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October 7, 2012

EDITOR: Hostilities have started

In a sign of things to come, Israel shoots down a ‘mysterious’ aircraft, and follows by attacking Lebanon. All sides are now preparing for the real thing, whoever pulls the trigger first. Like in 1967, after gabbing long enough about war, it is bound to take place, even if most sides have no interest in starting it. It probably has gone to far for it to subside now.

Important news below, plus an article by Gideon Levy, deal with the growing pressure on Israel to mark its products truthfully, so that products of the settlements can be boycotted. Fat chance of Israel doing anything honest about it. Why be honest about products, when they have never been honest about the settlements themselves?

IAF jets fly mock raids over south Lebanon after mysterious aircraft shot down over Israel: Haaretz

Israel still investigating Saturday’s incident in which an unmanned aircraft was shot down over the country’s skies, with main culprit being Lebanon-based and Iran-funded Hezbollah.

By The Associated Press | Oct.07, 2012 | 9:28 PM

IAF F-16 - Yuval Tebol

IAF F-16B jets. Photo by Yuval Tebol

Israeli warplanes swooped low over Lebanese villages Sunday in a menacing show of force apparently aimed at the Hezbollah guerrilla group after a mysterious raid by an unmanned aircraft that was shot out of Israeli skies over the weekend.

Israel was still investigating Saturday’s incident, but Hezbollah quickly emerged as the leading suspect because it has an arsenal of sophisticated Iranian weapons and a history of trying to deploy similar aircraft.

The Israeli military said the drone approached Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast and flew deep into Israeli airspace before warplanes shot it down about 20 minutes later. Israeli news reports said the drone was not carrying explosives and appeared to be on a reconnaissance mission.

Military officials would not say where the drone originated or who produced it, but they ruled out the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas, a group not known to possess drones. That left Hezbollah as the most likely culprit and suggested the drone may have flown with the blessing of Iran. Tensions are high between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s suspect nuclear program.

“It is an Iranian drone that was launched by Hezbollah,” Israeli lawmaker Miri Regev, a former chief spokeswoman for the Israeli military, wrote on her Twitter feed. “Hezbollah and Iran continue to try to collect information in every possible way in order to harm Israel.”

She did not offer any further evidence and was not immediately available for comment.

Hezbollah officials would not comment on speculation that the group had launched the drone.

Israeli media published maps based on military “estimates” that claimed to show the route taken by the drone. The maps said the aircraft took off south of the Lebanese coastal city of Sidon, headed south and then turned east over the Gaza Strip and into Israel. Some Israeli reports also claimed the drone was made in Iran.

The Israeli military said it began tracking the aircraft over the Mediterranean but waited until it was over an empty, desert area to bring it down in order to avoid casualties on the ground.

Sunday’s Israeli air raids, buzzing over pro-Hezbollah villages in southern Lebanon, appeared to be aimed at reminding the guerrilla group of Israel’s air superiority.

At times of heightened tensions, the Israeli air force often carries out mock raids over Lebanese territory. Israel has U.S.-made F-15 and F-16 warplanes, but it was not clear exactly what type of planes were flown Sunday.

Lebanon’s national news agency said the planes flew low over the market town of Nabatiyeh and nearby villages.

With a formidable arsenal that rivals that of the Lebanese army, Hezbollah is already under pressure in Lebanon from rivals who accuse it of putting Lebanon at risk of getting sucked into regional turmoil. Confirmation that Hezbollah was behind the drone would put the group under further strain internally.

Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite group committed to Israel’s destruction, has long served as an Iranian proxy along Israel’s northern border. The two sides fought a brutal, month-long war in mid-2006. Hundreds of people were killed, and Hezbollah fired several thousand rockets and missiles into Israel before the conflict ended in a stalemate.

Hezbollah has attempted to send unmanned aerial vehicles into Israel on several occasions dating back to 2004. Its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has claimed that the group’s pilotless aircraft were capable of carrying explosives and striking deep into Israel. The last known attempt by Hezbollah to use a drone took place during the 2006 war, when Israel shot down an Iranian-made pilotless aircraft that entered Israeli airspace.

Since the fighting ended, the sides have been locked in a covert battle against one another.

