haredi conscription controversy serving Netanyahu as a perfect decoy, taking the national debate away from the occupation and social justice, and sapping the protest movement of any ounce of energy it still has, he is in perfect control of this deeply divided society.

News elsewhere is little better – in Terri Ginsberg’s article below, you can read of the ‘faustian pact’ between US universities and Zionism, with the support of the US administration. While this is a shameful narrative indeed, the forces against this are now moving, at last. The successes of the boycott campaign are clear evidence for the change in international opinion. So, while governments in the west are totally committed to Israeli aggressive politics, the public sphere is undergoing a deep sea change.

Israel’s first settlement university stirs controversy: BBC

By Yolande Knell, BBC News, Jerusalem

Ariel University Centre of Samaria

Israeli officials have taken the highly controversial step of creating the first university in a settlement in the West Bank.

A higher education council for the occupied territory decided in favour of the upgrade for the college in Ariel, after it was recommended by Israel’s education minister.

It is being seen as a significant victory for the settler movement.

However many Israeli academics and the Palestinians have condemned the move.

Settlements are considered illegal under international law although Israel disputes this. Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank.

The change in status for Ariel University Centre of Samaria is seen as giving it greater legitimacy and further permanence.

“Today should be a celebration day,” the mayor and founder of Ariel, Ron Nachman, told the BBC. “Another university is born. Thirteen-thousand students will become students of a new university. Ariel is a university city.”

“I hope our battle will be finished by this victory,” he added.

The Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities had opposed the change in status for the Ariel institution.

More than 1,000 Israeli academics also signed a petition against it.

“We are against the attempt by the government of Israel to use academic institutions to further a political agenda which we are very much against, which is the establishment of the settlements and the occupation as a permanent thing in Israel,” said Nir Gov of the Weizmann Institute of Science, who launched the initiative.

He fears that creating a university in Ariel could lead to new academic boycotts and jeopardise international funding and research cooperation.

Difficult decision-making

Earlier this month the planning and budget committee of the regular Higher Education Council voted not to grant the existing Ariel college university status.

It cited academic reasons saying that there was no justification for creating a new university in Israel while existing ones were suffering from insufficient resources.

Ariel construction
Ariel is one of the largest settlements Israel has built in the West Bank

However Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz then pledged to earmark special funds for the institution on top of the existing budget for universities.

Education Minister Gideon Saar also declared his support for a university in Ariel to the Higher Education Council for Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].

This body has jurisdiction in the territory because it is under military control. On Tuesday, it voted in favour of the change.

Israel’s military commander for the region will be the final authority to sign off on the decision.

Speaking to the BBC, the Israeli Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann stated that there was “a really strong need” for an upgraded institution in Ariel.

He was a member of a committee that evaluated the performance of the Ariel University Centre.

“I was very impressed by the quality of the place as an academic institution and I think Israel needs another university,” said Mr Aumann, a mathematician.

“The last time when an additional university was added to the roster of Israeli universities was in 1972. At the time the population was three and a quarter million. The population of Israel today is almost eight million.”

‘Obstacle to peace’

The Palestinians view the Israeli decision to create a university in Ariel as a significant setback.

They want the West Bank to be part of their future state and consider the settlements as an obstacle to peace.

“Unfortunately Israel is making it clear that it’s not interested in ending the occupation. By continuing these trends it is making it almost impossible to get to a two-state solution,” said Xavier Abu Eid of the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department.

“It’s also important to say that while Israel is building a new institution for students in the West Bank, there are Palestinian students from Gaza who are not allowed to study in the West Bank.”

“West Bank students cannot study in Jerusalem and students all over the occupied territories face increasing problems getting to their educational sites,” Mr Abu Eid said.

The Ariel institution is open to all Israel citizens including Arabs. However like other Israeli universities, it closes admissions to Palestinians in the West Bank.

The new university has existed as an educational establishment for some 30 years. In 2005, the government of Ariel Sharon said that it saw national importance in upgrading Ariel college to a university. Its name was then changed to “university centre”.

Kadima quits Israel government over conscription law: BBC

Shaul Mofaz (centre) arrives at a meeting of Kadima MPs (11 July 2012)Shaul Mofaz said there was “no choice” but to end Kadima and Likud’s 70-day partnership

Israel’s Kadima party has left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in a dispute over military conscription for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, had only joined the coalition in May to avoid an early election.

