Case Studies

May 31, 2009

Nadim Rouhana: This suppression is symbolic of a state that fears its past: The Independent

For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, life is becoming a collective Kafkaesque experience. For years, their state has been determined to buttress its Jewish identity by legal, constitutional, cultural, and political means, in spite of the fact that one in five of its residents is an Arab. This latest series of bills is just another part of that effort. In addition to the discrimination they already face in all walks of life, Palestinians will not be able to mourn the Nakba, the loss of their homeland, or express their opposition to Israel as a Jewish state. It is not only that they have been excluded from belonging to their homeland, which has been claimed by people who immigrated there and made exclusively Jewish; it is not only that their people have been expelled, occupied or dispersed to all corners of the world; it is not only that they are legally unequal citizens and even treated as enemies in many areas of life by the very state in which they are citizens. They also have to accept this reality: express loyalty, show no opposition, and even refrain from mourning their loss in public. The expression of the natural feelings of losing their people and homeland, the yearning to rectify injustice, and the quest to transform Israel into a democratic state will be criminalised and punishable by law if the bills are enacted. The Arab citizens have to accept Jewish superiority anchored in constitution and law, accept that their homeland is not really theirs. They have to stop being themselves if they are to avoid being punished by the Jewish state; they have to stop being human altogether. People are short of words to describe what is happening in Israel. It is becoming clear that Israel is fearful not only about the future, it is most fearful about history – and for a reason. Israel can suppress among its Jewish citizens – those who enjoy the privileges of superiority and of taking over a whole homeland – the history of the Nakba and the reality of its continuation for every Palestinian. But Israel must believe that Palestinians are subhuman if it thinks that it can suppress their feelings about the Nakba and their desire for democracy and equality and the yearning for the return of their people. For Israel to face its fear of the future it must first face history. Instead, in defiance of human nature, it is hopelessly seeking to suppress it. The author is the director of the Arab Centre for Applied Social Research in Haifa, Israel, and a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Boston

Leading article: Thought crimes in Israel: The Independent

Any hope that bringing Israel’s right wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu, into government and making its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, Foreign Minister would blunt its extremist edge has been rudely shattered. Barely had the ink dried on the coalition agreement than one of the party’s members introduced a bill making it punishable by three years’ imprisonment for any Israeli Arab to mark Nakba, the Palestinian day of mourning for lost lands which coincides with Israel’s independence day. At the same time, Yisrael Beiteinu’s spokesman announced his party’s intention to bring forth legislation enforcing an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish state”. One can see the populist appeal of these measures. Lieberman owed much of his success in the recent election (his party was the third largest in the vote) to playing the “loyalty card” at a time when Israel’s Arab citizens were openly critical of the invasion of Gaza. What he and his party now want are measures which force the one million Arab citizens in the country to pledge absolute loyalty to the state. The Nakba bill, which was approved by the ministerial committee on legislation this week, is bad enough. But the bill for a compulsory oath, which is also due to go before the committee, would be a disaster. It would require anyone seeking citizenship to “make a declaration in which they commit to being loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values and to serve the state as much as required through military or alternative service”. Arab citizens at the moment are not required to do military service given the sensitivities of their situation. There are many in the British National Party who would no doubt like a similar oath over here. But any democracy committed to freedom of expression knows that the road to oppression lies though just such attempts to control the thoughts of its people. And that is especially true of Israel, whose founding fathers expressly committed the new nation to principles of freedom of expression and protection of minorities. Of course Israel is a Jewish state. But it is also a democracy set in an Arab world. Its founders knew that. Let us hope that its current legislature does too.

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May 24, 2009

The Zionists are reaacting evrywhere to the bDS call, inventing bizarre organisations like TULIP below, in order to bamboozle the naive and simple-minded, who, afetr 42 years of occupation,stillthink we need to smile at each other more often,and that will resolve all... On a more positive note – this proves their desperation and urgency, and the fact they recognise, as below, that the BDSmovement is provbably unstoppable!

Unions move to overturn Israel boycott: May 21, 2009

Article from: The Australian LAST month, the Scottish Trade Unions Congress became the latest in a series of unions to call for a boycott of Israeli products. Support for boycotting, divesting from and sanctions against the Jewish state appears to be growing by leaps and bounds. It has already won considerable support from trade unions in South Africa, Ireland, Britain and Norway. It seems unstoppable. But we intend to stop it. TULIP – Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine – is a new global movement that believes in engaging with workers and their unions in Israel and Palestine, promoting co-operation and reconciliation. We do not believe in boycotts, divestment and sanctions. We believe in peace and in a two-state solution to the conflict. Our new global movement seeks allies in unions and non-governmental organisations everywhere who want to work together to demand respect for all Palestinians, Israelis and guest workers living in that region. We believe we can take significant strides towards peace and reconciliation if we support those striving to improve the living standards of all working people in the region. There are outstanding examples of co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian unions that need to be encouraged. For example, there’s a remarkable initiative launched by the International Transport Workers Federation to make life much easier for Palestinian drivers. This has been a small but ground-breaking union agreement encouraging dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli national trade union centres, as well as individual unions and their members on both sides of the divide. This agreement will help improve the livelihoods of hard-working union truckers and their families. As we write this the ITF is organising to move this important project to a higher level with the co-operation of the Israel trade union congress Histadrut and the Palestinian transport workers union. This model is a firm rejection of those in trade unions promoting an Israel boycott movement. This model upholds the traditional role of trade unions when faced with disputes of this kind: bridging the gap between nations at war, encouraging peace, justice and conciliation. It is a trade union tradition and role that we are particularly proud to uphold. We also applaud the role of the International Trade Union Confederation, which has helped to broker co-operation agreements between the Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. It is unfortunate that in recent years a number of national unions and trade union centres have changed course and abandoned that role.

