Anat Kamm

February 14, 2011

The Greatest Knockout of All, by the great Carlos Latuff

EDITOR: The Boycott is biting, and Israel is fighting back with undemocratic legislation

It has taken a few years to build the BDS movement, and much remains to be done in the different countries around the globe. nonetheless, its effects are now clear, and Israel is fighting back with another undemocratic and unconstitutional law, badly worded and without any basis in law, either Israeli or international. The attempt here is to frighten and punish anyone who criticises the Israeli occupation and its ravages.

Calls grow for free Egypt media: Al Jazeera online

Pressure is mounting to rid state media of loyalists of Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president.

Pressure is mounting for Hosni Mubarak’s appointees to be removed from Egypt’s state media.

During the recent pro-democracy protests state television broadcast propaganda for the government and now some fear it may not be impartial during the country’s transition to democracy.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports from Cairo.

Protecting Israel from its citizens: Haaretz

The parliamentary investigative panel to examine organizations’ funding sources actually have no interest in questions of legality and constitutionality. All they want is to delegitimize protest and political opinions, and to scare us.
By Avirama Golan
On Tuesday, a Knesset committee is due to approve on second and third readings the bill combating boycotts against Israel – another hysterical proposal by the right wing and Kadima MK Dalia Itzik designed to protect our weak and tiny country, which is being attacked from within and without.

“This law,” explain the architects of the proposal, “is designed to protect the State of Israel in general and its citizens in particular from academic, economic and other boycotts that are imposed on the country, its citizens and corporations, due to their connection to the State of Israel.” The law is designed to protect “the area under Israeli control, including Judea and Samaria.” According to the bill, “It is forbidden to initiate a boycott against the State of Israel, to encourage participation in it or to provide assistance or information in order to promote it.”

There is no problem, therefore, with a boycott by ultra-Orthodox consumers against supermarkets that open on Shabbat, or against a merchant whose sons serve in the Israel Defense Forces, even if it leads to their economic collapse. There might also not be a problem in boycotting fur exporters, for example. The only offense is “a boycott against the State of Israel,” and in effect against the settlements, whose products are the object of most boycotts in Israel and the world over.

That being the case, the bill – which is certainly not constitutional (we can make an endless list of freedoms that it undermines ) – opposes even international agreements that Israel has signed. First among them is the agreement to join the OECD and the agreement with the European Union. These require that products be marked, distinguishing the Israeli economy from that of the territories.

But even someone who believes that a consumer boycott is legitimate while an academic boycott is a despicable tool that harms Israeli education’s soft underbelly – someone who doesn’t move a single stone from the wall of the occupation – can’t support legislation that involves a consumer boycott directed only at the settlements, or silences anyone who demonstrates or speaks against them.

This is what will happen if the bill passes – and its chances are considerable despite the protest of many organizations, headed by the Coalition of Women for Peace and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. A “talkbacker” on the Internet who complains, for example, about the economic burden caused by the settlements can expect a lawsuit from a settler who can claim that the comment promoted a boycott of his products. The writer will be fined at least NIS 30,000 and the plaintiff won’t have to prove the link between what is written and the damage. Not to mention writers of articles and people who express opinions on radio and television.

Bizarre? Not compared to the next article: “If the interior minister sees someone who is not a citizen or a resident of Israel acting in contradiction to Article 2, or if the cabinet has decided by a majority of its members that such a person is imposing a boycott against the State of Israel, the interior minister is allowed to request the district court to deny that person the right to enter Israel for a period of at least 10 years.” So what? Will Ken Loach beg to be allowed to attend the Haifa Film Festival and be denied entry?

In other times we could depend on the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to reject such embarrassing texts out of hand. Not now. Questions of legality and constitutionality, freedom of expression and human rights are now dwarfed in light of the goal, whose distorted definition “protection of the State of Israel” justifies the means.

Behind this declared objective hides a more problematic one. The initiators of the glorious legislation of recent years – the Nakba law, the loyalty law, the community-admission-committee law, the denial of citizenship law (“the Bishara Law” ), the parliamentary investigative panel to examine organizations’ funding sources – actually have no interest in questions of legality and constitutionality. All they want is to delegitimize protest and political opinions, and to scare us.

Although Israelis find it hard to see the connection among the laws, which ostensibly refer to different issues and communities, the violent rape of the law book caused by this legislation has destructive results. And these results – which are collapsing the foundations of Israeli democracy – will harm everyone in the end, without distinction.

EDITOR: Connections are made

The Tahrir Square victory has become a rousing symbol for Arabs everywhere, including inside Israel’s Green Line borders. Below a young Palestinian student is voicing his clear criticism of western and Israeli voices which through a deeply Orientalist view, have argued for the denial of freedom to the Egyptians and Arabs elsewhere.

The resurrection of pan-Arabism: Al Jazeera online

The Egyptian revolution has resurrected a new type of pan-Arabism, based on social justice not empty slogans.

The Egyptian revolution has resurrected pan-Arabism but this is not the pan-Arabism of previous generations [GALLO/GETTY]
The Egyptian revolution, itself influenced by the Tunisian uprising, has resurrected a new sense of pan-Arabism based on the struggle for social justice and freedom. The overwhelming support for the Egyptian revolutionaries across the Arab world reflects a sense of unity in the rejection of tyrannical, or at least authoritarian, leaders, corruption and the rule of a small financial and political elite.

Arab protests in solidarity with the Egyptian people also suggest that there is a strong yearning for the revival of Egypt as a pan-Arab unifier and leader. Photographs of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the former Egyptian president, have been raised in Cairo and across Arab capitals by people who were not even alive when Nasser died in 1970. The scenes are reminiscent of those that swept Arab streets in the 1950s and 1960s.

But this is not an exact replica of the pan-Arab nationalism of those days. Then, pan-Arabism was a direct response to Western domination and the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel. Today, it is a reaction to the absence of democratic freedoms and the inequitable distribution of wealth across the Arab world.

We are now witnessing the emergence of a movement for democracy that transcends narrow nationalism or even pan-Arab nationalism and which embraces universal human values that echo from north to south and east to west.

This is not to say that there is no anti-imperialist element within the current movement. But the protests in Egypt and elsewhere promote a deeper understanding of human emancipation, which forms the real basis for freedom from both repression and foreign domination.

Unlike the pan-Arabism of the past, the new movement represents an intrinsic belief that it is freedom from fear and human dignity that enables people to build better societies and to create a future of hope and prosperity. The old “wisdom” of past revolutionaries that liberation from foreign domination precedes the struggle for democracy has fallen.

The revolutionaries of Egypt, and before them Tunisia, have exposed through deeds – not merely words – the leaders who are tyrants towards their own people, while humiliatingly subservient to foreign powers. They have shown the impotence of empty slogans that manipulate animosity towards Israel to justify a fake Arab unity, which in turn serves only to mask sustained oppression and the betrayal of Arab societies and the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian pretext

The era of using the Palestinian cause as a pretext for maintaining martial laws and silencing dissent is over. The Palestinians have been betrayed, not helped, by leaders who practice repression against their own people. It is no longer sufficient for regimes in Syria and Iran to claim support for Palestinian resistance in order to stifle freedom of expression and to shamelessly tread on human rights in their own countries.

Equally, it is no longer acceptable for the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas to cite their record in resisting Israel when justifying their suppression of each other and the rest of the Palestinian people. Young Palestinians are responding to the message of the movement and embracing the idea that combatting internal injustice – whether practised by Fatah or Hamas – is a prerequisite for the struggle to end Israeli occupation and not something to be endured for the sake of that struggle.

Events in Egypt and Tunisia have revealed that Arab unity against internal repression is stronger than that against a foreign threat – neither the American occupation of Iraq nor the Israeli occupation galvanised the Arab people in the way that a single act by a young Tunisian who chose to set himself alight rather than live in humiliation and poverty has.

This does not mean that Arabs do not care about the occupied people of Iraq or Palestine – tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands have taken to the streets across Arab countries at various times to show solidarity with Iraqis and Palestinians – but it does reflect the realisation that the absence of democratic freedoms has contributed to the continued occupation of those countries.

The Arab failure to defend Iraq or liberate Palestine has come to symbolise an Arab impotence that has been perpetuated by the state of fear and paralysis in which the ordinary Arab citizen, marginalised by social injustice and crushed by security apparatus oppression, has existed.

When they were allowed to rally in support of Iraqis or Palestinians it was mainly so that their anger might be deflected from their own governments and towards a foreign threat. For so long, they put their own socio-economic grievances aside to voice their support for the occupied, only to wake up the next day shackled by the same chains of repression.

All the while, both pro-Western and anti-Western governments continued with business as usual – the first camp relying on US support to consolidate their authoritarian rule and the second on anti-Israel slogans to give legitimacy to their repression of their people.

But now people across the region – not only in Egypt and Tunisia – have lost faith in their governments. For make no mistake, when protesters have gathered in Amman or Damascus to express their solidarity with the Egyptian revolutionaries in Tahrir Square, they are actually objecting to their own rulers.

In Ramallah, the protesters repeated a slogan calling for the end of internal Palestinian divisions (which, in Arabic, rhymes with the Egyptian call for the end to the regime), as well as demanding an end to negotiations with Israel – sending a clear message that there will be no room left for the Palestinian Authority if it continues to rely on such negotiations.

In the 1950s and 1960s, millions of Arabs poured onto the streets determined to continue the liberation of the Arab world from the remnants of colonial domination and the creeping American hegemony. In 2011, millions have poured onto the streets determined not only to ensure their freedom but also to ensure that the mistakes of previous generations are not repeated. Slogans against a foreign enemy – no matter how legitimate – ring hollow if the struggle for democratic freedoms is set aside.