“The war between Hezbollah and Israel was not extinguished at any moment, be it in the media or at the intelligence level,” said Ibrahim Bayram, an expert on Shiite affairs who often writes about Hezbollah for Lebanon’s An-Nahar newspaper.

“Israel is always trying to breach Hezbollah’s security and in return Hezbollah is also working day and night to breach Israel’s security,” he added.

Hezbollah has accused Israel of assassinating a top Hezbollah operative in 2008 in Syria. The group and Lebanese officials say they have broken up several Israeli spy rings inside Lebanon over the past few years.

Israel, meanwhile, believes Hezbollah, with Iranian backing, is behind a string of attempted attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India, Thailand and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, plus a deadly bombing earlier this year that killed five Israeli tourists in a Bulgarian resort. Last week, Israel announced the arrest of an Arab citizen it accused of spying for Hezbollah, the latest in a string of such cases.

Many speculated that the aircraft was trying to gather intelligence on Israel’s secretive nuclear reactor in the southern desert town of Dimona. Foreign experts believe the facility houses an arsenal of nuclear weapons, a claim that Israel neither confirms nor denies.

“It’s quite a long distance, indicating a high level of sophistication,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general who is now an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank.

The drone flight also came against the broader backdrop of rising tensions between Israel and Iran.

Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, which it believes would threaten its existence, given the repeated calls by Iranian leaders for the destruction of Israel. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly held out the possibility of attacking Iranian nuclear facilities if they conclude that international sanctions and diplomacy have failed to curb the Iranian program.

Iran, in turn, has threatened to retaliate if it is attacked, raising the possibility of Hezbollah unleashing more rockets and missiles into Israel.  Hezbollah has not said how it will react to an Israeli attack on its benefactor.

Iran recently claimed it now has drones capable of carrying missiles as far as 2,000 kilometers, or 1,250 miles, putting much of the Middle East, including Israel, within distance. The aircraft appeared to be similar to the American RQ-170 Sentinel, one of which went down in Iranian territory last year. Iran said it was building a copy of the RQ-170 in April.

Iran frequently makes announcements about its strides in military technology, but it is virtually impossible to independently determine the capabilities of its weapons.

Yiftah Shapir, another analyst at the INSS, said Saturday’s incident may have been meant as a warning to Israel. “The drone could be a message that they have the capability to pull this off, and do so perhaps with weapons,” he said.

He said Israel likely allowed the drone to fly so far into its airspace, instead of shooting it over the sea, in order to analyze its capabilities before taking it down.

Palestinians: One man killed in IAF strike on Gaza: Haaretz

IDF says it targeted 2 Gaza members of an al-Qaida-inspired group identified as having been involved in rocket attacks and an infiltration from Egypt.

Oct.07, 2012 | 8:49 PM

Gaza militants, Gaza war  -Reuters

Members of Palestinian armed factions stand guard during a news conference held to mark the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza, in Gaza City December 27, 2010. Photo by Reuters

Israel’s military says it has fired on two Gaza members of an al-Qaida-inspired group identified as having been involved in rocket attacks and an infiltration from Egypt.

Palestinians say one man was killed.

The military said they were involved in “extensive terrorist activity,” including an attack in June where two gunmen crossed into Israel from the Sinai desert and killed a civilian.

Israel did not say whether it hit the two. Ashraf al-Kidra, a Palestinian health official in Gaza said one man was killed and another injured Sunday when their motorcycle was hit by aircraft in the south of the Hamas-controlled territory.

Israel and Hamas have mostly kept an unwritten truce since a short war over three years ago. Attacks have persisted but at a much lower rate.

Last month, the IAF killed two Palestinian militants and seriously wounded another in the Gaza Strip. The dead were members of the extremist group Islamic Jihad, said Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry.
They were riding in a car in the city of Rafah near the border with Egypt when their vehicle was struck by two rockets, al-Qedra said.

Diamonds from Africa, ginger from the settlements: Haaretz

By opposing the marking of products from the settlements, Jerusalem is telling European consumers they should not make a distinction and in this way is exposing all Israeli produce to a boycott.