But it failed to reach an agreement with Mr Netanyahu’s Likud on replacing the Tal Law, under which seminary students can defer military service.

In February, the Supreme Court declared that the law was unconstitutional.

‘Deep regret’

The prime minister held meetings with Kadima MPs earlier on Tuesday in an effort to convince them to remain in his governing coalition.

He is reported to have proposed that 50% of ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredim, between the ages of 18 and 23 would be drafted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and another 50% would be drafted into operational civil service between the ages of 23 and 26.

But Mr Mofaz rejected the idea and later called a party meeting, where all but three MPs voted to leave the government.

“It is with deep regret that I say that there is no choice but to decide to leave the government,” Mr Mofaz said afterwards.

He added: “Netanyahu’s proposal contradicts the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice, does not conform to the principle of equality, is disproportionate and does not meet the tests of effectiveness that are set down in the Supreme Court’s ruling, or the principles of the committee on equalising the burden of IDF service.”

An alternative to the Tal Law must be passed by the end of July.

Mr Netanyahu meanwhile denied reports that he would call an early general election once the Knesset returned from its summer recess.

“Since the government was formed, people are always warning that there will be elections,” he said. “There will be elections in the end because the law requires it. You have to be ready because elections could be initiated at any given moment. But wait patiently. They could be held in 2013.”

The end of the Knesset’s current term is in October 2013.

Disney family member renounces her investments in Israel’s Ahava Cosmetics: IOA

16 JULY 2012

By Amira Hass, Haaretz – 16 July 2012

Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Company with his brother Walt, disclaims Ahava investment due to its location in an ‘Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.’

Abigail Disney, a descendant of one of the Disney Company founders, said Monday that she is renouncing her share of the family’s profits in the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, saying it is engaged in the “exploitation of occupied natural resources.”

Disney said she will donate the profits and a sum equal to the worth of her shares to “organizations working to end this illegal exploitation.” Disney, 52, a filmmaker and businesswoman, is the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Company with his brother Walt.

Her move, however, has more of a symbolic significance than a financial one. Shamrock Holdings, the family firm in which she is a partner, has invested heavily in Israel, as evidenced by the wide-ranging activity of its Israeli affiliate, Shamrock Israel.

According to various media reports, Shamrock has invested some $400 million in Israeli companies, about a fifth of its capital. Among its holdings is an investment worth at least $12 million in Ahava, which is based in Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem on the Dead Sea shores, outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

“Recent evidence from the Israeli Civil Administration documents that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories sources mud used in its products from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea, which is in direct contravention to provisions in the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Convention forbidding the exploitation of occupied natural resources,” Disney said in a statement released after informing her family and partners of her decision.

“Because of complicated legal and financial constraints, I am unable to withdraw my investment at this time, but will donate the corpus of the investment as well as the profits accrued to me during the term of my involvement to organizations working to end this illegal exploitation,” she said.

One of Israel’s best known brands overseas, Ahava makes skin care products derived from Dead Sea mud and mineral-based compounds from the Dead Sea. It has stores in Israel, Germany, Hungary, the Philippines and Singapore.

Disney’s reference to “evidence from the Israeli Civil Administration” relates to a letter received from the Civil Administration by the Who Profits From the Occupation research project. In the letter the Civil Administration confirmed that the military government had issued a permit to Ahava allowing it to take mud from the area adjacent to the Dead Sea captured by Israel in 1967. Until two months ago, Disney had been deputy chairman of Shamrock Holdings, which was founded in 1978 by her father Roy E. Disney. The firm bought a 17 percent stake in Ahava in 2008. Ahava representatives said the investment gave them capital to expand overseas, particularly in the United States.

Shamrock also has a stake in the Teva Naot footwear company, which is located in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, and in the Orad company, which makes, among other things, control and monitoring technology for the separation barrier running through the West Bank.

Disney, who has a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, began making documentary films in 2007. Together with her husband, Pierre Hauser, Disney is co-founder and co-president of the Daphne Foundation, which makes grants to grassroots, community-based organizations working with low-income communities in New York City and describes itself as “progressive and seeking social change.”

Abir Kopty: Israel’s civil service bill distorts 64 years of Palestinian history: IOA

11 JULY 2012

By Abir Kopty, The National – 11 July 2012

A new bill is being debated in the Israeli Knesset: compulsory civil service for all citizens, including Palestinians and ultra-Orthodox Jews, the two groups that have been exempt. If passed, the bill would force every 18-year-old citizen who is exempted from military service to serve in another public institution for between one and two years.