No hope or change from Obama-Netanyahu meeting: The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah,21 May 2009 Seldom has an encounter between an American and Israeli leader been as hyped as this week’s meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As expected, Obama committed himself to diplomacy with Iran and pledged an enormous effort to achieve a two-state solution. Netanyahu continued to incite confrontation with Iran and refused to commit himself to a Palestinian state. On the surface it may seem there are real differences and that the forces arrayed on each side — including the formidable Israel lobby — are gearing up for an epic battle to determine the fate of US-Israeli relations. But Obama offered little new, reaffirming well-worn US positions that view Palestinians, particularly Hamas, as the aggressors, and Israel as the innocent victim. While calling for Israel to halt settlement construction (as US presidents have done for decades), Obama offered no hint that he would back those words with action. Quite the contrary, the president said he would urge Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel, rewarding it in advance of any renewed peace talks. Let us assume for the sake of argument that Obama applies unprecedented pressure to force Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. What would such a deal look like? The outlines were suggested in the recent report sent to Obama by a group of US elder statesmen headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. The document, warning that there was only a “six to twelve month window” before all chances for peace evaporated, called on the US to forcefully advocate the creation of a Palestinian state. But this would be a demilitarized truncated state “based on” the 1967 borders. Israel would annex large West Bank settlements and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees. This “state” would be occupied indefinitely by a NATO-led “multinational force,” which the Scowcroft group suggests could also include Israeli soldiers (see “A last chance for a two-state Israel-Palestine agreement, 2009). Of course the Scowcroft proposal does not necessarily represent Obama administration thinking, but it expresses the pervasive peace process industry consensus that views such an outcome as “reasonable,” “pragmatic” and all but inevitable, and it accords with Obama’s own statements opposing the right of return and supporting Israel’s demand to to be recognized as a “Jewish state.” In other words, what the vast majority of Palestinians would view as a horrifying plan to legitimize their dispossession, grant Israel a perpetual license to be racist, and turn the apartheid regime set up by the Oslo accords into a permanent prison, is now viewed as bold and far-reaching thinking that threatens to rupture American-Israeli bonds. Netanyahu has little to lose by embarking on another “peace process” after making a show of resisting American pressure (or extracting more American concessions or money). He knows the chances of ever getting to the stated destination are nil. Obama will not apply significant pressure, and even if he did, it is unclear on whom he would apply it, since on the Palestinian side there are no leaders ready, willing and able to carry off a second Oslo-style fraud against their people.

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May 10, 2009

Ask your sons: Ha’aretz

By Gideon Levy

It is behavior well known to every police investigator: First the suspect denies everything, then attacks his interrogators, then admits to a small portion of the accusations (saying he merely did what everyone does), and finally breaks down and confesses. The Israel Defense Forces returned from Operation Cast Lead and, of course, denied everything. The people applauded it for its bogus victory and no one paid much attention to the awful price paid by the Palestinians. But after the smoke (in this case, white phosphorus) cleared a bit, the blood began crying out from the ground. Foreign journalists and human rights groups investigated and reported their findings. The United Nations said the IDF intentionally targeted its facilities, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the army of illegally using phosphorous bombs, the International Red Cross reported on the injured being denied medical attention and strikes on medical crews, officers at a premilitary course spoke of civilians killed, and Amira Hass wrote for Haaretz about the killing of people flying white flags, the use of flechette shells and the annihilation of entire families. The ground began trembling beneath Israel’s feet when it started attacking the emissaries of these organizations. The country’s gates were closed to the UN fact-finding mission headed by Jewish South African Richard Goldstone, as if it were Zimbabwe or North Korea, as if it had much to hide. The president brusquely rebuked the UN’s Ban Ki-moon and suggested he visits Auschwitz, until eventually the secretary general was forced to shrink from supporting his organization’s damning report. Anyone who dared investigate and report was branded anti-Semitic. Little has changed since the early-1970s report by a group of American lawyers on the Shin Bet security service’s alleged torture methods. These attorneys were immediately labeled anti-Semites. We deny, repress, lie, attack and compare ourselves to others, and our conscience remains clear. Even when the IDF admits to killing 300 civilians – 90 of them children, 50 women and 160 whose identities the army says is unclear – our story remains the same: the most moral army in the world. Not the third most, not the second – the most. After all, Yedioth Ahronoth gave that view its seal of approval in a special propaganda supplement entitled “The most moral in the world.” But let’s assume Amnesty is lying, Human Rights Watch is fabricating, B’Tselem is embellishing, the UN is anti-Israel and the media is full of hatred against us – isn’t there enough in the IDF’s own figures to shake us to the core? Three hundred civilians killed, including 90 children – isn’t that enough to expose the propagandistic lie of “the most moral” army? How many innocent people must be killed for that to happen? The IDF conducted five “investigations” (in which, naturally, only soldiers’ actions were examined), lamented one family’s tragedy, and the military correspondents applauded again. The IDF Spokesman’s Office sent battalion commanders to recite declarations on their own lofty battle ethics – with faces concealed, of course, as suspects often are – and the media didn’t burden them with questions. No one believes this war should be subjected to a serious investigation because in this war, unlike its predecessors, not enough soldiers were killed to justify that. But the truth cries out even from the collapsed and perforated rubble of what was once a home: The soldiers who were in Gaza know, as do their friends, that something terrible happened there – just as those who served in the West Bank know. Ask your sons; they know the truth – the truth is sitting in your own home. And ask the friends of your sons, and the sons of your friends – they know. Many of them are brainwashed, and for now are keeping mum. Israel is holding back the tide of reports and investigations, and putting its head in the sand of propaganda and victimization, but in the end the truth will emerge. Even the excuse “everyone does it” will not do any good, as it does no good for a driver caught speeding. The Americans kill more? The French slaughtered more? That may do for the Foreign Ministry’s automatic statements. We deserve more, we deserve the full truth – what exactly our soldiers did in our name, each of our names, on the streets of Gaza, imprisoned and bleeding for the 22 days of a useless war.