The protesters in Cairo and beyond may raise photographs of Gamal Abdel Nasser, because they see him as a symbol of Arab dignity. But, unlike Nasser, the demonstrators are invoking a sense of pan-Arab nationalism that understands that national liberation cannot go hand-in-hand with the suppression of political dissent. For this is a genuine Arab unity galvanised by the common yearning for democratic freedoms.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.

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February 10, 2011

EDITOR: The real alliance in the Middle East

It is clear for all to see the real Middle Eastern Alliance – US, Saudi Arabia, Mubarak and Israel, all actively supported by the PA! If this is what Obama meant by ‘change’ in his Cairo speech afgter his inauguration, it is really solid – support for undemocratic and dictatorial regimes everywhere. From supporting ‘change in 2010, Obama moved to supporting ‘stability’ in 2011. What a swift and impressive change… It seems that not only is the US and its ‘progressive’ president supporting dictatorial and undemocratic regimes, but also supporting theior torture machine… This is of course not new – the US has done so for over a century.

The Egyptian people will defeat this unholy alliance, even if it takes much longer to get rid of the dictator. After his ousting, he can obviously go to sit in Riad on his billions, unless brought to justice, as he should be.

‘Saudi king told Obama he’d fund Mubarak if U.S. halted Egypt aid’: Haaretz

Abdullah warned U.S. president that withdrawing $1.5 billion in annual aid would humiliate Mubarak, according to Britain’s The Times.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah told U.S. President Barack Obama that his country would prop up Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak if the United States withdrew its aid program, The Times said on Thursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama shaking hands with Saudi King Abdullah at a bilateral meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 3, 2009. Photo by: AP

Abdullah told Obama not to humiliate Mubarak, who is under pressure from protesters to quit immediately, in a telephone call on January 29, the newspaper said, citing a senior source in Riyadh.

Obama’s administration has wavered between support for Egypt in Washington’s conflict with militant Islam and backing for Egyptians who have been protesting for weeks to demand Mubarak and his government quit.

The United States has long nurtured its alliance with key ally Egypt, giving billions of dollars in aid as it seeks to influence affairs in a region whose autocratic rulers are struggling to contain social discontent.

The United States has stopped short of endorsing calls for Mubarak, 82, to leave office immediately. He said last week he would step down in September when an election is due.

On January 28, the White House said the United States would review $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt. Officials later said no such review was planned currently.

Celebrities and artists show support for people’s revolution: Ahram online

The majority of celebrities and artists have shown solidarity with ordinary citizens in the 25 January revolution, while others want to wait until the next elections
Menna Taher and Wael Eskandar, Wednesday 9 Feb 2011
Protester on top of a pole in Tahrir square waving the Egyptian flag
Artists have been actively involved in the people’s revolution which began on 25 January, two weeks ago. The involvement of celebrities has had an impact on the revolution, as the revolution will have an impact on the future work of those celebrities.

A statement was issued by several artists, poets, intellectuals and writers ordering President Mubarak to step down immediately.

The statement affirmed that Mubarak is responsible for the problems that Egypt has faced for the past thirty years and for the stagnation of economic life in Egypt, which has made many suffer, especially those who rely on their daily income. He is also responsible for the massive bloodshed witnessed in the past weeks by the police and NDP thugs.

The statement received over 200 signatures, including the signatures of actors Khaled Abol Naga, Asser Yassin, who have been active in the protests, as well as filmmakers Mohamed Khan, Dawood Abdel Sayed, Ali Badrakhan, Yousry Nasrallah, Mohamed Diab and Kamla Abou Zikry.

Visual artists Mohamed Abla also signed on behalf of the artists of the Cairo atelier. Abla appeared on El Ashera Massan, the talk show hosted by Mona El Shazly and spoke about Ahmed Bassiouny the artist, who died during the violent protests on 28 January (the Friday of Anger).

Bassiouny, a visual artist and a martyr of the uprising, was hit by a police car and died of a rupture in his heart and left lung.

Abla commented on the current cultural scene and how it destroys the dreams of youth and criticised the ministry of culture by saying that money gushes like torrents in the ministry, yet it restrains art. “Ahmed dreamt that Egyptian art would be known on an international level,” he said.

Khaled Abol Naga was interviewed on BBC and called for President Mubarak to step down after having himself experienced police brutality with gunfire during the protests.

Amr Waked is outspoken about the desire for change using peaceful means. He has been present in Tahrir square calling for the president to step down.

Other celebrities present in Tahrir constantly are Ahmed Abdallah, Ahmed Maher, Basma, Yosra El Lozy and Asser Yassin, as well as Mohamed Diab the director of the award winning Egyptian film, 678.

The composer Ammar El Sherei has also taken part in the protests and defended them strongly when he went on El Ashera Masaan with Mona El Shazly, and criticised Safwat El Sherif. After joining in the protest on Friday, he had a stroke and is currently in hospital.

Another initiation was a Facebook post by the independent filmmaker Mohamed Al Assiouty suggesting civil disobedience by refraining from paying bills and taxes.

Some artists were brutally beaten by the police, have died or are still missing. Amr Salama was beaten on Tuesday 25 January and published a post on Facebook two days later relaying a detailed account of what happened to him.

Ziad Bakir, the artist and graphic designer of the Opera House, is missing since 28 January.

Some big budget actors and producers have shown their support for the regime, including Ghada Abdel Razek, Ahmad El Sakka and El Sobky. They were seen at Mostafa Mahmoud square in Mohandessin, chanting pro-Mubarak slogans on Tuesday night after the president’s speech when he declared he will not run for president in the September elections and would look into amendments in articles 76 and 77.

It is worth noting that actors Mona Zaki and Ahmed Helmy supported Mubarak after the speech but later changed their position after the violent events that took place the following day. They have been spotted in Tahrir square giving out food to protesters.

A group was set up on Facebook entitled ‘The Blacklist of 25 January’ which includes numerous celebrities that have opposed the 25 January pro-democratic protests.

The Middle East does not need stability: Haaretz

This so-called stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies.
By Gideon Levy
When a tank enters a residential neighborhood, sows fear and destruction, and the local kids throw stones at it, what is this called? “Disturbing the peace.” And what do you call the detention of those stone-throwers, allowing the tank to continue on its way without any more trouble? “Restoring order.”

That is how we have shaped our disgustingly laundered language to serve our one and only narrative; how we would describe to ourselves the misleading reality in which we live. Meanwhile, tanks are no longer entering residential areas; order is somehow being maintained in the territories without them. The occupier oppresses, the occupied people overcome their instincts and their struggle, and good order is maintained – for now. Stability.

Egypt also suddenly dared to “disturb the peace.” Its people, who have had enough of the country’s corrupt government and the tyrannical silencing of their voices, have taken to the streets. Riots. The Western world, including Israel, has tensed in the face of this great danger – the stability in the Middle East is about to be undermined.

Indeed, that stability should be undermined. The stability in the region, something which Westerners and Israeli have come to yearn, merely means perpetuating the status quo. That situation might be good for Israel and the West, but it is very bad for the millions of people who have had to pay the price. Maintaining Mideast stability means perpetuating the intolerable situation by which some 2.5 million Palestinians exist without any rights under the heel of Israeli rule; and another few million Palestinian refugees from the war of 1948 are living in camps in Arab countries, where they also lack any rights, hope, livelihood and dignity.

This so-called stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies. In stable Saudi Arabia, the women are regarded as the lowest of the low; in stable Syria, any sign of opposition is repressed; in stable Jordan and Morocco, the apple of the eye of the West and Israel, people are frightened to utter a word of criticism against their kings, even in casual coffee-shop conversations.

The yearned-for stability in the Middle East includes millions of poor and ignorant people in Egypt, while the ruling families celebrate with their billions in capital. It includes regimes, the bulk of whose budgets are scandalously channeled to the military, endlessly and unnecessarily arming themselves to preserve the regime – at the expense of education, health care, development and welfare. The stability entails rule that passes from father to son (and not just in the region’s monarchies ) and false elections in which only representatives of the ruling parties are allowed to run.

It involves unnecessary, worthless wars, civil wars and wars between countries in which the people give their blood because of the whims and megalomanic urges of their rulers. It represses free thought, self-determination and the struggle for freedom. It consists of weakness, lack of growth and development, lack of opportunity for achievement and almost nonexistent benefits for the masses, whose situation is frightfully stable. In their poverty and oppression, they are stable.

A region rich in natural and human resources, which could have thrived at least as much as the Far East, has been standing stable for decades. After Africa, it is the most backward place in the world.

That is the stability we apparently want to preserve; the stability that the United States always wants to preserve; the stability that Europe wants to preserve. Any undermining of this stability is considered disturbing the peace – and that is bad according to our definition.

But let us remember that when Israel was established, this signified a huge disturbance to the region – one that greatly undermined its stability and posed the greatest danger; but it was a just disturbance, to us and to the West. Now the time has come to disturb the peace some more, to undermine the worthless stability in which the Middle East is living.

The peoples of Tunisia and Egypt have begun the process. The United States and Europe stuttered at first, but quickly came to their senses. They also finally realized that the region’s stability is not only unjust, it is misleading: It will be undermined in the end. When the tank invades our lives, stones must be thrown at it; the infuriating stability of the Middle East must be wiped out.

Workers to continue Egypt strikes: Al Jazeera online

Thousands of doctors are among those expected to join workers’ strike as anti-Mubarak demonstration enters its 17th day.

Egyptian labour unions held nationwide strikes for a second day, adding momentum to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

The move comes as the demonstrations calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate ouster enters its 17th day.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Cairo, said about 5,000 doctors and medical students were expected to come out on Thursday.

Lawyers, public transport workers and the artists syndicate were also among those who joined the strikes, Al Jazeera correspondents reported.

“It’s certainly increasing the pressure on the government here. I think it’s worth making the distinction that the strikes going on are more of an economic nature, they are not necessarily jumping on the bandwagon of the protesters in Tahrir Square,” Dekker said.

“Many of them are not actually calling for the president to step down, but fighting for better wages, for better working conditions.”