Recently, the committee appointed by the government to discuss the issue suggested civil service for all. Whether that becomes compulsory will probably be determined this week.In 2008, about 250,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel signed a petition rejecting compulsory civil service, the largest such petition in history, and a wide coalition of youth groups and civil society organisations have campaigned against the service under the motto: “We won’t serve our oppressor.”

As Palestinians and as citizens, we have every reason to revolt against the state. Our tools in the international arena remain limited. Since the Oslo Accords, the PLO stopped advocating for the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the international community remains incapable of challenging Israel’s “internal affairs”.

For decades, we have conducted our struggle, by ourselves, for the rights of our people: equality, freedom and return. We demonstrate, lobby, campaign, sign petitions, appeal to Israeli courts and produce reports. In the past, we have challenged particular policies within a system that we never believed would treat us equally. This civil service bill might be an opportunity to challenge the whole system.

Israel promotes meaningless soundbites on the issue: “taking equal part in the state’s burden”, or “citizens should volunteer”. But our opposition involves our relationship with the state since its creation, our Nakba in 1948.

Despite 64 years of Israeli attempts to wipe us off the map, to destroy and distort our identity, to erase the history of the land, we managed to remain, maintain our identity, and revive our narrative, culture and unity. Unsurprisingly, this effort has always been seen by the Israeli government as a threat.

Mandatory civil service for Palestinians is a continuation of our longstanding struggle. It is another attempt to remove young people from their identity and bring them closer to the system, and, in the long term, to the military doctrine. Gabi Ashknazi, the former Israeli military chief explained in 2010: he wanted to see “all citizens age 18 coming to one hall” with the military given first choice about who would fit into the army and who would not. Those that didn’t make the cut will be obligated to do other kinds of civil service.

Israel intends to use this project to shift the discussion away from its responsibility to guarantee equality for all citizens. It aims to justify its racist system by putting the onus of 64 years of discrimination on Palestinians for not fulfilling their obligations to the state.

However, there are at least two lingering questions that challenge this claim: how would the government explain that the Druze community in Israel does compulsory military service but does not enjoy full equality with their Jewish military “comrades”? And why have ultra-Orthodox Jews been exempted from military and civil service but receive government funds?

In the liberal democratic concept of citizenship, the rights of citizens are absolute. Obligations according to the same concept are defined mainly as paying taxes and respecting the law. Palestinians fulfil those obligations. However, Israel is now trying to attach rights to only one duty: civil service.

During this discussion on civil service, the Palestinian community was not consulted or involved in decision making on an issue that affects our basic rights, as is required by international law.

At the same time, the civil service campaign has attempted to portray Palestinians as passive citizens who do not want to volunteer and serve our communities.

However, large numbers of Palestinian youth volunteer in numerous civil society organisations where they are welcomed with no loyalty tests, but on the basis of a set of universal values. The challenges we face in promoting volunteerism among young people are similar to those in most societies, especially in an era of wild consumerism and the “NGO-isation” of civil society.

Israel’s patronising attitude that it knows what is best and its claim to care for the Palestinian minority’s interest are ridiculous in light of the continued discrimination in all aspects of life. Israel should be investing the huge civil-service administration budget in our education system, building the missing 8,000 classrooms in Arab schools, as well as investing in industrial zones in Arab cities and developing the 45 unrecognised villages in the Negev. The list goes on and on.

To most Palestinians, compulsory civil service lacks any positive aspect. Based on our long and painful experience with the state, we have all the reasons to refuse this patronising attitude. If the bill passes, it will be a historic opportunity for collective civil disobedience challenging the whole system. Civil service would not be the cause; it would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Abir Kopty is a former city council member of the Nazareth municipality, and the former spokesperson for Mossawa, an advocacy centre for Palestinian citizens in Israel

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July 15, 2012

EDITOR: Now Israel gets its own martyr of the social struggle

It had now come to that: An Israeli man burns himself in public, as did people before him in other countries, and recently, in Tunisia. The difference is that after more than a year of mass protest, the struggle in Israel has nothing to show in the way of successes – the situation is even worse than it was a year ago! While most Israelis find it difficult to survive in dignity, the economy is growing, the multi-billionaires are getting richer, and the government is diverting the public into mock issues such as the Iran threat and the Haredi refusal to serve in the Occupation Army.