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May 9, 2009

The Guardian, May 7, 2009. Copyright © Steve Bell 2008
The Guardian, May 7, 2009. Copyright © Steve Bell 2008


The paradox of Israel’s pursuit of might
: The Guardian CiF

Forty years ago, I was enraptured by Israel’s courageous sense of mission. For me today, as for many, that idealism has palled

I first visited Israel in 1969. It was a time when much of the western world was still passionately enthused about the country’s triumph in the 1967 six-day war. President Nasser had for years promised to sweep the Israelis into the sea. Instead, the tiny Jewish state, less than 20 years old, had engaged the armies of three Arab nations, and crushingly defeated them all. The Israelis successively smashed through Nasser’s divisions on the western front, scaled and seized the Golan Heights, and snatched east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the face of Hussein’s highly capable Jordanian army. Sinai was left strewn with the boots of fleeing Egyptians. The Israeli victory was an awesome display of command boldness, operational competence and human endeavour.
There was a euphoria in Israel in those days, which many visitors shared. We watched Jews from all over the world gathering to pray at the Wailing Wall for the first time in almost 2,000 years; Israelis of all ages revelling in the sensation of being able to work the kibbutzim of the north free from Syrian shells. From inhabiting one of the most claustrophobic places in the world, suddenly they found themselves free to roam miles across Sinai on a weekend. The soldiers of the Israeli army, careerists, conscripts and reservists alike, walked 10ft tall – the image of an exulting soldier made it on to the cover of Life magazine. They had shown themselves one of the greatest fighting forces of history, expunging almost at a stroke the memory of Jewish impotence in the face of centuries of persecution, of six million being herded helpless into cattle trucks for the death camps.
In the years that followed, I gazed across the Suez Canal during the artillery bombardments of the 1970 war of attrition with Egypt. I was a correspondent there in October 1973, during the Yom Kippur war. It was an extraordinarily moving spectacle, to behold the people of Israel rallying to meet what they perceived as a threat to their national survival. One morning I stood on the Golan Heights and watched Israeli tanks duelling with the Syrians, amid pillars of smoke and flame. A few nights later I bivouacked in the Sinai passes, talking for hours under the stars to Israeli reservists about their hopes and fears. With a colleague from the Financial Times, having thinly disguised ourselves as Israeli soldiers, we made an illicit night crossing of the Suez canal, to report Ariel Sharon’s stunning encirclement operation which trapped the Egyptian army on the east bank. In those days I loved those people, and boundlessly admired their achievement. I wrote in one of my less temperate dispatches, expressing faith in Israel as a bastion of western civilization in the Middle East: “These last three weeks, I am proud to have shared the Israelis’ camp fires in Sinai. They are a very great people who three weeks ago came closer to destruction than blind Europe seems willing to recognise.”

Obama renews U.S. sanctions on Syria: Ha’aretz

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday he had renewed sanctions against Syria because it posed a continuing threat to U.S. interests. Obama, in a letter to Congress notifying it of his decision, accused Damascus of “supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.” “For these reasons I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect the national emergency declared with respect to this threat and to maintain in force the sanctions,” Obama said in the letter to Congress. Renewal of the sanctions is required each year by Congress. The announcement came following the visit of two U.S. envoys to Damascus this week to try to improve ties.  The sanctions, imposed by former President George W. Bush, prohibit arms exports to Syria, block Syrian airlines from operating in the United States and deny Syrians suspected of being associated with terrorist groups access to the U.S. financial system. While the United States has made clear it wants better relations with Syria, a nation it has long accused of supporting terrorism, the renewal of sanctions shows Washington is not yet ready for a dramatic improvement in relations.

Thank you, O’Bomber, for punishing the victims of occupation, rather than those who perpetrate war! This will make you supporters really happy... Below you can also read about the real background for this announcement:

Netanyahu: Israel will never withdraw from Golan: Ha’aretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of Russian-language reporters Thursday that Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights. “Remaining on the Golan will ensure Israel has a strategic advantage in cases of military conflict with Syria,” Netanyahu said during a briefing he gave to the reporters. His comments were published Friday on several Russian-language Israeli Web sites. A week-and-a-half out from Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to Washington, the prime minister stressed that he is ready to stand up to U.S. President Barack Obama and that he would not give up on matters that in his opinion are critical to Israel’s security.
Netanyahu said that he intends to emphasize to Obama the need to deal with Iran and its “nuclear program, which is a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East.”
“If Iran turns into a nuclear power they will force all Arab states to ally with it, and the extreme Iranian regime that revealed its plan to eliminate Israel will not allow Arab states to normalize relations with Israel,” Netanyahu said. Netanyahu also told the reporters that he would not present preconditions for negotiations with the Palestinians and would not accept preconditions from them.

UN laments choking of Bethlehem: BBC

The UN has accused Israel of restricting development of the Bethlehem region in the West Bank.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said just 13% of land around Bethlehem was open for use by the Palestinian population. It said the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ was hemmed in by Israeli settlements and military zones as well as Israel’s West Bank barrier.
An Israeli foreign ministry official said the issue was beyond Ocha’s remit. Next week, Pope Benedict is due to celebrate Mass in Bethlehem , a Palestinian governorate which is home to 175,000 inhabitants, including many Christians. Two-thirds of the governorate’s 660 sq km (255 sq miles) has been under Israeli control and about 86,000 Israelis live in settlements and outposts in the governorate, Ocha says. Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 war and its settlement activity is regarded as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
Cut off
“Israeli measures have radically reduced the space available to the inhabitants of Bethlehem, compromising the future economic and social development of the governorate,” the Ocha report says. The report says that in addition to the land put under Israeli control under past interim agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), 20% of the remainder is an Israeli-controlled “nature reserve”. Meanwhile, the West Bank barrier cuts through Bethlehem’s western edges blocking off grazing and agricultural land, the report says. “As a result, Bethlehem’s potential for residential and industrial expansion and development has been reduced, as well as its access to natural resources,” the report said. Israel says the barrier is needed to keep out Palestinian attackers, including suicide bombers. Palestinians call it a land grab since it juts into the West Bank. Yigal Palmor of the Israeli foreign ministry said he had not seen the report but accused past reports by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of containing “distorted information”.
Settlement drive
Separately, information released by an Israeli anti-settlement group, Yesh Din, said settlement activity in the West Bank had been accelerating at the fastest rate since 2003. It cited more than 20 cases of new Israeli building on occupied territory since January, on both sides of the barrier, including a number of outposts built without Israeli permits. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised the previous US administration that he would evacuate all unauthorised outposts built after March 2001, but critics say evacuations are carried out intermittently and without rigour. The international peace plan known as the road map called on Israel to halt all construction in the settlements, although observers say construction has never ceased. Israel says it is not building new settlements, but claims the right to foster “natural growth” within the confines of existing communities.