Our correspondents reported that around 20,000 factory workers had stayed away from work across Egypt on Wednesday.

“[Strikers] were saying that they want better salaries, they want an end to the disparity in the pay, and they want the 15 per cent increase in pay that was promised to them by the state,” Shirine Tadros, reported from Cairo.

Some workers were also calling for Mubarak to step down, she said.

Culture minister quits

Meanwhile, Gaber Asfour, the recently appointed culture minister, resigned from Mubarak’s cabinet on Wednesday for health reasons, a member of his family told Reuters.

But the website of Egypt’s main daily newspaper Al-Ahram said Asfour, a writer, was under pressure from literary colleagues over the post.

Asfour was sworn in following the start of the protests on January 31, and believed it would be a national unity government, al-Ahram said.

Determined protesters continue to rally in Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square, and other cities across the country. They say they will not end the protests until Mubarak, who has been at the country’s helm since 1981, steps down.

Protesters with blankets gathered outside the parliament building in Cairo on Wednesday, with no plan to move, our correspondent reported. The demonstrators had put up a sign that read: “Closed until the fall of the regime”.

There was also a renewed international element to the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad returning to join the pro-democracy camp.

Our correspondent said an internet campaign is currently on to mobilise expatriates to return and support the uprising.

Protesters are “more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day”, Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo. “This is a growing movement, it’s not shrinking.”

Meanwhile, 34 political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, were reportedly released over the past two days.

Our correspondent said that there are still an unknown number of people missing, including activists thought to be detained during the recent unrest.

Human Rights Watch said the death toll has reached 302 since January 28. However, Egypt’s health ministry denied the figures, saying official statistics would be released shortly.

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January 30, 2011

EDITOR: Egypt’s revolution affecting all around

Despite the still unclear results of the Egyptian mass movement towards ridding the country of its dictator and his corrupt regime, the momentous events sent waves of terror towards Israel and the other corrupt Arab regimes surrounding it.  With Rafah being the single, fragile gateway into and out of Gaza, this is a difficult time for Palestinians there, who, like most of us, are wishing success to the marchers in Egyptian cities, who share with them the need and urge for freedom and democracy.

Concern mounts in Gaza as Egypt shuts down its shared border: Haaretz

Gaza border official Ghazi Hamad says Egyptian counterparts indicated the crossing could remain closed for several days.

There was widespread concern in the Gaza Strip on Sunday after Egypt decided to shut down the Rafah border crossing until further notice amid growing unrest.

The Islamist Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, said it was officially informed by Egyptian security officials that the Rafah crossing would be closed.

Gaza border official Ghazi Hamad said they had been in contact with their Egyptian counterparts and indicated that the crossing could remain closed for several days.

The Interior Ministry in Gaza said in a press statement Saturday that it had redeployed dozens of security personnel to guard the border, to prevent any infiltration of Palestinians from the coastal enclave into Egypt.

Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said there was so far no official Hamas position on the turmoil in Egypt.

“All what we hope is to see calm and stability are back in Egypt and that the Egyptian people choose their representatives freely and democratically,” said al-Bardaweel.

In a Gaza city cafe, a group of young men expressed concerns over the situation in Egypt. Mohamed al-Shawa said, “We depend on Egypt in so many things in our life, and Egypt has been always our gate for the outside world … we are afraid that Egyptian fuel would be cut off.”

Ahmed Abu Sido, another young Gazan, said: “If the regime in Egypt collapses, I believe that all Arab regimes will follow.”

‘Don’t take our girls …’: Al Jazeera online

Jewish-Palestinian couples in Israel face increasing pressure as racism becomes more open.

”]Not long after religious nationalists held a rally in Bat Yam under the banner of “Jewish girls for the Jewish people,” a group of rabbis’ wives published a letter urging Jewish women not to date Arab men.

Jewish-Palestinian couples remain uncommon in Israel. But both the rally and letter point towards the difficulties faced by such couples, even those from liberal backgrounds.

Rona, a young professional Jewish woman in her early thirties who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, has kept her relationship with a Palestinian man a secret from most of her relatives for almost four years.

While her parents know and have met Rona’s boyfriend, Rona says that she is at a point where she is “actively lying” to the rest of her family.

“I don’t know how to articulate how they’d react, “Rona says. “I think that my aunt and uncle know that there is someone … and they definitely know that he’s Arab. But it’s more about my grandmother and her sisters and the older generation. It’s like if [I] were to bring home a mass murderer.”

She laughs nervously and continues.

“It just doesn’t happen. It’s like: ‘Bring home somebody who is a total loser, but don’t bring home an Arab.'”

Rona describes her parents’ political views as “moving more left but kind of traditional,” adding, “my mum always says that she thinks that the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 was a mistake and that [Israel] should have returned the territories.”

Still, Rona did not tell her parents about her relationship right away.

“There was a period of time I was hiding it for convenience’s sake. I just wanted to enjoy my life and not be harassed.”

When she did talk to her parents about her boyfriend, who is a non-practicing Muslim, they sidestepped the issue of his race, focusing instead on “cultural differences”.

“I was like, ‘What are you saying? That he’s going to come home one day and want me to put on a hijab? Do you know what the cultural differences are?'” Rona recalls. “So I took immediate offense to this concept. I thought it was racist from the get go.”

Her parents also objected to the relationship because “it would be so difficult for us to live here together,” Rona says, due to the widespread discrimination they would face.

She describes the first time her parents met her boyfriend as “awkward”.

“I think it was actually their first personal interaction with an Arab, other than [those working in] stores and restaurants. I think it was a very emotional encounter for them. They liked him and my mum said he seemed like an amazing guy.”

Still, Rona’s mother insisted that she not put herself “in that kind of a situation”.

Rona says that she has not felt any racism coming from her boyfriend’s family. But, because of the political situation, there are moments when she feels a divide between them.

She was living with her boyfriend when Operation Cast Lead began in December, 2008. Her boyfriend’s mother, whose sister lives in the Gaza Strip, happened to be visiting when the war began.

“We were watching the news and they were showing the first strikes, the air attack,” Rona recalls. “His mum was screaming and crying and cursing the army and the Israelis and the Jews and everyone and I was standing there like ‘I don’t know what to do.’ On the one hand, I wanted to show her that I care. On the other, does she now want an Israeli Jew to put her arm around her? But I did.”

History of mixed marriages

Although Israel’s religious nationalists have only recently spoken against such relationships, they are far from new. Jews and Arabs have been falling in love in Palestine for as long as both have been there.
Iris Agmon, a professor in Ben Gurion University’s department of Middle East studies, says: “In the Ottoman sharia court records one can find women whose nicknames hint to the fact that they are converted Muslims.” And some of these women were probably Jewish.

After Ottoman rule ended, the British mandate also saw such couples. Deborah Bernstein, a professor in the University of Haifa’s department of sociology and anthropology, says that although there is no “systematic documentation or even discussion of the subject … it is clear that such a phenomena did exist”. She found family stories of these couples while researching her Hebrew-language book about women in mandatory Tel Aviv.

Bernstein also discovered “archival welfare documents,” pointing to such relationships. “For example, [one referred to] a [Jewish] woman leaving her husband and children and going to live with an Arab man.”

In most cases, Bernstein says, Jewish women converted to Islam before marrying their Arab partner. She believes that a majority of these couples left Israel when it was established in 1948.

Bernstein did not come across any examples of Jewish men marrying Christian Arab or Muslim Arab women.

Bernstein adds that the Jewish community was “very strongly opposed” to “mixed marriages”.

“This was the case in [Jewish immigrants’] countries of origin,” Bernstein says, explaining that the opposition to mixed marriages took on an “additional national element” in Israel.

But, sometimes, protests against such relationships ran the other way – leaving a lasting impact on generations to come.

The Palestinian grandson of such a marriage lives in a neighbouring Arab country. According to Jewish religious law, he is not Jewish. While, technically, many of his cousins are Jewish, they do not know it – their grandmother’s conversion is a strictly-guarded secret, shared with only a few members of the family.

Segregation

Because it remains an extremely sensitive issue for both communities, a number of Jewish-Palestinian couples declined my requests for interviews. Several are so concerned about family reactions, they have not told their parents about their Jewish or Arab partner.

But Alex and Salma are lucky. Alex is the son of Jewish Israeli leftists. Salma is a young Palestinian woman whose Communist parents raised her and her four sisters with only a nod to their Christian roots. Because their families are so progressive, Alex says, their relationship is “relatively simple”.

“The first song I learned to sing was shir l’shalom [song for peace]. We’ve gone to demonstrations since I was a toddler. So I was always on the left,” he explains, “but I never knew any Palestinians.”

Alex’s comment points to the deep divisions in Israeli society that make Jewish-Palestinian relationships so unlikely.

“[Society] is built in a way that doesn’t help relationships,” Salma says. “Everything is segregated. The educational systems are separated … People don’t meet. And if they do meet, they meet under unusual circumstances, like at a demonstration.”

Even though both Alex and Salma grew up in liberal homes, the two were no exception – it was activism that brought them together.

And it helps keep them together. Most of their friends hold similar political views, providing a buffer from the rest of Israeli society.

“You know, we sort of chose our lives,” Salma says. “I can’t be friends with racist people so it’s easy to avoid. But I think if we would have gone out to more parties we would have faced more problems.”

Still, things are only “relatively simple”.

Alex recalls running into a friend from school who made a racist and obscene remark about his relationship with Salma. And one of Salma’s closest childhood friends stopped speaking to her when she joined a Jewish-Arab group that advocates for a bi-national solution to the conflict.

“I think it comes out more than that,” Alex adds.

Salma nods and begins to explain: “I have one sister who got married last summer. She knows Alex and his family very well, so she wanted to invite [them] …”

She pauses and, a bit like an old married couple, Alex picks up the thread and continues: “And the oldest sister says, ‘What are you going to invite all of your Zionist friends?'”