By Gideon Levy | Oct.07, 2012

Europe is waking up. The foreign ministers of that continent will soon issue regulations that will oblige products from the settlements to be marked as such. Good morning, Europe. Jerusalem, as usual, is fuming; it always fumes when anyone dares to mention the settlements. Jerusalem is in favor of boycotts but of course not those against Israel. It is in favor of economic sanctions but, heaven forbid, not against the settlements. The truth is that Jerusalem can calm down. This is merely a minimal step, of symbolic importance, unavoidable, but not anything that will bring about a change. Perhaps they will buy less ginger from Tekoa in the supermarkets of Paris’ 16th arondissement but the settlement enterprise will continue to flourish.

Of course, every consumer with a conscience in the world is entitled to know whether he is buying blood diamonds from Africa; sneakers manufactured in the sweat shops of Asia; perfumes tested on animals; stolen goods, or products from stolen lands. Europe owes this to its citizens; they should know what they are buying. Just like they should know what the components and nutritional values are of every item, it is their right to know what their moral and legal values are. After that, every consumer can decide for himself whether to smear his body with cream from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea or to drink Merlot wine from the occupied Golan Heights. It is difficult to understand how the consumer organizations in Europe did not demand this obligatory information until now.

Israel should actually welcome this step. If it is so convinced that the settlement enterprise is justified, why complain about marking the products it produces? On the contrary, if the enterprise is so justified, perhaps marking the goods will lead to greater consumption? Being angry might still hint that Israel is ashamed of its settlements. The settlers should have marked their products a long time ago; just as blue-and-white products give rise to pride among many consumers in Israel and abroad, so the settlements’ produce should give their producers a feeling of pride. But Israel and the settlers know that this is a problematic enterprise, to put it mildly, and that is why they are so determined to hide the source of products from the occupation. By revealing this Israeli embarrassment, Europe has already achieved something important. But this achievement is not sufficient. Another conclusion can be deduced from the response by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He was quick to attack the Europeans’ intentions and said it was proof of “a lack of understanding of the reality in the field.”

And once again, Lieberman is correct: The “reality in the field” is that the occupied territories long ago became an inseparable part of the one country – the Green Line has become blurred, and is as though it had never existed. That being the case, there is no longer any point to making products that come from the territories; all of Israel gives them its backing, whether by agreement or by remaining silent. Therefore, the conclusion to be drawn from Lieberman’s preaching is that Europe must not make distinctions or separate between things. Do not mark what comes from the settlements. If you want to try to influence Israel, to put pressure on it to end the occupation, boycott all of its produce. Jerusalem that opposes marking products from the settlements tells European consumers that they should not make a distinction. In this way, it is exposing all Israeli produce to a boycott.

But we can be confident that Europe will once again be scared by the “anger” of Jerusalem, to which will probably be added the holy ire of Washington as well. That is how Europe always conducts itself. At a time when public opinion on the continent is becoming more critical and even more and more hostile to Israel, this finds no resonance in the policies of the governments there. This gap is inconceivable in democratic countries. Fear of the past and fear of America descend upon the leaders of the continent and paralyze them.

In the midst of Operation Cast Lead, they all came to cheer on then-prime minister Ehud Olmert but did not bother to go to Gaza to see what it looked like. Now perhaps they will fulfill their duties, and use fine and weak print to affix the Mark of Cain, as required, on the products from the territories. Well done, Europe.

We are being marked: Haaretz Editorial

European Union is preparing legislation to oblige stores to designate products coming from Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Haaretz Editorial | Oct.07, 2012 | 1:59 AM

South Africa shop - Bloomberg

A law passed in August requires South African merchants to label goods produced in the West Bank as from “the Occupied Palestinian territories.” Photo by Bloomberg

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu basks in the worldwide interest he aroused when he marked the red line on his Iranian bomb drawing, the international community is displaying growing interest in marking the Green Line between Israel and the occupied territories.

A few weeks after South Africa’s government decided to label products made in the territories Israel conquered in June 1967, the European Union is preparing legislation to oblige stores to designate products coming from Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This is to make it easier for consumers who wish to avoid the purchase of merchandise produced in occupied territory.

At the same time, an inquiry committee appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council has begun, despite Israel’s protests, to examine the settlements’ impact on the Palestinian population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The foreign ministers of the donor states to the Palestinian Authority expressed profound displeasure at a recent meeting over steps to drive the Palestinians off area C with the intention of keeping it for the settlers’ exclusive use. The area, which is under full Israeli security control, encompasses some 60 percent of the West Bank.