Gaza: pursuit of the laws of war:  The Guardian, CiF

If the UN fails to further investigate crimes committed during the conflict it will ensure stalemate, and more suffering for civilians

The Israeli government and its supporters have lashed out at the report of the UN board of inquiry into Israeli attacks on UN installations during Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza. The report, they say, is biased, tendentious and inaccurate. According to Robbie Sabel, writing in Comment is Free, the “unbalanced report” does “little to bring understanding or justice to the conflict in Gaza”.
The full report has not been published, but there’s little in the summary that UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon sent to the security council on Tuesday to support such claims. On the contrary, it provides careful but compelling evidence that Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) violated the laws of war during their military operations around UN installations in Gaza.
According to the summary, the board of inquiry concluded that “IDF actions involved varying degrees of negligence and recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries and extensive physical damage and loss of property”. The board also holds “Hamas or another Palestinian actor” responsible for one attack on a UN installation – a World Food Progamme warehouse hit by a Qassam rocket.
The terms of reference of the UN inquiry were extremely narrow. Its job was to look at attacks on eight UN installations and one UN convoy during the period of Israel’s military offensive. As far as one can tell from the summary, the board has been meticulous in sticking to these terms of reference.
However, the conclusions of the inquiry, as represented in the summary (which, it should be noted, was not written by those who wrote the full report), raise broader questions about the use of force by the IDF during the conflict. It appears the authors of the UN report felt these questions should not be ducked. The summary notes that the board of inquiry was “deeply conscious” that the attacks on UN installations investigated in its report “are among many incidents during Operation Cast Lead involving civilian victims”.
The board therefore recommended that “these incidents should be investigated as part of an impartial inquiry, mandated and adequately resourced, to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza and southern Israel by the IDF and by Hamas and other Palestinian militants”.

UN report accuses Israeli military of negligence in Gaza war: The Guardian

Inquiry finds Israel responsible for deaths, injuries and damage to UN buildings

A fire at the UN building in Gaza City after Israeli strikes Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty
A fire at the UN building in Gaza City after Israeli strikes Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty

A UN inquiry accused the Israeli military today of “negligence or recklessness” in its conduct of the war in Gaza. The summary of the UN report, commissioned by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, censured the Israeli government for causing death, injuries and damage to UN property in seven incidents involving action by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). It said: “The board concluded that IDF actions involved varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries, and extensive physical damage and loss of property.” However, in a blow to human rights campaigners, Ban said there would be no further investigation despite the report calling for a full impartial inquiry.
Although the full, 184-page findings of the UN board of inquiry will not be made public, the 27-page summary emphasised that UN premises are inviolable, and that inviolability cannot be set aside by the demands of military expediency. “UN personnel and all civilians within UN premises, as well as civilians in the immediate vicinity of those premises, are to be protected in accordance with the rules and principles of international humanitarian law,” the summary says.

The next report explains the incredible move by the UN Secretary General, against a proper UN investigation of the killings outside the narrow confines of its own buildings in Gaza. It seems, according to the SG, that the UN is only mandated to defend itself, but not the rest of humanity, in which it has little interest, especially in those without a powerful army behind them…

UN chief rejects further inquiry in Gaza: The Guardian

One of the more striking features of today’s UN inquiry into the Gaza war is the secretary general’s prompt rejection of one of its key findings.
In its 11th and final recommendation, the board of inquiry said the killings and injuries that happened beyond its narrow remit, outside the walls of the UN compound in Gaza, “should be investigated as part of an impartial inquiry mandated, and adequately resourced, to investigate allegations of violations of international humanitarian law”. In his covering letter, however, Ban Ki-moon, said he did not “plan any further inquiry”, opting not to use the secretary general’s prerogative to order his own inquiries into allegations of serious human rights abuses.
Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, set up such an inquiry in April 2002 after the shelling of the West Bank town of Jenin, but had to abort it in the face of Israel’s refusal to co-operate with an investigation it saw as biased from the outset. A UN official said today Ban’s decision had not been influenced by the failure of the Jenin enquiry, but added that Ban had stressed the desire to co-operate with Israel in further investigation of the shelling of the UN compound. In his remarks Ban made no reference to a UN investigation of the Gaza violence that has already been set in train by the UN human rights council. The council has in the past been rejected as ideologically anti-Israel by the west, and an inquiry under its auspices carries less weight than one ordered by a UN secretary general. But the selection of Richard Goldstone, a South African judge with strong human rights credentials (he was chief prosecutor for international war crimes tribunals on Yugoslavia and Rwanda), gives this inquiry greater clout than would otherwise be the case. And unlike the Jenin enquiry, an investigation focused on Gaza does not necessarily require Israeli cooperation, as entry is possible from Egypt.
“Goldstone has a lot of integrity and a wealth of experience in international justice,” said Tom Porteous, London director of Human Rights Watch. “We think his investigation should be given a chance, and we think Ban should have used this occasion to put his full weight behind it.”