There is a flicker of hurt on Alex’s face as he remembers. “Now, this comes out of nowhere. I refused [mandatory military service],” Alex says. “I’m definitely not a Zionist. I refused and my parents aren’t Zionists.”

Alex emphasises that he maintains a warm relationship with Salma’s oldest sister and that her remark came during an emotional argument. But, Alex says, the incident pointed to something that “can’t be completely erased … that the relationship can’t be normalised. It always has to be politically justified.”

What do such tensions say about Israeli society?

“Nothing good,” Alex answers.

The couple is also concerned about the recent outbreak of open racism in Israel.

“I think the hatred is becoming more and more explicit,” Salma says, pointing to the rally in Bat Yam and the rabbis’ wives’ letter as two examples. “It’s ‘don’t take our girls’ ….”

Israeli Arab who spied for Hezbollah jailed for nine years: Haaretz

Ameer Makhoul was detained by the Shin Bet and police anti-terror units last May; struck plea bargain with prosecution.

Ameer Makhoul at court

The Haifa District Court on Sunday sentenced Israeli Arab activist Ameer Makhoul to nine years in prison and another year suspended sentence for charges of spying and contact with a foreign agent from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant organization.

Makhoul’s lawyers struck a plea bargain with the prosecution in October 2010, in which they asked for a reduced sentence of seven years, while the prosecution asked for 10 years – the maximum sentence for the charges against him.

The verdict stated that Makhoul handed intelligence to a Hezbollah agent on Shin Bet installations in the Haifa region and on Mossad offices in the center of the country. He also attempted, the verdict said, to pass on information about a military base and sought details about the residence of Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.

Makhoul, director general of the charity Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-Based Associations), was detained by the Shin Bet security services and police anti-terror units on May 6, along with fellow Israeli Arab activist Omar Saeed.

Saeed struck a plea bargain in August, under which he will be charged with working for an illegal organization, a crime that carries a punishment of several months’ jail-time.

Upon his arrest, Makhoul was kept from meeting with a lawyer or speaking with his family for nearly two weeks, during which he confessed to the accusations. His lawyers later claimed the confession was coerced. They were finally allowed access to Makhoul only after threatening to boycott a hearing.

Makhoul, a veteran activist well-known among Arab charities and NGOs, was a regular participant in conferences on discrimination in Israel and abroad and has been a virulent critic of government policy.

Europe’s failure on Middle East peace: The Guardian CiF

Attempts to reconcile policy contradictions have prevented the EU from mounting an alternative foreign policy to that of the US

Many have questioned why the European Union failed to provide an independent view to that of the United States on Middle East policy during the last decade. It is not a simple question to answer. Partly, the EU failed to assert its voice because, at the beginning of the decade, it was scrambling to contain the impact of inflating US hubris, fuelled by the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Partly, it was also a simple reflection of most European politicians’ dependency on Washington. But the release of the Palestine Papers provides another answer.

They show how Tony Blair in particular had so undercut the political space that there was effectively no room for it. In a secret policy switch in 2003, he tied the UK and EU security policy into a major American counter-insurgency (Coin) “surge” in Palestine.

It was an initiative that would bear a heavy political cost for the EU in 2006, and for years to come, when Hamas won parliamentary elections by a large majority. The EU’s claims for democracy have rung hollow ever since. Blair’s “surge” also left the EU exposed as hypocrites: on a political level, for example, the EU might talk about its policy of fostering reconciliation between Palestinian factions, but at the security plane, and in other ways, it was pursuing the polar opposite objectives.

In 2003, US efforts to marginalise Yasser Arafat by leeching away his presidential powers into the embrace of the prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, collapsed. Arafat dismissed Abbas as PM. This was a blow to the US policy which – even then – was focused on creating a “de-Fatah-ised” Palestinian Authority. George Bush complained to Blair bitterly about Abbas’s dismissal: the Europeans still were “dancing around Arafat” – leaving the US to “do the heavy lifting” with the Israelis. Europeans were not pulling their weight in the “war on terror”, Bush concluded.

Blair’s Coin surge was his response to Bush. The Palestine Papers reveal “a security drive” with the objective of

“degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists: Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], and the al-Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities, the detention of key middle-ranking officers, and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the occupied territories. US and – informally – UK monitors would report both to Israel and to the Quartet. We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures.”
The papers also show how the project ballooned: a huge investment in training and infrastructure of the security services, building prisons to accommodate the possible introduction of internment for Hamas members, the establishment of the Dayton military battalions to confront Hamas, the planning to depose Hamas in Gaza, the targeted assassination of Hamas leaders. Even the international Quartet was engaged to work with Arab states’ intelligence services in order to disrupt Hamas’s sources of financing.

The “surge” sucked in everything: aid, economic assistance, institution-building – all were reoriented towards the counter-insurgency project. Ultimately, the Palestinian state-building project, and the Coin surge, were to become one.

Against this counter-insurgency background it is not surprising that Hamas’s victory in the 2006 polls only prompted a further increase in European “off-balance sheet” assistance to the EU/US-made security sector. At a political level the Europeans were attempting to keep an independent voice, the Palestine Papers show, when EU envoy Marc Otte spoke with Saeb Erekat two months after the Hamas election.

Otte: EU has to deal with the reality of a Hamas-led government … In this respect, EU position is different from the US.
Erekat: How is this position different?
Otte: US wants to see a Hamas government fail. The EU will encourage Hamas to change and will try to make things work as much as possible.
Inevitably, the EU’s actions spoke louder than Otte’s words. The EU had endorsed the Quartet conditions for engagement with Hamas – conditions that the UN representative at the time told the UN secretary general were hurdles raised precisely in order to prevent Hamas from meeting them, rather than as guidelines intended to open the path for diplomatic solutions. Soon after, British and American intelligence services were preparing a “soft” coup to remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

EU standing in the region has suffered from the contradiction of maintaining one line in public, while its security policies were facing in another direction entirely. Thus, we have the EU “talking the talk” of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas while “walking the walk” of disruption, detention, seizing finances, and destroying the capabilities of one of the two factions.

Thus we have EU “talking the talk” of aid for Palestinians, while “walking the walk” of tying that aid to the objectives of the US security project; we have the EU “talking the talk” of Palestinian state-building, while Palestinian institutions are dispersed to external control; we have the EU “talking the talk” of democracy, while it colludes with a system of government exercised through unaccountable decree, and parliament is prevented from exercising any function.

This catalogue of attempts to reconcile an internal policy contradiction has pre-empted the EU from mounting any effective foreign policy alternative to that of the US on the “peace process”, and has eaten away its standing in the region. The legacy of Blair’s 2003 surge has been a highly costly one, as the Palestine Papers well illustrate.

• This article appeared first on al-Jazeera. Copyright reserved.

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January 28, 2011

Gaza protests accuse Palestinian Authority of betrayal in talks with Israel: The Guardian

Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair calls for Palestinians to ignore row over leaked papers and ‘get on with making peace’

Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters in Gaza have staged a demonstration against the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian Authority dominated by Fatah. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Gaza venting their anger at Palestinian negotiators for offering big concessions in peace talks. Meanwhile, Tony Blair accused those behind this week’s leak of documents of wanting to inflict serious damage on the peace process.

About 3,000 joined a rally organised by Hamas in support of anti-government protests in Egypt. But speeches and the shouts of the crowd focused on the leaked Palestinian papers and fierce criticism of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Thousands of pages of Palestinian documents covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US were obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian.

The papers revealed that Palestinian negotiators were willing to go much further in offering concessions than their people realised.

In Gaza City the crowd of mostly young men chanted slogans against Fatah, the party that dominates the authority and is Hamas’s bitter rival. “The concept of Palestine is not for sale,” they shouted, before vowing loyalty to Hamas and promising never to relinquish Palestine’s claims to its land and holy sites.

Mahmoud Saleen, 21, said: “We are here to deliver a message to the Palestinian Authority that they must come back to Palestinian ideas and reject the policies of American and Israel.

“We are against the political arrests in Ramallah and against the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Yusef Salam, 20, said the leaders of the authority “are not from our own blood, they belong to the enemy more than they do to us. We hope there will be a revolution in the West Bank to relieve the Palestinian people from the people in power now.”

Blair, the envoy of the Middle East peace quartet, said the release of the confidential documents prepared by Palestinian negotiators had been “destabilising”. In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he urged the Palestinians to ignore the damage and press ahead with the drive for peace.

Asked how much damage the leaks had caused, Blair told Today: “I think it’s hard to tell right now, but its intention was to be extremely damaging.”

“I think we’ve just got to be big enough and strong enough to say, OK, whatever al-Jazeera are putting out, we’re going to get on with making peace.”

Palestinians preventing Middle East peace deal, says Israeli deputy PM

Moshe Ya'alon said without Palestinian recognition of Israel there could be no resolution of the Middle East conflict. Photograph: Jim Hollander/AP

: The Guardian

Moshe Ya’alon says Israel is ‘fed up of giving and giving’ while Palestinians refuse to recognise Jewish nation state

Moshe Ya’alon said without Palestinian recognition of Israel there could be no resolution of the Middle East conflict. Photograph: Jim Hollander/AP
An agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not happen in the next “one or two years”, Israel’s deputy prime minister said today, blaming the Palestinians for the lack of progress.

“We’re fed up with giving and giving and giving, and not getting any real substance [in return],” said Moshe Ya’alon, the minister of strategic affairs, after this week’s leak of secret documents on the peace talks. He dismissed the extensive concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, revealed in the documents, saying they were insignificant compared to the “core of the conflict – our right to exist”.

The Palestinians’ refusal to recognise Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people” was preventing a peace settlement, he said. The issue was the most important at stake in negotiations. “We are not ready to discuss territory without recognition of the Jewish state … We’re not ready to start with issues in which we give [ground] and do not get anything.”