Israel says labeling the settlements’ products constitutes discrimination on a national and political basis. But the same government argues that building and expanding the settlements is not a violation of international law and that the West Bank settlement of Ariel must be treated the same as Tel Aviv. Why, then, is inscribing the Ariel industrial area on a product seen as “discrimination,” while denoting that a product comes from Tel Aviv would presumably be regarded with indifference?

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s self righteous claim, that the new regulation would harm the Palestinians who make a living working in the settlements’ factories, is especially outrageous. No regulation harms the Palestinians more than the settler Lieberman’s sitting on their land.

Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz on Friday that the Foreign Ministry fears the European regulation would encourage a complete boycott on settlement-made products and even a boycott on merchandise produced within the ’67 lines.

These “fearful” officials had better explain to their political superiors that those who refuse to mark the border between Israel and occupied territory, according to the delineation accepted the world over, should not be surprised if tomorrow the world also erases that same border.

EDOTOR: Five Broken Cameras – an extraordinary film!

Do what you can to see this film  very difficult to catch it, though it has won quite afew awards. It is due on DVD soon, and when out, I shall puta link to the site for purchasing it. Gideon Levy, who else, is shaming Israelis into watching it. Unfortunately, the Israeli special unit of hackers have managed to hack all the TouTube versions of the trailer. Obviously, they have a job to do…

The documentary that should make every decent Israeli ashamed: Haaretz

No moments of reprieve in the probing documentary by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, “5 Broken Cameras,” which chronicles the struggle in the West Bank Palestinian village of Bil’in.

By Gideon Levy | Oct.05, 2012 | 10:40 AM |  1

Guy Davidi, director of 5 Broken Cameras.

Guy Davidi, director of 5 Broken Cameras, in Bi’lin Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

The soldiers arrive in the dead of night. They kick, they smash, they destroy. They break in, rudely awakening an entire house and its inhabitants, including children and babies. One officer pulls out a detailed document and declares: “This house is declared a ‘closed military zone.'” He reads the order – in Hebrew and in a loud voice – to the sleep-dazed, pajama-clad family.

This young man successfully completed his officers’ training course. Perhaps he even believes, deep down, that someone has to do this dirty work. And he reads out the order solely to justify why the father of the household, Emad Burnat, is forbidden to film the event on his own video camera.

There are no moments of respite or reprieve in the probing documentary by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, “5 Broken Cameras,” which was screened, among other places, at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque last weekend after collecting a number of international prizes and having been shown on Channel 8.

This documentary should make every decent Israeli ashamed of being an Israeli. It should be shown in civics classes and heritage classes. The Israelis should know, at long last, what is being done in their name every day and every night in this ostensible time of no terror. Even in a West Bank village like Bil’in, which has made nonviolence its motto.

The soldiers – the friends of our sons and the sons of our friends – break into homes in order to abduct small children, who may be suspected of throwing stones. There is no other way to describe this. They also arrest dozens of the organizers of the popular weekly protest at Bil’in. And this happens every night.

I have often been to this village, to its protests and to its funerals. Once or twice I joined the Friday demonstrations against the separation fence that was built on its land to enable Modi’in Ilit and Kiryat Sefer to rise on its olive groves. I have breathed the tear gas and the stinking “skunk” gas. I have seen the rubber bullets that wound and sometimes kill, and the violent behavior of the soldiers and the police toward the demonstrating inhabitants.

Yet nevertheless, what I saw in this film shocked me more than all those hasty visits. The apartment buildings of Modi’in Ilit are swallowing up the village, just like the wall that was built here on their land. The inhabitants decided to embark on a struggle for their property and their existence. With a mixture of naivete, determination and courage – and, now and then, some exaggerated theatricality – the residents undertake various gimmicks, with the help of a handful of Israeli and international volunteers.

This struggle has even won a partial victory: Only in its wake did the High Court of Justice order the dismantling of the wall and its relocation to a different place. Even the High Court, which usually automatically accepts the positions of the security establishment, understood that a crime was being committed here. Together with Bil’in and, to a large extent, inspired by it, more villages began to conduct a determined popular struggle every Friday – which continues to this day – against the wall, half an hour’s drive from our homes.