Israel dismisses UN accusation of ‘grave offences’ in Gaza war: The Guardian

Report claiming deliberate targeting of UN civilians and institutions is biased, Israel says

Israel has dismissed as “tendentious” and “patently biased” an unpublished UN inquiry into Israel’s conduct during the January war in Gaza.
The UN investigation is the first into the war and looked only at deaths, injuries and damage caused at UN sites in Gaza during the three-week conflict. Some of the findings may be released today. According to Israeli media reports, a senior foreign ministry official has already received a draft copy of the report. One newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, was briefed on some of its contents and reported that it accuses Israel of “grave offences”, including “disproportionate shooting and deliberately hitting UN civilians and institutions”. The paper said the report “determined unequivocally: Israel deliberately fired at UN institutions even though it knew it was forbidden”. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was due to send his response to a summary of the report to the security council, Israel’s foreign ministry said. Yedioth said the report’s main recommendation was to call for an independent investigative committee to look more deeply into the war and to determine whether Israel violated international law. Israel’s foreign ministry said it believes Ban will not take up that recommendation.
The document has been compiled by a board of inquiry – a team of four led by Ian Martin, a Briton who is a former head of Amnesty International and a former UN special envoy to East Timor and Nepal. It is still unclear if the full report will be made public.
Israel’s foreign ministry attempted to pre-empt the report today, saying the Israeli military had already investigated its own conduct during the war and “proved beyond doubt” that it did not fire intentionally at UN buildings. It dismissed the UN inquiry.
“The state of Israel rejects the criticism in the committee’s summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It said the inquiry had “preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world”.
International human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have accused both Israel’s military and Palestinian militant groups of serious violations of international law and possible war crimes during the conflict. The UN board of inquiry report has a limited scope. It is confined to investigating death or injuries or damage at UN buildings or during UN operations. The UN human rights council is also to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Gaza, but Israel has already suggested it will not co-operate, saying the council is biased.

UN report on Israeli attacks in Gaza: ‘It calls for reparations against Israel': BBC

Ed Pilkington on UN report claiming Israeli attacks on UN buildings during the Gaza war were a violation

Play Ed Pilkington’s report

Washington negotiator calls on Israel to sign nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty: The Guardian

• Move breaks US tradition of discretion over Israeli arsenal
• NPT comes up for review in 2010

A diplomatic row broke out today between the US and Israel after Washington’s chief nuclear arms negotiator called on Israel to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), breaking a US tradition of discretion over Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Israeli officials said they were puzzled by a speech to an international conference in New York by Rose Gottemoeller, an assistant secretary of state, who said: “Universal adherence to the NPT itself – including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea – also remains a fundamental objective of the United States.”
By including Israel on a list of countries known to have nuclear weapons. Gottemoeller broke with normal US diplomatic practice. Since 1968 when the CIA reported Israel had developed a nuclear weapon , Washington has pursued a policy of not demanding transparency from its close ally, and in return Israel agreed not to test a bomb or declare its nuclear capability – a policy of “strategic ambiguity”.
“As far as we are concerned, there is no change to the close dialogue we have with Washington,” Yossi Levy, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, told Reuters. Privately, Israeli officials played down the importance of the NPT as a means of controlling proliferation.
Attempts to stop spread of nuclear weapons face a critical moment over the next year before the NPT comes up for review in 2010, at a time when North Korea has declared the resumption of its nuclear weapons programme, and fears over Iran’s intentions threaten to trigger a Middle East arms race. Gottemoeller’s speech was made at a meeting to prepare the way for next year’s critical NPT review conference.
Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said that Gottemoeller had not changed the long-held US position – that all states should join the NPT. However, she spelt that position out more explicitly in relation to Israel.

What Obama must tell Bibi: The Guardian CiF

The toughest meeting of Barack Obama’s young presidency is approaching. In the next few weeks, he will have to sit down with Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu. The difficulty is not just that the prime minister refuses to accept the right of a Palestinian state to exist and thereby shows the Palestinians have no partner for peace.
Far more burdensome are the ghosts of US policies past. If Obama is sincere in wanting to break the stalemate of the Middle East’s core conflict, he will have to launch the US relationship with Israel on to radically new lines. Israel must be treated as a normal country. It cannot enjoy permanent licence to escape criticism for practising policies that would be condemned if carried out by any other country’s government. Even if Israelis, through their complex coalition arrangements, had anointed a more progressive and enlightened leader, this would be necessary. It is doubly essential now that Israel has chosen a man of aggressive and narrow vision.

The day of the blank cheque must be over. The day of the huge cheque must be over, too. Why should a country with one of the world’s highest per capita incomes receive around $3bn annually, or roughly a third of the US foreign aid budget (not including extra support from the Pentagon)? Why should it not have to account for its purchases like every other recipient country – a conscious lack of oversight that allows Washington to turn a blind eye to the fact that US tax dollars are financing illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank and helping to build the so-called apartheid wall?  Unless Obama ends America’s special relationship with Israel, this omission will be the achilles heel of his foreign policy. America’s standing in the Middle East, its influence in the Gulf, its image in the Muslim world, its relationship with Iran, and even its support in Europe are all linked to the way it treats Israel. Obama’s fulsome comments about Israel before his election already ­suggested that this was likely to be his most dangerous weakness. His first 100 days in power have done nothing to negate that. His speeches in Turkey, which were directed at Muslim audiences, showed no recognition of the fact that most Turks, Arabs and Iranians see US policy towards Israel as unfair and partisan.His resounding appeal in Prague for a nuclear-free world contained no reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal or the need for all nuclear countries (including India and Pakistan) to join the non- proliferation treaty. If Iran, a signatory of the NPT, is rightly pressed to adhere to the requirement for transparency, it is hypocrisy not to press the non-signatories to be as honest. To argue that countries which have not signed up are exempt from the rules may be legally right, but is politically absurd. Obama’s admirable wish to reduce the world’s nuclear stockpile cannot stop at the gates of Dimona and the sites where Israel’s nuclear warheads are kept. Only a dramatic break from previous US policy on Israel can end the Middle East deadlock.