Ya’alon, a member of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and a former military chief of staff, said that without recognition, the Israelis could not “solve the conflict, we have to manage it”.

The issue of refugees was central to the question of recognition, said Ya’alon. Palestinians saw the occupation as beginning in 1948 with the birth of the state of Israel, he said, rather than in 1967, and wrongly believed they could return to Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa and Acre. “Our position is not even one refugee is going to be settled in Israel. If you open the door, you open the door.”

Managing the conflict meant working with the Palestinian leadership on economic reform and security. Ya’alon urged Palestinian political leaders to re-educate a new generation in a “culture of peace, coexistence and reconciliation”.

Further disclosures about negotiations between the two sides are expected this weekend with the serialisation of the former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. In the last year of his premiership, Olmert offered a deal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, covering borders, Jerusalem and refugees.

According to a preview in today’s Yedioth, Olmert says in his memoirs: “Never before had any Israeli prime minister presented such a crystallised and detailed position about resolving the conflict as was presented to him on that day. For the first time since the negotiations began, I was very tense. For the first time since I had become prime minister, I truly felt the weight of Jewish history on my shoulders

“Abu Mazen said that he could not decide and that he needed time. I told him that he was making an historic mistake. ‘Give me the map so that I can consult with my colleagues,’ he said to me. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Take the pen and sign now. You’ll never get an offer that is more fair or more just. Don’t hesitate. This is hard for me too, but we don’t have an option of not resolving [the conflict].'”

The deal was never signed. The Palestinians later claimed that an agreement struck with a lame duck Israeli prime minister would have been worthless.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, today named an American and a Briton in connection with the leak of the documents. He said the Palestinian Authority wanted to question Clayton Swisher, a former state department official and now a reporter for al-Jazeera, and Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer. An unnamed French national was also being sought, he said.

Palestinian killed after settlers open fire in West Bank village: Haaretz

Incident comes only a day after police confirmed Palestinian reports saying that a Palestinian youth was shot to death by an unidentified Israeli citizen.

One Palestinians youth was killed and another wounded early Friday after settlers reportedly opened fire at a village north of the West Bank city of Hebron, only a day after a Palestinian youth was shot and killed by an unidentified Israeli citizen near Nablus.

According to preliminary Palestinian reports, the incident occurred after dozens of settlers from the settlement of Bat Ayin descended on the village of Khirbet Safa in the early morning hours and confronted some of the locals.

The confrontations reportedly resulted in the setters opening fire at the crowd, leaving one Palestinian lightly wounded and another in critical condition. The two were evacuated to a hospital in Beit Jala near Bethlehem, where one of them, a 17-year-old succumbed to his wounds.

The settlers, however, claimed that a group traveling nearby was fired upon, adding that others came to their rescue. Preliminary reports said it took police and Israel Defense Forces units over half an hour to arrive at the area.

Commenting on the fatal incident, Kiryat Arba’s council chief Malachi Levinger reiterated claims that the settlers were attacked while hiking in the area, and emphasized what he called as the “right of Jews to travel their country.”

“We call upon the IDF and the police to aid the defense of this right and to seek the guilty parties within the rioters not within the travelers who acted in self defense,” Levinger added.

On Thursday, police confirmed Palestinians reports claiming that a Palestinian who was shot to death near Nablus earlier in the day was shot by an unidentified Israeli citizen.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said that 18-year-old Fadi Kaddous was shot to death by a settler after clashes broke out between the shooter and a group of rock-throwing Palestinians.

A nearby security camera apparently captured grainy images of the shooting and confirmed that the shooter had Israeli features.

The camera footage showed the group of Palestinians attacking a man with rocks. The man responded by firing a gun in the air, which failed to deter his attackers. The man fired again, this time in the direction of the Palestinians. The video supposedly shows the bullet entering and exiting the shoulder-chest region of one of the attackers; it is being further studied by ballistics experts.

Police also investigated the group of three Palestinian villagers who reported the incident. The group had at first said that armed settlers attacked them but further on in the investigation changed their testimony. The police are currently searching for the unidentified shooter. Click here to continue reading “January 28, 2011″ »

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January 26, 2011

EDITOR: Palestine Papers continue to sting both Israel and the PA, as well as the US and UK

Today we learn that bot MI6 and the CIA have worked tirelessly to get rid of the Hamas movement for a decade, assisting Israel and the PA in their various attempts to thwart Hamas as the leading force in Palestinian politics. What the result of their effort was we all remember well – the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections six years ago, and the strt of the longest ever blockade of over a million and a half people, mostly refugees, in what has become the largest open air concentration camp on earth.

Palestinians will be pleased to learn that their ‘leaders’ in Ramallah were discussing the extra judiicial murder of a number of Palestinian activists, some who have indeed been murdered eventually. What emerges from those meetings is the great intimacy between the sides, as well as the deep contempt in which the very leadership of the PA is held by Israel and the US; on the one hand, they make use of them, on the other, they really despise them. Not an atypical colonial scenario, and one Franz Fanon wrote well about over fifty years ago.

Then it gets even better – the South American option of resettling the refugees is now blown open, shocking people in those countries as well as the refugees themselves. This will run and run.

The besieged leadership in Ramallah, has in the meantime flipped a number of times, in the time-honoured fashion so beloved of the Israeli leadership… it seems that by working closely together for many years, some of the Israeli methods have rubbed off, and adopted by the Palestinian democrats… First, like the IDF always does in such cases, they called the papers a ‘pack of lies’ and dubbed Al Jazeera as “Zionist’, then today comes the admission that the papers are indeed genuine, and the PA is looking for the culprit who leaked them… The problem for them is not that Al Jazeera are zionist, but that they themselves emerge from this round of the revelations as ardent Zionists…

It is clear that we will soon learn of arrest and trioal of Palestinian ‘traitors’ who leaked the papers, in the tradition beloved of Middle Eastern regimes. Israel has done the same in the case of Anat Kamm, for example. Whoever tells the truth will pay dearly, no doubt. However, should not the corrupt leaders in Ramallah be worried about the wind blowing East from Tunis, already affecting Egypt? The hot Khamsin is almost due, coming normally around March, and blowing for fifty days, supposedly, hence its name. This time, the Khamsin has come early, and the corrupt leaders might do better than trying top continue lying, torturing and silencing their populations. Maybe they are better looking for a nice place in Saudi Arabia?

Well, this Khamsin might even blow that far.

Palestine Papers Part 3

Palestinian negotiator rejects claims of back door deals with Israel: The Guardian

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says leaked documents show how passionately Palestinians want peace

• Saeb Erekat: Papers are a distraction from the real issue

Saeb Erekat says the leaked papers show how far Palestinians are willing to go to reach a settlement. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has described the leak of confidential memos documenting a decade of Middle East peace talks as a “slander campaign” and insisted that no single concession will be agreed without a comprehensive agreement with Israel, whose colonisation of Palestinian land is the “only constant”.

Writing in today’s Guardian, Erekat rebuffs accusations that he has been involved in “backdoor dealings” with Israel, but fails to repeat his previous claim that the documents – obtained by Al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian – are “a pack of lies”.

He says the lesson that should be drawn from the documents is that the Palestinians are serious about peace.

“What should be taken from these documents is that Palestinian negotiators have consistently come to the table in complete seriousness and in good faith, and that we have only been met by rejection on the other end,” he writes. “Conventional wisdom, supported by the press, has allowed Israel to promote the idea that it has always lacked a partner. If it has not been before, it should now be painfully obvious that the very opposite is true. It is Palestinians who have lacked, and who continue to lack, a serious partner for peace.”

He underlines that any solution agreed in negotiations must pass a Palestinian national referendum – though the documents reveal him admitting that it will not be possible to hold a vote outside the West Bank and Gaza, which would leave millions of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon unable to take part.

Evidence from the papers shows Palestinian negotiators agreed privately in 2008 to let Israel annex all but one of the settlements built illegally in East Jerusalem and accepted the return of a symbolic number of 10,000 refugees to Israel. “Nothing would be agreed,” Erekat writes, “until everything is agreed”.

The papers also show the PLO working closely with Israeli security forces to target Hamas and other militants.

Publication of the Palestine papers has generated angry reactions from Palestinians, especially the PLO’s Islamist rival Hamas, which advocates armed resistance and will only negotiate with Israel on a long-term ceasefire.

The latest revelations show Tony Blair, envoy for the Quartet, was perceived by PA officials to have a pro-Israel stance and to advocate “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”. A spokesman for Blair said today: “There has been real change on the ground as a result of Tony Blair’s efforts. The economy is now flourishing in the West Bank with double digit growth and falling unemployment. Palestinians are now able to move in the West Bank in ways impossible when Tony Blair started pushing for changes in the access and movement regime.”

Other papers describe how the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, tried to persuade a Palestinian businessman to contribute millions of dollars to a radio station for the Iranian opposition after the country’s presidential elections in 2009.

Abbas’s move was cited by Erekat in a meeting with the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell as evidence of the PA’s support for US goals in the region, especially its attempts to counter the influence of Iran, which finances Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote: Al Jazeera online

PA, with US encouragement, delayed a UN vote on the Goldstone Report into war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza war.

”]

The Palestine Papers reveal the conversations between US and PA officials in the days before the vote [EPA]
On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.

Quid pro quo

The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza.

Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement; he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote.

“Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement,” Abbas said in October 2009. “We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”

What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.

At a September 24, 2009 meeting between Saeb Erekat, George Mitchell and David Hale, the latter informed Erekat that “Our intention is to move quickly to relaunch negotiations. We are wrapping up an agreement on a package with Israel, and including other parties.”

Erekat resisted, saying “I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life.” Mitchell informs Erekat that President Barack Obama’s “attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations; delay will not be beneficial to anyone.”

During the same meeting, the U.S. also stressed to the PA that it was actively engaged in supporting the PA through other means. Mitchell informs Erekat, “I’ve devoted half my time over the last several months to things like getting you support (for example with Kuwait), not just financial. We will stay the course on this.”