This documentary proves that, for the locals, the reality of the occupation is that there is no such thing as nonviolent struggle. For the information of those who preach nonviolence (from the Palestinians ): The Israel Defense Forces soldiers and the Border Police will ensure that it becomes violent. Just one thrown stone, despite the pleas of the demonstration organizers, will suffice; just one verbal altercation will also suffice to open the most advanced weapons arsenal in the world – to pull the pin, to release the gas, the rubber bullet and the skunk gas, and sometimes the live fire, and to cut off the impossible dream of a nonviolent struggle.

Anyone who watches this film understands that it is very difficult to face the wall, the settlement project and the soldiers – all of which scream “violence” – and remain nonviolent. Nearly impossible.

Five times Burnat’s cameras were destroyed. Three times by the soldiers, once in a traffic accident opposite the separation wall, and once by the ultra-Orthodox and violent settlers – the “hilltop youth,” who break into homes even when the court prohibits this. “You are not allowed to be here,” says an ultra-Orthodox settler to a villager trying to get to his stolen land.

The truth is that Burnat’s cameras were damaged many more times; the film depicts only those incidents in which the equipment was rendered totally unusable. The cameras’ ruined parts are displayed as evidence.

But something much deeper has been broken here. A reality has been broken by broken cameras. These cameras documented a reality unfamiliar to most Israelis. They documented a slice of life, about which most Israelis prefer to be oblivious. In so doing, they have also proved that, in a place where hardly any courageous journalism remains, there are at least courageous and impressive documentaries. In a place where hardly any journalists remain, there are important documentary filmmakers like Burnat and Davidi.

After the vast majority of the local media decided not to report on the occupation any more, films like “5 Broken Cameras,” Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s “The Law in These Parts,” and Mir Laufer and Erez Laufer’s “One Day After Peace” – all the harvest of just the past few months – are filling the role intended for the media, and excellently.

Anyone who some day wants to learn what was happening here during these cursed decades will hardly find what he is looking for in the newspaper and television archives. He will find it in the documentary movie archive, which is rescuing Israel’s honor.

“5 Broken Cameras” has already been shown in many countries, at festivals and commercial screenings. Davidi and Burnat documented the routine of the occupation. The IDF and Border Police come out looking bad. Even understatement and restraint cannot but describe them except as storm troopers.

Burnat’s voice, which accompanies the film, is one of the most restrained voices you have heard concerning the occupation, without rabble-rousing and without hatred. This is how they look in reality. Go see this film and form your own impressions.

There have been other films about Bil’in and while this one is relatively small scale, it is extremely personal. Burnat’s wife, who wants to keep him away from the camera and danger, and his young son, who has grown up in this reality, star in it along with the leaders of the struggle. There is only one person killed here: Bassem Abu-Rahma, a charming young man, loved by the children, who called him the Elephant – the needless victim of an alleged murder by a soldier in April 2009.

However, it is the non-deadly routine depicted in the movie that is so appalling. The camera breakers in it are breakers of the rule of law and of democracy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has boasted to the world about how enlightened Israel is, apparently has not seen this film. Otherwise, he would not be able to talk about enlightenment.

Anyone who behaves this way in his dark backyard cannot boast about what happens in his enlightened show window, with all that high tech and democracy. Anyone who knows what is happening in Bil’in and the other villages understands that a state that behaves in this way cannot be considered democratic or enlightened. Someone has to make Netanyahu watch this film, just so he will understand. .

This week I drove to Bil’in with one of the two directors, Guy Davidi (Burnat was away on another trip overseas ). Davidi once lived in the village for several months, but prior to our trip hadn’t visited for over a year.

Ostensibly, nothing had changed. A Palestinian village drowsing in the afternoon. However, one thing was different: A large hill planted with olive trees has been liberated. In the place where the security fence had been, there is now only a dirt track. The barrier was removed and the hill was returned to its owners. The olive trees are dying after years of neglect, and the soil is scarred by all the earthworks carried out there. But still, some of the territory has been liberated.

The security fence has been replaced by a high concrete wall, but this has been moved several hundred meters to the west. Behind it, cranes continue to build Kiryat Sefer (aka Dvir ). In the liberated territory, they are already building a tiny playground for the village children. Only remnants of the burned tires and dozens of IDF gas-canister shells lying on the ground from the ongoing weekly demonstrations here testify that the struggle has not ended. It has not been completely successful. But if there were any justice, it would have been.

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