US pro-Israeli group attempts to stop shift in White House Middle East policy: The Guardian

Aipac urges Congress members to sign letter to Barack Obama calling for Israel to set pace of negotiations with Palestinians

US congressional leaders and the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the US are attempting to forestall a significant shift in the White House’s Middle East policy.
The move comes amid growing signs that the US president, Barack Obama, intends to press for urgent efforts to be made towards the creation of a Palestinian state. The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is visiting Washington later this month amid growing expectations that Obama is preparing to take a tougher line over Israel’s reluctance to actively seek a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians. It will be the first time that Netanyahu and Obama have met since both were elected. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) this week sent hundreds of lobbyists to urge members of Congress to sign a letter to Obama. The letter, written by two House of Representatives leaders, calls for Israel to be allowed to set the pace of negotiations. The lobbying came despite critics saying Netanyahu has consistently failed to commit himself to the creation of a Palestinian state. The letter calls for the maintenance of the status quo, with an emphasis on Palestinian institution-building before there can be an end to Israeli occupation. It says the US “must be both a trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel”. Aipac’s move to put pressure on members of Congress came at the end of its annual conference in Washington this week.
Some of the loudest applause at the gathering came in response to calls for military attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities – something Netanyahu has attempted to portray as a more urgent issue than the Palestinian question.
But Aipac delegates were told by the US vice-president, Joe Biden, that the administration favours “mutual respect” in dealing with Iran.
Biden said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict strengthened Iran’s strategic position and Israel must take concrete steps – including fulfilling often-broken commitments to stop the expansion of Jewish settlements – towards the creation of a Palestinian state.
Last week, General James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, told a European foreign minister that the new administration would be “forceful” with Israel, according to a classified Israeli memo reported by the Ha’aretz newspaper.
Jones was quoted as saying that Obama believes Washington, the EU and moderate Arab states must define “a satisfactory endgame solution”.
“The new administration will convince Israel to compromise on the Palestinian question,” he was quoted as saying. “We will not push Israel under the wheels of a bus, but we will be more forceful toward Israel than we have been under Bush.” During his election campaign, Obama alarmed Israel’s hardline supporters by saying he regarded the lack of a resolution to the conflict as a “constant sore” that “infect[s] all of our foreign policy”. Netanyahu dare not openly defy Washington, and yesterday told the Aipac conference by satellite that he was ready for negotiations with the Palestinians.
But Aipac has moved to counter any new White House initiative by trying to mobilise Congress against it through the letter, written by two people seen as extremely close to the lobby group – Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives, and Eric Cantor, the Republican whip. The two men addressed an Aipac banquet attended by more than half the members of Congress on Monday, each standing in turn at a “roll call” of support for Israel. On the face of it, the letter is a call for a peace, but its specifics urge Obama to maintain years of US policy that has tacitly accepted Israeli stalling of peace negotiations. The letter says that “the best way to achieve future success between Israelis and Palestinians will be by adhering to basic principles that have undergirded our policy”.
These include “acceptance that the parties themselves must negotiate the details of any agreement” as well as demanding that the Palestinians first “build the institutions necessary for a viable state” before gaining independence.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the leader of J-street, a pro-Israel lobby group that favours the swift establishment of a Palestinian state, said that, while Aipac claims it supports a two-state solution, the letter is an attempt to prevent the White House from putting pressure on Israel to make that happen.
“They don’t come right out and say we don’t want Israel to make concessions, we don’t want Israel to leave the West Bank,” he said.
“They’ll say, ‘Of course we believe there should be peace’. But then they’ll do what this letter does. “They’ll say, ‘When the Israeli government decides it is ready to have a two-state solution, then there’ll be a two-state solution’.” Aipac wields considerable influence in the US Congress. Its critics say that what amounts to bullying pressure tactics has narrowed the room for debate about Israel, and claim the group has played a leading role in unseating some members of Congress who were critical of the Jewish state’s policies.

Robert Fisk: Civilians pay price of war from above: The Independent

Of course there will be an inquiry. And in the meantime, we shall be told that all the dead Afghan civilians were being used as “human shields” by the Taliban and we shall say that we “deeply regret” innocent lives that were lost. But we shall say that it’s all the fault of the terrorists, not our heroic pilots and the US Marine special forces who were target spotting around Bala Baluk and Ganjabad.
When the Americans destroy Iraqi homes, there is an inquiry. And oh how the Israelis love inquiries (though they rarely reveal anything). It’s the history of the modern Middle East. We are always right and when we are not, we (sometimes) apologise and then we blame it all on the “terrorists”. Yes, we know the throat-cutters and beheaders and suicide bombers are quite prepared to slaughter the innocent.
But it was a sign of just how terrible the Afghan slaughter was that the powerless President Hamid Karzai sounded like a beacon of goodness yesterday appealing for “a higher platform of morality” in waging war, that we should conduct war as “better human beings”.
And of course, the reason is quite simple. We live, they die. We don’t risk our brave lads on the ground – not for civilians. Not for anything. Fire phosphorus shells into Fallujah. Fire tank shells into Najaf. We know we kill the innocent. Israel does exactly the same. It said the same after its allies massacred 1,700 at the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in 1982 and in the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and after the death of more than a thousand Palestinians in Gaza this year.
And if we kill some gunmen at the same time – “terrorists”, of course – then it is the same old “human shield” tactic and ultimately the “terrorists” are to blame. Our military tactics are now fully aligned with Israel.
The reality is that international law forbids armies from shooting wildly in crowded tenements and bombing wildly into villages – even when enemy forces are present – but that went by the board in our 1991 bombing of Iraq and in Bosnia and in Nato’s Serbia war and in our 2001 Afghan adventure and in 2003 in Iraq. Let’s have that inquiry. And “human shields”. And terror, terror, terror. Something else I notice. Innocent or “terrorists”, civilians or Taliban, always it is the Muslims who are to blame.