At end of the meeting, Mitchell invites Erekat to Washington, D.C., on the day before the UNHRC was due to vote on the Goldstone report. “Regarding coming to DC next week…you should come next Friday,” Mitchell said. Erekat resisted, countering, “That does not give us enough time to go back and consult…”

The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington, D.C. seeking more guarantees from the United States.

During a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Mitchell and Hale, on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only the U.S.’s commitment to a new round of talks, but also U.S. willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians.

Mitchell said the U.S. would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (non-recognition of Israeli annexation and related actions; demolitions, evictions etc.) In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] make a provocative announcement, the US has the leverage to state that this undermines the process, and that Israel is acting in bad faith in the negotiations.”

Erekat further bared not only the PA’s reliance on the United States, but the PA’s desperation to get back to the negotiation table. Erekat informs Mitchell that “peace through negotiations is a strategic choice… Our whole future depends on it, and we are counting on the US to help us… Another failure will be devastating.”

The following day, on October 2, 2009- while President Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone – Erekat again met with Senator Mitchell. This time, Erekat appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.

“I did not come here to complain, but to try to help move forward,” Erekat told Mitchell. “Many people strongly objected to [Abu Mazen] going to NYC and me coming to Washington.”

Mitchell continued building a case to Erekat and the PA on why all parties should move quickly to negotiations. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” Mitchell said. “The circumstance under which they live worse and worse…..Believe me it is the best time.”

Erekat, meanwhile, only seemed to further push Palestinian priorities behind those of even Israel. “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm,” Erekat lamented to Mitchell. “We pray every day that Israel will come to the point where they realize that a Palestinian state on the [1967] border is in their interest…That’s why we are frustrated. We want to help the Israelis.”

At the very same meeting, Senator Mitchell presented Erekat with a document containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons – the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.S. language stated:

“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

Erekat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the UNHRC vote. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.

Israel leaked the PA’s support for the resolution deferral on the day before the UNHRC vote was to take place. Erekat, undoubtedly caught off-guard, was outspoken in his complaints weeks later to the U.S. on what he perceived as unfair Israeli tactics. In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on October 21, 2009, Erekat revealed:

“Then came Goldstone and all hell broke loose. You know the first public response to the Goldstone thing came from Lieberman, who said Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel. Then there was the report that he did it for Wataniya, which they said is owned by his two sons.”

Jones, however, was quick to assure Erekat that the PA’s efforts would not go unnoticed. “And thank you for what you did a couple weeks ago,” Jones told Erekat. “It was very courageous.”

That same day, Erekat also met with Mitchell, and wasted no time in asking for the U.S. to deliver on its previous promises.

Erekat: When can you give me something, a document or a package, so I can take it to [Abu Mazen], so we can study it in good faith?

Mitchell: Much of what I read is not controversial…

For the United States, and unfortunately for the PA, it was simply business as usual.

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Sugust 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

10th August 2010:

Four acquitted for direct action protest at Israeli store in London

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

Boycott Israeli goods 4, by Carlos Latuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ehud Barak accepts responsibility for Gaza flotilla raid: The Guardian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netanyahu evidence to Gaza flotilla inquiry: extracts: The Guardian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel defence minister says flotilla aimed to provoke: BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lebanon charges first politician with spying for Israel: Haaretz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The passport in question was issued in Cologne in 2009.

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

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

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

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May 30, 2010

Nuclear Israel, by Carlos Latuff

Breaking news! Breaking news!

The israeli secret service has done all it can to stop the boats, and a number of them are now unable tyo travel, and have to be towed back to Famagusta. The Flotilla is now waiting for the passengers on those boats to join the main body and then will leave to Gaza. All the Flotilla boats are surrounded by Israeli navy boats, in an act of piracy on the high seas. No one seems to care about international law, all of a sudden… Israel has also manged to sabotage international satellite communication, so that the boats are unable to keep in touch with the waiting world.

Israsel can indeed stop the boats, kill people on them, arrest them, and detain them in OIsrael, so that they cannot arrive in Gaza. What Israel can no longer do, is to stop the growinf international campaugn, spreading like bush fire over the the globe. They have already lost the battle over public opinion.

Support Gaza – join the locally organised action wherever you live!

Live feed from Turkish boat Insani Yardim Vakfi

Flotilla homepage with a map

About the Freedom Flotilla, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Chair

Before leaving port

Gaza “Freedom Fleet” Expected To Receive An Armed Welcome From Israeli Forces: Gaza Freedom

In Columnists, Dan Owens, Middle East, Politics on May 30, 2010 at 10:28 am
By Daniel Owens

A flotilla of nine boats, carrying over 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid and over 700 pro-Palestinian activists, is expected to arrive in Gaza on Sunday 30th May 2010, if it manages to break through the armed Israeli blockade.

Israeli authorities have vowed to prevent the convoy from reaching Gaza, claiming that there is no humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories. However, organisers have protested against the Israeli ‘misinformation campaign’ and have claimed that “for over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a manmade humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.” The organisers have stated that all the cargo on board is designed to make life better for those living within Gaza, including building materials, medical supplies, dental equipment and chocolate for the children.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been in place since the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas took control after a battle with rival Palestinian group Fatah – following the election of Hamas in 2006. Nearly all exports and imports are banned under the terms of the blockage and only a limited supply of humanitarian aid is allowed in (15,000 tonnes per week). The United Nations has stated that this is less than a quarter of what is needed to sustain those within the strip. The Israeli navy also enforces a 23 mile closure of the sea around Gaza which has devastated its fishing industry and has vowed to use limited force to prevent the flotilla from making ground in Gaza.

More concerning than Israel’s apparent ignorance of a humanitarian crisis, or its willingness to threaten force against an unarmed convoy, is the mainstream media’s apparent ignorance of the ‘freedom fleets’ mission. Having browsed several of the leading news websites in the UK this evening (including The Times, BBC News and The Guardian) it is hard to find reference to the mission unless you actually search “flotilla” or “Gaza”. Similarly, watching the 10 o clock news mentioned nothing of their plight and chose to focus on domestic issues such as David Laws’ resignation and the Eurovision song contest.

It appears that Israel is expecting yet more criticism from international groups with YNetnews.com (Israel’s largest paper) reporting that the Knesset are “preparing for the media blitz certain to follow the flotilla, which many believe will harm the state’s already floundering reputation”. The article proceeds to detail how IDF, Foreign Ministry and PR representatives are preparing to make TV appearances to defend Israel’s position – mainly claiming that “the flotilla serves the terror organisation ruling Gaza and not its residents.”

The Jerusalem post published an article claiming that the basic elements of the Israeli media campaign is to “stress that the supplies the ships are carrying are unnecessary and that Israel – together with various international organizations – already transfers these supplies to Gaza via land crossings.” Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor stated that “the existing land crossings were more than capable of meeting Gaza’s needs;” that “15,000 tons of supplies enter Gaza each week.” However, contradicting Palmors statement is a UN report that has found that the “Livelihoods and lives of people living in the Gaza Strip have been devastated by over 1000 days of near complete blockade” and that “Most of the property and infrastructure damaged in Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip [in 2008] was still unrepaired”

The flotilla, which is currently being delayed in International waters by Cypriot authorities, is expected to arrive in Gaza at some point on Sunday. It is undoubtedly beyond time that action is taken over the blockage and as Richard Falk, Princeton University, has stated “it has been demonstrated that neither governments nor the UN will challenge this blockade, only people of conscience and courage will.” Let’s hope this flotilla makes it.

As American as Apple Pie: Free Gaza blog

WRITTEN BY GRETA BERLIN,  30 MAY 2010

(Cyprus, May 30, 2010) The Free Gaza Movement now has two boats included in the Freedom Flotilla that is on its way to deliver 10,000 tons of supplies to the imprisoned people of Gaza. The third boat is being repaired.

Our two passengers boats, Challenger 1 and Challenger 1I, had mechanical problems on Friday, May 28, and were pulled into ports in Cyprus. After Cypriot port authoriies on the Greek side denied our request to pull in for repairs, our boat, Challenger 1 limped into the port of Famagusta, on the Turkish side of Cyprus.

Both boats are flagged and registered in the United States, which means they are U.S. territory.

Therefore we expect the U.S. government to intervene if U.S. property is wrongly confiscated by Israeli authorities as they have threatened. Israel has yet to return the Spriit of Humanity, registered under a Greek flag.

Please contact the American State Department and ask them what their plans are in case this happens. They can be contacted at Telephone No. (202) 647-4000 (24-hour number) or publicaffairs@panet.us.state.gov .

Contact: Audrey Bomse, 00 357 96 48 98 05

Greta Berlin, 00 357 99 18 72 75

Gaza flotilla drives Israel into a sea of stupidity: Haaretz

Of course the peace flotilla will not bring peace, and it won’t even manage to reach the Gaza shore. The action plan has included dragging the ships to Ashdod port, but it has again dragged us to the shores of stupidity and wrongdoing
By Gideon Levy
The Israeli propaganda machine has reached new highs its hopeless frenzy. It has distributed menus from Gaza restaurants, along with false information. It embarrassed itself by entering a futile public relations battle, which it might have been better off never starting. They want to maintain the ineffective, illegal and unethical siege on Gaza and not let the “peace flotilla” dock off the Gaza coast? There is nothing to explain, certainly not to a world that will never buy the web of explanations, lies and tactics.

Only in Israel do people still accept these tainted goods. Reminiscent of a pre-battle ritual from ancient times, the chorus cheered without asking questions. White uniformed soldiers got ready in our name. Spokesmen delivered their deceptive explanations in our name. The grotesque scene is at our expense. And virtually none of us have disturbed the performance.
The chorus has been singing songs of falsehood and lies. We are all in the chorus saying there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We are all part of the chorus claiming the occupation of Gaza has ended, and that the flotilla is a violent attack on Israeli sovereignty – the cement is for building bunkers and the convoy is being funded by the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood. The Israeli siege of Gaza will topple Hamas and free Gilad Shalit. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy, one of the most ridiculous of the propagandists, outdid himself when he unblinkingly proclaimed that the aid convoy headed toward Gaza was a violation of international law. Right. Exactly.