Between Tunisia and Israel: A personal tragedy becomes the symbol of Israel’s social struggle: Haaretz

The tragic act of Moshe Silman setting himself on fire during a social protest reflects the depth of the gaping chasm between the people and the government.
By Or Kashti     | Jul.15, 2012

Israeli man sets himself on fire during Tel Aviv social protest, July 14, 2012. Photo by AFP

The desperation that led Haifa resident Moshe Silman to set himself on fire on Saturday night in Tel Aviv, exactly one year after the first tents were erected on Rothschild Boulevard, is a tragic example of the depth of the gaping chasm between the people and the government, a break in the making for years, and has been on full display since last July.

Government spokesmen will most definitely claim that Saturday night’s tragedy does not reflect the general situation in the country, which they’ll say is constantly improving. They’ll say that over the past year, they have been more attentive than ever to the plight of the people.

The letter left behind by Moshe Silman depicts a piercing reality that unfortunately is not unique to him: A monthly allowance of NIS 2,300, no money to pay for medication or rent, and “I can’t even live month to month. I won’t be homeless, and so I am protesting.”

Those are the words of a man with no choice left but to set himself on fire, in a last-ditch attempt to show the world how desperate his situation is.

In Tunisia it was Mohamed Bouazizi, the vendor that set himself on fire and brought the protests there into worldwide focus in December 2010. Will Bouazizi’s Israeli equivalent inspire the government to do some soul searching? Will he inspire some kind of rehabilitation for the system that pushed him to this terrible act? Most likely, an “investigational committee” will be opened. It is already possible to guess the outcome of the investigation – the system worked the way it was supposed to.

Perhaps the idea of independent investigation is naïve, though we must not give in to this notion.  We must demand change, through more protests and rallies, and expand upon the basic questions. For example, the waiting list for public housing.

Bouazizi, we must remember, did not set himself on fire to bring Democracy to Tunisia. It was an act of protest directed at Sidi Bouzid municipality officials, who confiscated his mobile produce stand. The subsequent protests proved to be unstoppable, not in Tunisia, nor anywhere else. Facing protests of this nature, the government best keep quiet.

The tragedy of Silman’s act stresses the principle questions facing the socioeconomic policy in practice in Israel over the last 30 years. For years Israel has not been a welfare state, in which every citizen has a safety net to catch them in the event of hardship.

The disdain of Israeli government, specifically the current government, for the ideas of social justice raised by the protests, has been revealed over the last year. That is one of the protest’s more impressive achievements.

The thousands who took the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva on Saturday night attest to the depth of the change created by the social protest: last year, calls for social justice were made by a small minority, and met with raised eyebrows. A year later, the public discourse has fundamentally changed. Despite intricate government attacks – promises made and forgotten, public relations spin, and police brutality – the protest has not disappeared, and nor is there a reason for it to do so. The protest is here to stay.

Israeli man sets himself on fire during Tel Aviv social protest: Haaretz

Protester in serious condition after he poured gasoline on his body and set himself on fire; in letter he left behind, he says, ‘the state of Israel robbed me.’
By Yaniv Kubovich,     Ilan Lior and Talila Nesher

Moshe Silman being evacuated by Magen David Adom paramedics. Photo by Ofer Vaknin

Moshe Silman, a 57-year-old Haifa resident,  set himself on fire Saturday during a Tel Aviv demonstration marking the anniversary of last summer’s social protests.

As thousands marched down Kaplan Street to mark a year since the start of social protests, as Silman poured gasoline on his body and set himself on fire.

Silman was evacuated to Ichilov Hospital shortly afterward.

“The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless,”  wrote Silman in a letter he left at the scene.

“Two Housing and Construction Ministry committees rejected me, even though I had a stroke,” wrote Silman in the letter, adding that the facts could be checked with a public housing company in Haifa.

In the letter, Silman wrote that he blames “the state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, for the humiliation that weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich.”

Yonatan Sahar, a protester who witnessed the incident, said that he was standing next to the man, when suddenly he set himself on fire.

“I saw him holding something burning,” he said. When suddenly he poured gasoline on himself and immediately caught fire. “I didn’t know what to do,” he added.

According to medical officials, the man is currently in serious condition.

Dozens of protesters arrived at Ichilov Hospital after hearing about the incident. Police forces prevented their entry, while filming the protesters who held signs condemning the Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Protesters also remained at the site where the man lit himself on fire.