ANALYSIS / Netanyahu is beginning to look worried: Ha’aretz

This week, for the first time since he took office, Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu has been looking worried. People who have spoken with him found him short-tempered, almost testy. The problems piling up on his desk are burying the sweet victory of his return to the Prime Minister’s Bureau: His approaching visit with U.S. President Barack Obama is looking less and less like cause for rejoicing amid the ill winds emanating from Washington. Before that he has Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to deal with, and in between, a budget that skimps on education, welfare and health, and is cruel to children at risk, the unemployed, demobilized soldiers, widows and new mothers.
After the draft budget was submitted to government ministers Wednesday night – proposing cuts in funds for Holocaust survivors, the elderly and the disabled – Netanyahu’s bureau sent out a hysterical beeper notice to reporters retracting the cuts. Labor Party ministers who just a week ago were singing Netanyahu’s praises boycotted the Knesset session on Monday, when the plenum voted to split various ministerial portfolios.
However, the one who blew Netanyahu’s fuse this week was his protege and right-hand man, who put together his coalition: Gideon Sa’ar, the new education minister. This week, for the first time, Netanyahu found out what it means to be in Sa’ar’s sights, when the latter decided to fight for the education budget, which has already been cut numerous times over the past decade. It began at the meeting of the Likud ministers last Friday, when Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz presented the budget. At the end of the discussion Netanyahu said something along the line of: Okay, we’re deciding that we support the government’s budget.

Introducing the propaganda minister: Ha’aretz

By Gideon Levy
Cancel the new Information and Diaspora Ministry, let the new foreign minister go, and we may as well shut down the information departments at Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu – we have a new propaganda minister. We’ve had better and worse presidents, but we’ve never had a president who served as government propagandist. Now we do: Shimon Peres has appointed himself to the unworthy task. Since the new government formed – the most right-wing government in Israel’s history – the (seemingly) left-wing (former) peace man has become its public relations agent.
Indefatigable as always, he has launched a worldwide campaign consisting of phone calls to statesmen, media interviews and visits overseas. His goal – slapping the kosher stamp of approval on what the world sees as an abomination. Instead of the real picture, he is giving them another masquerade.

First he legitimized Avigdor Lieberman (who said on Tuesday in Italy that “nothing has come from this whole peace industry,” which Peres cogenerated), then Benjamin Netanyahu – both men of peace par excellence in our president’s eyes. On what basis exactly? Trust Peres. It culminated of course during his visit in Washington, when Peres told his hosts: “Netanyahu is seeking a historic peace,” and “Since he was elected I haven’t heard him speaking against a two-state solution … peace is at the top of his priorities.” No less. Netanyahu’s spokesmen couldn’t have done it better. Do we have to ask who put him in that role? Is the president’s job to act as the prime minister’s spokesman? Is it appropriate for the president to reward Netanyahu this way for arranging him a visit to the White House?

And let’s assume Peres thought otherwise – that Netanyahu is the obstacle to peace and that Lieberman is no less than a declared racist – would he have dared to say so? And if he had, what a scandal that would have erupted over the state president’s forbidden involvement. But to praise in vain is permitted. Peres did not skip even the perverse comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany. The Israeli president may cheapen the Holocaust’s memory like this; he is allowed to compare. But when Israel’s critics dare draw such a parallel, they are automatically branded as Israel haters and anti-Semites. Peres, the statesman who firmly objected to the Begin government’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, is now the lead vocalist in the national intimidation choir against Iran, conducted by maestro Netanyahu. This, too, is inexplicable. Peres also hasn’t forgotten the shopworn, hollow old slogans about Israel’s yearning for peace, slogans for which one might still find dubious buyers only occasionally in America.

Caution in revoking citizenship: Ha’aretz editorial

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has announced he intends to begin proceedings to revoke the citizenship of four Arab citizens suspected of hostile activity against the State of Israel. Yishai says he is seeking to reassert his authority to revoke citizenship by changing the law delegating that authority to district courts. The amendment made to the Citizenship Law last August transferred authority to revoke citizenship to district courts sitting as courts for administrative affairs, so that such action could not be taken by a politically-motivated official such as the interior minister.

Revoking citizenship is a tremendous responsibility, the use of which is supposed to be made only in rare or extraordinary circumstances so as to prevent unnecessarily compromising a legally-enshrined right. The law, however, defines the right to revoke citizenship broadly – if the suspect has committed a breach of trust against the state through an act of terrorism, active participation in a terror group, an act of treason or espionage, or acquisition of citizenship or permanent residence in an enemy country – but even then, it is clear it should be a last resort, implemented when there is no alternative.
The interior minister is authorized to file a petition to a court toward revoking citizenship, but only with the written consent of the attorney general. In 2002, before the Citizenship Law was amended, Yishai sought to revoke the citizenship of several Arab citizens. Then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein said it would be a “grave and far-reaching step,” as committing an act of breach of trust could be interpreted so broadly that intelligence indicating hostile activity towards the state would be enough to revoke citizenship, even if there were not sufficient evidence for even a criminal conviction. The decision to revoke citizenship can be upheld from a legal perspective only if it can be proven that taking such drastic action towards an individual is necessary, and the goal of enhancing security cannot be met through lesser means. The prime minister, defense minister and justice minister – and not only the interior minister – must consider the political and diplomatic damage likely to be caused by taking such extraordinary measures. All the more so during the term of an administration in which a central faction is seeking to obligate Israeli citizens to take an oath of loyalty.

Like the Third Reich, the Israeli regime does everything legally… this is an obvious Nazi move against the people of Palestine, and should be understood and explained as such.



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May 1, 2009

Activists face off over draft-dodging: Ha’aretz

The police raid this week on the Ramat Hasharon home of Dutch-born activist Annelien Kisch comprised, to her, yet another sign that Israeli society rejects her “Western, anti-militaristic and peace-minded world view.” Opponents call it hypocritical for her to brandish Western values to justify breaking the law.
Officers were looking in her house near Rothberg High School for evidence the 70-year-old Kisch had abetted suspected draft-dodgers in allegedly lying to army authorities to receive an exemption from service. Kirsch is the cofounder of New Profile, which encourages youths to avoid conscription. New Profile describes itself as a feminist group devoted to “demilitarizing” Israeli society. The home of Dutch cofounder Mirjam Hadar, a neighbor of Kisch, was also raided. The two women formed the group in 1998 together with Ruth Hiller from the U.S., who also lives in the Sharon area.
Hadar, Kisch and five other people linked to New Profile were arrested on suspicion of allegedly inciting the youths to illegally obtain the service exemption (see box). Police confiscated several of the activists’ computers. All detainees were released on bail after questioning. Police forbade Hadar and Kisch to communicate with one or with the remaining five activists under investigation.
“Israeli society has zero acceptance of our message,” Kisch, who is an artist, told Anglo File on Monday in her usual, animated voice. She says people from the West are “much more receptive” to the group’s ideas than Israelis. “Israel is moving in the direction of the area in which it is located,” she observes.