It’s not the siege that is illegal, but rather the flotilla. It wasn’t enough to distribute menus from Gaza restaurants through the Prime Minister’s Office, (including the highly recommended beef Stroganoff and cream of spinach soup ) and flaunt the quantities of fuel that the Israeli army spokesman says Israel is shipping in. The propaganda operation has tried to sell us and the world the idea that the occupation of Gaza is over, but in any case, Israel has legal authority to bar humanitarian aid. All one pack of lies.

Only one voice spoiled the illusory celebration a little: an Amnesty International report on the situation in Gaza. Four out of five Gaza residents need humanitarian assistance. Hundreds are waiting to the point of embarrassment to be allowed out for medical treatment, and 28 already have died. This is despite all the Israeli army spokesman’s briefings on the absence of a siege and the presence of assistance, but who cares?

And the preparations for the operation are also reminiscent of a particularly amusing farce: the feverish debate among the septet of ministers; the deployment of the Masada unit, the prison service’s commando unit that specializes in penetrating prison cells; naval commando fighters with backup from the special police anti-terror unit and the army’s Oketz canine unit; a special detention facility set up at the Ashdod port; and the electronic shield that was supposed to block broadcast of the ship’s capture and the detention of those on board.

And all of this in the face of what? A few hundred international activists, mostly people of conscience whose reputation Israeli propaganda has sought to besmirch. They are really mostly people who care, which is their right and obligation, even if the siege doesn’t concern us at all. Yes, this flotilla is indeed a political provocation, and what is protest action if not political provocation?

And facing them on the seas has been the Israeli ship of fools, floating but not knowing where or why. Why detain people? That’s how it is. Why a siege? That’s how it is. It’s like the Noam Chomsky affair all over again, but big time this time. Of course the peace flotilla will not bring peace, and it won’t even manage to reach the Gaza shore. The action plan has included dragging the ships to Ashdod port, but it has again dragged us to the shores of stupidity and wrongdoing. Again we will be portrayed not only as the ones that have blocked assistance, but also as fools who do everything to even further undermine our own standing. If that was one of the goals of the peace flotilla’s organizers, they won big yesterday.

Five years ago, the noted Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who is a Jerusalem Prize laureate, after concluding his visit to Israel, said the Israeli occupation was approaching its grotesque phase. Over the weekend Vargas Llosa, who considers himself a friend of Israel, was present to see that that phase has since reached new heights of absurdity.

Israel to World: Screw You, We will Continue to Block Gaza
May 29th, 2010 | by Assaf Oron | Add a Comment
It all happened before.
A ship sailing to Palestine. Its organizers care not so much about the ship’s arrival. They want to bring world attention to the injustices in Palestine. Live broadcasts from aboard the ship excite and inspire supporters on the shores.
The power controlling Palestine in a non-democratic manner, responds in form. It sends soldiers to storm the ship at sea some 20 miles out of Gaza. Passengers fight back using non-lethal means. Troops open fire killing 3, then force the ship to another port, arrest the passengers and deport them. The battle is won, but the campaign is lost. World opinion, and other world powers, turn against the controlling power. Within a few months it decides to cede control of Palestine.
The ship’s name was “Europe Exodus 1947″, or in short, “Exodus”.
Now, 63 years later, the tables have fully turned, and Israel’s leaders seem determined to act every bit as brutally and stupidly as their British predecessors.
First, links to the Witness Gaza flotilla.

Homepage with a map

Live feed from Turkish boat Insani Yardim Vakfi

(intermittent, but authentic and quite entertaining when on. Maybe less entertaining if you know Turkish)
Homepage of Free Gaza, the group organizing siege-breaking sailings since 2008, and one of the organizers of the present flotilla.
Now, let us set the record straight regarding the Gaza siege, in particular the siege of Gaza’s port. English-language media keep insisting that the port has been blockaded since the Gaza mini-civil-war in 2007, or perhaps since the Hamas election victory in 2006.
Bullcrap.
The 2008 Free Gaza boat was the first foreign vessel to land in Gaza since…
1957.
In other words: Egypt had blockaded Gaza for 10 years. Then Israel for 38 years of direct control. Then, since Israel’s 2005 “disengagement” – a Potemkin display if there ever was one – both Israel and Egypt have colluded to continue the siege. So the next time anyone says “Hamas”, “terror”, etc. to justify the siege, set them right. Gaza has been a de-facto prison for decades. Only the rationales for this atrocity keep shifting.
The new trend: they’re not even hiding it!
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has no problem saying “We have to remember: These people are entering Israel illegally” (h/t TomJ). In other words, when convenient Israel claims it “does not control” Gaza, but when push comes to shove it regards Gaza’s waters as its own, in plain view of the world.
Whence the Chutzpah? Here’s whence. In 1947, the newly-dominant powers of the US and the USSR were all too happy shafting the UK via the Palestine question. Both had sided with the Jewish immigrants and insurgents, a support which quickly led to a UN resolution favorable to he Jews, and – more importantly – to the Brits obeying the resolution, in fact eager to get out of Palestine.
In 2010, there is no major government in the world really willing to put any political dime next to its cheap “remove the siege” talk. Why, even Obama formally asked Israel to remove the Gaza siege. Talk is indeed cheap. In actions, Obama, like Bush before him and like all others leaders of the West, have colluded with Gaza’s imprisonment and made sure that Western puppets like Mubarak collaborate with it.
During this decade, increasingly, Israel has become allied with the world’s political and economic elites, and oblivious, even hostile, to global public opinion. This includes many countries considered friends of Israel. The US where public sentiment tends to reflexively support the Israeli stand, has been a somewhat different story – but even here, the ground has been shifting since the 2008-9 Gaza war. In most other countries, that same war has pretty much sealed the case and solidified a seemingly irreversible anti-Occupation public consensus. And yet, the Occupation and the imprisonment of Gaza continue.
Coincidentally, last year a new government coalition came into power in Israel, its most right-wing coalition ever. Previous governments knew they must give the world some lip-service about peace, to help ally governments divert attention from the Occupation so as not to get into trouble with their constituencies. By comparison, the present Bibi-Lieberman-Barak government seems like a physical incarnation of Deh Stoopid.
Israeli pundits call the new diplomatic approach Pissing into the Pool from the High Jump: if we’ve got the power and all powers-that-matter keep doing our bidding, then we couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks, and we might as well do it out in the open. In Bibi’s books, the strategy is working well. Why, only a few weeks ago Israel was admitted to the OECD, reportedly thanks to some behind-the-scenes arm-twisting from the Obama administration.
Beyond that, the sad fact is that Israel’s government and its military leadership do genuinely think and act like dictators, and at this point seem unable to even start thinking differently. Rather than sit back, let the modest flotilla sail in, make a few speeches and sail back – they are willing to risk a major PR catastrophe, and employ violence so as to deny Gazans anything except what they prescribe for them.
The Gaza flotilla story unfolding right now is the perfect occasion to remind the Israeli regime, that yes, the vast majority of the world’s population who think the Gaza siege should have never started and should stop yesterday DOES COUNT, and that he who keeps pissing from the top of the high jump right into the pool of global community, might eventually get his private parts damaged.

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May 27, 2010

Britain vows to change policy allowing U.K. to arrest Israeli politicians: Haaretz

British Foreign Secretary William Hague says it is unacceptable for Israeli politicians to feel like they can’t visit for fear of being arrested.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday that the new U.K. government is already looking into the issue of universal jurisdiction, describing the current situation as “unsatisfactory” and “indefensible”.

Judges in Britain can issue arrest warrants for war crimes suspects around the world under the Geneva Convention Act 1957, without any requirement to consult public prosecutors.
Speaking to reporters early Thursday, the Foreign Secretary said that “we cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country and indeed not just Israel, but this could apply to many other nations as well. So this has to be put right. And that is well understood and agreed in the coalition government.”
A London court last year issued a warrant for the arrest of opposition leader Tzipi Livni over her role in Israel’s war in Gaza, launched at the end of 2008 when Livni was the foreign minister.

Livni reportedly cancelled a trip to the U.K. in December for fear of being arrested after the warrant was filed against her following an application by Palestinian activists.

Hague said he hopes “we’ll make a decision about this fairly soon. I can’t say exactly when but you can be assured that we’re working on it. We find it completely unacceptable that someone such as Mrs. Livni feels she cannot visit the United Kingdom. This is a country that wants to play a strong role in the Middle East peace process as we have just been discussing and for that Israeli leaders and others have to be able to visit the United Kingdom.”

Speaking to Parliament on Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary said: “We will take every opportunity to help promote peace and we will now examine how to deal with the totally unsatisfactory situation that has had the effect of barring Israeli politicians, among others, from visiting the U.K. without weakening our commitment to hold accountable those guilty of war crimes.”

A question of time: Haaretz

By Ari Shavit
The siren that sounded across the country yesterday did not signal a genuine emergency. No rockets fell in the center of the country, and no skyscrapers collapsed in central Tel Aviv. The Kirya defense compound wasn’t damaged, and Israel Air Force bases weren’t paralyzed. The army’s emergency storehouses weren’t torched, and no power plant was wiped out. Underground parking garages were not swamped with masses of people seeking shelter. The roads were not blocked by hundreds of thousands of urbanites pouring out of the cities. And Ben-Gurion International Airport was not overrun by frightened Israelis fleeing their country.
But let’s not delude ourselves: The national security situation is not good. Thanks to the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Israel now faces a strategic threat from the north. Due to the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel faces the threat of rocket fire from the south as well. The Olmert war in Lebanon a year later strengthened Hezbollah to an unprecedented extent, and the Olmert war in Gaza in 2008-09 led to a dangerous erosion of Israel’s legitimacy.