Ofer Barkan, a social protest activist from Haifa, said that the man was an activist in last year’s protests. “We met him last summer,” Barkan said, “he was a completely normative person who lived in Tel Aviv but then his business went under. He became a cab driver and suffered a stroke which left him unemployed. He moved from Tel Aviv to Haifa because he could not afford life in the city.” According to Barkan, he had threatened to light himself on fire multiple times. “We felt that he was close to do it, but we didn’t know,” he added.

Activists are planning to march from Silman’s home to the Haifa municipality tomorrow.

Earlier on Saturday, thousands of Israelis gathered in several cities throughout the country to mark one year since the start of the social protests.

Thousands protested in Tel Aviv, while hundreds took to the streets in Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem, and Afula.

Daphni Leef, the woman who launched the social protest, told Haaretz on Saturday that one year later, the activists’ message hasn’t changed.

“We want a fair society,” she said. “Today we are also celebrating. Suddenly, when people take to the streets they understand that they have power and that they are right.”

EDITOR: Who and what is illegal…

In the Occupied Territories, illegally held since 1967, the UN is trying to keep up appearances, after decades of indifference, and is examining the illegal activities of Israel. So Israel has indeed declared it illegal to investigate its crimes…

Israel mulls sanctions on UN agency in West Bank due to staffers’ illegal activity: Haaretz

Israel wants to ‘reassess’ role in the West Bank of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

By Barak Ravid | Jul.15, 2012

A Palestinian boy rides a bicycle past tents in the West Bank village of Susiya June 24, 2012

A Palestinian boy rides a bicycle past tents in the West Bank village of Susiya June 24, 2012. Photo by Reuters

The Foreign Ministry and Israel Defense Forces are considering imposing sanctions against a UN agency in the West Bank and Gaza following allegations that agency employees have engaged in illegal activity such as illegal construction.

As senior officials in Jerusalem put it, Israel wants to “reassess” the role in the West Bank of the agency, the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The two options under consideration are limiting the issuing of visas to OCHA employees and rescinding work and travel permits to local residents who work for OCHA.

Over the past six months, there has been a major deterioration in relations between OCHA and the Israeli government, a senior Israeli source said. Israeli officials have been furious over the conduct of OCHA staff in the part of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control.

Known as Area C, this area comprises 55 percent of the West Bank and includes the Jewish settlements, IDF firing ranges and most of the Jordan Valley and Judean Desert. It is estimated that about 120,000 Palestinian live in Area C.

The senior Israeli official said OCHA had promoted several projects in Area C without Israeli approval including illegal construction. Senior officers from the office of Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, asked OCHA’s director in Israel to immediately halt the illegal activities, but nothing has changed.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, COGAT, oversees civilian activities in the West Bank.

Israeli ire over the issue is so great that Dangot ordered a halt to all OCHA’s illegal project work and instructed that a demolition order be issued for any illegal construction. Dangot also asked that the Foreign Ministry lodge a formal complaint at the United Nations in New York.

About a week ago, officials from the Foreign Ministry, Dangot’s office and other ministries met to consider the sanctions against OCHA.

“OCHA’s activity harms other UN agencies helping the Palestinians,” a senior Israeli official said. “The agency encourages the delegitimization of Israel through false reports that it distributes to the entire international community, creating irreversible damage to the entire UN.”

On July 10, Israel’s UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, sent a harsh letter to the UN’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, who directly oversees OCHA. Prosor expressed Israel’s desire to put matters in order regarding OCHA’s activities in the West Bank and Gaza.

To read the full letter click here

According to Prosor, “since from the beginning of OCHA’s operations in the PA [the Palestinian Authority], 12 years ago, its presence was never officially established,” Prosor wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz. He said Israel would like to start a “dialogue with OCHA in regard to its status and activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

According to Prosor, “In spite of its continual overtures, Israel has received only one statement that addresses OCHA’s actions and staff − a letter that dates back to 2004,” he wrote. He said the situation in the West Bank and Gaza had “changed considerably since then, and we therefore believe there is a need to review OCHA’s role in light of the current situation.”

Prosor asked Amos for a full list of OCHA’s staff and employees in the West Bank and Gaza, “including full name, location and job description.” He also asked for “a review of OCHA’s main activities in the past two years and its prediction for future activities.”

Prosor also requested clarifications about the roles played by OCHA and “other UN bodies providing assistance to the Palestinian population.” These other agencies include the the UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN Development Program, and the World Food Program.

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