Blow you can see how violent the Israeli police is against Jewish women protesters, from you can work out how nice they are to Palestinians:

Protest the investigation of New Profile and political persecution, 30-4-09 17:30, TEL AVIV‏

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April 23, 2009

Yad Vashem removes ‘rogue guide’: BBC

Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem has fired one of its guides for making political statements about the plight of the Palestinians during his tours. Visitors complained when Itamar Shapira likened the trauma of European Jews to the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) when Israel was founded in 1948. Israeli media said it was the first such sacking at Yad Vashem. Itamar Shapira accused the museum of having a “flawed approach” that ignored certain historical facts. Yad Vashem’s Estee Yaari told the BBC that Mr Shapira had violated clear prohibitions on employees pushing their own political viewpoints. “Yad Vashem is an apolitical organisation and as such is careful to ensure that the professional work of Holocaust remembrance and commemoration will be separated from any political agenda,” she told the BBC. She said Itamar Shapira had been employed as a freelance guide by Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies for about two years. “Recently, a complaint was lodged noting a number of problems with his guiding,” she said. “After a discussion with school staff, he refused to change his guiding method and was let go.”

Clinton: Israel risks losing support on Iran: Ha’artez

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautioned Israel’s right-wing government on Thursday that it risked losing Arab support for fighting any threats from Iran if it shuns Palestinian peace talks. Signaling U.S. impatience with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reticence over peace talks, Clinton said Arab nations had made clear to her that Israel must be committed to the Palestinian peace process if it wants help countering Iran. “For Israel to get the kind of strong support it is looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can’t stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts. They go hand in hand,” she told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. Israel sees a nuclear-armed threat as a mortal threat. “They [Arab countries] believe that Israel’s willingness to re-enter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran,” she added. Since coming into power last month, Netanyahu and his right-leaning coalition have avoided recognizing the Palestinians’ right to an independent state as his predecessor Ehud Olmert did. The United States is committed to pushing for a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side, and would like to revive stalled talks.

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March 14, 2009

The CIA seem to have been reading this blog, and are now joining us in predicting the end of Zionism is nigh… read below:

CIA Report: Israel Will Fall In 20 Years: Press TV

A study conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has cast doubt over Israel’s survival beyond the next 20 years.
The CIA report predicts “an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region.”
The study, which has been made available only to a certain number of individuals, further forecasts the return of all Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, and the exodus of two million Israeli – who would move to the US in the next fifteen years.
“There is over 500,000 Israelis with American passports and more than 300,000 living in the area of just California,” International lawyer Franklin Lamb said in an interview with Press TV on Friday, adding that those who do not have American or western passport, have already applied for them. “So I think the handwriting at least among the public in Israel is on the wall…[which] suggests history will reject the colonial enterprise sooner or later,” Lamb stressed. He said CIA, in its report, alludes to the unexpectedly quick fall of the apartheid government in South Africa and recalls the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, suggesting the end to the dream of an ‘Israeli land’ would happen ‘way sooner’ than later. The study further predicts the return of over one and a half million Israelis to Russia and other parts of Europe, and denotes a decline in Israeli births whereas a rise in the Palestinian population. Lamb said given the Israeli conduct toward the Palestinians and the Gaza strip in particular, the American public — which has been voicing its protest against Tel Aviv’s measures in the last 25 years — may ‘not take it anymore’. Some members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have been informed of the report.

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Feb 21, 2009

Support the student occupations against the illegal occupation in Palestine!

Boycott & Picket Batsheva at BAM & Everywhere: Dance Insider 

 

A protester at a Chicago performance of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company. Photo by and copyright Christine Geovanis, HammerHard MediaWorks, Chicago.

A protester at a Chicago performance of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company. Photo by and copyright Christine Geovanis, HammerHard MediaWorks, Chicago.

“I think it’s not really going to make a difference to boycott a dance company…. The boycott is just preventing something that is good…. I think artists belong to a group of people who don’t represent the ugly side of Israel.” — Ohad Naharin, artistic director, Batsheva Dance Company, commenting in Straight.Com, February 12, ahead of Batsheva’s Feb. 20-21 Vancouver engagement. “The Brand Israel project, which was created during [foreign minister Tzipi] Livni’s tenure, seeks to counter the country’s aggressive and religious image abroad, using common marketing tools. If Israel is perceived as a hard, unpleasant place, resembling an armed evangelical village in Texas, then it is worthwhile to reveal softer sides to the West.” – Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz, February 18 “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground…. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the Earth.” – The Bible Here’s the context of Batsheva’s North American tour, which culminates March 4 – 7 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: Rather than alter its genocidal policies towards the Palestinians whom, as an occupying power, it has a legal obligation to *protect*, Israel has responded with a PR campaign, “Brand Israel,” designed to portray its ‘softer’ side and give a veneer of Western civilization to a country whose most recent slaughters in Gaza were barbaric. How could the beautiful bikini-clad Israeli soldiers featured in Maxim magazine in 2007 — in a photo-spread *sponsored* by the Israeli Foreign Ministry — possibly be guilty of the kind of war crimes reported by objective observers in Gaza, including dropping illegal phosperous bombs on a United Nations facility and bombing UN schools as well as hospitals and civilian homes, mowing down civilians after ordering them to leave buildings, killing more than 1300 people a third of whom were children, preventing medical aid from getting to the wounded, etcetera, etcetera?

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