As a result of these four lamentable events, as well as the development of rockets and missiles, the Israel of 2010 is under far greater threat than the Israel of 2000. Its ability to use decisive force against those who threaten it has been greatly restricted. The quiet is deceptive. The ice is thin, and there is no way of knowing when or where it will break.

The threat of the occupation is no less severe than the threat of rocket fire. The settlers are extending their reach by the day, as the complexities of the territories grow ever more complex. The Palestinians are slowly pulling back from the two-state solution, and the implementation of that solution is growing increasingly more difficult. The international community is showing increasingly more impatience with one of the two states. Because of the occupation, the demographic situation of the state of the Jews is intolerable, and the state’s moral situation is disgraceful. Because of the occupation, the political threat looms ever larger. Time is working against the State of Israel.

That’s not what the right thinks, though. The right is still spreading the word that, apart from one or two things, everything’s just fine. After all, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to put the brakes on U.S. President Barack Obama for a time. After all, Israel was approved for membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The economy is flourishing, summer’s almost here, and life is grand. Just as immigration from Russia saved us in the 1990s and high tech saved us in the following decade, the natural gas fields that have been discovered and those yet to be discovered will save us in the next decade. Israeli vitality will prove itself yet again. It will soon become clear that we can live perfectly well even in an impossible situation. The doomsayers can talk all they want, but everything will be fine. There’s nothing to worry about, nowhere to rush off to. If we don’t give in, Abu Mazen will give up. If we don’t blink, Obama will disappear. Don’t worry, promises the right, the State of Israel has time on its side.

The real argument is the one concerning time. The right believes that Israel has plenty of time, because time gives Israel the opportunity to create facts on the ground. The right believes that Israel was established as a fact on the ground, and will succeed as a fact on the ground.

But that is wrong. Israel was established because its founders created facts on the ground with one hand and won diplomatic recognition of those facts with the other. Israel was established because its founders recognized when time is on the side of Zionism and when time is working against it. But over the last few decades, that insight into time has gotten lost, as has the wisdom of equilibrium. The illusion has sprung up that military might and economic prosperity are enough to assure our future. A dangerous dissonance has developed between visible reality and its invisible counterpart. The relative quiet that the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and high tech have granted us has become a toxic quiet. It has allowed us to celebrate our lives without seeing the circumstances of our lives. It has allowed us to ignore the threats that are closing in on us.

The argument about time is an argument about life and death. On the eve of the Yom Kippur War, the right thought there was still time. On the eve of the intifada, the right thought there was still time. Today, too, when the threat of rocket fire and the threat of the occupation are tangible and immediate, the right thinks there is still time. But the truth is that there is no time. If we don’t act in time, time will beat us. It is only the silent siren that warns us of the genuine emergency.

Israelis and Palestinians share route 443 again amid suspicion and fear: The Guardian

Court ruling granting right for all to use highway that cuts through West Bank is soured by new chain of army checkpoints
Bassam Kassab says the world should be outraged by ‘this apartheid system’. Photograph: Harriet Sherwood for the Guardian

As the afternoon heat shimmers on the surface of a four-lane highway whipping through the occupied West Bank, Hani Aburabah, a 45-year-old chicken farmer, drops down a slipway and walks towards a row of large concrete blocks forming a barrier across the road.

He is on his way home to his village of Beit Sira, a journey that takes him one and half hours. “I have to go round the globe in order to enter my village,” he says with a wry smile.

It wasn’t always so. Route 443, the road he has just come off, has been barred to Palestinian traffic for the last eight years – a symbol of the separation between the two sides of this conflict. Before 2002 Palestinians used it freely to get between nearby towns and villages in the West Bank; since then they have been forced to use circuitous and poorly maintained back roads, often quadrupling their journey times.

But from tomorrow the army will be forced to comply with an order from Israel’s high court to reopen the road to Palestinian traffic following a case brought by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (Acri).

Nobody is happy. Israeli drivers fear their security will be compromised; Palestinians say the reopening of the road is a farce, rendered worthless by the construction of new checkpoints.

“The IDF [army] say they are opening the road, but they are also building new checkpoints on our land,” says Bassam Kattab, 34, selling lemonade to workers passing through the concrete barrier.

Nearby, separated by an earth bank and a two-metre high metal fence topped with razor wire, some of the 40,000 Israeli cars that use route 443 daily are hurtling towards Jerusalem. Army watchtowers punctuate the length of the road.

Over the years a number of roads connecting Jewish settlements in the West Bank have been designated for exclusive Israeli use. The 443, however, is a strategic corridor between Israel’s two main cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. More than half its 15-mile length cuts through the West Bank. Privately owned Palestinian land was expropriated to develop the road in the 1980s, a move allowed by the high court on the basis that it would serve both Israelis and Palestinians.

For years, the road connected seven Palestinian villages along its route with each other and with the city of Ramallah, a hub for shopping, business and recreation. But following several attacks in 2001-2, in which six Israelis were killed, route 443 was closed to Palestinian drivers and access to their villages blocked.

Journeys that had taken moments suddenly took hours. Villagers say it wasn’t just an inconvenience: several have died while trying to reach hospitals on the back roads, they say. Then last December the court ruled in favour of the challenge brought by Acri.

More than 1,000 Israeli families have petitioned against the move. “They don’t want to risk their lives by using this road alongside Palestinian drivers,” says Nitsana Durshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin, a law centre that represents them.

Acri believes few Palestinians will use the road even if they are allowed to. Along the route four army checkpoints are being established at which Palestinian vehicles will be searched and their drivers’ papers examined.

The aim, according to Acri, is to make it difficult if not impossible for the villagers to use the road while allowing the IDF to claim it has fulfilled the order of the high court.

This cuts no ice with Durshan-Leitner. “Even if it harms Palestinian lives by forcing them to spend more time on small roads, the rights of people using [the 443] are superior. The right to life is higher than the right to get somewhere five minutes earlier.”

Back at the concrete barrier near Beit Sira, Bassam Kattab has some questions. “Why are the people of Tel Aviv allowed to move freely, and not me? Why are we the forgotten people? Why aren’t there demonstrations all over the world to protest at this apartheid system?”

Bibi or Tibi?: Haaretz

By Gideon Levy
Bibi or Tibi? Barak or Barakeh? Dov Khenin or Hanin Zuabi? Practically every Jewish Israeli would answer that question with an automatic Pavlovian response, without a moment’s hesitation. Of course Bibi, certainly Barak. And even Khenin is better than his fellow MK Zuabi. Why? Because they’re Jews.

Their worldview, opinions or even qualifications and performance don’t matter one iota. The thought that an Arab citizen could ever lead the state is far beyond the boundaries of any public discourse in Israel. This is understandable, of course, in a state that wants so desperately to be completely Jewish and to ignore the large Arab minority. But it’s impossible not to notice this axiom’s shrill, disturbing tone. If it’s true about the prime minister, it’s probably true to a large extent in other aspects of our lives.
Somewhere else, one could and should call it racism. But not here. Here it’s simply self-evident, and to hell with the definitions and implications. A black man can be the president of the United States, minority representatives can be elected to any post in many countries, even to head of state in some. Only here is this inconceivable, even in an imaginary peace situation.

The thought of MK Ahmed Tibi or someone like him ever being prime minister is the greatest, most horrible threat hanging over our heads. Worse than the Iranian bomb. This is the ultimate intimidation weapon against all Israeli Jews.

Eldad Yaniv provided an excellent demonstration of this in his op-ed in Haaretz on Tuesday. Under a headline that could only be seen as ironic, “Zionists are not racists,” the creator of the “National Left” proved exactly the opposite. Zionists are indeed racists. In his piece, Yaniv threatened that “if we do not leave the territories … Ahmed Tibi will be prime minister.” A man who wants, justly and courageously, to shake the comatose left into action at any cost, in any way, has exposed the unsavory side of all Israeli Jews, both left and right.

Inadvertently, perhaps, Yaniv has proved that even among the Zionist left, it’s enough to scratch the surface of the pretty talk about justice and equality to reveal the racism and nationalism. These sentiments prevail there no less than on the right.

Tibi, of course, will never be prime minister here, and it’s doubtful whether he’d want to. His heart is with his people, the Palestinians. But the left wing, yes, the left, disqualifies him in advance. This disqualification doesn’t stem merely from his opinions. It stems first and foremost from his origin. For even if Tibi supported the Greater Land of Israel and believed that the Israel Defense Forces was the most moral army in the world, even if he were wondrously gifted, he’d still be ineligible, unfit, disqualified forever and in advance. At least the right-wing racists don’t hide their racist views. But the (national ) left is tainted with nationalism, too.

Is it even permitted to ask in these parts whether Tibi is more qualified than Bibi? Perhaps as prime minister he’d be less inactive than Benjamin Netanyahu? Perhaps he’d cause Israel less damage? Perhaps he’d bring on us fewer wars and less occupation? Perhaps he’d be more concerned about social justice for all the country’s citizens? Perhaps he’d be more liberal than a nationalist Jew? Maybe the election of a minority representative would one day make society more enlightened? Maybe it would send an amazing message to the world and ourselves?

But all these questions are entirely irrelevant. Tibi is an Arab, and an Arab – talented, moderate and even an Israel-lover – would never gain our confidence.

Why? Because he is an Arab. Period. This is true regarding the position of prime minister, and it’s true regarding the owner of the garage where we have our car fixed.

So let’s all take the masks off. When we say “a Jewish state” we mean a nationalist state. For how else could it be described? Moreover, when we say Jewish state, we are denying the chance that it would ever really be democratic.

Democracy? Only for the Jews in this state. The possibility that an Arab citizen with “equal rights” would ever head Israel frightens us all, including Yaniv, more than anything else.

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